Forget the city. These millennials are ‘rethinking rural’

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Rethinking Rural’s mission is to provide a network for leaders to cultivate and exchange ideas about rural communities, which they believe are integral to the development of the economic, social, and environmental health of the planet.

When Madeline Moore was 22 and wanted to open her own Pink Poppy Bakery, she didn’t head to a city, she moved to Chinook, Washington, a 1-square mile spot in Pacific County near her hometown. Chinook’s population is small — only about 450 people live there — but it’s also the only place Moore thought she could be successful.

“I knew I had a following that would support me,” Moore said. “It was 100 percent because of the community. They came out in droves to support me. A friend let me use kitchen space at a hotel, and another friend let me use a storefront for a year. I would not have been able to do what I did in a large city. It wouldn’t have been financially viable.”

That was six years ago. Now, at the age of 29, the millennial entrepreneur has since realized the benefits and challenges of working and living in a rural community. Though small towns can offer small business owners like Moore a support system of prospective customers and resources, they can also have issues such as poverty, a lack of employment opportunities, and limited access to health care.

Instead of facing these issues alone, Moore is working to create a network of leaders, especially other millennials like herself, in rural communities. The nationwide effort, Rethinking Rural, was created in 2017 to encourage rural leaders to promote growth and investment while remaining true to what makes rural communities special, unique, important, and resilient.

They believe small rural communities are integral to the development of the economic, social, and environmental health of our planet. They want to encourage a network of rural leaders, with a particular focus on millennials, that will push forth an agenda of growth and investment while remaining true to what makes rural communities special, unique, important and resilient.

“I think we as rural communities work within our silos,” Moore said. “If we could work together, we would be unique in solving problems.”

Getting started

About a year and a half ago, Moore met with Malloree Weinheimer, 30, and Denise Pranger, who live and work in Port Townsend, Washington, a city with about 9,500 residents about four hours northeast of Chinook.

Find out what happened next here.