I was reminded today (as I pulled into the local BP to top off my old truck’s tank) that I had read a thought-provoking article on the expected downside of high fuel prices for small towns across the country. The gist of the report was that people will be less able to commute long distances to jobs in larger towns and cities, and that will, in turn, cause them to move closer to their jobs. The net result could be to further erode the already tenuous smalltown economy, and, ultimately, the rural lifestyle in general.
My optimistic side says the pull of rural living is so strong that people will figure out some way to keep at it. For those of us who do commute, we can carpool, keep our vehicles in top mechanical condition and modify our driving habits to save fuel today. And we can choose from among many fuel-miserly vehicles when it’s time to upgrade. I am holding out for a diesel-electric hybrid pickup myself, although I once owned a compact diesel pickup that routinely delivered over 50 mpg. It was a VW, of course.
As fuel prices put the pinch on your rural dream, consider embracing it a little more firmly, rather than running away. Save money on food by growing a big garden and preserving your bounty. Raise some chickens and learn to process them yourself. Cut and split your own firewood this year. Put that home- or farm-based business plan into action and avoid the commute altogether. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I think there’s still plenty of pluck out there to keep our dream alive.
If you have implemented any fuel- or money-saving strategies that will keep you from heading back to town, please share them here. I know I want to read about them, and I am sure plenty of others do, too.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.