(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Many rural communities and small towns across the country are facing challenges with declining populations, and northwest Missouri is no exception.
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst spoke at the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri in St. Joseph on Wednesday about the fate rural America faces if small town populations continue to disappear.
"They add a lot to our nation so we have to figure it out," Hurst said.
Hurst is a product of a small town as he is a native of Tarkio, Missouri, a population of more than 1,400 people. Census data shows Tarkio is like many communities in northwest Missouri facing a steady population decline.
"Some of that is because overall trends. People don't have as many children as they used to. They are having children later in life but some of it is because of loss of jobs and loss of economic opportunities in rural areas," Hurst said.
And it's not just populations that are vanishing from rural America. Small towns are also losing doctors, farms and small businesses.
"That is very difficult, very difficult to halt or turn around but we have to try because the quality of life. These places are important," Hurst said.
The Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri is at the forefront in the fight to stop the death of rural towns in the region.
"We are very concerned about the trend the way the economies in these small rural towns are going and the fact that we need to re-energize rural America," said Ed Turner, Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri.
But the path forward is not well traveled terrain.
"First of all, we have to create opportunities for them when they come back. That's number one, and number two we need to be able to provide a quality of life they enjoy and prosper," Turner said. "And if we don't do that then they won't come back."