Rural communities like Big Rapids and Marshall are told that we need megasite developments because we need jobs. Legislators like Sen. Sarah Anthony point out our counties' poverty and income rates.
But they don't understand our lost cost of living, and they don't understand our low-consumption lifestyles.
It doesn't matter if the officials in Lansing don't agree with our rural lifestyle choices, or if media pundits understand the hyperlocal, low-consumption economies of agricultural neighborhood trade and barter systems. It's our right to choose how we live.
Mecosta County’s poverty and income statistics have been thrown around by many politicians and local officials to justify all the red tape that’s been cut to make way for the Gotion plant. Similarly, Marshall has been told over and over again how badly they need jobs.
But all these faceless statistics and averages completely distort what’s actually happening here. There’s a common retort that’s arisen amongst neighbors here:
“We choose to live here. We choose to live this way…”
There’s a common rural Michigander saying about city folk living to work, versus country folk working to live. The reality is that very few of us travel internationally much. We shop rarely, and consume from stores mostly what we need–and what will last. We have perennial gardens. We grow a lot of our own food and agricultural products, and sometimes we trade them with our neighbors for other stores. We have dogs and farm animals, and are therefore tied to our land–and we’re happy to be so. We are stewards.
Many folks in Mecosta County who by definition live “below the poverty line” have an extremely high standard of living, in terms of physical and mental health, community and social support, quality food, and safe housing.
We’d rather be spending time with the land than being wage slaves. And working the land IS a job, after all, regardless of the activity’s scale.
In short: we have low cost of living, so we can get by with very low incomes. Many of us do it by choice, and we’re generally healthier and happier for it.
The Kalamazoo River n Marshall.
Rural Michiganders have long enjoyed the abundance of agriculture all around us, and its incredible accessibility. From the Amish communities peppered throughout the state, to our fruit orchards and vineyards and countless small organic farms, to organic grass fed dairy farms, we are truly blessed with low-cost, local, sustainably grown food.
Many of us maintain gardens, and often chickens and even goats; many make our own maple syrup. We subscribe to CSAs, we hunt our own venison, and we split beef and pork shares with our family and friends. Many glean firewood, spin their own yarn, crochet their own gifts, and barter their goods with neighbors and friends.
We rarely fly. Farmers don't travel.
All these self-sufficiencies and small economies are doing something which is absolutely critical to stopping the climate crisis and the destruction of the planet: reducing consumption. Even Greta Thurnberg has made this a major talking point.
Our "poor", rural lifestyles carry with it a very low carbon footprint. And stewardship.
Corporate industry might want to come to us for advice on how to reduce consumption and go green. We hillbillies have been doing it for a long time.