Will rural life rebound stronger after COVID?
If I had to be anywhere in the world right now during COVID self isolation, it would be here in the beautiful countryside in the Ottawa Valley, Canada.
I grew up in one of those small town (Calabogie, ON) where people would only visit their cottage in the summer to enjoy the lake and winter for skiing/snowmobiling. The town was originally a lumbering town along the Madawaska river before the hydro dam created. In the 1880's, the K+P railroad was linked through this town that really energized the growth of the area. There is still so much history in this area along with the transition from a logging town into a recreation paradise (Ski hill, golf course, race track, resorts, etc).
As a small kid, it was a wonderful way to grow up on the lake as I'd be outside catching frogs/bugs or fishing all day long. We lived a 5 minute walk to the ski hill so you would that was my second home during the winter time. Our grade school was a 2 room schoolhouse that only had 30 people for grade 1-8 split. It's the kind of town that everyone knows your name when you go to the local grocery store. People look out for each other and support the local community.
Fast forward to my 20 somethings, I found myself wanting the hustle and nightlife of the big cities after I moved to Toronto for school, then Ottawa for work. But something always drew me back to the calming nature of the countryside most weekends. It was either the fun on the boat, the evenings by the campfire or the spectacular hikes in the woods.
As I transitioned into my 30's, I reflected on where I was most happy and the small town life was where I found my inner peace. So my wife and I moved to the Ottawa river (probably 1/2 price of comparable in the city) and are enjoying the nature views every day. Add in a couple of kids and a dog and we are all set and very busy!
As many Canadians, we are "staying home 24/7" to try and plank the curve/spread of the Covid virus. It can be challenging at times with slow internet and no local food delivery service available but we have adapted very well. The kids are happy to be at home playing, learning and spending more time with Dad and mom. We are both working at home with staggered times in the home office doing our best to still maintain work home balance. Now that we are shifting to springtime I expect it will be an even more calming environment as the kids will play more outside to keep them occupied.
Over the last decade, small towns have been contracting as most younger people moved to the cities for better opportunities. The reality is many of these small communities offer a better quality of life and more affordable setting. They typically have all the amenities close by and the city is within a typical commuting time. The biggest questions coming out of the Covid crisis, will be how people react? Will the reversal of urbanization occur where people start moving back to small towns/country settings. As technology continues to allow the ability to work from home even in rural areas it becomes more hopeful to me the answer is YES.
As a small town champion, I want nothing more than the localized manufacturing sector that has hammered down due to low cost globalization starting to return to North America. We have the ability to start changing the world by our buying behaviors now more than ever. It starts with all of us as a consumer. We need to start looking into the manufacturer of the product you are buying instead of the price tag.
Research the company's core values :
Where is it made?
Who was it made by?
What do they do for their local ecosystem (charity/economy)?
Why is it better than buying a cheaper overseas product?
What is their warranty/return policy?
Often the answer is clear. Yes the local product may be more expensive but that is because the manufacturing cost, quality, local impact are significantly better.
It will be interesting times ahead and I am hopeful that these small communities across North America start returning to the strength they had in when I was a kid.
Think Local, Buy Local, Support Local!