Back to your roots

Acreages and rural living provide room for growth, sense of community

Alberta’s come a long way from its historical roots of buffalo herds and settlers.

More than 600,000, or 17 per cent of, Albertans lived in rural populations in 2011, according to Statistics Canada. That’s a far cry from 75 per cent who lived rural rather than urban in 1901.

Yet a pioneering spirit still remains throughout the province, said Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Verlyn Olson.

“Alberta’s rural history is inextricably tied to pioneers,” he said.

“They are the men and women who founded farms, built businesses and put their hearts and souls into communities for the promise of prosperity and quality of life unequalled in other frontiers.

“Today, that spirit remains. We see the advent of new-age pioneers who look beyond our borders for markets, look outside the conventional for enterprises and look inside their communities for strength of purpose.”

Three hours east of Calgary, one initiative is focused on engaging, attracting and retaining youth in a number of small communities in eastern Alberta.

Return to Rural (R2R) is a collective of people who have left the city for more rural centres known as Alberta’s Special Areas. Ranging from photographers and ranchers to business owners, they are new-age pioneers.

The communities include the Special Areas, a rural municipality in southeastern Alberta home to 5,000 residents; the towns of Oyen and Hanna; the villages of Empress, Cereal, Consort, Veteran and Youngstown and the M.D. of Acadia No. 34.

The initiative encourages access to large markets and new industries via technology and social media, allowing people to return, or remain, in rural settings.

“[R2R] connects people with rural life, career and entrepreneurship opportunities and gives people an outlet to find rural opportunity,” said Christine Dick, with R2R. “It raises the profile of rural and demystifies rural living [and] it inspires people to leverage their urban backgrounds and networks and live in a rural setting.”

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