Rural Action’s community development approach is the result of decades of careful work to increase local control over the region’s rich assets and to give power to the people who are committed to this place, whether for generations or new arrivals. Appalachian Ohio is still recovering from the effects of extractive industries, especially coal mining, which declined by the mid-twentieth century. Such industries, including timber and vertical oil and well drilling – and their decline – resulted in widespread environmental degradation, unemployment, population loss, and weak economies that persist to this day. A new wave of extraction in the form of hydraulic fracturing overlays new industrialization onto a pattern of disempowerment and disinvestment.
To counter these forces, Appalachian Ohio needs sustainable economic development that creates jobs and livelihoods, new investable wealth, stronger communities, restored ecosystems, and resilience. The region needs development from within that is consistent with its assets. Rural Action members have a goal of more equitable development and greater opportunities for the people of Appalachian Ohio. We believe achieving this goal requires the wide adoption of sustainable systems and practices in the region.
To do this, Rural Action brings people together to understand their options and support locally derived development and decision-making. We believe learning is essential to long-term change, from experts who have new models, to the wisdom within our communities. Educating young people on the region’s natural history and heritage is a long-term strategy for ensuring good stewardship and job creation from natural resource assets. Once engaged and informed, Rural Action facilitates change by supporting communities to understand, map, and control their assets; build appropriate and accessible infrastructure, and; connect those assets and infrastructure to markets both within and outside of the region. This theory of change is illustrated in the graphic below.
This framework is applied to asset-based sectors that hold promise for the Appalachian Ohio region. Rural Action spent its early years mapping the assets of the region, exploring ideas of social, economic, and environmental sustainability through member-led committees. Through an early national service program, VISTA volunteers staffed these member projects and raised funds; Rural Action’s sector expertise was developed in the process. Today, staff in each sector collaborate heavily, engage stakeholders and volunteers, and seek resources to achieve more each year. Rural Action sectors are:
- Environmental Education
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Forestry, Wood, and Woodland Products.
- Watershed Restoration
- Zero Waste
Chartered for all 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio, Rural Action’s home office, the Kuhre Center for Rural Renewal, is based in The Plains in Athens County. Other offices include our historic office in Trimble, Ohio; two watershed offices in New Straitsville (Perry County) and Mineral City (Tuscarawas; and the 10 acre site of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (Morgan County). We serve our members with projects and programs concentrated in Athens, Meigs, Vinton, Washington, Hocking, Morgan, Perry, Tuscarawas, Stark, and Carroll Counties. As a partner with groups in Central Appalachia, and a member of the Central Appalachian Network, Rural Action works across the region, responding to requests for partnership and information