My wife and I have been at our new home in Ormsby, MN, population 131) and its’ sister city, located 2 miles away, Odin, population 106. (From here on I will refer to them as “O-Towns”) for about three weeks now
“O-Towns” are classic examples of rural mid-western communities. They both have a declining and aging populations due to the changing agricultural market. Small family farms are disappearing as properties get snapped up by the larger farms that can afford the newer (and much more expensive) farming equipment. Unfortunately, these losses of farm employment opportunities have not been replaced by other means of employment that would keep younger people in the community.
This population exodus results in the loss of the retail support structure- As the population falls, businesses close. For example, grocery stores, coffee shops, barber shops that were traditionally part of rural living have all left “O-Towns”. Obviously, small cities need to replace these services with something and in our area, the answer comes with community involvement. In Odin, that meant a community club that sponsors a subsidized coffee shop/grocery store/bait store. The small business provides the opportunity for the men’s morning coffee/dice game club as well as a place to get needed grocery items like milk, ketchup and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (main stays of Minnesota casseroles). It also provides a source of night crawlers for that afternoon of fishing on the small nearby lakes.
In Ormsby, that creative community spirit was brought home to me when we saw our 98-year-old neighbor on the street, pushing her stroller home one morning. She explained to us that she was just coming from her weekly morning coffee/women’s workout group held at the local tavern. The tavern is normally open from 12:00 to 9:00 P.M. five days a week, so there is plenty of opportunity for cross-purposing the space.
While the people of this area are naturally a very independent group, it’s apparent that individuals realize that interdependence is imperative. Cross utilization of resources is important, as well as having a willingness to take part in group opportunities. Yesterday we took part in city carnival in a neighboring town that featured a community lunch booth that featured a meal that included a pulled pork sandwich, chips, baked beans and a can of soda for $6.00. Afterward, we spent the afternoon playing church bingo for .25 cents a card, offering a chance for a shared payout of five to six dollars.
While we still are settling in from our move, my wife and I are already getting to know our neighbors and beginning to love rural small town living.