5 Things We Learned At The Rural Policy Forum

Earlier this month, the Arizona Rural Policy Forum brought together diverse rural economic development professionals, local nonprofits, community leaders, business owners, and other rural stakeholders to the Town of Wickenburg. By coming together they were able to share resources, hear empowering stories of success, and talk about challenges and solutions to creating a sustainable future for Rural communities.

Here are some of the major takeaways from this year's event:

1. WICKENBURG IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL AND WE'RE ALL GOING BACK ASAP.

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The Forum took place at the Wickenburg Community Center which was conveniently located within the town's charming historic downtown district.  With historic buildings, art galleries, unique shops and eateries around every corner - there was too much to explore in just one trip. So you bet we'll be back.

Thankfully, we were able to spend an evening at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. A unique space where fine art mingled with life-scale recreations of early 1900’s Wickenburg. This was followed by a special dinner with stunning views at the Wickenburg Ranch and Social Club which is a world-class golf resort and community.

2. FOCUSING ON SMALL WINS HELPS US HAVE A GREATER IMPACT ON THE FUTURE.

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In his lunchtime keynote, Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns, spoke on how small, incremental investments create strong communities. Across the nation, we are witnessing that when when we invest small amounts of money in to projects like maintenance and infrastructure (examples include trimmed trees and repaired roads), we begin to see a large impacts on community value and pride.  

3. WE ARE TRAMENDOUSLY PROUD OF OUR RURAL COMMUNITIES.

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It's difficult to leave the Arizona Rural Policy Forum without a renewed pride for our rural communities and state as a whole.  Take a look at what some of our attendees had to say: 

Being a farmer, I am incredibly proud of the things that come literally from the soil of Arizona, and from the soil of Ajo. Coming to the Rural Policy Forum, we get to share that pride we carry of our community... we all get excited about promoting who we are, where we come from, and [aim to instill] that to the youth of Ajo, so then they too can be proud of where they come from and forever say “I’m from Ajo. I am from rural Arizona.
— Nina Sajovec - Producer, Ajo CSA, Center for Sustainable Agriculture
[I] came away with numerous ideas to implement and an overall appreciation and awareness of impacts on rural communities.
— Holly Woods, Community Development in Bagdad

4. THERE ARE SO MANY TOPICS TO COVER!

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The topics, content, and opportunities presented are such a good support of our local communities and rural areas.

With the majority of our state consisting of rural communities, timely topics are diverse and examples of success are plentiful throughout the state. The breadth of information shared at the forum aimed to encompass as much content as possible, with breakout sessions ranging from youth development and engagement to accessing capitol. Be sure to utilize the information presented in your communities throughout the year! You can access the PowerPoints from the Forum and presenter information on the AZRDC website.

5. WE'RE EAGER TO KEEP THESE CONVERSATIONS GOING. 

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As we return to our communities and begin to implement the ideas and examples learned at the Forum, we want to offer a platform that allows us to continue conversations around rural development.  Join us in September for the first post-forum webinar, when we expand on Opportunity Zones. Each month's webinar will be listed on the Local First Arizona Foundation's Events Calendar, so be sure to stop by regularly!