“City residents still yearn for the rural experience”?

Beside a story about the declining rural areas of Iowa, a sociologist talks about the link between cities and rural areas:

Even city residents still yearn for the rural experience, says Paul Lasley, the Iowa State University sociologist who founded the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. He describes a gradual cultural blurring of urban and rural Iowa: Cities are preserving rural culture as a reaction against the “massification” of recent decades.

Consider the boom in farmers markets, he says: 7,175 nationwide this year, a 17 percent jump over 2010, as measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Iowa claims 237 markets.

A couple of thoughts come to mind:

1. The most noticeable place where the cities and rural areas blur is the suburbs. From the beginning, picturesque suburbs like Llewellyn Park, New Jersey had winding subdivision lanes and big lots that were meant to invoke country life. Even today, many suburbanites can fairly quickly drive to Forest Preserves or out to the metropolitan fringe where there are still some open fields.

2. Are farmers markets really the best evidence that city dwellers want more of the rural life? Don’t these simply make the rural life a caricature or another commodity that can be purchased? There have to be some other ways in which city dwellers really show an interest in rural life.

In the end, I wonder how much city residents really would want to live in rural areas or spend significant amounts of time there opposed to just visit. Surveys like the “2011 Community Preference Survey” show that roughly 30-40% of Americans would want to live in small towns or rural areas but we know more than 50% of Americans live in suburbs and 30% live in central cities (around 80% total). So if preferences don’t exactly match up with realities, what exactly do urban residents, urban or suburban, want from “the rural experience”?

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