Thursday, September 01, 2011

Some California are counties too big for the good of their rural areas, state rural experts write

"California faces an unusual challenge: Productive agricultural regions are growing cities in addition to fruits, vegetables and grains. This is causing a change in federal classification which makes it harder for truly rural areas to get needed government funding," reports Civil Eats, which says it "promotes critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems as part of building economically and socially just communities."

The problem is that "California’s counties are vast," Gail Wadsworth and Don Villarejo write, citing San Bernardino County (Wikipedia map), which covers 20,105 square miles and has 2 million people but has large areas that are sparsely populated. "However, because there are cities in the county with more than 50,000 inhabitants, the county as a whole is designated metropolitan. . . . A county-based definition of 'rural' does not work in California."

The increasing metro identity of such counties "has resulted in the inability to apply for funding that is channeled to rural regions," the writers note. "This, in turn, results in the decline of public health services, rural development and food access for rural residents. Much of rural California is now more populous, more Hispanic, but less healthy, poorer and less well educated than urban areas." (Read more) Villarejo is founder and director emeritus of the California Institute for Rural Studies and Wadsworth is its executive director.

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