Monday, July 03, 2017

Kentucky's Rural-Urban Exchange holds meetings around state to close rural-urban divide

Kentucky, perhaps more than most states, has a stark rural-urban split that experts are working to mend with the Rural-Urban Exchange.

With only two cities of more than 100,000, the rest of the state is dominated small, cozy towns and rural farmland and forest. The exchange, or RUX as it is informally known, works to bring people together from across the state in an effort to build a more connected Commonwealth, reports Jacob Ryan of WFPL, a Louisville Public Radio station.

"The group, in its work, examines the divisions that dissect the state – divisions that are rooted, largely, in perception . . . But whether they’re real or perceived . . . these divisions are barriers that impede progress for communities across Kentucky," Ryan reports. Savannah Barrett, a member of the RUX steering committee, told Ryan, "It’s a really unfortunate cartography of belonging."

The program got organized in summer 2014 and hosts three sessions each summer for 70 or so people who come from all over the state to participate at three locations, this year in Lexington, Bowling Green and Harlan. This month, participants will learn about folk studies at Western Kentucky University, tour a farm where organic produce is grown and visit the town of Horse Cave, Tonya Grace writes for the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville. The last session, in Harlan, is scheduled for Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.

Barrett said there are people in Louisville, the state's largest city, who voted for Trump, "just as there are people out in deep rural areas that advocate for LGBTQ rights and arts programming," Ryan writes. "The two areas depend on each other, too, she said. Louisville depends on (rural) Kentucky for fresh food and energy and cultural aspects, she said. Rural Kentucky depends on Louisville for its economic contribution. Without one, the other will falter, she said." Barrett added, "The idea that Louisville is some way removed from the state of Kentucky is ludicrous. It is a shared future."

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