Rural Interest Group



Volume 52   Number 2 Spring 2019

Rural Interests

Edited by Susana Helm, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa

The Rural IG column of The Community Psychologist highlights rural resources as well as the work of community psychologist and allied professionals in their rural environments. Please email me if you would like to submit an article or brief report for the Rural column or if you have resources we may list here (

We invite submissions from current and new Rural IG members, from people who present on rural topics during SCRA biennial and other conferences; and from leading and emergent rural scholars publishing in rural-focused journals (e.g. Rural Sociology, Journal of Rural Studies, Journal of Rural Health, Journal of Rural Mental Health, Rural and Remote Health). Please refer your colleagues and friends in academia and beyond to our interest group and column. We especially appreciate submissions from students, early career scholars, and practitioners.

Brief Report: Diversifying the Rural Lens – Authors, Geographies, Intersections

Written by Susana Helm, Rural Column Editor, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

The Rural Interest Group column goals for the next two years from 2019 through 2020 are to diversify the rural lens through authorship, geography, and intersectionality. The first goal pertains to authorship. Student, early career scholars, CP allied scholars, and community member authors pose new vantage points on the rural landscape. For example, Gen Z authors are digital nativists and green nativists, both of which arguably are inherent in rural vitality in ways that digital or green non-nativists have yet to conceive. Our most recent rural column exemplifies this (TCP 52-1): a group of students and their professor spearheaded a community garden on their university campus to reduce food insecurity (Giroux, et al., 2019).

Goal 2 pertains to geography. Rural interests are inexorably grounded in geography – both the spaces defined as rural and the spaces that are not (see TCP 52-3 Rural column, forthcoming). As stand-alone entities, rural communities are vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority (Ashwood & McTavish, 2016). Due to low population density and other rural discourses, external majority forces often overwhelm and exploit rural interests. This column seeks to reveal how these forces manifest and are resolved across distinctive communities across the United States and internationally. By expanding the variety of geographies represented in this column, we may begin to see common problems, solutions, opportunities, and means for embracing change or resistance. For example, Guerreirro (TCP 45-3, 2012) portrayed farmers and fishers in Portugal who maintained their rural livelihoods and recovered family stability with assistance from an NGO by using participatory practices, and Cook et al (TCP 49-2, 2016) found that while rural parents in Tennessee and Virginia face some of the known barriers to mental health care (e.g. stigma, distance), they also identified potential solutions in terms of family-provider collaboration and the importance of child-friendly services.

Goal 3 pertains to intersectionality. Diversifying authorship and geography accordingly will result in a greater array of topics, as suggested above. Moving beyond single dimension topics to rural intersectionalities may subvert essentialist discourses used to disenfranchise rural communities. For example, by exploring the intersection of community-based youth serving organizations with rural economic development, we may identify potential community psychology partners for promoting social, environmental, health, and economic justice. Future Farmers of America and 4-H support economic parity in rural America, where child poverty is higher. In addition to the urban/suburban-rural economic divide, economic inequalities within rural America are widening ( The economic recovery of late has not benefitted low income rural families on par with higher income rural families and non-rural families. To eliminate child poverty, youth serving organizations like 4-H and FFA are particularly critical for low income rural families.

An agriculture-centric program coordinated by cooperative extension across the US, the four Hs refer to head/heart/hands/health. Although 4-H is predominantly rural in focus, suburban and urban youth are served, too: 2.6 million rural youth are “4-H’ers”, and another 1.6 million suburban and 1.8 million urban youth are involved ( Cooperative extension services are linked with land grant universities for the purpose of disseminating agriculture science to strengthen the economic stability among farmers, farm families, and farm communities ( Some community psychologists are familiar with 4-H because the positive youth development framework emerged from the assets-orientation of 4-H (Lerner & Tolan, 2016; Lerner et al, 2010;

Future Farmers of America is another ag-centric youth organization with ties to the US Department of Education. FFA defines itself as, “the premier youth organization preparing members for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture” ( FFA was recently in the national news, the US House of Representatives passed legislation to preserve its agricultural career and technical education integrity (, For future Rural IG columns, we would be very interested in full articles that address the intersection of rural economic development, rural youth leadership, and rural organizational partners.


(weblinks retrieved February 2019). 

Ashwood, L. & MacTavish, K. 2016. Tyranny of the majority and rural environmental injustice, Journal of Rural Studies 74(A), 271-277.

Cook, C. L., Polaha, J., Williams, S. L. (2016).  Rural parents’ perceptions of mental health services. A qualitative study.  The Community Psychologist, 49(2), 35-36.

Giroux, D., Smith, E., & Decker, K. (2019). Community garden initiative to help reduce food insecurity.  The Community Psychologist, 52(1).

Guerreirro, T. (2012). Community psychology. Contributions for building healthier communities in a rural world. The Community Psychologist, 45(4), 36-38.  

Lerner, R. M. & Tolan, P. H. (2016).  On the Qualitative Transformation of Developmental Science. The Contributions of Qualitative Methods. Qualitative Psychology, 3(1), 120-124.

Lerner, R. M., von Eye, A. Lerner, J. V., Lewin-Bizan, S., & Bowers, E. P.  (2010).  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 707-719.  DOI 10.1007/s10964-010-9531-8