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In a nutshell:

RealSmallTowns showcases and connects healthy communities nationwide, shining a light on the ways in which commitment to people and place can bring reward and solution.

We believe that lasting change comes from the bottom up not the top-down —from ordinary people, the values they commit to and the choices they make in their everyday lives. This can be seen in thriving communities like:

  • Viroqua, WI:
    Where, 30 years ago, eight farmers banded together to start a small, organic dairy cooperative —known today as Organic Valley— the largest organic dairy cooperative in the US, with over 1,800 member-owners.
  • Fairfield, Iowa:
    Where a group of enterprising entrepreneurs have created the Silicon Valley of Iowa initiating over 400 new companies in the past 30 years.
  • Decorah, Iowa:
    Which hosts the largest non-governmental seed bank in the country.
  • Port Townsend, Washington:
    Which created the LION Network – a group of Port Townsend citizens who work to build a more resilient and sustainable economy by choosing invest their money in local businesses, putting capital to work in their local community rather than on Wall Street and further afield.
  • Yellow Springs, Ohio:
    Where a group of local activists banded together to purchase a 940 acre farm, up for auction, to save it from mall and retail development that would significantly alter the roots of their community. Today that movement has evolved into a land trust that has preserved more than 24,000 acres.dsc_0279-1

Why do we think this work matters?

 Because we are increasingly waking up to the importance of small things:

Bacteria in our guts, microbes in the soil, and small businesses in our national economy have all proven to be vital attributes in the health of larger organisms. Small towns are no exception.

 And even though many pundits may be claiming that small town life is on its way out, one has only to visit one of the dynamic communities featured on this site to recognize that these kinds of places —all across America— offer seeds for renewal and change… both personal and economic.

Small towns are grounded in the natural world — in personal relationships with neighbors and businesses, in shared concerns, and a desire for surviving and thriving. And with collective efforts towards those ends, small towns hold important answers to many of the issues that our country faces today.

There is potential for great economic strength nestled deep in the small and rural communities dotting our country’s landscape. The secret weapons are the thousands of small businesses that fortify our national economy and are thus among the country’s greatest assets.

A town that is thriving can provide many great lessons to those who are striving.

Sunrise in Marquette, MI

There is also a kind of magic in small towns; part of our collective hearts remain in them and part of our national psyche is rooted in them. These are intangible but important qualities that speak to the soul of our nation and deserve both recognition and celebration.

Finally, we believe this work matters because the health of our rural communities informs how we live in America. Rural municipalities are the backbone of our nation; while big cities may give us power, small towns serve as a grounding force.


So what, exactly, does RealSmallTowns do?

Using storytelling as our platform, our Town Profiles, Blog, and Directory all help to showcase resilient communities and the best practices that help them flourish —things like small businesses, local food, cooperatives, green energy, artists and craftspeople, change-maker thinking, creative funding and vibrant public discourse.

We tell stories about “the art of community” with 5 goals in mind:

First, to provide inspiration to others who are looking for community based solutions. —in cities and neighborhoods, dying small towns, and those that are healthy. In short, we sow the seeds of innovation and hope.

Second, to promote the towns and businesses that are featured on the website.

Third, to connect those who live in the cities with the best ideas and values of small-town America.

Fourth, to generate energy, pride, and a sense of purpose within our small communities, making people more likely to shop locally and strengthening the economic base of our towns.

And finally, RealSmallTowns works to create a network of places that are identified as vibrant, creative and healthy.

We like to compare the work of RST to hosting a potluck dinner where every guest contributes something small but exquisite to the table. Together, we create a bountiful feast and everyone leaves with recipes in hand.


In these efforts, a major part of our work is to encourage local economies:

Did you know that:

—For every $100 spent at a local business approximately $67 stays in the community, but when we shop at national chains and big box stores, just $32 out of $100 stays in the community.

—that 90 percent of new jobs in the U.S. are created by locally-owned businesses.

—that independent businesses create 2 out of every 3 employment opportunities.

—that for every $10 million in consumer spending at Amazon, a mere 14 jobs are created, yet a whopping 57 jobs are created for the same amount spent in local businesses.*

It is clear that spending money locally matters — that if we want our towns to stay vibrant and viable, we must come together to establish healthy local economies.

RealSmallTowns strives to help in this effort. Our Featured Town write ups and Storytelling Blog draw national attention to the movers and shakers of each community. Furthermore, our new Directory, in addition to listing pertinent details, gives local business-owners the opportunity to connect with clients and customers through written and photographic storytelling. In this way, we show the real people with real dreams and innovative ideas that are the creative force behind these endeavors.


What Advertising with RST Does For You:

  • It enhances your corporate brand, aligning it with the trending movement of sustainable local communities.
  • It gives small-town businesses a face and a story as well as access to customers nationwide who want to support small businesses with their spending.
  • It builds national awareness of your own unique community, which results in increased tourism.
  • It creates energy, pride, and a sense of purpose within your community, making people more likely to shop locally and build the economic base of your town.


 *Statistics taken from BALLE. 

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