Rural culture is rich in an ethic of service and hard work. Basic needs were met through farm ownership and farm work. Raising crops for market, family and community proved to be an economic power that slowed the rate and force of poverty. It held at bay the harsh reality that would soon be brought to bear with a transition from farming communities to manufacturing, and then service. The ideals of self-sufficiency through organic means of entrepreneurism were also lost. Trading chickens or pork and eggs and vegetables for services were no longer common. Treks to the local corner store to “trade,” grew unfashionable. Gone were the days when cheese and flour were bought “on time,” and when credit was given it was an act of honor.
My grandparents were sharecroppers. They owned a farming business and hired hands to work for them and in turn; they worked for others as well. When a shift in rural economics happened, they found jobs at the local school house. My grandfather was the janitor and my grandmother the cook. Before then she was an entrepreneur within a commercial business enterprise. Customers from miles around would come to buy her home-made sausage spiced with a recipe of her own. My grandfather, before working as a janitor, started a small landscaping business. He cut grass for his neighbors hemming in great service with hard work and good fellowship. Wages were low- $5.00 for a couple of acres for some customers, but he did it to make ends meet at home. And then there were the extra collards greens and such that he grew on the side to make a few dollars as well.
Like back then and even now, living in places of poverty is hard work. Communities settle for life lived in a vacuum of subsidies that rob them of their fullest capacity to spend their gifts and talents in community, in exchange for financial gain. Instead, they spend their inheritance of giftedness in a system of subsidy that if they are not intentional in getting in and getting out, diminishes the wealth of their true earning power.
No matter how the world views poverty and communities living in it, understand that working minimum wage when they are trying to buy smart technology to them, does not add up. In turn, they take the path of lack and need to protect personal pride and public perspective, instead of thinking entrepreneurially. It is a mixture of both jobs and entrepreneurism that have the best chance of moving communities out of poverty. The goal is channeling passion and effort into entrepreneurial enterprises that spark economic growth and self-sufficiency. There is no lack of ideas and creativity here, just a lack of capital and know how to bring ideas of innovation and creativity to market.
Gone are the days when reliance is on a company or corporation to retire your needs. What we must regain today are principles of the old rural work culture. A culture of work and entrepreneurism that believes you can take your gifts, talents and passions and translate them into meaningful income streams. Being economically disadvantaged does not mean you have not been gifted with entrepreneurial ideas, it means you arrived in time, in a place, that’s too complicated to explain how you got there.