Ever since the 1920’s people began to move from farms to cities and right now 80% of Americans are urban dwellers. But there’s a reversal afoot, at least for baby boomers and other retirees. When my husband and I moved to the country ten years ago, I didn’t realize we were part of a rural renaissance movement. We left a city thoroughfare with its car alarms, it’s bright street lights, fire engines and ambulances for a house at the end of a country lane about the width of a prostrate refrigerator lit at night only by the moon.
It was so quiet I could hear chickadees chewing.
Bill Bishop writes about this place-shifting in America. He quotes a recent report from the Economic Research Services (part of the Dept. of Agriculture). Apparently over the next decade or so people nearing retirement will be leaving larger cities, as we did, for the "chickadee chewing" parts of our country. If you like graphs, you might be interested in reading the whole report. The rate of rural population growth has tripled in the last decade and the numbers continue to rise.
I’m not sure how I feel about being labeled “an older migrant” but in fact, that’s exactly what we are. We are, in Vermontese, “flatlanders, from away.” While my husband and I are a few years older than baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) we fit the pattern. We knew after retirement, we couldn’t afford to continue to live in our expensive Cambridge, MA townhouse so we headed north. To Vermont. And so have numerous others in search of what the Economic Research people call “High amenities”:’mountains, lakes, sunshine and rivers. The map above shows those counties with the most scenic amenities (in green) and those with the fewest (in brown). That little green spot in the middle of Vermont is where we live. Mountains, lakes and rivers—and sunshine…but not all the time. I confess, I have counted Vermont “sky -greys” ranging from pinkish, violet greys to the blacker varieties.
But having grown up in Wisconsin (have you been to Door County? Do have any idea how beautiful it is?) I find this map terribly skewed. Granted, the Midwest has no mountains but the bluffs along the Mississippi River are spectacular. I know. I lived on them for over a decade. And the Midwest certainly has lakes, (Great Ones and Minnesota's ten thousand), rivers and sunshine. AND water, although water tables in the Midwest have become polluted from farming practices over the years.
I believe places with plenty of drinkable water will be what the next “where to move” maps will be pointing out. And there are other amenities to map--amenities we have discovered in Vermont:
Small town governance
Nearby farmers markets
Great cooperative food stores
Specialty local cheeses
Excellent universities and technical schools
Hiking and biking trails
Theater and opera
Pottery and glassblowing
Wonderful choral groups
Great independent bookstores
Equidistant from Montreal and Boston.
If these were the amenities charted, Vermont would certainly live up to its name: Ver-mont: Green Mountains, and be very greenest of greens on any amenities map.