12 ways to embrace the culture of agriculture and rural America

"The culture of agriculture in the holiday season and throughout the year needs preserving and to continue into our kids and future generations," Katie Pinke says.

Two children stand ringing bells to fundraise for the Salvation Army inside a grocery store door.
People and connections drive the culture of agriculture and differentiate rural America, says Katie Pinke. Pictured are Elizabeth Pinke and a friend ringing bells for the Salvation Army in December 2019.
Katie Pinke / Agweek
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The holiday and winter season in rural America reminds me of the importance of culture in agriculture. Many of you, like me, see it in action. We plan and participate in the activities of the long-seeming winter soon upon us. But for those not raised in the culture of agriculture, who have let the “old ways” go to the wayside or who simply stayed away the past few years, this is a refresher. I may be writing for myself here more than anyone.

Here's a list of a top of mind activities I cherish about rural life and the culture of agriculture this time of year:

  1. Buy gifts in our communities, not only online. Shopping small and supporting local means we support the people, jobs, and tax base of where we work and live.
  2. Visit our neighbors. That might mean Sunday visits for coffee or just a call ahead to the nearby widow, the new family or someone you haven’t seen in a while to ask to come by for a visit with some cookies or a fruit basket in hand.
  3. Show up for the local tree lighting, community Santa Day, church caroling, or box packing for Operation Christmas Child.
    Attend a local tree lighting, visit your neighbor, take in a Christmas school or church program or watch a basketball game in a school gymnasium soon to experience rural American culture this season, says Katie Pinke. Pictured is a tree lighting from 2016 in Wishek, North Dakota.
    Katie Pinke / Agweek
  4. Attend the school and church Christmas programs and cantatas, whether you have kids or family members participating or not.
  5. Donate to a local charity, take names off the local angel tree or simply support those you know need extra cheer this season that others may not know or recognize.
  6. Ring the bell for the local Salvation Army or Lions Club fundraiser.
  7. Dig out family recipes to make with your loved ones. Some are more loved than others and some delicacies we continue for tradition.
  8. Deliver Meals on Wheels or support a local food pantry or soup kitchen.
    Delivering Meals on Wheels and donating or volunteering at a local food pantry or soup kitchens are ways to connect to your community culture in rural America, shares Katie Pinke. Pictured are Pinke's daughters on Dec. 24, 2018, delivering meals with her.
    Katie Pinke / Agweek
  9. Attend agriculture meetings, conferences and farm shows, connecting with fellow agriculturists, farmers and ranchers while learning new information. These are mostly winter meetings, and the connections I've learned span across decades.
  10. Watch local basketball in a small-town gymnasium. An agribusiness professional once told me his business goal was for his niche crop to be the topic in bleachers at basketball games. Our daughters' seasons start this week and I know exactly what he means now.
  11. Bring your tractor/ snowblower over to clear the elderly neighbor or young mother's driveway.
  12. Say hello and stop to talk to the person in the grocery store aisle near you, or across the aisle in an airplane when you see someone from agriculture you recognize. That happened to me last night.

People and connections drive the culture of agriculture and differentiate rural America for me.
If we lose our intentional connection with the few people around us, the culture fades in agriculture, I believe.

This past week, I spent a night in Columbus, Ohio, the 14th largest city in America with about 2 million people in the metro area. That's about three times the population of my home state, North Dakota. I attended a conference with agribusiness professionals and spoke to the group.

Even in a big city 1,000 miles from where I call home, the passions shared among those who live and work in agriculture connect us.


The comforts though of the idyllic culture I love are more difficult for me to find and see in a large city setting. Of course, community and connection still exist but not like we share in rural America, I feel.

Rural American culture is not perfect. We know and see flaws and work to improve them. Not all get along, but shared values and mutual respect differentiate our communities and connections.

The culture of agriculture in the holiday season and throughout the year needs preserving and to continue into our kids and future generations. Your example is noticed and sets the stage for others to follow.

Visit your neighbor this week. And I hope to see you at the Christmas program or in a school gymnasium soon.

And to the farmer who recognized me across the aisle on an airplane last night, thanks for chatting and sharing about farming and family life. You reminded me of the importance of culture in agriculture, no matter where we find ourselves.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Opinion by Katie Pinke
Katie Pinke serves as Agweek and AgweekTV's publisher and general manager and since 2015 has written a weekly column. Pinke resides in rural North Dakota with her husband and children where she is a 4-H leader, active community volunteer, and a proud fifth-generation farmers' daughter.
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