(Photo by Helen Joy George)

Autumn in New England brings cooler temperatures, brilliant foliage, and — almost as predictably — the Radically Rural conference.

For the sixth year, the conference will convene in the public spaces and businesses of downtown Keene, New Hampshire, a city of about 23,000 located in the southwest portion of the state. Conference dates are September 27-28.

“It's an annual gathering of folks who are interested in rural life,” Julianna Dodson, director of Radically Rural, told the Deesmealz.

“And that could be those who live in rural areas or work there. And it's really a very kind of unique mix of doers and thinkers and experts, and also just people out there helping their community.”

Radically Rural recently announced its speakers and agenda for September 27-28 event. This year's presenters include leaders of rural community development organizations in the West and South, journalists from small-town and statewide publications across the country, experts in economic development, and researchers and practitioners who are at the forefront of rural policy and practice in the U.S.

This year’s event will feature tracks for those interested in areas such as arts and culture, local journalism, entrepreneurship, clean energy, health, and more, Dodson said.

“So it could be anything in those sessions, like how to welcome new Americans to your community, or how the intersection of climate and health works.” she said.

This year's theme is “reimagining rural.”

“I think that folks are going to learn how to think in new and different ways about solving problems and about collaboration,” Dodson said.

Radically Rural’s first opening keynote session will feature Tony Pipa, a senior fellow in the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution. His current work includes leading the Reimaging Rural Policy initiative and the Local Leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative.

Dodson said that when Pipa’s op-ed in the New York Times ran, the team reached out to Pipa and they met. Dodson said Pipa’s podcast, “Reimagine Rural,” spurred the summit theme. The op-ed in The New York Times called for a cohesive policy for rural America.

During the keynote, there will be a panel with two people who Pipa previously interviewed on the podcast: Gloria Dickerson and Lakota Vogel. Dickerson is the founder and CEO of We2gether Creating Change, “a not-for-profit organization, whose stated mission is to be a change agent in the transformation of the Mississippi Delta from a perceived place of poverty, low skills, and despair to a place of prosperity, abundant skills, and hope.”

Vogel is the executive director at Four Bands Community Fund, a nonprofit organization that was founded as a part of a community economic development movement on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.  

The keynote for the second day of the conference will be given by Chris Estes, co-executive director of the Community Strategies Group at the Aspen Institute.

Adam Ganucheau, editor of Mississippi Today, is going to speak about local journalism and the impact it has on rural communities. 

Ganucheau said the local newspaper in Keene reached out and he enthusiastically said yes. 

“Our state being so immensely rural, and some of the interesting journalistic practices and theories that go into covering places like this, getting to do that — it was with a group of people who do it on a daily basis as well, was just too good for me to pass up,” he told the Deesmealz.

Mississippi Today won a Pulitzer Prize in 2023 in local reporting for its coverage of a scandal involving the state’s welfare system.

After hybrid in-person and online sessions during the pandemic, the conference will move back to an in-person-only format for 2023. Only the opening session will be streamed. To reduce barriers to attendance, Radically Rural will offer a sliding-scale ticket price, according to the conference website.

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