As part of our ongoing work to expand the body of knowledge around rural places and issues, we’ve assembled the following list of articles, books, movies, and other media to share the perspectives that inform and enrich our work.

Please let us know if you have any additions to suggest.

Rural Issues

Just as no city is the same as another, rural America is not homogenous. Rural towns and environments are rich with culture, resources, and vitality, with opportunities just as unique as the people that live there. Here are some articles we’ve noted as helpful towards expressing the specificities of place that are often lost or miscategorized in a national conversation that tends to place “urban” and “rural” on opposing terms. The simple truth is as the ends of the spectrum are each reliant on each other, no one higher in hierarchy than the other.


“Speak your piece: getting real about rural resilience”
Mark Haggerty and Julia Haggerty, The Daily Yonder, April 2019

“Speak your piece: the ‘hard truths’ of dismissing rural philanthropy”
Allen Smart and Betsey Russell, The Daily Yonder, January 2019
(A response to this NY Times article)

Art of the Rural
A collaborative network of rural arts and culture organizations.

Rural Generation, Theory of Change
A coalition of rural arts organizations committed to cross-sector, collective impact. They also organize an annual Summit on rural creative placemaking, scheduled May 2019 in the Mississippi Delta.

Rural Community Assistance (RCAC)
A nonprofit organization that provides training, technical assistance, and advocacy for rural communities.

Rural Matters
A bi-weekly podcast with guests that range from rural education decision-makers, rural business owners and entrepreneurs, and rural health care representatives.

“Why the Government is Losing Trust of Rural America
Loka Ashwood walked us through the results of her years of patient listening and careful research in rural Georgia, all of which emphasized something that every honest localist, probably already knows: namely, that rural America’s politics is driven by, more than anything else, the fear of and frustration over economic dispossession, meaning the capturing of landthe very thing that most crucially defines a person’s choice to live and stick with a rural lifeby both state and corporate actors. That fear and frustration entrenches an attitude which can be easily appropriated by anti-state and conservative movements, but is more properly understood as an agrarian version of anarchism, a desire for statelessness, a wish to preserve that which should be a local resources and be subject to local stewardship, rather than distant ownership.

Rural Economic Development

Social Mobility in Rural America
National 4-H Council and Bridgespan Group, November 2018

Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI)
An organization committed to analyzing the challenges, needs, and opportunities facing rural America to better inform policy.

“America’s Rural Opportunity: how innovative investment in rural people and places strengthens American enterprise”
Rural Development Innovation Group, 2017

Rural Community Assistance (RCAC)
A nonprofit organization that provides training, technical assistance, and advocacy for rural communities.

"Race Matters: Unequal Opportunities for Rural Family Economic Successes"
Race Matters Collection, Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2006

Food Systems

We utilize the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan’s definition of Food System when using this term: “The food system encompasses how food moves from farms to tables. It includes farmers and the farmland on which food is grown, manufacturers and processors, distributors—from truckers to grocery stores to food banks—and all residents as consumers. It also incorporates the inputs needed and outputs generated at each step, including food waste.”

Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan
Action Plan Advisory Board, Co-Chairs, and Executive Team, 2016

The Rural Coalition/ Coalició Rural
An alliance of farmers, farmworkers, and working people across the Americas committed to centralizing rural communities and representing the underrepresented identities in farming and ranching.

Agriculture and Land-Based Training (ALBA)
A Salinas Valley-based nonprofit dedicated to creating economic opportunity for limited-resources and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education.

Fresno Food Commons
An organic, hyperlocal organic operation with a community focus at all levels of the food chain.

Access to Noble
and Affordable Housing

A home is the smallest unit of measure in a community, the building blocks for a healthy community. Without a safe, affordable, and varied housing stock, a community is hamstrung. In rural environments, a restricted access to housing resources - that by design focus on population and economic centers - creates barriers for building new and maintaining existing housing. At Blue Sky, we’re working as advocates for our neighbors, identifying the specific housing barriers in the Cuyama Valley and connecting housing resources to community members seeking to buy, build, or rehabilitate their homes.

Rural Studio
An off-campus design-build program offered through the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University.

“Warm, Dry, and Noble”
Andrea Dean, 2002

Citizen Architect (film)
Sam Wainwright Douglas, 2010

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
A nonprofit organization that provides training, technical assistance, and advocacy for rural communities.

Designed for Habitat
David Hinson & Justin Miller, 2012


One of the greatest concerns for our communities is access to safe, affordable water that will support local industry and last for generations. Our basin has been identified by the Department of Water Resources as one of 21 “critically overdrafted” basins across California. Because of this classification, our basin must develop a Groundwater Sustainability Management Plan (GSP) by 2020 as mandated by the 2014 California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), to reach groundwater sustainability by the year 2040. This process is being guided by consultants at Woodard & Curran and decided by an 11-member board (the Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, or GSA), with advising by a community board, the Standing Advisory Committee (GSA SAC).

Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA)
A resource that explains more about SGMA, lists GSA and SAC meeting times and minutes, and provides further resources on how to stay connected as the GSP develops.

Water and Power: A California Heist (film)
Marina Zenovich, Netflix, 2017

“The battle over water in Santa Barbara’s high desert”
Jonathan Bastian, KCRW, June 2018

“A Kingdom From Dust”
Mark Arax, The California Sunday Magazine, January 2018

A Changing Groundwater Picture in Cuyama (film)
Matt Davis, 2018

“Harvard Quietly Amasses California Vineyards—and the Water Underneath”
Russell Gold, The Wall Street Journal, December 2018

“After Local Outcry, a Harvard-Owned Vineyard Project Faces Environmental Review”
Alexandra A. Chaidez and Luke W. Vrotsos, The Harvard Crimson, March 2019

Art, Design, and Creative Community Engagement

A Guide to More Accessible Open Calls
Rivet, Medium, October 2018

"Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-Belonging"
Roberto Bedoya, GIA Reader, 2013

An Incomplete List of Resources for the Equity-Centered Designer
Isabelle Yisak, Medium, October 2017

Creative People Power: a renewable natural resource for building community health
Springboard for the Arts & Helicon Collaborative, 2018

Common Field
A national network of independent arts organizations and organizers.

“Respectful Collection of Democratic Data”
Sarai Rosenburg, Medium, March 2017

"White Fragility"
Robin DiAngelo, International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 2011

Just Communities
A Central Coast nonprofit organization that offers trainings, provides resources, and fosters leaders to mobilize for social change.

Racial Equity Tools: Glossary
An online resource for individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity.

The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity
A Bakersfield nonprofit that provides safe and supportive space and resources for LGBTQ communities of Kern County.

Queer Terminology from A to Q
Qmunity, BC’s Queer Resource Centre, 2017