A few days before I launched the first episode of Reframing Rural’s Sowing Possibility series featuring Sarah Calhoun, I was camping on the Olympic Peninsula and the rain was just relentless. With wet hands and spotty glasses my friends and I spent two hours patching together tarps with bungee cords and rope. Once we made a shelter, we started a fire below then passed around a whiskey bottle to ward off the chill. When I returned to the comfort of home, hung my gear out to dry and opened my computer to put the finishing touches on the podcast episode, I was reminded of a point that Sarah made during our conversation. When she moved to White Sulphur Springs to start her women’s workwear brand, Red Ants Pants, Meagher County, Montana was one of the most economically depressed places in the nation. During our interview I excitedly interjected, “it’s not that anymore,” but Sarah reminded me of all the unrelenting community efforts and time it took to move into a period of prosperity. Relentless like a downpour in the rainforest, the White Sulphur Springs community worked and worked and worked to build up their community. This work is ongoing, in Meagher County and in small towns across America. It’s exciting to hear people talk about their accomplishments as small business owners, cultural workers, music festival producers or agents of rural economic development. But we can’t forget all the teamwork and troubleshooting and trying then trying again that has to happen along the journey of rural resiliency. It’s clear that Sarah puts in this work and that she knows how to convene people along the way, all while building common ground and fostering a sense of belonging.
This season is intended to sow hope and a sense of possibility, and joining in a conversation with Sarah is an exercise in just that. I hope you enjoy the first episode in our Sowing Possibility series, featuring rural champion, Sarah Calhoun.