Our Patchwork Culture: An Update

Mohawk Children dancing at a Pow Wow, cultural marker #155; Native Skins and Dear-Lover


By Rachel Reynolds Luster, Contributing Editor

On August 5, we ran “Our Patchwork Culture: Mapping Rural America.” The story ran in shorter form on The Daily Yonder as “Mapping Culture.” Both pieces invited readers to suggest cultural markers that could be mapped on the local and/or national level in addition to my original list of 96. I’m appreciative for the many thoughtful suggestions that readers from both sites offered. They follow below, as with the original list, in no particular order:


97) Small farms/family farms with specialty or market crops, Along with farm markets maybe farm stands (quite different)
98) CSA (community supported agriculture) members
99) Community gardens
100) Comedy clubs
101) Sports venues/stadiums
102) Nursing homes
103) Midwives or birth centers
104) Off-grid power
105) Use of the word “river” in local phone listings
106) Use of the word “lake” in local phone listings
107) Rural Water Board organizations.
108) Chicken Plants
109) Cancer treatment centers and support centers.
110) Plant nurseries.
111) ESL classes.
112) Assisted Living Facilities
113) Animal Rescue organizations/facilities
114) Soccer Leagues
115) 4-Way stops (suggests the social contract of law abiding citizens and use of electronic traffic control and population concentration)
116) Phone booths
117) AGDO (automatic garage door opener installs…a device that closed homes to the street and reduced social cohesion/connections)
118) Bicycle shops and Harley dealerships
119) Tiki Bars
120) Freestanding drive-in oil change shops
121) Independently owned auto repair shops
122) U-pick farms
123) Goat and other minor breed operations
124) Youth retention / young family percentage
125) Divorce rate
126) Marriage rate
127) Regular church attendance
128) Use of renewable energy
129) Percentage of people who grow their own garden
130) Lobster Shacks
131) Restaurants that serve Acadian Food
132) Local Feed/Grain Growers and Distributors
133) Percentage of trucks vs. cars (further broken down to 150/1500s vs. 250/2500+ and by registration category (i.e. farm vs. commercial vs. private)
134) Goat production (esp. those raised/slaughtered according to Islamic law)
135) Number of lottery tickets sold per week
136) Access to natural springs
137) Public wells
138) Percentage of people using private water supply
139) Number of pork producers with access to a USDA inspected packaging plant within 50 miles
140) Number of beef producers with access to a USDA inspected packaging plant within 50 miles
141) Percentage of homeschoolers
142) Number of midwives
143) Number of farriers
144) Consolidated school districts
145) Unconsolidated school districts
146) Number of bilingual households
147) Number of local parades
148) Woodworkers
149) Carvers
150) Pier and beam house levelers
151) Saddle and tack repair shops
152) Upholsterers
153) Sign painters
154) Marine outboard motor shops
155) Pow Wows
156) Feeds
157) Health and human services offices
158) Number of businesses offering horseback riding lessons
159) Number of available Suzuki classes
160) Square dances
161) Horse owners
162) Number of local/ community festivals
163) CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)
164) Roadside Americana
165) Street art
166) Vernacular memorials to local heroes/roadside memorials
167) Yard art/ recycled or repurposed art / “folk” art environments
168) Fiber guilds
169) Alternative and/or ethnic medical providers
170) Clogging groups
171) Sacred Harp/Shape Note Singers
172) Artisan or Regional Specialty Foods
173) Halloween Activities/ Haunted Houses
174) Baking (etc.) contests
175) 4-H animal husbandry contests
176) Church Homecomings
177) Thrift Stores
178) Railway Crossings Without Signals
179) Amish Communities
180) Grain Elevators
181) Driving Distance to the Nearest Retail Store Selling Underwear

Many of these suggestions speak in particular to aspects of rural life and culture. The most interesting possibility in mapping these and other aspects of life and practice in America are the intersections of our national culture which would be illuminated through the process. The original list of 96 was created, at least in part, with the idea that there were cultural markers that would represent various socio-economic groups, ethnic backgrounds, belief systems, and genders.

In addition, I tried to represent populations and cultural markers associated with rural, urban, and suburban areas with the thought that, if these markers were digitally mapped, search fields could be combined or layered, and that, especially over time, cultural patterns would emerge, illuminating the commonalities between communities and populations. This would serve as a visual tool for counteracting stereotypes of any one place or people, and their culture–whether it be on the county, state, regional, or national level.


This possibility is especially enticing in light of some of the recent posts on our site by Editor Matthew Fluharty (see his comments in The Daily Yonder and his “What We Talk About When We Talk About The Rural”). We often speak to one another about the important symbiotic relationship between rural and urban culture–and how to encourage discussions of these connections in our work. Over the next few months we will be taking to heart the many wonderful resources that have been brought to our attention and revising our Rural Arts Map. We encourage all of our readers to contribute with these thoughts in mind. Thank you for your overwhelming response.