Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Rural folk

I have noticed something with the upcoming Cleantech revolution, and that is a growing power placed with one of this nation's earlier entrepreneurs (as well as the entrepreneurs of my previous nation - the US - and my previous nation before that - Canada). I'm talking about farmers and ranchers. These people don't get much thought these days (at least by city-dwelling folk like me), and in many ways I think that they've been sold short. I've noticed in all three countries that I've lived that there is a divide between rural and urban dwellers. That being said I must say that the divide in Australia is the narrowest, and in the US it is the widest (so much so, that the political spectrum is almost neatly divided between urban "blue states" - Democrat supporters, and rural "red states" - Republican supporters). As an aside, I've noticed that the split is nearly reversed in Canada - the rural people are left wing, and the urban people are right wing (sort of), but I digress.

Where am I going with all of this? Well, with much of the "new economy" hoopla over the past ten years many people in the media have given the impression that entrepreneurs are all engineering students between the ages of 20 and 30 starting up web-based businesses. Everyone else was dismissed as "old economy". Agriculture wasn't even hip enough to be classed as "old economy", it was simply dismissed entirely. Growing up in Saskatchewan (a very farming oriented, rural province of Canada) I saw a lot of this. However, farmers are some of the most entrepreneurial people I know. The original pioneers who populated the West of Canada and the US (and rural Australia) endured risks far more than any entrepreneur, and the farmers of today know what it takes to run a business, and are very innovative.

What I think we'll see happen, and in many cases I have begun to see it already, is the entrepreneurial spirit of farming will resurge and play a major role in Cleantech. At least three huge sectors of Cleantech are a good fit for rural life - wind farms, solar farms, and biofuels production. Farmers are used to using their land as a business to make money, and I've seen many cases where farmers were eager to set up a wind farm or grow biofuel suitable plants. There is a lot of push in the rural community to make big on the opportunities presented by Cleantech, and given the entrepreneurial history required of rural life, I think it is somewhat exciting that this group, often overlooked by traditional urban, tech-oriented folk, could have a resurgance and play a major role in this new wave of tech adoption.

No comments: