Growing Kids and Corn in Suburbia
Until recently, I assumed that country living was better than city living. Now I’m having second thoughts.
When we first got together, my wife and I were bona fide city slickers. Then one day we left the smoggy sprawl of Southern California for a town in Colorado where we learned to garden and make babies. Soon we bought a truckload of manure, rototilled the front lawn (to the shock of our neighbors), and explored edible gardening. Our passions grew – along with our chickens, vegetables and children – until eventually we bought a seven-acre organic farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where … we lived happily ever after.
Well, not exactly. The kids are moving out now (wow – that was fast!) and the place is suddenly too big. So we’re poised for one “last” move. I’m tempted to buy a piece of paradise way out in the country. Instead, we are discovering that our best move just might lead us closer to town.
These are some of the factors we have considered when searching for the “perfect” location:
Nature is much more important than many people realize. Nature brings joy and actually adds years to life. Exposure to sunlight raises Vitamin D levels, strengthens bones, alleviates stress, and lowers susceptibility to heart disease, diabetes, and many health problems [source]. Research shows that the closer people live to traffic, the higher their risk of atherosclerosis, due to air pollution and noise [source]. The incentives to exercise outdoors are much stronger in a clean, natural setting.
Other Health Considerations
City dwellers have higher anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Children in cities have nearly three times as many serious emotional disorders [source]. Crime rates are higher in cities – a problem that could become significantly worse in the days to come. Additionally, the harms of city water, EMFs (electromagnetic fields), pollutants, and constant noise (as mentioned above) all subtract years from our lives. Conversely, access to healthcare is better in cities. It is important to note that the risks of living in the inner city are much greater than in the suburbs, so where you live in the city really matters.
Friends and family are as essential as the air that we breathe. Socially isolated people are at higher risk of depression, heart disease, dementia, and premature death [source]. People will easily drive 10 minutes to see friends and family for fun and food, but a 30 minute drive is a difficult decision. I am tempted to buy beautiful, affordable property a half hour from our urban-oriented friends and family, but we do not wish to spend our days alone in the country. (This may not apply to you, if your tribe typically gathers in a rural setting.)
Jobs are perhaps the strongest force drawing people to cities. We recently visited an off-the-grid eco-community in the Appalachian Mountains. Despite its many benefits, income opportunities are scarce there, living as they are an hour’s drive from the city on winding mountain roads. Even e-commerce is hindered by restricted access to the Internet.
Urban dwellers obviously have easy access to community events, shopping, healthcare and more. Burning an hour’s worth of gasoline on a round-trip to town each day is neither economical nor ecological, but some people have no choice – at least for a period of time.
This is the rope that tethers our soaring dreams of the “perfect” location to reality. I dream of a 20-acre farm right at the edge of town with bass ponds and daisy meadows; unfortunately the vision turns to smoke when I see the price tag.
So what is the right choice?
Well … that depends on what compromises you want to make. My wife and I boiled down everything we wanted and needed in property to a list of non-negotiable items that include peace, quiet, beauty, no huge health hazards (e.g., freeways, factories, mega-power lines), enough dirt for our dreams, about 10 minutes from friends and family, hopefully within walking distance of shops, and an affordable price [see footnote].
it is likely that our “perfect” property will be near the edge of town. Yours will likely be somewhere entirely different. As for us, we’re in no hurry for our little farm to sell. So let’s wait and see how this dream materializes…
About the Author
James Werning and his family manage the Fox and Fiddle Inn and organic farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina (www.foxandfiddle.net).
footnote: I have said nothing about the structure(s) on the land because: 1) we believe the location is the most important thing, and 2) we are prepared to fix up, tear down or rebuild within reason. But that’s a topic for another discussion.
Thank you James for sharing your perspective on the classic country vs. city debate!
This is an important decision for people and families at all stages. And like you so wonderfully illuminated, the decision is often not as black and white as it can seem on the surface. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here!