Rural That Works conference comes to Hamilton County

JEWELL – A special conference geared for small town folks who are interested in learning from other successful small towns and people will be held Sept. 6 and 7, in Stratford and Jewell.

The Rural That Works conference is being hosted by Sarah Thompson and Deb Brown. Information and tickets are available at

Ben Winchester, keynote speaker, is trained as a Rural Sociologist and works as a Senior Research Fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality and conducts research on topics surrounding a theme of “rewriting the rural narrative” that are vital to rural America.

“We were looking for a conference in a small town, that addressed rural challenges, and could not find what we were looking for. So we created our own! We’re planning this conference with you in mind. We know that it’s easy to go to a conference and get all excited, but when you get home conveying the excitement to others is difficult. You’ll leave with actionable items that your local people will be encouraged and excited to put into place,” said Brown.

Rural That Works speakers include Joe Jennison from Mount Vernon, Iowa who shares how to create events out of nothing. Kelly Haman, event director at the new events center in Briggs Woods will share how they fundraised and built an over 2 million building in a town of 8,000. Deb Brown from SaveYour.Town will share Innovative Rural Business Models, you’ll learn smaller-scale business models being used right now in small towns. A panel of rural artists will discuss how to use art in your community as economic development. Abby Huff will speak about How to write a National Register Nomination for your rural buildings. Sarah Thompson will focus on Growing Your Downtown and Creating A Regional Garden of Economic Development. Jewell Area Development Enterprise will discuss how they found funding to create real economic difference in their small town.

“There’s nothing more exciting watching small towns change and grow over time. We bring practical experience that helps make that process easier. Register today, seating is limited to 125 people,” said Thompson.

Activities at Rural That Works are also scheduled for the attendees. They will create event plans and also work on what problems rural towns face. The responses will be collected and prepared for the attendees to access when they arrive home. There will be local artist displays, including a 1 ton Pegasus by Larry Pearson Metal Art from Radcliffe, Iowa. Visit the website to see updated listings of art works.

Several videos will be created to view when they get home and can share with their communities. Darcy Maulsby – Iowa’s Story Teller, Sheila Scarborough with Tourism Currents, and Richard Black – printmaker from Farnhamville, Iowa (and also knighted by the Queen of England) are just a few scheduled video creators for this event.

Partners who are helping make Rural That Works possible are Hy-Vee Webster City, Building Possibility, Rural Revitalization LLC and Midwest Travel Bloggers. More partner opportunities are available at this time.