August 2, 2006 | By: Terri McLean

Nearly 12 percent of American households were uncertain they would have enough food at one time or another in 2004. And, according to the Rural Sociological Society, many of those households who experienced "food insecurity" were in rural areas where the nation's food is produced.

The issue of food insecurity - and a potential response to the problem - will be just one of many topics covered when rural life takes center stage at the Rural Sociological Society's 69th annual conference in Louisville Aug. 10-13. Researchers, community advocates and others focused on the issues affecting rural areas in the United States and abroad will be on hand for the four-day event. 

“Kentucky has strong roots in rural sociology so it’s a great opportunity to have this meeting in Kentucky,” said Julie Zimmerman, a rural sociologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and presenter at the meeting. “This gathering of rural professionals is also important because the better knowledge we have about rural areas, the better understanding we have about rural areas and the better our ability to understand the diversity in places within those areas. That helps us to be able to do better things for rural areas.”

In addition to Zimmerman, several colleagues in the College of Agriculture and from around UK will play a key role at the meeting. Included is Keiko Tanaka, also a rural sociologist and organizer of one of the numerous panel discussions planned during the event. It will be “a great opportunity to showcase” rural life in Kentucky as well as the cutting-edge research and community efforts under way in the state, Tanaka said.

“I think there are very unique aspects about the rural issues Kentucky faces, particularly the way agriculture is organized here, that will be of interest to people,” she said. 

Tanaka has organized a field trip, cosponsored by the UK College of Agriculture, to a farmer’s market in West Louisville to illustrate how collaborative relationships between local governments and community organizations work together to enhance both rural and urban lives

“We have many things to share that people can take back and apply to their states and their countries,” she said, noting that in addition to the United States participants are expected from Canada, Great Britain, Poland and Japan.

While many of the panel discussions and events planned during the RSS annual conference are geared toward sociologists and other professionals with rural interests, there are also many activities that the general public might find interesting as well, including a keynote speech at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 12 by Pam McMichael of the Highlander Research and Education Center in Knoxville, Tenn. McMichael has a long history of community organizing and activism throughout the Appalachian region and will share her insights.

Famed Kentucky author and farmer Wendell Berry will also be on hand for a panel discussion and to receive the “Distinguished Service to Rural Life” award Aug. 13. Other events include a discussion on mountaintop removal and a performance by the Reel World String Band. The fee is $100 to attend a one-day session. Registration is available at the door. For more information about any of the events scheduled during the meeting, contact Ken Pigg at 573-882-4350.


Keiko Tanaka, 859-257-7574