100 episodes

The future of small towns doesn’t depend on us finding more people; we need to better engage the ones who are already there.

Each week, join Rebecca Undem, small-town champion and rural entrepreneur, as she chats with people who are doing their part to grow their community. You’ll hear ideas and learn ways to better support your business community, create a sense of belonging for all, and foster a rich arts and culture scene in your small town.

If you live in a small town, care deeply about your community, and share the belief that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”, this is the podcast for you.

The Growing Small Towns Show Rebecca Undem

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 29 Ratings

The future of small towns doesn’t depend on us finding more people; we need to better engage the ones who are already there.

Each week, join Rebecca Undem, small-town champion and rural entrepreneur, as she chats with people who are doing their part to grow their community. You’ll hear ideas and learn ways to better support your business community, create a sense of belonging for all, and foster a rich arts and culture scene in your small town.

If you live in a small town, care deeply about your community, and share the belief that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”, this is the podcast for you.

    139. The Future of Education with Dr. Cory Steiner

    139. The Future of Education with Dr. Cory Steiner

    Oh, friends and neighbors, are we excited for this episode. We love education, and we love educators who love education, and we love a different take on education. This week’s episode checks every single boxes as we talk to a Superintendent who is doing things just a little differently in his North Dakota community. 
    About Cory:  
    Dr. Cory Steiner is currently the Superintendent of the Northern Cass School District for the past 10 years. He has been an administrator for 17 years. In his current role, he has worked with a dedicated and passionate group of educators to shift their entire system to personalized competency-based learning. He has served on the Governor’s Task Force on Innovation which has challenged North Dakota’s education system to think differently. Northern Cass was a finalist for the Yass Prize and they received $500,000 to develop a Full-Service Community School.  
    Dr. Steiner believes every learner can change the world; therefore, we must provide a world-class education. It is a moral imperative we change our educational system to one which is uncompromisingly learner-centered. He also serves on the Education Standards and Practices Board, The Village Family Service Center, Rural Cass Special Education, and the Southeast Education Cooperative Board of directors. He is an adjunct professor for the University of Jamestown and the University of North Dakota. He is married to his wife, Jess, and has two children, DelRae (22), and Kelsa (19).
    In this episode, we cover: 
    How Northern Cass is different What people love about it  Why things being hard doesn’t mean they’re not working Why “Kids these days” are different, and why we should embrace that But what about college admissions?  
    Links and Resources Mentioned:
    Nice Bike book: https://nicebike.com/about-the-book/
    Northern Cass School District: https://www.northerncassschool.org/

    • 1 hr 5 min
    138. Reimagining Main Streets with Jaime Izurieta

    138. Reimagining Main Streets with Jaime Izurieta

    You know we love the idea of placemaking, Main Streets, and small things that have a big impact. Jaime Izuireta does, too, and has an architect and designer, he focuses not only on storefront design but the interaction between users and the built environment. This episode goes way beyond “How do we make Main Streets pretty?” to “How do we create an amazing Main Street experience?”
    About Jaime:  
    Jaime J. Izurieta is an architect, designer and author focused on improving the quality of the interaction between users and the built environment. Jaime is the founder of Storefront Mastery, an award-winning creative agency that imagines and designs local experiences by working with place management organizations and local businesses. Jaime is also the author of Main Street Mavericks and The Ten No-B.S. Rules For Successful Storefront Design. 
    With over 20 years of experience as small business owner, urban designer, Placemaker,
    and economic development consultant, Jaime proudly serves communities all over the nation from Montclair, New Jersey.
    In this episode, we cover: 
    What “street experience” means and why it matters Why it’s easy to “right-size” the idea of urban vitality  The difference between transactional and experiential Jaime’s advice for business owners about where to start when it comes to experience, their business, or where they can start when thinking about storefront design What every business owner can do to improve the street experience Links and Resources Mentioned:
    Storefront Mastery: https://storefrontmastery.com
    Main Street Mavericks: https://mainstreetmavericks.carrd.co
    SM's Facebook Page: https://facebook.com/storefrontmastery
    Jaime’s LinkedIn profile: https://linkedin.com/in/izurietavarea
    Book mentioned: Drawing for Architecture by Leon Krier

    • 39 min
    137. The Neighborly Thing To Do with David Burton

    137. The Neighborly Thing To Do with David Burton

    Most of us probably think we’re good neighbors. But…most of us probably actually aren’t. The Lost Art of Neighboring is something that David Burton is bringing back to help small towns and the people who live in them thrive. 
    About David:  
    David Burton has been a community development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension since 2001. He is headquartered in Springfield and creates educational programs focused on leadership and becoming an engaged neighbor.
    In 2021, David created Missouri Good Neighbor Week. The Governor signed a bill making Missouri Good Neighbor Week official in 2022. Then, in 2023, Missouri Good Neighbor Week was named America’s Neighboring Program of the Year by Neighborhoods USA. His Engaged Neighbor program was also named the program of the year by the University of Missouri Extension.
    MU Extension programs and events like "Neighboring 101," “Show Me Neighborhood Art Week” “Missouri Good Neighbor Week” and “Neighbor Kindness Day,” help to raise awareness about the importance of being an engaged neighbor and the positive impact each of us can have on our neighbors, our neighborhood and our community.
    Born and raised in Ash Grove, Mo., David is proud to call the Ozarks home. He is a two-time graduate of Drury University (1988 and 2001) with degrees in political science, journalism, and integrated marketing and communication.
    David is a prolific writer and still writes “Live and Learn” each week for the Greene County Commonwealth, and a monthly column on neighboring in the Springfield Daily Citizen.
    David and his wife, Stacey, live in Republic. Their family includes their dog Otis and their two grown children: Lauren and Matthew (and his wife Megan). They are active at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield, where David has served as Chairman of Deacons, twice chaired the pastor search team, and is preparing to lead their Neighborhood Mission Trips. 
    In this episode, we cover: 
    How David even got started in this whole neighboring thing Why we don’t need more good neighbors, we need more engaged neighbors Why grassroots neighborliness actually works  How to navigate change and push against the norm What we can each do about being neighborly in our own communities Links and Resources Mentioned:
    David’s website: engagedneighbor.com
    David’s blog: https://we-are-neighbors.blogspot.com/
    University website where you can enroll in Neighboring 101 for $25 or find other Engaged Neighbor programs: https://extension.missouri.edu/
    Missouri Good Neighbor Week: https://www.missourigoodneighborweek.com/
    National Good Neighbor Day: https://nationalgoodneighborday.com/
    Take the Engaged Neighbor Pledge: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EngagedNeighborPledge
    Subscribe to my Engaged Neighbor newsletter: https://extension.missouri.edu/media/wysiwyg/Extensiondata/dotdigital/preferences/county/Greene/Preference-en.html?utm_campaign=1020591_Becoming%20an%20Engaged%20Neighbor%20-%20%20%20February%202024%2C%20Issue%201&utm_medium=email&utm_source=email&dm_t=0,0,0,0,0

    • 50 min
    136. Dreams + Divine Timing with LeAnn Moen

    136. Dreams + Divine Timing with LeAnn Moen

    Some of our favorite kinds of stories are the ones that feature people with a dream in their hearts to do something amazing in their small towns who then go ahead and get it done. This episode is about a dream, a restaurant, and the woman who made it happen. 
    About LeAnn:  
    LeAnn Moen always wanted to own her own restaurant, but between raising children and being active on the family's farm, the timing was never quite right. Once her children were grown, though, she knew it was time. She started looking for spaces in her small town of Twin Valley, Minnesota that could accommodate the picture she had in her head, and finally, the stars aligned, and the perfect space became available. After more than a year of renovations, LeAnn's dream became a reality last December with the opening of The Grove. The Grove is more than a restaurant--it's also a bakery, a cafe, and a gathering place for her community that has quickly become the vibrant local hub she's always dreamed of. 
    In this episode, we cover: 
    The vision LeAnn had for a business in her small town How that vision became The Grove Why, when things fall through, it can actually be a good thing Why sharing your vision with employees is so important What has surprised her in the first few months of running the business Links and Resources Mentioned:
    The Grove website: https://thegrovekitchen.com/
    The Grove Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/p/The-Grove-Kitchen-Coffee-and-Bake-Shop-100091526800096/?locale=af_ZA

    • 27 min
    135. Small-Town Events with Jeremy Nelson

    135. Small-Town Events with Jeremy Nelson

    We love small-town events (duh) and we love the people who make those events happen (also duh.) Thus, we love this whole episode. We get to talk to Jeremy Nelson about an amazing market he’s started and grown in his small town of Arthur, ND, and it's become kind of a whole thing. This episode is a transparent, honest look at what it looks like to do something big in a small town!
    About Jeremy:  
    Jeremy was born in Northfield, MN and earned my BA in social studies secondary education in 2000 from Bethel College in St. Paul. He began his teaching career in St. Charles, MN, and spent six years teaching history along with several other courses, some of which were outside of his licensure area (welcome to small rural schools!), and helped create the girls' soccer program. 
    Jeremy married his wife, Amanda, on New Year's Eve 2003 and they moved to Fargo, ND, in June of 2007 to pursue a career opportunity for Amanda. He continued his teaching career at Park Christian School in Moorhead, MN that fall and is now wrapping up his 17th year at that school. 
    In 2017 they moved our family into a big old house in Arthur, ND, about 35 miles NNW of Fargo. In 2018, he received his Masters Degree in administration from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and in 2020 he stepped into the role of community coordinator for the City of Arthur, a fantastic side hustle that has allowed him to exercise his administrative chops. While in that position, he’s been in charge of a monthly newsletter, submitting grant requests for municipal projects, and organizing a variety of community events. 
    One big idea he brought to life is the Arthur Market, a farmer's and maker's market held three times each year. Started in 2020 as simply an event under the community coordinator position, the Arthur Market has grown to such an extent that during the winter of 2023/2024 he worked to establish it as a separate nonprofit LLC in the state of North Dakota. The heart of the organization is to support, promote, and collaborate with local small businesses in order to create a thriving rural community.
    In this episode, we cover: 
    What the Arthur Market is and who it’s for Lessons he’s learned heading into year five of the market Why he decided it was time to create a separate nonprofit for the market Why impact is the lens he uses when thinking about community events Why having a sandbox mentality is so important Links and Resources Mentioned:
    Arthur Market Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100093882913776
    (Website coming soon!)
    Get in touch: thearthurmarket@gmail.com

    • 1 hr 7 min
    134. Strategic + Artistic Community Development

    134. Strategic + Artistic Community Development

    What does it look like to enhance communities through art, partnership, and general change-making? Well, we can’t think of anyone better than Maggie Strong to talk to about it. Maggie loves to work with communities to spur the change they know they need, and do so in a way that makes communities better and more beautiful for all. 
    About Maggie:  
    Maggie Strong is a community builder. She founded Strong Consulting in 2016 to help organizations and communities think creatively and act strategically. A former economic development vice president and marketing executive, Maggie has 20 years of experience in strategic planning, communications, and public engagement. She gets excited about people and data and how combining the two can empower and position communities to achieve real change with lasting impact. Maggie works with civic and nonprofit clients to research, develop, facilitate, and implement strategic plans, assessments, and communication plans. She coaches community leaders, nonprofit executives, and their governing boards on how to be more effective and impactful. Maggie brings authenticity, humor, and urgency to her work and a deep respect for all people.
    Maggie holds a bachelor's degree in arts management and a master's degree in business administration, both from Quincy University. She is an expert facilitator, trained in the McNellis Compression Planning® methodology, and is certified in Nonprofit Board Consulting through BoardSource. She is a lifelong learner, pursuing her certification as an AI Consultant for Nonprofits. She has served on several nonprofit boards primarily for organizations with missions focused on young people and the arts. Maggie and her husband, Aaron, spend their time raising their kind and courageous kids, Alex, Charlie, and Cecilia, and renovating their beloved 100-year-old bungalow in their hometown of Quincy, Illinois.  
    In this episode, we cover: 
    Why art is so valuable for small towns How to embrace the subjective nature of art (and other things) for small-town development What it means to “Be the Change” in small towns Why we don’t have to personally love something in order to recognize its value The power of partnership Links and Resources Mentioned:
    www.MaggieStrong.com (Under construction, but the new website should be up soon!)

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
29 Ratings

29 Ratings

Astrukel ,

Doing great work!

Love what Rebecca and co. are doing in North Dakota. Wisdom and ideas for every town!

WE photos ,

All that money all u have is 100 year old building

Isn’t that great is the best answer I have heard to all the Debbie downers, when it comes to saving old buildings!! Need to save our history and yes it cost 💲 but once it’s gone it’s never coming back!!

BuffyRS ,


I really like the show and want to be a fan, but degrading people based on age, gender, etc makes it less effective.

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