In community development, we sometimes find ourselves dealing with small rural communities that resemble rotten apples. They appear shiny on the outside, but need a lot of work on the inside. We use terms like leadership, entrepreneurial development, youth attraction, and others to work from the inside to make the community better. But what happens when the apple is fairly good on the inside, yet the skin could use a little work?

Beautification is a key aspect of community development, and it can be an easy way to bring people together. The dictionary defines beautification as a process of making visual improvements in a town or city. This often involves planting trees, shrubbery, and other greenery. It may involve decorative or historic main street development. Towns and villages often undertake beautification projects to refurbish their downtowns and boost tourism and other commerce.

One of the best kept secrets in small communities is Master Gardeners. The Master Gardener program developed through state extension services to provide volunteers with research-based horticulture knowledge. A key component of this training is that it requires participants to give 40 hours of volunteer service during their initial year of involvement. Master Gardeners retain the title through annual training and volunteering. Many communities could draw on this resource as a way of beautification. A few well placed shrubs and trees often accentuate the positive and help look past the negative.

In addition to planting a few strategically placed plants, picket fences and a little paint go a long way to showcasing the community. If each community member takes responsibility to enhance the beauty of the community and diminish any eyesore, the shiny apple will emerge from looking dull and drab.

Contact: Michael L. Holton, 402.582.4915, for more information about the Center for Rural Affairs’ rural community development work.