Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann grew up in a small Indiana town and she understands the problems they face, from brain drain to drugs.

In a speech at the Clinton County Farm Bureau's annual meeting last week, she said, small towns and rural communities are the backbone of the state, but they are facing problems they must find ways to combat.

Ellspermann talked about one way to strengthen small towns and rural communities - give more emphasis to agriculture, she said.

She is correct. In economic development planning, agriculture is often short-changed. It shouldn't be.

Take Jefferson County for example.

The average size of a farm in the county is 140 acres. About 90 percent of the farms are family owned and have been in the same family for generations.

Those families have helped to feed our community and have chosen to continue to work the land even through the tough times.

"I learned about agriculture because my dad had a little jewelry store in our little town, and his saying was that if the farmers didn't have a good year then we wouldn't have a good year," she said.

State efforts, she said, include expanding FFA and recruiting agriculture teachers at the high school level.

She said community and state leaders need to find ways to invigorate local communities and economies, and agriculture will play a major part in that.

"We have Purdue University and great opportunities with it, so let's take advantage of it," she said.

"We need more good jobs in rural Indiana."

In closing, Ellspermann offered her vision for rural Indiana: a bustling small-town Main Street; high-achieving schools; new businesses - high-tech, low-tech, retail and service, all in our hometowns; high-wage technical jobs within a 30-minute commute; young adults choosing to return home; and large, medium and small agricultural enterprises.

None of those goals are unattainable.