• Davon Goodwin, left, manages the Sandhills AGInnovation Center, a program that's meant to help farmers in Richmond and Montgomery counties, east of Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    What ties urban, rural areas together? Forum will highlight connections

    The Charlotte region rose to prosperity on the strength of ties between its rural areas and urban center, but those ties have frayed in recent decades, with the decline of the textile industry and Charlotte’s emergence as an independent finance center. The first annual Schul Forum Series, hosted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, will examine what remains of those economic, social and cultural connections, and how we can work to revive them.
  • Chris Cagle in the Eldorado Outpost, the store and gathering spot where he introduces people to the Uwharries. Photo: Jeff Michael

    Chris Cagle: Bringing urban cash into a rural economy

    This story is one of seven vignettes in the series Rural by Choice: Navigating Identity in the Uwharries.  Hard-earned paychecks in the Uwharries are all too often spent at chain stores with headquarters in far-flung locations, or at restaurants and shops in large cities, sending cash from rural to urban areas instead of keeping it in the local economy.   The Eldorado Outpost has helped reverse that flow.
  • The Robledo family, who have bucked the trend of getting higher education degrees and leaving rural areas, in favor of remaining in the Uwharries. Photo courtesy Robledo family.

    Irma and Ernesto Robledo: Creating a rural brain gain

    Education is often seen as the ticket out of a rural area. But the Robledo family has sought higher education – often in urban areas – to provide them with job opportunities so they can make their home in the Uwharries.
  • Tracy Newsom Garner's father (right) in the family's jewelry store, with a customer and employee. The jewelry store was a longtime fixture on Main Street in Troy. Photo courtesy Tracy Newsom Garner. 

    Tracy Newsom Garner: Love and loss (of a small, local business)

    Newsom’s Jewelers was a fixture on Main Street in Troy for almost 50 years.  Tracy Newsom Garner’s grandfather moved from High Point to start the business in 1952, following in the footsteps of his brothers, who’d opened jewelry stores in Salisbury and Denton.  His son, Charles, worked alongside him and took over the business when he died in 1972.
  • Ron and Nancy Bryant on their farm in the Uwharries. Photo: Jeff Michael

    Ron and Nancy Bryant: From activism to stewardship

    As Ron’s retirement approached, they turned to the faith that had brought them together and prayed for a sign to guide them to the right tract of land.  They found it along the banks of the Pee Dee River in Stanly County, as the flight of an eagle formed the shape of a cross.   Now called 3 Eagles Sanctuary, this 170-acre tract of forest and farmland is being managed for wildlife habitat and sustainable agriculture.  Ron and Nancy have gone from being activists to stewards.
  • Chappell Russell Foley's dog store in the former Hotel Troy is called Twilight Bark. Photo courtesy Chappell Russell Foley

    Chappell Russell and Justin Foley: Trying to recreate the South End lifestyle in a rural town

    Chappell Russell and Justin Foley were living the millennial dream.  They met at Appalachian State.  He worked for a large CPA firm in uptown Charlotte.  She helped run a small dog-training business.  They had an apartment in South End.  On weekends, they walked their dogs Oliver and Indie on the Rail Trail, stopping at breweries and local shops like the Canine Café.
  • Danny Alderman (center) enjoys hunting in the Uwharries. Photo courtesy Montgomery Herald.

    Danny Alderman: Beyond the bedroom community

    Danny Alderman puts 1,200 to 1,400 miles on his truck each week.   As the general superintendent of North Carolina projects for Branch Builds, he oversees about $250 million worth of work across the state, including schools in Cabarrus County and Indian Trail — as well as the rare project close to home, the new high school in Montgomery County. “I’m in such a rat race during the day,” he said.  “That’s why I choose to live in the Uwharries.” 
  • Jerry and Jackcine Laughlin in front of the remnants of a hearth on their family's historic property. Photo: Jeff Michael

    Jerry and Jackcine Laughlin: Maintaining family ties to the land

    The land at this particular crossroads in southern Randolph County has a storied history.  It once belonged to Miles and Healy Lassiter, and some of it still belongs to their descendants, including Jerry Laughlin.   Miles was born into slavery circa 1777, but apparently this status wasn’t fully enforced.  At the time of their marriage circa 1810, Healy was a free woman of color who already owned land in the area.  Together, they eventually held 400 acres, a vast estate in a mountainous area inhabited by small-scale subsistence farmers.  
  • A mowed yard, traditional fence posts, managed grasslands and a small, forested mountain. For many, the landscape is a vital part of what makes the Uwharries home. Photo: Ruth Ann Grissom.

    Rural by Choice: Navigating identity in the Uwharries

    The narrative around rural areas has often held that people need to leave for a better chance to find success, typically in the city. But for many, leaving the place they love and call home never really feels like an option. Here are seven stories of people who are turning that narrative on its head. 
  • Ashli Stokes, Jeff Michael and Jeff Gillman stand near the planned trail outside the new Urban Institute offices.

    UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens’ Historical Trail to interpret cultures

    An outdoor, living exhibit on its way to the UNC Charlotte campus will tell the story of North Carolina through plants and crops crucial to the state’s development.