Out there, somewhere, where’s it’s particularly green and lush from buckets and buckets of rain and moderate temperatures, is local, rural Ontario.

Some of us live in it, some live beside it, some seldom see it. But as we become more aware of all things local, it’s inevitable our focus will turn there. What goes on in rural Ontario — food production, recreation, environmental and conservation activities, tourism, transportation — is vital to the province. Ontario is continually looking for ways to make the rural part of the province better understood, and develop policies that help deepen its sustainability.

That’s where the Guelph-based Rural Ontario Institute comes in. It’s a still-new organization whose time has arrived, with a mandate to catalyze dialogue, collaboration and action on issues facing rural Ontario. Born out of an amalgamation a year ago of The Centre for Rural Leadership and The Ontario Rural Council, it emphasizes and delivers leadership training and development, among other things.

One of its goals is to connect the range of rural stakeholders across our broad geography and across an array of topics. To that end, it’s created a program called Community Exchange, and an interesting initiative it’s named the Rural Ontario Reader. I believe that besides connecting rural people, the reader will also give urbanites a glimpse of what’s going on with their rural neighbours. I write about the Rural Ontario Reader in the Guelph Mercury in my Urban Cowboy column.