Jan. 4, 2001


Writer: Blair Fannin, (979) 845-2259,b-fannin@tamu.edu


ROUND TOP - A new Web site is helping people with the challenge of moving from the city to the country for the first time, offering tips and information on installing septic systems, planting gardens and other topics.

The Urban Rancher, a Web site project developed by Tami Hons and Tony Provin at Texas A&M University, is helping city dwellers learn more about what to expect when making the move from the city to the country.

Provin had designed a traditional Texas Agricultural Extension educational program called "The Range to the Ranchette." Hons needed a project for her Web page building class at A&M. She and her husband were searching for acreage to buy and learned the large segments of the urban opulation were quickly moving to the country. Provin and Hons joined orces, leading to the creation of the Urban Rancher Web site.

"There's a lot of people out there that are moving to the country, but they have no idea what country life is like," said Hons, Web site administrator for the soil and crop sciences department at A&M. "They don't want 20 acres. They just want one to five acres, or maybe 10 acres. They want a 4-H project; they want a herb garden, and they just want to make a connection with the land. So we built this Web site to hopefully help them make that connection."

When taking a tour of the Web site, browsers can click on topics such as installing culverts, growing pasture grasses, and what type of tractor will be best suited for the size of acreage. Provin, an Extension soil chemist, said he learned of the demand for such information when several neighbors saw him out working one weekend.

"I was in Liberty County one Sunday doing some plot work when six people crossed the barbed wire fence to ask me some questions," Provin said. "They had seen my Extension vehicle, and it just kind of clicked that there is a need and hunger for this type of information."

The Web site includes testimonials from individuals who have made the switch from city life to country life. When Bud and Karen Royer left Houston to buy a local café in the small town of Round Top, little did they know the issues they would face in making the move to the country for the first time.

"To get something, we need to drive 30 miles to get there and 30 miles to come back," Bud Royer said. "To get a car fixed, it's not about leaving it there and getting the mechanic to drop you back at your house. That's a joke. It's just not reality."

However, there are rewards for those moving from the city to the country according to Karen Royer.

"It really is a haven for us," she said. "It is the place that I like to be. It has inspired my creativity, my writing, my art - things that I don't know if I would have done if I stayed in Houston where you can run to a movie, run to the mall or you can call up a friend and run and do something. It has been good to me. I like the life that we have."

For more more information about making the move to the country for the first time, check out the Urban Rancher Web site at http://urbanrancher.tamu.edu.