Rural Routes, a podcast hosted by St. John’s-based Bojan Fürst and Rebecca Cohoe, via MUN’s Harris Centre, launched its second season this fall. The podcast looks at rural life in the 21st century, sharing stories about rural living from across Canada and the world.
Season two splices together clips of interviews with commentary from Fürst and Cohoe. They interview academics who study rural life, as well as people with first-hand experience of making it work in a remote place. Most episodes bring lots of different voices and perspectives together to examine a single theme.
One episode looks at national parks and historic sites in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Zealand, focusing on their relationship to Indigenous peoples’ traditional hunting and gathering land. Another episode follows four young women (from P.E.I., Southwestern Ontario, and near Bologna in Italy) who grew up farming, left to pursue other careers, and ended up returning to the farm.
Fürst was inspired to start the show after attending a conference on rural living; he wanted the exciting ideas that had been discussed at the conference to reach more people. Initially, he thought about pitching content to community newspapers but found that many of Canada’s remote areas were far more likely to have a community radio station than a local paper. He hosted the first season of Rural Routes on his own and was happily surprised when he learned how many people were tuning in.
“It was really just me working at my desk with a cheap mic and I thought if I got a couple hundred people listening that would be great,” Fürst said, “… the show got almost five thousand downloads, it was on nine radio stations across seven provinces. So I decided it’s time to make this actually sound good.”
After realizing how successful the first season had been, Fürst decided to partner with CHMR to up the show’s production quality and invited Cohoe to host alongside him. Cohoe grew up in a farming family in Southwestern Ontario, and she’s passionate about addressing the challenges people face in rural areas honestly.
“So many of us, especially in urban areas, have this idealized and really simplified impression of rural life, so emphasizing the complexity and richness of what’s happening in rural areas is something I feel strongly about,” Cohoe said.
The show’s title is a reference to the rural routes system that post-people use to deliver mail in some sparsely populated parts of the country, but it’s also a metaphor for the way the show finds links between stories from very distinct places separated by vast distances.
“I like that explicit connection to mail and to traveling across rural Canada,” Fürst said. “Most people live in urban Canada but geographically the majority of the country is rural, I like that the title Rural Routes gives us a sense of connection and a sense of that really huge space that we’re trying to cover.”