NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Fauquier County Virginia has ranked No. 1 on The Progressive Farmer magazine's first annual list of Best Places to Live in Rural America.
The magazine assembled a list of 100 top rural counties from all over America.
The Progressive Farmer made its selections with the help of statistics from OnBoard Research Group, which identified 600 counties that met the magazine's criteria for population density (the lower the better) and income (the higher the better), and then ranked the counties by several additional factors, including health care, school quality, climate, pollution, crime, and taxes.
The editorial staff then looked at the highest finishers and examined their quality-of-life, scenery, and culture to come up with the list of 100.
Jamie Cole, creative editor of The Progressive Farmer, said even before the research process began, the magazine's staff had compiled a long list of its own favorite counties, noting that those picks often were backed up by OnBoard's objective rankings.
Residents of counties that made the list did not always welcome being included, fearing too much attention. "Many were excited," said Cole, "But others said, 'Please don't put us on the list.'"
Many of the winning counties are in close proximity to major towns. Fauquier County Virginia, an area of corn fields, beef cattle, and wineries, lies just 45 minutes west of the bustle, restaurants, and cultural treasures of Washington DC. You don't have to relocate to Dogpatch to live the country dream.
Home and land prices played a big role in the final results. In Fauquier County, land can cost as little as $3,500 an acre. But because of soaring land prices, only two spots in the top 100 were in California. Napa County ranks No. 86 and Amador Country was No. 97.
"People aren't looking to move from sub-division to sub-division," said Cole. "When they move to the country, they want 20, 30, or 50 acres of land." In a place like Napa, where land starts at about $250,000 an acre, that gets expensive fast.
Contrast that to McPherson County, Kansas, No. 3, where land starts at $750 an acre.
For the full package, go to The Progressive Farmer's Web site: http://www.progressivefarmer.com/farmer/bestplaces/top10.html