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Hollowing Out America's Heartland
Storefronts in Calvert, Texas. (Flickr/rutlo; click for full image)

(Photo: Flickr/rutlo; click for full image)

For generations, small-town rural America was the iconic face of America. Main Street. Parades. Values. The heart of the nation. The ground beneath everything else.

Not now, says my guest today. Small-town rural America is hollowing out.

Corporate giants farm the fields. Small-town achievers run to the cities. And the heartland — the onetime backbone of the country — she says, is in trouble. Lights, going out. Leaders, leaving town.

Is she right? This hour, On Point: What’s going on with small-town rural America?

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from Philadelphia is Maria J. Kefalas, associate professor of sociology at Saint Joseph’s University. She’s author of “Working Class Heroes” and “Promises I Can Keep.”  Her new book, co-written with husband Patrick J. Carr, is “Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What it Means for America.” Read an excerpt here.

Joining us from Des Moines, Iowa, is Ernest Goss, a professor of regional economics at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He writes the Rural Mainstreet Index, a survey of key rural and small-town economic indicators, and is author of “Governing Fortune: Casino Gambling in America.”

And from Carroll, Iowa, we’re joined by Douglas Burns is a columnist for the Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa, a newspaper owned by his family. He moved back after working in Washington, D.C. for four years. 

In a guest post on the On Point blog, Burns makes his pitch for why living in rural Iowa is better: “The time other people spend driving we spend living.”

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  • JP

    If you think Rural America is emptying out now, just wait until gas is once again $4.00 plus per gallon ($6.00 plus is also almost certainly just around the corner).

    Population in our country is simply going to have to concentrate into urban centers if America wants to survive escalating energy prices, which will soon become the norm whether we like it or not.

    There are potential up sides… less sprawl, far more efficient use of resources, and a more homogeneous and liberal political environment nationwide. Tax bases will become more concentrated, perhaps allowing for improvements in public expenditures such as education. Stress on the environment may decrease somewhat.

    The down sides will include higher food prices and the loss of some cherished modes of living in America.

  • Jess

    Having grown up in a midwestern town of 5,000, and now working in London, I am surely part of the brain drain that you discuss here.

    The town I grew up in was primarily populated by the poor and the elderly. By the time I left in the 1990s, the charming town center had already been decimated by a Wal-mart 15 miles down the road. Other than cashier and stockperson, the main jobs are in manual labor at the glove and bottle cap factories.

    This is the reality of small town America, not the pastoral fantasy that continues to be peddled by the media. I would bet that most people who idealize small town America have never been trapped and isolated in a small town.

    The American small towns that are disappearing are doing so because they are generally the ex-suburbs of an industry center that has now gone extinct (steel, mining, logging, etc). Intelligent city planners should take this opportunity to get rid of these sad relics and turn them into something humane and beautiful again. That is the best way to preserve the spirit of the small town.

  • Constatine Quail

    I’m having just a bit of a hard time understanding what the meaning of this show is about. Mainstreet USA, and Rural America have been dwindling for decades now. This is far from a new story. In fact, suburbanite trends are such that many more wealthy suburbanite dwellers are now moving BACK out to the country to setup mini-estates. Also, new drilling for Oil and Natural Gas, and corn production for ethanol is making people in the nations countryside rich again. Rural America is starting to grow, and prosper anew. I think this show is about 20-30 years too late. The pendulum is now swinging the other direction in my estimation.

  • pw

    I agree with Constatine Quail (above). I moved into the plains from New England — by choice — and have been watching this area grow. But shhhh! It’s a great place to live and not one we want to see spoiled!

  • Julius Marx

    It’s like that old song title, “How Are You Gonna Keep them Down on the Farm, Once They’ve Seen the Farm?”.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Because of the cost of oil, city centers are becoming attractive, and cities can attract the well-to-do and design cities for concentration of offerings. The arts, the restaurants, bike paths. That is a city of 30,000. Meanwhile most of the apartments become condominiums, and there is an influx of sort of hangers-on, the underbelly of a well-to-do city.
    So I have been hunting for a small town, something with enough of a Main Street to have a pharmacy and a grocery store, and a sandwich shop. And either a bus stop or other way to get to the city once a week.
    It’s hard to find this. Even when the state has been working hard to get high-speed internet access to every town, it doesn’t happen. And I can’t get banks to help me get apartment buildings built in small towns. Those towns say “We don’t do apartment buildings.” Too bad. I’d like to live there.

  • julia

    I wonder why Tom is expressing such skepticism with every question he is asking. This is an old issue that anyone living in a rural state is aware of. Why so skewed in your questioning today?

  • Christopher Owens

    I agree with this story. Living in Western NY there are now 3 working dairy farms in our immediate area where there were once 100+. We buy our vegitables at farm stands during the summer but at the market (from Mexico or Ca.) during the remaining 9 months. Beef, chickens, pork are available to a knowledgeable few from farms but the vast majority purchase theirs from the market.

    Our way of life has changed.

  • Carl

    Well my hometown hasn’t gotten smaller in any sense.. Poorer, quieter, more desperate? Yes. But not small. The decimation of the middle class will ensure small towns last for quiet a while.

  • http://www.Offenburger.com Chuck Offenburger

    Tom, I cannot believe these people are getting away with basing a book on “part of a year” in a town in Iowa that they will not identify, and are then painting us with such a broad brush. The MacArthur Foundation funds that kind of anonymous research? Come on! You’ve experienced Iowa enough through political coverage to know how “hollow” this is all sounding to those of us who live in Iowa full-time and think the future is tremendous.

    Chuck Offenburger
    Cooper, IA (pop. 30, and we have high-speed Internet)

  • Gloria

    My first reaction to this segment on the demise of rural/small town America – where’ve you been? And the challenges aren’t unique to the Mid-west. It’s right here in New York State, too. I tried to run an office out of my home just 40 miles from Rochester or Syracuse – it was impossible! Not only is there no cable or DSL for hi-speed internet – the electric and telephone went out every time there was a hint of a thunderstorm!

  • Reet

    Perhaps the authors would want to come back to NE Iowa and study the gentrification of this area. I own property in 3 counties, two bordering the Mississippi, and witness a mix of small rural lifestyles and second homes owned by weekenders who escape the hectic city life. That keeps the tax base healthy, but does not encourage growth or entrepeneurship.
    All of my children, college graduates, have left our small town and have stated they will never come back, except to visit. Only one could possibly make a living here. Will we turn into a vacation spot? I hope there’s more to life here than that.

  • David Taft

    No one has mentioned the fact that if the government eased off the production subsidies for staple crops and encouraged diversification we may need more workers. This would diversify the nations food supply as well as revitalize small towns. Someone needs to pull the subsidies from Cargill, ADM, and Conagra.

  • Gerald Fnord

    J.P., I think, is being optimistic when they [sic] suggest that movement to the cities will move our nation leftward. (Note: I speak as one who would like that, I just don’t think it follows.)

    Around the world, as people move away from rural areas, it in fact becomes increasingly easy to leverage nostalgia,the anomie of urban areas, and guilty feelings of people who’ve moved away, into the basis of right-wing, and in particular, Fascist, ideology. When people no longer live on the farm or in small towns, it is easier to paint them as ideal, as in the quote from the odious Westbrook Pegler that Ms Palin used in her acceptance speech in 2008…people who’ve actually lived there as adults are more likely to be well aware of these places’ limitations.

    I am not indulging in leftist hyperbole when I mention Fascism; Umberto Ecco, who _was_ a Fascist as a child, has written well on Fascism’s dependence on nostalgia for an unreal past, just as extremes of the Left are willing to kill for an as-yet unproven Future.

    Italy has nostalgia for an idealized Roman Empire, Nazism looked to the ‘pure’ Aryan race of some Hypoborean Age; what might be called ‘al-Qa’edism’ looks to an idealized Caliphate.

    This is not inevitable, but it is a definite and dangerous counter-tendency to an arban population’s becoming more…urbane.

  • Dennis Naughton

    Someone wrote that Iowa has the highest per capita home ownership in the country, but most of the houses are substandard. Take a ride on RAGBRAI and you’ll observe that a large percentage of the houses range in the $300,000 – $500,000 range, while those in the small towns don’t quite measure up to that. We should have a whole new farm subsidy paradigm. Require a substantial portion of the money to be spent in the county where the land is that generated the subsidy. Our tax policies, corporate welfare and incentives to big business have enhanced the decline of small towns.

    The idea of protecting the family’s inheritance of their farmland by increasing estate tax breaks have played a part. The land becomes owned by family members who collect the rent or farm subsidies, whether from crops or wind farms, and invest the money out of state. That does not help the small town that serves the farm. The time of farming the program instead of the farm should phase out.

    The comments of Ernie Goss ring true. When I taught at two of our state universities, I was disappointed in what appeared to be a trend of small town parents sending their children to college to get a business degree and go to work in a cubicle for an insurance company or other corporate giant and not apply any of their talents, resources or know-how in assuring the well-being of those back home who helped, encouraged and cheered them on to get them there. Without a little boost of energy and enthusiasm, those back home who have the money, talent, know-how and creative skills spend their time on their boat or the golf course and let the town give up.

  • Susan Rice

    Shifting from the corporate model to a creative economy based on local values, will enrich America, spreading the wealth back out into communities.The development tools are there. Stop eating MacDonalds Burgers, buying corporate Walmart Food, we will contain the hemmorage of our agricultural land, which is the Gold mine our country was founded on, and China and overpopulated lands will need in the next decade. we will rebuild communities, be healthier, and culturally we will be better. Integrating the tools that exist today, community colleges, IRS tax credits, financial and medical literacy, …government income transfer supports: WE CAN DO THIS. I have lived in upstate NY, and have watched our political leaders sell out our energy resoruces, our college use our local children as placemarkers in the classroom, and not one leveraging our resources for living wage jobs, next it will be our ag resources….we should wake up and start harnessing these valuable resources…Sue Rice, Potsdam NY Shift the paradigm from quantity to quality!

  • http://thoughtsfromcrudd.blogspot.com Christina

    I don’t hear a lot of facts being offered. Iowa’s population has actually been increasing since the 1990s. We are now estimated over 3 million according to the US census. I’m 31 and we moved back with my young family to a small town in Iowa, under 500, from a large city in MA with a population over 100,000. This is so much better! And our little school is growing. Technology and big box stores actually help us to live here, but we also support the businesses that are near us. We are equidistant from large cities like Chicago, St. Luis, Madison and the Twin Cities, so culture is not far away. It’s a great place to raise kids because neighbors actually know and support each other.

  • Scott Johnson

    I completely agree with Maria. I moved from Washington, DC to the New York Adirondack Park 10 years ago. We started our consulting firm and we also purchased a small cabin business. For the past 10 years we found that home town pride has hurt the small towns. When we moved to this small town a vote to keep the school local and build a new school was passed. There are 20 or less graduating per year! Last winter was the real bell ringer when fuel skyrocketed. The basics are just going to keep getting more expensive (education, health care, transportation) and only the rich are going to be able to afford to own/live in the country – a lot like Europe.

    I also have experienced the, what I call, neglect of the slightly less successful young students. There is great pride in showing off the really successful kids. But we have hired the non-college bound kids for 10 years at our cabins. It is clear that the town and the school pay little attention to helping these kids – they are written off already. I see no support for them.

    What I do see is kids from the city that have strong interest in the outdoors want to find a way to move here and build a life.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Urban centers are working on buying local. “Be a local hero” is stamped on half the produce in our stores. So there are farmers’ markets in the cities. The towns seem to rely on having people drive to the nearest mall.
    (By the way, in Western Mass we’ve lost radio contact except a faint blur, and the Listen on Air button bumps me telling me there’s a problem with the web site, so I’m just watching the forum here.)
    Most rural communities here in New England do (also) have non-farm businesses, mostly because it is easier to find property and locate inexpensively out of cities. I’m thinking of one that does witchcraft products, but there are hundreds. Lots of small businesses like mine could develop in all sorts of directions, the changing economy and technology being what it is. People with jobs in this economy are becoming, as they say, “a lot more flexible and resourceful.”

  • http://web.mac.com/stephensprague/ Stephen R. Sprague

    The Brain Drain is a myth. My Grandfather used to speak of how kids were leaving Harrison, Michigan when I was a child. My father said the same things. Various voices have been speaking of this “trend” for as long as I have been listening: over 60 years. I believe that small towns are actually the incubators of nations genius and will remain so. Like any community, young people go to seek their fortunes and middle-aged people come to raise their families and retire; that is part of the cycle of life throughout Earth.

  • Erich Riesenberg

    I live in Des Moines, Iowa. A city but within a rural state.

    The show missed an important point. Industrial agriculture is not sustainable. It is not profitable currently, despite large subsidies.

    Has not everyone heard of the dead zone in the gulf? Family farming is not perfect, but less damaging.

    Food costs should increase to reflect real costs of inputs. Corporate farming and ethanol garbage subsidies are destructive.

  • SJP – Essex, CT

    One of the topics I haven’t heard mentioned is that there is little to keep young people in small towns. Small towns need to grab hold of what they have and make it better by offering enticements to get and keep singles and young families active in the community. Promoting the arts, music, community involvement can help towns go a long way. Give people a reason to visit and want to stay and businesses will follow.

  • Mark in PA

    I see it every day! I am a young attorney practicing in rural America. The average attorney who practices in my county has to be 60 to 65 years of age.

    The small businesses are also run and managed by the baby boomers and up or they have moved out of the area.

  • Matt

    The “old way of life” ceased to exist long before this woman moved to northeastern Iowa. (By the way, NE Iowa is about as remote an area as you can find in Iowa. Did this woman cherry pick the site of her academic study?)

    Many of these small towns will disappear but many may rebound as people realize they can live in a community they can define and grow. The greatest threat is large industrialized farming practices and the consolidation of agricultural economy into the hands of fewer people and the deterioration of the environment.

  • http://repastspresentandfuture.org Jeff McCabe

    We, her in Michigan, grow our food and buy it from local farmers. We eat seasonally, putting up food in this rich harvest season and eating from the larder, the hoop-house (fresh greens all year) and eggs, meat and dairy that are easy to get locally year-round. Food can be local, all around the country, instead of being shipped from massive farms from around the world.

    These traditional farms that are being discussed have devolved over the last few decades into growing corn and soybeans for feedlot animals and industrial “food” manufacturers. Iowa, one of the richest soil states in the country imports the bulk of its food from other states and other countries. The system has been perverted by farm policy that prefers big corporate profits over real food.

    Farm subsidies work against farmers. Look at the results they have achieved. They promote confined animal factories, pollution and the subsequent health problems related to eating these products and living downriver from these operations. It is time we stop calling these operations farms and start looking at the policies (or lack of current policies!) that really help grow food.

    CSA’s (Comunity Supported Agriculture programs) have single-handedly turned around the reduction in the number of farmers in this country. They grow organic and sustainably grown crops near the people who need them. They employ and train young people and produce about 100 times the food value per acre of commodity crops, while improving the land.

    End the policies that make these innovative new food practices an uphill struggle.

  • Parsley Keenan

    I found it rather laughable that one caller towards the end of show kept saying how the “Robust” Hispanic population is going to be the key to reviving the rural communities. As far as I could see in my neck of the woods(upstate NY), wherever the Hispanics grab hold of a neighborhood, that area always, always got turned into a ghetto. Prostitutes on the streets at night, day-laborers standing at street corners even after their supporters fought the town to give them a church building for them to get under-the-table work, deafening loud latin music blasting all day, buildings run-down and people violating waste disposal/dumping codes that are meant for keeping the town/city clean, pleasant and livable. And speaking of integrating into the future with the rest of the world….I would believe it when I see them start to assimilate with the rest of the U.S(and yes, that includes speaking English)

  • Frank Thomas

    I think the discussion should be expanded. I don’t need a job, I need a way to sustain myself while seeking to become an thinking, complete human being.How do we move power from the corporation back to the individual? We need to rethink the idea of the materialism of capitalism.
    I try to buy only what I can’t raise or trade with a neighbor or get from resale shops. I use it until it can’t be fixed then I try to recycle.
    Education is the Key! Education and health care are the foundations of a great society. With these two blocks one could live anywhere.

  • Todd

    “How do we move power from the corporation back to the individual?”
    Posted by Frank Thomas

    Repealing the asinine laws that give corporations the same status as real persons would be a good start!

  • Putney Swope

    Parsley I use to visit some friends up in one of the border towns in Vermont. I could say the same about the white people living their in the trailer park.

    In the some Western and Mid-Western states meth is a huge problem, and this is pretty much a rural one. Also most of the addicts are white.

    Poverty breeds desperation.

  • Jody

    It was cultural rather than economic factors that made me leave my small town of 1500 in 1972. When I go back to visit my parents now the one nice supper club has been converted into a fundamentalist church, and there are nothing but conservative billboards up in the surrounding fields. A non-believer such as myself would probably not be welcome there.

  • David

    In my adopted corner of Rural America (near Glenwood, NM), the internet allows my wife to continue her grant writing and technical editing career, a neighbor to work as a draftsman for a company 800 miles away, and there are other such success stories in the region. We enjoy a near absence of crime and pollution, and a wonderful sense of connectedness with the natural world. College courses are available via the web. Many opportunities exist for those who choose to pursue them.
    – David

  • Brett

    When I was 12, in the late ’60′s, we moved to a small, rural town. Most on the county board, planning commission–and building and agricultural inspectors–were related by blood, marriage or business relationship. They also owned most of the land. To say the least, it was a place of political corruption.

    Most folks made their money by farming or contracting/construction; or, like my dad, they commuted to an urban area for work. The school system was woefully inadequate; the future was bleak for young people wanting to stay where they grew up. Jobs were limited to factories, construction or farm work if one did not want to commute.

    The factories began declining, many of the farms leased out to larger agribusiness corporations, and more and more people from urban and suburban middle-class status were moving in to commute and own their version of the McMansion.

    I, and many of my friends (particularly those who came from other areas), left for college and never moved back. When the others grew up, if they were lucky, they took over their parents’ farms or construction businesses. Most of all others were destined for a most unremarkable life. The ones with the farms sold at a hefty profit to residential developers or commercial corporate organizations, and the ones who owned contracting businesses either became mini-developers/made a killing building subdivisions for the arriving middle class.

    The infrastructure did not keep pace at first and [refer to first paragraph] there was virtually no planning, so communities sprang up willy-nilly.

    Later, in the early ’90′s, big box stores began to move in (there were three Wal*Marts™ within a ten-mile radius) and homogeneous strip malls were every few miles replete with the ubiquitous Radio Shack, Dollar Store, Blockbuster, the generic Chinese restaurant, and the token mom and pop boutique shop (which changed ownership periodically). All of these had fast-food chains clustered in between. Home owners were too busy working and commuting to take much true “ownership” of their communities.

    In the new millennium, progressive thinkers moved in and began to take over positions of power in the local government and in business. Nepotism has gone (although not completely), planning has improved considerably (the planning commission has consistently evaluated a ten-year plan that has been created with a lot of citizen input) and the concept of business diversity has begun to get a foothold (the big box stores/corporate stranglers are losing their grip).

    Stores like Wal*Mart™ruin local economies as well as global economies; but, ultimately, the reason for rural areas/small towns doing poorly is having bad planners who are also often corrupt. And, as for personal responsibility: buy locally/support local businesses, support small farmers, participate in CSA’s and promote local culture!

  • Paul

    The downfall of rural America is partially due to the changing world, but it also inpart due to their own ways. Rural America loves to paint of picture of neighbors helping neighbors, small town values etc., but in reality rural America is as corporate box store as you can get.

    Residents of small towns will turn away from the local grocer, the local auto shop, hardward store, restaurant, you name it as soon as a Walmart, Home Depot or TGI Fridays moving into the area – even 45 miles away. They will complain that old Joe and his grocery charge too much, maybe a couple pennies more than Walmart. Soon enough old Joe is out of business, his long time employees who were paid a living wage and had insurance are now working for Walmart at minimum wage with no health insurance.

    The same is true of the agriculture that rural America relies on. They can’t even feed themselves because they only grown corn and soy. Even if they did grown vegetables, their neighbors wouldn’t buy them anyway. They would rather eat canned green beans from Mexico. Slowing killing themselves and their so called way of life one shopping trip at a time.

  • Paul

    The other thing killing rural America that wasn’t really touched on is the cultural changes and views of young people. Rural America is still trying to live this 1950′s husband and wife, white America life, which is just not the case anymore even in rural America. Even if it is a white community. These small towns and rural states can not keep passing anti-abortion laws, anti-gay marriage laws and just generally trying to keep their small towns white, straight Christians. Until young people can feel welcome and comfortable in their home towns the towns will keep drying up.

  • Eds Owens

    America is being hollowed out from the inside. Corruption is endemic in this country. Nearly everyone is on the take or turning a blind eye to the plight of their neighbor. Its like the old parable of the guy who says (paraphrase) when they came for the catholic I wasn’t a catholic so I kept quiet. When they came for the Lutherans I wasn’t a Lutheran so I kept quiet. When they came for me no one stopped them because there was no one left.

    While you people are looking to earn or steal a buck from the people in the same boat as you they are coming at you from every angle they can. Using the stock market to legally steal your pension. Using the Supreme Court to steal your land. Using the cops as their own personal strongarm force.

    Whose coming for you? And whose going to be around to stop them?

  • Ian Ross

    I grew up and spent most of my life in more rural areas. I have about 4 years experience living in cities, and I prefer the rural locations. I have seen the concerns of rural downtowns being hollowed out, and I have seen the resurgence of towns that have been decimated.
    I lived in a medium sized town in Vermont for most of 13 years, and I still work there. This town has been fighting off chain stores that they feel are not needed or will harm local businesses, even though they do have several chains in town already. This town is currently building a second downtown bridge by it’s own funding (no state or federal help) to help it deal with traffic and growing concerns. They still have a small historic town feel in it’s village center.
    The cost of living and for housing in Vermont caused me to move to the Adirondack region of New York state with my family, yet I still work in the Vermont town. The town that we moved to was decimated in the 1970′s when the mining industry left. In the nearly two years since we have moved, we have seen several new businesses open in the area, which I feel might be the start of a resurgence in this area.
    So I feel that there might still be some hope for rural america if the towns are careful about how they plan their future.

  • Cory

    I spent parts of my childhood in a few small towns (<10,000). It seems sad to me. Being herded into the metropolitan areas feels like another sign of inevitable American decline.

  • http://www.railmerchants.net David Thebodo

    If you think small towns are dead you should visit Fairfield, Iowa Or at least Google us and check it out

  • Nancy Egbert

    I grew up in a small town on the prairies of western Kansas in the 50′s where most people (descendants of German Russians) were farmers or ranchers. Wheat and cattle were King but now farmers are growing corn…taking advantage of the high prices due to ethanol demand. More and more farmers have been using water for irrigation pumped up from the Ogalala aquifer…the largest aquifer in the U.S. and the source of drinking water for portions of eight states in the midwest. When that dries up..estimated in 20 – 30 years, there will definitely be no way people can live in that area. Need i say this is the bread basket of the US and the world.

    Back to life in my town, Dighton, Ks. population 900. Very few babies are being born; one of the two primary schools have closed and the high school sports programs have merged with the town of Ness City, 30 miles away so they can have enough players to play football and basket ball. This week, Ness city schools as closed because most of the kids are sick with the flu.

    My parents still live there and they are approaching 90. It is indeed sad to watch these towns dry up.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Apparently there have also been some developers seeking to make a killing by foisting “town centers” on small towns. I am thinking of a small town in northwest Vermont. The locals were incensed. They were entirely satisfied with their town center as is.
    Where I live in Western Massachusetts, there has been much talk about how to establish outlying communities, about how many residents it takes to support a small market, for example. The reason was the closing of a huge state mental hospital, and the availability of a lot of developable space within a mile or two of downtown. A large military equipment manufacturer relocated from the “main drag” to this very scenic site (regrettably seizing the best view in town), and “mixed housing” has gone up, most of it “affordable,” but one building, with geothermal heating/cooling, was built for disabled residents. Another building had to be repurposed when a factory closed, and was specifically granted its permit as office/small business/studio only. No one may sleep there.
    I mention this here because the best planning policies do leave out a lot of the fermenting economy, the incunabula economy I think is the word. New graduates looking to launch new ideas, from a home base, dealing with student loans and investments in the startups, look for the very most efficient way to live/work.
    And guess what, the planners, realtors, lawyers, bankers all have an interest in making that difficult. If those individuals (with big say in local government) can build and sell a cash cow, they will. So there is a continuing exodus FROM the city TO places unknown. There is no magazine that advertises “20 most undesirable places to live,” but there are a lot of fairly self-sufficient folks looking for that. Any towns want to adopt some?
    In the ’70s, young people set up communes, not so much work-oriented but to live off the land (and probably avoid paying taxes).

  • Laura Raker

    I agree with Parsley Keenan. The Hispanic population is not the solution to rural America. We don’t need any foreigners coming to rural America and then demanding that WE accomodate THEM.

    I moved to North Dakota six years ago from Miami, Florida because nobody speaks English in Miami anymore. Also, when the Latin or other foreign population gets into a position of power, Americans can forget about getting a job.

  • Steven

    Thank you for your report on 0157:H7. But I fear you’ve done your listeners a disservice by limiting your coverage to one brief segment of one program. There are so many facets and angles to consider:

    Level of Immunity:
    A compromised immune system cannot fend off a disease as well as one which is “in shape.” Stephanie Smith would never advocate abandoning dance for ten years as a means to prepare for a national competition. Yet she seemed to expect that after a decade-long hiatus from meat in her diet that her immune system could handle a return to meat which commonly contains a really nasty pathogen, 0157:H7.

    Education:
    Our schools are not educating us about the important issues of the day. How many high school biology courses devote a significant (if any) amount of time to understanding food-borne illness and how to avoid it? In how many schools is such a biology course required? What is required? One needs a doctor’s directive to get out of physical education, but opting out of biology class is the student’s choice.

    Media:
    Our media are no better (if not worse) about educating the general public of the intricacies of food-born illness.

    Irradiation:
    Irradiation may reduce the amount of 0157:H7 that is present in meat, but is irradiated food (in general) safe, or nutritious? Many of us believe not. If irradiating food is one of the options pursued, many want it labeled, and they want the option to buy non-irradiated food. Much of the controversy surrounds the industry’s apoplectic fear of, and vicious lobbying attacks against labeling. Note that the label did not divulge that part of Stephanie’s burger came from Uruguay.

    Ingredients of the meat:
    The public knows little or nothing of what goes into the meat on supermarket shelves. Much of what feedlot beef is fed ranges from the moderately unhealthy to the toxic. Should we expect that eating an unhealthy animal to be good for us? Read Jo Robinson’s book, Why Grass-Fed Is Best.

    Feedlot and corral Conditions:
    Feedlots and animal handling facilities have long been filthy excrement baths. Livestock are born into, grow up in, live in, and are slaughtered in conditions that ought to have been banned over a century ago. Filth and industrial waste are such an integral part of the life of these animals that “washing” them prior to their entering the slaughtering facility’s kill floor, likely is rather futile window dressing to a thoroughly flawed system.

    Traceability:
    What good does it do to try to trace a problem to a “source” facility when they are all equally reckless and dangerous?

    Trying to make the public safe from 0157:H7 by only addressing slaughtering and processing facilities makes as much sense as trying to make a ten-lane highway safe enough for a two-year-old to play in the middle of it. We are asking way too much from these corporate-owned facilities in the way of volume, price, honesty, transparency, safe and fair labor practices, healthy food… and the list goes on. If we are to be safe, we must be healthy, and so must be the food we eat. Large-scale food production will never provide that.

  • Justin Perry

    Two topics in particular grab my attention. Higher education in returning youth and the impact of small agriculture. I am one of several early 20′s men returning to the family farm with a BA in our community. We all had to travel for college and managed to get our education and not feel compelled to leave. Most of my classmates that are still in the area have at least earned an associates degree. While it is true that there are not an abundance of highly technical jobs in our community, there are jobs available for the individuals willing to work.

    I truly resent the statements regarding small agriculture. I went to college with many individuals that grew up on and returned to farms less than 1000 acres. They are NOT corporate owned and are most assuredly NOT irrelevant. I myself am one of those farmers. (ps. we’re not all rich) We are well educated. Farming is not as simple as it once was. At 23 years old I am responsible for acquiring financing, purchasing inputs, and marketing for nearly $100,000 of product. As well as making home and land payments and helping support my mother and father.

    In my opinion rural communities have not survived by getting rich. We have done it by getting by, and we will continue in that manner.

  • Kate

    I wanted to send a quick note to say how much I enjoyed Douglas Burns part on the program. I appreciated his comments about the state of small towns because they were hopeful and pragmatic as they highlighted the possibilities for new growth and new ways of approaching this problem.
    Ms.Kefalas had valid points but her time spent in Iowa seemed very limited and she failed to note the positive aspects still present in small town life. Did she study how many people were coming back to Iowa after living in larger cities and growing weary of high property costs,long commutes…?
    One last note: Now that I have moved back to Iowa after 20 years of living in St.Paul and Pittsburgh my big city friends ask about the lack of cultural events (there are plenty!)—I throw the question back to them: when was the last time you went to the symphony, an art opening,etc.? You guessed it—they don’t because they’re too exhausted from the stresses of living in the city!

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Apr 18, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in Moscow on Thursday, April 17, 2014. President Vladimir Putin has urged an end to the blockade of Moldova’s separatist province of Trans-Dniester. Trans-Dniester, located in eastern part of Moldova on border with Ukraine, has run its own affairs without international recognition since a 1992 war. Russian troops are stationed there.  (AP)

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