On the high plains of Kansas, the future of rural America is at
Small farming communities are the heart and soul of America, but
it's no secret that they're under siege. Family farms are
disappearing and manufacturing is outsourced. Schools close, jobs
vanish, and local stores can't survive. Some communities resort to
giving away land just to get people to move there.
Richard Wood knows that rural communities need more than jobs or
money to survive: they need to become valued again as desirable
places to live. He takes a closer look at what has happened in
several Kansas farming towns and shows that there is much more
depth and diversity to rural life than meets the eye.
Wood traveled the back roads to gather stories of people in some
of the most vulnerable communities that are trying to stave off
depopulation. These are not just accounts of people scrambling to
survive in incipient ghost towns like Ada, but gritty success
stories like Plainville, where an upscale design business ignited a
revival, or Atwood, which shifted from industrial recruitment to
Unlike Thomas Frank, whose "What's the Matter with Kansas?" used
the state as a political yardstick, Wood sees it reflecting major
economic and population trends throughout the world. Looking at
projects as small as community medical clinics or plans for vast
buffalo grassland parks, he also sees a robust future for
small-town pioneers, folks who are betting their--and rural
America's--future on such things as alternative energy (think
"ethanol"), sustainable natural agriculture, tourism, and the
enduring appeal of rural life to outsiders.
With dozens of photos that bring rural America to life, Wood
provides an inside look at what really makes this country tick--and
at some of the developments that may turn the tide against what
seemed an inevitable decline. Although the odds are stacked against
rural recovery, the small victories that Wood shows us hold the
promise that transformation and revival may yet stave off the final
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