rural

George Hodgman is a writer and editor who's lived in New York and worked for places like Vanity Fair and Simon & Schuster.

After a childhood spent dreaming of New York and an adulthood caught up in the whirlwind of an intense career, he came home to Missouri to care for his ailing mother. Still, people from the small towns of his youth still think of him as the guy who went to New York.

So when he wrote a memoir, Bettyville, not about the glitzy social engagements in New York but about his childhood in Missouri, that meant something to people.

Just last week, he returned to Madison, Missouri — which had 554 residents as of the 2010 census — and gave a talk in a church basement. He regaled the town with stories about itself.

A New York writer's journey home sheds light on family, keeping secrets, and the state of small-town Missouri. Plus, how one Missouri town might vote itself out of existence.

Dirk Duckhorn/Flickr -- CC

La Crosse, Kansas is serious about barbed wire — it's the home to the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum and it even trademarked the phrase: "The Barbed Wire Capital of the World."

This weekend, La Crosse hosts the Antique Barbed Wire Swap & Sell, an annual event where collectors gather to buy, sell and trade the spiky, thorny wire.

The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum — the first barbed wire museum in the country— has a special relationship with Kansas: It's where the collecting hobby really took off in 1967. According to Brad Penka, president of the museum, there are so many different varieties of barbed wire and some are unique.

Tucked inside a new building in Sioux Falls, S.D., is a workspace that might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago. Doctors and nurses sit in front of banks of video cameras and electronic monitors, ready at a moment's notice to provide real-time care for patients hundreds of miles away. That care is now available in Kansas.

Christina Lieffring / KCUR

Counties and states all over America host seasonal fairs. Originally, they were organized to share the latest technology in agriculture and genes among livestock. But in an age of instant information are state and county fairs still relevant? On Tuesday's Central Standard, we investigate the modern function of fairs, and talk with some professional livestock judges about their criteria for appraising animals and producing the food of tomorrow.

Guests:

Wyandotte County Fair Connects Kids With Agricultural Roots

Jul 22, 2014
Christina Lieffring / KCUR

People usually associate state and county fairs with Ferris wheels and food on a stick. But in areas that have seen their demographics shift from rural to urban populations, these fairs are now serving a new role of connecting city folk to their country roots.

One way the Wyandotte County Fair, which runs July 22 to 26, does this is through its competitions in arts and crafts, food, agriculture and livestock, run by the local 4-H club.

Lori Murdock

The barn is an icon of the American work ethic and rural nostalgia. On Wednesday's Central Standard, we explored the trend of rehabbing and restoring old barns that would otherwise fall into irreversible decay.

We also spoke with people throughout the nation and in our own area about the challenges of preserving these structures.

Do old barns -- the red ones with big huge doors -- still matter, even as larger steel structures replace them in function?

Terry Evans / Courtesy: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

When you live in a town with fewer than 60 residents well, let's just say, there must be something special about it to make you give up the city life.  

Cindy Hoedel did just that when she moved from Kansas City to Chase County, Kansas.  On this edition of Up to Date, Hoedel affirms that the attraction that brought her to the Flint Hills hasn't waned.  Steve Kraske and Hoedel discuss the differences she's experienced between city and country life, what it's like being a former urbanite among native-born rural residents and  how her straw bale gardening is progressing.

Anita Wood / Flickr, Creative Commons

Kansans sometimes get picked on. They've heard every joke in the book about Toto and Dorothy, and they're not amused.

On Central Standard, we met with two people whose love for the state is both unconventional and all-consuming. They discuss the many rewards that await those willing to explore a state so often dismissed as empty and flat, suggesting ideas for enjoyable daytrips (see below).  They also offer suggestions for how Kansas can overcome some of its less flattering stereotypes. 

Guests:

bkern1989 / Flickr -- Creative Commons

While the population of the United States continues to grow, new census reports show that more people are moving out of Kansas than are moving in. According to the census reports, Kansas lost more than 10,000 people between 2010 and 2013. This population decrease is most acute in the rural counties of Kansas. 

On Wednesday's Central Standard we explore why Kansas is shrinking, what impact this will have on the state and what actions are being taken to reverse the trend.

Frank Morris / KCUR

A massive EF5 tornado all but obliterated Greensburg, Kan., on May 4, 2007. Afterwards, city leaders saw a blank slate, a chance to reverse decades of decline by building a town for the future.

Greensburg’s green building initiative, drew big money, and lots of volunteer help. But now Greensburg faces a crossroads. The town is stuck at half its pre-tornado population with few prospects for growth. Some blame trends slowly decimating most farm towns, others find fault with the green initiative.    

Greensburg dreams big

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.

With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.

The Kansas Senate has voted to expand a program aimed at stopping population loss in rural Kansas counties. Some counties with declining populations have been designated as so-called Rural Opportunity Zones. The program helps repay student loans and offers income tax credits to attract people to those counties.

Senator Les Donovan, a Republican from Wichita, says the program has helped rural areas.

“These are counties that are small population and losing population.  This tends to stabilize their population a great deal,” says Donovan.

'My Life, My Town': Madelyne And Landon Brand

Apr 2, 2013

More than a quarter of Missouri's population lives in rural areas. The series "My Life, My Town" documents the lives of teenagers from small Missouri towns. These are the youth who make up the future of rural life -- IF they decide to stay.

'My Life, My Town': Alaysha Jefferson

Mar 19, 2013

More than a quarter of Missouri's population lives in rural areas. The series "My Life, My Town" documents the lives of teenagers from small Missouri towns. These are the youth who make up the future of rural life -- IF they decide to stay.

'My Life, My Town': Monica Martinez

Mar 12, 2013

More than a quarter of Missouri's population lives in rural areas. The series "My Life, My Town" documents the lives of teenagers from small Missouri towns. These are the youth who make up the future of rural life -- IF they decide to stay.

Edwin Olson / Flickr--CC

For one local woman, an isolated cabin in the middle of the Flint Hills with no modern conveniences is paradise.

Onaga, KS – Last December, the only grocery store in Onaga burned down. Onaga is a town of about 700 in northeast Kansas, surrounded by cattle ranches, corn and wheat farms. But suddenly, there was no place to buy groceries for 25 miles in any direction.

People in town found their routines changed dramatically. Althea Sender, for example, is 86 years old, lives alone and doesn't drive long distances.

"You're baking - you know - or fixing something and you need something. Well, you can't just run down to the store and get it," Sender says.

Manhattan, Ks. – According to a survey done by Kansas State University, one third of all small-town stores closed just in the past three years. It's partly because rural populations are dwindling and mom and pop markets aren't able to compete with large chains.