rural

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

In his 26 years at Meade Unified School District 226, a 400-student district southwest of Dodge City, Superintendent Kenneth Harshberger has watched the educational landscape change.

Teachers are harder to recruit — even for elementary jobs, which were traditionally easier to fill.

“The first time I tried to hire an elementary teacher 25, 26 years ago, we had over 100 applicants,” he recalled. “Now I can’t get five applicants.”

Kathi Barnhill

Queer kids in rural America know what it's like to grow up scared.

Moises Serrano grew up in Yadkinville, North Carolina, population just under 3,000, about half an hour west of Winston-Salem. He wasn't just gay. His parents brought him across the border from Mexico when he was 18 months old. So: gay and undocumented.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Between natural disasters, the transformation of farming, and the widespread decline of rural America, the small town of Orrick, Missouri has dwindled to a few square blocks.

KCUR's Central Standard has been visiting the edges of our listening area, to learn about communities we don't hear from quite as often. Join us for this trip 30 miles northeast of Kansas City to Orrick, where the town, lead by a new mayor, is all about re-invention.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Things are running pretty smoothly the first Monday of the month of May during the city council meeting in Orrick, Missouri.

Roger Thomas is the mayor of the town, population 799,  just northeast of Kansas City.

Topping the agenda is addressing the water collecting behind Nathan Claypole’s  house. Next, there's a unanimous vote to spring for a new computer for Dale Bosely with public works. 

The small town of Haxton on Colorado's eastern plains has seen a declining population.
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine’s loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

He turns onto a country road, heading south to spray an herbicide on his cornfields, an early growing season task his genetically engineered crops demand if he is to unlock their value. In the cab, a computer screen shows a little pixelated tractor moving across digital fields, logging his work.

As small-town populations decrease, what happens to those schools that are the anchors of their communities? We look at the challenges that rural schools in Kansas and Missouri face.

Guests:

A new hospital, financed by a USDA loan, is under construction in Syracuese, Nebraska, a town of under 2,000 people.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

President Donald Trump spent the campaign pledging to revive rural communities, where many voters have felt ignored by previous administrations. But after announcing staffing changes and budget plans that would make cuts to programs aimed at rural areas, critics are questioning whether the White House remains committed to that goal.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The tragic death of Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, and the visit of his teammates at his funeral in the Dominican Republic earlier this year, drew attention to the Caribbean nation. How did one small country come to have such an outsized connection to U.S. baseball?

Plus, you might believe in the apocalypse, but are you preparing for it? We hear from a few who are -- "preppers" with vastly different world views.

Guests:

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

On May 4, 2007, an enormous tornado nearly wiped Greensburg, Kansas, off the map. What happened next was almost a laboratory experiment in re-engineering the classic American small town.

Like the towns all around it, Greensburg was in decline before the storm. In a bid to survive, town leaders decided to go green in a big way. Ten years on, the ambitious effort says a lot about the headwinds facing many rural towns. 

Advocate Jamie Manzer, right, shows reporter Mike Tobias a bag of essential items that a nonprofit gives trafficking victims.
David Koehn / NET News

The suburbs and shopping malls don't excite modern urban planners, but they were innovations in their own time. Today, we learn about urban designs that shape our cities. Then: Contrary to popular belief, sex trafficking is not just an urban phenomenon.

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

At one point in history, Atchison, Kansas was positioned to be one of the main connecting points for the railways between Missouri and Kansas. It's said there were more millionaires there than anywhere in the world. Can Atchison hold onto its grand past but carve out a new identity for young residents?

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Drenaline / Wikimedia Commons

It's a long haul from Kansas City, Kansas, to Kanorado, but driving west on Interstate 70 doesn't have to be boring. Today, we learn about some of the quirky sights and stops to enjoy while traveling the highway's 424 miles in Kansas.

Then, coming out as gay is hard enough, but it can be even more difficult for older men in rural settings. We hear the story of an Iowa psychiatrist who came out after 18 years of heterosexual marriage.

Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR 89.3

At one point in history, Atchison, Kansas was positioned to be one of the main connecting points for the railways between Missouri and Kansas. The town played an important role in the Civil War, and had many significant residents. But what's going on there today?

KCUR's Central Standard takes a rode trip to Atchison. Come along with us.

Guests:

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Atchison, Kansas, population 11,000, has some of the same challenges facing other small towns around the country - they've had a hard time keeping businesses, retaining jobs and attracting young people.

But one thing that feels different here is their economic struggles feel linked to the town's rich history as a 19th century gateway to the west.  

Some of President Trump's proposed spending cuts would cripple programs that benefit communities full of his rural supporters, but at least in Strong City, Kan., some say they are ready "to bleed a little bit."

Strong City is a former railroad town of about 460 people, less than half the size it was in 1890. Trump's proposed budget aims at killing the program that threw a lifeline to the town's water system.

The headquarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Farm and rural advocacy groups say cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would harm rural communities, at a time when many of them need an infusion of cash.

In what’s being called a “skinny budget” because it sets an outline and contains scant details, Trump’s proposal calls for a 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s annual discretionary spending, and lays out rationales for why some programs are either eliminated or scaled back, calling some “duplicative,” or “underperforming.”

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

There have always been Americans worried about some pending religious, social or natural cataclysm. But, the business of catering to those fears, and helping people prepare to survive the next big calamity, has changed substantially in the age of Donald Trump.

And that change is evident on a particular county road in Kansas, near the center of the continental United States.  Here, what looks like a grassy mound is protected by barbed wire fence and a heavily armed guard. A massive concrete entrance frames big, heavy steel blast doors.

A rural farm in Kansas. A wealthy family with a dark secret. A missing young woman. That's the basis of a new book by a local author. She shares how a real-life small Kansas town — and her background as a criminal defense attorney — helped inspire her novel.

Then, a look at how police department throughout the country (including in KC) are using technology that mines cell phone data.

This is a two-part story on immigrants and small town viability. Part one aired on this Weekend Edition Saturday. For the full story, listen to both audio segments.

Like thousands of rural towns across the country, Cawker City, Kan., was built for bygone time.

Resident Linda Clover has spent most of her life in Cawker City, and she loves the place, but it's a shell of the town it used to be.

Clean Line Energy Partners website

For the second time in three years, a massive electricity line project is back in Missouri seeking approval. 

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line would connect Kansas wind turbines to the eastern states with an 800-mile-long overhead transmission line. The company running the $2 billion project says it has approvals from three of the four states in its path, only Missouri stands in the way.

The transmission line is supported by  utility companies and unlikely bedfellows such as the Sierra Club and Walmart.

It's no secret that Lawrence is a spot of blue in a pretty conservative state. That's true of a lot of university towns ... but should it be? A look at whether the University of Kansas is separated from the communities it's meant to serve, and how it could connect to the rest of the state.

Guests:

Ashley Booker / Hutchinson News

Eight rural communities across Kansas will share $120,000 in grants over the next year to find ways to improve access to fresh produce.

Fresh vegetables and fruits can be hard to find in rural Kansas because some grocery stores have closed or are struggling to survive.

From left: Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kansas Farm Bureau CEO Terry Holdren, Gov. Sam Brownback and Overland Park Regional Medical Center CEO Kevin Hicks.
Andy Marso / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled a two-part plan Friday to bring more doctors to the state and quell health care shortages that he said threaten to kill rural communities.

Brownback, flanked by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a hospital executive and the head of the Kansas Farm Bureau, harkened back to his days growing up in Parker — population 250 — to personalize the push for more rural doctors.

The corporate headquarters of Cabela's has for decades been located in Sidney, Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Cabela’s is known for big stores filled with museum-grade taxidermy and shelves piled with hunting and fishing gear. The Cabela’s store in Sidney, Nebraska, sits along Interstate 80 with a giant bull-elk sculpture facing the freeway. Next door is the sprawling company headquarters, complete with a forest-green Cabela’s water tower.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Over concerns about the exclusivity of the local tech scene, one Kansas City man wants to create a startup community near the 18th and Vine District for minority entrepreneurs. We also hear from a former Kansas City Star writer about her life in the Flint Hills and the transition to new work.

scott1346 / Flickr -- CC

Is the family farm changing? As the farming industry's wealth is consolidated into the hands of just a few multinational companies, three family farmers discuss the challenges they face and how they're adapting.

Guests:

Rober Moodie, 89, joined the family business when he returned to West Point, Neb., to practive law in 1952.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Fewer young attorneys are choosing to set up shop in small towns and take over for retiring professionals.

DonkeyHotey / Flickr -- CC

After a surprising and emotional election night, how are Kansas Citians feeling today? A look at how the election results fit into their personal stories.

Guests:

After 122 literary agents rejected her work, Kansas novelist Bryn Greenwood finally found a publisher in August for All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. She reflects on her own experiences that lead to the complicated fictional tale of a young girl who grows up on a meth compound, and falls in love with an ex-con nearly 20 years her senior.

The Delta Montrose Electric Association outside Montrose, Colorado, developed micro-hydro power plants in partnership with local water users.
Cally Carswell / for Inside Energy

In the 1930s, rural electric cooperatives brought electricity to the country’s most far-flung communities, transforming rural economies. In Western Colorado, one of these co-ops is again trying to spur economic development, partly by generating more of their electricity locally from renewable resources, like water in irrigation ditches and the sun.

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