rural

In a new Netflix series, a family flees from Chicago and goes into hiding at the Lake of the Ozarks. We take a closer look at Ozark and how the show represents Missouri — and the larger urban-rural divide in the Midwest.

Guests:

Jon Blumb / Courtesy of Richard Klocke

His paintings have been called “exuberantly cheerless.”

Artist Mike Hartung loves that description.

The 73-year-old painter, who lives in Lindsborg, Kansas, has made around 700 paintings over his career.

His first exhibit, “Gas Stations, Laundromats and the Spaces Between,” opens this month in three venues across Kansas.

Hartung has also been described as a recluse, which he disputes, pointing to his recent exhibit openings in Salina and Lindsborg.

Angie Jennings

73-year-old Mike Hartung has been producing art in his studio in Lindsborg, Kansas since the 1970s. 700 paintings later, he's finally having his first exhibit: "Gas Stations, Laundromats and the Spaces Between."

Plus, Crick Camera Shop closed its doors for good back in January. We'll hear from a former employee who photographed the final days as an homage to film in the era of digital.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

El Dean Holthus knows what people might think of a town like Smith Center, Kansas.

At nearly the exact geographic center of the contiguous United States, it's an hour from the nearest Interstate. It's home to about 1,600 people, but that population is declining like most of rural America's.

They probably think, he says, that "it's just a little hole in the ground."

Jack Williams / NET News

In the middle of a cornfield in south-central Nebraska, an oasis of art is growing.

Art Farm, situated off a long dirt road outside the small town of Marquette, started back in 1993 as an artist residency program. Since then, it’s become a one-of-a-kind experience many artists can’t resist.

We take a look at the challenges of bringing quality healthcare to people in urban and rural communities, from a KCK clinic that serves the homeless to a program in a remote county that sends case workers to see patients.

Guests:

From Oxford-educated surgeon to body-builder to Cerner executive, Daphne Bascom joins us to talk about the journey that now brings her to community health at the YMCA.

Plus, Dodge City, Kansas-native Robert Rebein just published a new memoir on his home state.

Guests:

Courtesy Oskar Landi / Urban Romances, A Sundance Selects Release

Recently, the Columbia Journalism Review dedicated an entire issue to the state of local news, featuring a map revealing "news deserts" in the U.S. What is the status of local news sources in our small Midwestern towns?

Plus, ballet icon and Kansas City native Misty Copeland is back in town touring her new book, Ballerina Body

Guests:

An Illinois farmer harvests his corn crop in this file photo. Average net farm income has tumbled in recent years.
File: Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

It’s a microfilm machine, the kind found in a high school library. Giessel uses it for his work as the historian of the National Farmers Union, the nation’s second-largest farm group.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

At a crossroads in his life, Kansas artist Dave Loewenstein was haunted by the words of an organic farmer.

"If we can't sell it to working class people," the farmer had asked about his produce, "what are we doing?"

Dave wondered the same thing of his art. He had a hard time seeing the point in his landscape paintings, even in a best-case scenario.

The Grandview R-II school district in rural Jefferson County, Missouri, started an online summer school program to offer students the chance to take courses not otherwise available.
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

Ryan Bavetta / Flickr - CC

It's easy to claim that Mexican immigrants, workers or political policies are what ails the American economy, but the problem is more complex than that. Today, we learn why simple solutions won't solve complicated issues between the United States and its southern neighbor. Then, we meet a journalist and author who toured small towns throughout the Midwest, and was pleasantly surprised by the resilience and hope she found in them.

The South Sudanese Community Lutheran Church meets at Zion Lutheran Church in Denison, Iowa, on Sunday afternoons.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special Harvest Public Media series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

As Highway 30 enters Denison, Iowa, a city of 8,000, the national fast food chains stand next to Mexican groceries and restaurants. In this small city near the Nebraska border, waves of immigrants have been arriving since at least the 1980s.

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.

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