An extraordinary set of Library of Congress field recordings from the 1930s and ‘40s captured the depth and breadth of American folk music. Folklorist and musician Stephen Wade revisits the South to tell 13 stories of the artists who helped define American identity while remaining virtually anonymous themselves.
(Image belt;20131031_prodigalfarm_shaena_mallett_0001.jpg) Kathryn Spann and Dave Krabbe moved from New York City back to Kathryn's home state of North Carolina, where they bought a former tobacco farm and created a dairy full of love and goats.
Five years ago at his grandmother’s funeral, Matthew Fluharty reflected on the value of rural culture and what he might do to help promote and enliven it. Today, the “Art of the Rural” project relaunches its online work with a more powerful website and bigger ambitions.
Although rural veterans, like their counterparts in metro communities, are likely to own their own houses, a third of younger veterans are burdened by the high cost of housing. Rural veterans who rent are also more likely to be burdened by housing costs. One issue may be a lack of affordable rental housing in rural areas.
Irish plan to run power pylons through rural areas fits pattern of neglect, says advocate • Oil boom creates postal pressures in North Dakota • OSHA doesn’t have staff to do its job, newspaper reports • Democrats cede rural hearing on Obamacare to Republicans • A new name for Catholic rural group.
Irish TimesStudents participate in a protest against an Irish plan to erect high-tension power lines through rural areas.
Rural Group Opposes Irish Power Line Plan. Members of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association are joining other residents opposing a power company’s plan to erect high-tension power lines across the Emerald Isle.
Farm families see the move as part of the government’s larger abandonment of rural Ireland, the president of the association said at a national conference last week, the Irish Times reports.
“The State seems to be gradually withdrawing from rural life vis-a-vis rural post offices, DVOs (district veterinary offices), Garda stations, hospitals, schools and so on,” said John Comer, head of the milk suppliers’ association. The government wants to erect “a massive visual blight across the landscape of Ireland that’s going to be there for the next generation and the generation after that.”
He said rural residents don’t want “an Incredible Hulk flexed-muscle type structure looking down at them for the rest of their lives.”
The power line expansion program is part of improving electrical service to the nation, others say. Burying the lines instead of mounting them on pylons would be too expensive, said Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture.
Oil Boom, Postal Doom. Residents of boomtowns in the oil and gas fields of North Dakota are having trouble getting their mail because of a lack of postal employees, they say.
A postal union representative says letter carriers are “worked to the bone” and some are quitting as a result.
The Postal Service is recruiting more workers for the region, reports Forum News Service. That bucks the trend of Postal Service downsizing and post-office closures in other rural areas.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, held a roundtable to discuss post office issues in the state’s Bakken communities, a region experiencing a variety of pressures from oil-and-gas development.
Worker Deaths and OSHA. Big industrial accidents like the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, get the headlines, but most workers who are killed on the job get little notice because they die one at a time. But work accidents large and small have one thing in common, reports the Dallas Morning News: The places where these workers have died rarely receive inspections before the fact from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Reporters Randy Lee Loftis and Eric Holmberg look at several occupational deaths in Texas in recent years, especially ones involving dangerous work cleaning chemical tanks and other equipment that’s part of the oil and gas industry. They draw one conclusion: What little attention these workers in dangerous occupations attract comes only if they die. Because OSHA, the agency that’s supposed to enforce worker safety laws, doesn’t have the resources to conduct enough inspections and spot dangerous conditions before they result in an accident or death.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed lowering the renewable fuel standard (RFS) for 2014. The change threatens to undo the progress we’ve made in decreasing dependence on foreign oil and slowing the emission of carbon dioxide, says Richard Oswald.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty ImagesEarlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that the nation reduce its target for biofuels in 2014 by about 3 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons.
Passage of the autumnal equinox near the end of September used to mean approaching winter and an end to tumultuous summer weather. This year in 2013, on November 18, nearly two months after the equinox, devastating storms hit the eastern Corn Belt causing massive property damage costing the lives of six people.
Destructive contra-seasonal storms like these have become more common.
Should we be concerned?
Many scientists point to increased turbulence in the atmosphere caused by rising amounts of carbon dioxide, and warmer temperatures. The presence of more CO2 is thought to be a result of both developed and developing nations’ reliance on fossil-fuel coal and oil.
Burning fossil fuels returns carbon to the air millions of years after prehistoric organisms sequestered CO2 deep beneath the earth’s crust, buried there by their own ancient cataclysms.
Those organisms became sources of energy.
In other words, we're burning dead dinosaurs.
Burning them returns the earth to less stable times.
The renewable fuel standard (RFS) is meant to replace ancient dinosaurs and caramelized jungles they frequented with clean-burning ethanol made from today’s CO2, instead of yesterday’s.
The whole point of the RFS and the progress we’ve made to date has been to keep carbon buried deep inside the earth by recycling carbon in the atmosphere.
Bluegrass State seen as model for how Affordable Care Act ought to work • Lack of rural dental care prompts calls for new system • Farm bill talks stall • Iowans make broadband a gubernatorial issue • And Iowa governor accuses EPA of a “war on corn.”
Photo by Luke Sharrett / For The Washington PostJeff Fletcher claps his hands after Courtney Lively tells him he will get insurance. The 52-year-old disabled master electrician had been ignoring a spot on his lung that was discovered during a visit to the emergency room after he broke some ribs several years ago.
Bucking the trend of its neighboring Southeastern states, Kentucky opted to create its own marketplace, rather than use the federal system (you know – the one with all the website problems?). The state also accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid to residents who don’t make enough to qualify for government subsidies for private health insurance.
And while the nation bickers about Obamacare, reports Stephanie McCrummen, Kentucky is quietly getting people signed up for health insurance programs. McCrummen writes with a dateline in rural Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky:
This is how things are going in Kentucky: As conservatives argued that the new health-care law will wreck the economy, as liberals argued it will save billions, as many Americans raged at losing old health plans and some analysts warned that a disproportionate influx of the sick and the poor could wreck the new health-care model, [Courtney] Lively was telling [Woodrow Wilson] Noble something he did not expect to hear.
“All right,” she said. “We’ve got you eligible for Medicaid.”
Places such as Breathitt County, in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, are driving the state’s relatively high enrollment figures, which are helping to drive national enrollment figures as the federal health exchange has floundered. In a state where 15 percent of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans, according to figures released by the governor’s office Friday.
If the health-care law is having a troubled rollout across the country, Kentucky — and Breathitt County in particular — shows what can happen in a place where things are working as the law’s supporters envisioned.
Rural Hearing. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a field hearing today entitled “Obamacare Implementation: High Costs, Few Choices for Rural America.” The hearing was scheduled to start this morning in Gainesville, Georgia.
Something to Smile About. A new type dental practitioner – similar to a physician’s assistant in medicine – could help deliver dental care in underserved rural areas, writes Larry Dreiling in the High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal.
The Registered Dental Practitioner program is an emerging effort nationwide designed as a mid-level provider, similar to a physician’s assistant, that will increase access to dental care.
Under this model, registered dental hygienists can complete additional education and training to become RDPs. With the supervision of a dentist, the RDP is able to provide preventive care, cleanings, extractions and fillings.
Problems with the website aren’t helping, but the worst impediment to healthcare reform for some may be fear of dealing with the medical system, writes a former healthcare “navigator.” Marina Sáenz Luna explains how rural communities like those in the Rio Grande Valley can lead the way in helping folks get covered and get well.
Photo by Brian Snyder/ReutersChihn Ha, 8, gets a flu shot earlier this year. Could it be that the nation is just afraid to take its healthcare reform medicine?
I am 30 years old, computer savvy, own a laptop and even have one of those mobile hotspots on my phone. While I had everything I needed to enroll in the healthcare marketplace, I could not.
This time, I could not blame the website. I had to give myself a proper diagnosis: I was terrified of healthcare. To be more precise, I was terrified of the overwhelming process of selecting an insurance provider that I had equated with healthcare.
The last time I had the opportunity to pick my own health insurance was while working for a small non-profit organization. I avoided the process for nearly three years because I had no idea where to begin. The fear immobilized me from seeking coverage.
While in college, I took advantage of the clinic on campus when I needed mandatory physicals for employment. Aside from this, I have only had private health insurance for a combined three months in the last eight years.
When the Texas Tribune put together their report of 5.7 million uninsured Texans, I began to see my experience reflected in these numbers: 58.8% of uninsured Texans were Latinos; 80.2% of uninsured Texans are between the ages of 18 and 64. In the Rio Grande Valley, about 41% of residents were uninsured compared to only 15% nationally.
A portion of the Rio Grande Valley in southeast Texas. Political and geographic boundaries make the region difficult to enter and leave. Click map to enlarge.In the Valley, being left out is the norm.
There are many physical boundaries that enclose the Rio Grande Valley – making it a hard-to-reach area. We’re the abandoned child that cannot climb the border wall. We cannot cross the Falfurrias checkpoint to head north. We try to avoid the violence to the west (namely Starr County) and can't swim across the Gulf of Mexico to another land. In many ways, this corridor has been forgotten – leaving successive generations in survival mode.
There is, however, an incredibly affordable healthcare industry just across our border that caters to mobile retirees (better known as “Winter Texans”). Those with the privilege to cross the border are decreasing as border security gets tighter.
The cartel-related violence has also stopped quick day trips to México for more affordable health care. A recent interview with a community health worker by Kaiser Health News shows a new trend for those managing diabetes. Before, it was common to hear stories of families who would cross the border to get cheaper insulin and other types of prescription medications. Now, it’s more common to hear that family members prefer to share their insulin rather than risk crossing the border.
When it comes to providing quality healthcare, rural communities are a natural antidote to the power of larger, less caring institutions, says Tim Size of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative. The status of underdog can be a strength.
Tim Size is executive director of Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative Like the rest of us, Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon is aging. It won’t be long until he is telling us that “all elders are strong, all health care is local and all children are returning home.” Healthy rural places are needed now more than ever.
AARP in their handbook Aging in Place reminds us “that aging in place is simply a matter of preserving the ability for people to remain in their home or neighborhood as long as possible. The current healthcare system has not been coordinated with in-home care to efficiently and effectively support the senior population.” AARP suggests that there are five key principles for any community to promote aging in place:
Choice–“Healthcare and housing options should be affordable along the income spectrum so all citizens are able to choose from a range of alternatives.”
Flexibility–“Individuals will have his or her own concerns and needs; flexible services will allow individuals to tailor different health and housing services to their own situations.”
Entrepreneurship–“Economies of scale increase as the percentage of older adults in a community grows, presenting new opportunities for affordable service delivery.”
Mixed Generations–“Maintaining mixed-generation communities–there are valuable links to be made between the needs and skills of different age groups.”
Smart Growth–“Designing communities that are more accessible and livable benefits everyone but for many older adults is a fundamental necessity, not just an amenity.”
Rural health care is a discipline focused on “place” that naturally supports these priorities.
Ted Wathen was one-third of a gang of young photographers who traveled the roads of Kentucky in the 1970s, shooting pictures in every county. Now, nearly 40 years later, Wathen examines why travling off the beaten path hits the spot.
Photo by Ted Wathen"Future Cheerleaders" -- Clay County, KY (1977), from the Kentucky Documentary Photographic Project.
From 1975 through 1977 I traveled throughout the state of Kentucky photographing the state during the Bicentennial period. Bill Burke, Bob Hower and I went into each of Kentucky’s 120 counties recording what moved us, what one wouldn’t see if we weren’t there to record it. Our work was shown at a number of museums in the early 1980’s, including the Smithsonian, where a number of our prints reside. Two years ago this work was revived as Rough Road: The Kentucky Documentary Photographic Project, 1975-1977 by the Frazier History Museum in Louisville Kentucky.
I make my living as a commercial photographer. My work varies from product photography to coal mines. I like what I do because it’s varied. No day is the same as the day before.
My favorite ongoing commercial project is documenting the creation of a 22-mile-long linear park in Louisville, The Parklands at Floyds Fork. On a recent visit I photographed stone masons doing dry laid stone surrounds on culverts. The lead mason, Rigoberto Aguilar, told me that he worked for his brother’s company, Aguilar Stone Masonry; he lives in Shelby County and his brother lives in Harrison County, Kentucky.
Photo by Ted WathenStone Mason Rigoberto Aguilar lays stone in Louisville.
Foundation supports new rural education reform initiative • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities … • N.C. ends housing block grant • Rural health offices to celebrate rural health day • China says it will put more money into rural teacher pay.
Photo via Paramount VantageWill Forte, left, and Bruce Dern in a still from the new movie NEBRASKA.
“Nebraska” Movie Gets It Right. A Nebraskan reflects on the film “Nebraska,” the critically lauded film by Alexander Payne. The film follows a father and son as they drive across the state.
The movie works, writes Nebraskan Paul L. Underwood, because director Payne gets the specifics of the state just right. “In the wrong hands, it’s corny stuff,” says Underwood. “In Payne’s, it’s perfect. The emotions and the dialect are as flat as the landscape, beautifully captured in black and white.”
In making a movie about a specific place, he’s addressed universal themes, says Underwood. “We Nebraskans need hope just like anyone else. We just go about it in stupid ways sometimes.”
Idaho Group Launches Rural Education Reform Effort. An Idaho foundation has launched an education reform initiative for rural and frontier America, according to a press release.
"Schools in rural areas are often faced with unique challenges and opportunities. However, the amount of research on solutions that work for small and low-income rural schools is thin," said John White, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. "Our nation needs experts in the field of education research to identify best practices and share timely and relevant models in ways that can be replicated as soon as possible. This important work may be conducted in rural Idaho but it has the potential to identify solutions for common challenges throughout rural America."
The initiative is called the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, and it’s supported by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.