State Side: Rural America’s vanishing local economies

U.S. farmers spent a record $254 billion last year to grow our food and fibre, but most of the money left the rural areas, never to return


One of the oldest truisms in agriculture had it that “When farmers make money, everybody in town makes money.”

Note that I used the past tense because, if you’ve passed through almost any farm town in any farm state lately, few businesses – outside a coffee shop, a convenience store and a pub or two – exist anymore.

The reasons for rural America’s empty storefronts are as many as they are irreversible: fewer farmers, more mobility, the rise (and domination) of chain retailers, the internet, loyalties pegged to dollars rather than neighbours. These are cold facts, not nostalgic laments.

Better Farming February 2008