2 thoughts on “The Decline of the Industrial Midwest”

  1. I’ve often wondered if places like West Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, ND (and even N. Missouri) will go toward the commercial farming style you see in Brazil, Australia, Ukraine (used to see in Zim). Large landholdings with a single manor. I also imagine that all those dirt roads that criss-cross those states will be plowed under. It makes sense economically, but it’s the death of small towns like the one I grew up in. It’s been going on for a while. One hundred years ago, my home county’s population was triple what it is now, but the town populations were the same. There were just a lot of small landowners eeking out a living as just-above-subsistence farmers. Now, my county has at least two large hunting reserves that cater to city clients. Gone are the days of the yeoman farmers.

  2. When I was growing up, there were as many ‘ghost houses’ near my grandparents’ farm as homes with people in them. (More, if you would count the sod house.)

    The speaker I mentioned was at the Lincoln 2006 AAG [1]. He predicted a manorial midwest. He also predicted de facto county consolidation — large multi-county landowners would want easier administration, but there is a lot of sentimental attachment to the existing countries. This sounds likely to me. “Bon Homme” and “Hutchinson” counties are distinct places in South Dakota, but I can easily imagine how they could operate as one entity while legally existing as two.

    You are exactly right about populations — town size itself has been relatively constant. But the age of the those towns steadily increase, and far worse the population of the countryside is plummeting. A lot of small towns are only ‘alive’ because of an ethanol plan, which is a very different economy and workforce than what they use to have.

    (A lot of times when I am in China, the evidence of widespread ‘poverty’ I see are parallel to stories my mom tells of growing up, though no one except my grandma considered themselves poor.)

    [1] http://catholicgauze.blogspot.com/2006/10/lincoln-aag-2006.html

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