The voice of rural America roared in this election.

Rural Americans have been talking, but we haven’t always heard…or listened. I suspect more will listen now.

The urban-rural divide has been a source of tension in American political, economic and sociocultural life throughout much of our nation’s history. As a historian, some of my work explores the often tense relationship between rural and urban and the ways in which Americans have mediated those differences, particularly during the Progressive Era.

In the last few years I’ve worked more in the spaces and communities made possible by social technologies. I’ve been struck at times by the pronounced disconnect between rural and urban perspectives, especially around food system topics.

And I’m not the only one.

There are some absolutely stellar journalists covering rural America and communicating critical rural issues to urban audiences. One of my favorites is Luke Runyon, a reporter with HarvestPM, based KUNC. He just Tweeted this:


And this:



These both strike me as important points. We need to bridge gaps in understanding around complex issues that impact both urban and rural Americaas well as seek to truly understand the ways in which we depend on one another. We also need to listen more.

The Rural-Urban Disconnect

A piece I highlighted a couple of weeks ago – written by Siena Chrisman for Civil Eats – now seems to have been prescient. She suggested that we ought to head to the farm to understand the rise of candidate – now president-elect – Donald Trump. We think this piece is worth revisiting. Read my comments about the rural-urban disconnect and Siena’s piece here.

One of my favorite food/ag policy writers, Helena Bottemiller Evich (with an assist from Catherine Boudreau, Ian Kullgren, Jason Huffman and Jenny Hopkinson) has a Morning Agriculture wrap out about what a Trump win might mean for agriculture. It appears in Politico and is absolutely worth a read. It includes a blurb about the short list for USDA Secretary and some ideas about priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill. If you’re not reading Politico’s Morning Agriculture round-up, sign up for it. Really vital work.

Read this piece by Chris Clayton (appearing in The Progressive Farmer) to learn more about the changes rural America thinks might be in store during a Trump presidency…including what a Farm Bill might look like and the high expectations rural residents have for a new administration. A quote from the piece:

“We laugh at the notion, but we have had several elections where rural America was licking our wounds. Our influence was down and we had the worst time passing the last farm bill. I don’t think today there is any reason for anybody in rural America to be wringing their hands and talking about their lack of influence today. By all accounts, rural America has delivered a significant portion of the Trump revolution here.”

From Soda Tax Measures to Veteran Farmers

In other news, there were some food policy successes in urban areas, where soda tax measures in California and Colorado passed handily. Despite beverage manufacturers pouring big money into campaigns to defeat the tax proposals (pun intended), citizens in three cities in Northern California (San Francisco, Oakland and Albany) and Boulder passed soda tax measures. Anna Lappé writes about those efforts in this #mustread piece for Civil Eats. 

Teresa and I will be off tomorrow in honor of the Veterans Day holiday…we salute and thank all veterans for their service. Veteran farmers always have our respect. Read this piece about the work of some we know and the fascinating history of soldiers on the land.

As always, have a great day.


P.S. Shout out to my daughter, Natalie Smith, for use of this photograph. She shot this picture at our favorite farm many years ago, when she was eleven years old.