A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rural Blog: Tuesday’s elections show increasing rural-suburban polarization; Trump’s pull mostly rural

Tuesday’s elections showed an increasing rural-urban divide, with suburban areas serving as battleground areas that trend increasingly blue. Suburbs helped unseat Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and gave Virginia Democrats control of both legislative chambers, putting the state under full Democratic control for the first time since 2003. Rural areas of the Old Dominion continued voting Republican, but...

Rural Blog: Research links depression and suicide to chronic disease, especially for rural seniors

Research increasingly links depression and suicide to chronic disease, especially among seniors in rural U.S. “Rural America has some of the highest rates of chronic disease in the nation – the more remote a community, the more heart disease, cancer and diabetes. And there’s a side effect from having a chronic condition many people don’t think about – depression, anxiety and even suicide,”...

Rural Blog: Appalachian Regional Commission report provides update on trends in Appalachia

The Appalachian Regional Commission has released an extensive report detailing trends in Appalachia from 2013 to 2017, including population, education, employment, income, poverty, and broadband access. Most data comes from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Among the ARC report’s key points: • Much of Appalachia has lost population since 2010, but some southern parts...

Rural Blog: Winner of Berea College Appalachian narrative essay contest counterpoints Hillbilly Elegy

So much of what pop culture says about Appalachia comes from the outside and is often riddled with stereotypes and ill-informed judgments. The “Appalachian Narratives for Our Time” contest from Berea College’s Loyal Jones Appalachian Center is a breath of fresh air, with personal essays about the realities of living in Appalachia. Berea recently announced the winners, which were...

Rural Blog: Rural residents are having a harder time affording rent; analysis has data for every county

Change in percentage of county residents with severe cost burden for housing in 2010-17(Stateline map; click on the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version) It’s getting harder to find affordable housing in rural America. “Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s most rural counties have seen a sizeable increase this decade in the number of households spending at least...

Rural Blog: Loss of environment beat at Ky’s largest newspaper another example of rural reporting decline

Rural areas around the nation get much less attention from metropolitan newspapers these days because the papers’ staffs have shriveled and their focus is largely on their metro area. One example of that is the demise of the environmental beat at the Louisville Courier Journal, Charles Bethea reports for The New Yorker magazine. James Bruggers, environmental reporter at the CJ since 1999, left...

Rural Blog: Appalachian Regional Commission grants $22.8 million to diversify coal country

The Appalachian Regional Commission has announced $22.8 million in grants meant to help the economies of 33 Appalachian communities in nine states hurt by the coal industry’s decline. The awards come from the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative; here’s a list of the biggest awards: Regional workforce council West Alabama Works in Tuscaloosa,...

Rural Blog: Federal hemp legalization opens avenues of promotion and protection for growers, sellers

Federal hemp legalization opens up new avenues of promotion and protection for growers and sellers The legalization of industrial hemp in last year’s Farm Bill has opened up a slew of new avenues for growers of the crop and purveyors of its products to help their operations, Liam Niemeyer reports for Ohio Valley Resource, a public-radio cooperative that serves Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. When...

Rural Blog: Trump, McConnell urge TVA not to close two of its oldest coal-fired plants, one in Paradise

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County. The town of Paradise, which no longer exists, was made famous in 1971 by John Prine’s eponymous anti-strip mining song. (Photo by Kathleen Cole) President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are trying to convince to the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority not to close two of its...

Holiday traditions have changed, but our roots are still deeply embedded in rural and immigrant America

The Rural Blog American holiday symbolism and tradition have deep rural roots, writes American Farm Bureau columnist The Rural Blog will be on hiatus next week, unless we see something really compelling, and resume regular publishing Jan. 2. We wish you the merriest of Christmases and a happy, prosperous 2019. Robert Giblin Though holiday traditions have changed greatly over the years, its roots are...

Rural Blog: Parts of Kentucky included in new ‘Tornado Alley’ stretching across Southeastern U.S.

Everyone knows about Tornado Alley, the area stretching from Minnesota to Texas where such storms are most frequent. But a new study shows that tornado activity over the past 40 years has decreased in Tornado Alley and increased in the Midwest and Southeast, giving rise to hotbeds dubbed Dixie Alley, Hoosier Alley and Carolina Alley. “Although Tornado Alley still remains the top U.S. area for...

Rural Blog: Report shows how one judge’s practices contribute to jail overcrowding in two Ky. counties

Rural jails all over the country face constant overcrowding, and though the problem is usually blamed on jail construction delays or outdated jails, judges share some of the blame. A recent study of the criminal justice system in Kentucky’s Boyle and Mercer counties found that one circuit judge was largely responsible for overcrowding at the Boyle County Detention Center because of “‘discriminatory’...

Rural Blog: Appalachia hit twice by coal declines; fewer jobs, ‘crippling’ bills for more expensive power

“As coal mining has collapsed across Appalachia, residents in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia have been socked with a double whammy—crippling electric bills to go along with a declining economy,” James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News. (KyForward file photo) American Electric Power subsidiaries Wheeling Power and Appalachian Power requested permission from the West Virginia...

Rural Blog: Farmers must work together to prosper, says daughter of famed Ky author Wendall Berry

The high turnout in rural areas for Donald Trump in 2016 reflects not just the growing rural-urban cultural divide, but also the fading of a culture in which farming communities cooperate for their betterment, Mary Berry and Debbie Barker write for Civil Eats. Berry’s father and Barker’s friend, Kentucky author-farmer Wendell Berry, called attention to the phenomenon in 1978 in The...

Rural Blog: New poll shows most farmers, although fewer than before, still support Trump trade policy

According to a poll released this week, one in seven farmers who voted for President Trump would not vote for him today, mostly because of the escalating trade war with China. Though 60 percent of farmers overall still support him, that’s down from 75 percent in 2016. And 40 percent of the 924 respondents to the Farm Futures poll say Trump’s trade actions have permanently damaged agriculture,...

Rural Blog: Appalachian surface mining requiring more land for less coal, new study shows

Surface mining in Central Appalachia needs more land to produce less coal than in years past, as illustrated a study from Duke University featuring a new interactive mapping tool by SkyTruth. The apparent reason is that available coal seams are getting thinner as thicker ones are mined out; mines can move as much as 20 tons of rock and dirt to get a ton of coal. Satellite images from 1985 to 2015 show...

Rural Blog: ‘Farmers for America’ documentary addresses the aging of the country’s farmers

A new documentary, “Farmers for America,” addresses big changes coming to the nation’s systems for growing, distributing and consuming food, and how America’s farmers are addressing them. Farmers face changing consumer demands as more people shop at farmers’ markets, commit to eating more local food and try to learn more about where their food comes from. Meanwhile, the...

Rural Blog: Plan to put huge array of solar panels on a mined mountaintop could depend on more mining

Plans by EDF Renewables to put the largest solar farm ever built in Kentucky on a mined mountaintop are in limbo because of a coal company years behind in the cleanup that must come first, is dragging its feet. The $150 million project was proposed a year ago, and would be located on Bent Mountain in the state’s easternmost county, James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News. If the project...

Rural Blog: Students in rural communities facing backlash when speaking out in favor of gun control

Recent school shootings have inspired a wave of gun-control activism, some of it from students, and a few of those students from rural areas. “In a more liberal city like Parkland, Fla., or at a rally in Washington, these students might have been celebrated as young leaders,” Jack Healy reports for The New York Times. “But in rural, conservative parts of the country where farm fields...

Rural Blog: New report shows Ky. lost a half million acres of farmland to homebuilding in last 20 years

(Click for full report) A new report from the American Farmland Trust, the nation’s leading farmland-preservation group, says that America has been losing twice as much farmland as the group thought, and the leading cause of it is low-density residential development, especially in Kentucky, Al Cross reports for the Midway Messenger. Cross is the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism...