Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Stories From The Hardest Year

photograph by The Hardest Year

Last week The Daily Yonder continued its analysis of the changing demograhics in rural America; in this latest report Roberto Gallardo and Bill Bishop have coauthored a piece that considers the recession's impact: 1.2 million jobs lost in rural America. With a few exceptions (where a small amount of growth occurred) the recession has left many rural communities that were already hurting for positive economic growth in a more desperate situation. 

While, especially in an election cycle, it's easy to read these numbers, to peruse the  Yonder's maps, and feel a sense of dismay, it's important to remember the creativity and resiliency of these same communities. One source that brings us back to this foundation is The Hardest Year, a 2009 cross-country journalism project undertaken by Julie Donofrio and John Sanders. Their search for stories and perspectives led them, in most cases, into rural America; the voices they document across these videos and articles are unforgettable. It's hard not be moved and inspired by what Ms. Donofrio and Mr. Sanders have chosen to share with us. 

Their piece on Donna Sue Groves and her barn quilts was included in last week's post on the subject, but there is a lot more to The Hardest Year. I'll include two videos below, although the full story is revealed through following the links to their site. 

Here's a piece on how many tobacco farmers across central Appalachia are taking the leap of faith by transitioning from the practices of their parents and grandparents into the world of organic farming. In conjunction with Appalachian Sustainable Development, a regional organic movement is emerging in the heart of what was once tobacco country:


In this second selection, we travel to Eskridge, Kansas to hear the story of Maisie Devore. Ms. Devore collected cans along a one-mile circuit of local road for thirty years so that she could raise enough money to build a pool for the town's children.