That’s the thing about rural Kansas: No one lives there, not anymore. The small towns that epitomize America’s heartland are cut off from the rest of the world by miles and miles of grain, casualties of a vast commodity agriculture system that has less and less use for living, breathing farmers.
U.S. census data tells the story. The population in most of Kansas’s rural counties peaked 50 years ago or earlier. The state’s annual population growth rate is among the slowest in the country, steadily falling from 1.2 percent in 1960 to 0.9 percent in 2016, with nearly all of that meager growth concentrated in a handful of eastern urban areas—Wichita, Kansas City, Topeka, and Lawrence.
Population is also growing in the areas around the state’s massive slaughterhouses and feedlots, which have built communities largely around immigrant labor. But that’s nowhere near enough to stave off the decline, which is only expected to increase more rapidly.
Monday, April 30, 2018
The Slow Death of Rural Kansas
Commodity agriculture is to blame: