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The Future for Rural Kansas

By Ali Watson
This article was submitted to the 2007 Rural Voices Contest, and, although it did not win, was judged appropriate for Eye on Kansas.

  Farm image  "© Photographer: Bartosz Ostrowski | Agency: Dreamstime.com"
   

The headlines today do not seem to have much faith in the future of rural Kansas. If we based Kansas’s future on the predictions of the news media, Globalization will take over rural Kansas and no one will live here anymore. However, I disagree with what the commentators and reporters say. I think that the Kansas that I have grown up in will continue to thrive for several reasons.

People say that since technology has become more advanced, that the traditional farm will go out of business in the future and that corporate farms will take over. These people need to keep in mind that Kansas provides the rest of the country with the majority of its agricultural needs. This is not going to stop just because some small farms will be sold to bigger farm corporations.  Granted, some transactions of this nature will occur, but it will not completely wipe out the simple farmers’ businesses. The independent farmers that I know (I’m related to several of them) are a determined group of people. They are connected to the land by more than money; they are connected by family and history and tradition. They will find ways to continue, to stay put. Instead of technology putting them out of business, it is going to help them survive.

Another reason people feel that Kansas will no longer exist as we know it, is that today’s youth are getting bored. Supposedly, there is not much to do in Kansas, when it comes to entertainment. It is not uncommon to hear a Kansas-teenager say, “Man, I cannot wait to get out of here.” However, they will not be gone forever. Yes, some will venture out into the world, but eventually they will miss the simple, hometown life. The life in which everyone knows your name and greets you on the street. The life where kids can ride their bikes to the city pool without fear.  Those same kids, who left looking for more excitement, will come back looking for a place that they know will always be there. Kansas is a place where you can feel good about raising your kids. There will always be town rodeos, homecoming parades, and 4H gatherings. There will always be the farmers in overalls and bill caps, sitting at the local café swapping stories and telling jokes. There will always be town fairs, side-walk sales, and city Easter egg hunts in the park. There will always be ladies who quilt in the Methodist Church basement and basketball games on Friday nights attended by the whole town. FFA banquets filled with blue corduroy and pride, 4-H fashion shows with nervous mothers and giggly kids, county fairs with funnel cakes and young livestock (both bovine and human), local elections with controversy and concern, Sunday afternoon potlucks with more food than anyone can eat, the teenage cruise lap with pick-ups and old clunkers, Frisbee golf in the park, elementary soup suppers, middle school science fairs, junior high field trips to the Pawnee Indian Village, town festivals, Thursday evening farmer’s market, Trick-or-Treating in the local stores, going fishing at your favorite pond; none of these things will change because people enjoy them and will seek to continue them.  

Kansas’s isolation from the outside world is supposedly going to be its downfall. This is not true. I have had just as many opportunities here in Kansas as anyone else does in the world. With the help of technology, I can shop in any major store in New York City from my dining room. I can keep in contact with my closest friends from Emporia, Salina, Mt. Hope, Hutchinson, Sterling, Wichita, Kansas City, Lawrence, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, England, and China by using my computer. I have even seen new babies moments after they are born because the proud parents sent pictures via the Internet. Does this sound isolated?

I do not need to leave Kansas to be entertained. I can take college courses from a university in San Francisco online.  I may not be able to attend a Broadway show anywhere near me, but I can order the tickets without leaving my house. I can visit any foreign country from my computer. I can learn new languages without a passport. I can watch videos made by people in Russia. Buying and selling on the stock market is not a problem. I can attend a major sporting event, read any newspaper, download music of any kind, read any book, and even write the President of the United States without sacrificing the good qualities of small town Kansas.

I am going to Baker University next year to double major in Vocal Music Performance and Music Education. The reason I chose Baker is because Baldwin City has the hometown atmosphere that I love. I wanted to choose a college in a town similar to mine with people who will go out of their way to help you if you need it. I wanted a town in which I feel safe and in which I can walk wherever I please without fear. Baldwin City has that feeling. I admit it; I am going to leave here and see the world. I want to travel and see other places. But I am not going to stay away forever. I am going to come back. I will always have a place in my town of Concordia, and I am not alone in this sentiment. There will be others who will venture out to see other places, but they will always find their way back to reliable Kansas. Kansas is home, and I do not want to stay away from home for too long.

Yes, Kansas will change in the future. Some small towns will cease to be, some young people will move away, and some family farms will sell out. However, there will always be kind people, connections with the land, and of course beautiful sunsets over my Uncle Joe’s wheat fields.

 

 
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Last Updated April 6, 2009
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