Images of 2019: (Clockwise from left). Richard Oswald’s farm flooded by the Missouri in March 2019 (Photo by Richard Oswald). True Sioux Hope Foundation tour of Wounded Knee Cemetery in 2017. (Photo by Mary Annette Pember.) Painter and poet Ricky Beene of Petros, Tennessee. (Photo by Shawn Poynter). Examples of Beene’s portraits. (Screenshot of video shot by Shawn Poynter and edited by Dale Mackey). Map of change in party vote from 2015 to 2019 in the Kentucky gubernatorial race. (Daily Yonder graphic).

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It’s been another busy year here at the Daily Yonder. We published more than 250 articles over the past 12 months, about all manner of issues important to rural people and communities. To commemorate the year that was, we’ve taken a look back at the 10 most popular stories we brought to you in 2019.

It’s a diverse mix, covering numerous topics you might expect, such as economic development, healthcare, broadband, agriculture and our changing environment. But you might also find something that surprises you or that you missed earlier this year. And while many of these stories focus on specific local places and people, we believe all of them tap into universal themes and concerns relevant to us all. So without further ado, here’s 2019 in review. Join us in taking a look back at our top stories of the past year.

10. Members of Oglala Lakota Tribe Question ‘Voluntourism’ and Church-Based Charities

By Mary Annette Pember on March 13, 2019

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation hosts a steady influx of church groups and other religious organizations providing goods and services for citizens of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota. But leaders wonder about the effectiveness of the programs, and some say certain religious groups are more interested in promoting their own agenda. 

9. Eula Hall’s Mud Creek Clinic: Kentucky’s ‘People that Help People’

By Taylor Sisk on May 26, 2019

At 91 years of age, grassroots healthcare organizer Eula Hall continues to support the organization that provides care to her Eastern Kentucky neighbors.

8. In Memoriam: Painting Petros, One Portrait at a Time

By Dale Mackey and Shawn Poynter on May 5, 2019

Our friend Ricky Beene passed away this year. The poet and self-taught painter set out to create portraits of all residents of his East Tennessee community of Petros. Beene leaves a beautiful and lasting legacy for Petros and others to enjoy. We reran this profile from 2017 as a tribute to Beene and his family.

7. Rural Download Speeds Are Worse than Reported, 2019 Microsoft Study Says

By Roberto Gallardo on February 5, 2019

We’ve all heard a car mechanic report “Well, it’s going to be harder to fix than we thought.” That’s the upshot of a 2019 analysis of broadband speeds in rural America, according to data from Microsoft.

6. Where the Vote Shifted in Kentucky from 2015 to 2019

By Bill Bishop on November 8, 2019

The Kentucky gubernatorial election attracted national attention when Democratic challenger Andy Beshear narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Matt Bevin. Although the urban Democratic base underpinned the victory, Democrats improved their performance in rural areas throughout the state, with the exception of Western Kentucky.

5. How Do You Reinvent a Rural Economy in 2019? $100 at a Time

By Melody Warnick on February 13, 2019

Elkin, North Carolina, has asked residents to pitch in to create a grassroots economic development effort designed to attract people and businesses to the town of 4,000.

4. Editor’s Note: Rural America and a Tale of Two Columnists

By Tim Marema on March 25, 2019

Rural America can go sit on a tack. That’s about the extent of the argument we hear over and over from voices granted precious column inches on the New York Times editorial page. This Daily Yonder column is just one more response to one more set of Times’ op/eds arguing that investing in rural America is throwing good money after bad.

3. ATV Riders Push Back after 2019 Report Calls for Banning Them from Adirondacks

By Martin Kernan on May 20, 2019

Can ATV riders and hikers just get along? New York’s iconic Adirondack Park grapples with the environmental and aesthetic impact of motorized vehicles while considering the potential economic impact of ATV recreation.

2. Review | 2019 Book on Appalachia Gives J.D. Vance His ‘Reckoning’

By James Branscome on March 4, 2019

The press and book circles around the country have transformed J.D. Vance’s thin memoir into a sociological treatise on the cause of generational poverty and how to fix it. Critics of Vance’s boot-strap solution got their chance to respond this year in Appalachian Reckoning, a collection of essays that address the best-selling memoir. The book’s impact is far from over in 2019. In the coming year we’re likely to have a motion-picture version of Vance’s story. 

1. Letters from Langdon: 40 Feet High and Rising and The ‘Maybe Disaster’ of Northwest Missouri

By Richard Oswald on March 27 and April 16, 2019

A slow-moving disaster rolled through the Midwest this year, as it did in 2011, flooding farmland and communities along the Missouri River. Residents had plenty of warning but no tools to protect their homes and livelihoods. Farmers and others in the path of the flooding have yet to know the extent of the economic damage the flooding created. Richard Oswald, in two “Letter from Langdon” columns describes the economic and emotional loss that came with the flooding.

Auld Lang Syne – Farewell, 2019

We hope you enjoyed this roundup of the year that was for the Daily Yonder. If you had a favorite story that wasn’t included on the list, be sure to share it in the comments below. 

As we turn the page on 2019, we wish all our readers a happy New Year. We look forward to bringing you more great coverage of rural stories in 2020, and beyond. Let us know what kinds of coverage you’d like to see more of in the new year. We’ll make our resolutions accordingly.