On Everywhere Radio, we talk with Anthony Flaccavento about his work in bridging the rural-urban divide, coming from Baltimore to Appalachia, and why farming keeps him humble. Flaccavento is the co-founder of RUBI, the Rural-Urban Bridge Initiative. 

Flaccavento is also a farmer and rural development consultant from Abingdon, Virginia in the heart of the Appalachian Coalfields.  The Founder of Appalachian Sustainable Development, Flaccavento has focused most of his work over the past four decades on building healthier food systems and more diverse, locally rooted economies in Appalachia and around the world. 

Flaccavento is the author of Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up:  Harnessing Real World Experience for Transformative Change.

Flaccavento was the Democratic Candidate for the U.S. House in 2018, and remains involved in trying to impact politics and the public debate.  He is the co-founder of RUBI, the Rural-Urban Bridge Initiative, through which he works with colleagues to lead public forums and trainings designed to help people understand and begin to overcome the rural-urban divide.  He has also compiled The Rural-Urban Divide:  A Guidebook to Understanding the Problem and Forging Solutions.  He is married to Laurel, a retired public school teacher, and has three terrific grown children.

Interview Excerpt:

On his journey to becoming an advocate for Appalachia and for rural populations.

Anthony Flaccavento:  I grew up in a pretty non-political family. A lower middle-class family in Baltimore. Great family, but nobody was really political. I found myself … The Italians would say, “with agitas.” I was really frustrated with the world that I began to learn about when I was a teenager and wanted to do something. And so, for first few years from high school college, a little bit after college … I guess you could say I was driven by the desire to build a more just world. I thought we had so much suffering, so much injustice, and unfairness in the world. And so, that’s how I initially got involved. There was a very strong church, religious component to it as well. For a while, I worked for the Catholic Diocese in Southwest Virginia directing their Office of Justice and Peace. And so, all of that was probably my initial formation. What happened when I went to UK, the University of Kentucky … And then, started working first for what was then called the Soil Conservation Service. Now, NRCS. And then, I worked for an engineering firm doing strip mine reclamation. That was really my first immersion into Appalachia. We’re talking now about the late 70s. During that period, the late 70s, early 80s, I found myself working in Appalachia. Didn’t know a clue of about it. Read Harry Caudill’s book Night Comes to the Cumberlands.

Then, met Harry Caudill, which was a wonderful thing. And then, started just doing other reading. But what I discovered was I had pretty much the typical prejudices about country people that city folks have. A sense that I wanted to help them, because they were pathetic and couldn’t help themselves. It was that. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. That’s where I was coming from, initially. And it didn’t take long at all, even just this strip mine reclamation job, which wasn’t a job about politics or culture, to very quickly get that idea slammed by ordinary people. Who I found were both smart about things that really mattered and also very articulate in how they talked about it. Usually, with about 5% of the words that I used, they were nailing things. It turned me around a little bit. I started to see that it wasn’t about coming into an area and helping people. It was about settling in an area, becoming a neighbor, and working with folks.

Full Transcript: 

Anthony Flacacvento: The good news is that there are hundreds of people in small towns and rural communities around the country who are creating much better alternatives. Not just talking about it. Not just pondering or writing some of that. But mostly, doing. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

That’s Anthony Flaccavento. This week’s guest on Everywhere Radio. Everywhere Radio is a production of The Rural Assembly. And I’m your host, Whitney Kimball Coe. Each episode, I spotlight the good, scrappy, and joyful ways rural people and their allies are building a more inclusive nation. 

Before we get to Anthony, I’d like to talk about the Rural Assembly Everywhere virtual event that will be held May 10th and 11th. It’s for rural advocates and the rural curious, listeners and leaders, neighbors and admirers. 

We’ll enjoy two days of virtual programming, featuring artists and poets, civic leaders, and experts. You can register for free at ruralassembly.org. 

Anthony Flaccavento is a farmer, author, and co-founder of the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative. An organization that makes the case for repairing political, economic, and cultural divides across our country. Anthony is the son of immigrants who found their way to New York City and then Baltimore. As a young adult, Anthony made his way to Appalachia where he became an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, studying agriculture and environmental science. He fell in love with the region and eventually put down roots in Southwest Virginia, where he continues to write, farm, and organize.  Anthony is a passionate apologist and advocate for rural people, the land, and the power of local relationships to drive change. In 2018, he was the Democratic candidate for Congress for Virginia’s Ninth District. The district that is larger than the state of New Jersey. His campaign was focused on building solidarity among Southwest Virginia’s working and middle class, and promoting policies that honor the connection between ecological wellbeing and economic health. Anthony lost his 2018 bid, but continued to pursue his passion for building networks and opportunities for progressive political action. He launched the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative, nicknamed RUBI, with a host of partners and their members. RUBI developed strategies and trainings designed to encourage leaders, particularly those with a liberal or progressive bent, to think act and respond differently, to make the case for rural inclusion in progressive politics, and to champion the common interests of working and middle class Americans. Anthony is the author of Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real World Experience for Change. His book has been used by practitioners, students, and academics across the country. I’m really pleased to have Anthony here with us on Everywhere Radio. Thank you, Anthony, for saying yes to this conversation. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

I did so very willingly, Whitney. Thanks. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Wonderful. I wonder if you could just start by telling me a little bit about your formation? I gave a pretty lengthy intro, but I want to know more about your journey to becoming an advocate for Appalachia and for rural populations. 

Anthony Flaccavento: Sure. I grew up in a pretty non-political family. A lower middle class family in Baltimore. Great family, but nobody was really political. I found myself … The Italians would say, “with agitas.” I was really frustrated with the world that I began to learn about when I was a teenager and wanted to do something. And so, for first few years from high school college, a little bit after college … I guess you could say I was driven by the desire to build a more just world. I thought we had so much suffering, so much injustice and unfairness in the world. And so, that’s how I initially got involved. There was a very strong church, religious component to it as well. For a while, I worked for the Catholic Diocese in Southwest Virginia directing their Office of Justice and Peace. And so, all of that was probably my initial formation. What happened when I went to UK, the University of Kentucky … And then, started working first for what was then called the Soil Conservation Service. Now, NRCS. And then, I worked for an engineering firm doing strip mine reclamation. That was really my first immersion into Appalachia. We’re talking now about the late 70s. During that period, the late 70s, early 80s, I found myself working in Appalachia. Didn’t know a clue about it. Read Harry Caudill’s book Night Comes to the Cumberlands. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Night Comes to the Cumberlands. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Then, met Harry Caudill, which was a wonderful thing. And then, started just doing other reading. But what I discovered was I had pretty much the typical prejudices about country people that city folks have. A sense that I wanted to help them, because they were pathetic and couldn’t help themselves. It was that. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. That’s where I was coming from, initially. And it didn’t take long at all, even just this strip mine reclamation job, which wasn’t a job about politics or culture, to very quickly get that idea slammed by ordinary people. Who I found were both smart about things that really mattered and also very articulate in how they talked about it. Usually, with about 5% of the words that I used, they were nailing things. It turned me around a little bit. I started to see that it wasn’t about coming into an area and helping people. It was about settling in an area, becoming a neighbor, and working with folks. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Well, I want you to say a little bit more about the stereotyping that happens to Appalachians and rural populations. How that has shaped, in your mind, politics and policy outcomes where we live here in Appalachia. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Some of it is the way … We have this two-tiered notion about education, which is deeply ingrained in our country. It’s not specifically rural versus urban, although it breaks out along those lines a lot. And it is that, “Higher education is book learning.” It’s going to college. It’s the academic framework. That everything else is necessary, but a lesser form of education. And it’s very prevalent. It’s the basis upon which people who have the opportunity for higher education quickly begin to think of themselves as being in a position of knowledge that people who don’t have that book learning don’t have. It automatically sets up a power dynamic that’s terrible. I was on a call with somebody just a week or two ago. Real smart person. Talking about some political things. And at one point, we were talking about the fact that Democrats cluster in cities and Republicans are now more in rural areas. He talked about that, people in the city … Those were the places where there was a lot of well-educated people, and in the country there was lower education levels. And I said, “Well, not exactly.” I said, “I know a lot of people who haven’t been to college who have deep understanding of issues that people in the city have no clue about.” I’m talking about really weighty issues around food production and how the ecosystem works and the forests work. And a lot of the most knowledgeable, insightful people with real technical understanding never went to college for it. It’s reframing what it means to be educated. That’s the first thing. That’s what my little, “A-ha,” was. I probably didn’t call it that at that moment. It was like, “Dang. These folks know a lot of stuff.” I assumed they probably didn’t, because they didn’t have the advantage of higher education. I think that still permeates a lot of thinking from the left and just from educated people generally. I find myself in all kinds of settings, constantly fighting to say, “Don’t just involve working folks and farmers and country people when you finish designing your programs that you now want them to implement.” Get them at the outset, designing the programs. Get them engaged at that conceptual level. That intellectual level. Because without a doubt, the programs would be a whole lot better if that happened. Anyway, that’s a long rant about it. But I really think that two-tier view of education underlies or at least provides the foundation for a lot of the other things that propel the divide. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Can you give me some more concrete examples of what your experience has been working with folks in this region and rural people, as they’re being brought into these programs or brainstorming places? Places where their expertise is being called in. How have you seen that played out in good ways? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

All kinds of ways. When we started Appalachian Sustainable Development back in 1995 … By that point, I had been in Southwest Virginia for 10 years. We started to think about, “How do you build an economy that works better for people and better for the land? The environment?” Nobody really knew. It hadn’t been the normal way of building an economy up to that point. We started talking to tobacco farmers about what was going on with them. This was the period when tobacco allotments were shrinking. Profitability was getting slimmer and slimmer. And so, tobacco, which had been a core crop for a lot of small to mid-size farmers, was on its way out. We went and met with tobacco farmers in Lee County in far Southwest Virginia and Scott County a little bit over the border in Hawkins County, Tennessee. Those kinds of places. What we found was that rather than just desperately holding onto tobacco to the bitter end, which was the approach that the land grants and extension were taking … Sort of a, “Nothing can replace tobacco,” mindset. We found a lot of farmers that were anxious to stay in farming, but to do something else. These were not hippie transplant farmers. These were born and raised folks from Lee County and other places. And so, we worked with them to create this Appalachian Harvest Food Hub. That’s, I’m glad to say, still going 20 plus years later.  But fundamentally, we had to work with them. They then helped us figure out both the farming end … We brought some knowledge to it, and we did bring some of Virginia Tech and UT’s resources. But it was really the farmers themselves. And then, the marketing piece, which was critical. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

No, that’s great. When you were running for District Nine as a Democratic candidate … I know you lost your bid, but you ran a really hard, good race. I wonder what messages were you bringing to the fore as you did all those … I think you did hundreds of Town Halls across that district. What messages were you bringing to the fore that you felt really resonated with locals? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

I appreciate that. You said hundreds. It was actually about 102. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Oh, okay. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Let’s just round it up. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

This is such a big district. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Let’s round it up to thousands. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Okay. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

We did 14,000 Town Hall meetings. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

I bet it kind of felt like that sometimes. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

It did. Even though, again, the context for my race is always that some things did work and did move the needle. But ultimately, we lost pretty handily. But those Town Halls were really quite something. They were sort of a combination … I always pitched what I believed. Because I felt like, if you get 50 or 200 people in a little community center in Meadows of Dan, they need to know who you are and what you stand for. But most of it … It was typically 90 minutes to two hours. Most of that was chatting. Most of that was me listening and then responding to questions. But in my little pitch, in the Town Halls and the rest of the campaign, I always started with the fact that trickle-down economics has failed. That, “Trickle-down don’t,” I would say. That in fact, it’s a suck up economy that pulls wealth out of farmers, family-owned businesses in Main Street, community banks and all of that to an ever smaller group of ever larger corporations. Whether they were the mega banks or the Tysons of the world. That was always the starting point. We have this economic paradigm that Democrats and Republicans alike have embraced that simply has failed most Americans, and has failed spectacularly in places like Appalachia and other predominantly rural areas. Then, the second half of the message was … The good news is that there are hundreds of people in small towns and rural communities around the country who are creating much better alternatives. Not just talking about it. Not just pondering or writing some of that. But mostly, doing. And that these alternative, what I came to call in my book, “Bottom Up Economies” were real. They were leading to tangible improvements in people’s lives. They were creating businesses and jobs. And that the big problem we had was that … Because we were so stuck on this elite driven, top-down, trickle-down, all those alternatives got the bread crumbs. They got what fell off the table. In terms of both investment and the right policy. And so, that was the basic framing. The current paradigm isn’t working. It’s the opposite of what it says. We have the foundation of expertise and knowledge to build much better economies that work for people and work for the land. That was really the message. Now, of course, I ended up talking about all the issues, but that was the core. And it was remarkable how widely that resonated. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Even though, ultimately, you lost that bid. There was some evidence there that there is room for those kinds of conversations. Even progressive … Maybe even some liberal politics and policy that can exist in a rural context. I wonder if you could say a little bit about that? Because I think it’s what drives a bit of the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative. The organization you’ve co-founded. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Absolutely. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

That progressive politics and policies actually do have a place in a rural context. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Right. Absolutely. The cool thing is when you start with real world examples. If I would talk about the experience with the tobacco farmers in the creation of Appalachian harvest … Or I would talk about what we did in sustainable forestry and wood flooring that came out of that. What happened in the home ownership program. It was really a pretty small step from talking about that experience to talking about how policies either helped or hurt that kind of economy. Because most people … You’d get the occasional skeptic. But most people, regardless of their politics or even their education background, agreed with the critique that trickle-down hadn’t. That it was sucking up. And that these other alternatives, which often they had not heard of, were really exciting to them. So then, the question was, “Okay. What would you do as a congressperson to promote them?” And then, it was just these small steps to say, “Well, look what the current policy propels.” Look what, for instance, economic development policy propels. Frequently, on the campaign trail, I talked about how we spend about 100 billion dollars a year, local, state, and federal on tax incentives for the biggest corporations. We compete with each other. Southwest Virginia competes with Eastern Kentucky. Scott County competes with Tazewell County. We offer these lucrative subsidy packages for corporations. Some of whom turn out to be decent employers in the long term, but many of whom are transient. Many of whom come and go after a few years. I would talk about the example where Bristol recruited a Cabela’s to come to Exit 5 on interstate 81, with an incentive package that was almost $50 million for one store to set up shops, so they could create a cluster of stores and businesses around that. Meanwhile, the same leaders are trying to revitalize State Street in the downtown of Bristol and doing some things for it. But the day that the Cabelas deal was announced in the Bristol Paper, this almost $50 million package, was the same day that … At the back of the same issue of the Bristol Paper, they announced the winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Downtown Bristol. They described her business. And then, they talked about what she got. $5,000. You have $5,000 versus $50 million. That’s a 10,000-fold difference. And I would say to people, “When we have policies like that, how could we possibly expect local independent businesses to compete? To thrive?” When we’re spending so much public money, your money, my money, to recruit businesses that are already cash rich and already have so many advantages? It was always, really, very small … As I said, a small step between talking about the examples good and bad, and the policies that either helped or hurt. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

And yet, how does … That’s such a powerful example. As a local rural person, if that were presented to me, I would just be overwhelmed at the difference between that $5,000 in the local entrepreneur and the Cabelas. How does it still get drowned out by single-party politics? How are we still climbing this steep hill, where single-party politics is the driving force? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Well, I think that the Republicans have been able to establish a one-party rule in so many of our Appalachian counties, and so many rural counties across the country. Again, in part, because they talk a lot better than we do. They’ve got great one-liners. In part, I would say … Putting on my somewhat negative partisan hat, they’re willing to be extremely loose with the truth and say what they feel needs to be said. But turning it back on us, it’s because we have not presented a consistent, compelling alternative. Plain and simple. We haven’t. On the one hand, the Democratic Party on cultural issues has clearly become more liberal. Personally, I’m glad for that. But for conservative people in small towns, the cultural sorts of changes … What’s now considered acceptable, normal, laudable has shifted quite a bit. And it’s a bit of a shock to a lot of people. The cultural changes. The Democratic Party has in fact become quite a bit more liberal on those issues. But at the same time, they’ve become more neoliberal for the most part on economic issues. So it’s a double whammy. The disruptive or worrisome, from some people’s point of views, shifts in our social and cultural norms are accompanied, not by a similarly progressive economic platform, but by an economic platform that embraces investor-driven trade policy that’s hollowed out rural communities. Or big ag policies that have really almost destroyed thousands of ag-based communities, because of the favoring of the big four in meat processing and the big fertilizer and seed companies. All of those things. It’s not rocket science, but we keep struggling against this. And the fact that the Republican Party has gone so far to the right has only made it more difficult. Because now, Democrats are either trying to counter the extremism, which I understand … Or they feel like they present a sort of, “At least we’re not crazy,” definition of what it means to be a liberal or a Democrat. People are given the choice. This guy who talks a good game, but seems a little nutty. Or these folks who say, “Hey, we’re not as bad as them.” What the heck kind of a choice is that? 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

We’ll be right back after this from the Daily Yonder. 

Xandr Brown: 

Hi, I’m Xandr Brown with The Daily Yonder. Check out The Yonder Report, a new weekly podcast rounding up the latest rural news. Produced by The Daily Yonder and Public News Service. You can listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Now, back to Everywhere Radio.  

Well, is bridging the rural-urban divide mostly about better frameworks, better communication, different narratives? What’s the ratio between that and the doing and showing what it looks like? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

I’m convinced that it has to be founded on the doing. This is why RUBI … And thanks for that. You did a terrific job explaining RUBI. I may quote you on it, because I don’t think I’ve been able to do it quite so well. But RUBI has these three initiatives. One around best practices of candidates who’ve done well in rural communities, which we can talk about if you want. One is our Rural-Urban Divide Training that we’ve done about 20 times now and keeps evolving, which really gets to the heart of how we got here and then what we can do. And then, the third and newest piece that we’re in the process of launching is enabling local communities. Now, that might be the local Democratic committee in many cases, but it could also be a local environmental group or social justice group. Encouraging and enabling them to start engaging in a daily way or a regular way, let’s say, with their neighbors on solving problems in the community. Not proselytizing. That’s something that they should also do, when the time is right. Not writing post cards, talking about how bad the other candidate is. All that stuff is something people do and needs to be done. But we’re talking about … How many times have a local Democratic committee as a Democratic committee been seen out there rehabbing a home for an elderly person who needs a home repair or a new roof? How many times have the local liberal groups worked with the Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Association to build up a “Buy Local” campaign? Or a farmer’s market support campaign? How many times have they focused on harnessing some of their resources to create scholarship possibilities for local kids to go to technical school, community college, or college? All of these everyday things that should be done and can be done with other local groups. Churches, rotaries, Kiwanis, businesses. If we begin to engage in that work as just part and parcel of what it means to be political in rural places, I think three things happen. One is good stuff gets done. Right? Homes get rehabbed. Senior centers get a new wing. Downtown businesses do better. Second thing is, we’ll start to finally see our rural neighbors as our equals or betters, in some cases. When you work side by side with somebody, the educational and cultural artifacts tend to slip away. Because you’re both at the same level. Whether you’re swinging an axe or running a chainsaw or whatever you’re doing. And then, the third thing we think will happen out of that is that those same liberals and progressives will start advocating for better rural development policy. They’ll start advocating. Like the Biden Administration … And I was no Biden guy. I was a Bernie guy. But for all their flaws, they have put forward several really substantive initiatives for rural. Including the Rural Prosperity Program, which started out as a $5 billion initiative. It’s been whittled down to $1 billion, but it’s still a really good bottom up approach to rural development. Well, anyway, most liberals don’t know the first thing about it. Probably, wouldn’t be interested if they heard the name. But you start working in your community and identifying the problems and the solutions? I think you’re going to become advocates for the right kind of policy. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

I feel like I’m 100% with you. The practice of participation, engagement, building relationships with your neighbors. Showing up in daily, common ways builds that trust over time. And that change moves at the pace of trust in relationship. But I also want to just say … Is it working anywhere? Do you see this demonstrated that this is working? Or is this just a really long term strategy for building communities? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

It is a very long term strategy. It’s working in the sense that, in most cases, it’s been local Democratic committees that have gone through the Rural Urban Divide Training we provide. A few of them have actually started to implement some of these things. They’re really excited about it. It’s a new direction, a new focus. They recognize that what they’ve done up to this point has not made a difference. They’re not making headway. So there’s a lot of energy behind it. Now, is it going to add up to a different view of what liberals, progressives, and Democrats are? We don’t know. But our project is this. That if we can get the support, we’re going to set this up in eight different local communities in four different states. Do a poll before we get going in all of those communities, to see what the current view is of liberals, progressives, Democrats. And then, probably do a poll midway through. But after two years, do another poll to see if anything has moved. Now, we think it will take a good bit more than two years to really see the results. Because people who highly mistrust you are not going to change their perspective overnight. But our hope is that, in two years, we’ll see enough movement that the major liberal and progressive organizations will decide this is a strategy worth adopting, and join us in doing it on a much larger scale than these eight pilot communities. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

We haven’t really gotten a chance to talk about you personally, and your own experience in planting roots where you have. The farming that you do, and the writing, and your own practice of participation in your community. I wonder if you want to say anything about those things? About how your own life is informing the work you’re doing day to day? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Well, it is in the sense of what I said at the beginning. When you farm, you’re constantly humbled. Because although you accumulate knowledge and skill, you’re also regularly shown what you don’t know. My friend, Tom Peterson, who started farming in Southwest Virginia just a few years after me … We ran into each other a couple of summers back, when it was a particularly difficult time in the season. He said to me, “Do you ever think that the longer you farm, the less competent you are?” I said, “Yeah, buddy.” Farming, it’s so enriching. For me, it’s very much, “You got to use your brain.” But you’re also using your body so much, that it’s a tremendous relief from all the work I do that is people-oriented. I’d lose my mind if I couldn’t farm. If I couldn’t get in the dirt and get out the chainsaw and all that stuff, I just couldn’t handle it. But what’s happening is that I’ve not only learned from farming, but all of that farming activity and all of the local economy work that we’ve done here. But I do it all around the country. It’s just constantly surfacing new ideas. People are doing new things that are strengthening local economies, rebuilding community, tackling health and healthcare in a new way. And so, there’s just this steady upwelling of new information and new insights. And that then feeds back into the training that RUBI does. That feeds back into the rural development policy piece of where we need to be there. I think it’s a dance back and forth, pretty much all the time. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Well, Anthony, one of the questions I always ask my guests is, what are you reading or listening to or watching that you would commend to our audience? That you think we ought to be paying attention to right now? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Sure. On the RUBI website, we have the guidebook that we’ve created, which is a bunch of articles that dive into the subject in a relatively concise way. And we have a list of books. There’s some really, really fine books if you want to understand this. Two or three that I would highly recommend. One is Kathy Cramer’s book. She’s in Wisconsin. Fantastic human being. Kathy wrote a book called The Politics of Resentment, where she spent three or four years visiting with people in two dozen different rural communities in Wisconsin to try to understand the rise of Scott Walker. It’s incredibly pertinent for the larger rise of Trump and whatnot. Brilliant book. Politics of Resentment. Second one is Erica Etelson’s book Beyond Contempt: How Liberals Can Communicate Across The Great Divide. Just nailing it in so many ways about how our language alienates people and how we can begin to turn that around. Erica’s a core part of RUBI. Fabulous book. And then, a recent one that I just finished. Let me see if I can remember the author’s name. The author is from the New York Times Editorial Board. A very highly educated, very liberal African American woman, who took a year or two to meet with people in basically a rust belt town that was losing its major manufacturing employees. It’s called American Made. I’m embarrassed that I can’t remember the author’s name, but it’s called American Made. This just came out earlier this year or last year. Again, what’s so good about that book is … It’s somebody who came to the issue and came to these conversations with white and black workers at these factories, with pretty much the liberal, if not bias, at least construct. It was challenged constantly and she really reformulated her view of working class and rural people. That’s excellent as well. I don’t read for pleasure. My son … 30 years ago, when my son Josh was 10 years old, he said, “Dad only reads things that add to his sense of moral outrage.” That’s not really true, but I do read more for learning that I do for pleasure, I’m afraid. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

What was the word that you brought up at the beginning of our conversation? An Italian word you described? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Agitas. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Yes. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

I’ve got way too much of that. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Well, that book you were just mentioning. American Made. I have the benefit of being able to sit in front of a computer right now, and it’s by Farah Stockman. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Yes. That’s it. Thank you. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Is that right? 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Yeah. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

Thank you for that. And thank you for this conversation. We covered a little bit in a big sea of topics. I would love to have you back and I’d love to keep talking to you about what you’re learning on this journey. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

That would be terrific. And in another four, six months that candidate assessment will be out and we’ll be further down the road. Maybe we can talk again then. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

That’d be great. Thank you, Anthony. 

Anthony Flaccavento: 

Thank you, Whitney. 

Whitney Kimball Coe: 

That’s all for this week’s show. I want to remind you to register for the Rural Assembly Everywhere Virtual Gathering that will be held May 10th and 11th. It’s for rural advocates and the rural curious, listeners and leaders, neighbors and admirers. We’ll enjoy two days of virtual programming featuring artists and poets, civic leaders, and experts. You can register for free at ruralassembly.org. If you enjoyed Everywhere Radio, we’d love for you to consider subscribing to the General Rural Assembly Newsletter. That’s where we promote new offerings from the Assembly and we amplify the good work of our many partners across the country. We’ve also launched a new Policy Advocacy Newsletter that comes to inboxes on Mondays, to help you start each week with a quick take on the top issues that we’re tracking across the nation. Everything from broadband policy to rural vaccinations. Just head over to ruralassembly.org to sign up. If you’re a true fan of Everywhere Radio, please let us know by rating us wherever you get your podcast. If this isn’t your cup of tea, that’s no biggie. It’s fine. We’d like to thank our media partner, The Daily Yonder. Everywhere Radio is a production of The Rural Assembly. Our senior producer is Joel Cohen and our associate producers are Xandr Brown and Teresa Collins. We’re grateful for the love and support of the whole team at the Center for Rural Strategies. Love you. Mean it. You can be anywhere. We’ll be everywhere. 

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