[imgcontainer] [img:HispanicPlains.gif] [source]New York Times[/source] These maps accompany a New York Times story about the rise of the Hispanic population on the Great Plains. The maps show those areas that gained population (in orange) and those that lost population (empty circles). The map on the left shows how Hispanic population has gained across the Plains, while on the right you can see that non-Hispanic white population has increased primarily in the cities. [/imgcontainer]

The New York Times reports this morning that Hispanics are “reviving faded towns on the Plains.” 

The change in population is pretty astounding, as the map above shows. Many rural portions of the Great Plains are losing non-Hispanic white population (the map on the right). Meanwhile, the map on the left shows that the increase in Hispanic population is scattered across the states, rural and urban.

Report A. G. Sulzberger writes:

For generations, the story of the small rural town of the Great Plains, including the dusty tabletop landscape of western Kansas, has been one of exodus — of businesses closing, classrooms shrinking and, year after year, communities withering as fewer people arrive than leave and as fewer are born than are buried. That flight continues, but another demographic trend has breathed new life into the region.

Hispanics are arriving in numbers large enough to offset or even exceed the decline in the white population in many places. In the process, these new residents are reopening shuttered storefronts with Mexican groceries, filling the schools with children whose first language is Spanish and, for now at least, extending the lives of communities that seemed to be staggering toward the grave….

“The face of small towns is changing dramatically as a result,” said Robert Wuthnow, a Kansas-born Princeton professor who studied the Hispanic influx for his book “Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s.” “The question is: Is this going to save these small towns?”

• We wonder if extension agents in Las Vegas are hearing from the people who are taking the jillions of abandoned houses there and turning them into mini indoor pot farms? 

The L.A. Times reports that Nevada authorities are seeing a sharp rise in the number of houses used to grow marijuana. Last year, authorities busted 153 indoor pot farms; in 2005 they found just 18.

Authorities say the multitude of abandoned houses provide the opportunity pot growers need to get into business.

• Both the Washington Post and the New York Times had features Sunday that were of rural America as dysfunctional.

In the Post story, about racial discord in Washington, Georgia, the topic was white against black politics. 

In the Times, there was a display of photographs by Shelby Lee Adams, an Eastern Kentucky native who takes pictures of the freakish-looking folks in the holler where he grew up. 

Not exactly uplifting stuff…or particularly enlightening.


• The Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald applauds the decision by the Obama administration to delay a decision on permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nebraskans are concerned the 1,700 mile pipeline that will carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast crosses an environmentally sensitive part of the state, the Sand Hills. (See Jeff Koterba’s cartoon above.) 

The Nebraska legislature is in session now considering laws that would give the state power to determine pipeline routing. The World-Herald surveyed legislators and found that there were more than enough votes to pass this kind of law. 

• The New York Times reminds everyone how hard it is to succeed as a young farmer. 

Only 22 percent of beginning farmers turn a profit in their first year and 73 percent of young farmers have to work off the farm in order to make ends meet.

• We see this story more and more: When a town loses a retail outlet that’s fundamental to the community, people open a co-op version.

Saranac Lake, New York, lost its department store, but instead of falling into the waiting arms of Walmart, residents there collected half a million dollars and have opened their own business, the Saranac Lake Community Store.

This story in the New York Times reviews some notable efforts in rural community capitalism, such as the community owned Powell Mercantile in Powell, Wyoming.  The story reports:

In a recent analysis of nearly 3,000 rural and urban areas across the United States, a pair of Pennsylvania State University economists found that the areas with more small, locally owned businesses (with fewer than 100 employees) had greater per capita income growth over the period from 2000 to 2007, while the presence of larger, nonlocal firms depressed economic growth.

• Young adults in rural communities who volunteer or help others are less likely to use drugs or abuse alcohol than other young people, according to a new study from the University of Missouri. 

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