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Nothing But the Dirt: Stories from an American Farm Town (Paperback)
In this work of creative nonfiction, author Kate Benz provides an intimate look at the present-day residents of Courtland, Kansas (population 285), a town whose economy depends almost entirely on agriculture.
Through charming, first-person accounts, Nothing but the Dirt: Stories from an American Farm Town tells the whole story of life in Courtland, bucking the "Rural America is dying" narrative that so often proliferates national headlines about small-town USA.
Throughout the book, Benz paints a picture of community that is unwilling to give up on each other. Macro-level issues such as rising tariffs, operation costs versus sinking commodity prices, and infusions of federal farm subsidies affect the locals' daily livelihood, but it's their love of their community that continues their collective efforts to keep Main Street open for business and Courtland on the map.
These are the stories from one corner of rural America, told through the people who live there: the fourth-generation farmers, the young professionals, the transplants, the small business owners (many of whom are women)--a community that is nuclear, blended, straight, gay, red, blue, religious, and anything but. Young people who grew up in Courtland are moving back to raise their kids there, but instead of farming, they are opening breweries, boutiques, marketing agencies, or hair salons. They love rural life but want a new way to define it.
Courtland is a community that is unwaveringly determined to keep their corner of rural America not only alive but thriving, refusing to let challenges define or deter them. Instead, they continuously find creative ways to overcome, adapt, improve, and move forward.