Nothing But the DirT:
a PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FARM TOWN
Coming Fall 2022 (University Press of Kansas)
There’s this small, farm town in Kansas. Very small. Like, 285 people small.
Courtland is rural, remote. Existing on an economy that’s totally dependent on agriculture, an industry teetering on a repeat of the 1980s farm crisis. There’s a surplus of crops. Commodity prices tanking. Soaring debt. Tariff wars. Red flags. Furrowed brows. “Disaster,” experts predict. “The death of rural America.”
Nothing but the Dirt: A Portrait of an American Farm Town explores the complexity of the farming/agriculture industry that goes beyond current political sentiments to examine the effects of a global market, how farm subsidies work, the soaring costs of operation, and historically low prices of commodities including soybeans, corn, and wheat, and how Latino workers are contributing to the labor gap.
These issues are woven through the candid stories of the people who live here. The fourth-generation farmers, the young professionals, the transplants, the small business owners; a community that's nuclear, blended, straight, gay, red, blue, religious, and anything but. Different people who share the same goal: keeping Main Street open for business.
With a population of under 300 people, you wouldn’t expect much. But it’s hard to find a building on Main Street that’s standing empty. There’s the post office, Pinky’s Bar & Grill, and stores that sell plumbing supplies, farm implements, and antiques. There’s a local, family-owned bank. A commodity broker. A community swimming pool, community garden, elementary school, two gas/service stations, an arts center, weekly newspaper, city hall, library, volunteer fire department, and a mayor. Young people who grew up in Courtland are moving back to raise their kids here. A lot of them grew up on a farm. But instead of farming, they are opening a brewery, gym, boutique, and hair salon, and figuring out how to inject new life into an economy that is largely dependent on agriculture. They saw how mom and dad and grandpa and grandma struggled. They love rural life but want a new way to define it.
Nothing but the Dirt is a year in the life of an American farm town, the 285 residents whose existence depends on what God and the farmer put into the ground, and their determined effort to keep Courtland, Kansas not simply surviving, but thriving.