Rural

Montra Beeler may not be all that all, but she fills a huge role in the understaffed fire department in Cedar Vale, Kansas.
Frank Morris / for Harvest Public Media

If you pull a fire alarm in any large U.S. city, it's likely that paid firefighters waiting at a nearby station will quickly respond. But seven out of 10 American firefighters are volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

Earl Bullington is an advisor for Focus Bank, which rescued the struggling Pemiscot County (Missouri) hospital in 2013.
Bram Sable-Smith / for Harvest Public Media

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

$750,000 for payroll. $500,000 for a bond payment. $1.25 million total. One August day in 2013, the hospital’s CEO Kerry Noble had to face facts: The money just wasn’t there. It took an emergency bailout from a local bank to keep their doors open. For now.

Meramec State Park in central Missouri was surveyed this summer for tick-borne viruses after a patron died of a virus that may be associated with ticks.
Alex Smith / for Harvest Public Media

Tammy Wilson loved the outdoors and was happy to spend her days working at Meramec State Park in the central part of Missouri.

Her family often stopped by to see her, most recently at the end of May.

“My mom had two seed ticks on her hip – I believe it was her right hip,” says Wilson’s daughter, Amie May of Bonne Terre, Missouri. “And my sister pulled them off. A couple days later, mom said she just wasn’t feeling herself.”

Since the Dillon's grocery store in St. John, Kansas, closed last year, residents have traveled 12 miles or more for their groceries.
Bryan Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

A brick building that was the only grocery store in St. John, Kansas, sits vacant, its glass doors covered with paper since it closed early last year.

St. John is the county seat of Stafford County in south-central Kansas, but it’s home to fewer than 1,300 people. Today, the closest grocery store is 12 miles away, in Stafford.

Local Boy Scouts carry flags down Illinois Street in a parade marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city of Sidney, Nebraska.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Sidney, Nebraska, has prospered while many rural cities have struggled. For decades, the city has been home to Cabela’s, a major outdoor retail chain.

As Cabela’s completes a deal in which it will be bought by a rival, however, the future of Sidney’s economic engine is in doubt. As in other rural cities that have faced the loss or closure of major industry, the question is how the community will move on and grow in the 21st Century.

Sister Loretta Jasper cut the ribbon on the Neighbor to Neighbor drop-in center in Abilene, Kansas, in February.
Bryan Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

The social and health effects of isolation on some rural Kansas residents spurred three Catholic nuns to convert a storefront in Concordia, Kansas, into a drop-in center where women can find support and resources. 

Seven years after the center opened, two dozen women on average come through each day in the town of about 5,000 to socialize, do laundry, get a cooking lesson, or simply connect with others.

The Grandview R-II school district in rural Missouri started an online summer school program to help its students take classes the district can't regularly offer.
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

Mayor Mike Seibert of Joplin, Missouri, leads the grand opening ceremony of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences campus in June.
Alex Smith / For Harvest Public Media

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading. Businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

It is a town that, like many towns in rural areas of Missouri and other Midwest and Great Plains states, is recognized by the federal government as having a shortage of healthcare providers.

The South Sudanese Community Lutheran Church meets at Zion Lutheran Church in Denison, Iowa, on Sunday afternoons.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

As Highway 30 enters Denison, Iowa, a city of 8,000, the national fast food chains stand next to Mexican groceries and restaurants. In this small city near the Nebraska border, waves of immigrants have been arriving since at least the 1980s.

Luke Runyon

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine’s loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

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