In her new book, Grace Olmstead illustrates the ills of industrial agriculture and the personal tension in America's urban and rural divide, writes Emile Doak in The American Conservative.
Rural America is facing an existential crisis. The well-documented “brain drain” has left these communities without their would-be leaders, who leave for the greener pastures of concrete and cul-de-sacs. The few who do stay and attempt to carry on their regions’ agricultural traditions find themselves working in an industry transformed by specialization and consolidation, in which profits are siphoned off to global conglomerates and ends often struggle to meet. As rural populations continue to grey, these communities are quite literally dying. But all of this begs a more fundamental question: Does the fate of rural America even matter?
It does to Grace Olmstead. In her remarkable debut book, Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind, Olmstead wrestles with the debt we owe to our past and our place. Part memoir, part manifesto, Uprooted chronicles the history and struggles of the agricultural community in Olmstead’s ancestral homeland of Emmett, Idaho. She makes a convincing case that her community, as with any place that can be rightly called ours, deserves love and care for its own sake. In this sense, there’s a deep humanity that runs throughout Uprooted. Olmsteadrecognizes that man is far greater than a merely economic entity; he lives, loves, and thrives in relationship to the surrounding world that his Creator created and therefore is inextricably tied to the place that shapes him. The fate of that place, then, is a question that matters in the deepest sense.