BROKEN HEARTLAND: The Rise of America's Rural Ghetto by Osha Gray Davidson

BROKEN HEARTLAND: The Rise of America's Rural Ghetto

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A study of America's farm crisis and the human cost behind the extinction of medium-sized family farms. Free-lance writer Davidson mixes economic analysis with journalistic anecdotes to arrive at a compelling picture of one of this country's most pressing problems. Davidson's hypothesis is that the country is facing nothing less than the extinction of its integral values of work, family, and community. He traces the evolution of these values from Jefferson's vision of a nation of yeoman farmers to the distress of today's rural America. Meanwhile, the government has moved from beneficial policies such as Jefferson's easy land settlement program and the Homestead Act to the subsidized mess that prevails today. Despite its stated allegiance to the Jeffersonian ideal, the government, Davidson argues, has in fact encouraged the concentration of the food-processing industries into a handful of conglomerates and the concentration of family farms into giant agribusinesses. The result is an agricultural sector crushed by a mountain of debt, addicted to government subsidies, and suffering from the pollution of soil and groundwater. With statistics and heart-rending interviews, Davidson illustrates how the loss of employment, tradition, and a sense of community are destroying the quintessential American Dream and turning rural America into a ghetto. Suicides and pollution-caused health problems are on the rise, as are disturbing social phenomena such as racial intolerance and hate groups. Davidson dismisses largely counterproductive remedies such as ""industrial homework"" and the creation of ""free enterprise zones,"" arguing that only a new emphasis on agriculture and the medium-sized family farm (with effective government policies) can alter this seemingly irrevocable tide. Short on solutions, and without proper examination of such matters as the structure of today's agricultural subsidies, marketing cooperatives, and emerging trends such as low-input agriculture. Still, a vivid and concise description of America's farm crisis.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1990
ISBN: 0877455546
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan