Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Changes in Rural Kansas

“At one time there was a farm on every 160 acres in the township,” Sherda Williams, Park Superintendent for the Nicodemus National Historical Site, was explaining what the landscape looked like in western Kansas at the height of the homesteading of the area. “Today, there are only 14 in the township.”

The township is 30 miles square, which means that it has decreased from 120 home sites down to the 14 today. In Nicodemus, only 3 of those 14 are African-Americans. In the entire state, only 116 African-American farmers remain out of the hundreds that once planted in the state.

Edgar Hicks’ presentation at the Spotlighting USDA Event showed that at one time the county had seven newspapers and a very vibrant trading economy.

Today, Graham County is down to 2,721 residents from 4,751 in 1970. The medium age is 46.5 years compared to a national average of 35.8.

Efforts by Hicks and others to get rural counties to work together is the only hope for very rural areas like Graham County.

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