[letter to Dr. Michael Hicks in response to his Kokomo Tribune column of April 3rd in which he encourages more investment in urban development in Indiana. He believes rural places are at risk and that the best chance for the future is in solid connection to labor markets in “healthy, vibrant and growing regional cities”. I think he missed some things.]
I am writing in response to your recent column about the decline in rural, small-town Indiana and your position that more investment is needed in urban centers. I have a couple of observations to make.
First, about the decline of rural, small-towns in Indiana: I believe this has largely come about due to the adoption of what has turned out to be devastating agriculture policy following World War II. One of the leaders in this movement was Dr. Earl Butz, former Secretary of Agriculture and Dean of the School of Agriculture at Purdue. He told farmers to “get big or get out” and to produce chickens and pigs like “Fords and Chevys”. This was at the beginning of large, corporate owned agriculture in what has come to be dominated by the giant chemical/seed companies. Today, I believe for several reasons we have a train wreck waiting to happen.
Steve Daily, former mayor of Kokomo, and his family are a prime example of what has resulted. He has told me that at one time there were 13 members of his family involved in agriculture as a way to make a living. After his retirement from Ivy Tech recently, he has gone back to farming; now organic farming. He says that only one other member of his family remains in agriculture. If the Daily family is typical, and I believe it is, it is clear how this would impact small, rural communities.
I believe there is growing recognition of the damage done by ill-advised agriculture policy. We see now that genetically engineered foods will be labeled; one positive step toward recognition of the risks of biotechnology for both people and the environment and of the toxins typically involved that follow food to the dinner table. We see the growth of local farmers’ markets and the increase in demand for “organic” or chemical-free foods. We see the growth of demand for foods produced closer to home; not shipped all over the country or from other countries. I believe we will see a gradual growth of the number of people involved in agriculture and, perhaps, even a reversal in population trends in rural areas.
You suggest we need more investment in urban areas. I suggest as well we need more encouragement in growing healthy food in Indiana. What a difference this would make. Both you and I live in areas dominated by wall-to-wall corn and soy beans, most of which has been genetically modified to withstand massive doses of glyphosate (Roundup) that has now been determined to be carcinogenic. And we wonder why the cancer rate in our nation is the highest in the world.
Finally, an over-arching question: when is enough, enough? Everyone talks about “growth and development” when they really mean more population and more jobs. When is it time to stabilize population and work on increasing standard of living only. I, for one, do not want Kokomo (a regional center) to become an “Indianapolis” or anything even close. Except for the impact of immigration, most of the developed nations of the world are at near zero population growth, but that is a whole other subject for discussion.
Regards, Kent Blacklidge