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Grace Olmstead: The Legacy—and the Future—of the Places We Leave Behind

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station description Interviews, commentary and discussion at the heart of the Strong Towns movement.
The Strong Towns Podcast
Duration: 01:03:56
Grace Olmstead grew up in a tiny Idaho farming community her family has called home for generations. But, as so many young people do, Olmstead decided to leave her rural town. She attended college on the other side of the country and now lives outside Washington, D.C., where she’s a journalist who f
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Grace Olmstead grew up in a tiny Idaho farming community her family has called home for generations. But, as so many young people do, Olmstead decided to leave her rural town. She attended college on the other side of the country and now lives outside Washington, D.C., where she’s a journalist who focuses on farming, localism, and family. Olmstead’s writing has been published in The American Conservative, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Christianity Today, among many other publications. She’s also one of our favorite writers here at Strong Towns.

Olmstead has a new book coming out tomorrow: Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind. It’s an important (and beautifully written) work about the places we come from and counting the costs of leaving them behind. Combining memoir and journalism, Olmstead explores her family’s deep roots in Emmett, Idaho, what it means to be transplanted elsewhere, and the pressures and opportunities facing many small towns like the one she grew up in.

This week, Grace Olmstead returns to the Strong Towns Podcast to talk with Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn. They discuss the new book and why we need to tell complicated rural stories. They talk about two archetypes of the American West—“Boomers” and “Stickers”—and about how the most successful western communities were built not on rugged individualism but on extreme neighborliness. Olmstead and Marohn also discuss how farming communities have come to resemble other kinds of extractive communities—and whether new approaches to farming, such as agritourism, can coexist alongside conventional agriculture.

Additional Show Notes

Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind by Grace Olmstead




Grace Olmstead’s monthly newsletter




Midwest Futures, by Phil Christmans




“The efficiency curse,” by Michael Pollan




“This Is What Happens When Markets are Too Efficient” (Podcast)




Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance




Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, by Sarah Smarsh




The Homecomers Podcast




Grace Olmstead (Twitter)




Charles Marohn (Twitter)




Strong Towns content related to this episode


“This Is Where the Work Begins,” by Grace Olmstead




“Gracy Olmstead: It Still Takes a Village” (Podcast)




“The Tragic Downside of Efficiency,” by Charles Marohn




“We’re in the Endgame Now for Small Towns,” by Charles Marohn




“A Plan for Building Strong Rural Communities,” by Charl
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