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"A superior exploration of the consequences of the hollowing out of our agricultural heartlands."—Kirkus Reviews
In the tradition of Wendell Berry, a young writer wrestles with what we owe the places we’ve left behind.
In the tiny farm town of Emmett, Idaho, there are two kinds of people: those who leave and those who stay. Those who leave go in search of greener pastures, better jobs, and college. Those who stay are left to contend with thinning communities, punishing government farm policy, and environmental decay.
Grace Olmstead, now a journalist in Washington, DC, is one who left, and in Uprooted, she examines the heartbreaking consequences of uprooting—for Emmett, and for the greater heartland America. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Uprooted wrestles with the questions of what we owe the places we come from and what we are willing to sacrifice for profit and progress.
As part of her own quest to decide whether or not to return to her roots, Olmstead revisits the stories of those who, like her great-grandparents and grandparents, made Emmett a strong community and her childhood idyllic. She looks at the stark realities of farming life today, identifying the government policies and big agriculture practices that make it almost impossible for such towns to survive. And she explores the ranks of Emmett’s newcomers and what growth means for the area’s farming tradition.
Avoiding both sentimental devotion to the past and blind faith in progress, Olmstead uncovers ways modern life attacks all of our roots, both metaphorical and literal. She brings readers face to face with the damage and brain drain left in the wake of our pursuit of self-improvement, economic opportunity, and so-called growth. Ultimately, she comes to an uneasy conclusion for herself: one can cultivate habits and practices that promote rootedness wherever one may be, but: some things, once lost, cannot be recovered.
About the Author
Grace Olmstead is a journalist who focuses on farming, localism, and family. Her writing has been published in The American Conservative, The Week, The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Christianity Today, among others. A native of rural Idaho, she now lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband and three children.
“Olmstead does the important work of examining perhaps the most overlooked aspect of American identity: place. For those privileged enough to choose where they make their home, she suggests a value set beyond cultural prestige and financial conquest—belonging, commitment, stewardship. Uprooted offers our fractured society a path toward wholeness.” —SARAH SMARSH, author of Heartland
“Many rural young Americans face a conundrum—should they stay true to their roots and lose out on a big career, or leave behind those they love to try to make a difference in the world? Olmstead handles this problem beautifully and honestly, highlighting its urgency, all while avoiding easy answers.” —CHRIS ARNADE, author of Dignity
“Uprooted helps us understand what is lost when people lose their connections to particular lands and communities. It also helps us appreciate what is gained by a patient and enduring commitment to nurture the places and people that nurture us. Reading Olmstead’s book confirms that the need for roots is one of humanity’s universal and essential needs.” —NORMAN WIRZBA, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology at Duke University Divinity School
"Through stories of her loved ones and inspiring profiles of figures in her home state of Idaho, Gracie Olmstead shows that real farming doesn't take place in a factory. It's done in a community. Returning to these roots is one of the most bipartisan issues out there."—AUSTIN FRERICK, Deputy Director of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University