The Midwest, Is It Great?

I’m a big fan of the view that regions in the U.S. are more or less culturally distinct, although with plenty of overlap at the borders. As a Midweseterner, I have pride in my region, along with significant criticisms, but for the moment I’ll focus on the positives.

I’m not offering a serious analysis here. I just came across an article about the Midwest that offered some data and so I thought I’d share it. The article is This Is Why It’s So Great To Be A Midwesterner, According To Science by Sara Boboltz. It is a HuffPo fluff piece, but some of the data is nonetheless interesting.

Regional Differences In Personalities Confirmed In New Study

“Their findings: Friendly and conventional were the most common traits among people living in the South and north-central Great Plains region, while relaxed and creative were the most common traits for those in the Western and Eastern seaboard areas. New Englanders, on the other hand, were most likely to possess the traits of uninhibited and temperamental.”

Yeah, friendly and conventional. That sounds about right. This might seem strange in some ways, though, for these same parts of the Midwest are also historically known for their progressive and socialist politics. So, it is conventional in its own way, but not in the way the MSM media portrays what is conventional in the US.

By the way, there appears to be one state that is a good balance between Midwestern and West Coastal predispositions. That state is Wyoming. It rates moderately high on friendly and conventional while it also rates moderately high on relaxed and creative. Colorado also looks fairly balanced between the two.

Volunteering in America: Research Highlights

“Highest volunteer rate: Since 1989, the Midwest region of the United States has had the highest volunteer rate among U.S. regions for all adults, with a rate of 23.9 percent in 1989, and 30.2 in 2008. This is a shift from 1974 when the West had the highest volunteer rate.

“Largest number of volunteers: Since 1974, the number of volunteers in the South has almost doubled from 10.5 to 20.7 million, giving the South the largest number of volunteers of all the regions. Just between 2006 and 2008, the South has gained almost 300,000 volunteers. The Midwest comes in at a distant second in volunteer numbers at about 15.6 million.”

Two other regions need to be given credit. The West region doesn’t have the highest rate of volunteers, but apparently those who do volunteer make up the difference for they win the award for most volunteer hours on average. In the Northeast region, they are dedicated to fundraising and so at least they put their money where their mouth is. As for specific states, Utah and Alaska deserve respect in their volunteer activities.

Route 66, Midwest culture charm international tourists, study finds

““When Europeans travel on Route 66, most of their feedback is that it’s a very different experience from the big cities like Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., which can all seem very much alike,” Huang said. “Route 66 reveals the inner beauty of the U.S. Midwesterners are friendly, easygoing and enthusiastic. They’re proud to tell you what they have in their community and are willing to share their heritage, their history and their stories. A lot of tourists enjoy that.””

I’m not so sure about this study. It seemed rather limited and self-serving. Route 66 extends way beyond the Midwest.

Montanans, Alaskans Say States Among Top Places to Live

“Residents of Western and Midwestern states are generally more positive about their states as places to live. With the exception of the New England states of New Hampshire and Vermont, all of the top 10 rated states are west of the Mississippi River. In addition to Montana and Alaska, Utah (70%), Wyoming (69%), and Colorado (65%) are among the 10 states that residents are most likely to say their state is among the best places to reside. Most of these states have relatively low populations, including Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska — the four states with the smallest populations in the nation. Texas, the second most populated state, is the major exception to this population relationship. Although it is difficult to discern what the causal relationship is between terrain and climate and positive attitudes, many of the top 10 states are mountainous with cold winters. In fact, the two states most highly rated by their residents — Montana and Alaska — are among not only the nation’s coldest states but also both border Canada.

“With the exception of New Mexico, all of the bottom 10 states are either east of the Mississippi River or border it (Louisiana and Missouri). New Jersey (28%), Maryland (29%), and Connecticut (31%) join Rhode Island among the bottom 10.”

This seems less about the Midwest. It is only parts of the Midwest that show this pattern. What this actually shows is that the Midwest is split between Eastern and Western Midwest and between Lower and Upper Midwest. This corresponds to the parts of the Midwest that were settled earlier and those settled later, which corresponds to the concentration of populations in rural areas and big cities.

Pinterest Hits 10 Million U.S. Monthly Uniques Faster Than Any Standalone Site Ever -comScore

The popularity of Pinterest in the Midwest isn’t necessarily a good thing. I don’t have any strong opinion about Pinterest, but I’m not sure what value Pinterest adds to the Midwestern quality of life.

America’s Most Affordable Cities

“But the Midwest dominates when it comes to affordability, with 11 metro areas making the list, including five in the state of Ohio alone: Cincinnati (No. 3), Dayton (No. 4), Akron (No. 6), Toledo (No. 11), and Columbus (No. 20). Michigan landed three cities on the ranks: Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Warren. Even as Detroit languishes in the wake of banruptcy, the suburban hub of Warren, half an hour away, is experiencing an auto manufacturing renaissance of its own.”

The real story in the data is that it is extremely expensive to live in the West. That probably has to do with the combination of large populations and low availability of water. Many Western states are dependent on immense government funding to maintain their massive infrastructures.

Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest

“While a decade of efforts to reduce air pollution in the United States has improved air quality in many cities in the Northeast and Midwest, 175 million people are still exposed to dangerous levels of smog and soot, a new report reveals.”

Once again, the real story is that it sucks to live in other places. Having clean air shouldn’t be something that gets praise. Rather, clean air should be seen as a basic human right. The Midwest simply has less polluted air, relatively speaking. But we all share the same freakin atmosphere and so we all end up breathing the pollution, just that some get more of it than others.

Utahans Least Satisfied With Air Quality

“Meanwhile, residents of the northern Midwest are the most likely to be satisfied. South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming top the list, with 96% satisfied in each state. Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are also among this group, as are far away New Hampshire and Vermont. These regional similarities may be related to the climate or geography in these disparate parts of the country, or a matter of population density, or some combination of the three, as in Utah.”

Of course, it is nice living in low population states so that you aren’t constantly sucking on heavily polluted air. This is probably a large reason for why people living there love their states so much. However, those people in those states indirectly contribute to the pollution in the rest of the states by products they buy that are made and transported from elsewhere. It’s the old problem of costs being externalized onto others.

It is strange, though, that Utahans complain about their air quality. I wouldn’t think that Utah has higher rates of pollution than the coastal states. Maybe they are a sensitive group of people. The article blames it on a weather phenomenon that traps the smog where most of the residents live. Could that possibly be worse than some of the bigger cities famous for their smog? Maybe so.

Want a three-car garage? You’re more likely to find it in the Midwest

“For one, housing hasn’t grown evenly in all regions of the country. New homes are largest in the South, where the median floor area last year was 2,469 square feet; they’re smallest in the Midwest, at a median 2,177 square feet. (The median for the whole country is 2,384 square feet.) But over the past four decades, home size has grown the most in the Northeast: The median floor area of a new home there was 61% above the corresponding median in 1973. [ . . . ]

“Midwesterners, by contrast, appear more interested in garage space than living space: 38% of new homes in that region have garages built for three or more cars, well above all other regions. (Perhaps they need the room for their snowblowers and other winter gear?)”

I’m not sure why Midwestern homes would have less floor area. But it is understandable that Midwestern homes have larger garages.

Midwesterners do need more winter equipment. Plus, in my experience, Midwesterners simply love to do manual labor, such as doing their own yardwork or building things. Midwesterners love to have equipment that can be used to accomplish things, whether blowing snow or sawing wood. There is a self-reliant streak, which seems to make Midwesterners reluctant to hire out work, even among those with the money to afford it.

That is just a hypothesis. But I would like to see data about it.

States in West and Midwest Lead Nation in Teacher Respect

“Residents living in several states in the West and Midwest lead the nation in saying teachers in their communities are well-respected. Nevadans and Louisianans are among the least likely to say this about their local teachers — slightly more than six in 10 residents in each state say their teachers are well-respected.”

The differences are worthy of note. In some states, it is nearly 9 in 10 residents who say teachers are well-respected. But pointing that out misses the fact that the majority of all Americans say teachers are well-respected. But you wouldn’t know that by paying attention to right-wing media or listening to conservative politicians.

Buying lunch out? Survey shows Midwesterners spend less than others

“The credit card company found that Americans typically buy lunch out almost twice a week and spend about $10 each time. Specifically, average national spending was $18 per week, or $936 per year.

“But spending patterns varied by region, and Midwest diners spend less on lunches out than people in any other part of the country, the results showed. They went out 1.7 times per week and spent only $8.90 each time, for a weekly average of $15.13.

“Southerners led per-week spending, going out twice a week and spending $10 each time, or $20 a week. Westerners spend $10 per lunch 1.8 times a week for a total of $18.

“Northeasterners lunched out the least, but spent the most when they did, dining out for their midday meal 1.5 times a week but dropping $11.40 each time, for a weekly total of $17.10.”

I don’t know what could possibly explain this. Maybe this relates to the Midwest being a more affordable place to live. So maybe it is also a more affordable place to operate a restaurant, and so cheaper prices for meals served. But it is hard to say. There could be many factors involved.

Anyway, I’m not sure this is evidence for Midwesterners being cheap or thrifty.

The Midwest Accent

“The examples of the cot/caught merger and the Northern Cities Shift serve to contradict the perception that Midwestern speech lacks any distinguishing characteristics. However, both of these developments have been in operation for several decades at least. Why haven’t they entered into popular perceptions about Midwestern speech? Perhaps they will come to be recognized as features of the dialect in the same way that dropping of /r/ serves to mark Boston speech or ungliding of long i (‘hahd’ or hide) marks Southern speech. But, considering the general stereotypes of the Midwest, it seems more likely that they might never be recognized. One thing about linguistic stereotypes is certain: they have less to do with the actual speech of a region than with popular perceptions of the region’s people. As long as Midwesterners are viewed as average, boring or otherwise nondescript, their speech will be seen through the same prism.”

This article is about a shift that is occurring in the Midwestern dialect, a shift that few seem to be noticing at present. It is a change that may lead to larger changes in American English. The Midwest has for a long time been a source of what is considered Standard American English. As Standard American English changes in the Midwest, it likely will shift across the nation.

I don’t know why this matters all that much. It does imply something culturally important about the Midwest. This is the Heartland and it is called that for a good reason. The Midwest has always been central. It is central in terms of geography, in terms of population concentration, and in terms of infrastructure. It is the crossroads of the country.

Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?

“Both the survey and Census data indicate that the biggest differences in the characteristics of movers and stayers revolve around geography and education. In the Midwest, nearly half of adult residents say they have spent their entire lives in their hometown. That compares with fewer than a third of those who live in Western states. Cities, suburbs and small towns have more movers than stayers, while rural areas are more evenly split. Three-quarters of college graduates have moved at least once, compared with just over half of Americans with no more than a high school diploma. College graduates also move longer distances — and move more often — than Americans with a high school diploma or less, and employment plays a greater role in their decisions about where to live. By income group, the most affluent Americans are the most likely to have moved.”

That is interesting in a number of ways.

There are differences between more rural and more urban states. But many of the farming states still have most of their populations concentrated in urban areas. So, a rural state isn’t necessarily the same as having a majority rural population.

Something else that came to mind is that the Midwest tends to highly value education. But maybe the Midwesterners who get the most education tend to move away from the Midwest. I don’t know. There are a ton of college towns all over the Midwest, although I’m sure they don’t represent most of the population.

Anyway, it does fit the stereotype of the Midwest. One thinks of the region as a settled place with relatively stable communities. This would follow the aspect of the friendly and conventional Midwestern personality.


19 thoughts on “The Midwest, Is It Great?

    • Coming back to the States for a visit. Have fun!

      I’ve only ever passed through Wyoming. I’ve never had much of a reason to spend time there. I’ve never known anyone who lived there and I’ve never been personally attracted to the place.

      What are you going to do there? Report back about whether it truly is a balance of friendly and conventional and of relaxed and creative… whatever that would be. Maybe people in Wyoming are just confused about their own personalities.

  1. I am forced to conclude that you may not be entirely objective yourself. Everybody will defend their region as being “better” through some criteria.

    • Did I claim to be objective here? This was mostly me just having fun with some data. I wasn’t taking any of it too seriously.

      Besides, I was claiming my region was better. I simply said I had pride in my region, but I’m fine with people having pride in other regions. It is similar to my having pride in my artistic talent. That doesn’t take away from someone else having pride in their ability to do statistics or their ability in cooking.

      Skepoet is from the Deep South. I spent much of my life in the Deep South as well. I’ve at times have criticized the Deep South, but I’ve also at times have criticized the Midwest. I’ve had many long discussions with Skepoet about many regional issues.

      • “Besides, I was claiming my region was better.”

        Yes and this is where I question your views on the matter.

        “I simply said I had pride in my region, but I’m fine with people having pride in other regions. It is similar to my having pride in my artistic talent. That doesn’t take away from someone else having pride in their ability to do statistics or their ability in cooking.”

        I have no particular objections to this. There is that – it’s the old patriotism vs nationalism sort of thing, only on a regional level.

        “Most of this data needs to be taken with a grain of salt, anyhow. I am interested in regional differences, but there is very little high quality data out there. Still, it is fun to muse about.”

        What I rely on the most is actual differences in living standards, such as the poverty rate, life expectancy, etc for gauging areas. A case could be made that some subjective measures, such as a happiness index could also be used.

        • “Yes and this is where I question your views on the matter.”

          I meant to say, I wasn’t claiming my region was better. It is past my bedtime and I’d probably write more clearly in the morning. So, if you are questioning my views because I wrote “was” instead of “wasn’t”, then I’d question your views of my views. That doesn’t seem like it would lead anywhere useful.

          “What I rely on the most is actual differences in living standards, such as the poverty rate, life expectancy, etc for gauging areas. A case could be made that some subjective measures, such as a happiness index could also be used.”

          I do the same thing. I’ve written a lot of posts about such data. Just do a search in my blog. I’ve analyzed this kind of thing almost to death at this point.

    • I really was trying to communicate differently than how you perceived what I wrote. I’ll chalk that up to another failure to communicate.

      I purposely broadened my discussion of the data beyond the original article’s obsession with the Midwest. That is why I pointed out where other regions rated well, such as on volunteering hours or fundraising.

      As for other of the data, it really isn’t about better or worse. The personality data is rather neutral. The friendly and conventional is actually something the Midwest shares with much of the South, although not quite as strongly. Anyway, as an unconventional thinker, I don’t exactly take it as a compliment that the Midwest is conventional.

      My purpose here wasn’t so much even to express my pride. I was moreso just looking at the data. My mentioning my pride at the beginning really was just a side note. I like to mention my biases upfront, rather than pretend to hide them.

  2. I was involved in a discussion elsewhere. It got me thinking about the issue of volunteering, and how it relates to ideologies and regions. The original inspiration of the discussion was this article and this specific quote from it:

    “The Farm Bureau and other groups would do well to steer some of the energy they’re using to assail the proposed EPA rule toward their allies at the Statehouse, including the governor, and urge them to put meaningful money into voluntary conservation programs. If those programs fail, involuntary regulation becomes the only option.”

    I commented that:

    Here is what conservatives and libertarians don’t understand.

    If you don’t want big government trying to solve your problems, then solve your own problems. But if you are unwilling to solve your own problems so that they end up public problems, then don’t blame big government when takes responsibility for what you refused to do.

    This is the same thing as Obamacare. Conservative states had decades and generations to experiment with alternative solutions. The American public wanted healthcare reform. But most conservative leaders at the state level refused to solve the problem. They had the opportunity and they let it slip by. They have no one to blame other than themselves.

    The other person in the discussion, Mona Spear, responded that:

    “So true!!!! However, healthcare needs to be a national program. People constantly move from 1 state to another or even own homes in different states or kids go out of state to college. It’s also cheaper to keep prices for medicine & procedures the same price. It requires beyond a shadow of a doubt to cut out the insurance companies. All CEO’S”

    I then further explained my position by considering the larger context of volunteering in terms of private and/or localized solutions:

    Yeah, I tend to agree. I’m not absolutely clear on what would work best. But it seems that a national program may be necessary to tackle such a massive problem.

    My point was along a different line of thought. I’m for solving the problem, but I’m also for experimentation. I would have loved it if conservatives and libertarians could have proved their detractors wrong by developing local solutions that solved the problem. But the fact of the matter is that for the most part they didn’t even try.

    It seems to me that conservatives and libertarians too often are afraid to take their own ideological rhetoric seriously. If they truly believed in local solutions, that would mean they would have to take responsibility for local problems. The last thing many of them want to do, though, is take responsibility for anything.

    They don’t want to admit, that despite long-term implementation of conservative policies at the local level, conservative states have the worst social problems in the country. If they haven’t found any solutions yet to these problems, why do they think more time is going to make any difference?

    Many conservatives point out that conservatives do attempt to achieve more privately. Some data shows conservatives volunteer more time and donate more money. Yet all of that effort seems wasted. They may being doing a lot, but what they are doing is ineffective. Conservative states have so many problems and the biggest problem of all is conservative policies contribute to the problems that conservatives then try to solve privately.

    Meanwhile, liberal states have less problems to begin with. Liberals solve issues before they become problems. Liberals don’t give more money to private non-profit organizations, but liberals do give money more in taxes that go to fund programs that effectively solve problems. On top of that, much of that liberal tax money ends up going to fund all those poor problem-ridden conservative states.

    Another interesting thing to keep in mind. Conservatives may volunteer more, but they don’t volunteer more in most of the most conservative states. The highest rate of volunteers comes from the largely Democratic Midwest. The highest rate of volunteer hours comes from the far left West Coast. And the highest rate of fundraising comes from New England. The conservative states with the most social problems, such as in the Deep South, have lower rates of volunteering and fundraising.

    I know what gets labeled as ‘conservative’ in the moderate Midwest would get labeled as ‘liberal’ in the Deep South. So, the labels themselves don’t say much, but the fact that it is significant which party governs these states. It also matters which party governs the country, as other data shows, and I say that as someone who has never liked partisan politics.

    I could add something that comes from the the link on volunteering:

    Iowa is the fifth highest ranked state for volunteering. And Iowa City is the second highest ranked mid-sized city for volunteering. Iowa has almost always gone to Democratic presidential candidates in my lifetime. And Iowa City is probably the most liberal city in Iowa.

    I bring this all up because it is important to understand why these differences exist.

    We should seriously consider the pattern of the Deep South states, the most conservative in the country. They have the most social problems along with low tax rates and low volunteer rates. All of that is probably not a mere coincidence. It seems highly likely that the relationship between those factors is causal.

    This isn’t to blame most of the people living in the Deep South. Other data shows that most Southerners lean toward the Democratic Party. However, the Southern ruling elite has a long history of disenfranchizing its own population. The poor and minorities have faced many political obstructions in the South for a very long time, from voter purges to long polling lines in poor neighborhoods.

    If most Southerners had more political power, there probably would be fewer social problems in the South. So, it isn’t just a regional problem, but maybe moreso a class problem mired in a plutocratic problem.

    This isn’t to excuse the problems of all regions shared at the federal level. But maybe we’d also have fewer problems at the federal level if more Americans in all states were politically empowered to solve those problems.

  3. Here is some other data I came across that compares states. The map shows obvious regional differences that follow the standard pattern.

    Many people think of Illinois in terms of the media image of Chicago. It turns out that overall Illinois is one of the safest states in the country.

    The map does show the typical North/South divide.

    I’m reminded of data that shows that ‘accidental’ deaths are very high in the South. These ‘accidental’ deaths include gun accidents, boating accidents, drunk driving and high speed car accidents, etc. People are accident prone in that region.

    Related to that, I’m reminded of data about gun violence. I can’t remember if its just about the rural South or the South in general. But the data shows people in those areas are more likely to be shot by someone they know or even shot by themselves than to be shot by a stranger.

    Midwestern rural states like Iowa, on the other hand, are safe even though gun ownership is high. Midwesterners apparently are less careless and reckless in their behaviors. In general, these states have low rates of poverty, low rates of economic inequality, and low rates of social problems.

    Midwesterners are friendly and conventional. Some might say that we are boring. We apparently aren’t for excitement. We don’t live dangerously. We prefer to be safe. Even though I’m an unconventional thinker, I am glad to live in a safe conventional region.

    • This article on safety comparison of states came from a facebook discussion. A guy named Fred Shelley posted it. Here is what he said in response to my comment:

      “I agree with you in general, although the South also ranks lower because it is much more prone to natural disasters.”

      What!?! We can’t blame the South for natural disasters? LOL

      That is a good point. But one might surmise that the South spends less money in natural disaster preparation than other areas. The South has lower taxes and they have a political history of spending less money on anything involving public good.

      Iowa, for example, has spent massive amounts of money in flood management. Nothing forces Iowans to spend all that money.

      It reminds me that Midwesterners rate high in being friendly and conventional. This maybe implies that Midwesterners prefer boring to excitement. Spending money on natural disaster preparation is boring, but it does keep people and communities safe.

      Government spending on the public good is probably more typical of the conventional mindset. Midwesterners aren’t radical anti-government individualists. As for friendliness, that probably relates to the Midwestern culture of trust and community-orientation. To value friendliness means to value communities that are neighborly, welcoming, and safe.

  4. Northern Cities Vowel shift is making it way over here into Western New England. At least some of the features from what i read. We have a General American English ish accent around here.

    I live in Connecticut and nearly every person wants to move elsewhere. It’s really quite odd.

    Uninhibited and temperamental sounds about right too. You learn to appreciate the uninhibited part. People tell you if they have a problem straight up. I feel out of place when i have to wonder what people are actually thinking. Though how i act personally is much more conventional.

    Anyway i must say I’m going to work my way back to Vermont. Love that place, and it is the home of many generations before me. They having moved south to the industrial areas to find work in the 1900’s. Beautiful mountains and sights.

    • With mass media, regional dialects as we know them now could be nearly gone or at least severely muted in a few generations. I’ve heard that what came to be known as the Southern accent was partly a creation of the Civil War. All the Confederate veterans came home with a stronger shared Southern identity than they had before the war.

      I don’t know Connecticut that well. It is odd that so many people would want to move elsewhere. Some rural farming areas of Midwestern states have seen a loss of young people, as the jobs they would rather work are elsewhere. Agriculture also doesn’t require as many workers as it once did. The small family farm is all but dead. I don’t know that people want to move away from family farms or simply that there no longer is money in it.

      I’m trying to imagine the uninhibited and temperamental on the scale of an entire population. I’ve always thought of Midwesterners as laidback and easygoing, go along to get along, live and let live. To my Midwestern mind, being uninhibited and temperamental sounds like a lot of work. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I’m not sure I have to wonder what people are thinking, but I don’t think of Midwesterners as being strongly opinionated people. My sense is that, for Midwesterners, most opinions don’t matter about most things. Speaking up or standing out just for the sake of it is not Midwestern. One speaks up or stands out only for a good reason. I’m probably too opinionated and outspoken to be a representative Midwesterner. Maybe I’ve spent too much time growing up outside of the Midwest.

      I have even less sense of Vermont than of Connecticut. I’m nearly clueless about that state. It is one of those places I tend to forget about. Vermont just doesn’t come up on my radar that often.

      • I hear dialects are becoming more diverse and more unique even with mass media. This is what linguists say. Look at NCVS that is a new feature that is fracturing the existing dialects.

        Most of the New England states are similar.

        We have some farms around here as well. Nothing on the industrial scale the Midwest has. Mostly tobacco is grown around here in the Connecticut River Valley and even that seems on the decline.

        The terrain here just Isn’t the greatest for farming. Hilly, rocky, and the weather is a bit harsh. All our farmers moved out of here to the Midwest years ago.

        New England is nice. We all have small towns / villages. It’s a very different setup to the west. All land belongs too one town. We also have a tradition of direct democracy with town meetings. Vermont even has a state holiday called Town Meeting day so you can go an take part in your town meeting. The people show up and decide right there what the town is going to do.

        We have a unique culture as most regions of the us. With a very long interesting history.

        • “I hear dialects are becoming more diverse and more unique even with mass media. This is what linguists say. Look at NCVS that is a new feature that is fracturing the existing dialects.”

          I’ll have to look into the subject further sometime. What is the NCVS? How is it fracturing the existing dialects?

          It just seems people are moving around more than ever these days that regional dialects will have a hard time surviving. There was a massive shift of Southerners to the North and the West. Now there is a massive shift of Northerners and Westerners to the South.

          People moving around while young is becoming more common. Also, people living in culturally and ethnically diverse places is becoming more common, as the young generation is heading toward big cities and leaving the old people behind in the rural areas. Maybe distinct dialects will form less between regions and more between urban and rural areas.

          “We have some farms around here as well. Nothing on the industrial scale the Midwest has. Mostly tobacco is grown around here in the Connecticut River Valley and even that seems on the decline.

          “The terrain here just Isn’t the greatest for farming. Hilly, rocky, and the weather is a bit harsh. All our farmers moved out of here to the Midwest years ago.”

          Sounds like Kentucky. When I visited there recently, there weren’t many farms left. The forests are beginning to take over old farmland. The remaining farmland has largely switched from tobacco crops to grazing land for cows.

          Kentucky is also not that great for farming. It’s the same thing with it being hilly and rocky, but maybe the weather is nicer. Too many decades and centuries of poor farming practices, in particular slash-and-burn, led to erosion of the good soil that once was there. It was only ever a thin layer of good soil over rock and didn’t take much to wash it away.

          “New England is nice. We all have small towns / villages. It’s a very different setup to the west. All land belongs too one town. We also have a tradition of direct democracy with town meetings. Vermont even has a state holiday called Town Meeting day so you can go an take part in your town meeting. The people show up and decide right there what the town is going to do.”

          Yeah, I’ve been fascinated by those cultural traditions for a while. I like the Midwest, but I might like living in New England. Part of the culture of the Midwest, especially Upper Midwest, comes from New England. I might fit right at home there in the Northeast.

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