rural issues

Democrats could find a growing problem for their party with a voter named Gretchen, sitting outside a brew pub in the rural northern Minnesota town of Aitkin.

"I'm kind of disillusioned, and I'm really confused," she said. "I'm a registered Democrat, but yet, I see all of this stuff that I kind of disagree with." Gretchen asked not to be identified with her last name because she fears sharing her politics could hurt her family's business.

Shortly after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, 28-year-old Josie Stanfield organized a Black Lives Matter protest in the Central Oregon town of Prineville, home to about 10,000 residents. Fewer than 1% are Black.

"The reason I did this was because I went to high school here, and I didn't have a good time in the community. I've always been targeted for being Black since high school," Stanfield said.

She remembers classmates throwing food at her or whispering the N-word in the hallways.

Updated at 4:06 p.m. ET

Sixth-grader Charlie Pierce says the hardest part of going back to school wasn't the masks or the temperature checks. It was not being able to hug the friends she hadn't seen in months.

"My friends kind of really wanted to hug me," Charlie says.

"We had talked about keeping our distance," her mom, Ami Pierce, adds, "because we are huggers by nature."

Faith Phillips / Stilwell High School

More than one hundred schools should be engaged in distance learning during the month of August based on Oklahoma State Department of Education guidelines. But StateImpact’s Robby Korth and The Oklahoman's Nuria Martinez-Keel found less than 10 are actually following that recommendation. Here are the details of their joint investigation.

At the Bruneau-Grandview School District in rural southern Idaho, a couple of dozen teachers are crowded into the small library.

They're doing a refresher training for online teaching. In person-classes are scheduled to begin Monday, but with coronavirus cases continuing to rise in Idaho and other states, it's an open question for how long.

Green Country Guardians / Facebook

Advocates from northeastern Oklahoma say nearby poultry facilities are destroying county roads and causing strong odors outside their homes. A representative of the organization Green Country Guardians, Grant Hall, spoke to Oklahoma lawmakers Wednesday during an interim study focusing on the impact of the industry.

Gov. Kevin Stitt's office

Many rural school districts across Oklahoma are back in school. 

And unlike the growing number of urban and suburban schools coming back this fall – these smaller districts are coming back in person.

A farmer from Shandong province along China's east coast, Liu recalls how during Chinese Lunar New Year in January, he went out for a walk and came home to discover local officials preparing to demolish his home.

When he called the police on the demolishers, they arrested him instead, saying that the police would "assist the work of the local government."

"To demolish my home, about 100 security officers surrounded and subdued me, and detained me," Liu said on a recent visit to his village, Liushuanglou, near the city of Heze. He was released from detention the next day.

COVID-19 is causing organizers of annual agricultural festivals in Oklahoma to be cancelled, and some think it will have an adverse effect on the economies of the rural towns that host them.

Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving nearly $30 million in grants to two Oklahoma companies to expand high-speed Internet access in rural areas.

With the grants, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative and Cimarron Telephone Company will provide a broadband network in Blaine, Dewey, Ellis, Kingfisher, Pawnee and Osage counties. The USDA says this will provide high-speed Internet for more than 5,000 people and 702 farms.