Growing up in Westhope, North Dakota, during the 1960s and 1970s, Dean Hulse was surrounded by a thriving agricultural community. Family farms were the backbone of the local economy, and the small businesses lining the town’s main street provided the essentials of daily life. Since that time the small towns of the Great Northern Plains have witnessed severe economic decline as family farms have gradually been replaced by industrial agriculture. In Westhope: Life as a Former Farm Boy, Hulse recalls his idyllic childhood and adolescence in a small town that will look and feel familiar to many and movingly describes his failed attempt to carry on the family farm. Like many of his generation, Hulse discovers that the way of life he grew up with—one led by his parents and his grandparents before them—is threatened with extinction. Through a loosely chronological series of highly personal essays, Hulse delivers a strong critique of the destructive, shortsighted agricultural practices and economic policies that have led to rural depopulation throughout the Great Plains. Westhope poetically conveys Hulse’s lamentations for the people, cultures, and landscapes of rural North Dakota but is nevertheless optimistic in its outlook; as an activist, Hulse now strives to retain the essence of small-town life and to create new economic models that can revitalize and sustain it. His holistic vision for the future of rural America will inspire the many people working to make the good life—from the family farm to Main Street—a reality once again. _x000B_
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