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Westhope

Life as a Former Farm Boy

2009
Author:

Dean Hulse

Westhope

An evocative and inspiring memoir of a vibrant rural North Dakota

Dean Hulse’s Westhope captures the workings of a farming family and community, and the ways people are linked by stories, food, and history. He also suggests the larger, invisible forces that make farming difficult and reveals both the rewards and the tensions inherent in that way of life. In the tradition of writers like Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry, Hulse points to a relationship to place based in knowledge of the land itself and how it sustains, and can be sustained by, human culture.

Kent Meyers, author of The Work of Wolves

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time the small towns of the Great Northern Plains have witnessed severe economic decline as family farms have gradually been replaced by industrial agriculture.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.

Westhope

Dean Hulse is a freelance writer and an activist for issues of land use, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture. He lives in Fargo, North Dakota.

Westhope

Dean Hulse’s Westhope captures the workings of a farming family and community, and the ways people are linked by stories, food, and history. He also suggests the larger, invisible forces that make farming difficult and reveals both the rewards and the tensions inherent in that way of life. In the tradition of writers like Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry, Hulse points to a relationship to place based in knowledge of the land itself and how it sustains, and can be sustained by, human culture.

Kent Meyers, author of The Work of Wolves

It may be difficult for texting, Googling, video-game playing, and other techno-saturated readers to slow down to Hulse's natural storytelling rhythm. But for those willing to move into Hulse's relaxed and insightful realm, Westhope may prove to be an antidote to a world that seems, at times, to demote old-style values such as: a day's pay for hard day's work, the neighbor helping neighbor attitude, or the idea that the soul can be refreshed by the solace nature offers. There is nothing like the telling of a compelling farm and small town story to introduce the reader to possibilities of existence outside of frenzied postmodern parameters.

High Plains Reader

Westhope poetically conveys Hulse’s lamentations for the people, cultures, and landscapes of rural North Dakota but is nevertheless optimistic in its outlook. . . . 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.

The Westhope Standard

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 lead to rural depopulation throughout the Great Plains.

Devils Lake Daily Journal

This accessible, warm-hearted yet sober collection of essays can actually be read and enjoyed by the very ennobled small-town and rural folks who serve as its fodder and inspiration.

Annals of Iowa

Westhope

UMP blog: Sustainability and North Dakota's oil boom

Thoughts about the land should always come first, if we’re serious about sustainability, which is to say, maintaining an ecological balance so that our natural resources are preserved for future generations. While we can’t yet comprehend the full effect of all the oil and gas exploitation under way in North Dakota, we certainly know a consequence of transforming the Great Plains largely from grassland to farmland. That outcome has been described by two words that will live in environmental infamy: “Dust Bowl.”

Read the full article.

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UMP blog: Sustainability and small-town America

2/18/2010
Of course, there are at least two sides to every story, and this one involving the Tristanis includes a petition for a restraining order against the owners of a coffee shop that competed with the Tristanis’s business. The news story reports that both businesses now are shuttered.
One of the locals summed up the Tristani affair this way: “Not everybody fits in in a small town.”
Read more ...