With the gradual but steady rise of agri-business, the loss of small, family-owned and run farms, and the century-long exodus of rural populations to urban centers, farming communities have been suffering a slow and painful decline for decades. Loss of jobs, economically shattered families, failed businesses, de-population, and a general malaise of perceived worthlessness are common features of conversations that run through many small towns in America. Although these towns are often located just outside major metropolises, the realities of their social and economic landscapes are worlds apart.
With a meager population of 960, Cotton Plant is nestled in the rural northeast portion of Arkansas, between Little Rock and Memphis, Tennessee. Despite its rich history and the “promising” nature of its past, Cotton Plant has suffered the same challenges and consequences as many other small rural towns. What once was a relatively thriving center and one of the fastest growing communities in Eastern Arkansas, now we find a town littered with ghost factories, abandoned schools, and the carcasses of crumbling buildings while the handful of the remaining local stores struggle to survive. Much of the historic downtown has been demolished, and only a few dignified older homes remain. The sense of purpose that once accompanied steady, meaningful work has long since vanished.
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