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Farmers who have invested in land rather than stocks, bonds or condos in Miami have seen their prospects for a secure retirement soar, according to a report by Howard Berkes on National Public Radio. As commodity prices have risen (at least until recently), so have farmland prices. And so farmers who have invested in land are doing well. “The price appreciation since 1998 has been very good,” according to economist Ernie Goss. “We’re talking about 15 percent a year [in some states]. And the rest of us, those who have invested in stock … we’re seeing drops of 30 percent to 50 percent.”

Meanwhile, in another part of the rural economy, retirement security is falling away. Berkes finds that the collapse of rural manufacturing has decimated some rural communities. (See the Yonder stories on rural manufacturing and unemployment here and here.) “Small manufacturers have really been hit hard by this economic downturn,” Ernie Gross told Berkes. “They have done some outsourcing [and] moved to other countries. That’s really affecting rural areas.”

For fun, Berkes reviews the history of Vice-Grips, a product of rural ingenuity. Vice-Grips were invented in a blacksmith shop in DeWitt, Nebraska, and were made there until 2008, when manufacturing of the tool was moved to China. See Berkes’ history of this ubiquitous tool (used by surgeons and astronauts) on the left-hand side of this page. Vice-Grips were invented in the shop pictured above.

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