RELEASE: Journalist and NYT Bestselling Author Sarah Smarsh to Release Original Podcast


August 12, 2019

Kendra Bozarth,

Journalist and NYT Bestselling Author Sarah Smarsh to Release Original Podcast

“The Homecomers” reveals untold stories of rural and working-class America through the voices of its residents and advocates

Wichita, KS — The prevailing story about rural America—often told by people with no direct experience of that place—is that it’s regressive, dying and homogenous in identity. This national blindspot toward a vast, diverse space threatens the well-being of those who call it home—as well as the rest of the country, whose food supply, natural resources and political futures are intertwined with rural America.

As an author, national commentator, longtime journalist and fifth-generation Kansas farm girl, Sarah Smarsh frequently offers a corrective to misleading stereotypes about working-class, working-poor and rural communities. This summer, she’ll launch The Homecomers with Sarah Smarsh, an original podcast series that—through intimate conversations on class, race, policy, labor, wellness and the earth—reveals six “homecomers” fighting for areas where the common narrative of American success would have them “get out.” 

Smarsh has covered socioeconomic class, politics and public policy for the New York Times, the Guardian and many other publications. She is the author of the bestselling book Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2018. 

“As an avid podcast listener, I got sick of there being so few shows speaking about rural, let alone from or for it—so I made one,” Smarsh said. “I hope it will broaden informed dialogue about rural America and perhaps let rural listeners, for the first time, recognize in their headphones something that sounds like home.” 

The Homecomers guests, who span nearly every region of the country, range from a globally known policymaker to a young organizer raised by immigrant farmworkers. With humor, pride, sadness and hope they share not just their professional vantage on rural America—as award-winning researcher, journalist, educator, filmmaker and more—but their lived wisdom as residents and advocates of the rural places they love.

“Reducing an entire region to a political headline, economic forecast or healthcare statistic isn’t productive. We’ve got a lot of information in the media ecosphere but little true understanding,” Smarsh said. “I wanted to go past soundbites and abstract ideas with long, deep, very personal conversations about rural America as a living, breathing thing.” 

Guests on The Homecomers:

◘ Political scientist Veronica Womack on the richness of rural America and a new generation of farmers in the Black Belt;

◘ Labor activist Leydy Rangel on her childhood among immigrant farmworkers in the Central Valley and her advocacy work today;

◘ Documentary-maker Elaine McMillion Sheldon on getting the story right about Appalachia and the opioid epidemic;

◘ Conservation leader Brett Ramey, Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, on environmental justice, generational legacies and how connecting to the earth can connect us to ourselves;

◘ Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on access to health care in rural areas; and

◘ Journalist Debbie Weingarten on the mental health crisis among agricultural workers.

The first episode of The Homecomers will be released on Tuesday, September 3. People can hear the trailer and subscribe now at iTunes, listen on Spotify, or find The Homecomers anywhere they get their podcasts. They can also stream all available episodes, and find episode transcripts including Spanish translations, at

The Homecomers was produced with support from the Ford Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Smarsh developed the project as a research fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, part of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The term “homecomers” was coined by Wes Jackson, co-founder of the Land Institute

To learn more about The Homecomers with Sarah Smarsh and stay up-to-date about new episodes, follow the podcast on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram