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Big Dreams, Small Towns

Map dot. One horse town. Stop sign on a blacktop. The backbone of America. Small town, USA.

There seems to be a common misconception that big dreams can’t succeed in small town, rural America, and while that may have held true to some extent fifty years ago, it doesn’t hold up in today’s internet age. When I started Heart of the Midwest, I had a ton of people ask me where my storefront was going to be because where would I possibly have one in the entire county that would get the traffic it needed to survive? With internet and social media, I’m able to run a shop and share my farming story from my tiny corner of the universe.

Speaking of my tiny little corner of the universe…

Good ole Dana has been around since the 1870s and not much has changed since then. Just kidding…kind of. At around 400 people (I think?) it’s not exactly the burgeoning metropolis my grandma talks about in the memories of her teenage years, but it’s not too bad. The most famous person to come from the first town you hit when you enter the Hoosier state from the west is Ernie Pyle, the WWII correspondent. (Yes, we all know that was eighty years ago, but he’s all we’ve got so we’re hanging on. He was actually pretty cool though so I highly recommend reading his biography and/or visiting our museum to learn more!) And speaking of the famous writer, we also have the Ernie Pyle/Dana Fireman’s Festival every August, and lemme tell ya what, that’s the biggest social event of the year. I mean, I’m still hanging on to the fact that I was Miss Ernie Pyle Festival 2011….don’t believe me? See below.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I miss about living in a bigger city (like being less than an hour and a half away from the nearest Target), but you just can’t beat a small town. When someone is sick, the town rallies around them. When you’re walking down the road back to the pickup after moving a piece of equipment, someone stops to give you a ride. When everyone’s favorite farmer passes away, the whole town shows up at the funeral home.

As someone who has always hated stepping outside of her comfort zone, knowing that I had not only my friends’ and family’s support but that I had the whole town rooting for me gave me that little extra push I needed. Moving away for college, going overseas for a semester, taking a job in another state...I knew that even if I didn’t see them at the restaurant uptown every day at noon, they were still behind me. And I know that no matter where I end up, these small town folks will still be supportive just as they know that I’m there for them (or at least I hope they do!).

I know that my little hometown isn’t perfect; I’m not trying to paint it as a fairytale village. Even since I was a kid, plenty of businesses and people have left and plenty of trouble and drugs have moved in. The auction house crumbled, the grocery store and florist shop burnt, and the bank and tavern both closed. However, as much as all of those things could be considered pretty significant setbacks, they don’t take away from why I love this town. I truly believe it’s the people that make this town worthwhile not the things. Really, really good people who care about their neighbors.

So wherever you may be, whether it be a village or the big city, I hope you find your “small town” group of people because I’m a firm believer that big dreams grow best in small towns.


  • How are you doing

  • Hi Erin,
    Just love watching you driving those big
    green Deere. A lot of the younger generation including my children don’t have a clue to what it takes to run a farm successfully. Long hours hard work determination and a little bit of luck thrown in will carry you through the rest of your life.
    Stay true to your self and your beliefs. Godspeed,
    Sonny Lewis

    Sonny Lewis
  • I’m retired because of to many heart attach but I love your respect for your Dad and farm!! Your an amazing example for young ladies ! My granddaughter checks you out sometimes and she really is inspired by your tractor driving and your knowledge of farming and she’s only 7! That gives me so much hope in her future that she wants a career in the outdoors. You are a special person!! My daughter is very special to me and I know you are to your Dad!! Keep up the good work and a special prayer goes out to you and your family!! Thanks!!

    Robert Stultz
  • I drive through there all the time. Mom moved back to Lawrenceville, Illinois after Dad died. So, that’s on my way back home. Been to the covered bridge festival I’m sure

    Brian Montgomery
  • Small Towns
    Every summer our vacation was to go up to Minnesota to the farm. The local town was Bertha. 300 pop. This is the town where they roll up the sidewalks at 5pm The best part of this experience was going into the cafe and later the tavern and not living there they all knew who I was and who my family was. “Your so and so’s kid arn’t you?” Loved and hated it. it takes a neighbor hood to raise a kid. So if I made a mistake the town knew and in minutes my father knew too. Now that social media in it rarest form.
    Keep it up !!


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