The Homecomers


Hear from champions of small towns, rural lands and working-class communities—places Americans are encouraged to leave behind.

All Episodes

Journalist and former vegetable farmer Debbie Weingarten talks with Sarah Smarsh about the dark side of rural existence for people watching their family’s way of life be turned upside down—and how a society that relies on their labor can begin to value farmers. Weingarten is a writer and fellow with Community Change. A former vegetable farmer, she now works with the Female Farmer Project to document the rise of women in agriculture. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Guernica, The Guardian, Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Longreads, and Vela, among many other outlets, including the Best of Food Writing 2016 and 2017 anthologies. She was a 2019 James Beard Award nominee for her story exposing discrimination against Louisiana’s Black sugar cane farmers. Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Oct 2019

44 min 53 sec

Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius joins Sarah Smarsh to discuss the long fight for universal health care and the particular barriers to access for rural America. Sebelius served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the 21st Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and is now among America’s foremost experts on national and global health issues, human services, and executive leadership. She serves on the boards of several public companies and co-chairs the Aspen Institute Health Strategy Group. Sebelius served as governor of Kansas from 2003 to 2009. Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Sep 2019

38 min 30 sec

Conservation leader Brett Ramey, member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, joins Sarah Smarsh to discuss environmental (in)justice and how our identities can shape the preservation of the planet. Ramey is an educator and organizer working at the intersections of environmental, cultural, and community health. His work is grounded in reclaiming and upholding knowledge systems that honor relationships and responsibilities to lands and waters. He serves as director of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington, a community of young people who aim to transform the face, practice, and future of conservation. Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Sep 2019

36 min 11 sec

Acclaimed West Virginia documentarian Elaine McMillion Sheldon talks with Sarah Smarsh about getting regional stories right and the universality of addiction. Sheldon is an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker who explores stories of identity, resilience, and hope. She is the director of two documentaries about America’s opioid crisis, Recovery Boys and the Emmy-winning Heroin(e). Sheldon also received a 2013 Peabody award, a 2014 Emmy nomination, and 3rd prize in the World Press Photo Multimedia Awards for her interactive documentary Hollow, which explores the lives lived in post-industrial, rural Appalachia. Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Sep 2019

39 min 48 sec

Farm-worker rights advocate Leydy Rangel talks with Sarah Smarsh about the family experience that informs and enlivens her professional mission. Rangel is a first-generation college graduate from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where she received a BS in communication with an emphasis in journalism and a political science minor. She is the communications specialist for the UFW Foundation, a non-profit that empowers and advocates for immigrants, farm workers, and Latinos at the local and national levels, and is the largest immigration legal services provider in rural California. Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Sep 2019

36 min 29 sec

Political scientist Dr. Veronica Womack joins Sarah Smarsh to discuss the richness of rural American culture and community, and how old farming wisdom alongside new technologies can move the Black Belt region forward. Womack is the chief diversity officer and a professor of political science and public administration at Georgia College and State University. Her work in the Black Belt region centers on community development and change: building the human capacity of students, creating curriculum that tells the story of the region, and researching and changing the narrative about the Black Belt. Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Sep 2019

46 min

A national blind spot toward rural and working-class America is driving misleading headlines, broken politics and dangerous fissures in our social fabric.  The Homecomers with Sarah Smarsh offers a more accurate story of those ill-understood spaces. A native of rural Kansas, journalist and bestselling author Sarah Smarsh brings you intimate conversations with six champions of rural America. As "homecomers"—residents and advocates who remain committed to places where society and the economy would have them "get out"—they are preserving and strengthening the vibrancy and inclusiveness of small towns, rural lands and misunderstood communities that headlines claim are dying.  Learn more at and follow the show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Aug 2019

1 min 27 sec