(View an in-depth look at scenes from Iowa and New Hampshire in a downloadable pdf format here and a look ahead to the primaries here)

#1

The motto of Independence, Iowa is “America’s fame is in our name.” But Mike Anderson, the pastor of Baptist Bethel Church in Independence, says some of the problems besetting the country are on display in this town of 6,000, as well. “People around here don’t work as hard as they used to,” Anderson, 48, said. “Even farmers don’t do a lot of physical work anymore.”

The change — a function of the mechanization of agriculture and the demise of the small family farms he grew up on — has “not been a good thing” for the community, Andersen said.

“When I was growing up, you couldn’t really get in too much trouble because you had a lot to do on the farm. We didn’t work as hard as the previous generation, but we still did a lot of physical work. Now, there are a lot of people who are on welfare around here – and a lot of them really shouldn’t be. People come to me, telling me they’re unhappy with where they’re at and say, ‘I want to change my life.’ I’ll tell them, ‘Well, you need to start getting yourself some gainful employment’ because you always feel better about yourself when you’re productive. It’s a biblical principle. Course the economy right now makes it tough for everyone. It’s harder than it used to be. My oldest son is trying to find something. But there are things to find. And the truth of the matter is someone who really wants to work will find a way to work even when it’s tough like it is now.”

Still, Anderson – a father of six – says he enjoys life in Buchanan County. “For one thing the cost of living isn’t outrageous here. It’s a good lifestyle. There are good folks around here, a good community. And I’m not a city boy. Compared to where I’m from in Iowa, this is the big city. I can’t see myself going anywhere else.”