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LIFE IN THE HEART LAND sheds light on rural America’s challenges and community-driven solutions

Life In the Heart Land Cover Image March 2023
LIFE IN THE HEART LAND premieres March 9 on VPM PBS

A new docuseries from VPM and Deep Structure Productions is exploring how people in rural Virginia and beyond are creating unique solutions to their toughest challenges.

Premiering March 9 on VPM PBS, LIFE IN THE HEART LAND dives deep into the heart of Virginia to meet the neighbors, communities and organizations that are addressing long-standing obstacles head on and serving as an example for other rural locations. These collaborators are breaking down divides and roadblocks to build new pathways to meaningful, positive outcomes with the power to inspire better understanding and action.

The first episode centers around the complex issues of food access and equity in rural Virginia, what drives these inequalities and how to build a regional food system that serves everybody. The season premiere will spotlight two sisters from Staunton, VA and how they turned an unused urban lot into a thriving community garden, as well as a Charles City County Administrator who is creating a food pantry that serves a rural food desert.

LIFE IN THE HEART LAND will also investigate how the growing jail population is becoming a problem for communities like Staunton, where the Middle River Regional Jail is a nexus for these complications. Later episodes will explore how rural communities deal with plastic waste, the challenges facing multigenerational farmers and how the Monacan Indian Nation is working to reclaim their land and identity.

“The rural parts of our country are often left out of important community-based decisions, and that can result in limited access to critical resources,” said Deep Structure’s Director of Production & Operations Lysandra Petersson. “LIFE IN THE HEART LAND offers a look into these obstacles, and how members of these communities are working to clear them.”

The impact of LIFE IN THE HEART LAND has reached those on the ground level striving to enhance the quality of life in rural communities. The pilot episode premiered on November 11, 2021 and highlights the difficulties rural communities face acquiring broadband services. It is now being used by Virginia co-ops to open doors and partner with legislators, policymakers and vendors to connect broadband to Virginia’s rural regions. The episode was highly praised as an accurate depiction of the current issues and how improved broadband services could mean increased access to telehealth, jobs and new markets for local businesses.

“One of the goals of LIFE IN THE HEART LAND is to lift up the voices in these rural communities and share the progress that’s been made and what still needs to be done,” said VPM executive producer Mason Mills. “With more awareness about what's going on here, it's our hope other communities will feel a connection and be inspired to find similar solutions."

Watch LIFE IN THE HEART LAND Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on VPM PBS or stream anytime on the PBS App. You can view a map of some locations that are visited throughout LIFE IN THE HEART LAND, as well as profiles of individuals that will be featured during the series.