Arguably, one of the biggest changes to the rural landscape and family life in the U.S. occurred when electricity was extended through the countryside. The first feasibility studies were conducted in 1923 in Minnesota, where they reached the conclusion that rural electrification was feasible and profitable.

Despite the positive spin on electrification, things moved slowly. The Great Depression had a devastating effect on the rural economy, and slowed electrification to a crawl. As part of an economic stimulus package, the federal government passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, which provided loans to organizations called Rural Electric Membership Cooperatives (REMCs) to spur the growth of electric power.

Jeff Burbrink is agriculture/natural resources educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. He can be reached at 574-533-0554 or

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