Pioneers Press: An Oasis in a Red State Finding friends at an indie publishing house in rural Kansas

Photo by Billy McCall.

A week after the election I took a trip to Kansas City to see my brother. I’d looked forward to this trip for months, but the election results made me less excited. I felt safe in my little blue state of New Mexico, and visiting either coast seemed like an okay idea. But not only did the south vote for that ass-clown, but the entire middle of the country did as well. Flying to the Midwest now felt like entering enemy territory.

I was deeply depressed. Still am, to be honest. But what I learned from my trip to KC is that a lot of people in those red states hate Trump just as much as those of us in the blue states. My friends at Pioneers Press are prime examples.

Pioneers Press is an indie publishing house and small press distro, based in rural Kansas. What does that mean? They publish zines and books, most of which focus on sustainability, mental health, gender, sexuality and social justice. Ya know, revolution, baby.

Ya know, revolution, baby.

The home base for Pioneers Press is plot of land called the “Hard Fifty Farm,” a middle-of-nowhere place about an hour outside Kansas City. Elizabeth and Adam are self-described “farm punks” who spend their mornings doing chores, then spend their afternoons mailing out zines. I asked if I could come intern for the day. “You can come help us if you want, but it’s not all that exciting. It will just be the three of us hanging out in our living room making buttons.” After the election results they had designed some “Fuck Trump” buttons, then posted them on their website, free of charge. This expression of frustration received immediate response, and in less than a week their supply of 1,000 buttons was already gone.

So I drove west, to Kansas, just over the Missouri River. I drove past more than one house with a Trump sign in the front yard until I found the Hard Fifty Farm with a zine-mobile parked on the lawn. Chickens ran around the yard and goats we eating grass behind a fence. I was greeted with hugs and hot tea, then we started packing orders. Conservative Kansas was the last place I thought I’d feel at home, but as always it wasn’t where I was, but who was there with me. Hanging out in a living room doing zine stuff might not have been the most exciting thing in the world, but it was exactly what I needed. It was great.

This scary world is suddenly a lot scarier now, I know. But there are punks and hippies and counter-culture DIY types all over the place. Find the progressive like-minded people in your community and become friends with them. Strengthen those bonds. And go to They have lots of great reading material to get us through these dark times. Oh, and the free buttons are back in stock.

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About Billy McCall

Billy has been writing and self-publishing since middle school, and isn’t about to stop now. His main realm of expertise is zines, but he has also written for various magazines and newspapers over the years, published one novel, and even writes the occasional song. Currently he is living in New Mexico with his dog and two type-writers. He considers hand-written letters to be the highest form of flattery.

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