Abbie Fentress Swanson

Reporter

Abbie Fentress Swanson joined Harvest Public Media in 2012 and is based at KBIA Radio in Columbia, Missouri. Before that, she covered arts and culture for WNYC Radio in New York. There she was part of a team that won an Online News Association award in 2012 and an Associated Press award in 2010 for outstanding digital news coverage. In 2011, she won the Garden State Journalists Association "Best Radio Feature" award for "Music Therapy Helps Vets Control Symptoms of PTSD." Reporting fellowships prior to WNYC took her to Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, India, Germany, the Czech Republic and Belgium. Abbie's travels led to multimedia stories on a wide range of subjects -- from the World Cup in South Africa, to the gay rights movement in India, to San Francisco's immigration court. She's filed stories for The New York Times, The Patriot Ledger, KALW Public Radio, The World, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Abbie holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in Italian studies from the College of William & Mary. Check her out on twitter @dearabbie.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Field Notes: A plan to prevent acts of food terrorism

Milk that Central Dairy delivers is kept behind doors secured with three-inch long padlocks.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production. 

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Field Notes: Putting a scare into the food system

A bioterror attack that introduced a virus like foot-and-mouth disease could devastate the U.S. livestock industry. Regulators are proposing new rules meant to protect the food system from terror attack.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production. 

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Agriculture
4:32 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Padlock the milk! FDA’s push to safeguard the food supply

Milk is an extremely popular item on the University of Missouri campus, says purchasing coordinator Sandy Perley. "Our entire campus in a year drinks about 96,000 gallons of milk. And by our best calculation, that’s about 326 gallons a day."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Food terrorism, part two: New rules would require the nation’s largest food manufacturing plants to tighten up security. How would that impact the dairy industry, which is considered the most vulnerable to attack?

Many of the food terrorism scenarios outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration involve liquid.

And there’s good reason for that.

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Agriculture
2:02 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

From Brooklyn to Boone County, and back again

Our Abbie Fentress Swanson (second from left) reported stories while hip-deep in water and on the road across the Midwest.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

When I was offered this job nearly two years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to move to Columbia, Mo., from Brooklyn, N.Y., to cover agriculture and food production in the Heartland.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri February 28, 2014

Field Notes: More younger farmers and Low corn prices

Farmers received some gloomy news from the US Department of Agriculture earlier this month -- that lower corn prices are here to stay.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production. 

Farmers received some gloomy news from the US Department of Agriculture earlier this month. As Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports in this week's Field Notes, the USDA is predicting that lower corn prices are here to stay. 

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Field Notes: Hunting for mushrooms and myth at True/False

'The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga' uses animation and stunning scenes of everyday life in Eastern Europe -- including plenty of mushroom hunting -- to tell the Slavic fairytale of Baba Yaga.
Credit Courtesy of Jessica Oreck

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production. 

For more than a decade, fans of documentary film have flocked to Columbia, Mo., for the annual True/False Film Fest. The screenings start on Thursday.

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True/False Conversations
6:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Hunting for mushrooms and myth in 'The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga'

Many of this year’s True/False films are set in big cities -- like Cairo, Rome and New York. But several works also focus on rural life, like Jessica Oreck’s 'The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga,' which uses animation and stunning scenes of everyday life in Eastern Europe to tell the Slavic fairytale of Baba Yaga.
Credit Courtesy of Jessica Oreck

This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year’s True/False Fest.  Find the rest of them here or download the podcast on iTunes.

For more than a decade, fans of documentary film have flocked to Columbia, Mo., for the annual True/False Film Fest. The screenings start on Thursday.

Many of this year’s films are set in big cities -- like Cairo, Rome and New York. But several works also focus on rural life. "Rich Hill" follows three teenagers growing up in a small Missouri community south of Kansas City.  Jessica Oreck’s "The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga" uses animation and stunning scenes of everyday village life in Eastern Europe to tell the Slavic fairytale of Baba Yaga. The film is shot in Super 16.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Field Notes: Booming dairy industry leaves small farms behind

Donnie Davidson decided to shut down his dairy in November after a roof on one of his barns collapsed from the winter’s snow. The roof would have cost $20,000 to rebuild. To keep the dairy going, he also would have had to hire help and upgrade a silo.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Meat labeling advocates back new farm bill

The USDA's new COOL rule went into full effect in November. It requires labels to list where animals were born, raised and slaughtered.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Proponents of a new labeling rule that gi­ves consumers more information about where their meat comes from say they are pleased with the new farm bill President Obama signed into law on Friday. That’s because the bill does not include any significant changes to current country-of-origin labeling rules, known as COOL.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Field Notes: Farm bill awaits a presidential signature

After more than two years of debate on Capitol Hill, a new farm bill is poised to become law after both the U.S. House and Senate approved it.
Credit andrewmalone/Flickr

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

President Obama is scheduled to sign the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014, the new farm bill, into law on Friday afternoon.

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Agriculture
4:55 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Changing dairy industry leaves some farmers in the dust

Donnie Davidson turns off the lights in his dairy parlor. His family has been producing grade A milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Donnie Davidson’s family has been producing bottled milk in Holden, Mo., since the 1930s. But the 63-year-old farmer decided to sell his herd of 50 milking cows in November after the roof on one of his barns collapsed from last winter’s snow.

Rebuilding the barn would have cost about $20,000. Then there were the costs of renovating a silo and paying for hired help since Davidson’s children won’t be taking over the business. It made financial sense to close the dairy, and grow crops and build a herd of beef cattle instead.

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Business
4:27 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Even As Dairy Industry Booms, There Are Fewer And Fewer Farms

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 6:55 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On Friday, President Obama is scheduled to sign a new farm bill into law. It contains a provision that allows all dairy farms to be part of a safety net. The point is to offset risk when milk prices are too low or feed costs too high. But Abbie Fentress Swanson reports that even in good times, smaller dairy farms in traditional milk producing states are now giving up.

(SOUNDBITE OF COWS)

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Field Notes: Senate to consider the Farm Bill as wheat prices dip

Should the Agricultural Act of 2014 become law, direct payments would end and the crop insurance program would become the bedrock of the U.S. farm safety net.
Credit wobble-san/Flickr

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
6:30 am
Fri January 24, 2014

More than 1 in 7 Americans receive food stamp benefits

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program remains the most controversial issue for negotiators working on a new farm bill.
Credit USDA

Fifteen percent of Americans received federal food stamp benefits in the 2013 fiscal year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released in early January.

In the Harvest Public Media network, that includes about 936,000 people in Missouri; 420,000 in Iowa; 2 million in Illinois; 179,000 in Nebraska, 507,000 in Colorado, 316,000 in Kansas; and 926,000 in Indiana.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Field Notes: What does the future of ethanol hold?

Only about 2,500 gas stations offer E85 for flex fuel vehicles, primarily stations in the Midwest where most ethanol is produced.
Credit Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Field Notes: What exactly does 'sustainability' mean?

On his farm near Rocheport, Mo., Bill Heffernan raises these sustainable heritage St. Croix sheep. But what does "sustainable" actually mean?
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

Retailers and restaurants like Whole Foods, Chipotle, Safeway, McDonald's and Wal-Mart are all providing information to consumers about how sustainably some of their foods were produced. But as I found doing this story, it's hard to know just what "sustainability" means and how to judge whether food was produced in a "sustainable" way. 

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Agriculture
4:18 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Midwest takes a look at labeling GMOs

Labeling advocates in Colorado are hoping to get an initiative on the 2014 ballot that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Credit brdavid / Flickr

Last year, we counted between 20 and 30 state legislatures considering bills that mandate labeling on genetically engineered foods or foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Still a hot-topic, many labeling laws are working their way through statehouses all over the nation – even in farm country.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Field Notes: Snowmass wheat

Food companies want to capitalize on the growing market of white bread fans who want to eat whole wheat. A new variety of wheat makes that easier.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

Consumers increasingly want the texture and taste of white bread but the nutritional benefits of whole grains. In this week's episode of Field Notes, Harvest Public Media's Luke Runyon reports on a new variety of wheat called Snowmass that could help meet that demand.

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Agriculture
2:53 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Retailers look to sell sustainability of food

On his farm near Rocheport, Mo., Bill Heffernan raises heritage St. Croix sheep, Red Poll cattle and American Cream Draft horses. He also sells his humanely-raised Berkshire and Duroc hogs to Chipotle and Whole Foods.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for foods they believe were sustainably produced, like free-range chicken, fair-trade coffee and pesticide-free wine. But what does “sustainable” actually mean?

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Agriculture
11:23 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Field Notes: Top ag and food stories of 2013

The scarecrow, who appears in Chipotle's animated new online-only ad.
Credit YouTube, "Back to the Start."

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

The drought was easily the biggest story on the farm beat in 2012. But this past year, many of the stories filed by Harvest Public Media reporters focused on food politics and the divide between large industry groups and proponents of organic, sustainable and local foods.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Field Notes: Popcorn and Ag Sec. Vilsack's trip to China

A Del’s Popcorn shop employee in Decatur, Ill., starts the vintage popcorn popper. Del’s relies heavily on holiday sales, but is struggling with the high price of popcorn.
Credit Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
2:41 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

FDA to revise food safety rules

The FDA plans to revise two controversial food safety rules, focusing, in part, on the produce industry.
Credit swanksalot/Flickr

The FDA plans to revise two controversial food safety rules, according to a statement regulators issued Thursday.

The rules, originally released in January, are aimed at preventing outbreaks of foodborne illness and at improving food safety in the produce industry. The FDA said it plans to revise the rules and issue another draft of them this summer.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri December 20, 2013

Field Notes: Antibiotics in meat and why Congress can't pass a farm bill

Leaders of the committee working on the farm bill announced they don't expect to pass a bill before they leave Washington for the year.
Credit andrewmalone/Flickr

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Field Notes: Farms, coming to a suburb near you

In its plans, the Bucking Horse subdivision in Fort Collins, Colo. will support a 3.6 acre CSA farm, a plaza designed for a farmers market and an educational center where homeowners can take canning classes.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
9:00 am
Wed December 11, 2013

‘Frankenfish’ clears regulatory hurdle in Canada

AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., recently got the green light from Canada’s environmental regulatory agency to commercially produce these eggs for its genetically engineered salmon at a hatchery on Prince Edward Island.
Credit Photo courtesy of AquaBounty.

A controversial genetically engineered salmon, known to its detractors as the “Frankenfish,” has moved a step closer to being sold on the U.S. market.

That’s because AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., recently got the green light from Canada’s environmental regulatory agency to commercially produce eggs for its genetically engineered salmon at a hatchery on Prince Edward Island. Previously the hatchery, which produces sterile female eggs, had only been allowed to operate as a research facility.

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Agriculture
2:33 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

In A Small Missouri Town, Immigrants Turn To Schools For Help

Abbie Fentress Swanson Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:30 am

This story comes to us from Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting project that focuses on agriculture and food production issues. You can see more photos and hear more audio from the series here. Wednesday, we'll have a story from a meatpacking plant in Garden City, Kan., which takes a proactive stance toward its newest immigrants.

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Agriculture
2:58 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

FDA inspects just 2 percent of imported food shipments

Higher risk imported products on the FDA’s radar include raw produce, seafood and spices.
Credit funadium/flickr

According to a recent Food and Drug Administration report, FDA regulators inspected less than two percent of the food shipments that were imported to the U.S. in the 2012 fiscal year.

FDA inspectors are responsible for all domestic and imported food except meat, poultry and eggs, which fall under U.S. Department of Agriculture purview.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Field Notes: CAFOs and aid for veterans in the Farm Bill

Piglets in Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

Thanks to tight competition, hog farmers all over the country are feeling a push to expand or get out of the business. That means indoor confined animal feeding operations – or CAFOs – are growing even in the most environmentally sensitive areas.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Field Notes: Where does our meat come from?

A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon November 25, 2013

New labeling rules could give consumers more info about their meat

A customer examines the beef selection at one of the Hyvee grocery stores in Columbia, Mo. The new country-of-labeling rules force meatpackers to detail where much of this meat was born, raised and slaughtered.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

A new labeling rule that went into full effect Saturday requires meatpackers and retailers to provide consumers with more information about where their meat comes from.

The country-of-origin labeling mandate (COOL) forces retailers and meatpackers to list where the livestock from which that meat came was born, raised and slaughtered. It applies to certain cuts of beef, veal, chicken, pork, lamb and goat sold in the supermarket. Processed, deli and ground meats are exempt from the new rules.

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