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
1:20 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Field Notes: Marking the fifth anniversary of the Postville, Iowa raid

Filmmaker Luis Argueta discusses his documentary "AbUSed: The Postville Raid."
Credit Photo by Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

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

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Agriculture
12:52 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Field Notes: 'The Midwest Farmer's Daughter'

Kay Emerich and her daughters Amber and Natasha run a small dairy in Wheaton, Kan.
Kathleen Masterson/Harvest Public Media

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

For this edition of Field Notes, Harvest Public Media's Bill Wheelhouse spoke with Zachary Michael Jack, author "The Midwest Farmer's Daughter," about the shifting landscape of rural America.

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The Salt
2:25 am
Wed April 24, 2013

For Corn, Fickle Weather Makes For Uncertain Yields

By this time last year, 26 percent of the country's corn crop was already planted. A wet, cold spring means that only 4 percent is in the ground right now.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 8:06 am

Last year's drought wreaked havoc on farmers' fields in much of the Midwest, cutting crop yields and forcing livestock producers to cull their herds. This spring, the rain that farmers needed so badly in 2012 has finally returned. But maybe too much, and at the wrong time.

It's almost the end of April, which is prime time to plant corn. But farmers need a break in the rain so they can get this year's crops in the ground and try to lock in good yields at harvest.

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Agriculture
10:18 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Gluten-free by popular demand

Eliminating certain foods from a diet can be risky, says Paula Vandelicht, a nutritionist at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Columbia, Mo. Among other things, she advises customers about the shortcomings of a gluten-free diet.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Six months ago, Kara Welter drastically changed her diet by eliminating food that contains wheat, rye or barley.

“I don’t eat gluten,” said Welter, a 41-year-old marketing executive in Kansas City. “I happened to just try it because I was having stomach issues for years. And it turns out within three days, I stopped having stomach issues.”

Welter’s gluten decision stemmed from what she read online. Medical tests showed that she did not have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, the disorder that causes the immune system to reject the gluten.

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Agriculture
4:17 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

Field Notes: Using drones to capture a prairie burn in Missouri

Brendan Gibbons uses a drone to capture the controlled burn at Tucker Prairie near Kingdom City, Mo.
Scott Pham/KBIA

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

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Agriculture
10:22 am
Thu April 4, 2013

MU gets USDA grant to help farmers build resilience to drought

MU researchers measure soil water infiltration.
Photo courtesy of Tim Reinbott.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that it will fund a University of Missouri project focused on building drought resiliency through soil health.  

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Agriculture
10:36 am
Mon April 1, 2013

MU scientist plays key role in new GE salmon

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to approve AquAdvantage Atlantic salmon for the U.S. market.
Barrett & MacKay Photography Inc.

Kevin Wells has been genetically engineering animals for 24 years.

“It’s sort of like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Wells recently as he walked through his lab at the University of Missouri - Columbia. “You take DNA apart and put it back together in different orders, different orientations.”

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Agriculture
4:46 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Field Notes: The aftermath of a grain explosion

Bartlett Grain Co. rebuilt the greain elevator that exploded in 2011 in Atchison, Kan.
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

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

Who knew storing grain could be so dangerous?

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Agriculture
2:11 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

BIFAD meeting focuses on agriculture research in Missouri and abroad

University of Missouri faculty presented their agriculture research at the BIFAD meeting in Columbia, Mo.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) heard about University of Missouri (MU) research on Friday on subjects such as genetically-modified cassava, food contamination in the global supply chain and root biology in relation to drought. About three dozen professors, economists, students and scientists attended the public meeting at the university's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute in Columbia, Mo.

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Agriculture
10:16 am
Mon March 18, 2013

GMO labeling laws on deck in the Midwest

Labels at Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. near Hermann, Mo., do not indicate if products contain genetically modified organisms.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Just south of Hermann, Mo., Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. processes 2 million pounds of meat a year -- everything from cattle to hogs to buffalo to elk.

And everything gets a label.

“No antibiotics added, raised without added hormones, all natural, minimally processed," Glenn Brandt, the production manager for Swiss Meat, reads from a hefty roll of hickory smoked beef sausage stickers.

What this label does not indicate, however, is whether or not the sausage contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

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Agriculture
3:29 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Field Notes: Missouri farmer lands starring role

Chris Chinn, of Clarence, Mo., was chosen as one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance's 'Faces of Farmers and Ranchers.'
Photo courtesy of USFRA

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

Missouri farmer Chris Chinn is taking on a high-profile role as one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming and Ranching.” 

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Agriculture
9:00 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Exploring our global food system at the Natural History Museum

“Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture,” on view now at the American Museum of Natural History, explores how our food is produced, distributed and eaten.
Mansoor Khan for Harvest Public Media

Can a watermelon be grown in the shape of a square? What do Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps eat for breakfast? Which island nation produces the most lamb in the world? Consumers interested in pulling back the curtain on our food system will get these and many other questions answered at “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture.” The exhibition, on view now at the American Museum of Natural History, explores how our food is produced, distributed and eaten.

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True/False: Conversations
12:00 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

'The Moo Man' casts light on challenges facing small dairies

A still from 'The Moo Man,' showing Steve Hook and some of the Holstein-Friesian cows in his herd.
Credit Courtesy of Trufflepig Films

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

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Agriculture
4:19 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

What does Europe’s horsemeat scandal mean for the US?

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service tests the meat that ends up on dinner tables all over the country.
artizone/Flickr

Consumers in Europe are still shocked and paralyzed after learning that ready-made meals advertised as beef products – lasagna, hamburger, salami – actually contained horsemeat. Authorities are still unpacking the extent of the deception, but the case has already touched at least a dozen countries.

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Agriculture
4:26 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Safety concerns threaten growing market for raw milk cheese

Some consumers consider raw milk cheese more nutritious because pasteurization hasn’t killed living beneficial organisms in the milk. But not pasteurizing milk can also allow harmful bacteria to live. Raw milk cheese has sickened more than 500 people in t
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Raw milk cheese — which is made from unpasteurized milk — has gathered a small but fervent following for its taste, nutritional benefits and freshness.

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Agriculture
10:36 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Small Farmers Aren't Cashing In With Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart claims that 11 percent of the produce in its stores now comes from local farms.
Abbie Fentress Swanson Harvest Public Media

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 7:21 am

When Wal-Mart calls, Herman Farris always finds whatever the retailer wants, even if it's yucca root in the dead of winter. Farris is a produce broker in Columbia, Mo., who has been buying for Wal-Mart from auctions and farms since the company began carrying fruits and vegetables in the early 1990s.

During the summer and fall, nearly everything Farris delivers is grown in Missouri. That's Wal-Mart's definition of "local" — produce grown and sold in the same state. In winter, it's a bit tougher to source locally.

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Agriculture
1:05 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Field Notes: How Wal-Mart's local foods push is playing out in the Midwest

A customer shops for produce at a Wal-Mart in Columbia, Mo. The retailer claims 11 percent of its produce sold in its stores nationally comes from local farms.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

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

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Agriculture
7:56 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Missouri ethanol plant to be idled due to high corn prices

Poet Biorefining's ethanol plant in Macon, Mo., looked greener back in April 2010. This file photo was taken the day President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the plant.
Credit Photo courtesy of Poet Biorefining / KBIA

Seventeen ethanol plants nationwide have been idled since last June because of a scarcity of affordable corn due to the drought and a weak market for the corn-based fuel. On Friday, a plant in Macon, Mo., took the hit — and brought the number to 18. 

The northeast Missouri plant is temporarily halting operations as corn prices top $7 a bushel. It's one of 27 plants that Poet Biorefining owns nationwide, and was the first ethanol plant opened in Missouri in 2000. It has been producing 46 million gallons of ethanol per year since 2003.

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Agriculture
4:00 am
Mon January 28, 2013

Missouri next battleground state for GMO labeling

A 'No GMOs' label.
Timothy Valentine/flickr

When legislation mandating genetically-modified food labels was proposed in California, Oregon and Washington, I wasn't necessarily surprised. But the recent news that GMO labeling is being considered in Missouri was a little bit of a shock. The bill, Senate Bill 155, was sponsored by a Democratic senator from St. Louis named Jamilah Nasheed. If passed, it would go into effect on Sept.

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Agriculture
4:00 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Farm bill extension doesn’t sit well with many organic farmers

Liz Graznak, who runs Happy Hollow Farm in Jamestown, Mo., is one of many farmers who may not re-certify her operation organic without federal support.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Shoppers looking for organic food may have to look a bit harder this year.

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Agriculture
9:38 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Field Notes: How nitrogen fertilizer killed crop rotation

John Pesek spent 42 years with the agronomy department at Iowa State University, retiring in 1992. He said no amount of nitrogen fertilizer allowed for continuous corn production.

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

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Agriculture
4:21 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Corn, soybean production took hit in 2012

Farmer Eric Cress, left, shows Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack the drought damage to his corn crop on his farm near Center Point, IA in July 2012.
USDAgov/Flickr

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service released its end-of-year Crop Production 2012 Annual Summary Friday.

Not surprisingly, the report revealed that corn and soy production took a beating last year due to the drought that is still ravaging farms all over the Midwest.

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Agriculture
9:29 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Can small farms benefit from Wal-Mart’s push into local foods?

Right now, Missouri Vegetable Farm located 70 miles south of St. Louis doesn’t have anything in its fields. But come summer and fall, peppers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, sweet corn and pumpkins will be harvested and sold at Wal-Mart.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, is muscling in on one of the fastest growing segments of American agriculture: local food.

Wal-Mart says 11 percent of the produce sold in its stores nationwide comes from local farms, a large increase from the mere 4 percent it sold two years ago when the chain announced its intention to step up local sourcing as part of a larger sustainability platform and a commitment to buy from small businesses.

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Agriculture
10:09 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Food safety rules up for comment

The FDA has proposed new food safety rules focusing, in part, on the produce industry.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two proposed food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) on Friday. The proposed standards come two full years after President Obama signed the act into law in January of 2011. 

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Agriculture
4:00 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Wanted: Large-animal veterinarians willing to work in rural areas

The red flags on this map indicate counties with high concentrations of livestock without veterinarians.
Courtesy of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

It's no secret that agriculture in the U.S. has gone through major changes in the past century. But let's focus in on ag labor for a second: back in 1900, 41 percent of the national workforce worked in the agricultural sector. By 2000, just 1.9 percent did, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Over the same time period, millions of residents left rural communities behind, seeking job opportunities in cities.

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Agriculture
2:37 pm
Fri January 4, 2013

Field Notes: The year's top stories in agriculture

For the Harvest Network, the drought was the top story in agriculture in 2012. Here, a dry corn field outside Columbia, Mo. photographed in July 2012.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

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

For this edition of Field Notes — our first in 2013 — we decided to take a look back at last year’s biggest stories in agriculture.

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Agriculture
10:19 am
Sat December 22, 2012

Field Notes: Drought will continue to haunt beef industry

Kevin Good talks to ranchers about the drought's impact on the beef industry at the Missouri Cattlemen's Association's 2012 convention.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

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

For this edition of Field Notes, I spoke with Kevin Good, an analyst for the agriculture research firm CattleFax, about how the ongoing drought will affect the beef industry in 2013 and 2014. Good was one of the speakers at this year's Missouri Cattlemen's Association convention.

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Agriculture
10:15 am
Mon December 17, 2012

Increasingly, Holstein beef is what’s for dinner

A registered Holstein at Brandt Dairy in Linn, Mo.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This blog is part of ongoing coverage from Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting project in the Midwest that focuses on important issues related to food production and agriculture.

When I dig into a burger, I might think about how the cow the beef came from was raised -- whether it was grass or grain fed, locally raised or imported -- but rarely do I consider what breed of cow the meat came from.

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Agriculture
10:57 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Making the case for local, fresh (if not organic) foods

Tammy Sellmeyer in one of the hoop houses of her Fulton, Mo. farm.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Tammy Sellmeyer bends to pick up a strawberry in the middle of a hoop house on the 25-acre farm she owns and operates with her husband, Greg, just south of Fulton, Mo. The Sellmeyers plant some 3,000 strawberry plants here each year and sell them at the Columbia, Mo. farmers market. This past May, they sold 400 quarts in just three hours. But two years ago, they didn't have many berries to sell at all because pests got to their crop.

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Agriculture
1:21 pm
Fri December 7, 2012

Field Notes: Have land-grant institutions lost their sense of social mission?

Chuck Hassebrook is a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. He is critical of corporate funding for research at land-grant universities.
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This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

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