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
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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