Ongoing Coverage:

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
9:51 am
Tue October 16, 2012

The struggle to trace produce from farm to table

The 62-year-old trucker Del Smith has survived rodeos, Vietnam and an industrial accident in Texas. But he never expected he'd meet his next brush with death in this very truck by eating a cantaloupe he bought in July at an Illinois farm stand.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

When he’s on the road, Del Smith’s home is his blue-and-silver 18-wheeler. The tidy cab has everything that Smith, who is a slight mustachioed man, needs for a long haul: a fridge for his iced tea, a bunk made with a blanket decorated with cowboy boots, a first-aid kit. In his 62 years of life, Smith’s survived near-death experiences riding rodeo, flying helicopters in Vietnam and, most recently, an industrial accident in Texas. He never thought his next brush with death would take place right here in his truck, after buying a cantaloupe in July from a Byron, Ill., farm stand.

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Agriculture
3:17 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Rediscovering my family farm

My dad, Mike Swanson, gets his first combine ride from our cousin, Darwin Swanson, during soybean harvest.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This past weekend, for the first time in 25 years, my dad and I visited our family’s farm in Woodhull, Ill.

By family, I mean extended family. Brothers Doug and Darwin Swanson — my dad’s first cousins — run the farm, which got its start with land bought in 1890 by my great-great grandfather, Swan Swanson, when he moved to Illinois from Sweden.

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Agriculture
5:37 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Mud and Moonscape: Missouri towns struggle with flood recovery

"It is pure sand dunes," Atchison County Sheriff Dennis Martin said, of Corning, Mo. land still covered with sand a year after surging Missouri River waters receded. "Before the weeds started growing up, it looked like the moon."
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Back in April, Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock headed to Tekamah, Neb., to see how planting was going for farmers on the Missouri River floodplain. The river's surging waters put thousands of farm acres in Nebraska under water last summer, causing more than $100 million in crop losses in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

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Agriculture
5:50 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Here's the short story on cow tails

Scott Poock, veterinarian for the University of Missouri Extension, demonstrates an alternative to cow tail docking at Foremost Dairy: trimming the switch off of a cow's tail.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Many people who haven’t stepped foot on a dairy might think milking a cow is a sort of Emersonian back-to-the land moment, where a milker bonds with his or her cow while communing with nature. Just milk her for a while and voilà: fresh, creamy milk. But the truth is, milking can be a very dirty job.

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Field Notes
4:22 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Talking science, decision-making and the Green Revolution with Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. speaks to a group on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Field Notes is a regular feature by Harvest Public Media, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

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Agriculture
1:29 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Help us map out the drought in the Midwest

The nation’s worst drought in decades moved Harvest Public Media to look at how the drought is affecting livestock producers just starting out in the business.
Map by Abbie Fentress Swanson (Harvest Public Media). Data submitted by farmers and livestock producers through the Public Insight Network.

Parts of the Midwest got a reprieve from the drought this week, according to the latest US Drought Monitor report released on Thursday. The report found that last weekend’s cold front brought up to five inches of rain to southeastern Missouri, eastern Illinois and central Indiana.

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Science, Health and Technology
4:04 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Indiana farm linked to contaminated cantaloupe also recalls watermelons

In the produce section of the Schnucks grocery store in Columbia, Mo., the store posted a statement about the watermelon recall on a box of non-recalled watermelons. (Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media)
Abbie Fentress Swanson Harvest Public Media

The Indiana farm that recalled cantaloupes linked to a Salmonella outbreak that has killed two and sickened 204 is now recalling its watermelons. Chamberlain Farms issued the voluntary recall because the melons could be contaminated with Salmonella Newport.

Foodborne illness is always a danger for farmers, grocery stores and customers alike.

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Agriculture
10:05 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Even after Hurricane Isaac, some Midwest farmers mired in drought

Hurricane Issac in Wisconsin.
MaryLouiseEklund/flickr

Heavy rains from Hurricane Isaac provided relief to some – but not all – farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken Midwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report, which came out on Thursday.

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Prime
2:03 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

A pitch for getting more ranchers to produce higher-quality beef

Consumers are willing to pay more for prime grade steaks than they have in the past. Production hasn’t kept up with demand, which could mean more money in cow-calf producers’ pockets.
Adam Kuban/flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/slice/482963344/

As part of a new project called “Quality Beef by the Numbers,”  the University of Missouri is hoping to get more cow-calf operators in Missouri and neighboring states to produce higher-quality beef from their herds. The university says the move, announced in Columbia, Mo., last week, will make ranchers more money.

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Agriculture
1:16 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Longhorns, bluegrass and corn combining at the Farm Progress Show [Slideshow]

This 10-year-old Watusi steer named Stevie, who is owned by Garland Ranch, was on view at the Farm Progress Show. Stevie has horns that span more than five feet.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Thousands of farmers from the heartland braved the 97-degree heat in Boone, Iowa on Wednesday for the 2012 Farm Progress Show.

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Agriculture
3:05 pm
Mon August 27, 2012

Drought could edge livestock producers out of business

Alfred Brandt says he will have to pay $100,000 in out-of-pocket feed costs to get his 150 Holstein cows fed through next spring.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Brandt Dairy sits on Swan Creek at the end of a meandering gravel road in Linn, Missouri. The farm is bucolic with its twin silos, red barn and black-and-white Holstein cows. But the brown pastures, dry river bed and burnt corn fields are a reminder that there have been less than two inches of rain here in the last two months.

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Agriculture
4:22 pm
Sun August 19, 2012

Elected officials talk farm policy on the campaign trail

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill made a campaign stop at a massive granary and fertilizer distributor on the banks of the Missouri River as part of her six-day "Fighting for our Farmers" tour.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Thirty-five farmers and agricultural workers applauded at the site of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s big blue RV pulling up to the back of AGRI Services on Wednesday. The campaign stop at the massive granary and fertilizer distributor on the banks of the Missouri River in Brunswick, Mo. is part of the Democratic incumbent senator’s "Fighting for our Farmers" project.

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Field Notes

Field Notes is an opportunity for the Harvest Public Media team to dig even deeper into our coverage of food production through additional interviews, on-site reporting and audience feedback.  Each segment is produced and hosted by Abbie Fentress Swanson, at KBIA News in Columbia, MO.

More from Harvest Public Media here

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