Many communities don't have regular access to affordable nutritious food products. Residents of these food deserts, whether rural or urban, struggle to find ways to put food on the table and many are wary of a public health crisis.

By Jessica Naudziunas.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

It only took a few hours for Onaga to turn into a food desert.

When this northeast Kansas town’s only grocery store burned down last December, its 700 residents suddenly faced a 25-mile trip for fresh food.

By  Sylvia Maria Gross.

Tony the Misfit / Flickr

When farmers gather in New York City it's usually to peddle gorgeous heirloom tomatoes or sweet colorful peppers to bankers rushing toward the Subway. But this weekend, the Occupy Wall Street movement hopes farmers will take center stage.


Last month I took a tour of my wife’s grandparent’s new home in the western Minnesota town of Chokio, population around 400. I carried my 1-year-old daughter across the concrete floors and through the dry-walled rooms. The house is on the edge of town, near their church, behind the grain co-op. Their excitement was reserved.  Rightfully so: They recently sold their farmland — though it was for more money than they ever thought they’d get for it.

By Clay Masters.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Despite its theoretical absence of color, circles of white cotton added a splash to the varying shades of brown covering the fields of southwest Kansas on a recent mid-October afternoon.

By Eric Durban.

It’s harvest time, when the fruits of labor bloom. When it comes to cotton, the fruit literally comes to bear.

After a couple of rains in the area messed up my plans to join the cotton harvest, the ground finally dried up and I hopped into the cotton stripper with farmer Tom Leahy to make the slow trek around his Stevens County, Kan., cotton fields. 

Dwight Sipler / Flickr

We’ve got a bit of dead time, here at the end of 2011, before work starts in earnest again on the 2012 Farm Bill.

By Peggy Lowe.


The world’s largest seed company may be seeing some resistance to one of its product by a very small pest.

By Peggy Lowe.

gnuru / Flickr

Outlawing the slaughter of horses may not sound like a bad thing. But for farmers and the animals, the consequences of such a ban in the U..S. have been far-reaching and complicated.

Iowa Public Radio

The Maytags, one of Iowa’s most famous pioneer families, are at it again.

But this time, they’re ignoring modern technology. And the surprising product is … popcorn.

Jessica Naudziunas / Harvest Public Media

According to a study from the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, Americans consume a lot of meat, and the quality of the meat products is directly linked to animal feeding management. So, if you’re an average eater who chows down on over six ounces of meat daily, consider checking out the nutrition content on the animal feed label.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media


The constant barrage of nutrition messages is so confusing it makes me want to go on a BBQ-potato-chip bender.

So when Harvest reporter Jessica Naudziunas pitched a story on those nutritional scores in grocery stores, I listened.    

Blue Bunny Ice Cream / Flickr

What does it take for a food product to be labeled "Natural"?

Not much, it seems.

While that big "Natural" label on a package of meat has nothing to do with how an animal was raised, it at least has a definition: "minimally processed with no artificial ingredients.”  When "Natural" shows up on other food products -- everything from granola bars to dressings, and even soda --   the meaning is less certain.

Hilary Stohs-Krause / NET

Two roads diverge in the U.S. beef industry. Americans are buying more alternatively raised meat — organic, natural, grass-fed and the like – but most large-scale cattle producers in the Midwest are not cashing in on the trend.

By Clay Masters.

Eric Durban / Harvest Pubic Media

Efficiency is the name of the game these days in agriculture: conserving money, time and manpower. But taking the farmer out of the tractor? Though it sounds like something out of a science fiction cartoon, it may be coming.

A robot tractor doesn’t quite have the same allure as the Jetsons’ flying car, but it’s likely to be more practical for everyone involved.

By Eric Durban.

Agricultural land value continues to soaring in the Midwest, according to two new surveys released by the Kansas City and Chicago Federal Reserves.

Nebraska has experienced exceptionally strong gains due to bumper crops, with a roughly 40 percent rise in farmland prices from one year ago, CNN Money reported.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report says sales of "local foods," whether sold direct to consumers at farmers markets or through intermediaries such as grocers or restaurants, amounted to $4.8 billion in 2008. That's a number several times greater than earlier estimates, and the department predicts locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales this year, The Associated Press reported.

While there's plenty of evidence local food sales have been growing, it has been hard to say by how much because governments, companies, consumers and food markets disagree on what qualifies as local.(Check out Harvest Public Media's reporting on this.)

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

At a grocery store in Ames, Iowa, Lavern Ackerman peered at a package of ground beef.  He was mostly interested in the percent leanness, but he took a stab at deciphering what the big "Natural" sticker on the package meant.

"I thought it was that they just grass-raised them," Ackerman said.

Governor Jay Nixon told reporters during a press event at a Callaway County farm along the Missouri that farmlands damaged by both high water releases and levee demolition must be restored

That is, at least, better than their counterparts without an agriculture focus.

The Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis this fall reported that agriculture banks, like Zions Agricultural Finance in Ames, Iowa, have outperformed community banks that depend on clients who are employed outside of the farm sector.  A bank is defined as an agriculture bank if the combined agricultural production and farmland loans account for 25 percent or more of its total loans.

Kansas Department of Agriculture (2009)


Most farmers in western Kansas can’t just look to the skies for water to nourish their crops -- they have to dig down to the Ogallala Aquifer to supplement Mother Nature. They use an impressive amount of water, with irrigation often accounting for 85 percent of the water used in the entire state.


Phillip Brasher, reporter for the Des Moines Register, reports that the failure of the congressional super committee to come up with a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit throws in doubt the future of federal crop subsidies after next year.

The package of agriculture and food policy that's called the farm bill is reauthorized by Congress every five years. This year, however, things are a bit different for this historically lengthy and debate-rich process. The federal budget deficit that's been hanging around for months has pushed the farm bill into overdrive, and the legislation is now on the fast track straight to the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, otherwise known as the super committee.

Photo by cwwycoff1 / Flickr

By Kathleen Masterson (Harvest Public Media)

Climate change is already affecting Midwestern climate and state and local governments should start doing something about it, prominent Iowa scientists urged Tuesday. Thirty-one scientists from colleges and universities across the state signed apetition that advocates for action on climate change.

By Clay Masters (Harvest Public Media)

The Obama Administration announced yesterday that the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has been delayed until after the 2012 presidential election. Some say that’s convenient since environmental groups have used the construction of the pipeline as a test of the president’s environmental commitment.

kdemerly / Flickr

By Kathleen Masterson (Harvest Public Media)

Running a successful farm business relies on hard work, good soil and seeds and, most of all, weather. So it makes sense that many farmers have real concerns about climate change. 

Sarah Cady / Flickr

By Jeremy Bernfeld (Harvest Public Media)

Some organic farmers don’t want to have their products labeled Certified Organic. For them, the Certified Organic label doesn’t go far enough. They want to go Beyond Organic.

Photo by William Powers / Harvest Network

Despite this being harvest season, I’ve been pestering farmers with theoretical questions about food and agriculture labels.

Here’s something I’ve learned: If there’s one thing to guarantee a lengthy conversation with an ag-minded person, regardless of his or her crop harvesting schedule, it might be on the farm labels.

I’ve also learned that there comes a point when slapping a pithy saying on an agricultural method is a detriment to understanding just how a farmer does his job.

Bill Kelly / NET Radio

By Jeremy Bernfeld (Harvest Public Media)


WANTED: A dedicated worker familiar with intense physical labor. Must possess the ability to organize, anticipate pitfalls and plan ahead. Only those comfortable with individual responsibility and leadership skills need apply.

A want-ad for a farmer or a member of the military? 

Rastoney / Flickr

By Kathleen Masterson (Harvest Public Media)

Far too many tax dollars are going directly into the pockets of private crop insurers, according to  a new report from a noted economist who helped design the government’s initial revenue crop insurance program in the 1990s.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Eric Durban (Harvest Public Media)

As the local food movement continues to gain steam, many Americans are becoming more and more familiar with their dinner’s origins. But food consumers aren’t just learning about food production at local farmer’s markets, many are getting educated on today's great connector: social media.