Agriculture

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This spring and summer, U.S. Geological Survey scientists waded into 100 Midwest streams to test for hundreds of chemicals used in farming, including nutrients, pesticides like atrazine and glyphosate, and livestock hormones. The results from the study are trickling in. But preliminary findings indicate that from May through early July, 21 percent of the region’s streams contained very high levels of nitrogen in the form of nitrates.

Wes Agresta / Argonne National Laboratory

A project to use a giant grass for a biofuel is back on the drawing board after several problems arose during a test burn.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The future of agriculture across the Great Plains hinges on water. Without it, nothing can grow.

My Farm Roots: Wings

Aug 21, 2013

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Kelly Hagler, 25, is among the millions of young people who have left rural communities for the bright lights of the city, in this case Chicago.

But Hagler has not left completely.

Here’s what she told us last year when we asked people to share their “My Farm Roots” stories through the Harvest Network:

“The drought and fear of not making contract yields, mixed with the pressure of new house expenses, is aging my already Old Man,” she wrote. “It's also so strange to be detached from them. It's something that few other non-farming families have to deal with: The guilt of leaving behind older parents to work the farm, all because you're trying to make your own living where more opportunities exist.”

Even though farm income only saw a slight increase between the second quarters of 2012 and 2013, there continued to be a rapid rise in the value of farmland, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which surveyed agricultural banks in parts of seven Midwestern states, including Missouri and Illinois. 

Kevin Kliesen, business economist and research officer with the Fed in St. Louis, says there’s anecdotal reports that some of the money is coming from big, institutional, including foreign, investors.

It’s August. The days are growing shorter, fall is approaching, but summer isn’t done just yet. All over the country folks are flocking to that ultimate summer tradition: the state fair.

Carnival rides and games, meat on a stick, livestock competitions – the Midwest does state fairs up right. And for many, summer in the Midwest isn't complete without a trip to the state fair. For others, a virtual visit will have to do.

USDA

The University of Missouri Extension is warning that recent wet weather increases the chances of diseases developing in corn and soybeans.

Agronomy specialist Jill Scheidt says rain carries funguses in the air, making it easier for the funguses to spread. She says diseases like rust, gray leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight, brown spot, crazy top and stalk and ear rots develop best in wet and humid conditions.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

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

A Midwestern farmer with a well-known last name has set out to fight hunger on a global scale. 

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

Two Republican members of Missouri's Congressional delegation were at the State Fair Thursday, calling on Congress to pass a new federal farm bill, instead of extending the farm bill passed in 2008 by another year.  U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and Congressmember Vicky Hartzler told Missouri Farm Bureau members and the media that the hold-up centers on how much money to spend on food stamps.  The GOP-led U.S. House voted to cut the food stamp program, now known as SNAP, by $20 billion.  The Democratic-controlled U.S.

Farmers battle thistle invading crops, pasture

Aug 15, 2013
Jennifer Davidson / KSMU

Last fall, after the drought had killed off most of the competition, a certain weed took advantage of the opportunity to germinate and flourish. And now, the thistle is hurting productivity on many Missouri farms.

No summer siesta for school gardens

Aug 15, 2013
Payne Roberts / Harvest Public Media

School gardens offer educators a chance to teach students about math and science through the hands-on experience of growing fruits and vegetables. But as these educational projects grow in popularity, they present unique challenges to teachers and communities — particularly in the summer.

Harum Helmy / KBIA News

This week for the show, I went to the Missouri State Fair and all you’re getting is this audio postcard.

First, I talked to Marlys Peck, who, along with her family, has been selling corn dogs at the fair for more than 41 years. Every year, Peck and her parents spend the state-fair week under the same tree near the historic Womens Building. 

Legislators not giving up hope for farm bill

Aug 14, 2013
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With Congress in its August recess, the farm bill is stalled and many are pessimistic about getting a new bill passed before the current extension expires on Sept. 30. Still, farm country legislators aren’t exactly giving up hope.

Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was asked about the farm bill at a town hall style meeting in in his district this week.
He said that he thinks the most likely outcome is that the House will pass a “food stamp bill,” to go along with a agriculture portion it passed in June. That could put the farm bill back on track.

Watch the show and join the conversation on the Intersection website.

Comprehensive immigration reform is critical to sustaining the Midwest’s role as a global leader in agriculture.

That’s the message from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Vilsack told St. Louis Public Radio today that moving forward with the immigration reform plan recently passed by the U.S. Senate is key to retaining international talent that comes to this country to study in the plant sciences.

Luke Runyon/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 Luke Runyon spoke with Allan Savory, an activist and environmentalist who created a grazing practice known as “holistic management.”

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

It doesn’t come as a major surprise that agricultural runoff is doing more harm than good to the environment. Agriculture is the nation’s leading cause of impaired water quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Storms move pesticides, nutrients and sediment from farmers’ fields to nearby waterways. These will ultimately end up in the Gulf of Mexico where they can threaten aquatic life.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

While the farming community continues to age fewer young people are filling the ranks, prompting the question: Do young people even want to farm anymore?

The quick answer is yes, just not in the same numbers as they used to. And surveys indicate many of them don’t want to farm in conventional ways.

A civic lesson for rural towns

Aug 8, 2013
Creative Commons

It’s hard not to use the phrase “quintessential small town” when you describe Pittsfield, Ill. 

The western Illinois community of 4,500 people has a picturesque downtown square with an historic courthouse sitting in the center.  The small city is the county seat of Pike County and for many years has called itself the Pork Capital of the World in homage to an important sector of farming in this region.   Every year the town holds a two day festival known as “Pig Days,” which, true to its name, features pig tail and hog calling contests.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Driving out of the western Iowa town of Panora, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

Though Jim Arganbright farmed here his whole life, three years ago at the age of 80 he started renting his cropland to his son Tom, the only one of his children who farms full-time. Now, all Jim Arganbright has to worry about is the livestock — and he doesn’t have too much of that.

Retirement? Not on the farm

Aug 7, 2013
Ray Meints for NET News

Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days. In 2012, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was beyond retirement age. But farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census 25 percent of all farm operators were over 65 years old.

Why do farmers keep working? For one thing, modern machinery makes it easier to work longer.

“It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

Courtesy of glutenfreewilltravel.com

Try walking down a grocery aisle or opening a restaurant menu without stumbling upon foods with claims that they’re “gluten-free.”

Up until now, you basically had to take the manufacturer or chef at their word. There was no widely accepted definition of what makes a food “gluten-free.”

That changed last week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its new standard for food producers that want to label their goods as being without gluten.

Cows
File Photo / KBIA

Springfield-area residents can now dine on beef raised at Missouri State University's cattle ranch.

The meat from the school's 3,300-acre working cattle ranch went on sale Friday at a specialty meats store in Springfield.

Missouri State President Clif Smart says the move is intended to help students understand the retail side of animal production.

Credit: DanBruell/Flickr

The nation’s poultry industry exported a record 8.1 billion pounds of chicken last year, according to the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. But a recent decision from the World Trade Organization in the latest skirmish between the US and China could drive up that number dramatically. It’s the latest volley in the export battle between the world’s top two economic superpowers.

Mike Odette, chef and co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant, finds beets and turnips that will make tasty refrigerator pickles at the Columbia, Mo. farmers market.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Most Saturdays, Chef Mike Odette, who is co-owner of Sycamore Restaurant in Columbia, Mo., is talking to farmers and customers at the farmers market and searching for food to work into his next menu. Odette makes a point of getting the best local, seasonal food that he can for Sycamore, which is one of the most popular restaurants in town. But today, his mission is a little different.

“We're looking for some veggies that would make good slaw to take on a picnic, and some veggies that would make good refrigerator pickles,” he says.

Grace Hood / KUNC

When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn’t take long for accusations about how it ended up there to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm RootsHarvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.
  

Trent Johnson didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was always enamored with the cowboy lifestyle.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The world’s soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. To make sure that doesn’t happen, researchers are testing out innovative ways to keep moisture in the soil.

In eastern Colorado, one way could be in the plodding hooves of cattle.

Conventional wisdom tells you, if ranchland ground has less grass, the problem is too many cows. But that’s not always the case. It depends on how you manage them, if you make sure they keep moving.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The world’s soil is in trouble, even in the fertile Midwest. Some experts warn that if degradation continues unchecked, topsoil could be gone in 60 years. That has implications for agriculture and the broader environment.

My Farm Roots: A song in her heart

Jul 24, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

This is an installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Jackie Dougan Jackson keeps a pretty thorough log of her life. The 85-year-old retired college professor lives in Springfield, Ill., and has lived there for more than 40 years. However, she has devoted a lot of time to her first 22 years, when she lived on a family farm near Beloit, Wisc.

Jackson has written a couple of books of what she calls “creative nonfiction,” which she calls the “Round Barn” series, based on a distinctive feature on the family farmstead.  In those books she relates tales from the farm life of her childhood, from her “grama’s” depression to tall tales told at the dinner table.

“I feel as if I’m a native Turtle Township, (Wis.,) person,” Jackson said. “I began collecting stories (about the farm) actively in 1967, I have them in handwriting and transcribed.  I’ve been writing about farming in Wisconsin from 1900-1972”.

Jackson’ family owned both a dairy farm, starting in 1911, and then got into growing seed corn when hybrid corn was developed in the 1930s.

Along with saving stories from the past, she keeps items from the past as well. She is glad to show you a milk bottle and a milk cap from Dougan’s Dairy, her father’s early-century operation, which eventually closed as home delivery phased out.  She can also display a bag of Dougan’s Hybrid Corn from the old days when seed corn was groundbreaking ag technology. 

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