harvest public media

Food companies face water risk

May 13, 2015
water faucet
Jenn Durfey / flickr

 

America’s biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.

The report cites pollution as one of the primary culprits.

Grant Gerlock

Just over a year ago, Tracy Dethlefs learned she has stage 1 breast cancer. Since then, she estimates she’s charted some 10,000 miles travelling from her farm near Loup City in central Nebraska to area hospitals for treatment. Every surgery, round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment was a road trip.

“Radiation treatments usually (take) only about 5 minutes (on) a day that they have to see you,” Dethlefs said. “But for a week, for seven weeks in a row, you’re driving every single day to the cancer treatment center. We’re about an hour away from cancer centers.”

 


United Soybean Board/Flickr

Farmers’ can anticipate a sharp drop in income this year, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In fact, the USDA predicts the $113 billion earned in 2014 will be the lowest amount of net farm income in five years. That’s equal to about a 14 percent fall from last year’s record amount, thanks mostly to a massive drop in crop prices.

Jessica Naudziunas / KBIA

Food prices are up, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t forecasting a drastic surge. In spite of price spikes in the meat aisle, grocery prices are not rising any faster than they have historically.

Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Farmers are making inroads supplying local food to hungry city foodies, but many producers are trying to grow more food inurban centers. City real estate is at a premium, so some producers are finding more space by using what’s called “vertical farming,” and going up rather than spreading out.

Growers across the country are heading indoors, using greenhouses and hydroponics – growing plants in a water and nutrient solution instead of soil and using lamps to replace sunlight. Vertical farming takes that to a new level.

beer
Ben Harris-Roxas / flickr

Few people connect craft breweries with cattle feed. But passing along the spent grains from the brewing process, like barley and wheat, to livestock ranchers is a common practice. Although now, that relationship could be in jeopardy.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Most climate models paint a bleak picture for the Great Plains a century from now: It will likely be warmer and the air will be more rich with carbon dioxide. Though scientists don’t yet know how exactly the climate will change, new studies show it could be a boon to some invasive plant species.  

A growing problem

Our Abbie Fentress Swanson (second from left) reported stories while hip-deep in water and on the road across the Midwest.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

When I was offered this job nearly two years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to move to Columbia, Mo., from Brooklyn, N.Y., to cover agriculture and food production in the Heartland.

Restaurants, schools and other big buyers are looking for local food year-round.  And many of them are connecting with small farms on the Internet.  But not all local producers are on the cutting edge… or even on the power grid.  Harvest Public Media’s Peter Gray reports on a community of Amish in Illinois, as they work out how to merge tradition with technology to sell the food they grow.

Bob Hartzler / Iowa State University

New herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans are a step closer to reaching farm fields in the U.S. They would help farmers control weeds that are no longer killed by the popular herbicide, Roundup.

Roundup resistant crops dominate corn, soybean and cotton production in the U.S. But the list of weeds that have evolved to withstand Roundup is growing, and as a result, farmers are using more chemicals to keep up.

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.

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris, South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

Grant Gerlock / 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.

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

Flickr / Natalie Maynor

Walk into a grocery store these days and you’re likely to find whole sections devoted to organic foods. The organic label gives insight into how the food was produced, usually without the aid of synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and food additives.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This is the 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.

 

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

 

While doing research for the Harvest Public Media series “In the Shadows of the Slaughterhouse,” reporters Abbie Fentress Swanson and Peggy Lowe called roughly two dozen institutions to get statistics about the children of immigrant and refugee workers at American meatpacking plants. Swanson said she called federal agencies, researchers, unions, and immigration advocacy groups. But she couldn't find anyone who kept data on how many of these children live in the U.S., not to mention their health, education or economic status.

“They’re not on anyone’s radar,” Swanson said. “They’re not being tracked or followed, they’re kind of an invisible population in this country.”

My Farm Roots: Providing from the land

Sep 25, 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.

My Farm Roots: Always a farmer

Sep 18, 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.

In 1986, Becky Doyle was helping her husband run the family’s hog farming operation. She also had a sidelight business of marketing gift baskets made from Illinois products. But that wasn’t enough: Doyle decided she would make a run for the Illinois House.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Hog producers and their veterinarians have a new tool to help with the fight against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV). 

The first cases of the fast-spreading disease in the United States were confirmed last spring, prompting researchers to leap into action. At this point, PEDV has been confirmed on nearly 600 farms in 17 states.

courtesy of Zynga

 

The farm bill is, once again, entering a critical stretch. As was the case last year, the current law expires at the end of September. There’s no election to dissuade elected officials from tackling the major piece of agriculture and nutrition policy—but Congress does have a pretty full plate, with the crisis in Syria, immigration reform and a measure to continue funding federal government programs all set to come to a head.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

  

When a new disease — known as PEDV —turned up in the U.S. hog industry in May and threatened to kill whole litters of piglets, the National Pork Board quickly responded with $450,000 in research funding.

My Farm Roots: Looking back fondly

Sep 4, 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.

More than once while I was listening to Paul Horel's stories about farm life in Iowa, I felt like I was at a family reunion. With his glasses and balding head, mild Midwestern accent, and talk about plowing and politics, he could easily have been my uncle.  

Jacob McCleland / KRCU

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt was in Missouri on Thursday to promote legislation that would reduce the number of so-called "boutique" fuels.

Under the Clean Air Act, different cities use different blends of fuel. Blunt's bill reduces the number of boutique fuels and broadens the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to give a waiver to a city to use whichever fuel they want in times of supply disruption.

At gas station in Cape Girardeau, the Republican Senator says before the Clean Air Act, the refineries were not the profit centers of the oil industry.

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.

Amy Konishi says when her obituary is written it’ll read, “All she knew was work.”

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.”

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.

Produce aisle of grocery store
File Photo / KBIA

Walk down a grocery store aisle or open a restaurant menu.

Gluten-free labels are everywhere.

Gluten is a starchy protein compound found in products made from wheat, barley and rye. It’s what gives dough a chewy texture. But up until this point, there has been little oversight on what qualifies as gluten-free and what doesn’t.

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, even in the fertile Midwest. Some experts warn that if degradation continues unchecked, topsoil could be gone in 60 years—with implications for agriculture and the broader environment. Farmers feel the pressure of feeding a growing global population and protecting the soil necessary to do that—all while operating a viable business.  Harvest Public Media considers two possible ways to improve the soil. The first--planting strips of prairie grass alongside farm fields. Amy Mayer reports.

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. 

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is continuing to push Congress to send a farm bill to President Obama’s desk. And he says dwindling farmer numbers mean coupling agricultural policy with nutrition programs is essential.

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