harvest public media

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.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. House passed its version of farm bill legislation Thursday. The revamped bill strips out funding for food aid and deals only with farm policy, exposing a hefty rift in decades-old alliances between urban and rural legislators and between food aid and farm policy interests.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Hog farmers across the Midwest are battling a new virus this summer. It’s often fatal in very young piglets, and researchers are still trying to explain the outbreak.

Since mid-May, when Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus or PEDV was first identified in this country, it has spread quickly, turning up in 15 states. Over 218 pigs have been diagnosed.

Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we'll discuss ag runoff and community supported agriculture.

chickens
Grace Hood / Harvest Public Media

 

Last year, one of the country’s largest Community Supported Agriculture share providers went bankrupt. Grant Family Farms in Northern Colorado launched an organic CSA back in 2007 with 127 members and peaked with more than 5,000 in 2012.

Potato industry banks on 'Linda'

Apr 25, 2013
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

At a Fort Collins, Colo., grocery store, Kristin Mastre paused for a minute in front a large bin of Russet and red potatoes. She picked out a few handfuls and continued on, her two boys, Carter, 4, and Logan, 7, in tow.

Every week, KBIA's Health & Wealth Desk curates the week's most interesting (or so we think) articles and reports on rural health, wealth and society issues. 

Rural post offices in crisis

Every Friday, KBIA’s Health and Wealth Desk curates the week’s most interesting (or so we think) articles and reports on rural health, wealth and society issues.

Osteopathic Physicians: An Answer To Rural Health Care Needs?

It’s no secret the U.S. is facing a shortage of primary care physicians – especially in rural areas, which is home to some 20 percent of all Americans, but only has 9 percent of all physicians. Compared to specialized medicine such as surgery and cardiology, primary care does not pay as well – and the average student loan debt for med school graduates is $161,290. Only about 24 percent of MD graduates lean to primary care. That’s not the case with recent osteopathic medicine graduates, though.  

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Marilyn Andersen raises angora goats and llamas for wool that she spins and weaves in her studio at Two Cedars Weaving in Story City, Iowa. She also has a part-time job coordinating distribution of local produce through a service called Farm to Folk. Neither effort comes with health insurance.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

At an open house at DuPont Pioneer’s Dallas Center Corn Research Center near Des Moines, Iowa, retired corn breeder Bill Ambrose marveled at the tools available today to do the job he did for nearly 40 years.

Generic seeds could have a short lifespan

Feb 22, 2013
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The patent rights on the first genetically modified seeds expire next year, but it’s not clear how the introduction of “generic” seeds fits into the science and business of GM crops.

Drought takes head start into 2013

Jan 24, 2013
Lance Cheung / USDA

 

2012 was a drought year for the record books. It was the warmest year ever recorded in Des Moines, IowaTopeka, Kan., and Columbia, Mo. and the driest ever in Grand Island, Neb. The question is whether 2013 will be any different.

Money
File Photo / KBIA

Did you feel that pullback January 1st? That was Congress finally passing a compromise bill to prevent the country from careening off the fiscal cliff. In the early hours of 2013, the Senate passed the bill. And much later that day, the House passed it.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

This story on the American beef industry is part of a special reporting series from Harvest Public Media. Check out the rest of their stories at harvestpublicmedia.org.

When Allen Berry brought his 11 yearlings to the Green City Livestock Market in central Missouri last month, he paid into a fund that at first blush, seems a bargain.

Courtesy Ken Terpenning

On this week’s show, we’ll hear about problematic US horsemeat showing up in Europe, and hear from one researcher about ways to convince people to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Drugged-up horsemeat (from U.S.) showing up in Europe

Dec 20, 2012
Courtesy Ken Terpenning

 

Silky Shark was a beautiful animal and a successful race horse. Over the course of his career he earned over $100,000 for his Kentucky owner. But Silky Shark ended up as meat on someone’s plate – most probably somewhere in Europe.

Silky Shark’s story isn’t unusual. Over 100,000 American horses – race horses, ranch horses, teaching stable horses - are eaten abroad every year.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On this week's show, we’ll hear about changes in the ethanol industry and talk to the recipient of a prestigious science fellowship.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

About a decade ago, concerns about energy independence, greenhouse gas emissions and the need to boost rural economies led Congress to launch policies in support of biofuels  – corn ethanol, most notably. But the idea was that eventually more U.S.-produced fuel would be cellulosic – derived from corn residue, wheat straw or other biomass.

In the ag census even the smallest farms count

Nov 29, 2012
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture updates its ag census every five years and is preparing to send farmers new surveys in December. One trend to watch is the growing number of small farms. They are easy to miss and some would rather not be counted.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The United States is the world’s leading producer and exporter of corn, which is used as livestock feed to support the increasing demand for meat in China, India and other countries with growing middle classes.

Dust Bowl memories offer present warning

Nov 15, 2012
Photo courtesy kansasmemory.org, Kansas Historical Society

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s left an indelible mark on the Midwest and on history. It is the drought against which all others are measured. And it was a man-made disaster that could still offer lessons today.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Beyond subsidies and food stamps, what’s in the farm bill?

With the election over, lawmakers are now returning to Washington for the final weeks of the 112th Congress. Their schedule is packed, but House majority leader Eric Cantorhas said addressing the expired Farm Bill is on the agenda.

Elana Gordon / Harvest Public Media

In recent years, there has been a concerted push at the local and national levels to make healthy food more widely available, particularly in low-income areas. This is one focus of Food Day, which food groups and advocates celebrated across the U.S Wednesday. But while programs and systems are gradually putting fresh food front and center, changing eating habits can be even more complicated.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

When Congress recessed for the election season without passing a new farm bill, many observers thought farmers would demand explanations as campaign trails blazed through small towns. But despite its importance in farm country, the farm bill and farm policy are largely being overshadowed by other campaign issues.

Slimmer school lunches struggle to fit in

Oct 25, 2012
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Lunch is served in a small gymnasium that doubles as the cafeteria at Elmwood-Murdock High School, a small, rural school in eastern Nebraska. After the period bell rings, a line quickly forms at the service window where trays are loaded with fish patties on whole wheat buns and small piles of curly fries.

With the emphasis on small.

Because at Elmwood-Murdock, like at other schools across the country, students this year have been put on a new diet.

roundup resistance
Bob Hartzler / Iowa State University

Farmers and weeds are in a constant competition.

But with Monsanto’s introduction of Roundup herbicide and genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops in the mid-1990s, farmers gained a clear edge. The seeds, which were able to tolerate the herbicide, were adopted quickly. By 2011, more than 90 percent of soybeans and cotton, and more than 70 percent of corn were planted with Roundup Ready seeds.

Fighting for food

Oct 24, 2012
Produce aisle of grocery store
File Photo / KBIA

When it comes to the business of food, there’s a rivalry around every corner. You’ve got fights for prime farmland, wars over water use, even buying food at the grocery store has its competition with household bills encroaching on family budgets for the shopping list.

Kristofor Husted / KBIA

In the parched, rolling hills of western Missouri, you might expect to see a desolate scene after this summer’s drought. But in this field, hip-high native grass sways across the landscape like seaweed in the ocean.

Wayne Vassar is growing these native plants for biofuel.

“They’ve had corn or soy on (this land) in the past,” he said, “and what’s happened was when you have these kinds of slope it erodes pretty rapidly and you lose a lot of your fertility as the top soil goes down the hill.”

Farmland experts call this kind of land “marginal land.” The hills make it difficult for the soil to hold onto the topsoil nutrients. And along the rivers and other flood plains, frequent flooding can deprive plants the oxygen they need to survive. It all adds up to an estimated 116 million acres in the central U.S.

Land like this might only produce a profitable harvest with traditional crops, like corn or soybeans, once or twice every five years. That’s quite a financial risk for farmers. So how can farmers avoid that risk factor and make sure such soils provide a consistent economic return?

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