harvest public media

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?

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The farm bill expired at the end of September and lawmakers didn’t pass a new one, thanks largely to election-year politics. Despite the partisan bickering in Washington, though, many in farm country are working together to keep their concerns on the front burner.

Drought and heat? Some farmers try hydroponics

Oct 4, 2012
Hilary Stohs-Krause / Harvest Public Media

Marv Fritz runs a 24-acre greenhouse in O’Neill, Neb., in the north-central part of the state. The 7-year-old greenhouse produces about 250,000 pounds of tomatoes a week during the height of summer.

Water resources are stretched

Oct 3, 2012
Water drop
File Photo / KBIA

Nebraska irrigates more acres of farmland than any other state in the nation. Kansas is also near the top.

And that Irrigation infrastructure came in handy this summer. A University of Nebraska Lincoln studyfound the drought could shrink corn yields by 40 percent this year in dryland fields in Iowa. But yields for irrigated corn in Nebraska may end up only 8 percent lower than expected.

“We’ve been hearing reports over 200 (bushels/acre). Probably a lot of guys are hoping for 185-200. That’d be very good,” said Gib Kelly, who traveled from the north -central Nebraska town of Page to look at the newest irrigation equipment at the annual Husker Harvest Days farm show in Grand Island, Neb.

But irrigation has its limits. There were times over the hot summer months when Mark Scott’s groundwater wells couldn’t keep up.

From pastime to passion

Sep 25, 2012
Hilary Stohs-Krause / Harvest Public Media

Aaron Troester’s life both did, and didn’t, turn out exactly the way he planned.

Sandhya Dirks / Iowa Public Radio

The presidential candidates have yet to meet in a face-to-face debate. But last week in Des Moines, Iowa, ag leaders witnessed a preview of sorts during a Presidential Forum on Agriculture held in advance of the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Drought-resistant corn faces real-life test

Sep 12, 2012
cornfield
Peter Blanchard / Flickr

The sub-par corn harvest of 2012 is coming in early, after the worst growing conditions in more than 2 decades.

“We’ve been really dry all summer," farmer Bill Simmons says. "I talked to an older gentleman some time ago that said he had taken  47 crops off of his farm and this was about the worst that he’d ever seen it."

Simmons is combining 13-hundred acres of corn on the Clan Farm outside Atlantic, Iowa. Multiple varieties were planted, but one field turned out to be especially interesting: a 300-acre section devoted to AQUAmax, a new drought-resistant product from DuPont Pioneer.

Food stamps dividing support for farm bill

Sep 11, 2012
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

With Congress going back into session, farm groups are demanding action on a new farm bill. The current law expires at the end of September. But an issue that goes beyond the farm is edging in on the debate.

cornfield
Peter Blanchard / Flickr

This week, we’ll see if there’s a connection between genetically modified food and allergies.

Clay Masters / Harvest Public Media

This week on the show, what would happen if Congress doesn’t pass a farm bill? Plus, a quick check in on the new student-oriented bus route in Columbia, that started running this week; and what it might mean for the city’s overall transit system.

Clay Masters / Harvest Public Media

Roy Pralle is an 85-year-old retired farmer from Latimer, Iowa. He spends most afternoons playing cribbage with other retired farmers at Dudley's Corner, a diner attached to a gas station in north-central Iowa.

Courtesy Jan Phillips

Ninety years ago this May, my grandfather, Ronald Merle Phillips, and his twin brother, Robert Earl, were born on a farm near Chetopa, Kan. His twin died of influenza before their second birthday, but my grandpa is still alive and well. To celebrate that fact, 150 family and friends gathered at the community center in Parsons, Kan. last month.

Sarah McCammon / Harvest Public Media

This week: North America’s largest food distributor is phasing out its use of gestation crates in pork production. Plus, a story about the drought’s impact on ranchers in the Midwest.

Sarah McCammon / Harvest Public Media

Craig Rowles grew up on an Iowa farm, and like a lot of farm kids, he’s done his share of heavy lifting.

“I know what that means to carry feed in 5-gallon buckets through the mud and through the snow and through the heat,” he said. “And I understand what it takes to try to keep animals alive in those extreme kinds of temperatures.”

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

It’s hot and dry out in western Kansas in a good year. South of Dodge City, the native grass is tough. So are the ranchers. But this year is not a good year.

My Farm Roots: Just taking notes

Aug 3, 2012
Donna Vestal / Harvest Public Media

Sometimes farm roots don’t blossom into a farm life.

But those memories can still have a huge influence, perhaps even determining a career choice.

That’s the case for Tom Karst, a soft-spoken, well-respected journalist who’s been covering the fruit and vegetable industry for more than 25 years.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

It’s not every day that a trip to the drug store can change your destiny.

For 20-year-old Nan Arnold, it was a day in 1956 in Ashland, a small, dusty dot on the open range of western Kansas near the Oklahoma border.

Nan had landed her first job as a music teacher at the Ashland school just a year before. She lived with the store’s owner because her parents thought she was too young to live alone.  

U-pick blackberry
Camille Philips / Harvest Public Media

Picking fruit, tasting wine, petting a goat, roping a cow. When customers pay for the honor of taking on such farm chores ... or delights … it’s called “agritourism.”

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

This week on the show: Harvest Public Media’s Frank Morris follows the river to show the impact of this year’s drought.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

Drought has set in early and hard across the Midwest, parching the Arkansas River basin. The river trickling out of the mountains is dry before it reaches some of the major agricultural uses downstream. And the drought is torching crops, sapping tourism and threatening supplies of drinking water.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

As the dry conditions and excessive heat continue to bear down on Missouri, Governor Jay Nixon was in Springfield Tuesday to announce emergency assistance for farmers who need access to water.

Andrea Silenzi / Harvest Public Media

This is the first installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s new series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land.

Kate Edwards hasn’t always been a farmer. No, she came back to the farm after college, grad school and a stint as an environmental engineer.

Now, she farms a small one-acre plot near Solon, Iowa. On her small farm, she feeds 30 families through a Community Supported Agriculture project, a CSA. Edwards was drawn back to farming, she says, because of family memories.

Scott Pham / KBIA

It’s going to seem like this week’s show is all about keeping cows cool, and it kind of is, but keep in mind this is a serious threat to agriculture in Missouri, and thus, the overall economy in the state.

Heat stress? Now there's a cow app for that

Jul 18, 2012
Scott Pham / KBIA

When a cow is stressed from the heat, it affects a producer’s bottom line. The animal eats less, meaning less mass in beef cattle. For dairy farmers, the hurt comes in the form of a 10 to 20 percent loss in milk. Researchers at the University of Missouri think we can change this trend by putting information in the hands of producers. They’ve built a tool that can detect the threat of heat stress in specific animals before it starts.

Hoop barns becoming more common in Midwest

Jul 18, 2012
Rick Frederickson / for Harvest Public Media

Crops are not the only things wilting in the sweltering summer of 2012; cattle, the largest animals, on the farm are also under stress.

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