Amy Mayer

Reporter, Harvest Public Media

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also  previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amyââââ

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Mysterious Exploding Manure Has Hog Owners Worried

Researchers are still trying to determine the cause of the potentially explosive foam.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Howard Hill pulls his red Chevy pick-up truck up to a barn near Union, Iowa, that houses 1,000 of his hogs. In the truck’s bed is a 55-pound bag of Rumensin 90, a common antibacterial ingredient in cattle feed that helps reduce bloating. Pigs don’t eat it. Hill brought it here to dump into the manure pit under the hogs.

Hill is among the many Midwestern pork producers who use deep pits under their barns to accumulate manure throughout the year. In the fall, after fields are harvested, the nutrient-rich slurry gets pumped out of the pits and injected into the cropland.

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Harvest Public Media
7:43 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Congress Still Playing The Farm Bill Game

Blogger Val Wagner, who lives and works on a farm in North Dakota, says the popular Facebook game Farmville features its own farm bill.
Credit Courtesy / Val Wagner

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.

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Harvest Public Media
8:24 am
Wed August 14, 2013

My Farm Roots: Winning Respect

Danelle Myer grew up on a conventional farm, but now runs a small, local vegetable farm outside Logan, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

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.

Myer’s farm just outside Logan, Iowa, sits in the middle of true farm country. Thousands of acres of row crops make up the landscape. Her vegetable farm is almost out of place, even though Myer is a native – she grew up on her family’s conventional farm, a quarter-acre of which she has turned into One Farm.

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Agriculture
8:43 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Vilsack Urges Congress To Speed Farm Bill

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in farm country Monday continuing to push Congress to send a farm bill to President Obama’s desk.

Vilsack doesn’t consider extending the farm bill beyond the September 30 expiration a sound option.

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Harvest Public Media
7:42 am
Tue July 23, 2013

How Prairie Plants Help Restore Farmland Soil

What today is just a patch of weeds next to rows of soybeans, Watkins is confident will establish as prairie within three years. And that will help prevent nutrient runoff and soil erosion.
Credit 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.

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Harvest Public Media
5:59 am
Tue July 9, 2013

The Difficult Business Of Handing Down The Family Farm

Father and son Jim and Tom Arganbright stand in a field that Tom planted with soybeans this spring. The Arganbright family doesn’t yet have formal plans for how land ownership will transition.
Credit 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.

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Agriculture
1:01 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Picture This: Sustainability in Action

Lexicon of Sustainability founder Douglas Gayeton photographs Ames High sophomore Will Weber photographing a high tunnel at Berry Patch Farm in Nevada, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a picture embedded with lots of words worth?

Quite a lot in terms of connecting with an audience, according to Douglas Gayeton, who brought his California-based Lexicon of Sustainability project to Iowa at the end of May.

The non-profit organization, which Gayeton founded with his wife Laura Howard-Gayeton, creates large collage images of farmers and their farms overlain with text. Each collage is meant to explain some aspect of sustainability that the farmer practices.

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Harvest Public Media
7:27 am
Wed June 5, 2013

My Farm Roots: Lessons From The Farm Crisis

The fifth-generation to run his family farm, Mark Kenney says the '80s farm crisis taught him lessons for today.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

I met Mark Kenney on his family’s farm in Nevada, Iowa, when I was working on a story about farmer taxes. He turned out to be perfect for that—a farmer with a keen interest in spreadsheets.

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Agriculture
1:01 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Farmers, Feds Have Waning Support For Land Conservation Program

Iowa farmer John Berdo stands atop one of the terraces that helps control water flow on his crop fields. Terraces are one of many conservation measures Berdo employs.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

At a basin in central Iowa’s Onion Creek Watershed, Sean McCoy pulls a state truck up near a brand-new wetland. It looks like a construction zone, with lots of bare earth.

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The Salt
12:57 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Pork Producers Root Out Market Niche With Berkshire Pigs

Berkshire pigs on Happy Hula Farm, a member of the Eden Farms collective.
Amy Mayer Iowa Public Radio

Originally published on Mon April 29, 2013 2:08 pm

Raising pork can be a tough business for producers, who've lately been watching feed prices rise along with the cost of corn. That's one reason why a small but growing number of former commodity pork producers are trying their luck with specialty breeds instead. These premium pigs, raised on small farms with methods that appeal to consumers, can also fetch a premium price.

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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon April 29, 2013

How A Niche Market Saved This Farmer's Pork Business

Randy Hilleman turned his suffering pork business into an interstate collective of hog producers.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

There’s more than one way to sell a pig.

And when the hog market plunged to 8 cents a pound in 1998, Iowa producer Randy Hilleman decided it was time to make a change. Hilleman raises Berkshire pigs, a breed that’s fattier than traditional pigs and costs a little more to raise. Back then, that was hurting him.

“If we took them into Marshalltown, [Iowa] to the big packing plant, we would get docked because they’re too fat,” Hilleman said. “What they pay on is lean, and we like to have some fat on ours.”

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Agriculture
1:01 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Cagey Issues For Egg Industry

The hens in Hongwei Xin’s basement lab at Iowa State University in Ames have perches, one of the requirements of new cages proposed in an egg industry-supported federal bill.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

Mark Tjelmeland’s 700 free-range chickens lay 45 dozen eggs per day in indoor nesting boxes on his farm in McCallsburg, Iowa. The rest of the time, unless it’s too cold, they roam and peck in a fenced pasture.

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Agriculture
6:00 pm
Sun April 7, 2013

Taxing Complications For Farmers

From his farm’s headquarters in Nevada, Iowa, Mark Kenney can see his childhood home and farm. Not pictured, but also within sight, is the original piece of farmland Kenney’s great-great grandfather bought, which is still part of the operation that Kenney runs with his father and brother-in-law.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This tax season is an unusual one for farmers.

“Farmers didn’t necessarily have a great crop to harvest, but they harvested a huge amount of income last year. It was one of the biggest years, inflation-adjusted, since going back to the 1970s,” said Roger McEowen, who runs the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University.

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Agriculture
9:28 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Seed Science Pushes Toward Higher Yields

Researchers at DuPont Pioneer’s facility near Des Moines, Iowa, test these varieties of corn.
Credit 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.

“We could do a few hundred things and they do mega thousands of things,” Ambrose said.

In his day, he said, much more was done by hand—a team of five might harvest 250 plots in a day, while now “these guys that work in this place here have got huge combines that they can harvest 250 plots an hour,” he said.

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Agriculture
9:47 pm
Sun February 17, 2013

The Seeds Of Genetic Modification

Researchers at Monsanto chart the progression of a corn plant over 10 weeks: seed, immature plant, callus, early shoot, shoots, early rooting and advanced rooting. Monsanto fills growth chambers reflecting diverse climate conditions with myriad seed samples.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The vast majority of the corn and soybeans in United States grow from seeds that have been genetically modified. The technology is barely 30 years old and the controversy surrounding it somewhat younger. But how did it even become possible?

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Harvest Public Media
10:24 pm
Sun February 3, 2013

Modernizing Poultry Inspection No Easy Matter

Retired federal chicken inspector Phyllis McKelvey worked with Change.org and Whistleblower.org to gather signatures on a petition opposing the proposed new poultry slaughter rule. She delivered over 177,000 signatures to the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Washington, D.C. last fall.
Credit Photo courtesy of Whistleblower.org

Retired federal inspector Phyllis McKelvey spent 44 years looking for blemishes and other defects on chicken carcasses. She started as an inspector’s helper, worked her way up, and in 1998, became part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture trial.

“I was one of the first group of inspectors ever put on HIMP,” she said in an interview from her home in north Alabama.

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Agriculture
8:21 am
Mon October 29, 2012

Even In Farm Country, Campaigns Not Focusing On Farm Policy

Rep. Steve King and challenger Christie Vilsack at a debate Oct. 25. Even in agriculture-heavy Iowa, neither campaign has focused much on farm policy.
Clay Masters Iowa 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.

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Business
3:39 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Farmers Cautious Of Drought-Resistant Seeds

Originally published on Wed October 17, 2012 7:31 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here in the United States, the corn harvest is nearly complete. It was earlier and much smaller than in recent years, which means stockpiles are lower and prices will likely be higher. Now, while this summer's drought is largely to blame, the dry weather did offer perfect conditions to test drought-resistant corn. As Iowa Public Radio's Amy Mayer reports, seed companies and farmers are now crunching the yield numbers to see what these new varieties could mean in coming years.

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