Kathleen Masterson

Kathleen Masterson was Harvest Public Media’s reporter based at Iowa Public Radio in Ames, Iowa. At Bowdoin College in Maine, Kathleen studied English and Environmental Studies and was torn as to which one she’d have to “choose” when finding a job. She taught high school English for a few years, and then swung back to science when she traveled to rural Argentina to work on a bird research project. She returned home to study science journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduate school she went on to work as digital producer for NPR’s science desk before joining Harvest.

This November, voters in California will decide whether the state should require labels on foods with genetically engineered ingredients. If the initiative, known as Proposition 37, passes, manufacturers would have to say somewhere on the front or the back of the food's packaging if the product contains or may contain genetically engineered ingredients.

California is known as the land of fruits and nuts, but it also happens to be the country's largest milk-producing state. So it's no surprise that its dairy farmers are front and center in the debate over reforming the milk marketing system, which hasn't really changed much in 30 years.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Sioux County, in northwest Iowa, is known for its Dutch pastries. The landscape is dotted with Lutheran and reform churches.  But today, Catholic churches and tortillerias are creeping into the landscape — signs of the new residents joining this vibrant community.

A worker at Dixon Ridge Walnuts in Lodi, Calif., prunes a tree.
Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

No matter your personal opinion on the subject, talk of climate usually conjures up images of warming, floods and rising sea levels.  Those are the ecological changes predicted from coast to coast.

After a series of videos revealing apparent cruel treatment of farm animals went viral, Iowa has made it a crime for people to misrepresent themselves to gain access to a farm. The so-called "Ag-Gag" law targets undercover animal rights activists who secretly take videos. Farmers say they need the legal protection to block those trying to take down agriculture, but critics ask what the industry may be hiding.



American farmers depend on the commodities market. The smallest change in the price of grain can increase their profit, or wipe it out. Corn farmers have done well in recent years, and some are using the cash in an effort to make themselves into players on the commodities market. They're investing in big grain bins, allowing them to hold on to their harvest until they get the price they want. Harvest Public Media's Kathleen Masterson reports.

Farmanac / Flickr.com

Throwing food scraps to hogs and other farm animals is an age-old practice. As food production has become more industrialized, food factories have found ways to continue to recycle massive amounts of would-be food waste.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Even though the use of antibiotics in livestock feed has been linked to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently backed away from a 30-year-old proposal that would ban the use of antibiotics tetracycline and penicillin in livestock feed.

USDAgov / Flickr

Some farmers groups and consumer advocates are concerned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plan to close 259 offices nationwide could hurt farmers and food safety.

Kathleen Masterson / Harvest Public Media

Just as the local foods movement is growing legs in the Midwest, a key piece of infrastructure is struggling. 

Many small poultry processing plants have closed, in large part because of  challenges finding laborers and making a profit. Without the plants, small farmers say they won't be able to provide meat to local grocery stores and farmers markets.

In Iowa, poultry growers this year got an unexpected, and unwelcome, surprise right during poultry harvest time -- one of Iowa's three state-inspected poultry plants shut down.  

Kansas City, Mo – In the next decade or so, much of the Midwest could be facing some big changes in land ownership. More than half the farmland in some states is owned by people age 55 and older.Keeping family farms in family hands is a real concern for some of these farmers.