Agriculture

Harvest Public Media
8:16 am
Mon December 8, 2014

For Ranchers, A Grass Land Rush

Cattle take a drink from a tank filled by a windmill. Rancher Dave Wright was hoping to buy part of a neighboring ranch to expand his herd, but it sold for extreme prices.
Grant Gerlock Harvest Public Media

After getting pummeled by drought and low cattle prices, many ranchers are across the Midwest are eager to grow their herds. As they do, grass is turning into a hot commodity.

The national beef herd is down to the size it was in 1951. Shoppers know that beef is more expensive, which has people switching to chicken and pork. To raise more cattle and perhaps bring down meat prices, ranchers need more pasture. The trouble for many ranchers is grass has grown expensive.

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Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Crop Dusting Pilots Navigate Dangerous Airspace

A crop dusting plane crashed near Jennings, La., in February 2013.
Courtesy National Transportation Safety Board

Mike Lee steers his plane over the Missouri-Arkansas state line, checking out a checkerboard of green and brown fields of rice, cotton, corn and soybeans. Lee is the owner of Earl’s Flying Service, a crop dusting business in Steele, Mo., and he’s scouting some farm fields that his pilots will treat later in the day.

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Harvest Public Media
6:00 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Turkey Economics, Plus Fun Facts And A Recipe On The Side

According to farmer Ann Knowles, turkeys can change the color of their waddles at a moments notice, flushing from pale pink to candy-apple red.
Credit Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised 70 broad breasted bronze and white turkeys on her small farm in western Illinois.

She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

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Harvest Public Media
10:20 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Women Have Always Been Farmers, Now They’re Being Counted

The co-owner of a dairy near Fort Morgan, Colo., Mary Kraft says the skills needed to be a successful farmer have changed in recent years.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

When farmer Sondra Pierce had her first child, she decided to forgo daycare.

“Soon as I had my son, because I had my son very early, I would put his car seat in the tractor and he would ride with me,” Pierce says.

During harvest on her sugar beet farm in rural Boulder County, Colo., she’d buckle him up in the seat right next to her.

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Agriculture
4:45 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Ag Industry Calls For More Immigration Reform

Specialty crop farms, like orchards, rely heavily on migrant labor to hand pick fruit.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

In the debate over immigration reform, farm and ranch groups have been among those calling for change the loudest, and most frequently. But after President Obama announced changes to the immigration system, the response from the agriculture industry so far has been mixed.

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Harvest Public Media
7:24 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Migrant Farmworkers Remain Crucial To Harvest

Both Veronica Jaramillio and her mother Maria have spent decades traveling the country as migrant farmworkers.
Esther Honig for Harvest Public Media

On a warm October afternoon Veronica Jaramillo walks through rows of skinny apple trees on the orchard where she works as the sun sinks behind rolling Missouri hills.

The 30 year-old migrant farmworker reaches into a tree on the Waverly, Mo., orchard, and in one fluid motion, picks a Golden Delicious apple.

“I don’t like picking the Golden,” laughs Jaramillo. “They’re real delicate and you can bruise them with just your fingertips.”

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Harvest Public Media
7:19 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Meat Labeling Rules May Change

Rules that require more information on meat labels may be on the outs.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seemed to signal for the first time Friday that the rules are not compliant with World Trade Organization standards and must be fixed.

“We’ve done a 360-degree look and I can tell you that we do not think there’s a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law, which I’ve sworn to uphold, and to satisfy the WTO,” Vilsack said.

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Harvest Public Media
7:51 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Promised Farm Bill Savings Look Elusive Today

After emptying two wagons of corn, farmer Paul Sauter pulls out of the Heartland Coop grain elevator in Alleman, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The Farm Bill enacted earlier this year was supposed to save taxpayers money, in part by reducing subsidy payments to farmers. But a massive drop in prices for the nation’s largest crops means that many farmers may rely on the farm safety net this year and could herald large government payouts.

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Harvest Public Media
8:28 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Children Of Latino Immigrants Forge Paths In Agriculture

Melissa Garcia works with a classmate on a chicken-wing dissection in her vet careers class in the Des Moines public schools’ animal science program.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

In a dimly-lit lab on the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools’ agricultural science campus, students in aprons, safety goggles and plastic gloves poke and probe chicken wings. About 15 girls and just one boy in this vet careers class are looking for ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other features of this animal part that teenagers more often experience cooked and covered in barbecue sauce.

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Harvest Public Media
8:03 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Young Immigrants Search For Home On The Farm

At Bear Creek Dairy, 15-year-old Teun Boelen works closely with the calves, helping with difficult births, feeding the young animals and raising them until they join the herd of milk cows.
Amy Mayer Harvest Public Media

Bear Creek Dairy in Brooklyn, Iowa, is home to more than 1,100 cows, who provide about 100,000 pounds of milk each day. The 15-year-old farmer who works closely with the farm’s calves comes from a long line of dairymen – in Europe.

Five years ago, Teun Boelen’s parents sold their farm in the Netherlands and bought a dairy in southeast Iowa because, as his mother explains it, there was no room for their old farm to grow.  

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Agriculture
7:52 am
Mon October 27, 2014

In The Midwest, Yarn Goes Local, Too

Lorrae Moon of Yampa Valley Fiberworks outside Craig, Colo., coils alpaca fiber into a neat stack.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Northwestern Colorado has a rich heritage of raising sheep – either for their meat or for wool. But for decades the sheep herd has been slipping in numbers, both nationally and in Colorado, often outcompeted by countries like New Zealand and Australia.

Where there’s been a resurgence, though, has been in local, niche markets. Some sheep ranchers have taken advantage of the local food movement to sell to customers at farmers markets and through community supported agriculture models.   

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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Farmers Gear Up For Record Harvest, Brace For Lower Prices

Nationwide, farmers are expected to harvest record-breaking amounts of corn and soybeans this year.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

U.S. farmers are bringing in what’s expected to be a record-breaking harvest for both corn and soybeans. But all that productivity has a big financial downside: plunging prices that have many Midwest farmers hoping to merely break-even on this year’s crop.

Farmers will haul in 4 billion bushels of soybeans and 14.5 billion bushels of corn, according to USDA estimates. Those are record-breaking numbers, made possible by producers planting more corn and soybean acres and near-perfect weather in the Corn Belt.

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Harvest Public Media
9:48 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Foodborne Illnesses Could Cost U.S. $15 Billion

Pathogens that can cause foodborne illness are often ingested by incorrectly cooked meat.
Credit taryn / Flickr--CC

Americans had to dig deep into their wallets to cover costs associated with foodborne illnesses, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department Agriculture.

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Central Standard
2:22 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

In The Fall, Kansas Orchard Ships Chestnuts Across America

There are 1,500 chestnut trees in Chestnut Charlie's Orchard in Lawrence, Kan.
Matt Hodapp KCUR

The chestnut harvest in Kansas ends during the first few weeks of October, and every year around that time 40 to 50 workers pick pounds of nuts from 1,500 chestnut trees on an orchard right outside of downtown Lawrence.

Since 1995, Charlie NovoGradac, also known as "Chestnut Charlie," and Deborah Milks have been cultivating, collecting and distributing chestnuts.

When the harvest is over, the orchard is covered in gigantic thorny cockleburs. As they ripen during the season, these prickly husks open and release the chestnuts.

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Harvest Public Media
7:58 am
Mon October 13, 2014

At Harvest, Corn Huskers Still Pick By Hand

Competitor Harlan Jacobson races to pick rows of corn at the annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition in September.
Abby Wendle Harvest Public Media

Dick Humes squinted and sweat as he moved down a row of corn. He sliced through the husk with a metal hook in his right hand, snapped the ear from its stalk with his left, and threw it over his shoulder into a wagon rolling alongside him.

Every other second, the corn hit the floor of the wagon with a thud. Humes was setting a steady pace for the men’s 50-and-older division at the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition.

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Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Mule Jumping: The County Fair Tradition You Didn’t Know You Loved

Competitor Becky Manees leads a mule at the East Perry Community Fair in Altenburg, Mo.
Jacob McCleland Harvest Public Media

Fair-goers pack the stands at the East Perry Community Fair in Altenburg, Mo., on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon. They aren’t here for the blue ribbon pigs, the truck pull or the beauty contest. These people are here for the fair’s biggest attraction – the jumping mules.

Mule jumping is a simple sport. A handler leads a mule into a chute. At the end, there’s a pole with a blanket draped over it. Mules must stop before jumping, and they have two chances to clear the pole or be eliminated. After each round, the judge raises the pole two inches.

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Harvest Public Media
9:30 am
Mon October 6, 2014

No Matter How Colorado Votes, GMO Labeling Debate Far From Over

Ingredients containing sugar from genetically engineered beets would have to be labeled as “produced with genetic engineering” if a proposed Colorado ballot measure is approved by voters.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Voters in Colorado will decide whether or not they want the state to require labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. The 2014 ballot measure highlights a much larger national conversation about the safety and prevalence of genetically modified foods.

If passed, food companies and farmers would need to affix to food a label that reads, "Produced with genetic engineering" if the product contains certain genetically modified crops and their derived oils and sugars that end up in processed foods.

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Harvest Public Media
1:01 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

‘Ag-Gag’ Law May Have Hindered Report Of Animal Cruelty At Missouri Hog Farm

A partial shot of one of the photos PETA submitted to Mercer County law enforcement depicting alleged cruelty.
Credit Courtesy / PETA

A recent Missouri law meant to protect farmers may be making it harder to report alleged animal abuse, as animal welfare organizations have feared.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on Wednesday asked law enforcement in Mercer County to investigate allegations of abuse at Murphy-Brown’s Badger-Wolf pig-breeding operation in northern Missouri. But PETA says it could not reveal who gave PETA the photos that captured the abuse, as the source of the information “is afraid of reprisals.”

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Harvest Public Media
6:44 am
Mon September 29, 2014

In Illinois Farm Country, A Wetland’s Dynamic Return

Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the Nature Conservancy, has helped oversee the transformation from farmland to wetland.
Rich Eggar Harvest Public Media

Land in Fulton County, Ill., that was farmed for more than 80 years is being returned to its original wetland state – and the early results are promising for what is now the Emiquon Nature Preserve.

“People give us credit for the way this looks now but it’s really Mother Nature that makes it look the way it does,” said Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the environmental group the Nature Conservancy.

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Harvest Public Media
8:12 am
Sat September 27, 2014

With Curbside Composting, Food Waste Not A Total Loss

In Portland, Ore., commercial food waste from restaurants and businesses gets separated and sent to a methane digester that extracts gas from the food and uses it to make electricity.
Credit Cassandra Profita / for Harvest Public Media

Wasting around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks: It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

But across the country, cities, towns and companies are finding food waste doesn't have to be a total loss. In fact, it can be quite valuable – in making fertilizer, electricity or even fuel for cars, trucks and buses.

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Harvest Public Media
9:22 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Choices For Students Can Cut School Food Waste

Gloria Restrepo, a teacher’s assistant at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., helps students choose their lunch.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.

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Tell KCUR
11:28 am
Thu September 25, 2014

PHOTOS: See What Funky Foods Are Inside Kansas City Fridges

KCUR's social media producer, Alyson Raletz: "The funkiest thing I could find in @kcur's green room fridge. Once tomatoes go soft, I'm out."
@AlysonRaletz Twitter

One-year-old Szechuan peppercorn sauerkraut. A Jar of pickled Brazilian peppers that expired in 2012. And kimchi that’s been fermenting for 25 months.

Those are some of the things lurking in area fridges that Kansas Citians claim they still would eat.

“Older, the hotter!” Kansas City food blogger Jenny Vergara tweeted this week, along with a photo of her Malagueta peppers.

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Harvest Public Media
7:51 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Grocery Stores Waste Tons Of Food As They Woo Shoppers

Pre-made meals found in the prepared food aisle are a growing source of food waste, as it is difficult to re-use meals that aren’t sold but are fully cooked.
Credit Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Grocery stores and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but nearly a third of it never makes it to a stomach.

With consumers demanding large displays of un-blemished, fresh produce or massive portion sizes, many grocery stores and restaurants end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food. Despite efforts to cut down on waste, the consumer end of the food chain still accounts for the largest share of food waste in the U.S. food system.  

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Harvest Public Media
7:42 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Manufacturers Cut Food Waste To Build Bottom Line

Todd Scherbing, Smithfield Foods’ senior director of rendering, holds a tray of pituitary glands that are cut from hogs on the line in the Farmland Foods plant in Milan, Mo. Pituitary glands are used to make insulin.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The long line of semi-trucks waiting to get in the gates of the Farmland Foods plant could simply wait around for a few hours to head back, fresh products on board.

The trucks are loaded with hogs from several confinement operations near this factory in Milan, a small town in northeast Missouri. Within just 19 hours, those pigs will be slaughtered, butchered and boxed into cuts that consumers see in the grocery store and in restaurants.

But that effort will use only about half of the animal.

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Harvest Public Media
5:50 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Technology, Infrastructure Cut Down On Food Waste On The Farm

On-farm and post-harvest loss accounts for about 40 percent of food waste in the developing world, according to the U.N. But it is credited with relatively small levels of waste in most industrialized countries.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a wet, grey day in Grinnell, Iowa, the rain beats a rhythm on the metal roof of a packing shed at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Crew member Whitney Brewer picks big bunches of kale out of a washing tank, lets them drip on a drying table and then packs them into cardboard boxes.  

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Tell KCUR
4:36 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Tell KCUR: What’s The Oldest Thing In Your Fridge? Would You Eat It?

What's the oldest thing in your fridge? Would you eat it? Tweet us your funky food photos with the #tellKCUR hashtag or email them to social@kcur.org.
Credit File photo / KCUR

Before tossing that fuzzy sour cream or the moldy bell peppers from your refrigerator, ponder the bigger picture.

Food finds its way to more landfills than plastic or paper in the United States, making it the largest single source of waste in the country.  

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Food Waste Weighing Down U.S. Food System

About 35 million tons of food was dumped in landfills across the U.S. in 2012, compared to 29 million tons of plastic and 24 million tons of paper.
Credit Pat Aylward / NET News

It’s a hot summer day outside of Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He’s wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

“You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools,” Chappelle says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none.”

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Agriculture
8:13 am
Thu September 18, 2014

U.S. Pesticide Levels Drop But Still Threaten Aquatic Life

Pesticide pollution in American streams has dropped over the last 20 years according to a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey, but scientists say aquatic life is still at risk.

Changes in regulation and the development of less toxic herbicides and insecticides have reduced the risk pesticide pollution poses to humans. However, the pesticide levels in some regions were high enough to cause harm to plants and animals that live in streams.

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Harvest Public Media
7:58 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Climate, Space Create Challenges For Local Food

Josh Kilbane runs Yampa Valley Farms outside Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Local food is no longer just a novelty. Farmers markets are growing nationwide and farms that sell directly to consumers brought in $1.3 billion in 2012, up eight percent from just five years earlier. Despite the demand, making local food work in some places is decidedly more difficult than others. Steamboat Springs, Colo., is one of those places.

Problem number one is infrastructure.

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Central Standard
2:26 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Pass The Pawpaw: Foraging For Missouri's Banana

The pawpaw fruit continues to ripen, just off the hiking trails at Burr Oak Woods located in Blue Springs, Mo.
Credit KCUR's Gina Kaufmann

You know how sometimes you stumble across a word you've never heard before in your entire life, and then suddenly, the word is everywhere? That happened to me with the pawpaw.

I was born and raised in Missouri, so discovering in my thirties that a random fruit with a made-up-sounding name is considered my state's own banana? That came as a shock (though, to be fair, it's also known as the Indiana banana and the West Virginia banana). 

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