Agriculture

Stories about agriculture

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

Slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants throughout the country employ a lot of people. About a quarter of a million workers in the U.S. stun, kill and eviscerate the animals we eat. Most of those jobs are physically demanding and require few skills.

So why haven’t we started using more robots to cut up our beef?

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Kendra Lawson doesn’t have the typical schedule of a nine–year-old.  With just a week of summer left, she spent her days working with her dad and mom on the farm and preparing her pigs to show at the state fair.

Here in central Missouri, the Lawson family raises cattle and pigs with a lot of help from Kendra. I met her at her house near Centralia, Mo., where she had just come back from helping her dad in the hay fields.

The Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Kansas City, Mo., on July 18 had it all: an indie pop band onstage, long lines at the beer booths. It was like a Grateful Dead concert, only with free burritos.

But this and the three other Chipotle Cultivate events held across the country this summer were more than just a classic summertime music festival. Billed as offering "food, ideas and music," the festival offers a chance to "learn a free burrito," by going through four exhibits.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Check out this good scoop on Kansas State University’s failure to adhere to federal safety regulations while doing research on dangerous bioterror pathogens.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In the Midwest, agriculture can be such a strong lure that there are some farm kids without farms.

Ally Babcock lives with her family in a modern subdivision in Ames, Iowa. Tucked under the home’s back deck is a tiny barn space, enough room for her sheep and rabbits.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, is attempting to swallow up the chemical operations of Syngenta, the world’s largest producer of pesticides and other farm inputs. The proposed deal signals a change in focus for the agricultural giant, and could have ripple effects across farm country.

By its own admission, Monsanto lags behind in chemistry research. To boost its research in chemistry, and possibly find new ways to combine chemicals and biotech crops, Monsanto wants to buy the Swiss chemical company.

A court recently struck down an Idaho law that barred undercover filming of livestock facilities. Those types of videos are sometimes used by animal rights activists. The ruling could lead to a challenge of a similar Kansas law.

Warren Parker, with the Kansas Farm Bureau, says videos can be edited and twisted to paint a negative picture. He says the law helps prevent people trespassing onto farm property to film the videos, where they could introduce disease. He says livestock producers keeping their farms closed to cameras isn’t about protecting abuse.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

The Matthew family farm, M&M&m Farms, outside of La Harpe, Illinois, looks different from the farms surrounding it. It’s not filled with neat rows of soybeans or lines of corn that’s over-my-head high in late July. The Matthew’s place is a bit more disorganized and far more diverse.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The Chipotle Cultivate Festival had it all: an indie pop band on stage, long lines at the beer booths, folks hanging out on a hot summer day.

Sort of like a Grateful Dead concert, only with free burritos.

But the Chipotle Cultivate events, with four held across the country this summer, aims to do a little more than just than just the classic summertime music festival. Billed as offering “food, ideas and music,” the festival offers a chance to “learn a free burrito” after going through four exhibits.

Sheridan's Frozen Custard / via Twitter

Even as government officials brace for a recurrence of bird flu this fall, the massive spring outbreak is still affecting food producers.

Kansas City residents, flocking to local favorite Sheridan’s 12 frozen custard stands because of this week’s heat wave, are met with notices that the custard recipe has been changed because of an egg shortage.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Show day at the Pierce County Fair in Nebraska starts early and goes fast.

I arrived around 9 in the morning, but Emily Lambrecht had already spent an hour and a half in the wash stalls, scrubbing and shampooing her calves so they would sparkle in the show barn.

This was showtime. The 17-year-old 4-H and FFA exhibitor spent months working up to this one day.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don’t plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

“We’ve traditionally raised about an acre and a half of pretty intensively managed produce, so it’s a very productive acre and a half,” Eric Reuter said. “We’re really into cropping things.”

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that the federal government is preparing for a bird flu outbreak this fall that would be two times as bad as the one experienced by Midwestern states this spring.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Farm dog? Check.

Barn cats? Check.

Muddy work books lined up at the back door? Five checks.

We kick off our fourth season of “My Farm Roots” with the Renyer Family, five farm kids I had the pleasure of meeting last week.

Poncie Rutsch / KUNC

Many of the more than 3 million migrant farm workers that plant and pick the fruits and vegetables we eat in the U.S. live on the farms they work for. But the rules that govern farmworker housing may be changing, worrying both farmers and migrant worker advocates.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

A patchwork of bamboo and paper tubes, with diameters no bigger than a nickel, are stacked artfully inside a 4-by-4 wooden frame near the edge of a public hiking trail in Lawrence, Kan.

Organized by size, each hollow tube is about 8 inches long, designed as nests for Kansas’ wild bees. This structure is called a bee hotel.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Food companies the world over are paying close attention to the groundswell of support for food transparency, the “know where your food comes from” movement.

JBS, the largest meat producer in the world, is beginning to take notice as well.

But executives with JBS USA, the North American arm of its Brazilian parent company, at the same time acknowledge that the very nature of their business is grisly, gory and sometimes unpalatable.

Brian Seifferlerin / Harvest Public Media

Rodeo season is getting into full swing and at most rodeos, bull riding is the main event. But when the bull ride ends, the work begins for rodeo bullfighters, and a young bullfighter is making a name in the business by putting himself in the middle of the action.

At bull riding time at the Plum Creek Rodeo in Lexington, Nebraska, the rodeo corral is under the lights and the sun is a ripe orange in the west. Rowdy Moon bounces on the balls of his feet like a boxer waiting for the match to start.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

Agriculture officials don’t know just how the massive outbreak of avian flu in the Midwest was spread, but believe the culprits include humans breaking biosecurity measures and the virus going airborne.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

Walk down a grocery store aisle today and you’re likely to find lots of food…and lots of marketing claims. Whether a product’s label says its low in fat, produced without hormones, or a good source of protein is largely governed by consumer demand and corporate profit.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The packaged foods found in supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines are full of ingredients you often can’t pronounce.

They’ve been carefully developed and tested in a lab and likely have been shipped long distances. They can hold up to weeks or even months on the shelf. But most of them began with fresh food you might cook with at home.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

National public health officials are urging their state counterparts to be alert for avian flu infections in humans.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory Tuesday “to notify public health workers and clinicians of the potential for human infection with these viruses” and to detail protocols for health professionals working in infected areas.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

California grows almost half the fruits and vegetables in the U.S. It’s also deep in drought and some farms are short on water. That may sound like a chance for Midwestern farmers to churn out more peppers and broccoli, but it’s not that simple.

The California drought is not the golden opportunity that it may seem. Not yet. Even in a drought California still has big advantages over the Midwest.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

  The U.S. EPA is proposing tweaks to ethanol policy.

The agency proposed a cut to the amount of corn ethanol oil companies are required to blend in to our gasoline, as well as ambitious targets for low-carbon cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from grasses and other inedible parts of plants.

 

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Most of the Kansas Congressional delegation, state and local officials as well as the Secretaries of both Agriculture and Homeland Security smiled, shook hands, even hugged as they came together for the latest in a series of ceremonial groundbreakings for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF.

The Manhattan, Kansas facility has been in the works for 16 years, said Sen. Pat Roberts, the grandfather of the project, who first pushed for greater food and agriculture safety with Kansas State University officials in 1999.

Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

It's no longer enough for restaurants to offer roasted chicken or braised beef shank on their menus.

They need to be able to tell customers exactly where that chicken came from and how the cow was raised. If they can remember the pedigree of the produce? All the better. 

But serving locally sourced food is a challenge for chefs, and the farmer-foodie connections aren’t always easy to come by.  

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

As the outbreak of avian flu continues to spread across the Midwest, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the spread of the virus could be "laterally spread" by humans.

The outbreak, which has now spread to 15 states, is thought to be caused by wild birds coming into contact with poultry flocks. Vilsack said it was definitely wildlife that brought the virus to the Midwest via the Mississippi Flyway. But now it appears the ongoing spread of it could be caused by humans, Vilsack told Iowa Public Radio.

USDA / Flickr--CC

Susanne Byerly can laugh now, four years later, talking about how she and her husband were trying to eat healthy food when they bought ground turkey for their spaghetti dinner.

Byerly, along with her husband, Jerry, and their two-year-old, Jack, were on vacation with extended family in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. While buying supplies at a local grocery store, they decided to swap ground beef for poultry because they were watching their weight.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The local food scene has exploded in recent years, which means there’s a lot more local produce on dinner tables. It also means that during the spring season as small farms start ramping back up, they have to work a bit harder to attract new customers.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs, allow subscribers to connect directly with a farm, and remain a mainstay for local farmers looking to latch on to consistent revenue.

Pages