agriculture

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Republican Missouri Rep. Joe Don McGaugh from District 039 provides an insider perspective on the Missouri General Assembly as we discuss agriculture, education, and Medicaid expansion.

Guests:

  • Joe Don McGaugh, Rep. for District 039, Missouri General Assembly 
  • Arley Hoskin, Citizen Voice
  • Mike McGraw, Special Projects Reporter, Flatland KC
Beth Lipoff / KCUR

The Johnson County Fair came to Gardner, Kansas last week, and alongside the traditional funnel cakes, midway rides and livestock exhibitions, there were a few surprises.

Here's four things we found that were unexpected:

1. There were no chickens.

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.

Ben Nuelle / for KCUR

Alda Owen of Fairport, Missouri is legally blind, and sees only outlines of images with the details blurred out. But still, she drives herself and her border collie, Sweet Baby Jo, a short way up the road to work cattle.

When she was just 10-years-old, doctors diagnosed Owen with histoplasmosis. She got the disease and went blind after collecting chicken eggs. It is caused by breathing in spores of a fungus found in bird droppings.  

To add to the struggle of being blind, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer in 2008.

Cody Newill / KCUR

The National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas has reopened for the 2015 season after a lengthy hiatus.

The roughly 150-acre facility was first chartered by Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 and opened its doors in 1965, nearly 50 years ago. 

But the Ag Center has never received governmental funding, and for nearly 10 years has struggled to keep its doors open. It even had to close early last May due to a lack of sponsorship.

andrewlawler.com

A descendant of Tyrannosaurus Rex, the chicken has made an legendary and winding journey from pre-history to our dinner plates. In his new book, Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization science writer Andrew Lawler provides an account of the long partnership between human and chicken.

llovebutter / Flickr--CC

What inspires people in white collar jobs, or those just out of college, to take up farming? As the trend continues, we hear from people who have done just that about how it's going and whether they're finding whatever it was they were looking for.

Guests:

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

Water levels within the Ogallala Aquifer, a wide source of groundwater in western Kansas, have been declining to dangerously low levels for the past few years. 

Wikimedia Commons

Even the lunch ladies got political in 2014.

KCUR's Harvest Public Media was created four years ago to report on agriculture and food production in the geographic area where the majority of that takes place – the Midwest.

This year, my third of counting the top ag stories of the year, I find that the issues taking center stage were set not here, but in the politics, policies and processes of Washington D.C., state legislatures or the ballot box.

nimbus.unl.edu

In the Middle East the U.S. military has used drones with great effect.  More properly called UAS or UAV for Unmanned Aerial Systems or Vehicle, their use on American soil for more peaceful purposes have been a source of controversy.

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.

Lady Dragonfly CC - >;< / Flickr, Creative Commons

Little-known fact: It's chestnut harvesting season in Kansas. So what's the scene at the local chestnut orchard? And how are chefs using the overall nut bounty in area kitchens?

Guests:

Tobacco farming was once a mainstay of the Missouri economy and lifestyle. With greater awareness of the health risks of cigarette-smoking and other changes in the tobacco business, the number of tobacco farmers in our region has shrunk. But the methods used to harvest tobacco have remained surprisingly consistent. According to the owner of New Deal Tobacco in Weston, Mo., it takes 250 hours to harvest an acre of tobacco (an acre of corn takes just a few hours to harvest, he says). 

Guest:

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.

Wikipedia, Creative Commons

We live in a world where there's something remarkable about a clean plate after a meal. But that's just one small piece of the food waste equation. Visits to farms, a meat processing plant, a compost heap, grocery stores and Kansas Citians' kitchens help us understand why there's so much food nobody's eating. 

For more information about food safety, check out this handy chart from the USDA.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Fresh tomatoes are a pleasure of summer, but they typically come at a price. Discover what goes into setting that price, whether it's worth it, and what you can do with them when you get home.

Guests:

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

 No matter how you say tomato, we wanted to know how much yours cost.

After our roughly two-week online poll, Kansas Citians have revealed some of the cheapest and most expensive red spheres in the metropolitan area.  

(See an interactive map below with all the juicy details.)

Results came in from across the metro. Among the cheapest tomatoes were heirlooms in Missouri at an Independence farmer’s market, at 73 cents apiece.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Summer: it's hot, it's time for a vacation and it's delicious, juicy tomato season.

But not all tomatoes are created equal. And they're not all the same price, either. 

Tell KCUR: How much did your tomato cost?

On an upcoming segment of our daily talk show, Central Standard, we’re investigating the variation in price and quality of tomatoes you can buy in grocery stores and farmer’s markets.  

Wyandotte County Fair Connects Kids With Agricultural Roots

Jul 22, 2014
Christina Lieffring / KCUR

People usually associate state and county fairs with Ferris wheels and food on a stick. But in areas that have seen their demographics shift from rural to urban populations, these fairs are now serving a new role of connecting city folk to their country roots.

One way the Wyandotte County Fair, which runs July 22 to 26, does this is through its competitions in arts and crafts, food, agriculture and livestock, run by the local 4-H club.

Lori Murdock

The barn is an icon of the American work ethic and rural nostalgia. On Wednesday's Central Standard, we explored the trend of rehabbing and restoring old barns that would otherwise fall into irreversible decay.

We also spoke with people throughout the nation and in our own area about the challenges of preserving these structures.

Do old barns -- the red ones with big huge doors -- still matter, even as larger steel structures replace them in function?

Lori Murdock

A drive through the Midwest countryside wouldn't be complete without a dozen or so barn sightings. 

As our daily talk show, Central Standard, prepares for its examination of challenges that go into barn restoration, we rounded up a collection of regional barn photos — thanks to you.

We asked our listeners for their best pics of regional barns and they were happy to oblige. Flip through the above slideshow for a sampling of what you sent in. 

Jamie Burks / The Good Food Blog

At a farm in Kansas City, Kan., a group of young men from are developing their entrepreneurship skills through farming. Boys Grow, a non-profit agency, works with these kids to develop business skills as they sell their agricultural commodities.

On Wednesday's Central Standard, we talked to two of these boys about their experience with Boys Grows and their hopes for the future.

Guests:

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers planted a record number of soybean acres this season. But corn is flat in several Midwestern states, while down slightly in others.

Those are some of the takeaways from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report on planted grain acres for the season, which offers the first glimpse of production for 2014.

Pietro Izzo / Flickr--CC

The former operators of a large egg farm in Iowa have agreed to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with a major salmonella outbreak in 2010.

Federal officials have charged Austin “Jack” DeCoster, his son Peter and their company, Quality Egg, with allowing the salmonella-contaminated eggs to reach consumers. They’re also charged with mislabeling eggs and attempting to bribe a USDA inspector. More than 500 million eggs were recalled and at least 2,000 people became sick from the outbreak.

Wikimedia / CC

Federal regulators Tuesday gave the final go-ahead for two of the country’s largest flour milling companies to merge.

Food giants ConAgra and Cargill said last year they wanted to put their flour mills under one roof in a new company called Ardent Mills. But a chorus of antitrust watchdogs said the deal would further consolidate an already concentrated industry.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

Wikimedia -- CC

 The National Agricultural Center & Hall of Fame, which is based in Bonner Springs, Kan., will be closing its doors.

The museum blames a tough economic climate for a decrease in donations and corporate support. The Ag Center, as it’s often known, says it plans to close for the rest of 2014 while it seeks more funding and charts a way forward.

Biofuels made in the Midwest from corn stover, the leftovers of harvested corn plants, may be worse for global warming than gasoline in the short term, according to a recent study. It’s casting doubt on the greenhouse benefits of cellulosic ethanol.

Courtesy / Aaron Gassmann

After a long battle with corn rootworm, Midwest farmers thought they’d found relief in genetically modified seeds engineered to produce toxins deadly to the pest. But recent research confirms what farmers have been noticing for several years: the western corn rootworm has been evolving to outwit the technology.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

  Nebraska hog farmers aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a proposal that would allow meatpacking companies more control over the state’s hog industry. And farmers all over the country are watching.

Currently, a 1998 state law bans meatpacking companies from owning and raising the hogs the process. But lawmakers have proposed an end to the ban, which would allow for more vertical integration of the hog industry.

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