Kansas City, MO – The vast majority of women-run farms are smaller, and focus on niche markets, like grass-fed livestock. Together, Helen Gunderson and Betsy Dahl are breaking into a typical male territory and taking it in their own direction.
Across the Midwest, the landscape of farming is subtly changing hands. As the population ages, one group of farmland owners is growing: widows. In Iowa, women over 65 now own more than a one-quarter of the farmland.
While women have long been a part of farm life, women landowners frequently face unique social and cultural challenges. Advocates say that they haven't always been respected as farm decision makers and leaders. Slowly this is changing.
Bad Seed, which is open every Friday from May through February, is one of a handful of Kansas City winter markets and part of a nationwide trend. The number of winter farmers markets has increased 17 percent in the last two years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As more small farmers find ways to grow produce in the winter, they're finding a home at winter markets.
Kansas City, Missouri – December 31st is the deadline for Premium Standard Farms - the meat producing conglomerate recently purchased by Smithfield Foods - to install new, odor-reducing technology in it's 365 giant hog barns in North West Missouri.
Kansas City, MO – The U.S. Senate recently approved funding for a second round of settlements for black farmers who missed their first opportunity to receive compensation for years of discrimination. Photojournalist John Ficara spent four years documenting the lives of black farmers while working on his book Black Farmers in America. He spoke with Harvest Public Media's Jessica Naudziunas about his experience.
As the soybean harvest winds down in Iowa, there's growing interest in ramping up production of a different kind of soybean, one that is aimed solely at human consumption.
Two carloads of food writers, news reporters and chefs recently joined a field trip to a farm outside of Corning, Iowa to learn more about edamame, the Japanese word for a special variety of green soybeans. Often found in Asian and health food recipes, it is no longer just a novelty. They're in the frozen food isle of many grocery stores.
Jefferson City, MO – The heavy rainfall and flooding in parts of the Midwest have so far not delayed crop harvests in Missouri. Last year's drenching rains led to late corn and soybean harvests and prevented farmers in Missouri from planting winter wheat. Gene Danekas with the U.S.D.A. says this year's situation is not as severe.
"42 percent, almost half of the corn, has been harvested, that's well over 3 weeks faster than we were last year," says Danekas. "I know there's some wet fields, especially after this last week, so that'll probably slow them down somewhat."
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.
Talmadge West has returned to the rural Bootheel to retire. Though his family legacy is rooted in corn, soybeans and cotton native to this part of the state, West doesn't farm. He's kept his family history alive with a garden. He walks around his backyard, eating a meal along the way.
From the beginning, West says, black farmers in Pemiscot County were set up to struggle.
Lenexa,Kansas – Congressional hearings on the salmonella outbreak will take place next week in Washington.
The goal- to try and understand what happened to cause the recent recall of almost half a billion eggs, and subsequent illness of hundreds of people. Congress will further look at ways to prevent an outbreak from happening in the future.
Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee will hear from victims of salmonella, as well as poultry producers.
The Kansas Bioscience Authority said at its annual meeting this week that the USDA will partner with Kansas to promote bioscience research.
The KBA says the partnership is a huge benefit to existing efforts to collaborate with local and state governments. The KBA also collaborates extensively with venture capital companies. The KBA has invested 50 million dollars in bioscience research, and has attracted a number of firms to the area who have promised to invest up to 200 million dollars.
Kansas City, Mo. – Locally-grown produce is becoming increasingly popular around the country, but in Kansas City, not everyone seems to want food grown as locally as next door. The city council is considering an ordinance to foster urban agriculture.
Lawrence, Kan. – Now that it seems spring may have really begun, farmers and gardeners are making plans to grow food and ornamental plants. But an ambitious new project at the University of Kansas has researchers tilling the soil in hopes of growing medicine. KC Currents' Alex Smith went to Lawrence this week to find out more.
Kansas City, MO – It looks like banking isn't the only industry coming in for some added regulatory scrutiny from the Obama administration. US Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack have launched a series of workshops probing anti-trust issues in agriculture. Some big agribusiness firms say the forums will showcase a well functioning, free market. But, many producers think they'll expose a system increasingly hostile to the traditional family farm.
Kansas City , Mo. – The latest feather in the cap for the so-called "animal health corridor" is the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD.
The center is a $12 million dollar investment by the Department of Homeland Security at K-State. It will compliment the work of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility. The so-called NBAF is the high-security lab Manhattan recently won in a competitive bidding process that will be researching foreign and domestic animal diseases and vaccines.
Kansas City, MO – For the last couple of years, feed prices have been so high that US farmers lost money on almost every pig they raised. China was one of the bright spots for US producers, their third largest, and fastest-growing export market. But H1N1 put a stop to that. Chinese officials said they were worried about catching "SWINE" flu from eating US pork, even though you can't. It was just cover, according to Ron Plain an agricultural economics professor at the University of Missouri.
Kansas City, MO – The U.S. Senate has approved $32 million for a massive Kansas lab aimed at research on foot-and-mouth and other diseases.
The money is in the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that the Senate approved on a vote of 79-19 Tuesday. The House has already approved the $44.1 billion compromise spending bill, which is headed to President Barack Obama.
Kansas City, MO – Legislation to fund construction of a federal research lab in Kansas has moved forward. Federal officials chose Manhattan, Kansas late last year as the site for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.
Kansas City , Mo. – Reports from the federal government last week underscore optimism about the farm economy. But for farm activists, there are lingering concerns.
The US Department of Agriculture and Federal Reserve reports suggest the farm economy is in relatively good shape. Among the reasons are stabilizing land and commodity values, greater demand for corn-based fuel because of higher prices for crude oil, and the potentially record crop harvests.
Kansas City, MO – Food, Inc., a documentary film about the modern agricultural industry, is a hit with big-city movie reviewers, small-scale organic farmers and vegetarians. Full of disturbing scenes depicting chickens, hogs and cattle being crowded into confined areas, the movie argues that large-scale agriculture produces inexpensive meat and vegetables at a high cost to the environment - as well as Americans' health.