Agriculture

Harvest Public Media
7:42 am
Tue July 23, 2013

How Prairie Plants Help Restore Farmland Soil

What today is just a patch of weeds next to rows of soybeans, Watkins is confident will establish as prairie within three years. And that will help prevent nutrient runoff and soil erosion.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The world’s soil is in trouble, even in the fertile Midwest. Some experts warn that if degradation continues unchecked, topsoil could be gone in 60 years. That has implications for agriculture and the broader environment.

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Harvest Public Media
7:44 am
Mon July 22, 2013

Does The Government Give Too Much Support To Sugar Growers?

Flesher says the subsidies affect the price of every one of his products.
Credit Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

Americans consume a lot of sweets. Even discounting all the high fructose corn syrup you find in soft drinks, the average consumer takes in about 40 pounds of refined sugar in a year, according to the USDA.

That means food companies from Nestle to Hostess and small neighborhood candy stores have to buy sugar. Lots of it.  And those bakers and snack food makers say the government gives too much support to sugar growers and consumers are footing the bill. 

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Harvest Public Media
9:58 am
Wed July 17, 2013

My Farm Roots: Looking Back Fondly

Horel, middle, still has fond memories of playing around the farm with his brothers and other neighborhood kids.
Credit Courtesy photo / Paul Horel

More than once while I was listening to Paul Horel's stories about farm life in Iowa, I felt like I was at a family reunion. With his glasses and balding head, mild Midwestern accent, and talk about plowing and politics, he could easily have been my uncle. 

After all, Horel says his childhood was pretty typical for a kid growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s: he did chores in the morning and evening, spent long summer days playing in the fields, and attended a small country school. When he got older, he raised livestock for 4-H and helped his dad and brothers with the farming. 

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Harvest Public Media
7:47 am
Mon July 15, 2013

Metal Thefts Plague Farm Country

Mike Obermann was among the victims of a rash of metal thefts in rural Missouri. Since then, he has installed theft-protection measures on his farm.
Credit Payne Roberts / Harvest Public Media

Along the 1200 Road in Windsor, Mo., there is plenty of gravel and farmland. But one thing it is short of is people.

Miles of green fields separate the farms that occupy this area of Windsor, a rural town of 3,000, making area farms easy targets in a series of metal thefts that robbed farmers of the tools they needed to do their jobs.

Mike Obermann was among the victims. He owns a farm of row crops and cattle northwest of Windsor with his wife. In the theft, he lost $500-600 worth of fencing material and an aluminum boat.

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KC Currents
3:34 pm
Fri July 12, 2013

Why Caviar Producers Are At Odds With An Oklahoma Conservation Program

Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

The American paddlefish is a pretty bizarre-looking creature, named after the long, flat appendage jutting out from its head, but the prehistoric species has made a reputation for itself around the world for another reason: caviar. In between the rivers and the five-star restaurants, the eggs pass through fish houses run by a unique group of American fishermen who, decades ago, threw out their nets to catch a piece of this lucrative market.

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Harvest Public Media
7:47 am
Fri July 12, 2013

Young Farmers Face Huge Obstacles

Eva Teague, 31, is trying to start her own pig farm but is having trouble breaking in to the business.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

While the farming community continues to age fewer young people are filling the ranks, prompting the question: Do young people even want to farm anymore?

The quick answer is yes, just not in the same numbers as they used to. And surveys indicate many of them don’t want to farm in conventional ways.

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Harvest Public Media
3:00 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

House Passes Farm-Only Farm Bill

Many farmers are resigned to being unable to depend on rock-solid federal farm policy.
Credit Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. House passed its version of farm bill legislation Thursday. The revamped bill strips out funding for food aid and deals only with farm policy, exposing a hefty rift in decades-old alliances between urban and rural legislators and between food aid and farm policy interests.

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Central Standard
9:52 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Aging Farmers

Credit Neuse Education Team / CC

Over the last few decades, the landscape and daily operations of the American farm have changed dramatically; technology, crop prices, crop technique and farm size. But one thing that has stayed the same is the individual farmers who are adapting to these techniques. Here's a startling statistic, for each farmer younger than 25, there are five who are 75 or older. And also, 25% of farmers are over the age of 65, which means retirement in the farming community is being prolonged.

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Harvest Public Media
5:44 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Rural Towns Look For Young Leadership As Populations Age

Pittsfield, Ill., is dealing with an aging population and what that means for the social fabric of the rural community.
Credit Creative Commons

It’s hard not to use the phrase “quintessential small town” when you describe Pittsfield, Ill. 

The western Illinois community of 4,500 people has a picturesque downtown square with an historic courthouse sitting in the center.  The small city is the county seat of Pike County and for many years has called itself the Pork Capital of the World in homage to an important sector of farming in this region.   Every year the town holds a two day festival known as “Pig Days,” which, true to its name, features pig tail and hog calling contests.

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Agriculture
4:46 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Spreading Virus Kills Hundreds of Thousands of Pigs

Healthy pigs in central Missouri
Frank Morris KCUR

A virus new to the United States is spreading through farms hundreds of thousands of baby pigs.  

Like most hog farmers, Brent Sandidge in Missouri, has been losing money lately.

"We’ve had a drought, and record high feed prices, so that’d be the last thing you’d need is another hit," says Sandidge.

But that hit came this spring for some with the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus. Bob Morrison, at the University of Minnesota says the excrement of infected pigs is loaded with the bug.

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Harvest Public Media
7:44 am
Wed July 10, 2013

After A City Life, Retiring To The Farm

Tom Thomas retired two years ago after teaching exercise physiology for 35 years. At 65, Thomas lives on a 300-acre farm in central Missouri.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

It’s not just lifelong farmers who feel the pull of the land as they get older. For some Americans, retirement is an opportunity to begin the farming dream.

“I wanted to be able to be active and have a pastime that ensured physical activity,” said beginning farmer Tom Thomas, who at 65 still has the physical fitness to wrestle and brand steers at his son’s ranch in Oklahoma.

Thomas retired two years ago after teaching exercise physiology for 35 years and he knew what he wanted to do next.

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Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed July 10, 2013

My Farm Roots: Hardwired For Hard Work

Amy Konishi has lived in Fort Collins, Colo., her entire life. In the 1980s, a local newspaper profiled her and her husband’s long connection to the area.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Amy Konishi says when her obituary is written it’ll read, “All she knew was work.”

It’ll be a fitting tribute given the 87-year-old’s work ethic. As a young girl she toiled in her family’s onion and cantaloupe and dry bean fields outside Rocky Ford, Colo. Then she moved to selling produce at her husband’s roadside shed along the highway. In the 1950s she opened her own hair salon and she’s been putting in hours ever since.  

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Harvest Public Media
5:59 am
Tue July 9, 2013

The Difficult Business Of Handing Down The Family Farm

Father and son Jim and Tom Arganbright stand in a field that Tom planted with soybeans this spring. The Arganbright family doesn’t yet have formal plans for how land ownership will transition.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Driving out of the western Iowa town of Panora, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

Though Jim Arganbright farmed here his whole life, three years ago at the age of 80 he started renting his cropland to his son Tom, the only one of his children who farms full-time. Now, all Jim Arganbright has to worry about is the livestock — and he doesn’t have too much of that.

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Harvest Public Media
8:03 am
Mon July 8, 2013

Aging Farmers Reluctant To Retire, Pass On Land

The Hawthorn farm has been in the family for four generations since it was founded in the late 1870s by Bob Hawthorn’s great-grandfather who went by the name “Trapper.”
Ray Meints NET News

Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days. In 2012, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was beyond retirement age. But farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census 25 percent of all farm operators were over 65 years old.

Why do farmers keep working? For one thing, modern machinery makes it easier to work longer.

“It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

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Harvest Public Media
7:48 am
Wed July 3, 2013

My Farm Roots: Wings

Kelly Hagler left her family’s farm in northwest Missouri for the bright lights of Chicago, but her family and the farm are never far from her thoughts.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media

Kelly Hagler, 25, is among the millions of young people who have left rural communities for the bright lights of the city, in this case Chicago.

But Hagler has not left completely.

Here’s what she told us last year when we asked people to share their “My Farm Roots” stories through the Harvest Network:

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Agriculture
3:00 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Farm Bill Fail Leaves Farmers Uncertain, But Unvexed

The Kalbs cut wheat on a clear Kansas Day.
Frank Morris Harvest Public Media

Farmers work at the mercy of three big forces that are largely outside their control, the weather, the markets, and the government.

In many parts of the country the first two are doing pretty well these days, but government remains the wild card. Congress can’t seem to pass the farm bill, a huge package of legislation setting food policy for years to come.

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Harvest Public Media
8:01 am
Mon July 1, 2013

After The Oregon Discovery, What's The Future Of GMO Wheat?

Nebraska farmer Larry Flohr, squeezes out a kernel of unripened wheat.
Credit Grank Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Many farmers say they would like to grow genetically engineered wheat to help them feed a hungry world, but it’s not what everyone’s hungry for. And now, with the mysterious appearance of Roundup Ready wheat in a farmer’s field in Oregon a few weeks ago, consumer resistance may grow even stronger.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

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Harvest Public Media
7:55 am
Wed June 26, 2013

My Farm Roots: A Cowboy At Heart

Once an average suburban Colorado kid, Trent Johnson spent years ranching and now owns storied cowboy outfitter Greeley Hat Works.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Trent Johnson didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was always enamored with the cowboy lifestyle.

He sure looks the part now. I visited him in his custom cowboy hat shop in Greeley, Colo. In a sleek black cowboy hat and blue western shirt, Johnson delivers the modern cowboy aesthetic.

During college he hung out with the urban cowboy crowd, which included concerts for country idols like Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. The city kid, who’d spent part of his childhood on a ski team, decided he needed a change.

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Agriculture
5:00 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Last Call For The Kansas City Board Of Trade

Jac T.Bowen constructed 'Sheaves of Wheat,' for the exterior of the Board of Trade building at 48th and Oak. The Board of Trade moved here in 1966.
Julie Denesha KCUR

In October 2012, Chicago-based CME Group acquired the Kansas City Board of Trade, the more than 150-year-old wheat exchange. Operations move to Chicago as of July 1 – and the last call on the Kansas City trading floor takes place on Friday. We take a look back at the long history of the Board of Trade – and the end of an era.

For 157 years, the price of most wheat grown on the plains has been set by the Kansas City Board of Trade. That will soon come to an end.

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Harvest Public Media
7:40 am
Tue June 25, 2013

The Tricky Business Of Community Supported Agriculture

Michael Baute farms three acres in Fort Collins, Colo. One-third of Spring Kite Farms goes to the farm’s CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, clients.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture model is praised. CSAs, as they’re commonly known, are often considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat.

The model is simple: Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But running a CSA can bring with it some tricky business decisions.

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Up to Date
10:52 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Farm Bill Failure May Mean Uncertainty For Farmers

Farmer subsidies are one of the items affected by problems passing a new farm bill.
Credit Jessica Naudziunas / Harvest Public Media

Congress did not pass the new version of the farm bill last week-- but what does that really mean for farmers?

In the first part of Monday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with Harvest Public Media's Peggy Lowe and Jeremy Bernfeld about how this bill's failure affects farmer subsidies and food assistance. We'll also look at what happens when the current farm bill expires.

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Harvest Public Media
7:53 am
Mon June 24, 2013

For Community Shared Agriculture, How Big Is Too Big?

Andy Grant walks among chickens that will provide eggs for a new CSA effort, Sixdog Farms.
Credit Grace Hood / Harvest Public Media

Last year one of the country’s largest Community Supported Agriculture share providers went bankrupt. Grant Family Farms in Northern Colorado launched an organic CSA back in 2007 with 127 members and peaked with more than 5,000 in 2012.

The story behind why Grant Family Farms went bankrupt is complicated. But it also sheds light on whether a CSA can become too big.

Losing it all

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Harvest Public Media
8:39 am
Wed June 19, 2013

My Farm Roots: A Song In Her Heart

Retired professor Jackie Dougan Jackson lives in Springfield, Ill., but devotes a lot of time reflecting on her childhood growing up on a farm near Beloit, Wisc.
Credit Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

Jackie Dougan Jackson keeps a pretty thorough log of her life. The 85-year-old retired college professor lives in Springfield, Ill., and has lived there for more than 40 years. However, she has devoted a lot of time to her first 22 years, when she lived on a family farm near Beloit, Wisc.

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Central Standard
4:43 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

What The Farm Bill Means For Daily Life On The Farm

Credit Adam Arthur/Flickr--CC

The farm bill being discussed in the U.S. House of Representatives contains legislation having to do with all aspects of how Americans put food on their dinner tables.  About 80 percent of the bill deals with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), what we often call “food stamps.” Other portions of the legislation, though, address policy governing the farms that create this food.

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Central Standard
8:23 am
Tue June 18, 2013

What You Should Know About The Food Stamp Debate

The 2013 Farm Bill could bring major cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, formally known as food stamps.
Credit Beautiful Lily/Flickr--CC

The U.S. House is set to take up the farm bill this week, after the Senate passed its version of the bill in early June. Both bills include about $500 billion in spending over five years. Few pieces of legislation can produce such sharp divisions, even by Washington standards—but few could have such immediate, significant impact on so many Americans.

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Harvest Public Media
10:49 am
Mon June 17, 2013

What Is The Future Of Crop Insurance?

Kansas wheat farmer John Thaemert surveys his parched crop in this file photo from 2006.
Credit Frank Morris

Crop insurance is a big part of the farm bill debate in Washington this year. The Senate recently passed a bill that would expand the heavily subsidized program.  And now the House is zeroing in on the issue.  

Several pending amendments would curb how much the government provides to cut the cost farmers pay for crop insurance. But, crop insurance premiums aren’t the only part of the system supported by tax payers.

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Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri June 14, 2013

Grillers Beware: Drought Driving Beef Prices Up

Edwards Meats in Wheat Ridge, Colo., is already feeling the pinch of higher beef prices.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

If you’ve experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.

Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country’s beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds – some even liquidated all their cattle – which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.

Dry conditions this summer could cause the herd to dwindle even further. That means beef prices may continue on a steady climb, just in time for grilling season.

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Harvest Public Media
8:09 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Farmers Face 'Weather Whiplash' With Floods, Drought

The motorized growl from an idling John Deere tractor drowned out the sounds of nature on a recent morning on Chris Webber’s central Missouri family farm.

As he checked the 40 acres of muddy field he wanted to plant that day, Webber worried about getting more rain, even as he worried about the lack of it.

“The drought is over at the moment,” he said, “but in Missouri, we tend to say that in 10 days or two weeks, we can be in a drought again. That’s how fast it can get back to dry.”

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Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed June 12, 2013

My Farm Roots: In Hip Brooklyn, Connecting With A Farm Past

On the Brooklyn rooftop garden she helps maintain, Missouri native Monica Johnson says she's not afraid to show her farm roots.
Abbie Fentress Swanson Harvest Public Media

Monica Johnson, 36, watered edible yellow kale flowers on a recent sunny morning at a rooftop garden in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, N.Y. Standing in front of the Manhattan skyline in her sleeveless top, shades and blond ponytail pulled back in a trucker cap, she looked part-farm girl and part-hipster.

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Harvest Public Media
10:15 am
Tue June 11, 2013

3 Takeaways From The Senate Farm Bill

Credit Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.

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