Agriculture

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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:

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.”

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Agriculture
1:01 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Picture This: Sustainability in Action

Lexicon of Sustainability founder Douglas Gayeton photographs Ames High sophomore Will Weber photographing a high tunnel at Berry Patch Farm in Nevada, Iowa.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a picture embedded with lots of words worth?

Quite a lot in terms of connecting with an audience, according to Douglas Gayeton, who brought his California-based Lexicon of Sustainability project to Iowa at the end of May.

The non-profit organization, which Gayeton founded with his wife Laura Howard-Gayeton, creates large collage images of farmers and their farms overlain with text. Each collage is meant to explain some aspect of sustainability that the farmer practices.

Read more
Agriculture
8:21 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Excessive Rain May Challenge Corn Growers

Soggy fields like this one in Callaway County, Mo., have delayed planting in much of the Midwest.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

It’s been a wet spring in the Midwest – and that’s got corn growers a little behind on planting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 91 percent of the U.S. corn crop was planted as of June 2, compared to 95 percent at the same time last year.

Iowa, the nation’s largest producer of corn, has only got 88 percent of the crop in ground. In Missouri, 86 percent.

Last year, growers in both states were done with planting by now. But besides the late planting, the abundance of water presents other challenges for farmers.

Read more
Harvest Public Media
7:53 am
Thu June 6, 2013

At The Farmer's Market, With Food Stamps

April Segura, of Lincoln, Neb., uses her SNAP benefits to shop at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market with her sons Jalen, 5, and Jeriel, 1.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.

“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.

Read more
Harvest Public Media
7:27 am
Wed June 5, 2013

My Farm Roots: Lessons From The Farm Crisis

The fifth-generation to run his family farm, Mark Kenney says the '80s farm crisis taught him lessons for today.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

I met Mark Kenney on his family’s farm in Nevada, Iowa, when I was working on a story about farmer taxes. He turned out to be perfect for that—a farmer with a keen interest in spreadsheets.

Read more
Agriculture
11:47 am
Mon June 3, 2013

NBAF Breaks Ground In Manhattan

Federal, state, and local officials pitch the first ceremonial shovel of dirt on the federal NBAF facility.
Credit Sherriene Jones Sontag

There was a lot of hand-shaking and back-slapping at the recent groundbreaking for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan. Soon, the first construction will begin on an independent utility plant for the top-security animal disease lab.  

It’s been 4 and a half  years since the Department of Homeland Security awarded the project to Kansas, and it's been a rocky road to this point.

For a long time, the 46-acre site in a north corner of the Kansas State University campus has been fenced off,  guarded by security,  with an Olympic pool-size hole inside. 

Read more
Agriculture
7:35 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Smithsonian To Feature Farms And Farmers In New Exhibit

Smithsonian curator Peter Liebhold shows off some of the artifacts he's been collecting from farms all over rural America for the museum's upcoming 'American Enterprise' exhibition.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Crops and cattle, soil and sweat. American agriculture has a proud history to share, a story to tell. But getting the attention of a tech-savvy nation that has mostly moved away from its farm roots has been difficult. Today, though, there is a glimmer of hope for farm fans. The plow, truth be told, looks a little lonely.

Read more
Harvest Public Media
7:51 am
Tue May 28, 2013

People Gather In Cities All Over The World With Anti-GMO Message

Hundreds of people gathered near the State Capitol in Denver, Colo. to protest GMOs.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Protesters gathered in cities across the country Saturday to protest what they call "big agribusiness" and the prevalence of genetically modified foods.

In front of the statehouse in Denver, there was a crowd of about 500 people. The rally was organized under the banner of March Against Monsanto.

Signs have slogans like "Just Say No To GMOs" and "Keep Calm and Label On."

One of the rally’s speakers, Alan Lewis, works on ag policy for Vitamin Cottage.

Read more
Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Broader Competition For USDA’s ‘Rural’ Dollars

Bolita beans have been grown in the San Luis Valley since Spanish settlers moved into the area in the mid-1800s. Over time their prevalence has fallen off.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.

With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.

Read more

Pages