Audio Feature

Courtesy Michael McClintock

When Michael McClintock and Dálida Pupo Barrios met, it was not love at first sight.

Pupo Barrios was doing her job, working for the Cuban minister of culture, accompanying McClintock's tour group when he first visited the country.

Courtesy Tom Stroik

"One thing that a poet needs more than anything else — well, you need a sense of language — but you need people who love you. And I have that," the poet Michelle Boisseau told New Letters on the Air host Angela Elam earlier this year. "I have incredible colleagues, and of course my husband Tom [Stroik], and people who believe in your work. Just keep doing it."

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

As Kansas City continues to see increases in violent crime, new Kansas City, Missouri, Police Chief Rick Smith says he’s doubling down on community policing.

The chief, who was selected in July, says he wants to expand the number of community interaction officers.

A banner displayed in the middle of the Kansas State University campus. K-State has been rated among the 25 campuses for LGBT students in the country.
Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

In the ongoing struggle on college campuses for LGBT equality and acceptance, Kansas State University is an unexpected leader.

K-State is best known for agriculture and football.

On a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan, with the K-State marching band entertaining tailgaters, many fans were surprised to learn that their school was ranked in the 25 campuses for LGBT friendliness by CampusPride.org.

File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Between the time a cut of steak or pound of hamburger goes from cattle farm to grocery shelf, it more than likely passes through one of three companies: Tyson Foods, Cargill or JBS.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the top four beef processors hold 85 percent of the market share, controlling the beef market to the point that some farmers believe the companies’ clout unfairly influences livestock prices. 

courtesy: Mulvane Art Museum

Artist Rita Blitt made a significant gift to the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka, Kansas — a bulk of her life’s work, an estimated 2,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures and film, as well as archival material. It represents preserving a legacy and a lifetime of giving. 

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

On a feedlot in far southwest Kansas, two cowboys on horseback move cattle on the high dusty plains, spread out like dozens of football fields stitched together with miles of fences. Their “Buenos dias! Buenos dias!” greetings mix with moos on a hot summer morning.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

President Trump has pledged to not make cuts to Medicare, the federal insurance program for seniors, but Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, acknowledges that changes are needed.

One of the program’s main funds, the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, is expected to be depleted in 11 years.

On Monday, Verma was in Olathe, Kansas to talk with seniors about Medicare and encourage them to take part in Medicare open enrollment, which runs from October 15 through December 7.

Alex Smith / KCUR

Maita thinks he was seven years old when he and his family were forced out of their home in Bhutan.

Starting in the late 1980s, the Himalayan country began driving out people who were ethnically Nepali. They fled across the mountains to Nepal, where they were settled in impoverished refugee camps.

“I didn’t even know Nepal. I didn’t know anything about it,” Maita explains using sign language. “We didn’t have any food. We didn’t have any shelter. We needed help cause we were starving.”

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

There’s a city council election in Des Moines soon, and voters have questions about the rivers where the city draws its water supply.

“Is (the water) safe to drink? Is it safe to consume?” candidate Michael Kiernan says he’s been asked.

The Des Moines Water Works spent more than $2 million over two years scrubbing high levels of nitrates from the water that goes to more than 500,000 customers. Cities like Des Moines that are surrounded by farmland worry the cost to treat water polluted by farm runoff is going to keep increasing. And the Trump administration already has rolled back some water rules and may have more in mind.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

After years of debate, Kansas City, Missouri voters will decide whether they want a new, single-terminal at Kansas City International Airport on Tuesday.

City leaders promise the billion dollar project would be paid for using airport revenue, not taxes. 

But the fight over KCI really boils down to one word — convenience. 

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR 89.3 FM

Fort Leavenworth isn't just a military base with a lot of historic architecture. It's also a place where you can find one of Kansas' oldest trees.

Just east of the airfield there is a 200-acre stretch of land on a flood plain that's become an accidental wildlife refuge. It's the largest stretch of contiguous forest along the lower Missouri River.

No one at the hospital in Fulton, Missouri (population 12,790) had ever heard of a management consultant named Jorge Perez until he showed up at its potluck in September.


Eric Thalken works down a row of organic corn in Nebraska, pulling back the husks. "There's a mindset that organic is ugly and low yielding and it just doesn't have to be," Thalken says.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Burkey Farms in southeast Nebraska looked into the future a couple of years ago and didn’t like what it saw — a continuation of depressed prices for conventional corn and soybeans. So, the families who run the farm together started discussing how the operation would make money if they couldn’t earn more from their crops.

Their conversation took a turn toward organics, a $40 billion industry and growing, especially in Iowa and Colorado.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Victor Raider-Wexler, a venerable actor with a voice as deep as magma, has never performed as a woman before. 

“It’s a brand new thing," he says of his role in Spinning Tree Theatre's newest production. "But last Christmas I was Marley, and I’d never been a ghost before either.”

Henry Hauck / Sporting KC

Sporting Kansas City faces a win-or-go-home situation Thursday night in the Major League Soccer playoffs at Houston. It’s the seventh straight year Sporting is in the post-season. To develop its own players, the team is spending millions of dollars through its academy.

But Sporting’s investment hasn’t always paid off as planned.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Fifteen years ago, the vast majority of young couples buying homes in Brookside and Waldo had no intention of staying in the central city once they started families.

“Maybe they were just married and didn’t have any kids, but they planned to eventually,” says Mary Hutchison, real estate agent. “When they had one child, maybe two, they automatically decided to hop over to Kansas to get their kids in the public school system there.”

Jeff Ridenour

The opera Hansel and Gretel is based on a Grimm Brothers' fairy tale.

In this version of the story, the brother and sister are sent into the forest to gather strawberries. They get lost, encounter creatures like the Sandman and the Dew Fairy — and discover a mysterious gingerbread house where they're captured by a witch. 

A new University of Missouri-Kansas City production creates sets and costumes out of paper.

AP Images / Courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters is a paradox. He’s a lightning rod for attention because of his refusal to stand for the national anthem and his in-game emotional outbursts. But Peters also seems to reject a lot of attention.

Courtesy of the University of Missouri

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

Sporting Kansas City will have its players back from international duty for its final game of the regular season at Real Salt Lake on Sunday. Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber—the three Sporting players on the U.S. team—faced disappointment after the team failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

On a recent Saturday morning, Michael Wickerson was tending a hot fire in his backyard on a hillside near Wyandotte County Lake. At temperatures reaching as high as 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, the fire was hot enough to melt iron.

Wickerson, an associate professor of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, said working with metal is a great joy for him.

“You catch it, you pour it, you can draw with it,” he said. “You can paint with it. You can sculpt with it. And you can certainly fill molds with it.”  

Isaac Cates

The group: Isaac Cates and the Ordained

The song: "Hold On"

The story: Kansas City gospel singer Isaac Cates grew up hearing his grandparents hum to the traditional gospel song, "Hold On." 

"It's birthed out of the African experience of singing a story of encouragement," Cates says.

In the midst of tragedies, injustices and natural disasters filling the daily news cycle, Cates felt the song's message of hope was particularly poignant right now. 

Courtesy Exiled KC

Every October in Kansas City, people flock to the metro's haunted houses. 

Whether its the the converted warehouses in the historic West Bottoms or the Halloween Haunt at Worlds of Fun, "haunted-housing" is a time-honored tradition here.

But one of the metro's newest haunted attractions takes you out of the city — and into the woods. 

Exiled opened in 2016 at the ZIP-KC site in Bonner Springs, Kansas. 

A cow is prepared for milking at the Iowa State Fair. The first spray of milk is squirted onto the floor before the teat is connected to the milking machine.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Galen Fick milks 50 Brown Swiss cows every day on his farm in Boyden, Iowa, where his family has been in the dairy business for generations. Life as a dairy farmer has gotten harder and harder, he says, especially in the past two years.

“Our inputs have gone up so much, not the feed part of it but everything else,” he says, pointing to veterinary care and, especially, labor. “For us to make that profit, [it] makes it very tough.”

C.J. Janovy

As a kid, Andrew McKenzie had an unusual affinity for languages.

He took French in high school (because everyone else was taking Spanish). But that wasn't enough.

"I started to teach myself different languages, like Latin and Greek and Basque and Turkish," he remembers. "I would drive into the city to a bookstore, and they’d have a section with language books. I'd say, 'I'm just going to learn this language because the book has the prettiest font.'"

Wind turbines have become a common sight on Iowa’s landscape.
File: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Even as wind energy production has grown in recent years to be a large part of the country’s energy portfolio, a chill around federal funding for renewable energy has researchers increasingly turning to industry partners to bring the next generation of innovation to the marketplace.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Geneva Wilson has struggled her entire life with health problems, including a blood disorder, depression and a painful misalignment of the hip joint called hip dysplasia. But she’s found peace living in a small cabin in the woods of western Missouri.

Wilson keeps chickens, raises rabbits and has a garden. She says her long-term goal is to live off her land by selling what she raises at farmers’ markets.

Sarah Scantling's daughter, Abilene, was born in Dryersburg, Tennessee, 30 miles from their home in Pemiscot County, Missouri.
Bram Sable-Smith / Side Effects Public Media

When Sarah Scantling went into labor this summer, she had to drive 30 miles and across state lines.

Three years earlier, the only maternity ward where she lives in Pemiscot County, Missouri closed down. Scantling had to choose between a handful of other hospitals in the region between 20 and 70 miles away. She chose to give birth in the hospital in Dyersburg, Tennessee.

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