Audio Feature

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

Ever since the Rock Island railway ceased operations in the 1980s, the town of Belle in central Missouri has been an isolated pocket, far from any city or major highway that might bring business through town.

“You’ve heard the term ‘one-horse town’? We’re pretty much there,” says Richard Huse, who grew up in Belle and is now a town alderman. “We’re 1,500 people. And like all the small communities around here, we struggle.”

An Illinois farmer harvests his corn crop in this file photo. Average net farm income has tumbled in recent years.
File: Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

It’s a microfilm machine, the kind found in a high school library. Giessel uses it for his work as the historian of the National Farmers Union, the nation’s second-largest farm group.

Danielle Hogerty / KCUR 89.3

On a busy Sunday afternoon in Kansas City's East Bottoms, there are people lunching at picnic tables on a gravel lot outside of the Local Pig. Inside, just behind the deli counter, there’s a huge butcher’s block, where chefs and amateurs alike have gathered for a crash course.

“There's a pretty good mix of people in the class,” butcher Jimmy Spradlin says. “There's a young chef and then just some old rough and tumble redneck guy that's like, ‘I'm just here for the pork chops.’”

But today, they’re all here to make sausage.

Lacy Seward, social services coordinator for the Monroe City Manor. Medicaid cuts proposed by Senate Republicans could hit hard in this small town, that helped vote them into office.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

The closest emergency room is 20 miles east on the highway. That’s why it isn’t unusual for people experiencing heart attacks, blood clots and strokes to show up at Dr. Rodney Yager’s clinic on Main Street in Monroe City, Missouri.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

There are fewer high school age students enrolled in public schools in Kansas City than there are in the elementary grades.

But while charter operators say there aren’t enough high school options, Kansas City Public Schools officials argue there are too many.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s prized income tax exemption for businesses is gone.

Over the governor’s veto, in June lawmakers raised income tax rates and repealed the exemption that had benefited roughly 330,000 business owners, including about 53,000 farmers.

Farmer Wendy Johnson markets hogs, chickens, eggs and seasonal turkeys from her farm near Charles City, Iowa.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a cloudy summer day, Iowa farmer Wendy Johnson lifts the corner of a mobile chicken tractor, a lightweight plastic frame covered in wire mesh that has corralled her month-old meat chickens for a few days, and frees several dozen birds to peck the surrounding area at will. Soon, she’ll sell these chickens to customers at local markets in eastern Iowa.

The demand for beef, pork and chicken raised on smaller farms closer to home is growing. Now, some Midwest farmers, like Johnson, are exploring how to graze livestock to meet those demands while still earning a profit.

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

Visitors to art galleries usually aren't there to look at picture frames. But frames at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently got some unusual attention, and one independent art specialist says they should get even more.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

When it became clear the Republican-controlled state legislature wouldn’t be raising the minimum wage above $7.70 an hour, leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City took matters into their own hands.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR-FM 89.3

In the last few years, professional sports teams have begun to realize that noisy stadiums can be hard on people with autism and other special needs. Among them are the Kansas City Royals, whose front-office officials happen to include several fathers of such kids.

Greg Echlin / KCUR 89.3

Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities in Miami mark a celebration of the game and, for the players not involved, a much-needed break. But Miami is also buzzing with trade talk as the July 31 trading deadline approaches and the Kansas City Royals have been part of a lot of trade conversations.

The interior of a prison
Bigstock

Ricky Kidd has been in prison for nearly half his 42 years. And for all of that time, he has maintained he is innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted: the murders of two men in broad daylight at a house on Kansas City’s east side.

The Grandview R-II school district in rural Jefferson County, Missouri, started an online summer school program to offer students the chance to take courses not otherwise available.
Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

Schools in rural school districts often don’t have the budget or the teachers to offer students all of the courses they would like to take. One rural district in a Missouri county decided to offer credit for online classes in an effort to give its students the educational opportunities it can’t otherwise afford.

Lexi Churchill / KCUR 89.3

There’s a relatively well-known corridor of Southwest Boulevard on Kansas City’s Westside — it’s a strip of Latin American restaurants and shops. Sandwiched in between a beauty salon and a late night Mexican eatery is a small bakery: Panaderia de las Americas.

Jena Janovy / KCUR 89.3

It's been twenty years since Brody Buster's first round of glory days — when he was a 10-year-old blues harmonica phenomenon, fronting his own band, appearing on "The Tonight Show" and at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Quincy Jones.

Buster couldn't have remained a child prodigy forever, of course. So his journey back into the national spotlight is both "surreal" (that's his word) and an all-too ordinary coming-of-age story.

Anonymous / AP

Half a century ago war, protests, and political scandal rocked the United States. Sound familiar? But, out of all that a small-time hoodlum from Butte, Montana rocketed into national prominence, on a motorbike. Evel Knievel's career took off like a rocket, but crashed even faster. Now a new museum celebrates all that is Evel.

Charred trees scar a hillside on the Pine Ridge in northwest Nebraska after a massive wildfire in 2012.
File: Hilary Stohs-Krause / NET News

Wildfires burned through thousands of acres of Great Plains farm and ranch land in the 1980s. Today, wildfires are likely to char millions of acres.

The Great Plains are seeing more wildfires, according to a new study, leading researchers to ask why the fires are happening, and fire managers to examine what resources they will need to keep the blazes in check.

A. Hagerman Photography

Blues musician Patrick Recob has played with lots of touring bands, and recorded with some of them, over the last 25 years. And, for nearly a decade, he was the bassist for Lee McBee and The Confessors. 

Last month marked the release of Recob's debut solo album. Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Recob about the new release called Perpetual Luau

CHUCK HADDIX: "Well, how did the luau theme come in?"

Paul Sableman / Creative Commons-Flickr

Insurance is all about predicting the future, so with the future of the Affordable Care Act in flux, uncertainty about what’s going to happen has made 2017 a tricky year for insurance companies.

News-Press & Gazette Company

The Northland’s Liberty Tribune newspaper, one of the oldest weeklies in the country, recently rolled off the printing press for the last time. Since 1846, residents had unfurled their own paper published under the motto, “Willing to praise but not afraid to blame.”

However, with circulation figures in slow decline, a merger with the Kearney Courier and the Smithville Herald allowed the owners, the News-Press & Gazette Company, to cut costs.

Three positions are gone, bringing total staff down to 15. The Smithville office has also closed.

The South Sudanese Community Lutheran Church meets at Zion Lutheran Church in Denison, Iowa, on Sunday afternoons.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

This story is part of the special Harvest Public Media series United And Divided, which explores the links and rifts between rural and urban America.

As Highway 30 enters Denison, Iowa, a city of 8,000, the national fast food chains stand next to Mexican groceries and restaurants. In this small city near the Nebraska border, waves of immigrants have been arriving since at least the 1980s.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

The same group of elderly white men meet every morning at 6 a.m. at Fubbler’s Cove diner on Front Street in Orrick, Missouri. And pretty much every day they discuss the usual stuff: the weather, the crops, etc.

On a recent warm spring day, I dropped in to ask for their opinions on how they think national politics affects them.

“You probably don’t want to hear,” said one, who asked that I not use his name.

These guys disagree all the time – about everything from the new mayor to the food.  But it doesn’t get in the way of their daily coffee and conversation.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Next year, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City will leave the individual health care marketplace in Missouri that was set up under the Affordable Care Act. And when it does, about 18,000 patients in 25 western Missouri counties will lose their health insurance. If those enrollees sign on to Healthcare.gov this fall to buy a replacement plan, they may have no options to choose from.

That's because those 25 counties could become "bare."

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

Photo illustration by Andrea Tudhope

The quiet neighborhood in east Kansas City, Missouri, was just coming to life that Friday morning, May 20, 2016, when Daniel Wilson pulled up in his old white Monte Carlo, witnesses say, carrying a grudge and a gun.

Bumblee queens visit flowers of the alpine skypilot. These large bees have a distinctive flightz buzz, the bee version of a cargo plane flying from flower to flower.
Courtesy Zoe Moffett / Colorado College

See a bee; hear a buzz.

That is what researchers studying the declining bee population are banking on. A new technique based on recording buzzing bees hopes to show farmers just how much pollinating the native bee population is doing in their fields.  

Vegetable and fruit growers depend on pollinators to do a lot of work in their greenhouses and fields. Pollinators, like bees, flutter about the blossoms on plants and orchard trees, transferring pollen from plant to plant and ensuring that those organisms have a chance at reproducing.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Things are running pretty smoothly the first Monday of the month of May during the city council meeting in Orrick, Missouri.

Roger Thomas is the mayor of the town, population 799,  just northeast of Kansas City.

Topping the agenda is addressing the water collecting behind Nathan Claypole’s  house. Next, there's a unanimous vote to spring for a new computer for Dale Bosely with public works. 

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