Harvest Public Media

Global demand for food and fuel is rising, and the push and pull for resources has serious ramifications for our country’s economic recovery and prosperity.

How much do you know about that bread you just buttered or that steak you just ate? What do you know about cars powered on ethanol or about how fracking will affect your water supply?

Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, is a collaborative public media project that reports on important agriculture issues in the Midwest. Funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Harvest Public Media encompasses six NPR member stations in the region. To learn more, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org, like Harvest Public Media on Facebook or follow @HarvestPM on Twitter.

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Harvest Public Media
7:59 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Farmers Gear Up For Record Harvest, Brace For Lower Prices

Nationwide, farmers are expected to harvest record-breaking amounts of corn and soybeans this year.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

U.S. farmers are bringing in what’s expected to be a record-breaking harvest for both corn and soybeans. But all that productivity has a big financial downside: plunging prices that have many Midwest farmers hoping to merely break-even on this year’s crop.

Farmers will haul in 4 billion bushels of soybeans and 14.5 billion bushels of corn, according to USDA estimates. Those are record-breaking numbers, made possible by producers planting more corn and soybean acres and near-perfect weather in the Corn Belt.

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Harvest Public Media
9:48 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Foodborne Illnesses Could Cost U.S. $15 Billion

Pathogens that can cause foodborne illness are often ingested by incorrectly cooked meat.
Credit taryn / Flickr--CC

Americans had to dig deep into their wallets to cover costs associated with foodborne illnesses, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department Agriculture.

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Harvest Public Media
7:58 am
Mon October 13, 2014

At Harvest, Corn Huskers Still Pick By Hand

Competitor Harlan Jacobson races to pick rows of corn at the annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition in September.
Abby Wendle Harvest Public Media

Dick Humes squinted and sweat as he moved down a row of corn. He sliced through the husk with a metal hook in his right hand, snapped the ear from its stalk with his left, and threw it over his shoulder into a wagon rolling alongside him.

Every other second, the corn hit the floor of the wagon with a thud. Humes was setting a steady pace for the men’s 50-and-older division at the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition.

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Harvest Public Media
8:27 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Mule Jumping: The County Fair Tradition You Didn’t Know You Loved

Competitor Becky Manees leads a mule at the East Perry Community Fair in Altenburg, Mo.
Jacob McCleland Harvest Public Media

Fair-goers pack the stands at the East Perry Community Fair in Altenburg, Mo., on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon. They aren’t here for the blue ribbon pigs, the truck pull or the beauty contest. These people are here for the fair’s biggest attraction – the jumping mules.

Mule jumping is a simple sport. A handler leads a mule into a chute. At the end, there’s a pole with a blanket draped over it. Mules must stop before jumping, and they have two chances to clear the pole or be eliminated. After each round, the judge raises the pole two inches.

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Harvest Public Media
9:30 am
Mon October 6, 2014

No Matter How Colorado Votes, GMO Labeling Debate Far From Over

Ingredients containing sugar from genetically engineered beets would have to be labeled as “produced with genetic engineering” if a proposed Colorado ballot measure is approved by voters.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

Voters in Colorado will decide whether or not they want the state to require labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. The 2014 ballot measure highlights a much larger national conversation about the safety and prevalence of genetically modified foods.

If passed, food companies and farmers would need to affix to food a label that reads, "Produced with genetic engineering" if the product contains certain genetically modified crops and their derived oils and sugars that end up in processed foods.

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Harvest Public Media
8:12 am
Sat September 27, 2014

With Curbside Composting, Food Waste Not A Total Loss

In Portland, Ore., commercial food waste from restaurants and businesses gets separated and sent to a methane digester that extracts gas from the food and uses it to make electricity.
Credit Cassandra Profita / for Harvest Public Media

Wasting around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks: It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

But across the country, cities, towns and companies are finding food waste doesn't have to be a total loss. In fact, it can be quite valuable – in making fertilizer, electricity or even fuel for cars, trucks and buses.

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Tell KCUR
11:28 am
Thu September 25, 2014

PHOTOS: See What Funky Foods Are Inside Kansas City Fridges

KCUR's social media producer, Alyson Raletz: "The funkiest thing I could find in @kcur's green room fridge. Once tomatoes go soft, I'm out."
@AlysonRaletz Twitter

One-year-old Szechuan peppercorn sauerkraut. A Jar of pickled Brazilian peppers that expired in 2012. And kimchi that’s been fermenting for 25 months.

Those are some of the things lurking in area fridges that Kansas Citians claim they still would eat.

“Older, the hotter!” Kansas City food blogger Jenny Vergara tweeted this week, along with a photo of her Malagueta peppers.

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Harvest Public Media
7:42 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Manufacturers Cut Food Waste To Build Bottom Line

Todd Scherbing, Smithfield Foods’ senior director of rendering, holds a tray of pituitary glands that are cut from hogs on the line in the Farmland Foods plant in Milan, Mo. Pituitary glands are used to make insulin.
Credit Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The long line of semi-trucks waiting to get in the gates of the Farmland Foods plant could simply wait around for a few hours to head back, fresh products on board.

The trucks are loaded with hogs from several confinement operations near this factory in Milan, a small town in northeast Missouri. Within just 19 hours, those pigs will be slaughtered, butchered and boxed into cuts that consumers see in the grocery store and in restaurants.

But that effort will use only about half of the animal.

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Harvest Public Media
5:50 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Technology, Infrastructure Cut Down On Food Waste On The Farm

On-farm and post-harvest loss accounts for about 40 percent of food waste in the developing world, according to the U.N. But it is credited with relatively small levels of waste in most industrialized countries.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a wet, grey day in Grinnell, Iowa, the rain beats a rhythm on the metal roof of a packing shed at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Crew member Whitney Brewer picks big bunches of kale out of a washing tank, lets them drip on a drying table and then packs them into cardboard boxes.  

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Tell KCUR
4:36 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Tell KCUR: What’s The Oldest Thing In Your Fridge? Would You Eat It?

What's the oldest thing in your fridge? Would you eat it? Tweet us your funky food photos with the #tellKCUR hashtag or email them to social@kcur.org.
Credit File photo / KCUR

Before tossing that fuzzy sour cream or the moldy bell peppers from your refrigerator, ponder the bigger picture.

Food finds its way to more landfills than plastic or paper in the United States, making it the largest single source of waste in the country.  

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Agriculture
8:13 am
Thu September 18, 2014

U.S. Pesticide Levels Drop But Still Threaten Aquatic Life

Pesticide pollution in American streams has dropped over the last 20 years according to a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey, but scientists say aquatic life is still at risk.

Changes in regulation and the development of less toxic herbicides and insecticides have reduced the risk pesticide pollution poses to humans. However, the pesticide levels in some regions were high enough to cause harm to plants and animals that live in streams.

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Agriculture
8:27 am
Mon September 8, 2014

U.S. Meat Inspection System In Disarray, Watchdogs Say

Jennifer Brdar worked as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation in Liberal, Kan.
Credit John McGrath / Hale Center for Journalism

HOOKER, Okla. – Jennifer Brdar’s dream job was to be a meat inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, watching out for unwary consumers and making sure the meat on their dinner tables was clean and disease-free.

After earning an associate’s degree in meat science, Brdar was hired in March as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation just up the road in Liberal, Kan.

She lasted barely a month, walking away in frustration.

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Agriculture
12:15 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

U.S. Wheat Farmers Could Make Money As A Result Of Fighting In Ukraine

Farmers in Ukraine produced more than 22 million metric tons of wheat in the 2013-14 marketing year, to the U.S.’s nearly 58 million metric tons, according to USDA estimates.
Credit Valdemar Fishmen / Creative Commons

The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine could impact the world’s wheat supply and with reports that fighting is edging closer to a key Black Sea trading port, farmers and commodity brokers are paying attention.

  Pro-Russian rebels appear to be pushing closer to the Ukranian city of Mariupol, a strategic port city. As Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, any disruption in the harvest or transport of the country’s wheat crop could put a kink in global supply lines and could raise grain prices across the world.

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Harvest Public Media
8:17 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Marijuana Industry Faces Food Safety Test

Organic Alternatives Manager Maka Kalaí holds a card with cannabis safety tips. The cards were developed by the Cannabis Business Alliance and are handed out with every purchase at the Fort Collins, Colo., store.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

  When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use earlier this year, it also opened up the sale of food products infused with the drug to anyone over the age of 21. That means a whole set of bakers and food companies have to ensure their products aren’t contaminated with foodborne pathogens, and that they’re not falling in to the hands of children or too potent to eat.

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Agriculture
11:42 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Millions Lost In Grain Elevator Failure Prompts Talk Of Safety Net

Before it defaulted on loans and was shuttered by regulator, the Pierce Elevator was a major business in town.
Credit Bill Kelly / for Harvest Public Media

In Nebraska, farmers say they’re left with about $9 million in unpaid claims when a grain elevator failed in the town of Pierce. It looks as if farmers’ losses could eventually top $4 million.

Without a financial safety net to depend on, farmers are watching this case in eastern Nebraska. They’re looking for lessons in order to avoid another massive financial wreckage in the future.

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Agriculture
2:14 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

18 Big Lobbyers That Influenced The Farm Bill

Hundreds of companies and outside groups lobbied the 2014 Farm Bill and related issues during the drafting process.
Credit Bigstock

Setting the course for almost a trillion dollars of government spending, the 2014 Farm Bill attracted hundreds of companies eager to find their slice of the pie.

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Up to Date
10:48 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Farm Bill Analysis Yields Surprising Results

Recently, Harvest Public Media took a look at the new Farm Bill, and what they found might surprise you.

On Monday's Up to Date, we discuss how little influence farmers and agricultural groups had in shaping the bill and look at who the major players actually were.

Guests:

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Agriculture
8:42 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Lobbyists Of All Kinds Flock To Farm Bill

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., (in green), watches as President Barack Obama signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University on Feb. 7, 2014.
Credit David Kosling / Courtesy USDA

When U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced passage of the Farm Bill in February, she echoed a refrain from a car commercial.

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill,” she said.

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Harvest Public Media
9:38 am
Wed July 9, 2014

My Farm Roots: Touch The Ground

Though he grew up without designs on farm life, Elisha Pullen has embraced rural living on his farm near Bell City, Mo.
Credit Jacob McCleland / Harvest Public Media

As a young man, Elisha Pullen never imagined he would spend his days on the farm.

Growing up near rural Bell City in southeastern Missouri’s “Bootheel” region, Pullen longed to leave the farm and get an education.

“I grew up in the day and time when we had to do a lot of chopping and stuff like that. Hard labor,” Pullen said. “I’m going to college, I’m getting my degree and I’m going to work in the air conditioning.”

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Harvest Public Media
8:34 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Mutton Busting A Rodeo Tradition For Rough And Tumble Kids

Two cowboys lift a mutton busting participant onto a wooly sheep at the Greeley (Colo.) Stampede rodeo.
Luke Runyon Harvest Public Media

A furry beast, a brave rider and a roaring crowd make up the list of ingredients for the Western rodeo tradition known as “mutton busting.” Think of it as bull-riding, but for 6-year-olds, and the furry beast is actually a wooly sheep.

Mutton busting has its roots in Colorado, where it was first introduced in the 1980s at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. The crowd-pleaser is now a favorite at many rodeos and county fairs across the Midwest and Great Plains.

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Harvest Public Media
9:23 am
Wed July 2, 2014

My Farm Roots: Smells Like Home

Growing up in Nebraska, Kari Williams spent many vacations visiting her family’s farms.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Most family vacations are remembered for endless car rides, packed tourist beaches and a string of poorly decorated hotel rooms.

But not former Nebraskan and current Coloradan Kari Williams. Her family vacation memories center on smells of cow manure, adventures on horseback and roosters with bad attitudes on farms in central Nebraska.

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Agriculture
1:05 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Feed The Future Seeks Hunger Solutions From The Heartland

Kurt Rosentrater, center, and Mamun Ur Rashid, in blue shirt, meet with workers at a feed mill in Bangladesh as part of a project designed to improve fish feed in the developing world.
Credit Courtesy Kurt Rosentrater

  Global hunger has no easy answer.

But as part of a partnership with the federal government called Feed the Future, researchers at land-grant universities are trying new approaches to the decades-old dilemma.

“The world’s poorest people, and hungriest people, generally, the majority of them are small farmers living in rural areas,” said Tjada D’oyen McKenna, deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future. “And agriculture is the most effective means of bringing them out of poverty and under-nutrition.”

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Harvest Public Media
12:24 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Beef Sent To Kansas City Restaurant Recalled Due To Mad Cow Fear

Food safety regulators are recalling beef that could be tainted by parts of cattle nervous system that can carry mad cow disease and a Kansas City restaurant may be affected.

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Agriculture
7:23 am
Mon May 26, 2014

Aquaponics Brings Fish And Produce Under One Roof

At All Seasons Harvest near Cedar Falls, Iowa, lettuce, kale and herbs are grown in nutrient-rich water fertilized by tanks of farmed tilapia fish.
Credit Pat Blank / Harvest Public Media

Farmers all over the country are using hydroponic technology to grow produce indoors, year-round, in nutrient rich water. And fish farmers around the globe have figured out how to raise their catch in tanks. Now, some operations are combining the two, raising both produce and fish.

Many so-called “aquaponics” operations use the waste from fish farming to fertilize the water used in growing hydroponic produce.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Now Appearing: Hemp, For First Time In Decades

At Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, Colo., Ben Holmes is testing hemp varieties. Holmes made his name distributing and breeding strains of medical and recreational marijuana, but recently has become a prominent figure in Colorado’s fledgling hemp industry.
Credit Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

 A handful of farmers are set to plant the country’s first hemp crop in decades, despite federal regulations that tightly restrict the plant’s cultivation.

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Beyond Our Borders
11:09 am
Thu May 1, 2014

In Ivanhoe, Food Helping Neighborhood Rebuild

Terry Glenn re-stocks shelves at the Harvest Learning Center Market. The store is in the basement of the church where Glenn is pastor.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR

Terry Glenn’s neighborhood was hit hard by the recession, and it wasn’t booming before the rough times.

He saw houses crumble, get boarded up and left to rot. He saw neighbors moving away. And he worried that Ivanhoe, on Kansas City’s east side, was dying.

“We said, ‘We’ve got to look inside of this and see exactly what the problem is,’” Glenn said. “And once we did, we found out that the families were moving to try to find better schools, find healthier food, find different places that their family can go and have a good community.”

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Harvest Public Media
3:25 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Study: Cellulosic Ethanol Production May Harm Climate

Biofuels made in the Midwest from corn stover, the leftovers of harvested corn plants, may be worse for global warming than gasoline in the short term, according to a recent study. It’s casting doubt on the greenhouse benefits of cellulosic ethanol.

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Environment
8:33 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Snowy Winter Not Causing Flood Concerns On Missouri River

The Missouri River in Montana.
Credit montanatom1950 on Flickr

A long winter of brutally cold temperatures and seemingly endless snowfall led to a deep snowpack in the mountains at the headwaters of the Missouri River. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a higher risk of flooding this spring. 

2011 brought major flooding to many areas along the Missouri River. This year, the snow pack is comparable to those levels. But Kevin Low of the National Weather Service says even though the snow is starting to melt, there are a few differences this year.

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Agriculture
6:00 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Chinese Market Could Help Rid Rivers Of Invasive Asian Carp

Recently processed Asian carp hang in racks at the Two Rivers Fisheries processing plant in Wickliffe, Ky. The fishing industry hopes demand from China can both create a market for, and help rid U.S. rivers of, the invasive species.
Credit Jacob McCleland for Harvest Public Media

Water experts worried about Asian carp may have new hope. They’re turning their eyes to China, where a carp-hungry populace may be the key for stemming the tide of the invasive fish.

Asian carp are taking over U.S. waterways, including the Mississippi River and tributaries like the Illinois and Missouri Rivers, where they out-compete native fish.

In China, carp is cheap and a common meal-time fixture. Now, a carp fishing industry is springing up along carp-infested U.S. waters and processors are exporting the U.S. problem fish to Chinese diners.

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Harvest Public Media
8:06 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Food Hubs Could Provide Crucial Link For Amish Farmers

Mervin Graber of checks on his small herd of grass-fed cows in his pasture near Sullivan, Ill.
Credit Peter Gray / Harvest Public Media

Lacking the infrastructure of traditional suppliers, many local farms that want to connect to restaurants, schools and other big buyers are using the Internet to reach customers.

Groups of farms are banding together to form regional food hubs, leveraging online ordering, tracking and marketing tools to cut down on costs and to try to keep local food systems viable for growers and affordable for consumers.

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