Harvest Public Media

Harvest Public Media provides rich multimedia reports on all aspects of agriculture. Check below to read, view and listen online to the latest stories. Tune in to Morning Edition and All Things Considered to hear broadcasts of select stories.  

Harvest Public Media is a collaboration of public media stations across the Midwest. Partners are: High Plains Public RadioKansas Public RadioKCUR in Kansas City; Iowa Public Radio; Nebraska Educational Telecommunications; KBIA in Columbia, Mo.; WUIS in Springfield, Ill.; KUNC in Greeley, Colo.; and Tri-States Public Radio in Macomb, Ill.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Once a regular dining option, a mix of cultural and economic factors pushed lamb off the American dinner table. To put the meat back on the menu, ranchers and retailers are being encouraged to reach out to a more diverse set of consumers, specifically American Muslims and Latinos.

On a breezy morning next to a cornfield in rural Weld County, Colo., Jimmy Underhill quickly assembles a black and orange drone with four spinning rotors.

"This one just flies itself," he says. "It's fully autonomous."

Underhill is a drone technician with Agribotix, a Colorado-based drone startup that sees farmers as its most promising market. Today he's training his fellow employees how to work the machine in the field.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Across the Corn Belt, farmers are signing up for Farm Bill support programs and which ones they choose will impact the overall price tag for taxpayers.

Projections for the cost of these commodity programs are blowing past the amounts originally budgeted just a year ago, when the Farm Bill was enacted, leaving the possibility that U.S. taxpayers will pay out billions more than planned.

To limit sales, states propose legalizing raw milk

Feb 12, 2015
Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The federal government banned raw milk sales across state lines nearly three decades ago because it poses a threat to public health. The Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association all strongly advise people not to drink it.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When Jon Slutsky’s dairy farm in Wellington, Colo. is fully staffed, it’s a moment to celebrate. A full roster of employees at Slutsky’s La Luna Dairy is rare these days.

“We’re doing really well with our employee base,” Slutsky said. “A year ago, we couldn’t say that. We were short.”

With the farm’s 1,500 cows waiting to be milked, Slutsky and his wife Susan Moore felt panicked, worried they didn’t have enough hands on deck to milk about 200 cows per hour.

Getting off the chemical treadmill

Jan 4, 2015
Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

Farmers engaged in an epic struggle with “superweeds” – weeds that don’t die even when sprayed with herbicide – are looking for help from a new super chemical that’s about to hit the market.

Currently the last line of defense against weeds not felled by other herbicides, the new chemical could be defeated if it is overused and farmers could be left in even worse straits.  

Pigweed Problem

Herbicide-resistant Pigweeds are marching north into soybean and corn fields across the Midwest from the southern U.S. where they choked cotton fields so completely that the land cannot be farmed They can grow up to seven feet tall and produce more than half a million seeds per plant, per season.

Post Foods

Demand for products that don’t contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is exploding.  

Many food companies are seeking certification that their products don’t have any genetically modified ingredients, and not just the brands popular in the health food aisle. Even plain Cheerios, that iconic cereal from General Mills, no longer contains GMOs.

dok1/Flickr

  To support a growing population, farmers worldwide need to emphasize the sustainable growth of three major foods: corn, wheat and rice, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization

Corn, wheat and rice make up some of the most crucial ingredients to diets across the world. With a booming global population, FAO says in the next 35 years farmers will need to ratchet up production of these three commodities to 3 billion tons – that’s half a billion tons more than the record harvest of 2013.

Courtesy of wikipedia

Harvest Public Media was created four years ago to report on agriculture and food production in the geographic area where the majority of that takes place – the Midwest. This year, my third of counting the top ag stories of the year, I find that the issues taking center stage were set not here, but in the politics, policies and processes of Washington D.C., state legislatures or the ballot box.

Real Science / realscience.us

The $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill President Obama signed Wednesday isn’t just about dollars and cents. The so-called “Cromnibus” bill also keeps school cafeteria fries salty and limits the government's ability to monitor cow belches.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As drought, feed costs, and urban development wear on West Coast milk producers, states like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are pitching themselves as a dairy heaven. Even in California, the nation’s No. 1 dairy state, many dairy farmers are listening.

For the Midwest, an influx of dairies isn’t just about milk. It’s about pumping dollars into the rural economy.

California dairies look to Plain’s greener pastures

Dec 17, 2014
Ezra David Romero for Harvest Public Media

California is branded as the state with happy cows, but increasingly, not necessarily happy dairy owners. For many of them in the nation’s No. 1 dairy state it’s getting tougher to make a living, that’s why some are some selling their cattle and heading to the Midwest.

A full quarter of California dairies have been shuttered since 2007, according to Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen.

Sonja Salzburg for Harvest Public Media

Many beer aficionados are familiar with the rare breweries run by Trappist monks. The beer is highly sought after, but it’s not the only food or drink made by a religious order. Many abbeys and convents have deep roots in agriculture, combining farm work with prayer.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

For the Midwest’s biggest crops, this harvest season was a big one. With winter setting in, the race is on for farmers to ship out their harvest so it’s not left out to spoil. But the giant harvest and a lack of available rail cars have created a traffic jam on the rails and the highways.

Usually, famers store their harvest in silos and grain bins, but this year, farmers brought in so much, there’s just no room.  Farmers in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and South Dakota are all being hit particularly hard by the storage shortage.

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t just for farmers. It also supports school lunches, broadband internet access in rural areas, and inner-city farmers markets. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, that diverse mandate fits with the man running it all, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who’s now been on that job longer than anyone since the Nixon administration.

Transcript of audio story:

Northern Colorado Food Cluster

More cities want to take eating local food from just a hip trend to an economic generator. But as with many grassroots movements, there can be some growing pains along the way. That has some looking to the tech sector for lessons, as Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports.

Transcript of the audio story:

Mike Lee

Mike Lee steers his plane over the Missouri-Arkansas state line, checking out a checkerboard of green and brown fields of rice, cotton, corn and soybeans. Lee is the owner of Earl’s Flying Service, a crop dusting business in Steele, Mo., and he’s scouting some farm fields that his pilots will treat later in the day.

Ohio State University / http://agcrops.osu.edu/corn

Climate change could double losses to crops and property by the year 2100 according to a recent report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office. When farmers lose more crops, it costs taxpayers more to subsidize their crop insurance.

Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised 70 broad breasted bronze and white turkeys on her small farm in western Illinois.

She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

Quentin Hope

After getting pummeled by drought and low cattle prices, many ranchers across the Midwest are eager to grow their herds. As they do, grass is turning into a hot commodity.

Conestoga Energy Partners; www.conestogaenergy.com/bonanza-bioenergy

The Environmental Protection Agency said last Friday that it won’t release rules for how much ethanol oil refiners have to mix in to our gasoline supply this year.

The ethanol rules, called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), are meant to prop up the U.S. biofuels industry by creating demand for ethanol. Without the rules, both oil companies and the biofuel sector will be left in the dark as to what the demand for ethanol will be.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When farmer Sondra Pierce had her first child, she decided to forgo daycare.

“Soon as I had my son, because I had my son very early, I would put his car seat in the tractor and he would ride with me,” Pierce says.

During harvest on her sugar beet farm in rural Boulder County, Colo., she’d buckle him up in the seat right next to her.

http://www.offthegridnews.com/

Rules that require more information on meat labels may be on the outs.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seemed to signal for the first time Friday that the rules are not compliant with World Trade Organization standards and must be fixed.

“We’ve done a 360-degree look and I can tell you that we do not think there’s a regulatory fix that would allow us to be consistent with the law, which I’ve sworn to uphold, and to satisfy the WTO,” Vilsack said.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

The showing starts inside an empty office building, the kind you’d see in any humdrum workplace sitcom, stripped of its cubicles and ceiling tiles, leaving just a bare, dusty shell.

Jason Thomas with Avalon Realty Advisors, a commercial real estate firm that deals with the marijuana industry’s entrepreneurs, shows off the building’s features: a fully operational HVAC system, fire sprinklers, heavy duty warehouse doors, equipped with locks.

It’s a blank slate for a marijuana grower, ready to be outfitted with thousands of lights and complex water delivery systems.

A bumper crop of “big data”

Nov 13, 2014
Quentin Hope

Farmers are racing to finish harvest, but corn and soybeans aren’t all they’re pulling out of their fields. Farmers are also pulling in bushels of data – yield data that can be mashed up with soil maps and climate records to make precise prescriptions next year for planting seeds, applying fertilizer, and spraying herbicides.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

An effort to label genetically modified foods in Colorado has failed to garner enough support, following a national trend of statewide GMO labeling ballot measures facing uphill battles. A similar measure in Oregon is was defeated by a far narrower margin.

Voters in Colorado resoundingly rejected the labeling of foods that contain the derivatives of genetically modified – or GMO – crops with 66 percent voting against, versus 34 percent in favor.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Northwestern Colorado has a rich heritage of raising sheep – either for their meat or for wool. But for decades the sheep herd, not just in Colorado, but nationally, has been slipping in numbers, outdone by countries like New Zealand and Australia.

Where there’s been a resurgence though has been in local, niche markets. Some sheep ranchers have taken advantage of the local food movement to sell to customers at farmers markets and through community supported agriculture models.   

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

In a dimly-lit lab on the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools’ agricultural science campus, students in aprons, safety goggles and plastic gloves poke and probe chicken wings. About 15 girls and just one boy in this vet careers class are looking for ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other features of this animal part that teenagers more often experience cooked and covered in barbecue sauce.

A 17-year old senior, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail for the dissection, high-fives her lab partner when they identify the ligament and show it to their teacher. This young woman is a chapter officer in the Des Moines FFA group and recently got elected to a district-wide leadership position. She’s already earned a full scholarship to Iowa State University and aspires to be a large animal veterinarian with her own small cattle herd.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Bear Creek Dairy in Brooklyn, Iowa, is home to more than 1,100 cows, who provide about 100,000 pounds of milk each day. The 15-year-old farmer who works closely with the farm’s calves comes from a long line of dairymen – in Europe.

Five years ago, Teun Boelen’s parents sold their farm in the Netherlands and bought a dairy in southeast Iowa because, as his mother explains it, there was no room for their old farm to grow.  

At harvest, corn huskers still pick by hand

Oct 16, 2014
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.

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