Talk of Iowa

Weekdays at 10 a.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 9 p.m. on IPR News

Talk of Iowa brings a mix of regular guests and a range of experts to the microphone to discuss what’s happening in Iowa and what makes this a special place to live. Guests include wildlife expert Jim Pease and the Hort Gang on Fridays.

Talk of Iowa is hosted by Charity Nebbe @CharityNebbe.  It’s produced by Dennis Reese, Emily Woodbury @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.


Posting a photo of your child on Facebook may seem like a harmless way to keep your family and friends up to date, but “sharenting” has actually become a hotly debated topic among parents. As more concern grows for the safety and privacy of children online, one Iowa dad used his children’s social media presence as a learning tool.

See Iowa in 1919 through the eyes of a 28-year-old stenographer, celebrate the contributions of the Hollywood elite in World War II, find out how the railroads revolutionized mail delivery: You can do all of that and more at the 2016 History Camp Iowa.   This hour, we get a preview of what you can learn at the event next month in Des Moines, featuring professional and amateur historians as they speak on Iowa as well as national and international history topics.

portrait by George Catlin, photo courtesy of Cliff / Flickr

Moccasin, chipmunk, hickory--many words from Native American languages have morphed into words we use in modern American English. English language expert Patricia O’Connor explains that many Native American words that have been adopted into English still retain their native associations, but there are many words especially for animals and different kinds of food that have gone full cross cultural.

Wikimedia Commons

This time of year, it’s hard to avoid pumpkin spice. It’s being used for candles, lattes, and even beef jerky. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Aaron Steil, assistant director for Reiman Gardens about what makes up the iconic blend.

Horticulture expert Richard Jauron also joins the conversation to answer listener questions.

Phil Roeder / Flickr

Research shows that living in a walkable community is good for your health, good for your kids, and good for the local economy, but it can be a struggle for cities to develop infrastructure towards better walkability.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion on what it means for a community to be walkable, the impact it can have, the barriers to walkability, as well as the pros and cons of skywalk systems.

Guests on today’s program include:

University of Iowa Press

Between the 1930s and the 1960s, northern universities became a destination for black students from the south looking for the kinds of opportunities they didn't have access to back home.  The process of integrating Iowa's public universities was long and slow.  Black athletes and artists were among the first students to cross the academic color line in Iowa City.   This hour, we'll hear about a new book that tells the stories of many of the black students who were among the first to study at the University of Iowa.

julochka / Flickr

Doris Montag is a museum curator without a museum. She creates exhibits that are shown at public libraries and museums all over Eastern Iowa. There was the exhibit on egg cartons at the Coralville Public Library this summer and the exhibit on the history of barbers at the Johnson County Historical Society Museum, and one on Black Santas incoming to the African American Museum of Iowa. She finds her inspiration in the stories told by every day objects.

Frank Kovalchek / Wikimedia Commons

Just about a decade ago, Roger Miller, along with some fellow steel guitar players, started to worry about the future of the instrument. There weren't a lot of young players. So they did something about it and founded the Jump Start Academy, which pairs seasoned steel petal guitar musicians with young people who want to learn.

"We'll give you a steel guitar to play on and pair you with a mentor for a year," explains Miller. "We've got teachers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, so this is growing across the Midwest." 

Historian Tom Morain started working at Living History Farms in 1981. That was the beginning of a career dedicated to researching, teaching and sharing Iowa history.

"Iowa history is one of the few subjects that you're walking around surrounded by primary resources... People who know Iowa history because they've lived it," says Morain. "If [teachers] have materials on what happened locally, how local towns responded to that, our experience has been they love it and students love it."

Heather Paul / Flickr

Adding up the costs of bird seed, travel, and birding tools, birders spend more than 20 billion dollars a year just to look at them, but birds also get in the way. Humans tend to consider some birds good and some birds bad. For example, the blue jay was long considered a morally corrupt bird due to its behavior of raiding other birds' nests, but in recent years, the bird has been recognized for its intellect.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Can you imagine moving to a new town and going to a new school where you can’t understand what anyone is saying? Thousands of students in Iowa have that experience every year. In fact, the number of English language learners in the state has increased by 452 percent in the last 20 years. 

Lia Plakans, who is an associate professor of education at the University of Iowa, says that many of those ELL students are coming to districts that are in more rural parts of the state. 

Why October is the Best Time to Plan Your Spring Garden

Oct 14, 2016
Field Outdoor Spaces / Flickr


The rich yellows, oranges, and reds of fall are dominant in the landscape right now, but it’s time to start thinking about the pinks, purples, and whites of spring. 
On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University horticulturists Cindy Haynes and Richard Jauron about fall bulbs and how to plan for your spring garden.   


Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

If you have a child between the ages of nine and fifteen, or if you’re just a fan of mythology, it’s likely that you’ve heard of author Rick Riordan.

The New York Times bestselling author is most famous for his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which follows the adventures of demi-god teens as they navigate the world of the Greek gods, monsters and the challenges of middle school.

Riordan drew his inspiration for the series from his fifteen years as a middle school English and History teacher, as well as from his older son.

The Feathered Fauna of Fall

Oct 11, 2016
Gary Halvorsen / Wikimedia Commons

As the Iowa landscape turns gold, brown and all those other colors of autumn, we also start seeing some of Iowa’s game bird species a little more often. Familiar game birds include wild turkeys, partridges, doves, grouse, quail, and pheasants, but according to ISU Extension Wildlife Specialist Adam Jahnke, there is now one species you should expect to see less frequently.

“The greater prairie chicken was historically really abundant in Iowa, but due to the pressures of habitat change, [they] are no longer a game species in Iowa.”

S Pakhrin

History is written by the victors, and for hundreds of years, that has meant that the history of indigenous people in the U.S. has been simplified, twisted, or simply ignored.

Best Places to See Fall Colors in Iowa

Oct 7, 2016
TumblingRun / Flickr


Fall is here and beautiful colors are creeping across the landscape.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with DNR district forester Mark Vitosh about why and how leaves change color in the fall and the best places to see fall color in the state.


Vitosh says his top five favorite trees in the fall are:


As the flood waters begin to recede, many people returning home find that the real work has just begun. During this hour on Talk of Iowa, home improvement expert Bill McAnally offers some advice for those affected by the recent floods. 

After being submerged in water for days, it can be an extremely daunting task getting a home back to livable conditions

John Pemble

After nearly 50 years, Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen is hanging up his sound kit. After getting his start with the American Forces Vietnam Network in the late 1960s as a young marine, he’s won numerous awards and has reported on some of the biggest stories of the 20th century. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Fredericksen about the Peabody Award he won with CBS News reporting on the Tiananmen Square in 1989 to the time he met Robin Williams when Williams was in Vietnam researching his role for the movie “Good Morning Vietnam.” 

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

The roaring 20s are oft-idealized in modern media, but a dark side persisted. To fuel the parties, the booze, and the fun, an elaborate system of bootlegging, grifting, prostitution and gambling was created by a few prominent mobsters.

In this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Jonathan Eig, author of Get Capone, and Markus Eckhart, curator of Ain't Misbehavin? The World of the Gangster at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

An Interview with the Next Charles Dickens?

Oct 4, 2016

Expectations are high for Iowa native Nathan Hill’s debut novel. He’s been compared to the novelist John Irving, and John Irving is comparing him to Charles Dickens. The novel is called The Nix, and its Dickensian scope makes it hard to say what it’s about: love, loss, secrets, a mother and a son, a father and a daughter, politics, video game addiction, academia, and of course, Norwegian folklore.

Photo by Bob Peterson/Flickr

Unlike bees who collect pollen and make honey, it's sometimes hard to see how wasps help us; but there are benefits to having them around.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Linda Naeve, of Iowa State University Extension Agriculture Specialist. Donald Lewis, an Iowa State University Extension Entomologist and Mark Vitosh, the Department of Natural Resources District Forester, also join the conversation to talk about the benefits of wasps and what to do if they become pests. 

Courtesy of Bill Close

For many students who attended Peet Junior High in Cedar Falls, Bill Close was one of those teachers who was larger than life, just like the art he worked on with his students.

For nearly a quarter century, he designed mega sculptures that he enlisted his art students to help build as a part of his art class.

"The ladies in the cafeteria asked us to make some posters for National School Lunch Week. When I proposed the colored posters for school lunch week, their eyes kind of rolled,” he says about his students at the time.

There’s a great deal of history to be found on most university campuses, but not just in the buildings and the libraries - the trees also have a story to tell.

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulturist Bill Graves about the Heritage Tree Program at Iowa State University. Also, he and horticulturist Richard Jauron answer listener questions.

Luther College Archives / Flickr

Last weekend, the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened its doors with these words from President Obama.

"As Americans, we rightfully passed on the tales of the giants that built this country, who led armies into battle, who waged seminal debates in the halls of Congress and the corridors of power. But too often, we ignored or forgot the stories of millions upon millions of others, who built this nation just as surely."

Courtesy of Gaelynn Lea

In March a singer, songwriter, and fiddler from Duluth, Minnesota won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert contest. Now, Gaelynn Lea is embarking on her first solo tour and bringing her music to Iowa.

Nick Wiebe / Wikimedia Commons

Even before her involvement with the Black Panther Party in the 1970s, Angela Davis has been advocating for change. She grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama where family friends were victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Her experience of being on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List galvanized her as an activist. Today, she is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California Santa Cruz and the author of many books.

Dean Borg/IPR File

The lessons learned from the historic flood of 2008 are helping Iowa mitigate damage from this year’s flooding in northern and eastern parts of the state.

Jeff Olson is the Public Safety Director for the City of Cedar Falls. On Wednesday's Talk of Iowa, Olson told host Charity Nebbe the city recorded its second-highest water levels in this year's flooding.

After the 2008 flood, the city wrote a plan that Olson says, "tells us exactly what we need to do," when the Cedar River peaks. 

Courtesy of Asphate

Paintings, symphonies, and sculptures have long been considered art forms, but the last century has given way to newer forms of expression that many consider to be artistic.

"Art is something that captures a lot of what we all agree upon is important or beautiful, but what makes it art is something that takes it into that realm of someone's imagination," says Todd Behrens, curator of the Sioux City Art Museum.

The act of creating is a powerful one, but you don't have to be a professional artist to tap into that power.  On this "Iowa Week" program about the arts in Iowa, we talk to a number of Iowans about art in their communities, from theater to community bands to the visual arts. 

Michael Leland / Iowa Public Radio

Humans have been making monuments and memorializing events, people, and tragedies for a long time. Do we think about memorials different today than we used to? 

According to David Schmitz, who is Executive Director with the Dubuque Museum of Art, the answer is yes.  Schmidtz has worked cataloging memorials and monuments in the state.