Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon December 17, 2012

Public research for private interests

Dr. Dan Thomson, a Kansas State veterinary professor and director of the Beef Cattle Institute, holds a “Beef Quality Assurance” training at the Beef Fest in Emporia, Kan., in August.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Abraham Lincoln established the land-grant colleges 150 years ago as the “peoples’ universities” – places where research could be done to help the common man. But times have changed and some public colleges are now often working for big business. Peggy Lowe has the story in part 1 of Harvest Public Media's series America’s Big Beef. 

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
6:30 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Robotic dairies becoming more common in Iowa

An ankle bracelet gathers information as cows are milked
IPR's Pat Blank

A Northeast Iowa dairy is the latest to invest in a mechanical employee to help with the milking chores. The farmers are hoping the device will enable them to stay competitive in an industry that’s losing producers at an alarming rate. Kevin and Cherish Kueker installed a robot in June. They’ve joined with a neighbor to milk 95 cows and raise calves. Each animal is fitted with an ankle bracelet with a computer chip. In the seven minutes it takes to milk the cow, the chip reveals a detailed history.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
1:46 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Cellulosic ethanol is coming, but future is uncertain

DuPont Industrial BioSciences President Jim Collins speaks to supporters at the site of the company's new cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada.
Amy Mayer/IPR

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard calls for one billion gallons of ethanol produced from non-food plant matter rather than grain next year. It’s a goal industry is woefully unprepared to meet.  But as Iowa Public Radio and Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports, with several plants in the works, cellulosic ethanol is poised to hit the commercial market sometime in 2013. 

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Temple Grandin
3:59 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Animal welfare expert addresses Farm Bureau

Animal welfare expert Temple Grandin addresses the Iowa Farm Bureau annual meeting.
Amy Mayer/IPR

A leader in animal welfare is encouraging Iowa farmers to continue improving their livestock operations. Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer reports. 

Ag census
10:00 am
Mon December 3, 2012

In the ag census, small farmers count

Justin Jones hopes to expand his fruit and vegetable farm to three or four acres next year. That may seem small, but his business is part of a trend. The U.S. added 110 thousand farms under 50 acres from 2002-2007.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Look at the Census of Agriculture and you can learn a lot about farming in Iowa. When the last census was done in 2007, the average farm was 331 acres and worth more than a million dollars. The US Department of Agriculture updates that information every 5 years and is getting ready to send out new surveys in a few weeks. One trend to watch for is the growing number of small farms. As Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media reports, they’re easy to miss and some would rather not be counted.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
6:03 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree

Kris Kringle's Tree Farm owner Danny Moulds stands among the thousands of trees lost to the drought
Pat Blank

Danny Moulds owns Kris Kringle’s Trees just north of Cedar Falls. He says the hot dry summer took a harsh toll on newly planted seedlings. He says he lost around 15 thousand Christmas  trees on his 46 acre farm.

Had those young trees survived they would have been ready for harvest in 2019. Because the drought was so widespread, Iowa Department of Natural Resources District Forester Mark Vitosh says it may be harder to find the more popular varieties in the future.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
4:06 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

Midwest meals reach millions

People of all ages, from as young as 5 years old, filled Hy-Vee Hall to prepare meal packages that are provided to food banks in Des Moines, the United States and around the world.
courtesy of Meals from the Heartland

Iowa volunteers are turning regional ingredients into worldwide food assistance. Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer reports.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
12:54 pm
Wed November 21, 2012

How Midwest farmers help feed the world

Boone County farmer Greg Rinehart uses a high tunnel for vegetables he sells locally. He also grows row crops.
Amy Mayer/IPR

The United States is the world’s leading corn producer and exporter, supporting the increasing demand for meat in China, India and other countries with growing middle classes.  Those countries import livestock feed made from Midwestern grain. But as Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer reports with Harvest Public Media, feeding the world will take more than shipping protein overseas. 

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
4:58 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

In the food wars, opposing sides take their message across the aisles

Farmer Paul Willis at his free range hog farm in Thornton, Iowa.
Credit Sandhya Dirks / IPR

Debate surrounding what we eat and how it’s made is nothing new, but in this year of outcry over pink slime, criticism regarding gestation crates and questions about the value of organic food, the various sides are reaching out in new ways and new places. Even when the opposing camps actually speak with each other, though, middle ground is still proving hard to find.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
12:11 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Dust Bowl memories offer present warning

A corn field withered and broken by drought and wind in Shawnee County, Kan., 1936
courtesy Kansas Historical Society

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s is the subject of a new documentary from Ken Burns airing this month on PBS television stations. The man-made disaster left an indelible mark on the Midwest and on history — and, as Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports, today’s extensive corn production could make the region vulnerable once again.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
7:13 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Corn Belt Farmland: The Newest Real Estate Bubble?

This field is part of a 160-acre tract in Saline County, Mo., that sold for $10,700 last year. Now this land is selling for around $13,000.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Howard Audsley has been driving through Missouri for the past 30 years to assess the value of farmland. Barreling down the flat roads of Saline County on a recent day, he stopped his truck at a 160-acre tract of newly tilled black land. The land sold in February for $10,700 per acre, double what it would have gone for five years ago.

Heading out into the field, Audsley picked up a clod of the dirt that makes this pocket of land some of the priciest in the state.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
2:31 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Ethanol debate looks beyond short term gain

Josh Alexander stands next to a pile of distillers grain at his family’s feedlot near Pilger, Neb.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Livestock producers want to press pause on the federal mandate for corn-based ethanol. They’re seeking relief from corn prices pushed up by the drought. But as Harvest Public Media’s Grant Gerlock reports, this short-term debate has broader implications. 

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Farm bill is more than subsidies and food stamps

Iowa State University researcher Kenny McCabe tends to tomatoes and salvia growing in bio-renewable pots in a greenhouse in Ames.
Amy Mayer/IPR

With the election over, lawmakers now return to Washington for the final weeks of the 112th Congress. Their schedule is packed, but House majority leader Eric Cantor has said addressing the now expired Farm Bill is on the agenda. With Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer reports that it’s not just farmers facing the challenge of planning for an unknown future.

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Farm bill and the elections
1:38 pm
Fri October 26, 2012

Why Campaigns Aren't Focusing on the Farm Bill

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks with Greene County farmer Mike Holden at a campaign event for Vilsack's wife, Christie, the Democratic candidate in the 4th Congressional District.
courtesy photo

When Congress recessed for the election season without passing a new farm bill, many observers thought farmers would demand explanations as campaign trails blazed through small towns. In conjunction with Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer has this look at how the farm bill is playing on the stump.

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Traceability of produce
5:30 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Produce industry struggles to trace food from farm to table

Liberty Fruit Co. in Kansas City, KS, understands the challenges of traceability. It can alert buyers to a recalled product within 24 hours thanks to computerized codes it sticks onto every box. (Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media)

Technology is giving the food industry better tools for detecting problems in the food supply, such as e coli or salmonella contaminations. That’s partly why food recalls have increased in recent years. But quickly finding the source and final destination of unsafe food -- that’s a little more complicated. A recently enacted law requires the produce industry to come up with a system for tracking fruits and vegetables from field to fork, but as Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson reports, there’s a big holdup.

Roundup Resistant Weeds
7:25 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Roundup resistance leading to more chemicals, study finds

Water hemp in this soybean field was not killed by Roundup. (Courtesy Bob Hartzler/Iowa State University)

Farmers and weeds are in a constant competition. When the herbicide called Roundup came along, farmers got a clear edge. But now weeds are beginning to catch up. Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media has more on how Roundup-resistant weeds are changing the game.

Cover Crops
2:18 pm
Fri October 12, 2012

Cover Crops Use Expanding

Jeff Longnecker's cows will graze next spring on rye planted now.
Amy Mayer

While many farmers were bringing in this year’s harvest, they also were planting.  Cover crops—like oats and winter rye—are becoming more popular, despite the time and expense involved in growing green fields that won’t ever make money—directly.  Together with Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer explains why.

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
5:23 am
Tue October 9, 2012

New Amish Settlement Competes for Land in Delaware County

Members that started the Delhi Amish settlement moved to Delaware County, Iowa last year. Now, signs that read "Share the Road" are posted along rural county roads.
Clay Masters IPR

A new Amish settlement has sprung up in Delaware County, Iowa near Delhi. Members of the Amish community near Edgewood left the settlement because of economic differences they had with the Bishop  about how much time they could work off the farm. In the capital intensive agriculture industry it’s hard for anyone to work the land without a second income. As the Amish are forced to become more progressive it’s pitting them against the eroding Midsize American farms.

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Drought Resistant Corn Yields
8:30 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Drought Resistant Corn Yields

Syngenta's drought resistant corn just before harvest in Maxwell, IA.
Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio

After the dry summer, this harvest offers a good look at what drought resistant corn can do. In conjunction with Harvest Public Media, Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer reports the big companies may soon be touting their results, but farmers may not rush to plant drought resistant seed next year. 

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
7:47 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Drought Means Mixed Harvest for Pumpkin Growers

Pumpkin harvests are varied across Iowa - another effect of this summer's severe drought.
Dean Borg Iowa Public Radio

With Halloween approaching, attention is turning to pumpkins. But not all pumpkin fields are filled with orange.

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
4:24 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

Cows eating candy?

Prices for corn-based livestock feed have jumped nearly 20 percent. So some farmers are using leftover or off grade items like partially melted candy bars, from local food processors, to supplement.

Gummy bears, chocolate, ice cream, and chewing gum:  sounds like a junk food binge, but those products are actually helping some Iowa cattle producers stretch their dollars. Prices for corn-based livestock feed have jumped nearly 20 percent. So some farmers are using leftover or off grade items like partially melted candy bars, from local food processors, to supplement.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
7:00 am
Wed September 26, 2012

My Farm Roots: Nathan Dorn

Nathan Dorn stands in front of the feedlot on his family’s farm in Adams, Neb.
Camille Phillips Harvest Public Media

Down a stretch of rural highway and country roads lined with fields, about an hour south of Lincoln, Neb., lies the Dorn family farm. That’s where Nathan Dorn grew up, where his grandfather farmed before him and where his father, uncles and cousin now farm beside him.

Dorn’s strong ties to the land made the decision to continue the family tradition of farming an easy one. But it also leaves him feeling misunderstood by the average American.

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Farm Bill
1:47 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Coalescing around the Farm Bill

Back in Iowa after the Farm Bill Now rally in Washington, D.C., Brad Moeckly tends to his combine.
Amy Mayer

The current farm bill expires at the end of September and lawmakers won’t have a new one passed, thanks largely to election-year politics. Despite the partisan bickering in Washington, many in farm country are working together to keep their concerns on the front burner.

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
4:12 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Unverferth adds jobs in a drought year

One of the hundreds of grain carts made annually by Unverferth Manufacturing near Shell Rock
Pat Blank

Farm equipment maker Unverferth Manufacturing Incorporated is taking a leap of faith by adding jobs with the help of a 600 thousand dollar boost from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

The Shell Rock plant is Butler County’s largest employer with 425 current jobs. The state money will be used to build a  6 million dollar expansion and create 75 jobs over three years.

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8:52 am
Wed September 19, 2012

My Farm Roots: From pastime to passion

Aaron Troester grew up wanting to farm. He changed his mind in college, but eventually settled back on the farm with his young family.
Hilary Stohs-Krause for Harvest Public Media

Aaron Troester’s life both did, and didn’t, turn out exactly the way he planned.

The 29-year-old farmer in the north-central Nebraska town of O’Neill was pouring honey into jars from bees he keeps when I met him. I soon learned he had a chemistry degree and had planned to go to medical school, but the lure of the land he farms with his father changed his mind.

“All through grade school, I knew I wanted to farm,” Troester said. That changed in college, but a year spent back on the farm while waitlisted for med school slowly evolved from passing the time into passion.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
5:44 am
Mon September 17, 2012

Gas with more ethanol headed to some pumps

The Zarco 66 gas station in Lawrence, Kan., is the first in the country to offer E-15.
Jeremy Bernfeld Harvest Public Media

Head to your local filling station and you might see a new blend of gas at the pump. After a three-year regulatory process, the Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 – gas made with 15 percent ethanol – this summer.

Most gas we pump is already blended with ethanol, sometimes it contains as much as 10 percent, but the ethanol industry fought hard to bring E15 to the market. For ethanol backers and the farmers who feed the ethanol industry, getting drivers to pump gas with 50 percent more ethanol is a big win.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
3:53 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Which presidential candidate is best for agriculture?

Former Iowa Lieutentant Governor Patty Judge debates Nebraska Republican Senator Mike Johanns in front of State Secretaries of Agriculture from across the country.
Sandhya Dirks

Despite a devastating drought Iowa has weathered a rough economy thanks to its agricultural base. On Wednesday night Ag leaders from across the country gathered in Des Moines for a forum on agriculture. The question up for debate? Which presidential candidate is best for farmers.  As Iowa Public Radio’s Sandhya Dirks reports, the answer to that question could decide the election.  

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
6:59 am
Thu September 13, 2012

Manager of Iowa Egg Farm Linked to Salmonella Admits Bribery

Shannon Miller

The manager at an Iowa Egg Farm implicated in a national salmonella outbreak will admit he tried to bribe a federal official to sign off on unsafe eggs.

In 2010 a salmonella scare spread across the country—500 million eggs were recalled and 2,000 people fell sick.

Now a federal prosecutor says the manager of the farm the bacterial outbreak was traced back to—Tony Wasmund—has agreed to plead guilty to attempting to bribe a public official. Wasmund apparently offered $300 to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector to let eggs that didn’t pass muster go to market.

Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
7:22 am
Wed September 12, 2012

My Farm Roots:Rose Alderson

Rose Alderson and her husband Loren have farmed outside of Nickerson, Kan., for decades.
Frank Morris Harvest Public Media

This is the tenth installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connections to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
6:57 am
Wed September 5, 2012

My Farm Roots: Brandon Fahrmeier

Brandon Fahrmeier and his brother Bret Fahrmeier farm in Lexington, Mo., on land that has been in their family since the 1940s.
Jeremy Bernfeld Harvest Public Media

This is the ninth installment of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Brandon Fahrmeier had a nice job as a sales rep in Ohio for a large company. He and his wife had a nice suburban home. Then they had kids.  

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