Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Insects can be a great source of protein, and in many parts of the world, people gobble them up.

But here in the United States, a certain “ick factor” has kept consumers from eating crickets, locusts and mealworms. To combat the ickiness and convert skeptical consumers, bug-food advocates are trying a specific marketing tactic: be clever and cute.

Courtesy of Emily Robbins

Emily Robbins is a city girl now.

Well, I’m using that term as a cliché. Robbins, 27, lives in Kansas City and works as an engineer at a large firm. She is part of a profession that is made up of just 14 percent women.

Her choice of professions makes sense, though, when you know that she started out as her father’s “boy.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

Change is coming to the poultry industry, but not everyone is happy about it.

Kris Hustead/Harvest Public Media

The agriculture industry is a cornerstone of the Midwest economy. In some states, it may even become a right.

In Missouri, the so-called “right to farm” is on the ballot in the form of an amendment to the state Constitution. And the controversial provision could be a model for Constitutional additions on other ag-heavy states.

Though the “right to farm” provision is focused on agriculture, it has pitted farmer against farmer with some worried that the results could change the face of farming in the Midwest.

Accountability concerns

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

When they heard Dan Hromas’ truck rolling in, the chickens came strutting. The auburn-feathered Rhode Island Reds stood out, even in the tall, green brome grass of Hromas’ rented 3-acre pasture outside of York, Neb.

The pasture is the center of Hromas’ new farming enterprise. For a little over a year he’s been selling farm eggs to local restaurants, grocery stores, and direct to customers in southeast Nebraska.

Amy Mayer/IPR

TV shows like “CSI” have made forensics a hot topic, spawning books and even science programs for kids. The same technology used at crime scenes to link a stray hair to a suspect can also find antibiotics or other medications in milk and meat. And the use of sophisticated testing is becoming increasingly available for livestock producers, who stand to lose lots of money if their products are tainted.

Amy Mayer/IPR

In his home in Forest City, Iowa, Riley Lewis has the original warranty deed for his farm, signed by President James Buchanan and issued to one Elias Gilbert, a soldier who served in the War of 1812.

“He moved here, northeast of Forest City, and lived there for one year,” Lewis said, which was the obligation veterans had if they homesteaded. “And then he sold it to Robert Clark, who was the founder of Forest City.”

My Farm Roots: Farm Life Anything But Quiet

Jul 17, 2014
Suzanne Hogan for Harvest Public Media

Jack and Diane Aaron lived in Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kan., for decades. They loved their neighborhood and it was close to family. But when a friend passed away and left them land on a farm, they decided to take a chance on country living.

While farm life is different, they found it’s anything but quiet.

“Out here we’ve got, just different sounds. We have birds that will wake us up. A cat that likes to wake me up at six because he wants to eat,” Diane Aaron said. “It’s peaceful, but it doesn’t make you crazy,”

Amy Mayer/IPR

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that over 90 percent of U.S. field corn is genetically modified, meaning the seeds have been embedded with a gene—usually from a bacteria—that  protects the corn from pests or herbicides.

Creative Commons

The “who” part of the Farm Bill is pretty clear.

With trillions dollars of government spending up for grabs,lobbyists from all ends of the spectrum – representing environmental interests, biotech companies, food companies, farmers – flocked to Capitol Hill to find their piece of the Farm Bill pie.

Courtesy David Kosling/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.

Got Goats?

Jul 10, 2014
IPR's Pat Blank

A herd of goats are the newest employees of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  64 of them will be eating their way through a 7 acre patch in  Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area in Northeast Iowa's Clayton County.  There's dense vegetation there that's preventing hikers, bird watchers and anglers from using the area as much as they could.  That dense vegetation is also a challenge for traditional heavy mowing equipment because of the steep terrain. The goats have with them a pair of chocolate colored miniature donkeys who will run off any would be predators.

Kris Hustead/Harvest Public Media


The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is touring farm country, trying to assure farmers that the agency isn’t asking for more authority over farmers and ranchers’ lands.

Jacob McCleland for 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.”

Amy Mayer/IPR

A fast spreading, crop destroying weed may be coming to the farms near you.

Palmer amaranth, which has plagued southern farms for decades, has been marching across the Midwest. It can decimate a crop. It can withstand many common herbicides. And it can cost farmers millions.

Roger Hargrafen, a farmer in Muscatine County, Iowa, is on the front lines in the battle against Palmer amaranth. His is one of four Iowa farms confirmed as having it.

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.

My Farm Roots: Smells Like Home

Jul 3, 2014
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.

Chef Camp Teaches Basics of Food Production

Jul 2, 2014
Sean Powers for Harvest Public Media

With farm to table restaurants springing up left and right, cooks are having to go beyond the grocery store. That’s why about a dozen chefs from Chicago and central Illinois recently gathered for a two-day crash course on where their food comes from – the farm.

IPR's Pat Blank

  Students at Crestwood High School FFA are making a 20 thousand dollar investment in a soon to be opened beef processing facility near Lime Springs in North Iowa. They're using some of the 90 thousand dollars they had in the bank after selling some land a few years ago. Initially the FFA chapter was unable to take advantage of the opportunity because state law did not allow investment of taxpayer money in a private enterprise.  State lawmakers assisted the group in introducing the Entrepreneurial Funds for Student Organizations and Clubs Act.

Amy Mayer/IPR

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.”

A much-maligned beef product that’s sometimes added to  hamburger is making a comeback after a sharp decline  two years ago.    Processors cut back  on the production of  what they call finely textured beef when a nasty  nickname “pink slime” caught on in the media.   Now  demand for the product is on the rise because of high beef prices.   

A New Way To Raise Beef ?

Jun 13, 2014
IPR's Pat Blank



Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media


Drought is re-shaping the beef map and raising the price of steak. Ranchers are moving herds from California to Coloradoand from Texas to Nebraska seeking refuge from dry weather. And cattle producers in the Midwest are making the most of it.

Drought Hammers Winter Wheat Across the Plains

Jun 10, 2014
Ariana Brocious / Harvest Public Media

  Much of the Midwest and the Plains have been battling drought for years. And the current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

In Nebraska, a full quarter of the winter wheat crop is rated poor to very poor, and Nebraska farmers are doing comparatively well. More than 40 percent of the wheat acres in Colorado are poor or worse; nearly 60 percent in Kansas and Texas; and an incredible 80 percent in Oklahoma.

Farmers are hopeful improvements are coming to the Midwest river system, which is crucial for shipping grain, in the form of the Waterways Resource Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). After years of work on the bill, Congress recently smashed together separate bills passed by each chamber and sent the White House a new $12.3 billion water infrastructure bill with bipartisan support. President Obama has yet to state whether he plans to sign the bill. The legislation authorizes improvements such as deepening ports.

Courtesy RADiUS-TWC

Just who’s to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic? Over the years, the finger has been pointed at parents, video games and vending machines, to name a few.

To the makers of the new activist documentary, “Fed Up,” the bottom line of blame lies with a simple substance poured into our diets every day: sugar. And the pushers of what this film calls a drug and “the new tobacco” are the food industry and our own government.

“What if our whole approach to this epidemic has been dead wrong?” the film’s narrator, TV journalist Katie Couric, says in the film’s open.

Wikimedia Commons

Federal regulators Tuesday gave the final go-ahead for two of the country’s largest flour milling companies to merge.

Food giants ConAgra and Cargill said last year they wanted to put their flour mills under one roof in a new company called Ardent Mills. But a chorus of antitrust watchdogs said the deal would further consolidate an already concentrated industry.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick long, sturdy yellow gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn.