Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:20 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Soybean planting slow

Rick and Grant Kimberley plant soybeans on their farm near Maxwell
Credit Courtesy photo

Spring planting could linger into the summer for many Iowa soybean farmers. The state's trading partners and commodity markets are keeping a close eye on what happens here and it could impact the economy down the road. Grant Kimberley is the market development director for the Iowa Soybean Association. He tells Iowa Public Radio's Pat Blank, this year has been a challenge.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Running a CSA can be a tricky business

Michael Baute farms three acres in Fort Collins, Colo. One-third of Spring Kite Farms goes to the farm’s CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, clients.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture model is praised. CSAs, as they’re commonly known, are often considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat.

The model is simple: Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But running a CSA can bring with it some tricky business decisions.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon June 17, 2013

For CSAs, how big is too big?

Andy Grant walks among chickens that will provide eggs for a new CSA effort, Six Dog Farms.
Grace Hood for Harvest Public Media

Last year, one of the country’s largest Community Supported Agriculture share providers went bankrupt. Grant Family Farms in Northern Colorado launched an organic CSA back in 2007 with 127 members and peaked with more than 5,000 in 2012.

The story behind why Grant Family Farms went bankrupt is complicated. But it also sheds light on whether a CSA can become too big.

Losing It All

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Thu June 13, 2013

My Farm Roots: The 1980s farm crisis still resonates for fifth-generation Iowa farmer

Fifth-generation Iowa farmer Mark Kenney savors the lessons he learned from the 1980s farm crisis.
Amy Mayer/IPR

I met Mark Kenney on his family’s farm in Nevada, Iowa, when I was working on a story about farmer taxes. He turned out to be perfect for that—a farmer with a keen interest in spreadsheets.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Smithsonian plows into farming history

In the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's staging area, curator Peter Liebhold shows off some of the artifacts he's been collecting from farms all over rural America for the museum's upcoming 'American Enterprise' exhibition.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. only get small glimpses of farming, such as a mural display of immigrant farmworkers planting crops in a 19th century California town. The museum once had an Agriculture Hall, but it was removed in 2006.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
12:24 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

At the farmer's market, with food stamps

April Segura, of Lincoln, Neb., uses her SNAP benefits to shop at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market with her sons Jalen, 5, and Jeriel, 1.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.

“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:11 am
Wed June 5, 2013

At the farmers market, with food stamps

April Segura, of Lincoln, Neb., uses her SNAP benefits to shop at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market with her sons Jalen, 5, and Jeriel, 1.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.

“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Broader competition for USDA's 'rural' dollars

Eugene Jacquez’s family has grown beans and raised sheep at the base of the Culebra peaks in San Luis, Colo., for generations. He belongs to the Rio Culebra Cooperative and says without federal funding, many of his neighbors may not sell to the co-op.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.

With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:05 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Federal funds flow to rural communities

Staunton, Ill., Mayor Craig Neuhaus, left, checks out the town’s new water plant with Hank Fey, a public works director.
Bill Wheelhouse Harvest Public Media

In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days. 

But for Staunton’s part-time mayor Craig Neuhaus, the plant represents more than water security. He expects the water system upgrade to help bring business to this town about 40 miles north of St. Louis.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
2:28 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Ames High students document sustainability

Berry Patch farm manager Lee Matteson poses while Douglas Gayeton helps Ames High junior Erin Cochran shoot a series of photos.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Inside a high tunnel at Berry Patch farm near Nevada, Iowa, strawberry baskets hang overhead and tomato plants stand tall already laden with fruit. Farm manager Lee Matteson picks several zucchini. Then, he stands there, holding the fresh squash while Will Weber, a sophomore environmental science student from Ames High School, takes a series of photographs.  Beside Weber, and holding another impressive-looking camera, Douglas Gayeton also takes pictures—and issues advice and suggestions to Weber.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Federal funds flow to rural communities

Staunton, Ill., Mayor Craig Neuhaus, left, checks out the town’s new water plant with Hank Fey, a public works director.
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days. 

But for Staunton’s part-time mayor Craig Neuhaus, the plant represents more than water security. He expects the water system upgrade to help bring business to this town about 40 miles north of St. Louis.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:38 am
Tue May 28, 2013

USDA releases labeling rule for meat

Under new USDA rules, products like this will need to carry a label that will notify consumers where the animals from which their meat was derived were born, raised and slaughtered.
Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

The USDA’s amended Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL, rule will require packers and retailers to include more information on labels on beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat meat, specifically where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. Currently, labels only require companies to include where the animal was born.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Refugees find home on the farm

Lutheran Services of Iowa farm assistant Donna Wilterdink gives transplants to Cubwa Rajabu, who is cultivating a plot at Global Greens Farm.
Amy Mayer/IPR

On a small farm in suburban West Des Moines, Iowa, even the barn is a refugee—an historic structure relocated from nearby Valley High School. The farmers, most of them refugees, are just starting to hoe the land, each one working a 50-foot by 50-foot plot where they’ll grow corn, beans, cabbage, eggplant, onions, tomatoes and peppers.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Fri May 17, 2013

Exploring the secret life of plants

Debby Greenblatt's home - a former school in Avoca, Neb. - is filled with plants.
Hilary Stohs-Krause for Harvest Public Media

 

Ever know someone who talks to plants?

Maybe it was your offbeat neighbor cooing at his gardenias; maybe your grandmother analyzed baseball with her cucumbers. It seems a bit silly, but researchers say farmers should maybe take notice.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:54 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Growing a local beer, farm to glass

Zach Weakland is a co-founder of High Hops Brewery in Windsor, Colo., which takes the farm to glass mantra seriously.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

How does a new craft brewer stand apart from the pack? A few have hitched their brewery onto the local food bandwagon, sourcing the ingredients that form beer’s DNA straight from the fields around them.

Last year, more than 400 breweries opened nationwide. It shouldn’t surprise that the craft beer industry is growing at a tremendous rate. In some states, like Colorado, there are so many craft breweries they’re starting to blend together.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Pallid sturgeon still endangered on the Missouri River

Thad Huenemann of Nebraska Game and Parks steers his boat down the Missouri River with Nebraska City, Neb., in the background.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The volunteer crew members pulled on their life jackets and climbed into a flat-bottomed aluminum boat at a ramp near Nebraska City, Neb. They came out early on a cold, gray April morning hoping to catch an endangered pallid sturgeon.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Conservation acres harder to come by

Iowa farmer John Berdo stands atop one of the terraces that helps control water flow on his crop fields. Terraces are one of many conservation measures Berdo employs.
Amy Mayer/IPR

At a basin in central Iowa’s Onion Creek Watershed, Sean McCoy pulls a state truck up near a brand-new wetland. It looks like a construction zone, with lots of bare earth.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu April 25, 2013

Gluten-free by popular demand

Eliminating certain foods from a diet can be risky, says Paula Vandelicht, a nutritionist at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Columbia, Mo. Among other things, she advises customers about the shortcomings of a gluten-free diet.
Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Six months ago, Kara Welter drastically changed her diet by eliminating food that contains wheat, rye or barley.

“I don’t eat gluten,” said Welter, a 41-year-old marketing executive in Kansas City. “I happened to just try it because I was having stomach issues for years. And it turns out within three days, I stopped having stomach issues.”

Welter’s gluten decision stemmed from what she read online. Medical tests showed that she did not have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, the disorder that causes the immune system to reject the gluten.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue April 23, 2013

This little piggy has a niche market

These Berkshire pigs move between their feeding and water troughs, at the open end of their hoop house on Randy Hilleman’s farm in State Center, Iowa.
Amy Mayer/IPR

There’s more than one way to sell a pig.

And when the hog market plunged to 8 cents a pound in 1998, Iowa producer Randy Hilleman decided it was time to make a change. Hilleman raises Berkshire pigs, a breed that’s fattier than traditional pigs and costs a little more to raise. Back then, that was hurting him.

“If we took them into Marshalltown, [Iowa] to the big packing plant, we would get docked because they’re too fat,” Hilleman said. “What they pay on is lean, and we like to have some fat on ours.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 17, 2013

Seed companies fight to maintain independence

Burrus Seed employs about 60 workers year-round, more during peak season.
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

The window in Tom Burrus’ office gives him a good look at the wide expanse of Illinois River bottomland where his company produces seed corn for farmers across Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. Hanging on his wall are sketches of his grandfather and others who’ve had a part in the Burrus Seed Co. since it was founded 1935. The 63-year-old company president knows he is  a rare independent in a land of giants.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Seeking profits in private labels

Walmart's "Great Value" brand is an example of private label food. After acquiring Ralcorp, ConAgra is now the largest private label food supplier in the U.S.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

You may not think much about store brands as you shop for groceries, but it’s a business worth nearly $60 billion per year. ConAgra, a company based in Omaha, Neb., made a splash recently in what the industry calls private label food when it paid $6.8 billion to buy Ralcorp, based in St. Louis, Mo. The merger created the biggest private label food company in the country.

Every major grocer has its own private label brand. Walmart has Great Value. Kroger stores sell Private Selection. Costco has Kirkland. Almost everything at Trader Joe’s seems to carry the store's name.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon April 15, 2013

New cages and carton labels could come to egg industry

At Mark Tjelmeland’s farm near McCallsburg, this henhouse opens up to three acres of pasture for the chickens.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Mark Tjelmeland wears Carhartt overalls over a faded blue work shirt and his face is framed by a baseball cap from the local farmers’ cooperative and a curly white beard. He shows me around his homestead in McCallsburg, Iowa, about 20 miles northeast of Ames. This third-generation farmer grows traditional corn and soybeans on one of his farms. But on this one, he’s got a four-crop rotation of certified organic corn, soybeans, oats and hay. And three acres of pasture for his 700 laying hens.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Potato industry banks on 'Linda'

Kristin Mastre is the kind of influential shopper the potato industry is targeting, as she buys food for her family, including sons Carter and Logan.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

At a Fort Collins, Colo., grocery store, Kristin Mastre paused for a minute in front a large bin of Russet and red potatoes. She picked out a few handfuls and continued on, her two boys, Carter, 4, and Logan, 7, in tow.

“Today is definitely a staples kind of day,” Mastre said, pointing to the potatoes in her shopping cart. Mastre, who does nearly all the cooking and grocery shopping for her family, is a big potato consumer.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Thirsty cities drain Colorado farmland

Fourth-generation farmer Kent Peppler will have a hard time securing irrigation water this year. The ongoing drought has forced cities to hold on to their supplies, which means Peppler will have to fallow some of his fields in Mead, Colo.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Farmers throughout the Great Plains are preparing for what could be a tough, dry growing season.  Limited irrigation resources pose a particular problem in Colorado.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Taxing complications for farmers

From his farm’s headquarters in Nevada, Iowa, Mark Kenney can see his childhood home and farm. Not pictured, but also within sight, is the original piece of farmland Kenney’s great-great grandfather bought, which is still part of the family farm.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Farmers will be filing their taxes on April 15 this year—just like most other Americans. But usually farmers have to file and pay by March first. It’s just one of many ways that taxes are different for farmers. 

Roger McEowen runs the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation at Iowa State University. He offers trainings for lawyers and accountants all over the country to ready them for preparing farm tax returns.

“Farm tax, in many instances, is totally different from taxation with respect to nonfarmers,” McEowen said.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:28 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Rural Post Offices in Crisis

The post office in Nilwood, Ill., serves as an informal community center.
Credit Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

It’s mid-morning on a bleak March day in Nilwood, Ill. And every 10 minutes or so, a car or truck pulls into the gravel parking lot in front of the south-central Illinois town’s post office.   

Rush hour.

Because there is no mail delivery here, the town’s 236 residents must stop in to the post office to stay connected. Staffed by one full-time postmaster and one relief person, this office provides mail service six days a week.    As in many rural communities across the country, the post office serves as an informal community center.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:04 am
Fri March 22, 2013

GMO labeling laws on deck in the Midwest

Labels at Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. near Hermann, Mo., do not indicate if products contain genetically modified organisms.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Just south of Hermann, Mo., Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. processes 2 million pounds of meat a year -- everything from cattle to hogs to buffalo to elk.

And everything gets a label.

“No antibiotics added, raised without added hormones, all natural, minimally processed," Glenn Brandt, the production manager for Swiss Meat, reads from a hefty roll of hickory smoked beef sausage stickers.

What this label does not indicate, however, is whether or not the sausage contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:28 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Ethanol Plants Caught in 'Blend Wall'

In Atkinson, Neb., a semi rolls past the NEDAK plant, which shut down when corn prices peaked during the summer of 2012 and new demand from E15 failed to materialize.
Credit Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

On Highway 20 outside of Atkinson in north-central Nebraska, semis with trailers full of corn roll past the NEDAK ethanol plant.

The plant, which was built by local investors in 2008, has been offline since June 2012 when the drought pushed corn prices to new highs. When operating, the plant made 44 million gallons of ethanol per year from 17 million bushels of corn.

“We had corn coming in as far as 130 miles out,” said Jerome Fagerland, NEDAK's president and general manager.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Farmers Face Unknowns As Healthcare Overhaul Approaches

Marilyn Andersen of Story City feeds her angora goats, whose wool she spins and weaves. Andersen will soon be buying individual health insurance.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Marilyn Andersen raises angora goats and llamas for wool that she spins and weaves in her studio at Two Cedars Weaving in Story City, Iowa. She also has a part-time job coordinating distribution of local produce through a service called Farm to Folk. Neither effort comes with health insurance.

“Right now I have health insurance through my husband’s job but that is going to end when he retires in a few months,” she said recently, “and so I’ve just begun a search for health insurance for myself.”

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Agriculture/Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Science of the Seed part 3

Carefully organized ears of corn wait to be hulled at the DuPont Pioneer Dallas Center Corn Research Center.
Amy Mayer/IPR

We continue now with Harvest Public Media’s three-part series on the Science of the Seed. Over the past two days we’ve considered the beginnings of genetic modification and how control of the technology is changing as patents expire. Today, we wrap up with the question that drives seed company executives and farmers alike: how can we grow more crops?  Iowa Public Radio’s Amy Mayer looks at how seed innovations push the boundaries of what the land can produce.

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