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 Ben Stanton @StantonRadio. Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins. Our theme music is by The River Monks.

kedarie johnson

The murder of a gender fluid teenage in Burlington has brought attention to the treatment and resources available for transgender students and their friends and teachers in Iowa. Iowa Safe Schools is hosting the first Transgender Education Summit in Iowa on November 17th in Des Moines, and Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools Nate Monson says that its hard to get an estimate on how many trans students are attending public school in Iowa. 

Bird Feeding 101

Nov 14, 2017
Image courtesy of Paul Brennan

Winter can be a wonderful time to see wildlife, and for some of the best viewing, you don’t even have to get cold. Wildlife Biologist Jim Pease talks about the natural intimacy of attracting winter birds to your bird feeder.

Camera Eye Photography /

Stefan Shepherd remembers listening to ABBA and Herb Alpert as a kid; he did not grow up with "kids music." But now he has kids and he started reviewing kid's music on his blog, Zooglobble. In this segment of Talk of Iowa, Shepherd joins host Charity Nebbe to present a few options for good music for kids.

Here are three examples with some thoughts about the music from Shepherd.

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, "Paletero Man" from the album Out of LA.

The first seven years of Dekow Sagar’s life in Somalia were happy. Rural Somalia was beautiful, he had plenty of brothers, sisters and friends to play with, and the family farm provided what they needed. However, Sagar’s pleasant rural life was shattered by terrible violence and civil war.

Image courtesy of IPTV

Music is a powerful medium, allowing us to access and experience an entire spectrum of feelings. For children, music is an important educational tool as well, and all too often, children's music has a tendency to become bland. Host of IPTV's Kids Club Dan Wardell and musician Jim Sieck are on a mission to create interesting kids music, while also teaching them valuable lessons. One song in particular teaches kids about the alphabet.

Image courtesy of Iowa History Camp

In its third year, History Camp Iowa is a daylong series of presentations from a mix of professional and amateur historians who share their expertise with history buffs from all over the state. History Camp Iowa features more than 30 distinct presentations, behind-the-scenes access to the State Historical Museum, and opportunities to meet authors and learn about history organizations.

Not a Sound: Author Heather Gudenkauf

Nov 8, 2017
Charity Nebbe/IPR

When New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf gets writer's block, she takes her dog, Lolo, on a hike at the Mines of Spain, a vastly wooded recreation area just south of Dubuque. This area is where the inspiration for Gudenkauf's latest novel, Not a Sound, emerged.

John Pemble

The opioid addiction epidemic started in Southern Ohio and seems to be moving west. Experts expect the crisis to peak in Iowa in about three years; but already people are dying, families are being torn apart, and law enforcement and medical professionals are overwhelmed.

As policymakers try to respond, one of the people they depend on for information is Deborah Thompson, a policy advisor and legislative liaison for the Iowa Department of Public Health.


It got cold last week, and suddenly the world outside is insect-free. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with her guests about how insects survive the winter, and why they show up so quickly when the warmth returns. 

Guests are Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron, ISU Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis, DNR District Forester Mark Vitosh, and ISU Professor of Horticulture and organic specialist Kathleen Delate. 

Photo submitted

Michelle Droe is the music teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Cedar Falls, Iowa. For a long time her students and colleagues have known that she’s a remarkable teacher, but now she’s receiving national recognition for her work. She’s a semi-finalist for a music educator Grammy award.

One special exercise Droe does involves sixth grade students pretending to be street musicians.  They work with a partner or come up with a performance on their own. 

New Society Publishers


Benjamin Vogt is an author and owner of Monarch Gardens LLC, a prairie garden design firm in Nebraska.  This hour, Vogt discusses his latest book, "A New Garden Ethic; Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future." (New Society Publishers)  In it he writes: "While it's our presence in the form of gardens that brings nature to our urban lives, it's the wake or echo of our beliefs that reverberates the longest."

Lucas Cranach the Elder - The Bridgeman Art Library, Object 13642 / Wikimedia Commons

Five hundred years ago, a rebellious German monk named Martin Luther, who was disgusted with what he saw as corruption in the Catholic Church, started a movement that dramatically changed the face of Christianity. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Ray Mentzer, professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa, and Greg Prickman, who is head of special collections at the University of Iowa. 

Mentzer says that while Martin Luther did write letters to the Catholic Church, he did not nail them to the door to declare his grievances. 

Household Horrors and Home Improvement

Oct 30, 2017

From black mold to crumbling foundations, some household horrors can lead to serious expense and even catastrophe.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with home improvement expert Bill McAnally about some of the scariest things that can happen to your home.

Reflecting on the Growing Season

Oct 27, 2017

With the impending frost Iowa is about to receive, the growing season has come to an end. The season ending means that astute gardeners should take this time of year to reflect on what did and didn't work in their gardens. Chair of the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University Jeff Iles reflects on the diversity of plants outside his home.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

When her husband died, Brenda, an Iowa City resident, struggled to explain the death to her four sons. So she turned to a person who handles death for a living: her husband’s funeral director.

How and Why Language Changes Over Time

Oct 25, 2017
Image courtesy of M. Adiputra

It might seem as though the definitions of words are etched in stone, never to be changed. But language is fluid.  On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with language expert Patricia O’Conner about linguistic quirks, including differences between "can" and "may."

Image courtesy of Gary Kelley

Gary Kelley is an illustrator and painter based in Iowa who works have been published in Time Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and Rolling Stone. His latest project, illustrating the book Next Year: Hope in the Dust by Ruth Vander Zee, centers around the Dust Bowl, the catastrophic wind storms in the 1930s which displaced native prairie protecting the soil of the Great Plains from wind erosion.

Pokey Spears

Surveys and studies show that 10 percent of adults in Iowa were sexually abused as children, and experts have reason to believe the rate is even higher.

"I think we still have a hard time talking about sex, and we need to be able to talk about this better," says Liz Cox Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa.

Jessica Spengler / Flickr

Do you know anybody who can’t sit still? What about someone who doesn't ever seem to want to do anything? Turns out, we are genetically predisposed to be couch potatoes, or not. During this half hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with J. Timothy Lightfoot, director of the Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Texas A & M and an Omar Smith Endowed Professor of Kinesiology. 

Lightfoot says he started looking into the question because he is a person who can't sit still. 

Image by Rob Holysz

Hari Kondabolu, a New Yorker and first-generation American of Indian descent, is an awarded comedian who has a problem with the negative stereotypes of southeast Asians and Indian people in the media. He explores that frustration in his new documentary “The Problem with Apu,” which highlights the effect of the character on his life growing up. 

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Dyslexia is a condition in the brain that makes it hard to read, write, and spell. It's the most common learning disability in children, but it can be difficult to diagnose and manage. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, dyslexia affects anywhere from 5-20 percent of the population depending on the severity of definitions. 

Author Sarah Miller remembers first reading the Little House on the Prairie books when she was in 4th grade. She says when she went back to reread them as an adult, she saw there was more going on than she picked up on as a young adult. 

"I thought about Ma. I read a scene where Laura wakes up and Ma is sitting by the window and has a pistol in her lap," she says. "If you're the lady in the rocking chair, it's your job to make everything safe and cozy. And you don't know if it's all going to work out that way."

Image courtesy of Squirrel Cage Jail of Pottawattamie County, Iowa

In 1885, residents of Council Bluffs wanted the city to become a safer community, but did not want to pay more taxes to do so. As a result of this, the Squirrel Cage Jail was implemented, composed of 90,000 pounds of metal standing three stories tall. The design of the jail was a cost-efficient rotary design, where the prisoners were housed in pie-shaped cells that were rotated with a crank and centered around one opening, similar to the design of a "lazy Susan." This design meant that only one jailor was necessary to man each of the three structures, each housing over 90 prisoners.

John Gayler /

For Carol Bodensteiner, growing up on an Iowa farm meant hard work and connection to the family unit.  She felt her work was valued even when she was very little.  In this final show in our Iowa Week series, Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Bodensteiner about her childhood experiences and what they say about Iowa. 

Bodensteiner says one aspect of growing up in Iowa that has changed is the freedom she had to roam outside.

Iowa came out near the top in the current national rankings in's new survey "Best and Worst States to Grow Old."  But retiring in Iowa is not without its challenges--especially in rural areas, where retirees may be far away from a heath care clinic, a dentist and a psychologist.   Loneliness also remains a problem for many older people, whether in busy, bigger cities or not.  This hour, we continue our special series of programs on challenges facing our state.  

Ali Zifan / wikipedia, creative commons

Election night 2016 put Iowa's divisions on display. The state was a sea of red dotted with blue islands representing Iowa's largest metro areas. Iowans talk a lot about the rural urban divide. But voting in the presidential election allowed those divisions to be mapped. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbes talks with experts about the economic, political, and social differences between Iowa's rural and urban areas.

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa brands itself as a place to grow, and it is, though sometimes that growth isn't always positive. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with a handful of Iowans about the biggest problems Iowa faces as a state and what's being done to solve them. 

Don Graham / Flickr

Iowa has been the “king of corn” for almost two decades. In 2015, Iowa corn farmers grew 2.5 billion bushels of corn on 13 million acres of land. Iowa is also the number one pork producer in the U.S.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a conversation exploring how Iowa became the agricultural powerhouse that it is today, as well as how farming has influenced Iowa's culture.

Image courtesy of Giani

With autumn underway, plants and trees are beginning to change their shape, many shedding their leaves preparing for the cold winter months ahead. These changes bring difficulties to those who would like their trees to remain picturesque during these months, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestor Mark Vitosh advises the proper way to keep them healthy during these dry months.

University of Iowa Press

Charity's guest this hour is Susan Futrell, author of "Good Apples: Behind Every Bite."