Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

United Nations Photo / flickr

It's easy to forget about food safety when it comes to garden produce, because growing your own food is considered healthy. Dr. Angela Shaw, an assistant professor of food safety at Iowa State University, says cognizance is key when it comes to food safety in home gardens.

"The first thing is to consider where you place your garden. Thinking about soil: what was previously there? Was there heavy metal? What was your house grown on? We have a lot of swampland as well as chemical landfills that are now communities."

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Nate Storey’s greenhouse in west Laramie, Wyoming is packed with vegetables growing in long, upright plastic towers.

Storey’s set-up is an urban farmer’s dream: the waste from fish tanks fertilizes the crops through plastic tubing that drips water onto the vertical garden. The greenhouse is small, but produces a lot of food.

Like a proud father he shows off bok choy, butter lettuce and spinach.

LollyKnit / Flickr

The local foods movement is gaining strength.  Farmers, grocers and chefs are all trying to meet the growing demand for high quality, locally sourced ingredients, but Chef Dan Barber thinks that the movement is missing a very important element - sustainability. 

“I do think that farm to table cooking can really fall into the category of elitism because of the way it’s practiced. It’s cherry picking ingredients that we most covet."

The Swansons have farmed land in Boone County  for generations. When the great recession hit, it called their sons' future in farming into question. Regardless of the logistics, the connection between farm and family was evident. 

"It was really kind of amazing to watch them work together as a family. There's something beyond the practical that is tied up in their desire to do that, obviously. They want to farm as a family, they know how to work with each other, they enjoy working with each other."

Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

 

Just over a year ago, Tracy Dethlefs learned she has stage 1 breast cancer. Since then, she estimates she’s charted some 10,000 miles travelling from her farm near Loup City in central Nebraska to area hospitals for treatment. Every surgery, round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment was a road trip.

“Radiation treatments usually (take) only about 5 minutes (on) a day that they have to see you,” Dethlefs said. “But for a week, for seven weeks in a row, you’re driving every single day to the cancer treatment center. We’re about an hour away from cancer centers.”

Photo Courtesy of Ash Bruxvoort

One of the best ways to learn anything is through experience. Farming is no exception.

Over the course of the last year, Iowan Ash Bruxvoort has been traveling the country apprenticing on organic farms. She started out on a small CSA in Atlantic and says getting on farm experience has taught her more than anything else she could have done.

 

Some Farmers Warming Up to the Affordable Care Act

Mar 30, 2015
file: Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Until the federal health insurance marketplace opened in late 2013, farmers and ranchers were more likely to be uninsured than many other occupational groups. The Affordable Care Act changed that by requiring them to buy insurance. But it also gave them coverage options they didn’t have before.  

Jon Bailey, of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs, says it’s hard to make sweeping generalizations about how the health care law is working for farmers and ranchers.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio file photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed changes on Tuesday to the rules that govern which farmers can receive government subsidies.

The goal is to cut off payments to people who claim they’re involved in the management of a farm, but aren’t doing much managing.

Farmers who own land, run cattle, or spend their spring planting corn can relax – the proposed rule change doesn’t impact their ability to collect up to a $125,000 a year in government subsidies.

Amy Mayer/Iowa Public Radio

The U.S. Senate agriculture committee heard testimony today on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

Nearly a year ago, the EPA proposed a change to the Clean Water Act that it says would clarify its authority over certain wetlands and streams. But Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who serves on the agriculture committee, says the proposal has met strong opposition in farm country.

Grant Gerlock/Harveset Public Media

More than a dozen federal agencies form a patchwork system that aims to keep food from making Americans sick. But critics say the old system has worn thin. And some think we would all be safer if food safety at the federal level was brought under one roof.

Walking through Heartland Gourmet in Lincoln, Neb. shows how complicated the food safety system can be. Inside the warehouse pallets are stacked with sacks of potato flour and the smell of fresh baked apple-cinnamon muffins is in the air.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

A battle is brewing in the organic food industry.

The largest trade association for organic farmers, marketers and processors wants growers to help pay for promotional campaigns, using a decades-old funding model that paid for iconic ads like “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner.” But deciding how to spread the organic message is dividing the sector into factions.

Julie Falk / Flickr

Though the weather's warmed up in Iowa, colder dips are still to come. So how do you extend your growing season?

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

 

A proposed change to livestock rules has put Nebraska hog farmers at the center of a debate that gets to the very core of what it means to be a farmer today.

In the top pork producing states like Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina, many farmers are under contract with giant meatpackers like Tyson or Smithfield Foods – the companies actually own the pigs and pay the farmers to raise them. That arrangement is illegal in Nebraska.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A highly contagious strain of bird flu has officially made its way to the Midwest.

The disease was confirmed Tuesday in two separate commercial turkey flocks in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

After years of negotiations, a dozen countries – from New Zealand up to Canada – are on the verge of a trade agreement.

Bruce Guenter/Flickr

Soybean, corn and wheat farmers in the upper Midwest lost about $570 million last winter, thanks mostly to transportation tie-ups.

Adam Fagen / Flickr

The snow is starting to melt and that means it's time to prune back trees before spring weather arrives. 

Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

The monarch butterfly may soon find more of its food in Iowa.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Farmers face plenty of risk, including the unknowns of weather, global markets and the more predictable expenses of taxes and equipment costs.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

There’s a new stop on the Iowa campaign trail.

This weekend, many presidential hopefuls will be in Des Moines for the first Iowa Ag Summit. Republican donor Bruce Rastetter, who is the CEO of Summit Farms and president of the Iowa Board of Regents, is hosting the event.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

You’ve probably seen, but may not have noticed, labels on the meat at your grocery store.

IPR's Pat Blank

Northeast Iowa farmer Chris Soules  has been in the national spotlight for weeks on a TV reality show in search of a bride.  At the same time, a group who promotes relationships in a more traditional way is preparing to celebrate a milestone.

On a recent Saturday morning about 50 members of the Iowa-Wisconsin chapter of Singles in Agriculture toured the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veteran Museum in Waterloo.

TumblingRun / Flickr

The old Keeney place was the kind of farm you see in paintings of Iowa landscapes: a big beautiful barn, with 200 acres of fields and pastureland.  

Wiese & Sons

One family, farming the same land generation after generation - this is a dream many farmers share, but not an easy one to realize.

Back from War, On to the Farm

Feb 26, 2015
John Wendle/for Harvest Public Media

Veteran Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The law that sets standards for school meals is up for reauthorization this year.

Lynn Betts / USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Iowa’s newest land trust aims to connect young farmers looking for land with farmers looking to retire.

Flickr / TumblingRun

The value of farmland in the Corn Belt is dipping. In Iowa value dropped 7 percent last year. 

Screen Shot

How much do you really know about where you food comes from? Could you grow enough food to sustain yourself and your family in a garden?

Amy Mayer/IPR

When farmers lose 15 to 25 percent of their crop, it hurts. And it’s not likely to be covered by crop insurance, which covers greater losses.

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