Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

The immigrant workers who pick crops like cotton and melons in the U.S. can have a tough time finding a place to live. The rural areas where they can find work often lack social services and affordable housing. That means many farm worker families end up in dilapidated buildings, which can come with health risks.

Angel Castro's old road is muddy and covered with flooded potholes. He lived here during the 1990s just behind a large John Deere store in Kennett, Mo.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

All week, Harvest Public Media's series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

Beef, poultry and pork are staples of the American diet, baked into the country's very culture, and backbones of the agricultural economy. But lately, the meats have been saddled with some baggage.

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

All week, Harvest Public Media’s series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

Photo by Amy Mayer

All week, Harvest Public Media’s series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

One of the most important tools of modern medicine is in jeopardy. In the 20th century, antibiotics turned once-lethal infections into manageable diseases. They also contributed to the transformation of meat production in America.

Massive Corn Crops Form Backbone of Meat Industry

Oct 20, 2015
Photo by Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

All week, Harvest Public Media's series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

Drive down a dirt road, a two-lane country highway, even many Interstates in the Midwest and the view out the window is likely to get monotonous: massive fields filled with acres of corn sprawled in all directions.


All week, Harvest Public Media’s series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet.

Americans have a big appetite for everything meat. We smoke it, grill it, slice it, and chop it.

The typical American puts away around 200 pounds of beef, pork, and poultry every year . That’s true in many of the wealthiest countries. But developing countries are showing a growing appetitefor meat.

Emily Woodbury

This program originally aired on November 17, 2014.

This year, U.S. farmers are bringing in what is expected to be a record breaking harvest. On this edition of River to River - the modern day harvest.

Food Companies Show Concern about Farm Runoff

Sep 16, 2015
Photo by Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food.

But that fertilizer can leach through soil and wash off land, polluting our drinking water, destroying our fishing rivers, and turning a Connecticut-sized chunk of the Gulf of Mexico into an oxygen-depleted hypoxic zone, suffocating aquatic life.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Farmers in the Midwest are facing a situation they haven't seen in years. Grain prices are down. After some of the most lucrative growing seasons they've ever seen, some producers could lose money on this year's crop. That could slow down the rural economy.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

A survey of farmland ownership conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that in the next five years about 10 percent of farmland is expected to change ownership.

But Troy Joshua of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says most of those transfers will happen through gifts, bequests, trusts or sales to relatives.

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don't plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

"We've traditionally raised about an acre and a half of pretty intensively managed produce, so it's a very productive acre and a half," Eric Reuter said. "We're really into cropping things."

Photo by Amy Mayer

The rural economy across the Midwest could take a hit this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects a 36 percent drop in net farm income, according to economic forecasts released Tuesday.

Lower prices for wheat, corn, soybeans and hogs will hurt many Midwest farms, though USDA economist Mitchell Morehart says the impact could be lessened on some farms thanks to lower production costs. Fuel and feed expenses are both lower this year, though labor is higher.

Large Drop in Farm Income Predicted This Year

Jul 17, 2015
IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest are likely to earn far less money this year than they did last year, with some economists predicting that incomes could be less than one tenth of what they were in 2014.

Jim Wall/flickr

It would be easier for farmers to receive a sales tax exemption on off-road vehicles under a bill still eligible for passage by the 2015 legislature. 

Farmers get a sales tax exemption for machinery and equipment used for farming, including ATV’s.    But the law says the vehicle must be used directly for production agriculture.  

Victoria Daniels at the Department of Revenue says by law you can’t use the vehicle  “in preparation for or subsequent to” agricultural production.   She says that’s hard to enforce.

Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Wearing latex gloves and digging through a sloppy patch of cow poop on his farm in central Missouri, farmer Ralph Voss spotted his target.

“Okay, here we go!” he said excitedly, plucking out a shiny insect the size of a sunflower seed – a dung beetle.

Food Companies Face Water Risk

May 9, 2015
Photo by Amy Mayer/IPR file

America’s biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.

The report cites pollution as one of the primary culprits.

Farming can be a major contributor to water pollution through runoff from chemicals and manure. Because food companies depend on clean water, they have an incentive to help farmers keep water in mind.

Why do farmers burn their fields?

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up. These burns are often called “prescribed burns” because they are used to improve the health of the field.

What tools do farmers need for a burn?

To keep the fire contained, farmers need to clear away burnable matter around the edges of the field, which usually requires a lawn mower or larger machinery. The burn itself can be managed with some simple, specific tools.

Photo by Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

When President Obama announced in late 2014 that he would work toward ending the embargo on trade with Cuba, it wasn’t just tourists perking up their ears. Midwest farmers and ranchers see communist Cuba as an untapped market for goods from the American Heartland.

One of those farmers is Paul Combs, a rice farmer from southeast Missouri. Cuba can be an important market for farmers like Combs, who already depend on exporting their products.

Clay Masters / IPR

It’s that time of year when Midwest farmers are preparing to plant their crops. This year though more may be thinking about the water in their fields, that’s because a lawsuit by Iowa’s largest water utility is targeting the nitrates farms send downstream and polluting the Des Moines metro's drinking water sources. Local governments and big agriculture interest groups alike are now watching this lawsuit.

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.


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.

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.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Scientists have noticed that plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Since a highly contagious strain of bird flu was found in the U.S. in December, many countries have closed their doors to American poultry.

Photo by John Pemble

The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

To support a growing population, farmers worldwide need to emphasize the sustainable growth of three major foods: corn, wheat and rice, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization

Corn, wheat and rice make up some of the most crucial ingredients to diets across the world. With a booming global population, FAO says in the next 35 years farmers will need to ratchet up production of these three commodities to 3 billion tons – that’s half a billion tons more than the record harvest of 2013.


There are lots of opinions about how to eat and grow healthy food. The new PBS show Food Forward takes a look at some of them. 

Don't Blame the Farmers

Oct 10, 2014

  An Iowa energy expert says farmers are often unfairly blamed when propane supplies are low and prices are high. Farmers use LP to dry their corn before it's stored to avoid spoilage. Harold Hommes with the State Department of Agriculture says  farm use is only part of the picture. He says international customers also draw down supplies, " we now export around 400 thousand barrels a day and probably will for the foreseeable future.

Christiane Tas / Wikimedia Commons

Inheritance of any family business is a sticky issue. But when that family business doubles as your childhood home, emotions run even higher.

Courtesy of Iowa State University Extension

In 2007, Kristi Ruth nearly lost her arm in a farm accident. It’s just once example of the hazards of agricultural work.