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 Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

Thomas Life

Reading education has come a long way since the days of Dick, Jane, and Spot, but many children still struggle to become readers. In fact, according to the Iowa Department of Education, nearly one in four public school third-graders did not meet state standards for reading proficiency in either 2014 or 2015. 

Damian Gadal / Flickr

We’re a long way from the shopping mall’s dominance of the late 80s and early 90s, but shopping still has a big effect on our culture and our economy. Dave Swenson, associate scientist in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University, says any new, sizable store almost guarantees an economic impact.

courtesy of the The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra

Wacky costumes, ukuleles and confetti are not usually a part of orchestral performances. The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra is trying to change that, and they’re touring Iowa this week. Age Pryor, the band's co-founder, says that when the group got started, they were really just a ukulele jam band meeting at the local cafe. 

Christina Lynn Johnson, / Wikimedia Commons

His instrument was small, but his persona was not. Herbert Khaury, known as “Tiny Tim,” was born in New York in the late 30s, became a star in the 60s and later moved to Iowa for a time before he died in 1996.

Justin Martell, author of a new biography about Tiny Tim, says that he first became aware of the musician at a Halloween theme park.

Washington Area Spark / Flickr

In May of 1917, the first class of African-American officers in U.S. military history were trained at Fort Des Moines.

Chad Williams, associate professor of African and African-American Studies at Brandeis University, says the fight to establish the class was an arduous one. Joel Spingarn, a white man and former NAACP leader, struck a deal with the General Leonard Wood: if he could find 200 acceptable candidates, they would create a training camp for them. In the end, 1200 men came to train, and 639 graduated.  

Photo Courtesy of the Institute for Figuring

The Paleozoic Era is the last time a coral reef existed in Iowa. Now, with the help of some dedicated crocheters, a coral reef, or an approximation of one, will be in the state once again.

Margaret Wertheim is the co-creator of the Crochet Coral Reef. First created in her native Australia and now spread to 35 cities in 12 countries, complex coral reefs are woven from yarn by groups of volunteers in imitation of a rapidly dying natural phenomenon.

Conservation Fund

Prairie-chickens once thrived in the prairies of Iowa, but by just after 1900, they were on the verge of extinction.  Today, these beautiful birds with a unique mating ritual can be found in only 9 of Iowa's 99 counties.

Wikimedia Commons

Do you have sugar maple tree in your backyard? If so, now's the time to tap it if you want to make your own syrup. Jesse Randall, a forester with Iowa State University Extension, says that the freezing nights and warm days of late winter get the sap flowing. 

"It’s a function of being warm, but it’s also a function of day length. And we’re racing against the day length clock. What will happen is the buds will begin to swell, and that changes the flavor of the syrup," Randall explains. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

The list of extracurricular activities for kids these days is almost endless, but for many years opportunities to sing, dance, act, and perform excluded kids with special needs. And when those kids become adults, those opportunities are even harder to find.

Ohio University Press

An immense and untold number of young persons have been devoted to and greatly influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries which first appeared in 1930.   Maybe Iowans don't realize that author "Carolyn Keene" was really Ladora, Iowa native Mildred Wirt Benson, born the daughter of a country doctor in 1905.

Casey Lessard / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

When searching for a home, we often ask ourselves if it's a place where we can grow old, but we don't often ask whether it's the home that will allow us to age in place. Universal design helps make homes function for people with varying levels of mobility.

In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with home improvement expert Bill McAnally and Mary Yearns, a former ISU Extension Housing Specialist, about three big design features that make a home more accessible for people of various ages and abilities.

Wikimedia Commons

A new partnership between Iowa State University and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will create a soil health workbook for farmers and educators to use in the field. The partnership is part of the NRCS' Soil Health Division, which is new in 2016 and is making it a goal to expand educational resources and training opportunities regarding soil health across the Midwest and across the country. 

Doug Peterson, who is the new regional soil specialist for Iowa and Missouri, says this signals a shift in thinking that the soil is more of a living organism than just dirt. 

Dennis van Zuijlekom / Flickr

When Sarah Gustason had her children, she knew she had to use her children’s naptime effectively.

“If I cleaned the living room while they napped, in thirty seconds they would have it destroyed. But if I sewed two pieces of fabric together while they were napping, they were going to stay together for a very long time. So it was good mental health for me.”

And so her love of sewing and handicraft, instilled in her at a young age by her grandmother, reignited. Gustason now sews and crafts as her career, but that hasn’t stopped her from doing it in her free time.

Distant Hill Gardens / Flickr

While the cold is still here, last weekend’s reprieve from freezing temperatures reminds us that winter won’t last forever and preparation for spring gardens begins now. That means starting seeds. On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Richard Jauron, horticulture specialist with the Iowa State University Extension, and Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardens, about seed choice, temperature regulation, and timing.

Kentucky Country Day

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

Marcinson Press

Tom LaMarr became a dad when he was 48 years old.  Parenting an infant at that age brings with it a host of challenges.  This hour, Charity Nebbe speaks with LaMarr, author of the new book, "Geezer Dad: How I Survived Infertility Clinics, Fatherhood Jitters, Adoption Wait Lingo and Things That Go 'Waaa' in the Night."  LaMarr, a Dubuque native, is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and now lives in Colorado.

Astrid Westvang / Flickr

Every year, thousands of Iowa children are diagnosed with ADHD, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. While the condition is common and one of the most studied disorders in medicine, it still remains controversial.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Shannon Krone, a mother who struggled with her son’s behavior problems from an early age. Her son’s ADHD is more manageable with treatment, but still poses obstacles in day-to-day life.

Shanti Sellz is Johnson county's newest hire. Her focus: is going to be on planning and helping bolster the local foods supply chain around the Iowa City area. 

"I would like to focus on the access piece. There is a very large demand in this community, but there are not a lot of people who are involved," Sellz says. "We really want to create opportunities for growers to get connected with institutions – hospitals, the university, the farm to school movement." 

Lrcg2012 / Wikimedia Commons

Since 2000, blind students in Iowa have had the chance to compete to win the Iowa Braille Challenge, a statewide event that's a part of the National Braille Challenge held each year in Los Angeles. 

The event is supposed to encourage blind students to learn braille. Emily Wharton, who is technology director of the Iowa Department of the Blind, says that despite lots of new technology, learning braille is still vital for success. 

Photo Courtesy of Steve Cannon

Steve Cannon, originally from Mediapolis, became the first person to run all the way around Lake Michigan in 2012. He’s written about the experience in his new book “40 Days.”

When he set out on the run, it was three times longer than any other run he’d begun.

“Setting records isn’t really that difficult if you choose something dumb enough that nobody else would try it,” Cannon laughs.

jesuscm / Flickr

Many people have stories about a long-lost family member or a family member who doesn’t hang around a whole lot. It’s not talked about much, but according to a study from Iowa State University, family estrangement is a lot more common that previously thought.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with a listener who hasn’t spoken to her brother in nearly a decade.

Photo Courtesy of WiSE, Iowa State University

The Women in Science and Engineering program at Iowa State University was founded 30 years ago in an effort to funnel more young women toward careers in the sciences. Despite programs and efforts, there are still not enough girls getting excited about STEM.

Reshma Saujani is founder of Girls Who Code and says that’s not because these programs don’t work or because they aren’t well intentioned.

Ty Smedes

Iowa is a beautiful state, but if you need someone to convince you of that, photographer Ty Smedes is the guy for the job.  His latest collection of Iowa nature photos is now out and they are moving and stunning.

The many wonderful photos of Iowa critters is collected in Smedes' new book, "Iowa's Wild Beauty" (Iowan Books).  Ty says he went to every corner of the state, from prairies to streams to forested wilderness areas, to take his pictures of rare plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and colorful butterflies. 

Elaine Aronson

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Cydney Kelley, a screenwriter in Los Angeles who writes for the new sitcom, Zoe Ever After.

The show debuted on January 6th and stars actress and singer Brandy Norwood as a newly single mom and business woman in New York City.

Kelley grew up a long way from New York City and Hollywood, in Cedar Falls. In this interview, she talks about how she made her way from the Midwest to the City of Angels, and she paints a picture of what it's like to write for television.

Courtesy of Robert John Ford, creator and producer of Caucus! The Musical

Zachary Michael Jack, a farmer and teacher, is a seventh-generation Iowan who still lives in rural Jones County. He has followed Iowa’s caucuses his entire life.

In fact, he’s followed them closely enough to write a novel based on the quadrennial political gatherings, Corn Poll: A Novel of the Iowa Caucuses. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Jack about his inspiration for the book.

Wikimedia Commons

As demand for fresh, local food intensifies, growers are getting more serious about providing produce outside the growing season. Home gardeners can grow greens at home during the winter months too. Chris Currey is an assistant professor of horticulture at Iowa State University, and he says hydroponic gardening is becoming more popular. 

Filip Lachowski

A recent poll by NBC News/Survey Monkey/Esquire finds that "49 percent of Americans say they're angry more often than they used to be over current events and the news."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with a panel of guests to explore the question - is the U.S. becoming an angrier society?

Emily Wentzell, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa, says that people report feelings of anger when they feel threatened, and right now, many people feel their way of life is endangered.

Pbroks13 / Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to remodeling your kitchen, there are lots of questions to ask about your lifestyle first. Home improvement expert Bill McAnally suggests consulting with a kitchen designer if you can, or at least doing your research.

Sally Reick

Candidates running for president have been in and out of Iowa for the last several months outlining their positions on the environment, taxes, gun control and health care. Have you heard any of them talk about their position on food? On this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Richardo Salvador and Mark Bittman about their push to create a conversation about food policy, and how the government subsidizes food production.

Dianne Dillon Ridgley

Two events put Henry Hampton on the path to creating an award-winning documentary series about the Civil Rights movement. That's according to his friend, human rights and environmental activist Dianne Dillon Ridgley.

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