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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Technology, Infrastructure Reduce Food Waste on the Farm

On-farm and post-harvest loss accounts for about 40 percent of food waste in the developing world, according to the U.N. But it is credited with relatively small levels of waste in most industrialized countries.
Amy Mayer/IPR

On a wet, grey day in Grinnell, Iowa, the rain beats a rhythm on the metal roof of a packing shed at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Crew member Whitney Brewer picks big bunches of kale out of a washing tank, lets them drip on a drying table and then packs them into cardboard boxes.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Food Waste Weighing Down U.S. Food System

Jack Chappelle sorts through garbage to inform cities and states what goes into their landfills. He sorts through a lot of food.
Pat Aylward/NET News

It’s a hot summer day outside of Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He’s wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

“You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools,” Chappelle says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:26 am
Fri September 19, 2014

In Illinois Farm Country, a Wetland’s Dynamic Return

Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the Nature Conservancy, has helped oversee the transformation from farmland to wetland of this area in southern Illinois.
Rich Egger for Harveset Public Media

Land in Fulton County, Ill., that was farmed for more than 80 years is being returned to its original wetland state – and the early results are promising for what is now the Emiquon Nature Preserve.

“People give us credit for the way this looks now but it’s really Mother Nature that makes it look the way it does,” said Doug Blodgett, director of river conservation for the environmental group the Nature Conservancy.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
6:14 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Red Earth Green Earth

Red Earth Gardens was recently featured during a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day
IPR's Pat Blank

Members of the Meskwaki Nation near Tama have established a community-based farm operation.

The Red Earth Gardens spans 40 acres and boasts a wide variety of crops.  In the short two seasons they've been in operation, they've managed to grow numerous varieties of  fruits and vegetables. The tribe's extensive planning process includes a transition from row crop to certified organic by sometime next year.

Tribal members grow produce for the settlement but they also sell it to the nearby casino, at a roadside stand and at area farmer's markets.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:50 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Monsanto set to settle GMO wheat cases

Genetically modified wheat has never been approved for farming, so nearly all of the wheat grown in the U.S. is a conventional variety.
Lauren Tucker/Flickr

Monsanto has agreed to settle some of the lawsuits brought by U.S. farmers who allege they lost money when an Oregon field was discovered to have been contaminated with an experimental genetically modified strain of wheat.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States is genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Tue September 9, 2014

U.S. meat inspection system in disarray, watchdogs say

Jennifer Brdar worked as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation in Liberal, Kan.
John McGrath/Hale Center for Journalism

Jennifer Brdar’s dream job was to be a meat inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, watching out for unwary consumers and making sure the meat on their dinner tables was clean and disease-free.

After earning an associate’s degree in meat science, Brdar was hired in March as a temporary federal meat inspector at a big beef packing operation just up the road in Liberal, Kan.

She lasted barely a month, walking away in frustration.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:55 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Plotting for a healthier school

Senior Agatha Fenech and Cedar Falls High School Associate Principal Troy Becker
Credit IPR's Pat Blank

Cedar Falls High School Senior Agatha Fenech will serve as a National Child Awareness Month Youth Ambassador. As one of 51 youth ambassadors, Fenech will receive funding and training to lead an initiative to raise awareness about the health and community benefits of locally grown produce. Fenech was selected through a competitive application process based on the quality of her project proposal and its potential to creative substantive, large scale change that benefits young people in Cedar Falls.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:26 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Climate, Space Create Challenges for Local Food

Josh Kilbane runs Yampa Valley Farms outside Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Local food is no longer just a novelty. Farmers markets are growing nationwide and farms that sell directly to consumers brought in $1.3 billion in 2012, up eight percent from just five years earlier. Despite the demand, making local food work in some places is decidedly more difficult than others. Steamboat Springs, Colo., is one of those places.

Problem number one is infrastructure.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
1:42 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Fighting In Ukraine Could Mean Profit for U.S. Wheat Farmers

Farmers in Ukraine produced more than 22 million metric tons of wheat in the 2013-14 marketing year, to the U.S.’s nearly 58 million metric tons, according to USDA estimates.
Valdemar Fishmen/Flickr

The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine could impact the world’s wheat supply and with reports that fighting is edging closer to a key Black Sea trading port, farmers and commodity brokers are paying attention.

Pro-Russian rebels appear to be pushing closer to the Ukranian city of Mariupol, a strategic port city. As Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, any disruption in the harvest or transport of the country’s wheat crop could put a kink in global supply lines and could raise grain prices across the world.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:24 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Pheasant Frenzy

Iowa's pheasant population is the highest since 2008
Credit Audubon Society

    State wildlife officials say they're encouraged by a recent survey which shows Iowa pheasant numbers are the highest they've been in more than 6 years. Iowa DNR Biologist Todd Bogenschutz says the annual roadside count recorded a statewide average of 17 birds per 30 mile route compared to just 7 last year.

He says the numbers are surprising given the cool and wet spring, "I've got my fingers crossed, we've got good brood stock and I think think the hunters will be happy."

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:09 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Grape Production Takes a Hit

Iowa has 101 wineries
Iowa Winegrowers Association

Iowa's grape harvest is underway in many parts of the state and the news from the field is not good. State Viticulturist Mike White says a cold and wet spring destroyed many of the vines and production statewide could be down between 30 and 40 percent. He says " there are some spots like Dubuque that seem to be fairing  better, but mostly the cold damage is there and the yield is low."

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
10:00 am
Wed August 27, 2014

USDA Predicts Drop in Farm Income

Expectations of a bumper crop of corn has caused both prices and farm profit expectations to drop.
Amy Mayer/IPR file photo from harvest 2012

Farmers’ can anticipate a sharp drop in income this year, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In fact, the USDA predicts the $113 billion earned in 2014 will be the lowest amount of net farm income in five years. That’s equal to about a 14 percent fall from last year’s record amount, thanks mostly to a massive drop in crop prices.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:40 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Everything Agriculture on Display at Farm Progress Show

Yellow hay rakes drew attention to the New Holland exhibit at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Tuesday.
Amy Mayer/IPR

A burst of colorful farm machinery is surrounded by demonstration fields at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone this week. The Farm Progress Show is attracting thousands of farmers, agronomists and agribusiness representatives. It’s an annual trade event that alternates between the Iowa site and Decatur, Illinois.  

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Grain Elevator Failure Prompts Talk of Safety Net

Before it defaulted on loans and was shuttered by regulator, the Pierce Elevator was a major business in town.
Bill Kelly/NET News

 

In Nebraska, farmers say they’re left with about $9 million in unpaid claims when a grain elevator failed in the town of Pierce. It looks as if farmers’ losses could eventually top $4 million.

Without a financial safety net to depend on, farmers are watching this case in eastern Nebraska. They’re looking for lessons in order to avoid another massive financial wreckage in the future.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 21, 2014

My Farm Roots: Hard Work is a Life Lesson

Thousands of miles, and years, away from his upbringing on a Kansas farm during the height of the Great Depression, Wilson O’Connell now lives in the Boston suburbs.

 

Every year on my birthday I know there’s a thin, flat package waiting for me to open. It’s wrapped with neat corner folds and held together perfectly with just three pieces of tape – nothing wasted.

I always knock on the front and hear the crisp, deep thud of a hardcover book. I know it’s a book. And I know who it’s from.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:37 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

New CAFO Rules

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement rally after the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission's Aug. 19 meeting.
Sarah Boden Iowa Public Radio

Totally roofed confined animal feeding operations are now required to have a permit and meet certain federal regulations for discharging manure into U.S. waterways. Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission voted unanimously on the new CAFO rules today, at a highly emotional hearing.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:46 am
Mon August 18, 2014

History's Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm in Decorah.
Chiot's Run

Most vegetable seeds today are bred by seed companies to be hearty and easy to grow. They’re created by cross-breeding different varieties and selecting for specific characteristics.

Heirloom seeds are different. Like your grandmother’s engagement ring or a dusty old photo album, these seeds have been passed down through generations.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
4:00 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

What's Behind That Tomato's Price?

Vegetable farmer Tom Goeke of St. Charles, Mo., sells his Red Deuce tomatoes wholesale at about $1.50 per pound.
Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Late summer in the Midwest is tomato season. For tomato growers around that country, it’s time to pick their bounty and calculate their earnings.

While sun and rain might be free, tomato farmers have to carefully weigh everything else they put in to growing their crop. Research and the development of new tools – from novel seed varieties resistant to diseases to additional fertilizers – has changed the input costs for growers.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 14, 2014

My Farm Roots: Rich with Life

Farmer John Curtis traces his farming roots back to a stint running a model farm in the Peace Corps.

Farmers are used to waking up with the rooster’s crow. But having grown up a suburban kid, John Curtis was used to a more conventional alarm clock.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in the Caribbean, he managed a farm for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A long way from his Wisconsin home, he found a love for the most Midwestern job – that of a farmer.

“I loved walking out on the landscape and finding things I could eat,” Curtis said. “I found agriculture to be fascinating.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Art Tangoes Over Time with Ag

Beekeeper Julia McGuire fits a veil on photographer Marji Guyler-Alaniz before they approach a hive.
Amy Mayer/IPR

  In a living room converted to a theater for the evening, Ethan Peterson and Madeleine Russell portray the characters from Mary Swander’s play, “VANG.” In it, the actors share the emotional stories of four immigrant couples who farm in Iowa. Swander used transcriptions of conversations with Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch farmers to create the play.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
8:10 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Activists Aim to Skirt 'Ag Gag' Laws with Drones

Using unmanned aerial vehicles is a controversial practice, whether to scout farmland or to skirt laws outlawing the filming of farms.
Lima Pix/Flickr

An independent journalist says he’s found a way around the so-called “ag-gag” laws – flying drones over large livestock operations to document animal welfare problems and pollution.

Will Potter, a Washington D.C.-based environmental blogger, raised $75,000 on Kickstarter to buy drones and other equipment to do investigative work tracking animal abuse and pollution problems on large livestock operations.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Fri August 8, 2014

Bug-Infused Food Companies Fight 'Yuck Factor'

Robert Nathan Allen of Austin, Texas-based Little Herds is a high-profile advocate for eating insects in the United States.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Insects can be a great source of protein, and in many parts of the world, people gobble them up.

But here in the United States, a certain “ick factor” has kept consumers from eating crickets, locusts and mealworms. To combat the ickiness and convert skeptical consumers, bug-food advocates are trying a specific marketing tactic: be clever and cute.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:05 am
Thu August 7, 2014

My Farm Roots: A Father, a Daughter and a Tractor

Emily Robbins and her father, Vic, at the family's farm in Osage County, Kan.
Courtesy of Emily Robbins

Emily Robbins is a city girl now.

Well, I’m using that term as a cliché. Robbins, 27, lives in Kansas City and works as an engineer at a large firm. She is part of a profession that is made up of just 14 percent women.

Her choice of professions makes sense, though, when you know that she started out as her father’s “boy.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Mixed Reception for Poultry Inspection Rules

ISU animal science professor Dong Ahn says consumers could benefit from mandatory microbial testing in the new poultry inspection rule, intended to reduce foodborne illnesses.
Amy Mayer/IPR

Change is coming to the poultry industry, but not everyone is happy about it.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
9:09 am
Mon August 4, 2014

‘Right to Farm’ Pits Farmer Against Farmer

Farmer Jeff Jones and his daughters feed grain to their foraging cattle once a day in Callaway County, Mo. They’re concerned about the health and environmental effects a potential hog farm next door might have.
Kris Hustead/Harvest Public Media

The agriculture industry is a cornerstone of the Midwest economy. In some states, it may even become a right.

In Missouri, the so-called “right to farm” is on the ballot in the form of an amendment to the state Constitution. And the controversial provision could be a model for Constitutional additions on other ag-heavy states.

Though the “right to farm” provision is focused on agriculture, it has pitted farmer against farmer with some worried that the results could change the face of farming in the Midwest.

Accountability concerns

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
7:22 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Modern-Day Dust Bowl Challenges Prairie Farmers

Farmer John Schweiser, 80, has had to take shelter from recent dust storms.
Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.

“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
10:01 am
Thu July 31, 2014

My Farm Roots: Coming Home to Roost

The poultry farm Dan Hromas started near York, Neb., since returning from military service in Iraq, has helped him re-integrate in to civilian life.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

When they heard Dan Hromas’ truck rolling in, the chickens came strutting. The auburn-feathered Rhode Island Reds stood out, even in the tall, green brome grass of Hromas’ rented 3-acre pasture outside of York, Neb.

The pasture is the center of Hromas’ new farming enterprise. For a little over a year he’s been selling farm eggs to local restaurants, grocery stores, and direct to customers in southeast Nebraska.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:26 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Forensics for the Farm Keep Food Safe

Hans Coetzee, a professor at the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine, says forensic testing can offer farmers and veterinarians reassurance that nothing unwanted is in milk, meat or feed.
Amy Mayer/IPR

TV shows like “CSI” have made forensics a hot topic, spawning books and even science programs for kids. The same technology used at crime scenes to link a stray hair to a suspect can also find antibiotics or other medications in milk and meat. And the use of sophisticated testing is becoming increasingly available for livestock producers, who stand to lose lots of money if their products are tainted.

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
5:00 am
Thu July 24, 2014

My Farm Roots: Carrying On A Farm Family Legacy

For four generations, Riley Lewis’ family has farmed a plot of land near Forest City, Iowa. Lewis currently raises corn, soybeans and hogs with his son, the fifth generation.
Amy Mayer/IPR

In his home in Forest City, Iowa, Riley Lewis has the original warranty deed for his farm, signed by President James Buchanan and issued to one Elias Gilbert, a soldier who served in the War of 1812.

“He moved here, northeast of Forest City, and lived there for one year,” Lewis said, which was the obligation veterans had if they homesteaded. “And then he sold it to Robert Clark, who was the founder of Forest City.”

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Agriculture and Harvest Public Media
3:29 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Fresh Yogurt, Really Fresh

An observation window in the store allows customers to watch while yogurt is being made
IPR's Pat Blank
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