farm

Amy Mayer/IPR

Growing up on a family farm in West Bend, Haley Banwart and her brother were like other farm kids.They did chores, participated in 4-H, and even raised cattle together.

"My brother and I have had the same amount of responsibilities. I can drive a tractor, I can bale square hay," Banwart says. "But it was just expected that my brother would return home."

 

She says they never discussed it, she just accepted that she’d find a different path.

 

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Midwest farmers may be facing some of the toughest financial times they have experienced in three decades, largely thanks to low prices for some of the region's biggest crops.

The average net farm income for farmers in Kansas, for instance, plummeted in 2015 to just $4,568, according to a report released this week by the Kansas Farm Management Association (KFMA). The figure is less than 5 percent of the previous year's average of $128,731.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment/Flickr

Scientists have discovered a third instance of a bacteria resistant to one of the strongest antibiotics available, raising concerns about the spread of so-called "superbugs."

Researchers found E. coli bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin in a pig at an Illinois slaughterhouse, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson said earlier this week. Colistin is often used against bacteria that fail to respond to more common antibiotics.

Courtesy of the Office of the State Archaeologist

It's long been taught that the origins of modern agriculture are in the fertile crescent in the Middle East, but recent archaeological finds point to the fact that cultures the world over were developing ways to domesticate plants and animals in the same time period.

"We used to think about the fertile crescent that way because that's where the most excavation had been done," explains Bruce Smith, curator of North American Archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution. "But it's more true that agriculture developed simultaneously all around the world than in just one place." 

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The value of farmland is riding high, and so are the taxes farmers pay on that property. But as those numbers remain steady, the actual income farmers make from the land has tumbled, leaving some farmers to push for a discount on their tax bill.

Larry Tegeler raises corn and soybeans along with some cattle in northeast Nebraska. He started farming about 30 years ago, and the first land he ever bought was a field near the small town of Meadow Grove.

On a windy fall afternoon, Tegeler looked over the 160 acres of rolling, sandy soil he purchased in 1987.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Many farmers are going to lose money on this year's huge harvest because prices are lower than they have been.

Farm bill subsidy programs, which kick in when the average national price of a commodity drops below a certain price, will almost certainly be triggered this year for corn and soybeans. But it is not yet clear the extent to which those programs will help.

"It's going to help, but it's still not going to get the help above the cost of production," says Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. 

Wikimedia Commons

Thirty years ago this month, a handful of musicians including Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized a benefit concert for Midwestern farmers struggling to make ends meet during the farm crisis of the 1980’s.

George Naylor, who farms near Churdan and went to the first concert in Champaign, Illinois in 1985, says the morale boost the show afforded family farmers in Iowa was invaluable.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Technology has transformed farming, one of the Midwest’s biggest industries, and while fewer people are now needed to actually work the farm field, new types of jobs keep many office workers tied to agriculture.

Beyond operating a tractor and a combine, today’s farmers need to manage all kinds of information. From information technology to web development, the skills that have changed our economy have transformed the agriculture industry as well.

screen shot from the Kickstarter video

In order to try to produce more local milk, Kalona Supernatural is getting creative. They've just got a few days left in a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to build a fence to expand the pasture available for milking cattle to graze. 

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."

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.

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.

Ranchers Rebel Over Beef Checkoff

Jan 27, 2015
Courtesy Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star

From their small farms set in the rolling hills of northeast Kansas, two ranchers are raising a few cattle, and a lot of Cain.

Courtesy of Leon Wilkinson

Before the Great Depression there was the farm recession, and times were tough for farm families in Iowa.