Harvest Desk

Harvest Desk
6:02 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Tougher Times Put Young Farmers Dreams On Hold

Like many beginning farmers, Grant Curtis wants to invest in his operation but expectations of low prices are tying his hands. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Grant Curtis remembers the day he went shopping for his first tractor.

“It was an eye opening experience,” he said. “Walking into a dealership, getting the prices, walking back to the bank and pleading my case. Saying, ‘I want to get back to the farm, but I need a way to do that.’”

Curtis, in his early twenties at the time and without farmland of his own, joked that the only thing he offered as collateral was sweat. But grain farming is a seriously expensive business.

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Harvest Desk
8:50 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

High Turkey Prices Unlikely To Impact Consumers

Credit flickr/Calgary Reviews

Wholesale turkey prices are at an all-time high this Thanksgiving, but you may not see that at the grocery store.

Farmers raised fewer turkeys this year than they have in the past three decades - about 235 million gobblers, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Ann Knowles raised seventy on her small farm in western Illinois. She coops up the plump birds at night to guard against predators, but lets them roam freely during the day.

KNOWLES  "They get to strut. And they chase in bugs. So I think they’re little dinky brains are probably pretty happy."

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Harvest Desk
8:07 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Reducing Pollution From Farm Fields Through Education

Credit flickr/United Soybean Board

Agricultural runoff is a problem in Illinois and many other farm states.  Nitrogen, phosphorous and chemicals help with yields, but too much winds up in the water supply.   That creates problems like algae growth that robs the water of oxygen, killing off aquatic life. 

Jean Payne represents fertilizer and chemical dealers in the state.  She says a training program will launch this winter in an effort to get farmers better educated on how to apply nutrients to their crops, including the best time for application and proper amounts. 

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Harvest Desk
1:57 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Medical Marijuana Licenses Could Be Issued Before Year's End

Credit flickr/dankdepot

The more than 370 applications to operate medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries in Illinois are being whittled down.  Licenses could be awarded before the end of the year.

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Harvest Desk
7:51 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Corn Husking Can Still Be A Hands On Job

Competitor Harlan Jacobson races to pick rows of corn at the annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition in September. (Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media)

Dick Humes squinted and sweat as he moved down a row of corn. He sliced through the husk with a metal hook in his right hand, snapped the ear from its stalk with his left, and threw it over his shoulder into a wagon rolling alongside him.

Every other second, the corn hit the floor of the wagon with a thud. Humes was setting a steady pace for the men’s 50-and-older division at the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition.

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Food Waste Series
6:37 am
Tue October 7, 2014

With Curbside Composting, Food Waste Not A Total Loss

In Portland, Ore., commercial food waste from restaurants and businesses gets separated and sent to a methane digester that extracts gas from the food and uses it to make electricity. (Cassandra Profita for Harvest Public Media)

Wasting around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks: It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

But across the country, cities, towns and companies are finding food waste doesn't have to be a total loss. In fact, it can be quite valuable – in making fertilizer, electricity or even fuel for cars, trucks and buses.

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Food Waste Series
6:26 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Choices Can Slice School Food Waste

Gloria Restrepo, a teacher’s assistant at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., helps students choose their lunch. (Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media)

Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.

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Food Waste Series
6:23 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Grocery Stores Waste Tons Of Food As They Woo Shoppers

Nearly one-third of the more than 400 million pounds of food available at grocery stores and restaurants is never eaten. (Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media)

Grocery stores and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but nearly a third of it never makes it to a stomach.

With consumers demanding large displays of un-blemished, fresh produce or massive portion sizes, many grocery stores and restaurants end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food. Despite efforts to cut down on waste, the consumer end of the food chain still accounts for the largest share of food waste in the U.S. food system.  

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Food Waste Series
6:16 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Manufacturers Cut Food Waste To Build Bottom Line

Todd Scherbing, Smithfield Foods’ senior director of rendering, holds a tray of pituitary glands that are cut from hogs on the line in the Farmland Foods plant in Milan, Mo. Pituitary glands are used to make insulin. (Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media)

The long line of semi-trucks waiting to get in the gates of the Farmland Foods plant could simply wait around for a few hours to head back, fresh products on board.

The trucks are loaded with hogs from several confinement operations near this factory in Milan, a small town in northeast Missouri. Within just 19 hours, those pigs will be slaughtered, butchered and boxed into cuts that consumers see in the grocery store and in restaurants.

But that effort will use only about half of the animal.

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Food Waste Series
6:12 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Technology, Infrastructure Minimize 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/Harvest Public Media)

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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Harvest Desk
6:03 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Waste Weighing Down U.S. Food System

About 35 million tons of food was dumped in landfills across the U.S. in 2012, compared to 29 million tons of plastic and 24 million tons of paper. (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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Harvest Desk
6:17 am
Wed September 17, 2014

U.S. Meat Inspection System In Disarray, Watchdogs Say

Earlier this year, U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled the first major overhaul of the nation's poultry-inspection system in more than 50 years. (BigStock image)

HOOKER, Okla. – 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 (pronounced Ber-dar) 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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Harvest Desk
6:02 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Monsanto 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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Town's 175th Anniversary
4:59 am
Fri September 5, 2014

The Secret Ingredient in Arenzville's Burgoo

Burgoo needs to simmer for at least 12 hours, though Soup Master Tony Thomas says it's like chili -- "the longer it cooks, the better it gets."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

There's a farm town about 50 miles to the west of Springfield, in between Jacksonville and Beardstown, called Arenzville. Only about 400 people live there. It's the sort of place where old men gather at the only restaurant in town every Saturday morning for coffee. The sort of place where many of the last names carved into the tombstones at the local cemetery are the same as the last names a teacher is reading off of the class list when she takes attendance at school each morning.

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Harvest Desk
9:04 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Farmers In Great Plains Work Through Modern Day Dust Bowl

Farmer John Schweiser, 80, has had to take shelter from recent dust storms. He also lived through the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
Credit Harvest Public Media/Luke Runyon

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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Harvest Desk
8:38 am
Thu August 28, 2014

USDA Predicts Farm Income Drop This Year

Credit Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Farmers’ can anticipate a sharp drop in income this year, according to a new report from the U-S Department of Agriculture. The U-S-D-A predicts the lowest amount of net farm income in five years.

The USDA expects farmers’ profits to fall by about by fourteen percent from last year’s record amount, thanks mostly to a massive drop in crop prices.

Although farmers are expected to produce record levels or corn and soybeans this year, the bumper crop will cause prices to slide and Midwest farmers will feel the pinch.

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Harvest Desk
8:58 am
Fri August 22, 2014

What Goes Into The Price Of Your Tomato?

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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Harvest Desk
5:13 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Record Corn, Soybean Harvest Expected

Credit HPM

Farmers will produce a record-breaking corn harvest this year, surpassing earlier expectations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has revised upward its estimate of this year's corn harvest to 14 billion bushels.  
That exceeds last year's 13.9 billion bushel record.  

Soybean production also will set a new record at 3.8 billion bushels, beating the 2009 harvest of 3.4 billion bushels.  

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Harvest Desk
9:59 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Are Higher Food Prices Affecting You?

Credit Harvest Public Media

  When ever food prices start to rise – even a little – the national news finally starts doing stories about agriculture. We get frantic calls from editors in New York and Los Angeles – will they ration bacon? Will there be enough beef for backyard barbeques? Will children get their milk?!

To me, all those stories are great big clichés – lots of speculation told with heavy breathing and a remarkable lack of insight. Rarely are Americans ever hit with significant food shortages and sky-high prices.

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Harvest Desk
1:46 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Crop Insurance Programs Subject Of Intense Farm Bill Lobbying

Mark Crawford stands at his farm near Danville, Ill. Crawford, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on his large farm, said the crop insurance programs are important parts of the risk-management safety net for farmers. (Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)

After two years of debate, the U.S. Congress passed a Farm Bill this year that replaced direct subsidies to farmers with an ever increasing multi-billion dollar federal crop insurance program.

During that time, at least 80 groups spent more than $50 million in lobbying efforts that included ensuring their interests in the often criticized program were well-represented.

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Harvest Desk
1:18 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Out Of Public Eye, A Bitter Farm Bill Fight

K Street in Washington D.C. has long been known as the home to powerful lobbyists. Hundreds of companies and groups lobbied to influence the 2014 Farm Bill. (Creative Commons)

The “who” part of the Farm Bill is pretty clear.

With trillions dollars of government spending up for grabs, lobbyists from all ends of the spectrum – representing environmental interests, biotech companies, food companies, farmers – flocked to Capitol Hill to find their piece of the Farm Bill pie.

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Harvest Desk
1:15 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Lobbyists Of All Kinds Flock To Farm Bill

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., (in green), watches as President Barack Obama signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University on Feb. 7, 2014. (Courtesy David Kosling/USDA)

When U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced passage of the Farm Bill in February, she echoed a refrain from a car commercial.

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill,” she said.

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Harvest Desk
7:22 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Youth May Hold Key To Grain Safety

Colin Ebbers, 19, of Dakota, Ill. volunteers to be the victim of a grain bin fall during a demonstration by Stateline Farm Rescue, based in Orangeville, Ill.
Credit Jenna Dooley

A 9-year-old boy died in a grain bin last week in southwestern Wisconsin. While every situation is different, agricultural engineers continue to work on new ways to prevent such deaths. Those involved in the training industry say reaching the younger generation will be an important step to prevent entrapments.

   

Rescue Tools

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Harvest Desk
5:59 am
Mon July 14, 2014

My Farm Roots: Smells Like Home

Growing up in Nebraska, Kari Williams spent many vacations visiting her family’s farms.
Credit Harvest Public Media/Luke Runyon

Most family vacations are remembered for endless car rides, packed tourist beaches and a string of poorly decorated hotel rooms.

But not former Nebraskan and current Coloradan Kari Williams. Her family vacation memories center on smells of cow manure, adventures on horseback and roosters with bad attitudes on farms in central Nebraska.

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Harvest Desk
6:06 pm
Sun July 13, 2014

EPA Promotes Water Rule To Farmers

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks to reporters at Heffernan Farm in Rocheport, Mo., July 9, 2014. (Kris Husted/Harvest Public Media)

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is touring farm country, trying to assure farmers that the agency isn’t asking for more authority over farmers and ranchers’ lands.

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Harvest Desk
8:20 am
Tue July 8, 2014

States Working Out Kinks In Agritourism

Carol Zadrozny, owner of Z's Orchard in Palisade, Colo., has had trouble securing insurance coverage for her agritourism attractions
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Colorado already draws thousands of visitors each year for skiing, hiking, beer drinking and, most recently, marijuana sampling. In 2012, those visitors spent more than $16 billion in the state. Tourism officials want more and they’re looking to do it by bringing well-educated “traveling foodies” to the state.

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Harvest Desk
4:56 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Meat Prices Higher This Independence Day

Credit flickr/Clemensv.Vogelsang

According to the USDA, beef prices have increased more than 10 percent and pork prices are up more than 12 percent over last summer. University of Missouri livestock economist Scott Brown says a combination of high feed prices, drought and a hog virus devastating the pork supply are to blame.

“I will say that we are at unprecedented levels in terms of where we are on consumer prices. We have been seeing growth over the last four or five years generally,” Brown said.

And soon, Brown predicts, you’ll see higher prices at restaurants as well.

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Harvest Desk
8:37 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Agritourism A Growing Opportunity On The Farm

Blake Bohlender attended a three-day camp at Laughing Buck Farm near Fort Collins, Colo.
Credit Harvest Public Media/Luke Runyon

Farms aren’t just for food any more. With the local food movement growing, more savvy farmers are putting a price tag on more than those organic tomatoes. They are instead marketing and selling the “farm experience” in the form of agritourism attractions.

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Harvest Desk
6:04 am
Mon June 9, 2014

Farmers Hope For River System Improvements

Shipping via barge is crucial for farmers near the Illinois River and across the Midwest, but many say U.S. river infrastructure is out of date.
Credit Kenneth Spencer/flickr

Farmers and ag groups in the Midwest say the U.S. river system needs an upgrade, and they’re hopeful it will come with proposed improvements in legislation recently passed by Congress.  

The nation’s rivers are essential for moving agricultural products to market.

“It’s our third coast, if you will,” said Jim Tarmann, field services director with the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “Over 60 percent of our grain exports move via the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. That’s how things get to our world markets.”

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Harvest Desk
6:38 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Canada Jonesing For Piece Of American (Hemp) Pie

Canada legalized hemp in 1998 and many companies there are anxiously awaiting cultivation in the U.S. At Centennial Seeds in Colorado, growers have started planting.
Credit Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. market for foods and beauty products that contain hemp is growing, but American manufacturers that use hemp have their hands tied. The crop is still illegal to cultivate, according to federal laws, which means the current American hemp industry, estimated at $500 million per year, runs on foreign hemp.

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