Harvest Public Media

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Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insurance  payouts after last year’s drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

My Farm Roots: Community Counts

Sep 3, 2013
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the thirteenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris, South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

Farmers in the Midwest were devastated by a crippling drought in 2012. The federal crop insurance program paid out a record $17.3 billion. And in rural America, that money is still paying dividends. To understand the impact, Harvest Public Media reporter Bill Wheelhouse took a tour of Livingston County, Illinois. Farmers here received by far the biggest insurance payout in the nation.

On this sweltering day in mid-August, surrounded by healthy 8-foot tall corn stalks, Doug Wilson peels back the husks to see how his corn is looking. The verdict?

Vineyards Face Threat From Herbicide Drift

Aug 26, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they don’t always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.

My Farm Roots: Born To Farm

Aug 26, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

This is the twelfth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

State Fairs: A Summer Tradition

Aug 16, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

It’s August. The days are growing shorter, fall is approaching, but summer isn’t done just yet. All over the country folks are flocking to that ultimate summer tradition: the state fair.

Carnival rides and games, meat on a stick, livestock competitions – the Midwest does state fairs up right. And for many, summer in the Midwest isn't complete without a trip to the state fair. For others, a virtual visit will have to do.

Scott Stuntz

With Congress in its August recess, the farm bill is stalled and many are pessimistic about getting a new bill passed before the current extension expires on Sept. 30. Still, farm country legislators aren’t exactly giving up hope.
Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was asked about the farm bill at a town hall style meeting in in his district this week.
He said that he thinks the most likely outcome is that the House will pass a “food stamp bill,” to go along with a agriculture portion it passed in June. That could put the farm bill back on track.

My Farm Roots: Tough Guys In The Saddle

Aug 12, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

This is the tenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.

State Journal-Register

This is the next installment of the My Farm Roots series from the WUIS Harvest Desk. 

In 1986, Becky Doyle was helping her husband run the family’s hog farming operation. She also had a sidelight business of marketing gift baskets made from Illinois products. But that wasn’t enough: Doyle decided she would make a run for the Illinois House.

“I was young, naive and thought I could run as a Republican in a district where it was 11:4 Democrat,” Doyle said.

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Americans consume a lot of sweets. Even discounting all the high fructose corn syrup you find in soft drinks, the average consumer takes in about 40 pounds of refined sugar in a year, according to the USDA.

That means food companies from Nestle to Hostess and small neighborhood candy stores have to buy sugar. Lots of it. And those bakers and snack food makers say the government gives too much support to sugar growers and consumers are footing the bill.  

Creative Commons

This week,  the WUIS Harvest Desk has been bringing you the series “Changing Lands, Changing Hands,” a series of stories examining the implications of an unrelenting trend: The American farmer is getting older. Our reporting team has been considering the nuances of this demographic shift that affects not just rural America but the power and potential of an entire industry.  The latest segment takes us to west central Illinois:

It’s hard not to use the phrase “quintessential small town” when you describe Pittsfield, Ill. 

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Farmers are getting older.

They’re working longer, staying on the land later and continuing to do what they’ve done for decades: heading out day after day after day to work their land.

In 1978, the average age of the American farmer was just over 50. In 2007, it’s creeping toward 60, at just over 57-years-old. What does that mean for the agriculture industry? We went to answer that question by focusing on this massive demographic shift that affects not just rural America but the power and potential of an entire industry.

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Part 2 of the Harvest Desk's series Changing Lands, Changing Hands travels to Iowa.  Driving out of the  town of Panora, in the western part of the state, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

My Farm Roots: Wings

Jul 8, 2013
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the fifth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Kelly Hagler, 25, is among the millions of young people who have left rural communities for the bright lights of the city, in this case Chicago.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

This is the fourth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Trent Johnson didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was always enamored with the cowboy lifestyle.

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Jackie Dougan Jackson grew up like many farm kids. She spent sunbaked summer hours detasseling corn, tending the crops so it can be pollinated. For farm kids, detasseling is one of the ultimate chores. For the 85-year-old Jackson, those memories still put a song in her heart.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Midwest waterways are getting lots of attention this summer. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency have immersed themselves in the ecology of 100 streams from Ohio to Nebraska. It’s a first-of-its kind effort to understand how ag runoff is not just changing the water but affecting the critters that live there. Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson joined a crew on a rainy day while they gathered water samples and searched for fish eggs on three streams in central Missouri.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

My Farm Roots,  a series from WUIS and Harvest Public Media, tells Americans’ stories and memories of rural life.  Because when you hail from farm country, roots run deep.
Times are good on the farm right now, but that hasn’t always been true. Many of today’s young farmers grew up in the shadow of the farm crisis on the 1980's and watched as rural areas were ripped apart by debt and foreclosures.
Those hard times will always stay with them.  Today, an Iowa farmer tells his story:


Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

As Congress fiddles with major farm legislation, there’s a portion of it that gets very little attention. Some say it is a difference-maker for job creation in small rural communities,and provides a boost those towns need. 

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