WBEZ | farming http://www.wbez.org/tags/farming Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en California drought renews debate on regional food systems http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DROUGHT MIDWEST.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>At a Chicago area farmers market in July you won&rsquo;t see many signs of the California drought. This is the time of year when produce lovers can pretty much gorge on all the local cherries, blueberries and zucchini they want.</p><p>But this wasn&rsquo;t the case in January.</p><p>&ldquo;What we saw was extremely high prices on kales, leafy greens etc in the first part of the year,&rdquo; said Bob Scaman president of Goodness Greenness the Midwest&rsquo;s biggest distributor of organic produce.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/drought-drives-drilling-frenzy-groundwater-california-110483">Drought drives drilling frenzy for groundwater in California</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>And as the year wore on, Scaman says, the effects of the drought only got worse. Farmers had to decide which crops they were going to water and which they weren&rsquo;t resulting in what he called the California &ldquo;cherry season that didn&rsquo;t exist in 2014.&rdquo;</p><p>Luckily, the Washington State cherry crop was booming this year. And today Michigan cherries have filled any other gaps. But Scaman warns that this bounty will last for only about another 100 days in the Midwest.</p><p>&ldquo;But going into the late fall, early winter when we are relying again on California we are going to be right back where we were on these drought supplies,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;and we will be negatively affected back here in the Midwest.&rdquo;</p><p>One Arizona State University study says that the California drought is likely to push items like avocados and lettuce up 28 to 34 percent.&nbsp; And the USDA expects drought and other factors to push domestic food prices for meat and produce up 3 to 6 percent this year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Business professor Timothy Richards who conducted the Arizona State study noted that the pricier California crops could drive more retailers to source their produce from Mexico and Chile. But others think we should go the other way and reestablish more regional food systems again.</p><p>&ldquo;This is the ideal storm for the local food network in the Midwest,&rdquo; Scaman said. &ldquo;It really brings home what people have been talking about for years: the need to grow more local food, stabilize the food supply and build the local market.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="20" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/158677537&amp;color=ff5500&amp;inverse=false&amp;auto_play=false" width="100%"></iframe><strong>Related: <a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/water-issues-in-the-west-could">What water issues in California mean for the Midwest</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Adding to the drought problems this year were high summer gas prices that further argued for more localized food production.<br /><br />&ldquo;So not only is there less product but we are paying more to transport it from California,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got a double whammy coming at us. So when you look at local food supplies, we&rsquo;ve got a little more stability in getting it to the marketplace, lesser freight costs and we are growing our local economies.&rdquo;</p><p>Terra Brockman founded the Land Connection, a local non-profit that helps train Midwest farmers. She says that while the drought hasn&rsquo;t made big waves among local farmers so far, it has revived important questions.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Like, &lsquo;Why do we have plenty of farmers market farmers and CSA farmers but not enough people growing at a slightly bigger scale that could produce quantities of fruits and vegetables that could go into our grocery stores and school cafeterias and other institutions where people are shopping and eating,&rdquo; Brockman said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a question of building infrastructure and putting together policies and funding to make that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman says that Land Connection has recently applied for grants to teach Midwest farmers techniques for extending the notoriously short growing season.</p><p>Bob Borchardt of Harvest Moons Farm in Wisconsin says he is already using some of them and investigating others.</p><p>&ldquo;Some kind of controlled environment growing is really the answer,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;whether it be greenhouses or hoop houses or inside and vertical gardens. Anything that we can do to push more local product into the non-conventional farming months here in the Midwest I think are things that need to be on top of our list as producers.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman notes that farmers can also extend the seasons by planting varieties of vegetables that mature early or late in the season.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s like an early broccoli and a late broccoli,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;One that comes to fruition earlier and later. Just not putting your eggs in one basket or not just planting one kind of broccoli you can sort of insure yourself from whatever the season might be.&rdquo;</p><p>But she says the drought isn&rsquo;t the only water related issue causing debate in Midwest agricultural circles.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&rsquo;re concerned about water then you have to be concerned about agriculture because the thing that affects our water quality the most of anything in this state is agriculture,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>&ldquo;So that&rsquo;s everything from erosion and soil washing into our rivers and silting them up and making them inhospitable for river life, and especially the run off. So in Illinois the main source of pollution in our waterways is industrial farming, and the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that runs off that becomes a dead zone the size of Delaware in the Gulf of Mexico is due to runoff from Illinois and Midwest corn fields.&rdquo;</p><p>Brockman hopes that concern for our waterways will prompt Midwest farmers to swap synthetic fertilizers for crop rotations that take longer but can fertilize the soil naturally.</p><p>Scaman, however, has aspirations that go one step further. Given the growing demand for local produce and the richness of Illinois soil, he hopes the drought might convince some corn and soy farmers--whose harvests go primarily to processed food, animal feed and ethanol tanks--to grow crops suitable for local human consumption.</p><p>&ldquo;Years and years ago, Illinois as an example was one of the largest vegetable growing states in the country,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t necessarily need to just grow soybeans and corn. There is a need for vegetable production here in the Midwest to supply Chicago and other cities. And it provides a lot of economic opportunities for rural communities. So [the drought] has really brought that need to the forefront. You are seeing more and more farmers every year and more local produce. And the demand for local is off the charts.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/california-drought-renews-debate-regional-food-systems-110497 Global Activism: Foods Resource Bank helping small farmers abroad http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-foods-resource-bank-helping-small-farmers-abroad-109559 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wv GA-Foods Resource Bank.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Marv Baldwin left his for-profit sales career to lead his church&#39;s effort to help small farmers around the world live sustainable and dignified lives. Baldwin has traveled to Kenya, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and several other countries. <span id="docs-internal-guid-2c9b1612-bbdd-553f-47b8-cb8824f78d31">For </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Baldwin talks about the course of his life and work as executive director of <a href="http://www.foodsresourcebank.org">Foods Resource Bank</a> (FRB), based in suburban Western Springs.</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">FRB&#39;s stated mission: &quot;As a Christian response to world hunger, FRB links the grassroots energy and commitment of the U.S. agricultural community with the capability and desire of small farmers in developing countries to grow lasting solutions to hunger.&quot;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/131025307&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-foods-resource-bank-helping-small-farmers-abroad-109559 Wet weather not hurting Illinois farmers http://www.wbez.org/news/wet-weather-not-hurting-illinois-farmers-107963 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/illinoiscorn.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois farmers lost a lot of money last year when crops were unable to withstand the drought and high temperatures.</p><p>But Illinois has had plenty of rain this year. In fact it has had the wettest six months of the year on record.</p><p>According to John Hawkins of the Illinois Farm Bureau, rain has delayed planting.</p><p>&ldquo;Normally by the 4th of July we&rsquo;re just entering the pollination stage for corn. That&rsquo;s the critical stage to developing the crop. Last year at this time we had half the crop pollinated. This year we&rsquo;re nowhere near there. We have less than 1 percent entering pollination stage. It will probably be the middle of July when we get to that critical stage.&rdquo;</p><p>Hawkins isn&rsquo;t worried though. With lots of rain and mild temperatures, he expects a great yield for corn.</p><p>&ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t ask for better conditions across illinois,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Soybean crops are also benefiting from the increased moisture, Hawkins said, but the true weather test will come in August.</p><p>Hawkins said soybeans do much better in warmer temperatures.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is the midday and weekend news anchor at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/mariamsobh" target="_blank">@mariamsobh</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 08 Jul 2013 07:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/wet-weather-not-hurting-illinois-farmers-107963 Dry spell moves Quinn to assist Illinois farmers http://www.wbez.org/news/dry-spell-moves-quinn-assist-illinois-farmers-100956 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/niala corn final.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>During a visit Monday to a southern Illinois corn and soybean farm, Illinois Gov. Pat&nbsp;Quinn announced that drought-affected farmers would be eligible for state debt restructuring and loan programs in addition to the aid the USDA announced last week.</p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p>Quinn&nbsp;ventured into a corn field where he spent some time looking for an actual ear of corn. When he found one and peeled off the husk, there were no kernels.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Drought&nbsp;is affecting much of the Midwest, where almost a third of the nation&#39;s corn crop has been damaged by heat and&nbsp;drought&nbsp;so severe that some farmers have cut down crops midway through the growing season.<o:p></o:p></p><p>In southern Illinois, Kenny Brummer has lost 800 acres of corn that he grows to feed his 400 head of cattle and 30,000 hogs. Now he&#39;s scrambling to find hundreds of thousands of bushels of replacement feed.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;Where am I going to get that from? You have concerns about it every morning when you wake up,&quot; said Brummer, who farms near Waltonville. &quot;The&nbsp;drought&nbsp;is bad, but that&#39;s just half of the problem on this farm.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>Brummer could normally count on corn yields of 170 bushels per acre. He expects to get just 10 bushels this year, if he gets anything at all.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The top of the cornstalks are an unhealthy pale green, he said. Many of them have no ears, and &quot;if there are there are a few kernels, they don&#39;t seem to know if they should die or make a grain.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>Crop insurance will cover up to 150 bushels per acre. But no coverage is available for Brummer&#39;s livestock, so he figures he&#39;ll lose $350,000 to $400,000 on that side of the operation.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Not long ago, Brummer rejoiced along with countless other Midwest growers about getting their crops in the ground early.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;It looked really good until about a month ago,&quot; he said. &quot;Then the concerns started, and it&#39;s been downhill ever since.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>Two-thirds of Illinois is in what&#39;s classified as a severe&nbsp;drought&nbsp;or worse. Neighboring Indiana is even worse, with 70 percent in at least a severe&nbsp;drought.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The nation&#39;s widest&nbsp;drought&nbsp;in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of&nbsp;drought&nbsp;and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a&nbsp;drought&nbsp;covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, there&#39;s little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn&#39;t come soon.<o:p></o:p></p><p>In its monthly&nbsp;drought&nbsp;report, the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., announced that 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to extreme&nbsp;drought&nbsp;at the end of June. The parched conditions expanded last month in the West, the Great Plains and the Midwest, fueled by the 14th warmest and 10th driest June on record, the report said.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Topsoil has turned dry while &quot;crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years,&quot; the report said.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The percentage of affected land is the largest since December 1956, when 58 percent of the country was covered by&nbsp;drought, and it rivals even some years in the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, though experts point out that this year&#39;s weather has been milder than that period, and farming practices have been vastly improved since then.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Around a third of the nation&#39;s corn crop has been hurt, with some of it so badly damaged that farmers have already cut down their withered plants to feed to cattle. As of Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, 38 percent of the corn crop was in poor or very poor condition, compared with 30 percent a week earlier.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;This is definitely the epicenter &mdash; right in the heart of the Midwest,&quot; said climatologist Mark Svoboda with the Nebraska-based National&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Mitigation Center.<o:p></o:p></p><p>It&#39;s all a huge comedown for farmers who had expected a record year when they sowed 96.4 million acres in corn, the most since 1937. The Department of Agriculture initially predicted national average corn yields of 166 bushels per acre this year.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The agency has revised that projection down to 146, and more reductions are possible if conditions don&#39;t improve.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The lower projection is still an improvement over the average yields of around 129 bushels a decade ago. But already tight supplies and fears that the&nbsp;drought&nbsp;will get worse before it gets better have been pushing up grain prices, which are likely to translate into higher food prices for consumers, particularly for meat and poultry.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Monday&#39;s report was based on data going back to 1895 called the Palmer&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Index. It feeds into the widely watched and more detailed U.S.&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Monitor, which reported last week that 61 percent of the continental U.S. was in a moderate to exceptional&nbsp;drought. However, the weekly&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Monitor goes back only 12 years, so climatologists use the Palmer&nbsp;Drought&nbsp;Index for comparing&nbsp;droughts&nbsp;before 2000.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Climatologists have labeled this year&#39;s dry spell a &quot;flash&nbsp;drought&quot; because it developed in a matter of months, not over multiple seasons or years.<o:p></o:p></p><p>The current&nbsp;drought&nbsp;is similar to the&nbsp;droughts&nbsp;of the 1950s, which weren&#39;t as intense as those of the 1930s, said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with the National Climatic Data Center. And farming has changed a lot since the Dust Bowl era. Better soil conservation has reduced erosion, and modern hybrids are much more resistant to&nbsp;drought.<o:p></o:p></p><p>But Crouch said it&#39;s important to understand that this&nbsp;drought&nbsp;is still unfolding.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;We can&#39;t say with certainty how long this might last now. Now that we&#39;re going up against the two largest&nbsp;droughts&nbsp;in history, that&#39;s something to be wary of,&quot; Crouch said. &quot;The coming months are really going to be the determining factor of how big a&nbsp;drought&nbsp;it ends up being.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>In northwest Kansas, Brian Baalman&#39;s cattle pastures have dried up, along with probably half of his corn crop. He desperately needs some rain to save the rest of it, and he&#39;s worried what will happen if the&nbsp;drought&nbsp;lingers into next year.<o:p></o:p></p><p>&quot;I have never seen this type of weather before like this. A lot of old timers haven&#39;t either,&quot; Baalman said. &quot;I just think we are seeing history in the making.&quot;<o:p></o:p></p><p>The federal government is already moving to help farmers and ranchers.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week announced plans for streamlining the aid process. A major goal is to cut the time it takes to declare an agricultural disaster area. He also reduced interest rates for emergency loans and made it cheaper for farmers to graze livestock or cut hay on lands otherwise locked up in a conversation program.<o:p></o:p></p><p>Some state governments are stepping in, too. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in 42 counties last week to speed up the issuance of permits for temporarily using stream or lake water for irrigation.<o:p></o:p></p></p> Mon, 16 Jul 2012 18:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/dry-spell-moves-quinn-assist-illinois-farmers-100956 Illiana expressway project has residents on edge http://www.wbez.org/news/illiana-expressway-project-has-residents-edge-98922 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/possible expressway.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When Todd Benjamin and his wife Colleen found out about the possible routes for the Illiana expressway, they raced to their computer to see if the state would soon be bulldozing through their property.<br><br>"From what I understand they're gonna put that highway right here on the north side of this property between here and that grove of trees," Benjamin said, standing outside his livestock office in Peotone.<br><br>According to a <a href="http://www.illianacorridor.org/about/prelim_alternative.aspx">map of three potential roadways</a>, Benjamin could soon be looking out his office window onto a massive expressway. Members of the Illinois House are poised to take up a bill that would speed up construction of a proposed highway. The Illiana expressway project dates back as far as the early 1900s, in Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago, and would connect Indiana and Illinois.&nbsp;<br><br>Benjamin said he understands the need for the road, but he's upset about proposals that would take away land on his and his neighbors property.<br><br>"When you think about young people with houses, with families and they're buying a home," he said. "And now they're talking about taking it away?"<br><br>Benjamin's pretty tapped into what people are talking about - his sons are the sixth generation to live on his family's farm. He says there are a lot of rumors going around about "quick-take" and what that might mean for property owners.<br><br>"You know, land is a big investment. And to have some judge just come in and say that's all it's worth, that's all you're gonna get, and oh yeah, by the way, we're not gonna pay you for a while. You've gotta go now," he said.<br><br>A <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=3318&amp;GAID=11&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;LegID=64537&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97&amp;SpecSess=0">measure </a>is pending in the Illinois House that would give the Department of Transportation quick-take powers for the expressway. It's basically a fast-track version of eminent domain. The state government chooses the land it wants and then tells a judge what it'll pay. Property owners can take that money and run, or fight in court over the value, but that's after their land's been taken.<br><br>According to Dan Tarlock, professor at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, quick-take is a common practice for states around the country, especially with public-private infrastructure projects like the Illiana Expressway.<br><br>"In order to induce private financing, quick-take is a big incentive to invest, otherwise a lot of private money would be tied up," Tarlock said.<br><br>Quick-take, Tarlock says, is also useful for speeding up the process when a lot of parties are involved. In the case of the Illiana expressway, people like farmers and homeowners.<br><br>"We've been worried about hold outs, that is, you've got a project, probably most property owners will voluntarily sell, but if one person decides to hold out then the whole project can be delayed," he said.<br><br>Delay is one of the reasons State Senator Toi Hutchinson supports quick-take.<br><br>"Eminent domain takes about three years but quick take takes about two, so if you add another 24 months for land acquisition then we could be breaking ground in 2016," Hutchinson said.<br><br>Hutchinson is the Senate sponsor of the quick-take legislation. The bill has already passed through the Senate and is waiting for a final vote by the full House. Hutchinson said the highway project would bring needed resources to the region; it could create around 14,000 long term jobs, and could bring $6 billion in investment over the next 30 years.<br><br>"We're moving with another state, and we have a lot of moving parts to be able to coordinate, and there are also people who've been unemployed for so very long that will tell you they can't wait much longer for a job," Hutchinson said.<br><br>But Hutchinson says she does feel for landowners who could lose their land. Especially in a region where most property is passed down through generations.<br><br>"It's always difficult when the individual comes up against the needs of a region," she said.<br><br>But Todd Benjamin says it doesn't matter how long someone's owned land. He says what matters is that it's theirs, not the government's. &nbsp;<br>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 08 May 2012 16:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illiana-expressway-project-has-residents-edge-98922 Agriculture drives the Midwest economy – and farming is just the start of it http://www.wbez.org/story/agriculture-drives-midwest-economy-%E2%80%93-and-farming-just-start-it-97496 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-21/Midwest ag 1_boodhoo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-21/Midwest ag 1_boodhoo.jpg" style="width: 620px; height: 348px;" title="Part-time farmer Howard Haselhuhn at his West Michigan hops farm. (Lindsey Smith)"></p><p>This month, we’re looking into some of the hidden assets of the Midwest – the parts of our economy that don’t often get noticed when we talk about our strengths (the first part of the series is <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2012/03/14/meet-the-machine-that-makes-most-of-the-things-in-your-life/">here</a>). Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of local economies in the Midwest – it accounts for billions of dollars worth of exports and thousands of jobs.</p><p>There’s been a lot of concern about whether enough young people are going into farming these days. But the ag industry goes well being just farming, and plenty of young people are interested.</p><div id="powerpress_player_1305">At <a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/navypier" target="_blank">Navy Pier</a>, a special meeting of the <a href="http://www.chicagoagr.org/" target="_blank">Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences</a>’s FFA chapter is being called to order. Ringed around the room, one by one, chapter officers check in during the traditional opening ceremony. It ends when President and Senior Jennifer Nelson asks her fellow FFA members: “Why are we here?”</div><p>The students stand and chant in unison: “To practice brotherhood, honor agriculture opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership that an FFA member should possess.”</p><p>These students are part of the 17,000 FFA members in Illinois alone. Membership in the organization overall has increased 20 percent since 2000, to more than half a million members across the country. But there’s a reason why FFA <a href="https://www.ffa.org/documents/about_ffahistory.pdf" target="_blank">no longer calls itself</a> Future Farmers of America.</p><p>Actual farmers make up just about two to four percent of the American work force. But people who work in related industries that depend on what farmers do account for at least a quarter of the entire work force. That includes everyone from people in food services jobs to Kraft executives to commodities traders.</p><p>These students were at the <a href="http://www.chicagoflower.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Flower and Garden Show</a> to exhibit a garden they designed and built, and to sell food produced in the school’s kitchens.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-21/midwest ag 2_boodhood.jpg" style="width: 240px; height: 400px; float: right; margin: 5px;" title="Chicago High School for Ag Sciences senior Justice Plummer. (Changing Gears/Niala Boodhoo)">Applications to the public school – located on the far south side of the city – have almost doubled in the past year.</p><p>But student Justice Plummer wasn’t so sure about agriculture when she first found out she got in. Her mom convinced her to go, and she’s never looked back – even though she’s the first in her family to go into the industry.</p><p>At the moment, Plummer is nine for 13 on being accepted into colleges she applied for – all to study agricultural business. She wants to major in agriculture business in college, and eventually get her Master’s degree and work in the Peace Corps, all in relation to agriculture business or finance.</p><p>“Everybody looks at me, like, ‘Agriculture?’” she says, laughing. “They just think of farming. But it’s all about food, clothing and shelter, and people are always going to need those kind of jobs.”</p><p>Instructor Corey Flournoy agrees.</p><p>“Just here in Chicago – some of the largest food companies are based here, from Quaker Oats to Kraft Foods,” says Flournoy, who is in charge of the new Center for Urban Agricultural Education, a partnership with the University of Illinois. “The opportunities to work in agriculture – because those are agricultural companies – are plentiful. We need more people to go into those fields.”</p><p>Educators like to use the acronym STEM to describe this need for people who know science, technology, engineering and math.</p><p>“I say that agriculture puts the STEAM into STEM,” said Laurie Kramer, an associate dean at the U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. &nbsp;When I asked her how much farming was a part of the college’s curriculum, she laughed and said you would think it was “big.” That’s what it was like 50 years ago.</p><p>“Nowadays, things are very, very different,” says Kramer. Seventy percent of the college’s students come from urban environments. The few students who focus on farming are likely to come from farming families, she said, &nbsp;adding that today, the number of farms – especially those operated by families – is very small.</p><p>“It’s very expensive to run those operations, it’s very tricky,” she says.</p><p>Part-time farmer Howard Haselhuhn would agree. He’s an electrical engineer for Texas Instruments. But his West Michigan farm has been in his wife Amy’s family for several generations. She’s a CPA. When they were first married, Amy says they thought about farming full-time, but:</p><p>“We just didn’t see how we could possibly make a living off of a farm that was this size and growing commodity crops and also make payments off the land,” she says.</p><p>Together, the couple saved for 25 years to buy the 420-acre land from the rest of her family. Most of it is rented out to full time farmers. But on the weekends, they make the three and a hour trek west from their house near Ann Arbor to check on their hops crop.</p><p>Michigan’s farmers exported $1.75 billion worth of food – mostly to Canada – in 2010. Forecasts are that number will top $2 billion this year. The state’s goal is to double Michigan’s exports in the next five years.</p><p>More than half the farms in the Michigan area are what the USDA considers <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB66/EIB66.pdf" target="_blank">residential or lifestyle farms</a> – meaning that the owners have other full-time incomes. Another 20 percent are retirement farms – what the Hasselhuhns hope this will be.</p><p>The farm was started in the 1930s by Amy’s great-grandfather. She says growing up on the farm gave her strong attachment to the land that Howard now shares. And even though they didn’t grow up there, her children have it, too – that weekend, her eldest son and his wife were also up at the farm, helping out. Her hope that is future generations of Haselhuhns will be at this farm, maintaining that attachment to the land.</p><p><em>This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. If you want to learn how to be a part of our network, click <a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/f8f8b186694f/help-us-cover-this-story">here</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/agriculture-drives-midwest-economy-%E2%80%93-and-farming-just-start-it-97496 Landowners oppose the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-30/landowners-oppose-1700-mile-keystone-xl-pipeline-91244 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-30/keystone2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483679-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/wv_20110830b.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>If built, the Keystone XL pipeline would slice through 1,700 miles of land to deliver crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The project would impact thousands of landowners in five states.&nbsp; We speak with three of these landowners who are protesting the project, which has been proposed by <a href="http://www.transcanada.com/" target="_blank">TransCanada</a>.</p><p>Earlier this month, Ben Gotschall of Nebraska, as well as David Daniel and Eleanor Fairchild from East Texas, traveled along the route of the proposed pipeline to speak out against it. The pipeline, they say, will threaten grasslands that have been unspoiled for generations as well as the livelihoods of American farmers, while reaping profits for a foreign oil company. They stopped by to discuss the project while on their way to <a href="http://www.tarsandsaction.org/">protests</a> in Washington D.C.</p></p> Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-30/landowners-oppose-1700-mile-keystone-xl-pipeline-91244 Organic poultry farms have fewer drug-resistant bacteria, study finds http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-10/organic-poultry-farms-have-fewer-drug-resistant-bacteria-study-finds-90508 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/organic chickens_Flickr_WBUR.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Proponents of organic meat often make the case that it's inherently better for people's health and the environment than meat raised by conventional farming methods. But the actual impacts of organic production can be tough for scientists to prove.</p><p>A <a href="http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1003350">study</a> out today in <em>Environmental Health Perspectives</em> adds some weight to the argument that organic poultry, at least, may reduce one type of health risk. A team of scientists from the University of Maryland and other universities found that large-scale organic poultry farms — which are not allowed to use antibiotics to prevent disease in the animals — had significantly lower levels of one group of drug-resistant bacteria than their conventional counterparts.</p><p></p><p>The study comes at a time when antibiotic use in industrial livestock production is under heavy fire from the public health community. Farmers who raise food-producing animals use about <a href="http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/12/news-break-fda-estimate-us-livestock-get-29-million-pounds-of-antibiotics-per-year/">29 million pounds</a> of antibiotics each year, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and the latest <em>Salmonella</em> outbreak in ground turkey turned out <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/06/139019030/salmonella-outbreak-reignites-debate-over-antibiotics-in-food-supply?ps=sh_sthdl">to be caused</a> by a strain resistant to several antibiotics.</p><p>Bacteria resistant to antibiotics can make their way to humans through the meat itself and the environment — like waterways contaminated with runoff. If humans ingest those bacteria or are exposed to them other ways and get sick, there aren't many options for treating them.</p><p>Several European countries have already banned the prophylactic or preventative use of antibiotics for exactly this reason, and some studies there have shown that once farmers reduce antibiotic use, those resistant microbes mostly go away.</p><p>But that's been difficult to study in the U.S., since the majority of farmers still use antibiotics pretty indiscriminately. So <a href="http://www.sph.umd.edu/miaeh/people/index.cfm">Amy Sapkota</a>, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Maryland and lead author of the study, decided to look at 10 mid-Atlantic farms that had just adopted organic practices. She measured the change in levels of <em>enterococci</em> bacteria against 10 mid-Atlantic conventional farms. <em>Enterococci </em>can show up in poultry litter, feed, and water. The researchers tested their resistance to 17 different types of antibiotic drugs.</p><p>"We were surprised to see such dramatic differences in the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the very first flock at these organic farms," Sapkota tells Shots.</p><p>For one common antibiotic, erythromycin, 67 percent of an <em>Enterococcus </em>bacterium from conventional poultry farms were found to be resistant, while 18 percent were resistant at the organic farms. But Sapkota notes that organic farms usually still have "reservoirs" of resistant bacteria that can linger in the soil or the packed dirt floor of the poultry houses, so they may never be completely free of the bugs.</p><p>But Sapkota's work does not mean organic poultry eaters get a free pass when it comes to food safety. No chicken is completely free of <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/06/08/137055474/mixed-results-on-foodborne-illness-cast-shadow-on-daily-menu">pathogens</a>, and consumers still need to take all the precautions they normally would when preparing poultry: Cook it well and beware of cross-contamination on the cutting board. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1313159176?&gn=Organic+Poultry+Farms+Have+Fewer+Drug-Resistant+Bacteria%2C+Study+Finds&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=antibiotics,food+safety,Public+Health,Infectious+Disease,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Your+Health,Food,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=139386917&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110810&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=133650740,133490675,133188449,126568156,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 13:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-10/organic-poultry-farms-have-fewer-drug-resistant-bacteria-study-finds-90508 A year later, many of Pakistan’s poorest flood victims refuse to return home http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-13/year-later-many-pakistan%E2%80%99s-poorest-flood-victims-refuse-return-home-8909 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-13/Pakistan_Flood1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>One year after massive floods engulfed Pakistan and displaced 10 million people, many <em>haris</em>, or sharecroppers, face a difficult decision. Do they return home, where huge debts and impatient <em>zamindars</em>, or landlords, await? Or do they default on their debts and remain in refugee camps, where living conditions are miserable and aid agencies are packing up?</p><p><a href="http://www.christianparenti.com" target="_blank">Christian Parenti</a>, whose article <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/161733/pakistan-one-year-after-floods" target="_blank">"Pakistan One Year After the Floods"</a> appears in the latest edition of <em>The Nation</em> magazine, joins us to discuss the collision between natural disaster and social inequality in Pakistan.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>For more on the environmental impact in our own region, check out “<a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter/2011-07-13/climate-change-hits-mightiest-great-lakes-89058">Climate Change and the Great Lakes</a>,” the latest installment of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frontandcenter">Front and Center</a>, WBEZ’s special series examining critical issues in the Great Lakes region.</em></p></p> Wed, 13 Jul 2011 16:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-13/year-later-many-pakistan%E2%80%99s-poorest-flood-victims-refuse-return-home-8909 Food Mondays: Raising questions about the organic, local food movement in the West http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/food-mondays-raising-questions-about-organic-local-food-movement-west <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/75540942.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today, we revisit a conversation with <a href="http://www.wellesley.edu/PublicAffairs/Profile/mr/rpaarlberg.html">Robert Paarlberg</a> from earlier this year. He&rsquo;s a professor of political science at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. His latest book is &quot;Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know.&quot;</p><p>Paarlberg takes issue with some of the developing world&rsquo;s more fashionable ideas about food in ways that might surprise you. He says the West&rsquo;s embrace of organic and sustainable farming has eclipsed the bigger problem of poverty and hunger in the developing world.</p></p> Mon, 13 Dec 2010 16:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/food-mondays-raising-questions-about-organic-local-food-movement-west