WBEZ | corn http://www.wbez.org/tags/corn Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Organic farmers struggle with stigma of 'dirty fields' http://www.wbez.org/news/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields-112765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.wbez.org/" alt="" /><p><p>While consumers might seek out organic food for its purity, organic farmers have a reputation for being anything but.</p><p><a href="http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&amp;context=gers_pubs">A study</a>&nbsp;conducted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale found that farmers who go organic are often subject to a &ldquo;weedy field bad farmer&rdquo; mentality in their communities, a social stigma organic corn and soybean growers face for having mare&rsquo;s tails and pigweeds poking their raggedy heads up through the neat rows of cash crops.</p><p>Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the judgment can be so harsh,&nbsp;<a href="https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/123677/Ch8.Transitioning.pdf?sequence=7" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s an actual risk factor</a>&nbsp;conventional farmers who are interested in transitioning to organic should consider before making the switch.</p><p>Organic farmers are a rare breed. Nationwide,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/organic-production.aspx" target="_blank">fewer than 1 percent of all farm operations</a>&nbsp;are certified organic. In the Corn Belt, they&rsquo;re even fewer and farther between. In Illinois, for example, of the state&rsquo;s nearly 20 million acres of cropland, only a smidgen -- 0.15 percent -- of it is USDA certified organic.</p><p><img data-interchange-default="/sites/kunc/files/styles/default/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/large/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/small/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" title="Juniper Lane sips sweet tea at the second annual Organic Fest hosted by the Illinois Organic Growers Association. (KUNC/Abby Wendle)" /></p><div>For corn and soybean farmers,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards" target="_blank">being certified organic</a>&nbsp;boils down to avoiding a laundry list of synthetic materials - like pesticides that kill bugs and weeds - and not planting genetically modified seeds.</div><p>Dane Hunter, a conventional corn and soybean farmer from southern Illinois, said the social stigma of having a &ldquo;dirty&rdquo; field is a big obstacle.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of organic fields, compared to conventionally herbicide-managed fields, just have a lot more weeds in them, which is kind of a faux pas for the agriculture community,&rdquo; said Hunter, who is interested in transitioning part of his family&rsquo;s 1,200-acre grain farm into an organic operation.</p><p>Hunter said it&rsquo;s especially a barrier for older farmers, like men in his father&rsquo;s generation, who base their merit not on the success of the farm business, but on having, weed-free, pretty fields.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of behind-the-scenes chastising of organic fields,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;I used to be that way, too,&rdquo; agreed Tom Yucus, an organic farmer who grows 480 acres of grain in the center of the state. &ldquo;If I&rsquo;d see weeds in somebody&rsquo;s field, I&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Oh, what&rsquo;s wrong with him?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Yucus turned to organic farming for a number of reasons, including money. Organic grain typically sells for anywhere from two to three times as much as a conventional crop, which means organic farmers don&rsquo;t have to farm as many acres to make a decent living.</p><p>But Yucus, whose farm has been certified organic for more than a decade, said now he&rsquo;s committed to farming organic grain for more reasons than economics.</p><p><img alt="IOGA was founded in 2011 to bring organic producers together to exchange information and offer each other support. (Harvest Public Media/Abby Wendle)" data-interchange-default="/sites/kunc/files/styles/default/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/large/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/small/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" style="float: right; width: 400px; height: 267px;" title="IOGA was founded in 2011 to bring organic producers together to exchange information and offer each other support. (Harvest Public Media/Abby Wendle)" /></p><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just a change in mindset,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Everything you do affects the land and your food, so you know, keep it simple and don&rsquo;t add synthetic, non-natural stuff.&rdquo;</div><p>Colleen Yucus, Tom&rsquo;s wife, struggled to adopt her husband&rsquo;s new mentality, especially when it came to her weekly trip to the grocery store.</p><p>&ldquo;I think I was like a lot of other people that had the mindset that if food was on sale at a chain grocery store, that was wonderful and that&rsquo;s what I was gonna buy,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The differences in opinion led to a few minor marital disputes, but in the end, Tom managed to convince her.</p><p>&ldquo;My husband had a good point,&rdquo; Yucus recalled, with a smile. &ldquo;When I didn&#39;t want to buy organic potatoes that were $2 a pound, he came to me and said, &lsquo;Look at this bag of chips. How much did you pay for this bag of chips?&rsquo; And I said, &lsquo;$3.58.&rsquo; And he said, &lsquo;How much per pound would that 8-ounce bag of chips be?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The answer is $7.66, which means she could buy nearly four pounds of potatoes. When doused in olive oil and fried, that amounts to a lot more potato chips than you&rsquo;ll get in an 8-ounce bag.</p><p>&ldquo;The healthier eating, the non-processed foods, has just become so much more a part of our lives,&rdquo; Colleen said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m really happy he chose to start being an organic farmer and I&rsquo;m really proud of him.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.kunc.org/post/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields#stream/0" target="_blank"><em>Harvest Public Media</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields-112765 Could Chicago be in for a long hot summer? http://www.wbez.org/news/could-chicago-be-long-hot-summer-112238 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/corn crops.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="https://climateillinois.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/so-far-fifth-wettest-june-on-record-for-illinois/">Near record rainfalls</a> in parts of Illinois this June have set the stage for what could be many muggy nights ahead, in part because of the type of crops we grow in the state.</p><p>David Changnon, a professor of meteorology at Northern Illinois University, <a href="http://www.niu.edu/geog/directory/dave_changnon_research.shtml#2004a">studies how dense Illinois corn and soybean crops can raise dew point temperatures</a>. He worries what might happen if the moisture from these crops, coupled with evaporation from this year&rsquo;s wet soil, meets high summer temperatures this year. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We could have incredible amounts of <a href="http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycleevapotranspiration.html">evapotranspiration</a>,&rdquo; Changnon said. &ldquo;Not just evaporation of water from the soil at the surface but our corn and soybean plants will begin to transpire a great deal of water into the lower atmosphere. In those situations it prevents the air temperature from dropping below that dew point, which limits how much cooling you can have at night.&rdquo;</p><p>In his 2004 paper on this subject, Changnon noted that the greatest increases in extreme daily dew point temperatures occurred in the Midwest in the second half of the last century. This period coincided with a doubling of corn and soybean crops in the area. In the years since, local cultivation of these crops has only increased.</p><p>And according to Changnon, these factors could combine with hot temperatures to reduce the number of Midwest summer days that fade into cool nights. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;So now you have not only hot muggy days, but you also have warm muggy evenings, which makes it very difficult if you don&rsquo;t have air conditioning to sleep and get around,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Chagnon notes that high temperatures and record high dew points also prevailed during Chicago&rsquo;s steamy summer of 1999 and deadly summer of 1995 when more than 700 died in the heat.</p><p>&ldquo;In both of those summers we had big heat waves in July &lsquo;95 and the end of July &lsquo;99 where temperatures in the Chicagoland area got close to 100 degrees if not exceeded them for a couple of days,&rdquo; Chagnon said. &ldquo;On those days we had dew points in the upper 70s, and we even set an all-time record at Midway of a dew point of 83 degrees.</p><p>&ldquo;It was those dew points that limited the ability for the atmosphere to cool down at night and that&rsquo;s what really caused the problem for most people who don&rsquo;t have air conditioning systems in their homes or apartments, especially for the elderly,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Still, Changnon notes that we also had heavy June rainfall in 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;Luckily it was accompanied by fairly cool temperatures, so it wasn&rsquo;t that much of a problem,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"><em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 24 Jun 2015 07:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/could-chicago-be-long-hot-summer-112238 Majority of Illinois crops are genetically engineered http://www.wbez.org/news/science/majority-illinois-crops-are-genetically-engineered-110458 <p><p>The recent rainfall in Illinois has provided some welcome relief for many farmers who worry that too much or too little moisture is tricky for corn and soybeans.</p><p>But farmers like Lin Warfel, a Central Illinois farmer who grows corn and soybeans in Tolono, may have found a solution.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m nearing the end of my tenure, this is my 52nd crop, so I&rsquo;m trying to simplify everything and the simple way and easy way to do it nowadays is just plain corn and plain soybeans. Both of which are GMO.&rdquo;</p><p>Warfel started using corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified, that means scientists have been able to identify and multiply the strongest and best genes.</p><p>He says he doesn&rsquo;t necessarily have to worry about the weather anymore and has seen a huge difference in his yield compared to the years before GMOs were around.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GMO-Corn_0.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 280px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Around 89 percent of corn in Illinois is grown from genetically engineered seeds, according to the Illinois Farm Bureau." />&ldquo;About 25 years ago, we had a drought and this was before current genetics. My corn that year yielded just over 100 bushels per acre. With the change in the genetics, it was only 155. It was 55 bushels better than my corn was earlier because of genetics.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ilfb.org/">Illinois Farm Bureau</a>, 89 percent of corn in Illinois and 92 percent of soybeans are grown from genetically engineered seeds.</p><p>Warfel says GMO corn and soybeans are more likely to make it through harsh weather conditions.</p><p>&ldquo;It withstands too much moisture better or not enough moisture better. So, it&rsquo;s more productive, more consistently, than it used to be.&rdquo;</p><p>Warfel says using GMO crops also helps to reduce his bottom line. He spends less on fuel because he doesn&rsquo;t need to be out on the field twice cultivating it. He also employs fewer people because there&rsquo;s not as much work that needs to be done.</p><p>But not all farmers are on board with GMOs</p><p>Dave Bishop is the owner of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.prairierthfarm.com/PrairiErth_Farm/Homepage.html">Prairie Earth Farm.</a>&nbsp;His farm is also based in Central Illinois, but grows organic and conventional non-GMO produce including corn and soybeans.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there are better ways to address issues of pest resistance and weather changes to different kinds of crop rotation and cover crops. In my opinion, far better than genetically engineered crops.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop says he doesn&rsquo;t believe the hype that GMOs are better at resisting drought or too much rain.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that conventional crops yield as well. They are more profitable in most cases, at least here we have a significant premium in the marketplace for non-gmo crops.&rdquo;</p><p>But, Illinois Department of Agriculture director Bob Flider says despite the significant crop devastation due to the drought of 2012, crops were <em>still </em>able to survive.</p><p>&ldquo;If you think about the drought that we had a couple of years ago, quite candidly it was probably the worst weather conditions that we&rsquo;ve had in Illinois ever, in terms of the heat and the dryness, but yet we still had a crop. If we hadn&rsquo;t have had those kinds of seeds and scientific research that could grow and develop a crop we might have had virtually nothing and that would have been a disaster.&rdquo;</p><p>Flider says as resources around the world continue to become depleted, it&rsquo;s important to support research and find ways to increase production in order to feed the growing population.</p><p>And that is a topic that pits the debate of good versus bad when it comes to the overall impact of GMOs.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is Midday Host and reporter at WBEZ Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a></em></p></p> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/majority-illinois-crops-are-genetically-engineered-110458 State senate bill mandates labels on genetically engineered food http://www.wbez.org/news/state-senate-bill-mandates-labels-genetically-engineered-food-108310 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/GM Foods 130807 AY_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A proposed Illinois senate bill aims to label all genetically engineered food. A hearing on the bill takes place this Wednesday in the southern Illinois town of Carbondale.</p><p>Emily Carroll of the advocacy group Food and Water Watch supports the bill..</p><p>&ldquo;This is not a ban, it&rsquo;s not about economics, it&rsquo;s not about science, this is just about the consumer&rsquo;s right to know,&rdquo; Carroll said. &ldquo;We can&rsquo;t track the effects of genetically engineered food because right now they aren&rsquo;t labelled. This is a huge public health experiment but without the information for people to actually know what they&rsquo;re eating.&rdquo;</p><p>The legislation won&rsquo;t address the merits or drawbacks of genetic engineering, says the sponsor of the bill, Senator David Koehler (D-Peoria). He says he&rsquo;ll leave that question to experts and scientists.</p><p>The last public hearing on the labelling bill is scheduled for September 17th in Chicago. Similar legislation earlier this summer passed in Maine and Connecticut, but failed in California last fall. More than 10 other states are considering labeling measures. In polls like these two, Americans support labelling genetically engineered food.</p><p>Back when the California bill was being debated, the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a statement saying the science is clear -- &ldquo;crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.&rdquo; AAAS says the Food and Drug Administration requires special labelling on food only if there is a special health or environmental risk without that information. It concludes that in this case, &ldquo;legally mandated labels will only mislead and falsely alarm consumers.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s not that simple, says Jennifer Kuzma, an associate professor of science and technology policy at the University of Minnesota. Last fall, she reviewed the scientific literature on genetically engineered food.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t really say that all genetically engineered foods are safe or unsafe,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>For example, scientists could take a scorpion toxin and put it into a corn plant, or an allergen from shrimp or seafood and put it into corn. Kuzma says that&rsquo;s probably not very safe. On the other hand, she points out plants have naturally occurring toxins to defend themselves against insects. For example, if farmers used conventional methods to breed potatoes that have more of their natural toxins, than those potatoes might not be safe for humans to eat. She concludes that both ways are capable of producing unsafe crops.</p><p>Kuzma says there are arguments for and against labelling, but points out it comes down to how much people trust the food industry.</p><p>&ldquo;Often these decisions about these crops are made behind closed doors, and all of a sudden, people are presented with &lsquo;oh, it&rsquo;s on the market and and I&rsquo;m eating it? Really?&rsquo; I think that can anger people.&rdquo;</p><p>She stresses safety is not just a scientific issue, but a social construction.</p><p>&ldquo;I can say, &lsquo;I&rsquo;ve tested this, and it showed no health effects over the two-year life of a rat, that doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean that it&rsquo;s safe for humans to eat over a lifetime,&rdquo; Kuzma said. &ldquo;I think we need to decide what is safe as a society, what will we accept in terms of uncertainties that we&rsquo;re willing to deal with in order to reap the benefits of some of these crops.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alan Yu is a WBEZ metro desk intern. Follow him @Alan_Yu039.</em></p></p> Tue, 06 Aug 2013 17:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-senate-bill-mandates-labels-genetically-engineered-food-108310 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 Sky high by the 5th of July http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-07/sky-high-5th-july-107952 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornelotesriracha.jpg" title="Elote: roasted corn on the cob with butter, mayo, crema, lime, Sriracha, scallions, cilantro, and cotija cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Two years ago today <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-07-05/knee-high-fifth-july-88732" target="_blank"><u>I took the baton</u></a> of this food blog. With climate change of all kinds, we did celebrate our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-07/how-high-6th-july-100667" target="_blank"><u>one year anniversary</u></a>. Today we pass on to the great beyond.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">WBEZ will continue to cover food, sometimes with me. Please stay tuned.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Special thanks to&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/JustinKaufmann" target="_blank"><u>Justin Kaufmann</u></a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/dailyedwardian" target="_blank"><u>Steve Edwards</u></a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/andrewgill" target="_blank"><u>Andrew Gill</u></a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ChicagoEl" target="_blank"><u>Elliott Ramos</u></a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/TheSSKate" target="_blank"><u>Kate Dries</u></a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer" target="_blank"><u>Robin Amer</u></a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/triciabobeda"><u>Tricia Bobeda</u></a>, and <u><a href="https://twitter.com/timakimoff" target="_blank">Tim Akimoff</a></u>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But really thanks to everyone at BEZ.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In the meantime you can:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://twitter.com/louisachu" target="_blank"><u>Follow me on Twitter.</u></a></div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Louisa-Chu/301814753261077" target="_blank"><u>Like me on Facebook.</u></a></div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://instagram.com/louisachu1" target="_blank"><u>Follow me on </u></a><u><a href="http://instagram.com/louisachu1">Instagram</a></u><a href="http://instagram.com/louisachu1"><u>.</u></a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Or look for me and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-03/indiana-maple-sap-next-coconut-water-106072" target="_blank"><u>my dog Kiba</u></a> in the side yard at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-09/thirdspace-bang-bang-pie-shop-102399" target="_blank"><u>Bang Bang Pie Shop</u></a> in Logan Square where we&#39;ll be sharing a warm Midwest biscuit with Smoking Goose ham,&nbsp;all the housemade butter and jam, plus at least one slice of pie.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">And a big thanks to you too. Cheers!</div></p> Fri, 05 Jul 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2013-07/sky-high-5th-july-107952 Corn in the U.S.A. (and Bogotá, Colombia) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-09/corn-usa-and-bogot%C3%A1-colombia-102143 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornhoosierpie.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Hoosier Mama Pie Company corn pudding pie at Sound Opinions End of Summer BBQ (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></p><p>Corn has become a precious commodity this <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-07/how-high-6th-july-100667">drought-stricken</a> year and this summer I&#39;ve heard about an unusually high number of strangely labor-intensive methods for cooking it, even when it comes to my seasonal favorite preparation &mdash; grilling.&nbsp;I&#39;ve been told earnestly that grilled corn has to be shucked, brined overnight, air-dried, then carefully grilled for about an hour; or boiled in a court-bouillon for no less than ten minutes; or steamed stem-end down, tied with kitchen twine like asparagus, upright in a pot. It&#39;s as if all the cooking shows collectively overloaded people&#39;s common corn sense, making one of the simplest foods overwrought and complicated. Sure you can take corn to new culinary heights; but are these efforts worth it?</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornhorchersilk.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Sweet corn with golden silk at Horcher Farms in Wheeling, Illinois (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">As I <a href="https://twitter.com/rsamer/status/240532996598419456">mentioned</a> to my editor&nbsp;recently, corn silk is not only edible but a hot cheffy garnish. <a href="http://www.gourmet.com/food/testkitchen/2008/08/minifie_cornsilktea">Cork silk tea</a> has been considered a household remedy since the 19th century, according to Betty Fussell, author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0826335926?ie=UTF8&amp;creativeASIN=0826335926&amp;tag=lklchu-20"><em>The Story of Corn</em></a>. I believe the chef-driven corn silk trend first dates back to 2008, when Grant Achatz used it at Alinea as an <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_max?currentPage=all">edible string</a>. But you&#39;ll see corn silk fried now mostly, often as a <a href="http://blog.ideasinfood.com/ideas_in_food/2011/07/nest-egg.html">nest</a>, as beautifully detailed by Ideas in Food. Me, I like to eat fresh corn silk raw, like <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/08/29/160274163/introducing-microgreens-younger-and-maybe-more-nutritious-vegetables">microgreens</a>.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/corncobmercado.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px; " title="Ear of corn at Mercado Campesinos in Bogotá, Colombia (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">And speaking of raw and corn, for a certain generation, or level of nerd, you can&#39;t help but think about the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btZi6EiIXbY">raw corn scene</a> from the &quot;<a href="http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/16-08/ff_wargames?currentPage=all">geek-geist classic</a>&quot; film&nbsp;<em>WarGames</em>.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">And herein lies my problem. Around here we&#39;re talking about &mdash; and cooking and eating &mdash; modern American corn. And that&#39;s fine, with their crisp, sweet, juicy kernels. Whether <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-08-08/moment-corn-picking-and-eating-corn-cob-wheeling-illinois-90202">raw</a> in the field, liberally buttered and salted or new <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-08/what-i-did-my-summer-vacation-sitka-seafood-festival-2012-101783">Alaskan</a> style, I love it.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">But it&#39;s not the only corn in the New World. In fact, the corn I ate in&nbsp;Bogotá last fall is closer to our current field corn, used for feed or fuel, and like American corn a few generations back.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornmazorcamorcilla.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px; " title="Grilled corn on the cob, morcilla, and arepas at a Mercado Campesinos in Bogotá, Colombia (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">The kernels are bigger, chewier and more savory. They are a heartier meal, in and of themselves, on <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-10-14/chicago-colombian-exposition%E2%80%94-pizza-93144">pizza</a>&nbsp;and certainly with morcilla, the local blood sausage.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornmazorcafanning.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Fanning charcoal grill with mazorca near Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, Colombia (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">Mazorca is the name for the street food corn, grilled by vendors who furiously fan charcoal flames.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornmazorcabrushing.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Brushing mazorca with butter, near Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, Colombia (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">They brush each sturdy kernel with butter before sprinkling salt. Not sweet or crisp, but smoky bite into a recent past.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">How do you cook corn? Well, according to this viral <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnBF6bv4Oe4">video</a>, in the microwave, cleaning silks off and all. Or Fusell, who wrote the book, tells you how to cook <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/07/01/137557919/how-to-cook-perfect-corn">perfect corn</a>. But to me, there is no one way to cook anything. It depends on your taste, and your world.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cornmazorcabuttered.jpg" style="height: 399px; width: 600px; " title="Buttered mazorca near Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, Colombia (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div></div></div></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-09/corn-usa-and-bogot%C3%A1-colombia-102143 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 How high by the 6th of July? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-07/how-high-6th-july-100667 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/growingpowerpotager.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="Art on the Farm, Growing Power urban agriculture potager — kitchen garden — in Grant Park (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></p><p style="text-align: left; ">As I <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-07-05/knee-high-fifth-july-88732">said</a> last year, the saying actually goes &quot;knee high by the 4th of July,&quot; referencing corn and its temporally desirable height, historically the harbinger of a good harvest.</p><p style="text-align: left; ">What a difference a year can make. Evidently last spring was wet and chilly, which I&#39;d somehow forgotten, perhaps driven mad from our record heat wave. As WBEZ&#39;s business reporter Scott Kanowsky <a href="http://www.wbez.org/ill-corn-industry-fearing-affects-midwest-drought-and-heat-100642">reports</a>, Illinois corn farmers and commodities investors fear the effects of the Midwest drought and heat. He&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ScottxKanowsky/status/220895592950403072">tweeted</a>&nbsp;further,&nbsp;&quot;Trading on corn futures at CBOT continues to go up and up &mdash; to $7 a bushel. Today&#39;s Chicago weather forecast: 101 degrees.&quot;</p><p style="text-align: left; ">Which all means world food prices may or may not go up. &quot;The world needs to take a hard look at speculation on the financial markets and its potential impact on food price volatility, <a href="http://www.fao.org/">FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations]</a> Director-General José Graziano da Silva <a href="http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/150900/icode/">said</a> today at a high-level debate on the issue at FAO Headquarters in Rome.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left;">At a mere 88 degrees in the 8 o&#39;clock hour yesterday morning, I went in search of the state of our corn, in the heart of the city.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/growingpowerlauralyn.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="Lauralyn Clawson, Growing Power Chicago Market Basket Coordinator, with broom corn (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">Just northwest of Buckingham Fountain, amid streets closed with white tents blooming for the impending Taste of Chicago, <a href="http://www.growingpower.org/chicago_projects.htm">Art on the Farm</a> grows.&nbsp;An urban agriculture <a href="http://www.movable-feast.com/2005/08/le_potager_du_r.html"><em>potager</em></a> &mdash; French for kitchen garden &mdash; it&#39;s the work of Growing Power, &quot;a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">You may have seen founding farmer and CEO Will Allen recently on <a href="http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/415198/june-12-2012/will-allen"><em>The Colbert Report</em></a>, with his new book&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1592407102/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=lklchu-20"><em>The Good Food Revolution</em></a>.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/growingpowersorghum.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="Broom corn at Art on the Farm (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">Art on the Farm manager&nbsp;<span style="text-align: center; ">Lauralyn Clawson showed me their corn, an heirloom broom corn, one of over 150 heirloom varieties of vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers grown on the 20,000 acres. Broom corn, technically sorghum, forms a cluster of seeds where you&#39;d expect to find an ear, feeding birds not people. The stalks are dried and made into brooms, which will be found at Growing Power&#39;s farmers market stands, or used at their Iron Street farm in Bridgeport, where edible corn grows.</span></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/growingpowersisters.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="Sisters Dejdrea and Deja Baines with broom corn at Art on the Farm (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">Lauralyn, also the&nbsp;Market Basket Coordinator, directed a team of about a dozen teens, most from <a href="http://www.afterschoolmatters.org/">After School Matters</a>, to pick <a href="http://flic.kr/s/aHsjArx4TA">collard greens, mint, dill flowers, and bright orange edible blossoms</a>&nbsp;&mdash; to be sold immediately at the <a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/event_landing/events/mose/daley_plaza.html">Daley Plaza Farmers Market</a> a mile away.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">I asked the kids if they bring anything home. They looked at each other before one girl said, &quot;We can, but...&quot; &mdash; her answer trailing off into the increasingly hot sky.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">Growing. It&#39;s always a work in progress.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/growingpowerornamental_0.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 399px; " title="Collard greens at Art on the Farm (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div></div></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 06 Jul 2012 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-07/how-high-6th-july-100667 The 2012 Farm Bill opens up for debate http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-09/2012-farm-bill-opens-debate-95388 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-09/farm3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Once every five years, Congress negotiates a new version of the Farm Bill, which plays a defining role in how we eat. This single piece of legislation sets the agenda for five years of government spending on food, impacting everything from food assistance programs to school lunches, crop subsidies, organic farming and conservation. Farmers in the U.S. and around the world follow the bill with rapt attention, as U.S. subsidies are a make or break economic issue for many.</p><p><em>Worldview</em> discusses what might and might not make it into the 2012 legislation with <a href="http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Marion_Nestle" target="_blank">Marion Nestle,</a> professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. She writes the blog <em><a href="http://www.foodpolitics.com/" target="_blank">Food Politics</a></em>. Her upcoming book is <em>Why Calories Count: from Science to Politics</em>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jan 2012 16:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-09/2012-farm-bill-opens-debate-95388