In The Field

A western Illinois farmer harvests corn.
Credit Abby Wendle / File: Harvest Public Media

The people and places that make our food system go.

Ways to Connect

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farmers started forming co-ops nearly a century ago, primarily to get better prices for their crops. They pooled their resources, put up storage bins and gained leverage with buyers.

Courtesy USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to send hundreds of its employees out of Washington, D.C., to areas closer to stakeholders like farmers and with lower costs of living. As it turns out, there are a lot of people who think their town fits the bill.

The first set of barns for the Costco project was recently completed near the town of Hooper, Nebraska. Approximately 20,000 breeding hens will be raised here.
Fred Knapp / NET News Nebraska

A handful of companies — think Tyson and Perdue — all but control poultry production in the U.S. They’ll soon be joined by a retailer known more for selling rotisserie chickens: Costco, which is building a farm-to-table system based in Nebraska to supply itself.

Snare family / Field and Farm Co.

As life expectancy increases, farmers are staying in the business, but there’s still a need to plan for what happens when they die. At the same time, young farmers who come from non-farming backgrounds are looking for the space to grow their own careers.

A land transfer may seem simple, but challenges abound: How do retiring farmers connect with beginning farmers? When does a farmer confront death? How can smaller farm organizations fit into the ever-growing 1,000-acre farm scene?

The EPA plans to propose allowing E15 to be sold year-round.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

President Donald Trump’s administration will “unleash the power of E15,” allowing the 15 percent gasoline-ethanol blend to be sold year-round.

The announcement, made public this week at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is being welcomed by corn growers and biofuel groups. But it may take longer for farmers like Kelly Nieuwenhuis of Primghar, Iowa, to feel the positive impact of E15 than they would like.

The fields and back roads of eastern Arkansas were a crime scene this past summer. State inspectors stopped alongside fields to pick up dying weeds. They tested the liquids in farmers' pesticide sprayers. In many cases, they found evidence that farmers were using a banned pesticide. Dozens of farmers could face thousands of dollars in fines.

Josh Davis likes to name his pigs after flowers: Petunia, Iris, Violet and Daisy.

That’s not the only thing that sets him apart as a hog farmer.

For the past three years, Davis and his wife, Alicia, have been raising one of the rarest pig breeds in the world on their farm in Pocahontas, Illinois. The American mulefoot hog was a popular breed in the Midwest in the early 1900s, but now, there are only a few hundred left. The Davises are among a small group of farmers hoping to revive the breed by putting it back on the menu.

Amy Mayer/Valdemar Fishmen / Harvest Public Media/Creative Commons

Farmers and agriculture groups are digging through the details of the new North American trade deal, called the United States Canada Mexico Agreement, and some are raising concerns that clash with the celebratory mood of the three countries’ leaders.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. ET

The U.S. and Canada reached a deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed a quarter-century ago, with a new pact that the Trump administration says is easier to enforce.

In remarks in the Rose Garden formally announcing the agreement, President Trump called it "the most important trade deal we've ever made by far."

Ahead of a midnight deadline set by the White House, Trump approved changes that essentially revamp the 1993 NAFTA deal, bringing Canada on board after Mexico had already agreed in August.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Michael McEnany always knew he wanted to be a farmer. Both of his grandfathers were, and he “always loved tagging along with my Grandpa Ed.”

Both of his parents chose ag-related careers, but neither of them went back to the farms they’d grown up on. Still, McEnany’s done nothing but farm for more than a decade. Starting part-time in college, he worked his way up to a full-time, year-round job on Steve Henry’s corn and soybean operation in Nevada, Iowa.

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