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Federal Farm Research Offices Set To Move From D.C. To Kansas City

(This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Thursday to move headquarters of two large research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area, promising the region more than 550 research jobs.

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Leigh Paterson / File/Harvest Public Media

To make or not to make a homemade pie?  That is a classic holiday dilemma. Do you take the easy way out and buy a fairly decent frozen pie, or do you risk making your own, resulting in a potentially burnt and lumpy version?

While there is something special about that homemade option, every cook knows that it takes a lot of your own time and energy.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media file photo

By some estimates, producing our food consumes about a fifth of the nation’s energy supply. It takes a lot of diesel to move tractors and semis around the farm, and electricity to pump water and dry grain. But some farmers are trying to cut back on the coal and gas they use and make our food system more energy efficient.

When winter comes to Greg Brummond’s farm in northeast Nebraska, he spends his days in the machine shed fixing all the things that broke through the year.

Rebecca Jacobson / Harvest Public Media

Every day, a facility on the outskirts of Grand Junction, Colorado, takes in 8 million gallons of what people have flushed down their toilets and washed down their sinks. The water coming out the other end of the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant is cleaner than the Colorado River it flows into. The organic solids strained from that water are now serving a new purpose — producing fuel for city vehicles.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

One of the ways researchers study and try to contain outbreaks is by tracing the virus’ path. But that was especially confusing with the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PED.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State University first identified PED in the U.S. in May 2013. Then, they went back to samples from hog farms they had in storage and were able to track the virus back to an Ohio farm in April 2013.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

One of the ways researchers study and try to contain outbreaks is by tracing the virus’ path. But that was especially confusing with the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PED.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State University first identified PED in the U.S. in May 2013. Then, they went back to samples from hog farms they had in storage and were able to track the virus back to an Ohio farm in April 2013.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A fast-spreading virus never before seen in the United States hit the pork industry more than two years ago, racking up roughly $1 billion in losses and spiking prices for consumers.

While researchers are still trying to track the culprit, it appears to be an intrepid world traveler that may have been delivered directly to farmers’ barn doors, creating an intriguing international back story traced to China.

Pipestone Veterinary Services

Veterinarian and researcher Scott Dee doesn’t much look the part of a detective, in his jeans and company polo shirt.

But when a virus never before seen in North America swept through the network of hog farms where he works, Pipestone Veterinary Services, in January 2014, he had his first clue.

“These farms had the same pattern of infection,” Dee said.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. may be on the verge of a boom in new fertilizer plants, which could be good news for farmers, but not the environment.

Today’s farmers can produce more from their land than ever before thanks, in part, to nitrogen fertilizer, a key ingredient that has never been more widely available.

Jordan Wirfs-Brock / Inside Energy

From apples to zucchini, from milk to cheese, from chicken to chorizo, our modern food production turns energy from fossil fuels into food.

Some food products have a light environmental touch. But some of the foods we eat have a massive impact.

How much do you know?

As part of our Feasting On Fuel project, Inside Energy’s Jordan Wirfs-Brock has created this simple quiz to test your knowledge, or best guesses, on how much energy it takes to create basic food products.

Watch: How We're Feasting On Fuel

Dec 3, 2015

You might not think about it, but our modern food production system is based on turning fossil fuels into food.

A largely inefficient system, with about 10 units of fossil energy converting to about 1 unit of food energy, it’s unsustainable as the global population continues to rise.

Though our turkey dinner gets us sleepy, food is energy for our bodies. It’s the same energy that heats our homes, runs our cars, charges our phones.

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