Health+Harvest

NPR Illinois Campus & Community Council identified the subject of food and health as important subjects for coverage in 2012.  Health+Harvest provides for community engagement on health and food issues along with reporting on farm, field and fuel.  From seed to plate, from farmer's markets to GMOs, central Illinoisans need to know how to stay healthy and what they are eating.  In 2013, NPR Illinois joined a consortium of public media in the Harvest Public Media network.  The network provides broader coverage to Midwest food issues.

By examining these local, regional and national issues and their implications with in-depth and unbiased reporting, Health+Harvest fills a critical information void.

Support for Health+Harvest coverage comes from Central Illinois Farm Bureaus, GenHKids, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  If you'd like to support this initiative, please contact Nick Reynolds at 217-206-9847.

Peter Gray/WUIS

A Springfield woman's family tree has deep roots in Greece.

On that tree's branches?  Olives.

Rini Christofilakos-Soler is helping grow her family's business by bringing the olive oil they produce to Springfield.

Peter Gray stopped by Christofilakos-Soler's table at the downtown farmers market to ask about her family farm in Greece:

Find more information at the family's Facebook page

 

The world's soil is in trouble. Ecologists say without dramatic changes to how we manage land, vast swathes of grassland are at risk of turning into hard-packed desert. To make sure that doesn't happen, researchers are testing out innovative ways to keep moisture in the soil.

In eastern Colorado, one way could be in the plodding hooves of cattle.

Conventional wisdom tells you that if ranchland ground has less grass, the problem is too many cows. But that's not always the case. It depends on how you manage them, if you make sure they keep moving.

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

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

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

My Farm Roots is a series from Harvest Public Media in which we hear Americans’ stories and memories of rural life. Because when you hail from farm country, roots run deep.
 

U.S. House Passes Version Of Farm Bill

Jul 11, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. House passed its version of farm bill legislation today. The revamped bill strips out funding for food aid and deals only with farm policy, exposing a hefty rift in decades-old alliances between urban and rural legislators and between food aid and farm policy interests.

Creative Commons

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

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

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Amy Bishop is an artist and teacher from Springfield with a vision of a cooperative grocery store in her community. She's hosting a meeting tomorrow night at 6 at Donnie's Homespun in the Vinegar Hill Mall in Springfield to talk about that possibility, it's open to the public.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

Farmers are getting older.

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

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

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

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

Ray Meints, NET News

The aging of the American farmer is reshaping the rural economy.  Reporter Grant Gerlock of Harvest Public Media and NET News in Nebraska begins the series "Changing Lands, Changing Hands" by checking in on the fastest growing group of farmers in the U.S. - those age 65 and older.

Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days. In 2012, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was beyond retirement age. But farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census 25 percent of all farm operators were over 65 years old.

My Farm Roots: Wings

Jul 8, 2013
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

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

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

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

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

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

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, joined environmental group representatives to decry the S.S. Badger’s polluting of Lake Michigan.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Standing on the Lake Michigan overlook at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — a wooden deck perched 450 feet above the lake’s steel blue water — it’s evident why the northern Michigan park was voted “the Most Beautiful Place in America” in 2011.

The panoramic view of towering sand dunes that plunge into pristine beaches, which then melt into a seemingly endless expanse of water, is breathtaking, hypnotic. 

Protesters seeking a moratorium on fracking in Illinois stationed themselves outside the governor’s office.
Jamey Dunn / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The effects of horizontal high-volume fracturing are as of yet unknown, but the battle over it in Illinois has caused deep rifts among environmental and community activists. 

“Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” chanted protestors after Senate Bill 1715 was approved unanimously by a House committee in May. The bill went on to pass in both the House and Senate by wide margins. The measure was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Glen Lake from Sleeping Bear Dune
Robert Pahre / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Though Illinois is not famous for its mountains, it has other pleasures. As a westerner turned midwesterner, I decided to bloom where I’m planted. I’ve learned to appreciate both the Great Lakes and the prairies. Although Illinois does not have a nonhistoric national park, neighboring states with natural national parks surround it. All of these are national parks, though the names sometimes sound otherwise — national lake shores, national monuments and the like.

Dana Heupel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

New data on beach closures and health advisories demonstrate a need to end the dumping of raw or partially treated sewage into the Great Lakes and waterways that feed them, say U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and Illinois Congressmen Randy Hultgren and Daniel Lipinski.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers will come through with the predicted corn crop despite the Midwest's wet spring that delayed planting.  
Some states _ including Michigan, Nebraska and Texas _ planted more corn than expected, which will make up for the loss in Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer.  
Friday's annual acreage report is based on farmer surveys, and surprised farmers, analysts and commodities traders. Many expected the number of corn acres planted to fall by about 2 million acres.  

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

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

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

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

Thomas Jefferson was more than a founding father.  He was an avid gardener.  We’ve learned more about Jefferson’s passion for gardening thanks to Peter Hatch and the various books he has written.

Hatch is the retired Director of Gardens and Grounds at Jefferson’s Monticello.  He’ll speak on the UIS campus Thursday night.  He also talked with WUIS’ Sean Crawford about Jefferson’s gardens….

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Individual state constitutions across the nation spell out a host of guaranteed rights for their citizens. For example, same sex marriage or collective bargaining. But what about the right to farm?  From the WUIS Harvest Desk,  Bill Wheelhouse reports on a drive to establish that guarantee:

The way hog farmer Bob Young sees it, city people just don’t understand farmers.

“There are a few that come out here and think we got to change everything so we can make it city living,” he said. “And that won’t work.”

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

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


Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

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

  Community gardens are cropping up in urban areas across the country. They’re a way for those without the yard space to grow their own food. Kemia Sarraf is the founder and president of the local group gen H Kids, which stands for Generation Healthy. She tells WUIS’ Rachel Otwell about how the group is bringing a new community garden to Springfield:

CLICK HERE for more information or email George@genHkids.org to register for a garden plot.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began using heavy equipment to remove nearly 900 cubic yards of limestone from the navigation channel at Thebes in Alexander County in December.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Army Corps of Engineers blew up part of a levee in 2011 to divert rising Mississippi River floodwaters away from Cairo. Now, in early 2013, Corps engineers find themselves in completely opposite circumstances, cautiously taking measures to ensure that commercial shipping can continue as water levels drop. 

 

Recent severe drought conditions that destroyed crops across Illinois also threaten to shut down barge traffic on the country’s most important waterway for commercial shipping. 

Design for an offshore wind turbine and platform.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The wind off Lake Michigan is legendary. It most famously contributes to the “Windy City” image of Chicago, provided a name for an ill-fated 1975 football team called the Chicago Winds and was immortalized as the “hawk wind” in the first line of Steve Goodman’s song “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.”

In fact, the wind blows across a largely uninterrupted expanse of 22,400 square miles of water, Lake Michigan, which is slightly smaller than West Virginia and larger than nine of the United States. 

Photo Essay: The River and Us

Jul 1, 2012
Kayaking the Cache River State Natural Area in southern Illinois. Recreation, such as boating and fishing, is a way to enjoy and explore the state’s rivers.
Chris Young

Nature photographers, especially this one, are fond of using their long, telephoto lenses to isolate their subjects and eliminate anything that distracts from the beauty of the image.

We make sure utility poles and wires don’t show up. We leave out roads, cars and other evidence of civilization when we are focusing on nature.
That’s fine, except that sometimes we eliminate an element from the picture that looms large over our rivers and other natural areas — us.

Yes, people are an integral part of our landscape, our natural areas and our rivers.

Jamey Dunn headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Americans’ opinions about global warming are ever-changing and seem to be shaped in part by their political beliefs, the economy and their perceptions of the scientific community. 

Click to Enlarge Image
WUIS/Illinois Issues

 Large-scale projects to extract oil and natural gas using a method that is the subject of national scrutiny may soon come to Illinois, bringing both controversy and economic stimulus with them. 

Hydraulic fracturing, which is commonly referred to as fracking, is nothing new. The practice was pioneered in the late 1940s and has been used in Illinois for decades. 

Natural Illinois

Jul 1, 2011
Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park is at Zion on Lake Michigan.
Adele Hodde / Illinois Department of Natural Resource

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