Abby Wendle

Abby Wendle is the Agriculture Correspondent for Tri States Public Radio. She reports in partnership with Harvest Public Media. Abby's job includes reading about the history of anhydrous ammonia, following crop futures from her desk in Macomb, wandering through corn fields with farmers, and gazing into the eyes of cows, pigs, and goats. Abby comes to TSPR from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she produced radio for This Land Press. During her time at This Land, Abby developed an hour long radio show, published a poetry anthology with a complimentary podcast, and partnered with public radio programs, The Story, State of the Re:Union, and The CBC’s Day 6. Her work has earned awards from The Third Coast International Audio Festival, KCRW's Radio Race, The Missouri Review, and The National Association of Black Journalists. She has worked as an assistant producer for The Takeaway, interned at Radiolab, and announced the news for WFUV, an NPR affiliate in the Bronx.

Abby has a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fl. and a master's degree from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where it's really cold. Now that she's back in the Midwest, Abby's stockpiling snow scrapers, hot chocolate, and wool socks.

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.

All week, Harvest Public Media’s series Choice Cuts: Meat In America is examining how the meat industry is changing the U.S. food system and the American diet. Drive down a dirt road, a two-lane country highway, even many Interstates in the Midwest and the view out the window is likely to get monotonous: massive fields filled with acres of corn sprawled in all directions.

In order to grow massive amounts of corn and soybeans, two crops at the center of the U.S. food system, farmers in the Midwest typically apply hundreds of pounds of fertilizer on every acre they farm. This practice allows food companies to produce, and consumers to consume, a lot of relatively cheap food.

The Matthew family farm, M&M&m Farms, outside of La Harpe, Ill., looks different from the farms surrounding it. It’s not filled with neat rows of soybeans or lines of corn that’s over-my-head high in late July. The Matthew’s place is a bit more disorganized and far more diverse.

“A lot of people grow corn or beans,” Mitchell Matthew tells me as we take an afternoon stroll around his parent’s hilltop property. “Here, we grow everything. Everything you can think of.”

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) released the state's first ever Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.  The document is the state's plan to decrease pollution of local waterways, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico -- pollution caused in large part by fertilizer runoff from farmland.

Driving down a two-lane highway in rural Missouri, Matt Plenge squinted at a patch of gray clouds hanging low over his farm fields in the distance.

“Does it look hazy up there?” he asked. “We only had a 20 percent chance today. We shouldn't get any rain.”

Plenge, like most farmers, always keeps one eye on the weather. But this spring, it’s been his primary and constant concern.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Panda, standing six feet tall and weighing almost a ton, is everything a show cow should be: broad-backed and round-rumped, with sturdy legs holding up her heft. Her hide - thick and black, with splotches of creamy white - fits her name.

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