Covering Our Food System

Luke Runyon

As Big, High-Tech Farms Take Hold, How Do Nearby Towns Stay Afloat?

Brandon Biesemeier climbs up a small ladder into a John Deere sprayer, takes a seat in the enclosed cab, closes the door, and blocks out most of the machine’s loud engine hum. It is a familiar perch to the fourth-generation farmer on Colorado’s eastern plains.

Read More
Farmer Tim Mueller raises corn and soybeans in Columbus, Nebraska. He is hoping to get into the chicken business by signing a contract to raise birds for a subsidiary of Costco.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Gamble Of The Farmers That Raise Our Chicken

The theft of agricultural trade secrets is a growing problem, according to the FBI.
University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability / Flickr

Worry In The Fields About The 'Growing Threat' Of Agricultural Espionage

Join our Public Insight Network

Help us tell the real story

Latest Questions In Our Public Insight Network

Special Series: Watching Our Water

The challenge to keep it clean

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., (in green) watches as President Barack Obama signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University on Feb. 7, 2014.
Courtesy David Kosling / U.S. Department of Agriculture

When U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow announced passage of the Farm Bill in February, she echoed a refrain from a car commercial.

“This is not your father’s Farm Bill,” she said.

As a young man, Elisha Pullen never imagined he would spend his days on the farm.

Growing up near rural Bell City in southeastern Missouri’s “Bootheel” region, Pullen longed to leave the farm and get an education.

“I grew up in the day and time when we had to do a lot of chopping and stuff like that. Hard labor,” Pullen said. “I’m going to college, I’m getting my degree and I’m going to work in the air conditioning.”

Once a staple of the American diet, we're now eating a lot less lamb. The U.S. sheep herd today is just one-tenth of its size in the 1940s.
Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Over the last 20 years, the number of sheep in this country has been cut in half. In fact, the number has been declining since the late 1940s, when the American sheep industry hit its peak. Today, the domestic sheep herd is one-tenth the size it was during World War II.

The decline is the result of economic and cultural factors coming together. And it has left ranchers to wonder, “When are we going to hit the bottom?”

When I dig into a burger, I might think about how the cow the beef came from was raised -- whether it was grass or grain fed, locally raised or imported -- but rarely do I consider what breed of cow the meat came from.

If I did, I'd guess that it was beef from a Black Angus, Hereford or Charolais cow, which are the three most popular breeds used for meat production in the U.S. But that notion got turned on its head at this year’s Missouri Cattlemen’s Association’s convention in Columbia, Mo.

Pages