Covering Our Food System

A grain cart collects corn harvested from one of the Hammond family's fields.
Courtesy Mary Anne Andrei

The 'Ghost Geography' Of Midwest Farmland And A Year In The Life Of A Modern American Family Farm

Every year on the farm has its challenges. There are weeds, insects and random hailstorms. Unpredictable global markets can make or break a profitable crop. Recent years, though, have been especially troubling for the Hammond farm in York County in eastern Nebraska.

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My Farm Roots: Rich With Life

Aug 13, 2014

Farmers are used to waking up with the rooster’s crow. But having grown up a suburban kid, John Curtis was used to a more conventional alarm clock.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in the Caribbean, he managed a farm for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A long way from his Wisconsin home, he found a love for the most Midwestern job – that of a farmer.

“I loved walking out on the landscape and finding things I could eat,” Curtis said. “I found agriculture to be fascinating.”

In his home in Forest City, Iowa, Riley Lewis has the original warranty deed for his farm, signed by President James Buchanan and issued to one Elias Gilbert, a soldier who served in the War of 1812.

“He moved here, northeast of Forest City, and lived there for one year,” Lewis said, which was the obligation veterans had if they homesteaded. “And then he sold it to Robert Clark, who was the founder of Forest City.”

Most family vacations are remembered for endless car rides, packed tourist beaches and a string of poorly decorated hotel rooms.

But not former Nebraskan and current Coloradan Kari Williams. Her family vacation memories center on smells of cow manure, adventures on horseback and roosters with bad attitudes on farms in central Nebraska.

Emily Robbins is a city girl now.

Well, I’m using that term as a cliché. Robbins, 27, lives in Kansas City and works as an engineer at a large firm. She is part of a profession that is made up of just 14 percent women.

My Farm Roots: Coming Home To Roost

Jul 30, 2014

When they heard Dan Hromas’ truck rolling in, the chickens came strutting. The auburn-feathered Rhode Island Reds stood out, even in the tall, green brome grass of Hromas’ rented 3-acre pasture outside of York, Neb.

The pasture is the center of Hromas’ new farming enterprise. For a little over a year he’s been selling farm eggs to local restaurants, grocery stores, and direct to customers in southeast Nebraska.

Jack and Diane Aaron lived in Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kan., for decades. They loved their neighborhood and it was close to family. But when a friend passed away and left them land on a farm, they decided to take a chance on country living.

While farm life is different, they found it’s anything but quiet.

“Out here we’ve got, just different sounds. We have birds that will wake us up. A cat that likes to wake me up at six because he wants to eat,” Diane Aaron said. “It’s peaceful, but it doesn’t make you crazy,”

Crop Insurance Programs Subject Of Intense Farm Bill Lobbying

Jul 17, 2014
Mike Crawford stands at his farm near Danville, Ill. He says crop insurance is an important risk-management tool for farmers.
Darell Hoemann / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

After two years of debate, the U.S. Congress passed a Farm Bill this year that replaced direct subsidies to farmers with an ever increasing multi-billion dollar federal crop insurance program.

During that time, at least 80 groups spent more than $50 million in lobbying efforts that included ensuring their interests in the often criticized program were well-represented.

Hundreds of companies and outside groups lobbied the 2014 Farm Bill and related issues during the drafting process.
Bigstock

Setting the course for almost a trillion dollars of government spending, the 2014 Farm Bill attracted hundreds of companies eager to find their slice of the pie.

The “who” part of the Farm Bill is pretty clear.

With trillions dollars of government spending up for grabs, lobbyists from all ends of the spectrum – representing environmental interests, biotech companies, food companies, farmers – flocked to Capitol Hill to find their piece of the Farm Bill pie.

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.

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