Covering Our Food System

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Farm, Food, Forestry and More On The Table in the Next Federal Farm Bill

In the coming months, Congress will map out how it’ll spend upwards of $500 billion on food and farm programs over the next five years. The massive piece of legislation known as the farm bill affects all taxpayers — whether they know it or not — and runs the gamut from farm safety net and conservation programs to food stamps and loan guarantees for rural hospitals. Since the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, now is the time when interest groups, farmers and others clamor to ensure their desires will be heard.

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Special Series: Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat

The human toll of our meat habit

Special Series: Watching Our Water

The challenge to keep it clean

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.

Fuel: It’s What’s For Dinner

Dec 3, 2015
Stephanie Joyce / Harvest Public Media

There are few places where the connection between energy and food is more obvious than at the Bright Agrotech warehouse in Laramie, Wyo.

Most of the building is filled floor to ceiling with giant shelves of cardboard boxes and tubing — equipment Bright Agrotech sells to farmers — but in one corner of the warehouse, there’s a small farm: rows and rows of greens and herbs, growing in white vertical towers under dozens of bright LEDs. The hum of electricity is palpable.

Watch: Corn Husking 101

Oct 23, 2015
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

I wiped my palms on my jeans, tugged at the bill of my baseball hat, and took a deep breath. It was my first time competing in the annual Illinois State Corn Husking Contest at the end of September and I was nervous.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

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.

Beef, poultry and pork are staples of the American diet, baked into the country’s very culture, and backbones of the agricultural economy. But lately, the meats have been saddled with some baggage.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

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.

While the average American eats hundreds of pounds of meat every year, many U.S. consumers are starting to cut back as health experts learn more about the risk of a diet high in proteins from meat and environmentalists challenge the way most meat is raised.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

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.

One of the most important tools of modern medicine is in jeopardy. In the 20th century, antibiotics turned once-lethal infections into manageable diseases. They also contributed to the transformation of meat production in America.

Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

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.

Americans have a big appetite for everything meat. We smoke it, grill it, slice it, and chop it.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

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.

Emily Meier uses a drip torch to light the upwind edge of a field in Gentry County, Mo.
Jacob Grace / For Harvest Public Media

Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up. These burns are often called “prescribed burns” because they are used to improve the health of the field.

What tools do farmers need for a burn?

To keep the fire contained, farmers need to clear away burnable matter around the edges of the field, which usually requires a lawn mower or larger machinery. The burn itself can be managed with some simple, specific tools.

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