Covering Our Food System

The Agriculture Department established research centers in 2014 to translate climate science into real-world ideas for farmers and ranchers adapting to a hotter climate.
File: Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

As The Climate Changes, Will Farmers Depend On Government Research For Help?

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

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Special Series: Watching Our Water

The challenge to keep it clean

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

One of the ways researchers study and try to contain outbreaks is by tracing the virus’ path. But that was especially confusing with the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PED.

The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State University first identified PED in the U.S. in May 2013. Then, they went back to samples from hog farms they had in storage and were able to track the virus back to an Ohio farm in April 2013.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A fast-spreading virus never before seen in the United States hit the pork industry more than two years ago, racking up roughly $1 billion in losses and spiking prices for consumers.

While researchers are still trying to track the culprit, it appears to be an intrepid world traveler that may have been delivered directly to farmers’ barn doors, creating an intriguing international back story traced to China.

Pipestone Veterinary Services

Veterinarian and researcher Scott Dee doesn’t much look the part of a detective, in his jeans and company polo shirt.

But when a virus never before seen in North America swept through the network of hog farms where he works, Pipestone Veterinary Services, in January 2014, he had his first clue.

“These farms had the same pattern of infection,” Dee said.

Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

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.

Today’s farmers can produce more from their land than ever before thanks, in part, to nitrogen fertilizer, a key ingredient that has never been more widely available.

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.

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