Kansas

These sunflowers grow on research fields in Ames, Iowa, which is a state with almost no commodity sunflower production. But places like Kansas, North Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, Wyoming and Texas, sunflowers are a commonly rotated row crop.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Plant breeder Jessica Barb is on a mission to improve how sunflowers self-pollinate, a trait that'll be increasingly important to farmers are wild bee populations diminish. Her research tool of choice: a paper towel. 

Montra Beeler may not be all that all, but she fills a huge role in the understaffed fire department in Cedar Vale, Kansas.
Frank Morris / for Harvest Public Media

If you pull a fire alarm in any large U.S. city, it's likely that paid firefighters waiting at a nearby station will quickly respond. But seven out of 10 American firefighters are volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Expect challenges in the Midwest to so-called “ag-gag” laws, laws that criminalize certain forms of data collection and recording on farms and ranches, after a series of challenges have left Utah’s law permanently struck down and Wyoming’s on shaky ground.

On Wednesday, the Utah attorney general’s office said it would not appeal a federal judge’s decision to strike down the state’s law as unconstitutional, effectively killing the legislation.

“[Ag-gag] laws in states like Iowa and Kansas are crying out for a challenge at this point,” says University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau, one of the attorneys representing animal rights groups in the Utah case.

Since the Dillon's grocery store in St. John, Kansas, closed last year, residents have traveled 12 miles or more for their groceries.
Bryan Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

A brick building that was the only grocery store in St. John, Kansas, sits vacant, its glass doors covered with paper since it closed early last year.

St. John is the county seat of Stafford County in south-central Kansas, but it’s home to fewer than 1,300 people. Today, the closest grocery store is 12 miles away, in Stafford.

Sister Loretta Jasper cut the ribbon on the Neighbor to Neighbor drop-in center in Abilene, Kansas, in February.
Bryan Thompson / for Harvest Public Media

The social and health effects of isolation on some rural Kansas residents spurred three Catholic nuns to convert a storefront in Concordia, Kansas, into a drop-in center where women can find support and resources. 

Seven years after the center opened, two dozen women on average come through each day in the town of about 5,000 to socialize, do laundry, get a cooking lesson, or simply connect with others.

An Illinois farmer harvests his corn crop in this file photo. Average net farm income has tumbled in recent years.
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

Of all the expensive machinery Tom Giessel worked during the 2017 wheat harvest, his favorite sits in the office of his home.

It’s a microfilm machine, the kind found in a high school library. Giessel uses it for his work as the historian of the National Farmers Union, the nation’s second-largest farm group.

From left: Kevin and Zo Bock and Inga Klahr, family members of those killed in the Atchison grain elevator explosion. The Bocks' son, Chad Roberts, and Klahr's husband, Darrek, were among those killed in the 2011 explosion.
Brad Austion / Flatland

ATCHISON, Kan. — The families of six men killed when a grain elevator blew up on the banks of the Missouri River here in 2011 have now waited well over five and a half years for closure in the case.

But the hurt is still raw, they say; for them, it could have happened yesterday.

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

As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

New Kansas Farm Hopes To Cultivate A Future For Veterans

May 5, 2017
The S.A.V.E. farm offers veterans training in beekeeping.
KCPT / For Harvest Public Media

Off a narrow dirt road in the middle of Kansas, retired Army Col. Gary LaGrange, his daughter Shari LaGrange-Aulich and a group of veterans are cultivating a future for service members and American agriculture.

Three-hundred–and-twenty acres nestled between Manhattan, Kansas, and Fort Riley will be the future site of S.A.V.E. Farm, which stands for Service member Agricultural Vocation Education.

A wheat field in southwest Kansas, which saw wheat stalks standing about two-feet-high before the storm, is covered in snow.
Courtesy Gary Millershaski

Farmers in western Kansas are worried a spring blizzard that dumped as much as two feet of snow destroyed much of this year’s wheat crop.

Kansas is the No. 1 wheat state in the country. About 20 percent of the nation’s wheat crop last year was grown by Kansas farmers.

The heavy snow and cold temperatures delivered a one-two punch to a crop that had been in good shape. Rick Horton, who farms 3,000-4,000 acres of wheat in southwest Kansas near Leoti, says he’s expecting massive losses.

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