agriculture

Black Welsh Mountain sheep, grazing
Laura Palmisano

Federal researchers are on a mission to back up the genetic material of the plants and animals that the nation’s food supply depends on. A pair of ranchers in the hills of western Colorado are joining in and are trying to ensure the future of the rare Black Welsh Mountain sheep.

It’s a sunny morning at Desert Weyr, a 40-acre sheep farm outside of Paonia, Colorado.

Oogie McGuire and her husband own this farm. They raise Black Welsh Mountain sheep. They’re smaller than the white sheep most people are used to seeing. They’re solid black, and the males have curled horns. 

The average American farmer is a white man in his late 50s. Or at least, that's who's in charge of the farm, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But the number of female-run farms has tripled since the 1970s, to nearly 14 percent in 2012. And if you dig a little deeper, you'll find women are showing up in new roles. But because of the way farm businesses are structured, women's work often isn't included in those USDA counts.

Farmers who just got into the business in recent years found it was a good time to both plant and harvest.

"We were all spoiled little brats the past two years, with $5, $6, $7 corn, yep," says farmer Grant Curtis.

He's sitting in the captain's chair of his combine on a brisk, overcast day in western Illinois. He's driving back and forth over rows of corn on his family's farm. Then he arcs the 80,000-pound machine off course towards a single stalk he missed.

It's a busy time of year for turkey farmers around the country. And these days, with the growth of the local food movement, small family farms are struggling to keep up with all the orders for birds. So, we went to find out what one New England farmer is doing to get her gobblers from the field to the table. Enter the "abattoir."

It's a hot summer day outside Lincoln, Neb., and Jack Chappelle is knee-deep in trash. He's wading in to rotting vegetables, half-eaten burgers and tater tots. Lots of tater tots.

"You can get a lot of tater tots out of schools," Chappelle says. "It doesn't matter if it's elementary, middle school or high school. Tater tots. Bar none."

Ask Northern California sheep rancher Dan Macon what this drought is doing to his pocketbook and he'll break it down for you real quick.

"It's like if you woke up one morning and lost 40 percent of the equity in your house," he says. "Our primary investment in our ranch is in these sheep and we just sold 40 percent of our stock."

Coffee has been grown since at least the 13th century in places such as Indonesia, Ethiopia and Central and South America. Though it's not a traditional region for growing coffee, California is playing an increasingly big role in the future of this beloved and lucrative crop.

Sammy Venegas stands on a hillside in Goleta, Calif., outside Santa Barbara, that's shrouded in fog, thick with avocado trees, passion fruit and coffee plants. With a white bucket slung around his neck like a baby carrier, he picks only the reddest coffee beans.

The federal government is about to put $100 million behind a simple idea: doubling the value of SNAP benefits — what used to be called food stamps — when people use them to buy local fruits and vegetables.

This idea did not start on Capitol Hill. It began as a local innovation at a few farmers' markets. But it proved remarkably popular and spread across the country.

"It's so simple, but it has such profound effects both for SNAP recipients and for local farmers," says Mike Appell, a vegetable farmer who sells his produce at a market in Tulsa, Okla.

There's an apple renaissance underway, an ever-expanding array of colors and tastes in the apple section of supermarkets and farmers markets.

Less visible is the economic machinery that's helping to drive this revolution. An increasing number of these new apples are "club apples" — varieties that are not just patented, but also trademarked and controlled in such a way that only a select "club" of farmers can sell them.

To understand the new trend, start with the hottest apple variety of recent years: Honeycrisp.

Making license plates is the stereotypical job for a prisoner, but in California's Central Valley, a group of inmates are doing very different work, supplying milk to almost every prisoner in the state system.

They earn just 35 to 95 cents an hour, but inmates at Corcoran state prison say the job gives them plenty of other benefits.

North Fork Valley
Laura Palmisano

The United States is the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer. North Dakota and Texas are experiencing an oil boom. And many other states are seeing natural gas production increase through hydraulic fracturing.

Colorado has nearly 53,000 active wells. But, the state’s energy boom is a source of tension. 

As I scrolled through tweets about a panel on agricultural entrepreneurs at the SXSW Eco conference earlier this month, one caught my eye. The sender was Vance Crowe, Monsanto's director of millennial engagement.

Corporate America is currently caught up in a torrid infatuation with millennials, who befuddle and torment the companies who want their dollars.

Scientists at startup Apeel Sciences have figured out the secret to doubling lifespans. Not our lifespans, alas, but those of fruits and veggies. And they do it naturally.

It's a big deal. Worldwide, we throw away about a third of our food, some $750 billion per year — and the percentage is even higher in the United States. One reason is rot: Food goes bad before we can bite in.

Could that beloved farmer at your farmers market possibly be lying to you, passing off supermarket produce as locally grown?

California's state officials seem to think so. Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that will raise $1 million to deploy a small army of inspectors to farmers markets around the state. The inspectors will check for signs that farmers are selling fruits and vegetables that they didn't actually grow themselves, but instead picked up wholesale.

Mute Schimpf doesn't want to eat American chicken. That's because most U.S. poultry is chilled in antimicrobial baths that can include chlorine to keep salmonella and other bacteria in check. In Europe, chlorine treatment was banned in the 1990s out of fear that it could cause cancer.

"In Europe there is definitely a disgust about chlorinated chicken," says Schimpf, a food activist with Friends of the Earth Europe, an environmental group.

It's apple season, and if you go to the supermarket you'll find the usual suspects: Red and Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, MacIntosh. But these big, shiny, perfect apples often look better than they taste. Thankfully, there's a whole world of heirloom apples out there — fruit that may look funky, but tastes fantastic, with flavors unlike any you've tried before.

As the Worm Turns episode aired Tuesday, July 29th, 2014.

Produce, Vegetables, Thistle Whistle
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

On this week's Local Motion, we’ll be looking at organic farming, and really, what that means.  There are a number of unique certifications that differentiate produce from conventional farming.  It can get a little confusing as to what the word "organic" means, what makes a farm certified USDA organic, and why some farmers choose different programs, or none at all.  

KVNF's Jake Ryan talked to Steve Ela, Mark Waltermire, Lynn Gillespie, and Don Holt. 

bing cherries, cherry
Laura Palmisano

The summer fruit harvest season has started in western Colorado. Cherries are usually the first fruit ready for picking in the North Fork Valley.

Jeri Mattics Omernik/Valley Food Partnership

The 2nd Annual Western Slope Colorado Food & Farm Forum is coming up on Saturday, January 11th at the Montrose Pavilion. The conference brings together farmers, ranchers and others in the ag industry for conversations about sustainability, food production and marketing. 

For some details about the conference and this year's main theme of "Making Every Drop Count," we spoke to Carol Parker, President of the Valley Food Partnership based in Montrose.

Luke Runyon/KUNC & Harvest Public Media

For decades, housing developments in the suburbs have come complete with golf courses, tennis courts, strip malls and swimming pools. But make way for the new subdivision amenity: the specialty farm.

A new model for suburban development is springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement. Farms, complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees, are serving as a way to entice potential buyers to settle in a new subdivision.

Headlines

  • BLM Finds Temp Location for Gunnison Office after Fire
  • Experts Examine Cost of Natural Disasters
  • Forget the Golf Course, Developers Use Farming to Sell Suburban Homes
  • Grand Junction Airport Authority Members Looking into Fraud Allegations
Travis Bubenik/KVNF

The holidays are officially here, and while Thanksgiving may have come and gone, there’s still plenty of festivities to be had in the coming months.

And of course, what would the season be without food, and lots of it?

To get you into the holiday spirit and prepared for long, laborious hours in the kitchen, we took a visit to a cooking class hosted by Chris Bailey at the Old River Road Trading Post in Paonia.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Fall is planting time for wheat across the Great Plains and this year’s crop went into the ground while big changes were underway in the wheat market. Some of the biggest players in the flour milling industry are joining forces to make the country’s largest miller even larger.

Headlines

  • Heather Jensen Will Stand Trial in Grand Junction
  • Water Conflicts Escalating between Agriculture and Growing Colorado Cities
  • Aspen Medical Marijuana Dispensary Gears Up for Retail Sales
  • Colorado Oil and Gas Association Donates Over $604,000 to Pro-Fracking Campaigns
  • KVNF Sports Report

Connecting the Drops: "Buy and Dry"

Oct 18, 2013
Maeve Conran

Water has always been a source of conflict in the arid West, but in recent years the conflict between agriculture and growing cities has escalated as both entities compete for this limited resource.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Community gardens dole out small plots of land and encourage people with limited access to fresh produce to grow their own. Now, there’s a new twist on that model springing up across the country: edible food forests.

 

Headlines

  • Turning a Public Park into an Edible Forest Free-for-All
  • School Board Members and Candidates Sound Off on Amendment 66
  • US Marshals Looking for Telluride Man Suspected of Attempted Murder
  • "It's Crap!" - North Fork Valley Residents on the Government Shutdown
  • Around the World in 3 Minutes - Commentary from North Fork Valley Vision School Student 
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?”

The Powell Mesa Hen House dispute has renewed questions about zoning and the "right to farm" in Delta County. Adopted in 1996 by the state of Colorado and the county, the "Right to Farm and Ranch" policy lays out some parts of rural life that residents are expected to accept, including noise from tractors, manure, odor from animal confinement and the use of pesticides.

For some historical context on the policy, KVNF’s Marty Durlin spoke with former Delta County Commissioner Jim Ventrillo about the early days of the right-to-farm policy.  

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