The 2013 farm bill is at least a 900 billion dollar piece of legislation. It’s been stalled in Congress since the 2008 bill expired a year ago. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about what the hold-up is and why it matters.
Farmers have been operating for more than a year now without a farm bill. Since the 2008 bill expired, there’s been an ideological debate surrounding the funding of certain programs in the farm bill, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. There are currently two versions of the farm bill stalled in Congress, one passed by the Senate and one passed by the House, and if legislators can’t come to a compromise by January 1, farm policy written in the 1940’s will take effect. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about why there’s been such a fight over this year’s farm bill and how that differs from farm bills past.
Jonathan Coppess, a Clinical Professor of Law and Policy in the Department of Agriculture Economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former chief of staff to Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D) who worked on the Senate version of the bill and Mary Kay Thatcher, Senior Director of Congressional Affairs for the American Farm Bureau Federation join us.
A lot of our food grows in expansive, rolling fields that make up the Midwest. But with more and more people living in cities, that is changing. This hour on Focus, we’ll hear from Will Allen, CEO of Milwaukee’s urban farming project “Growing Power.”
After he retired from the NBA, urban farmer and author Will Allen returned to his roots. He was born to sharecroppers in South Carolina and grew up on a small vegetable farm. Today, he’s CEO of Milwaukee’s urban farming project, “Growing Power” and is working to help eradicate food deserts, places where it’s hard to find affordable, fresh produce. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Allen about the project and its mission to help more people, especially those living in cities, gain access to healthy food.
Then, during the second half of this hour on Focus, Meadows talks with Sam Wortman, an Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. Wortman studies urban agriculture and says projects like Allen’s are helping accessibility problems but warns that the model for how to create a sustainable urban agriculture system varies from place to place.
Do you keep backyard chickens? If you can’t, would you like to?
Next week, the Champaign City Council will vote on whether or not to allow residents to raise chickens on their property. While some are really excited about the possibility that they could raise chickens within Champaign city limits, some are skeptical about the smell and the noise. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about why people choose to keep backyard chickens and what it’s like to raise them. To start their hour on Focus we’ll hear from Karen Carney, who is a Champaign resident and wants her own chickens.
Then, host Jim Meadows also talks with Colleen Wagner, who lives in Urbana where backyard chickens are allowed. Wagner built her own chicken coop to raise chickens for their eggs in her backyard and says its empowering to know where her food is coming from and what the chickens are being fed. Steve Ayers, who is with the University of Illinois Extension also joins us to talk about the cost of raising chickens and some things to consider before getting your own.
Do you get your eggs from your backyard? Do your neighbors keep chickens? Are you for or against the idea the idea of backyard chickens? We’d love to hear from you this hour on Focus.
Have you been to a pick your own apple orchard or tried to solve a corn maze at a local orchard or farm? Why did you go, and would you go back? What did you like or dislike about visiting? This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about farms as tourist destinations.
With their corn mazes, farms like Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch and Curtis Orchard draw thousands of visitors each year. But Curtis Orchard wasn’t always an orchard and Mark and Julie Hardy’s reindeer ranch wasn’t always a place you could visit. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Randy Graham of Curtis Orchard and Mark Hardy of Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch about why they wanted to be able to invite people to visit their farms. We’ll also talk with them about how they build and plan for their corn mazes, one of their biggest draws this time of year.
Do you grow vegetables in a garden or in pots around your home or apartment? If you do -why did you start? If you don’t, why not? This hour on Focus, Lisa Bralts talks with Jeanne Nolan, author of “From the Ground Up” about why she does and how she learned.
Jeanne Nolan has run the Edible Gardens at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago for eight years. In addition to working with Green City Market, the organization which maintains the Edible Gardens, Jeanne runs a business helping people learn to plant and grow their own vegetable gardens. Getting to where she is today, however, was a long and winding road. This hour on Focus, guest host Lisa Bralts talks with Nolan about why she’s devoted her life to organic gardening and how she got to where she is today. We’ll talk with her about the time she spent learning about agriculture at a commune in California and will also talk with her about the US’s urban farming movement and if it’s losing steam or still gaining momentum. During this hour on Focus, we’ll also dig a little deeper into the cost of the grow-your-own model and talk about Nolan’s “five food principles” when starting a backyard garden or urban farm.
We’ve seen more grain bin entrapments and deaths this year than last year throughout the Midwest, and while many dread the next report of an incident, there’s an attitude that it’s “only a matter of time.” This hour on Focus, we’ll hear about what it’s like to be inside a grain bin…and what its like to survive being completely submerged under four feet of corn for more than four hours.
A few weeks ago on a farm outside a small north central Iowa town, Arick Baker was enveloped under 2 feet of grain in less than 10 seconds while working inside a silo. He was surrounded by 22,000 bushels of corn, exerting more than 400 pounds of pressure on most of his body. Unlike most who are caught in a grain bin entrapment, Baker survived. That makes him an extreme exception to the rule. This hour on Focus, we’ll hear from Baker about what it was like to be trapped in the corn. Rescuers estimate it was more than 100 degrees inside the bin while he was trapped; he walked away with little more than a few bruises and scrapes.
Then, we’ll hear from professor of agriculture at Purdue University William Field about why these preventable farming accidents happen. He has been tracking these types of incidents since the mid 1970’s and will talk with us about why it’s hard to pin down exactly how many incidents happen each year and what’s being done to decrease the number of them. University of Illinois Extension Agriculture Broadcaster Todd Gleason, who used to play in grain bins growing up on the farm, will also be here to talk with us about farm culture, growing up around grain and why this is a problem that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention until the last few years.
Dave Wisher, who is a part of the Urbana Fire Department’s MABAS 28 Technical Rescue Team, joins us for the last portion of this hour’s Focus. MABAS 28 is a specialty team of firefighters trained to conduct search and rescue in confined spaces. Wisher was involved in efforts to rescue the Sidney, Illinois man who died in a grain entrapment earlier this summer.
The laboratory seems worlds away from the farm, but according to Dr. Daphne Miller, they’re more closely connected than you might think. This hour on Focus, Lisa Bralts talks with Dr. Miller about her argument that farming can teach us a lot about health.
A recipe for healthy soil is very much like a recipe for a healthy body. That’s according to author and family physician Dr. Daphne Miller. In her new book “Farmcology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing,” she argues that sustainable cattle ranching can teach us a lot of lessons about raising health kids and says that she can see connections between the way certain vineyards manage pests and how we treat and think about cancer. This hour on Focus, Lisa Bralts talks with Miller about her book and the farms she visited while writing and researching it. We’ll also hear about why she says drinking raw milk is having unprotected sex.
Do you see any parallels between farming and health? Let us know! Find us on Facebook or tweet us @Focus580.
You can read an excerpt of the book at the link below.
There are more women involved with the business of farming than ever before. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about “Annie’s Project,” a program designed by an Illinois woman in memory of her mother that works to empower female farmers.
Annie Kohlhagen-Fleck was working as school teacher when she met her husband Frank in the mid-1940’s. He was a farmer, and she spent her life from the time they married in 1947 until her death in 2007 caring for milk cows and chickens and raising her four children. She learned about farming, money management and crop insurance through trial and error, what her daughter Ruth Hambleton calls “the hard way” not having grown up on a farm or having access to resources to help guide her through the complicated world of crop insurance and bookkeeping.
In 2003, Ruth founded Annie’s Project, in honor of her mother, to help women learn to manage farming operations alongside other women.
This hour on Focus, we’ll hear from Ruth about Annie’s story, the project and how it’s helped empower more women to become stakeholders in agriculture. Stephanie Butcher, who manages the business for her family’s 2200 acre grain operation in Mt. Auburn, Illinois, also joins our conversation. She says taking Annie’s Project classes have been invaluable in helping her get involved with farming and learning about agriculture marketing and business. She took over the books and the business side of running her family’s farm in 2008 with her husband after enrolling in an Annie’s Project class. Even though she grew up on a farm, she says she didn’t learn anything about the business aspect of farming.
Are you a female farmer? What appeals to you about the farming lifestyle? How did you learn about life on the farm? We’d love to hear from you this hour. Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet @Focus580.
Calling them unmanned aerial vehicles sounds just as scary as calling them drones, but what do we really mean when we talk about this technology? This hour on Focus, we talked about drones, how they are being used and how they’re not. We also heard from an Urbana man working to advance the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in journalism and to inspire high school students to study math and science.
The technologies encompassed by the term “unmanned aerial vehicle” are vast and include everything from hobbyist drones that look like toy helicopters to units that are equipped with cameras and are being used to monitor crop damage. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Matthew Schroyer, a graduate of the UIUC who is also the founder of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists. We’ll talk with him about the things drones could help us do, and we’ll ask him about the privacy concerns the technology raises. Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics, former Wired editor and founder of the website DIY Drones and Nancy Cooke, Professor at Arizona State University and Science Director of the Cognitive Engineering Research Institute in Mesa, Arizona, also join us.
Watch a video of Matt explaining and flying his drone.
Are you excited by the possibilities of this kind of technology? Or does it scare you? Why? Join our conversation. Post in the comments section below or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter @Focus580.
Do you drink tequila? Eat chocolate? Thank a bat. This hour on Focus, we talked about these notorious flying mammals, the role they play in our eco-system and why white nose syndrome is so scary.
Bats are notorious in popular culture, but they play a vital role in our eco-system. Of the more than 1,000 species that exist worldwide, 13 can be found in Illinois, and six of those species are now being threatened by white nose syndrome, a poorly understood disease that's responsible for mass die offs of hundreds of thousands of bats nationwide. During this episode of Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Ed Heske, a mammalian ecologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, a part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, about bats, why they’re important and why white nose syndrome is so scary, especially for farmers.
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