Focus

WILL - Focus - March 07, 2014

Encore: From the Ground Up

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.

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(Duration: 51:29)

Jeanne Nolan

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, we'll listen back to guest host Lisa Bralts' talk with Nolan about why she’s devoted her life to organic gardening and how she got to where she is today. We’ll hear her talk about the time she spent learning about agriculture at a commune in California and about the US’s urban farming movement and if it’s losing steam or still gaining momentum. During this hour on Focus, we 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.


WILL - Focus - February 18, 2014

Insect Fear Film Festival 31: Pesticide Fear Films

Today on Focus, we welcome back Professor May Berenbaum to talk about this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival. 

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(Duration: 50:58)

May Berenbaum with an insect

At this year’s Insect Fear Film Festival, May Berenbaum says she’s out to explore our complex relationship with pesticides. This hour on Focus, Scott Cameron talks with Berenbaum, professor of entomology and department head at the University of Illinois, about this year’s films, which include Riders of the Whistling Pines (1949), a film in which spraying DDT saves the day.

Berenbaum will also tell us more about new research linking pesticides to the decline in bee populations. Call us to join our conversation on Focus! 

Read more to see a full list of films at this year’s festival.


WILL - Focus - December 18, 2013

In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

In her new book “In Meat We Trust,” author Maureen Ogle argues the meat industry has evolved into what it is today because that’s what consumers asked for.

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(Duration: 51:44)

When it comes to the meat industry, there is no shortage of opinion about whether large meat producers and packers are good or bad, but how and why did meat production become so controversial? How did we arrive at the production model we use today?

Author Maureen Ogle says that early in American history eating meat was a symbol of status and that consumers demanded low cost meat for their families. That, in addition to industrialization and the move of many Americans from rural areas to cities, is all a part of the very complex history of meat production in America. This hour on Focus, Ogle talks about her new book “In Meat We Trust,” with host Jim Meadows. She’ll tell us more about why most of the meat we consume comes from a large factory farm rather than from a small family owned farm and about why Americans eat so much chicken.

Categories: Agriculture, Food

WILL - Focus - December 13, 2013

Raising the perfect tree

Many of us only think about Christmas trees and Christmas tree farms around the holiday season, but for some, it’s a year-round business. 

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(Duration: 51:10)

Gary Chastagner, who has been working for more than two decades to determine which varieties of trees are the best at keeping their needles, says that for him, Christmas trees are more about business than they are about tradition or holiday sentimentality. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Chastagner, a plant pathologist and professor at Washington State University, about the research that goes into helping tree farmers know what they need to know to the kinds of trees that consumers demand.

Then, during the second half of this hour on Focus, we’ll hear from Ron Evans, a second generation Christmas tree farmer based in Decatur, Ill., about caring for and raising his trees. He operates farms in Illinois and in Wisconsin and says running a Christmas tree farm is more complicated than it seems. 

Categories: Agriculture, Business

WILL - Focus - December 05, 2013

Will the 2013 Farm Bill be approved in 2013?

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.

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(Duration: 51:50)

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.

Tags: farm bill, farm

WILL - Focus - December 03, 2013

Growing urban agriculture

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.”

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(Duration: 51:28)

Will Allen at Growing Power's urban farm in Milwaukee

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.

Categories: Agriculture, Food

WILL - Focus - November 05, 2013

Backyard Chickens

Do you keep backyard chickens? If you can’t, would you like to?

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(Duration: 51:22)

Three chickens foraging in grass.

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.

Categories: Agriculture, Animals

WILL - Focus - September 25, 2013

Agri-Tourism a Boon for Central Illinois Farms

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.

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(Duration: 51:33)

visitors at Curtis Orchard

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.

Categories: Agriculture, Community, Travel

WILL - Focus - August 15, 2013

From the Ground Up

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.

Listen

(Duration: 52:06)

Jeanne Nolan

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.

Categories: Agriculture, Food

WILL - Focus - August 13, 2013

Grain Bin Entrapments

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.

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(Duration: 51:20)

grain silos

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.

Categories: Agriculture

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