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farming

Field of corn
Flickr/Vampire Bear

 


Farmers are expressing frustration over the fedearl government’s unclear policies on ethanol. 

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised corn growers he would support increased use of corn ethanol in fuel.

But in recent days, EPA chief Scott Pruitt has been criticized for his handling of renewable fuel standards, which requires oil refineries mix renewable fuels such as ethanol with gasoline.

Teemu008 / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Ever since the arrival of Europeans to Michigan, farming has been a key economic component for our state. However, without the life’s work of a Michigander from South Haven, farms in Michigan and across the nation might evolved quite differently.

Mark Harvey, State Archivist at the Michigan History Center, joined Stateside to discuss the life of pioneering botanist and horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey, how his “agrarian ideology” of advanced technology was received at the time, and how he’s remembered today.

Liz Castro / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

As winter bows out and spring steps in, it becomes maple syrup season.

Kirk Hedding, who owns H & H Sugarbush in Chelsea with his wife Michelle, joined Stateside to discuss how the 2018 season has been shaping up, what the ideal conditions for maple syrup production are, and whether he’s worried that climate change will interrupt his business.

stvcr / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

 


 

Michigan's dairy cows are doing their job like rock stars. 

 

They're pumping out milk — so much milk, in fact, that Michigan is among the top milk-producing states in the country. 

two workers picking apples in an orchard
Courtesy of Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services


   

Michigan fruit growers are nearing a crucial time of the year: harvest season. But those farmers are struggling to find enough labor to fill their needs.

People are no longer turning up at the farm looking for work, said Rob Steffens, owner of Steffens Orchard in Sparta, just north of Grand Rapids. Steffens needs more than 40 workers each year for his 280-acre orchard. He’s on track to have enough this year, but he says some workers have told him they aren’t returning.

David Cassleman / Interlochen Public Radio

State officials want hunters to shoot more deer in northeastern lower Michigan.

Infected deer in the area spread a disease called bovine tuberculosis. It can kill cows, and it can be passed to people through unpasteurized dairy products.

Elizabeth McCabe / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

President Trump has throttled back on travel and trade with Cuba. 

"Therefore, effective immediately, I am cancelling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba," President Trump said last Friday to a cheering crowd in Miami.

Among the business groups watching that announcement with intense interest was the Michigan Bean Commission, which produces the beans that are a staple of the Cuban diet.

Food hubs can help small, local farmers connect with bigger distributors.
Friends of Family Farmers / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Next Idea

What would it mean for smaller farmers and growers to sell their crops to big distributors or for consumers to know that the head of lettuce in their salad came from a nearby farm?

Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In this all-too-fast-paced era we live in, it's comforting to see something that's managed to stick around for 225 years – the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

What Massachusetts schoolteacher and bookseller Robert B. Thomas started in 1792 is still with us. The 2017 edition is now out.

user jamiesrabbits / Flickr

An E. coli outbreak that's already sickened seven people is being tied to a dairy farm near Grand Rapids.

Grassfields Cheese is a family-owned, organic farm in Coopersville.

It has issued a recall, and Whole Foods has pulled the products from shelves in the Midwest and South.

One person has been hospitalized, though they've already been discharged.

Jennifer Holton of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says the state’s investigation is still ongoing.

Punkin Shananaquet, a member of the Gun Lake tribe, holds a Gete Okosman squash at the Gteganes Farm.
Jijak Foundation

There's an ancient variety of squash that was largely forgotten about. But it’s been rediscovered.

Tribes around the Great Lakes region are sharing the seeds of this squash with each other and with small farmers.

Sarah Hofman-Graham works at Eighth Day Farm in Holland, Michigan. She invited me to a dinner party featuring a soup made from an ancient squash. The soup tasted sweet and mild.

Calvin Lutz is a cherry farmer in Manistee County.
Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

Fruit growers have a new problem: they can’t buy enough young trees to plant in their orchards.

This is especially true for cherry farmers in Michigan who depend on nurseries in the Pacific Northwest. It could get worse, and some farmers are preparing for a day when they can’t buy any trees.

farming equiptment
Helen Hanley / creative commons

It’s called a "discussion meet," and the Farm Bureau’s been doing it for decades. It's a way to bring young farmers together to talk about the challenges they face. And it's also a competition.

While the farmers are talking, they’re competing for a place at the state-level discussion meet, and then a shot at representing Michigan in the national competition.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Dec 21, 2015

I have a little bit of good news to start the week. The United States managed, barely, to avoid crippling sanctions that would have cost Michigan farmers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years.

Several years ago, Congress passed a law that required “country of origin labeling,” known as COOL, for all meat products, no matter where they were from.

US Senate ignoring pending tariff disaster from Canada

Dec 9, 2015

Thanks in part to Donald Trump, terrorism and pit bulls, here’s a story you may not have heard about, but which could have a major negative impact on our economy.

Two days ago, the World Trade Organization, or WTO, ruled that Canada was fully justified in going ahead and imposing $780 million dollars in retaliatory tariffs on American goods, primarily meat, because of unfair trade practices by the U.S. government.

Great Sphinx corn maze on Jacob's Farm near Traverse City.
Jacob's Farm / screen shot YouTube

Each year, tens of thousands of Michiganders flock to nearby farms to make their way through mazes made of corn stalks.

The idea of a maze made of maize began in the early 1990s in Pennsylvania.

According to Lebanon Valley College, farmer Don Frantz created the first American corn maze to attract visitors to his farm:

Much of the corn grown in the U.S. today is genetically engineered to resist the herbicide Roundup.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found that continuous exposure to very low doses of the herbicide Roundup might be linked to liver and kidney damage.

The researchers looked at how genes changed in rats that were given a commercial Roundup formulation containing 0.1 parts per billion of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) over a two-year period.

Summer interns learn life lessons on the farm

Jul 29, 2015
Joan Donaldson

One evening, while my husband and I were talking with a young couple who manage a Community Supported Agriculture business, we wandered onto the topic of summer interns. Because of the couple’s urban location, their CSA drew workers from the local college who were eager to build raised beds and weed beets.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack believes farmers can do more to combat climate change. 

He spoke to an audience of farmers and agri-business leaders this afternoon at Michigan State University.

Vilsack says farmers are very familiar with the effects of climate change.

Porta potties in a lovely setting.
E. Dronkert / Flickr

Researchers have set up two Porta potties by a bus stop on the University of Michigan's central campus today. They're hoping to gather enough urine to research whether disinfected human urine can be safely recycled to fertilize food crops.

In a press release, the University of Michigan said they're working with four other institutions in this "first of its kind" research project.

Why recycle pee? Good question.

Bradley S. Pines/www.bonniejocampbell.com

Bonnie Jo Campbell is a big-deal writer who has won some fancy awards, including a Pushcart Prize, and she was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in fiction. Poor and working-class rural women are at the heart of many of her stories. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris recently got a chance to ask her why she writes about these women.

Campbell is putting the finishing touches on her next book of stories. It will be called "Mothers, Tell Your Daughters," and will be published next fall.

dailyinvention / Creative Commons

It's a really good year for the 850 family-run apple farms in Michigan.

They're approaching a near-record crop.

It’s thanks in part to the awful winter Michigan had.

It turns out, the cold weather helped the apple trees stay dormant long enough so their spring blooms didn't freeze.

Diane Smith is the executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee.

She says this year’s crop is one of the “cleanest” they’ve seen in years – no bug issues or early blossoming killing the crop off.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The recent Toledo water crisis has farmers in Michigan and Ohio on the defensive. They’re pointing to a number of voluntary efforts they’re making to reduce phosphorus runoff to Lake Erie. That runoff is the main food source for the blooms of a kind of cyanobacteria that release a toxin that led to the water shutdown. But farm groups and environmentalists say a new state law in Ohio that will certify the use of fertilizers doesn't go far enough or happen fast enough. 

"Basically, the new law will require that all farmers and certified crop advisors who spread chemical fertilizer on fields go through a certification process where they will learn how to spread the fertilizer in the right place, at the right rate, at the right time of year," says Karen Schaefer, an Ohio reporter who is covering this issue. "And the problem with it is: right now it does not include manure and the law does not go into effect until 2017."

User: waledro / Flickr

An unusual berry should be widely available at farmers markets in northern Michigan this summer. In fact, the region has become the center of saskatoon growing in the United States.

Most people who grow saskatoons around Traverse City were not farmers until a few years ago, but the berry could have a bright future in northern Michigan.

Josh Larios / Wikimedia

Recent changes in the Michigan right-to farm requirements have drawn criticisms from those worried it may curtail their ability to keep bees, chickens, or other farm animals in their backyards.

But are these changes as threatening to urban farming as detractors fear?

Writer Anna Clark has looked into the revisions in the right-to farm requirements and she believes the answer is “no.”

*Listen to the full show above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Climate change is making Michigan farmers more vulnerable to dramatic weather shifts, according to a new report.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program released a report this morning claiming climate change is no longer a future threat but is a reality now.

Shawn Malone / UP Second Wave

With its rocky soil, thick forests and painfully short growing season, the Upper Peninsula is never going to look like Iowa or Kansas – and that's okay. For more than a century, a hardy batch of growers and livestock farmers have managed to survive and prosper in these less-than-ideal conditions. Thanks to new technologies and some decidedly low-tech solutions, the U.P.'s latest generation of ag workers are more productive than ever. Ultimately, the fruits of their labor may be felt – and tasted – far beyond the region's borders.

Age-Old Limitations
If you're a U.P. native, you don't need an advanced degree to understand why agriculture is challenging here. But Alger County MSU Extension Director Jim Isleib has one, so people tend to listen to his thoughts on this issue. "Poor soils and a short growing season – that about sums it up," he says. 

A farm in southeast Michigan.
Wikimedia Commons

LANSING – A new network aims to connect farmers, food processors, and food service directors as part of an effort to increase the amount of Michigan-produced food served in institutions.

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and the nonprofit Ecology Center environmental group on Thursday announced the launch of the Michigan Farm to Institution Network.

Organizers want schools, child care centers, hospitals, colleges and universities to get 20 percent of their food products from Michigan growers, producers and processors by 2020. The Center for Regional Food Systems says food service directors have expressed interest in the idea.

The Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center is working with Michigan hospitals on the effort. A campaign called "Cultivate Michigan" aims to help institutions reach the goal.

Honey bees face a number of threats.
cygnus921 / Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to give honeybees more and better-quality food in the Midwest.

Dan Zay is a biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan. He says the agency hopes a better variety of high-quality flowering plants will help honeybees rebound from major population losses over the last eight years.

“It’s said that one in three mouthfuls of food and drink that we consume involves the efforts of honeybees,” Zay said.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Massive blooms of cyanbacteria (sometimes referred to as blue-green algae) and dead zones in Lake Erie: These used to be major environmental problems around the most urbanized Great Lake back in the '60s and '70s, but they are problems once again.

Now, an international agency that keeps an eye on the health of the Great Lakes is calling for more action.

The International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency, wants sharp cutbacks on phosphorus runoff getting into Lake Erie.

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