farming

Picture of the book cover
Oxford University Press

Current State's Scott Pohl talks to Paul Thompson about his new book From Field to Fork, which deals with the ethics surrounding the American food system.


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Many Michigan farmers are wrapping up their spring planting this month.  But this season, there’s a cloud hanging overhead...and it’s not bringing nourishing rain.  It is, however, all about water.   Last week, the U-S Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rule on what it calls the “Waters of the United States.”  The action expands the EPA’s jurisdiction over more waterways protected by the Clean Water Act.   The agency says the action is necessary to keep the nation’s waters clean.

 Wednesday on CS means it’s time for Neighbors in Action, when we feature people and organizations working to make Greater Lansing a better place. Today, we learn about Lansing Roots, a business incubator for aspiring farmers with limited means.  To learn more about the program, Current State talks to Alex Bryan, from the Greater Lansing Food Bank, the organization behind the program.

WKAR file photo

Nitrogen plays an essential role in plant growth, but it’s a scarce resource in nature. Farmers used to have to use beans or legumes to fix the nutrient into their fields. But with the advent of artificial fertilizers, agriculture has been able to bypass that step and put the nitrogen directly into the soil. While this has allowed farmers to increase production of nutrient intensive crops like corn, it’s had some other, not so great, side effects.

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Michigan State University has always been known for its strong Agriculture and Natural Resources programs. The university is in the midst of its 100th annual ANR Week, which showcases the sciences of farming and environmental stewardship. One recent conference highlighted farm sustainability into the 21st century.

Scott Pohl/WKAR

American agriculture is graying. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is now 58. Around a third are already over 65. That begs the question of what happens when those farmers retire? With fewer young people considering careers in agriculture, experts are worried about the future of food production here in the U.S. That’s why the most recent Farm Bill is setting aside more money to train and support fledgling farmers.

Kevin Lavery/WKAR

Orange and yellow are the colors of the season across mid-Michigan, as the fall harvest continues. After a bone-chilling winter, many areas of the Lower Peninsula saw a cooler and wetter summer than usual. Some farmers are racing the clock to harvest corn and soybeans and plant winter wheat.

WKAR/Kevin Lavery

Few sights on the American landscape are as iconic as an old-fashioned farm windmill. From the era of Civil War through today, they harnessed the wind to pump water and run machinery. Today, farmers have other means of generating power.

Michigan State University Press

A new memoir from the MSU Press looks at what happens when a professional couple decides to get in touch with their agrarian dream of life in the country. Richard Gilbert teaches writing at Otterbein College in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He’s the author of “Shepherd”.

Courtesy of www.miffs.org

It’s Wednesday and time for our Neighbors in Action segment, where we feature people and organizations working to make our community a better place. Today we feature the Michigan Food & Farming Systems, or MIFFS. It’s a statewide organization based in East Lansing that advocates for and offers assistance to new and women farmers, as well as those from underrepresented groups in Michigan’s agriculture industry.

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A new five-year Farm Bill is making its way to a vote in the U.S. Senate.  This is the second time in a year that the legislation has cleared the Senate.  Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, says the House has promised to take up the bill in mid-June.  

Current State #73 | April 24, 2013

Apr 24, 2013

Today on Current State: House Minority leader Tim Greimel; the MSU Wind Symphony performs at the Latin IS America Festival; Niowave pole barn dispute comes to an end; the Greater Lansing African American Health Institute; and  the impact of flooding on agriculture.

Flooding delays Michigan's planting season

Apr 24, 2013

Floods have ravaged Michigan this spring. The Red Cedar River has overflowed its banks on MSU campus, flooding the baseball, softball and soccer complex. In Lansing, flooding forced organizers of the marathon to change their planned route.

The Grand Rapids area has been especially hard hit. A photo has been making the rounds, taken from inside an office building in Grand Rapids, of flood waters rising up the surface of a window, with a fish in the picture.

Sustainability and CAFOs in livestock feed process

Mar 21, 2013

Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry. With the exception of California, no other state produces such a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables.  Michigan also has a large livestock industry.  Over the years, the state has seen an expansion of “CAFOs:” or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.  In exchange for high food product output, CAFO’s also produce a lot of waste.

Many of us are enjoying this unseasonably warm weather.  But for some farmers, it’s nerve-racking,  especially for fruit growers.  Fruit trees are starting to sprout two or more weeks ahead of time.  It’s only March, so cold weather is very likely to come back and kill off those early-blooming crops.