agriculture

Urban Scouts on their way to Linden's Miracle Gardens.
Nick Evans

Bright and early on a recent morning, it’s all whispers and nervous glances at True Love Ministries in Linden. Teenagers are setting up accounts for themselves on brand new tablets and filling out paperwork.

Local advocates for migrant workers are calling for more protections against the coronavirus on Ohio’s farms.

Protective measures like handwashing and social distancing are not possible under farmworkers’ current living conditions, said Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) Managing Attorney Eugenio Mollo.

“The close proximity of individuals in overcrowded dwellings is of deep concern, and we need mandates to address this issue,” Mollo said. “In Ohio, many of them are living in employer-provided individual housing units without running water.”

When physician Erik Martin left his home in southwest Missouri to help with New York’s COVID-19 outbreak in April, his county had fewer than 10 confirmed cases of the virus. Now he’s back — and watching those numbers skyrocket. More than 400 Jasper County residents have tested positive, and more than 800 are in quarantine.

“I never expected that within such a short period of time, my home town would become a COVID hotspot, as it has now," Martin says. He was alarmed when he learned a patient who tested positive worked at the Butterball poultry processing plant in nearby Carthage. After seeing a second Butterball worker, Martin alerted the county health department to the potential outbreak.

A Trump administration proposal would cut food stamps benefits to over 3 million people nationwide.
Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Farming and food agencies met virtually Tuesday morning to discuss recommendations for building a more resilient food system in Ohio.

tractor in farm field
Jean Beaufort / Public Domain Pictures

A high school student in Springfield has won this year’s Governor’s Award For Excellence in Environmental Protection Research.

The 10 acres of sunflowers along Ohio State Route 68 outside of Yellow Springs won’t be planted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, 20,000 people visited Whitehall Farm to see the sunflowers during their three week bloom in September. Sharen Neuhardt owns the farm with her husband Dave. They have hired a local farmer to plant sunflowers on a portion of their property every year since 2003. But this year, Sharen says, it’s not safe.

A month ago, America's pork farmers were in crisis. About 40 percent of the country's pork plants were shut down because they had become hot spots of coronavirus infection.

Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. They work long hours, have limited social contact and are at the mercy of factors such as weather. Now the COVID-19 pandemic is creating even greater challenges to their livelihood—and mental health. 

Visit almost any grocery store and you'll see how that food chain has been disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic. Even if food is in stores, millions of newly unemployed people may have trouble paying.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been talking up part of the federal response: a $3 billion plan to distribute food to families, called the Farmers to Family Food Box Program.

Third generation hog farmer Chad Leman, making his daily rounds, points to dozens of 300-pound pigs.

"These pigs should be gone," he said.

He means gone to the meatpacking plant to be processed. But with pork processing plants shut down due to worker safety concerns, he's faced with a grisly task: He needs to kill the pigs to make room for more.

And Leman isn't the only one. With meatpacking plant closures and reduced processing capacity nationwide, America's hog farmers expect an unprecedented crisis: the need to euthanize millions of pigs.

Ohio farmers are facing low commodity prices in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, even as demand skyrockets in local grocery stores.

Farms still have food in supply, said Ohio Farm Bureau Director of Media Relations Ty Higgins, and they’re working to move that supply to the stores that need it.

“Farmers are still getting up every morning and doing whatever they need to do to keep that supply chain full,” Higgins said.

The U.S. has reached two major trade agreements with international partners in the past month, with the Trump administration pitching these deals as a way to ease the burden farmers have shouldered during the trade war with China.

Farmers Respond To Climate Change

Feb 17, 2020
farm tractor at sunset
Carl Wycoff / Flickr

Agriculture is both a contributor to and a casualty of climate change.

Warmer winters, wetter springs and in 2019 the hottest summer on record are taking a toll on the crops.

In response, some farmers are adopting new and innovative ways to sustainably grow the food that feeds the U.S. and much of the rest of the world.

In love, timing is everything, the saying goes. The same is true for fruit and nut orchards in California's Central Valley, which depend on a synchronized springtime bloom for pollination. But as winters warm with climate change, that seasonal cycle is being thrown off.

Cold is a crucial ingredient for California's walnuts, cherries, peaches, pears and pistachios, which ultimately head to store shelves around the country. The state grows around 99% of the country's walnut and pistachio crop.

Tech Tuesday: Dairy Farming Robots

Jan 28, 2020
Jeff Weese / Flickr

Dairy farming in Ohio has gone high-tech. Robots are taking over milking duties on a number of dairy operations in Ohio. 

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