agriculture

Earl Lehner on his farm in Delaware County.
Nick Evans / WOSU

Earl Lehner digs a big plastic scoop into a feed bin and dumps it into tray. There are four small pens next to one another, housing calves that are only a month or two old. The older cows are around the corner in the barn mooing for food.

Operation Grant supporters in front of the Ohio Statehouse.
Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau

A group of Ohioans who have been influential in Republican party leadership say they’re coming together for one purpose: to defeat President Trump in November.

A Cincinnati man is on a mission to plant 100 orchards in the next decade as a way to help feed people in food deserts. WVXU recently visited his first one in West Price Hill.

With precision, farm workers swiftly harvest rows of strawberries at an organic field in Salinas, Calif. It's hard work, even without a global pandemic and wildfires burning in the background.

Four major wildfires erupted across the state's Central Coast in mid-August, one near Salinas. Smoke blanketed the region, the sun glowed orange and ash rained down.

"It hurt our sinuses," said Jesús Ahumada, an agricultural foreman, in Spanish. "The smoke was so thick."

Paul Dorrance raises grass-fed livestock at his farm in Chillicothe, but they're not certified organic.
Paul Dorrance

Paul Dorrance has raised grass-fed livestock in Chillicothe for years, but his animals are not considered organic. It's a conundrum facing more Ohio farmers these days.

UPDATED Aug. 11.

The Ohio State University Extension is offering free seeds to encourage a new crop of "victory gardens."

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.

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