Agriculture

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

At AgraPharm LLC’s warehouse in Beaver County, the scent of cannabis is potent.

“What you're smelling today is about only a third of what it really smells like when we first harvest the crop,” said AgraPharm’s CEO Ed Santillan.

Jared Murphy / 90.5 WESA

Some pumpkin farmers in western Pennsylvania have seen lower than normal crop yields this year. The culprit? Heavy summer rains that kept important pollinators away and spread fungal disease.

Courtesy of Fifth Season

Fifth Season, founded as RoBotany in 2016, is expanding its vertical farming business and branching out from Pittsburgh into nearby Braddock.

The company launched through Carnegie Mellon University’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a business and robotics incubator. Co-founder and CEO Austin Webb said the company uses robotics and artificial intelligence technology to grow leafy greens and herbs all year round.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Chatham University researchers have compiled a detailed map of farms and food processors in Pennsylvania, as part of a larger project to educate people about the region's food network.

Agriculture Census Shows Midstate Lost Hundreds Of Farms

Apr 22, 2019
Min Xian / Keystone Crossroads

The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture census makes obvious what many in the industry already suspected: Pennsylvania is losing farms.

Skycision

A Pittsburgh-based tech company is using drones and infrared technology to help diagnose diseases and pests in their crops before it's too late.

It’s the busiest time of year at many local farms, with hayrides, animals to pet, and apple cider to sip.

More Women Are Becoming Farmers, Especially In W.Va.

Sep 28, 2018
Chris Williams / West Virginia Department of Agriculture

When you think of a farmer, what comes to mind? Is it a man in his 60s, with a beard, sitting on a tractor? Maybe several years ago you would be right, but the tide is changing, especially in West Virginia.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Lowell Friedline struck out on his own as a dairy farmer in 1988 when he started buying his farm in installments from his dad. By the time his father died, Friedline was nearly debt-free. It’s been part of his philosophy ever since: don’t buy what you don’t know how to pay for. But for small farms like the one he and his family work, the margins are slim.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Millions of Americans work outside, in agriculture and fishing, construction and shipping, and in the burgeoning outdoor hospitality industry. While it may seem dreamy to office workers the world over, people who work outside often face tougher conditions, from longer hours or seasonal work to how much their bodies can take. In this episode of Still Working, we talk with a minor league baseball playera dairy farmer, and a City of Pittsburgh lifeguard. Each of their workplaces carries a whiff of nostalgia: the glory of a summer ballgame, the steadfastness of the small American farmer, the sweet relief of the pool on a scorcher of a summer day. But they’re also challenging places to work.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Wall Street has given the agricultural sector a boost after Trump administration said it is preparing a plan that would send billions in aid to U.S. farmers hurt by tariffs.

CF Industries Holding and Mosaic Company both traded up more than 3 percent earlier in the day but ended Tuesday with more modest gains. CF Industries finished up less than 1 percent, while Mosaic added 2.3 percent.

Deere & Co. ended with a 3.2 percent gain. Shares in Archer-Daniels-Midland and FMC Corp. also rose.

Ohio Governor Wants New Farm Rules To Fight Lake Erie Algae

Jul 12, 2018
Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP

Ohio's governor is calling for regulations on thousands of farms as part of a new strategy to combat the fertilizer and manure that flows into streams and feeds persistent toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.

Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Wednesday that signals a more aggressive approach to finding a way to stop the algae from taking over huge swaths of the shallowest of the Great Lakes.

Michael Rubinkam / AP

For several years, a hog farm in Luzerne County has been under legal fire for emitting a stench that people say can make the surrounding area almost unlivable.

A lawsuit is now awaiting consideration before the state Supreme Court.

But the outlook isn’t good—and that’s largely because Pennsylvania law makes it near-impossible to sue farms for nuisances like smells.

Matt Rourke / AP

The U.S. Agriculture Department is laying out its preferences for a new farm bill—a massive plan that accounts for almost a half-trillion dollars in spending over five years.

 

Secretary Sonny Perdue spent Wednesday in Pennsylvania, explaining the four-page skeleton proposal to groups that included farmers, state officials, and nutrition benefit recipients.  

 

Matt Rourke / AP

State lawmakers on the Agriculture Committee took advantage of the Farm Show’s presence in Harrisburg this week, and convened in a back room of the complex to discuss their top priorities with Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.  

One of their primary focuses didn’t have to do with farming, exactly; rather, with making sure rural communities aren’t held back by bad internet access.

In cities and suburbs, high speed broadband internet is typically a given.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture / AP

The Pennsylvania Farm Show opens this weekend and after months of planning, its centerpiece has been revealed — a sculpture made from 1,200 pounds of butter.

North Dakota Department of Agriculture via AP

The number of acres permitted to grow industrial hemp in Pennsylvania is going to increase 100-fold in 2018, from less than 50 to possibly more than 5,000.

Courtesy Grow Pittsburgh

Sure, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow and other music greats are a big draw for Farm Aid 2017, but organizers are also touting the food and displays which will highlight agriculture in Pennsylvania at Key Bank Pavilion.

Brian Bruner/Bruner Photo / Farm Aid Flickr

Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp will headline Farm Aid 2017 at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown in September, along with Dave Matthews, who became a board member in 2001.

The annual multi-artist concert to support and raise awareness about family farms and agriculture has been going since 1985. At that time, its goal was to keep small farms alive. The goal today has evolved, but organizers say the spirit remains.

Fishhawk / Flickr

The warm weather of the last few weeks has prompted some fruit trees in Pennsylvania to start opening their flowers. But Friday night’s expected low of 20 degrees has some farmers a bit worried.

“The one good thing about most trees is not everything pushes and opens up and blooms at the same time,” Soergel’s Orchards farm manager Adam Voll said. “So you might lose some of the furthest open buds but there’s plenty of other buds … to make a crop.”

If you want to feel virtuous the next time you chug a brewski, consider the Long Root Ale. This new beer, mildly fragrant and with a rye-like spiciness, is the first to use Kernza, a kind of wheat that could make agriculture more sustainable, especially in the face of climate change.

An Old Trick Holds New Promise For Tastier Tomatoes

Jul 20, 2016

Scott Stoddard is an expert when it comes to tomatoes. He plants rows and rows of tomatoes outdoors on farms across central California for the University of California Cooperative Extension.

They're the kind of tomatoes that "end up on sandwiches at Subway," Stoddard says. "Also, at any of your common hamburger places, In-N-Out, McDonald's, you name it."

Don Schuetze / flickr

Weeds are often viewed as pests to be met with weed whackers and herbicides, but certified herbalist Lindsey Praksti of Compass Rose Herbals has other suggestions. While weeds may be a pest to a garden or yard, some have nutritious qualities and are worthy of joining your salad or stir fry.

A weathered wooden shed that holds wheelbarrows, hoes and other basic tools is the beacon of the Student Organic Farm, a two-acre swath within the larger horticultural research farm at Iowa State University.

On a warm spring evening, a half-dozen students gather here, put on work gloves and begin pulling up weeds from the perennial beds where chives, strawberries, rhubarb and sage are in various stages of growth.

"I didn't know how passionate I [would] become for physical work," says culinary science major Heidi Engelhardt.

PA Farm Show Celebrates Centennial Anniversary

Jan 8, 2016
PA Farm Show / Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website

The 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show will begin Saturday, January 9th. The eight-day expo will include crowd favorites like the annual butter sculpture or the sheep-to-shawl contest, where contestants start by sheering a sheep and create clothing on sight.

According to the Farm Show, there will be 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibits from January 6th to the 19th. 

No, Agriculture Isn't Pennsylvania's Top Industry

Jan 6, 2015
Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is set to begin the second weekend of January, giving public officials a chance to tout agriculture as the state's leading industry. But the data behind this oft-heard claim is fuzzy.

Agriculture isn't the state's top industry based on any ranking from the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). The purported ranking is rooted in an assessment of the industry's economic impact: $75 billion, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

Visitors to this year’s farm show can play detective at various stations providing information and hands-on lessons.

“Investigating about the roles of bees in food production, measuring the height of horses or learning how sap becomes maple syrup,” said Logan Hall, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture spokesman.

Johnny Appleseed: Beyond the Myth

Sep 25, 2014
Rudolf Vlček / Flickr

You may not recognize the name John Chapman from your history books. The pioneering American nurseryman is better known as Johnny Appleseed, who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Midwest. We’ll mark the 240th anniversary of Johnny Appleseed’s birth and his connection to Pittsburgh with culture contributor Joe Wos.

Kee Won Song / Special to 90.5 WESA

Agriculture is the leading economic enterprise in Pennsylvania.  Between 1982 and 1997, over a million acres were developed and converted to other uses—the equivalent of 209 acres a day.  In 1988, the state instituted a program to help slow the loss of prime farmland.

The League of Woman Voters of Greater Pittsburgh (LWVGP) is not just for election information. The organization is branching out into the agricultural sector.

LWVGP is holding public educational meetings on the farming industry — focusing on major food issues including: genetically modified organisms, water pollution, antibiotics in livestock, food labeling and crop subsidies. 

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