Agriculture

Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


It’s a sweltering hot Monday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and the kitchen at Community Agricultural Nutritional Enterprises, or CANE, is buzzing with activity. 

In an industrial kitchen that was once a high school cafeteria, Brandon Fleming is chopping onions and sliding them into a massive aluminum tray of beans. Once the beans are in the oven, Fleming mops his brow and heads outside to the parking lot, where a small army of teenagers is loading bags and boxes of groceries into the trunks of waiting cars. 

Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

Ohio Valley farmers have received more than $100 million so far in federal relief payments to offset the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with potentially more payments on the way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance program plans to distribute up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, with farmers able to apply for relief through August. USDA data released Monday show 220,280 farmers across the country have already received $2,895,127,039 in total.

Cattle farmers are seeing increased local demand amid the pandemic.
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

 


Debby Dulworth has a lot of conversations with her cattle each day. She swings open a gate, driving the herd with repeated calls and the Hereford cattle, respond in kind with groans and snorts.

“They talk to me,” Dulworth said with a laugh, as the cows come bounding out into a fresh field of Kentucky fescue and buttercups. She’s been corralling them from pasture to pasture on her farm for decades near Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, nestled in a bend of the Ohio River.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, there’s more and more conversation about what a transition away from a coal-heavy economy might look like in the state. But for many, it’s a hard reality to swallow.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, West Virginia has long been known for its apple production. But apple farmers are struggling and orchards are disappearing.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

When you think of some of West Virginia’s biggest economic drivers, extractive industries like coal or natural gas are likely the first things that often come to mind. But agriculture has been a fixture in West Virginia’s economy for hundreds of years. Yet today, farmers struggle to keep their business afloat. Take apple farming, for example. West Virginia has been producing apples since the late 1800s, even exporting them out of state. Now, as the cider industry expands, there’s an increasing demand for local apples. And some people think this is one economic development opportunity the state is overlooking. 


We bring you a special report and discussion on the challenges faced by West Virginia’s farmers. We also bring you the latest news from the Capitol.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Resourceful. Self-reliant. These are some of the values many people who live in the mountains pride themselves on. But could we sustain ourselves?

Ohio Valley Farmers Cautiously Optimistic About U.S.-China Trade Deal

Jan 14, 2020
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

The Trump administration is set to sign a deal Wednesday, Jan. 15, with Chinese trade officials for what they call “Phase One” of a trade agreement after almost two years of false starts and costly, retaliatory tariffs. Ohio Valley farmers are cautiously optimistic the truce will be a turning point, but some are skeptical about the details about the partial deal.

Glasses given to attendees of the Happy Retreat Wine & Jazz Festival on June 9, 2018.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice said he wants to expand West Virginia's winemaking industry. On Wednesday, Justice said he is asking officials in the state's commerce and agricultural agencies to look into growing the wine business in the eastern panhandle. Having more vineyards and wineries in West Virginia will boost tourism and local economies, according to Justice. He noted that Virginia has benefited from promoting its winemaking industry where the state borders West Virginia's eastern panhandle.

Billionaire Governor's Family Farms Get Subsidy

Oct 17, 2019
Office of Gov. Jim Justice

A farming business owned by the family of West Virginia's billionaire governor has received $125,000 in soybean and corn subsidies, the maximum allowed from a federal program meant to help American farmers through the U.S. trade war with China.

A man on the train tracks. Near the scene of the miners' protest in Harlan Co., KY.
CURREN SHELDON

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how our history is intertwined with our future. We’ll hear from coal miners and children about how they are reshaping Appalachia, while remembering the past. Also in this episode, we’ll hear from a woman who found recovery, and a job, after struggling with drug addiction for more than two decades.

And we’ll hear from some of the miners in Harlan County, Kentucky who are protesting their employer, coal operator Blackjewel LLC. We’ll talk about what the protest says about the state of organized labor in the mines.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Farmers got more troubling news Friday when China announced another $75 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, including many agriculture exports. 

Many Ohio Valley farmers expect this month to receive a part of the $16 billion in federal payments to those hurt by the trade war. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Liam Niemeyer reports, some regional farmers are growing weary of the continuing financial squeeze from the trade war. While most farmers are sticking with President Trump, some are questioning their support.


Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

Tom Folz drives around on a sunny, August afternoon and surveys the thousands of acres of dark green, leafy soybean plants and tall stalks of corn he grows on his sprawling farm in Christian County, Kentucky.

At 54, Folz has wispy, white hair matching his white mustache. It’s taken him several long work weeks to get his crop to where it is today.

“You got to be a little bit ‘off’ to be a farmer,” Folz said. ”You don’t get to enjoy anything during harvest and planting season because we’re working.”

courtesy Still Hollow

Still Hollow Distillery isn’t close to any interstate exit. It’s in Randolph County, West Virginia, not far from the Pendleton County line, and it’s nestled in the high Allegheny mountains. You can only get there by driving curvy two-lane roads.  


June 5, 1859: The 'Big Frost' Kills Crops, Leads to Buckwheat Farming

Jun 5, 2019
Winter in Dolly Sods Wilderness
Adobe Stock

On June 5, the Big Frost of 1859—as it’s remembered—hit what would soon become the new state of West Virginia. The unseasonable cold snap killed wheat crops and fruit trees, leading farmers in higher elevations to begin planting hardier crops, like potatoes. The late-season frost even inspired Preston County farmers to start sowing a resilient crop that would become their staple: buckwheat.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

 


On a recent Monday, students at James Monroe High School in Monroe County eat french bread pizza, corn, beans and mixed fruit. They also have three, locally sourced salad options to choose from: a spinach salad with bright red cherry tomatoes, a pre-made salad or a make-you-own salad bar.

"We hear that these foods look so much better, put together," said Kimberly Gusler, the high school's head cook. She said that since the school began using local salad greens and vegetables and fruits when available, students appear to be eating more of them.

"They love the way the salads look.”

Farm Wars

May 22, 2019
Organic farmer Shawn Peebles voicing his concern about dicamba to the Arkansas State Plant Board.
Loretta Williams

America’s trade war with China is fueling a long-running battle over weedkillers in American farm fields. It's a tough time to be an American farmer -- especially if you grow soybean. They are a $40 billion business in the U.S., but the price of soybeans plummeted last year because of the trade war. Soybean farmers are desperate to restore their profits and one way to do that is to boost their harvest.

Brittany Patterson / Ohio Valley ReSource

This is the first story in an occasional series exploring the links between addiction recovery and a recovering economy.

It’s lunch hour, and Cafe Appalachia is bustling.

Located in South Charleston, West Virginia, the former church turned restaurant has a funky, yet calming vibe. Twinkle lights and mismatched dining room sets dot the space. For $8 to $10 a plate, diners can enjoy a locally-sourced meal.

Sweet Equity: Ohio Valley Farmers Tapping Into Tradition

Apr 3, 2019
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

When Seth Long first began experimenting with maple syrup production, he tapped hollow pegs called spiles into individual trees, collected drips of sap in milk jugs, and carried each gallon down the the steep mountainside on foot.

Kentucky Called A 'Warning Signal' On SNAP Work Requirements

Apr 3, 2019
USDA

The federal government is considering a work requirement for some people who get food assistance through SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A new study uses Kentucky as an example of what that change could mean for the country.

The SNAP rules require 80 hours of work a month and cap assistance at three months over three years. This applies to able-bodied adults without children. The rules have been around for a while but hadn’t been enforced until recently.

Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

Mick Henderson runs the Commonwealth Agri-Energy ethanol plant in west Kentucky. He said the past year for U.S. ethanol producers, including in the Ohio Valley, has been rough.

“We’ve just passed our 15th anniversary just now, and this is going to be one of our weakest years,” Henderson said.

Eliza Wilhelm loves her Cub Cadet tractor because it goes super, super fast. And her love of riding tractors has become something that unites her whole family. 

Red or Green? Which Tractor Color is the Best?

Mar 20, 2019

In the market for a tractor? Want to buy one? But which tractor is better? At the Preston County Antique Tractor Show, opinions are running hot to find the answer to the infamous question: red or green?

Distress Grows For Ohio Valley Farmers As Trade Deals Stall

Mar 18, 2019
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

West Kentucky Farmer Barry Alexander doesn’t have an answer on when the Trump administration will reach a trade deal with China, now a year into tariffs that have hamstrung some Ohio Valley industries.

Alexander is optimistic these continued negotiations will be worth it, but his plan in the meantime lies in massive, silver storage bins on Cundiff Farms, the 13,000-acre operation he manages.

Ohio Valley Farmers, Electric Cooperatives Push Back On Trump’s Budget Cut Proposals

Mar 18, 2019
Nicole Erwin / Ohio Valley ReSource

West Kentucky Soybean Farmer Jed Clark, like many Ohio Valley farmers, is in a tighter financial situation because tariffs from the trade war and market forces have depressed crop prices.

“We’ve had a collapse in our grain markets,” Clark said. “We’re seeing some of the lowest commodity prices for wheat we’ve seen in a long time.”

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as the Trump administration’s trade talks continue with China and other countries, farmers are feeling the pain from the president’s year-long trade war. Tariffs on agricultural goods are compounding problems caused by low crop prices and over-production. The Ohio Valley ReSource's Liam Niemeyer reports that small farms are suffering the most.

Caitlin Tan

This week on Inside Appalachia, we take off-the-beaten-path tour of some of the region’s alternative cultures and economies. We’ll visit a factory where workers are reviving the art of glassmaking. We’ll hear how farmers and chefs are returning to some of our old-fashioned recipes for inspiration and attempting to reshape our region’s economy in the process.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the Ohio Valley has seen its share of workplace disruption with job losses in manufacturing and energy sectors. But a recent report warns that thousands of the region’s service, transportation, office and warehouse jobs could also be at risk. This time the threat is a coming wave of automation. The Ohio Valley ReSource's Becca Schimmel explores what automation could mean and how the region might adapt.

We turn our attention to agriculture needs in West Virginia. Host Suzanne Higgins chats with Jennifer Greenlief, Assistant Commissioner at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture about the hemp industry in West Virginia, agriculture jobs, and funding needs to the department’s facilities.

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