agriculture | KUOW News and Information


Let me guess how you feel about your urine: Get that smelly stuff away from me as fast as possible?

A small group of environmentalists in Vermont isn't as squeamish. Instead of flushing their pee down the drain, they're collecting it with special toilets that separate No. 1 and No. 2.

Then they're pooling the urine of the 170 volunteers in the pilot project (a quart or so, per person, daily) and eventually giving it to a farmer, who's putting it on her hay fields in place of synthetic fertilizer. The goal is to collect 6,000 gallons this year.

A breakdown in a U.S. State Department computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards.

Screenshot by Keva Andersen

The subject headline of producer Matthew Streib's email was irresistibly public radio: "There is fresh raw Nigerian pygmy goat's milk in the fridge." 

Typically we hear about free doughnuts on the filing cabinet near Ross Reynold's desk, so we asked Matthew to explain.

From Ubrlocal's Facebook page

Ross Reynolds talks with Kamal Patel, co-founder of Ubrlocal, a marketplace for Seattle gardeners and farmers to share their wares.

4-H Teaches Poultry Prowess To Urban Kids

Jul 21, 2014
KUOW Photo/Matthew Streib

Ross Reynolds discussed the 4-H Club's program to teach kids responsibility and life skills by raising poultry. Despite its reputation as a rural organization, 4-H has been reaching urban kids as well. This year's junior poultry showmanship winner at the King County Fair was 10-year-old Katie Moen of Ballard with her Silkie bantam.

What Climate Change Could Mean For Your Grape Juice

Jun 23, 2014

PROSSER, Wash. -- The sun beats down as researcher Markus Keller leans in to inspect his experimental vineyard.

“As you can see here, there’s a lot of flowers forming on the different shoots,” Keller says.

The grape leaves hang down like a curtain over the rows of vines. This year’s crop looks to be strong.

For connoisseurs of fine grape jellies and juices, this is a reason to rejoice. For collectors of fine wines? Not so much.

These are Concord grapes -- which make up 99 percent of the variety that go in to juice and jelly production, Keller says.

Farmers in Oregon, Idaho and Washington are expected to harvest less wheat this summer. The weather forecast has a lot to do with it.

It seems that everybody, going back at least to Thomas Jefferson, loves small family farms.

Yet those beloved small farms are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Big farms are taking over.

According to the latest census of American agriculture, released this year, there are two million farms in America. But just four percent of those farms account for two-thirds of all agricultural production.

Imagine if a gallon of milk cost $3 in your town, but 100 miles away it cost $100, or even $200.

Something similar is happening right now in California with water that farmers use to irrigate their crops. Some farmers are paying 50 or even 100 times more for that water than others who live just an hour's drive away.

The situation is provoking debate about whether water in California should move more freely, so that it can be sold to the highest bidder.

When you think organic, you probably visualize fresh, sweet-smelling fruits and vegetables. But what makes that delicious organic produce grow?

How To Win An Old-Fashioned Plowing Competition

May 16, 2014
Sarah Eden Wallace

The horses are beefy, the farmers nostalgic and the legacy long.

Rod Hatfield

Did you know there are bees at Sea-Tac Airport? Twenty beehives are already in place in green space around the airport. And tonight, a two-day hackathon gets going that’s centered around the idea of bees and flight. It’s connected to a new art installment that’s going in at Sea-Tac: “Flight Path.”

According to newly-released data from the USDA's agricultural census, the number of farms in the Northwest is dropping.

Arlo Crawford's book "A Farm Dies Once a Year."

Arlo Crawford never wanted to be a farmer like his parents. But that changed one spring. He shares his experience from the office back to the fields with KUOW's Marcie Sillman.

Crawford's parents were part of the back-to-the-land generation of the 1970s. Crawford's father dropped out of law school and bought land in southern Pennsylvania. That land became New Morning organic farm, and that's where Crawford and his sister Janie grew up.

Northwest News Network Photo/Anna King

Some listeners may have noticed Friday when we bleeped a series of words in a piece on the dairy industry by Anna King of the Northwest News Network. The story was about farmers taking advantage of record prices for dairy and beef.

N3 Photo/Anna King

Marcie Sillman speaks with Anna King, Richland correspondent for the Northwest News Network, about the story behind her recent report, "High Milk, Beef Prices Spur A Northwest Cattle Rush."

Why Europe Finds American Apples Distasteful

Apr 30, 2014
Flickr Photo/Ron (CC BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde speaks with Sonya Lunder, senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, about the European Union's ban of diphenylamine. The post-harvest pesticide dip is applied to most non-organic American apples.

Doug Fine's book, "Hemp Bound."

Ross Reynolds speaks with Doug Fine, a self-described comedic investigative journalist, about his new book, "Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution."

Fine spoke with scientists and farmers around the world about how hemp is used. In February, President Obama signed the Farm Bill, which allows industrial research on hemp.

We’ve all heard of the Western Gold Rush. But how about the Northwest cattle rush?

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Agriculture

Steve Owen should not have been ferrying gallons of herbicides by helicopter over homes near Gold Beach, Ore.

Investigators have discovered 30 unauthorized commercial honeybee hives near the site of a large bee die-off in Sherwood southwest of Portland.

Observers reported thousands of dead honeybees on a busy stretch of Highway 99W on Sunday.

Many Northwest alfalfa growers had a rough year with bad weather last summer.

Why hasn't fish farming taken off in the United States?

It's certainly not for lack of demand for the fish. Slowly but surely, seafood that's grown in aquaculture is taking over the seafood section at your supermarket, and the vast majority is imported. The shrimp and tilapia typically come from warm-water ponds in southeast Asia and Latin America. Farmed salmon come from big net pens in the coastal waters of Norway or Chile.

Northwest asparagus growers are just starting to harvest spears in the warmer sites around Pasco, Wash.

Flickr Photo/ron.heasley (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with Sheryl Wiser of Cascade Harvest about what spring will bring to local farmers markets.

Dam engineers are continuing to keep the pool behind the ailing structure drawn down to relieve pressure.

Flickr Photo/Armed Forces Pest Management Board (CC BY-NC-ND)

You have to go through three airlocked doors to get to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s stink bug research lab.

The quarantined, closet-sized room has its own ventilation system. The brown marmorated stink bug colony is kept inside an even smaller room within the lab.

A lawsuit led by the ACLU is challenging Idaho's brand new, so-called “ag-gag” law aimed at stopping undercover animal rights activists from making videos of abuse at farms and slaughter houses.

In central Washington, state officials and farmers are scrambling to save orchards at risk of drying up because of a drawdown of the Columbia River.

Thousands of acres of high-value cherry and apple orchards behind the damaged Wanapum Dam are at serious risk.