Midwest | KCUR

Midwest

Alissa Walker / Flickr -- CC

Before LaCroix Sparkling Water became a trendy drink, it was a favorite of Midwestern moms, according to reporter Libby Nelson in a recent article.

How did the drink that Nelson remembers from her KC childhood as "the pastel cases of tasteless soda that my Girl Scout leader packed into her minivan" go from a Midwestern staple to a status symbol?

Guest:

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

For Rachel MacPhee, co-owner of Kansas City-based Ribbon Events, weddings are the bread and butter of her business. And she sees a lot of different clients, from older couples to a pair who are just 20 years old.

"We have someone that's still in college, we also have a couple that have two kids and two more are on the way," MacPhee says.

Though typically, she says, clients are in their late 20s.

John Audobon marveled at its beauty; European princes crossed it in game safaris. Dan Flores’s American Serengeti tells the story of the Great Plains over the 19th Century, which saw the largest destruction of wildlife in modern history. 

We explore the historical ecology of the Great Plains. What have we lost, and what can we restore?

Guest: 

Courtesy Beth Jacobs

Across the United States, thousands of men, women and children are being forced to work as prostitutes. 

Sex trafficking remains a big problem, but a small group is mobilizing the far-flung trucking industry to fight it.

That’s a big change from the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. At the time, she thought if you were prostitute, it was your choice.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Massive bison herds used to be a staple of the Great Plains. That is until we almost hunted them out of existence.

Now, with a new designation as the United States’ national mammal, bison ranchers argue that to conserve the species we have to eat them.

It’s an idea called “market-based conservation,” and it contends that humans are no good at saving species out of the goodness of our hearts, or motivated by some driving force of environmental justice.

Ronnie Russell, who farms near Richmond, Mo., stands in one of his soybean fields.
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

On this sunny, summer morning in late June, Ronnie Russell is “windshield farming.”

Driving from field to field in his Ford pick-up, he can see that his corn is about to tassel, his soybeans are mostly weed-free and white butterflies are floating above the alfalfa.

All three crops, adding up to about 1,500 acres, are grown with genetically-engineered seeds, a technology Russell views as a boon to farming.

The meat found on American dinner tables is produced by slaughterhouses, which remain among the most dangerous places to work in the country.
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The meatpacking plants that enable American consumers to find cheap hamburger and chicken wings in the grocery store are among the most dangerous places to work in the country. Federal regulators and meat companies agree more must be done to make slaughterhouses safer, and while there are signs the industry is stepping up its efforts, danger remains.

The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Teresa, 31, worked at a pork processing plant in Nebraska for five years until injuries to her shoulder forced her to quit.
Brian Seifferlein / Harvest Public Media

The nights were often worse for Gabriel, even after long days working on the production line at a pork slaughterhouse in Nebraska.

He had nightmares that the line – what the workers call “the chain” – was moving so fast, that instead of gutted hogs flying by, there were people.

“You’ve been working there for three hours, four hours, and you’re working so fast and you see the pigs going faster, faster,” he says. 

Greata Horner holds a photo of her and her husband Ed taken a few months before he died.
Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

On the worst day of Greta Horner’s life, she was dressed in a burlap robe, waiting by the window for her husband to come home from work.

The couple was down to one car. The other one was in the shop. She donned the costume for a play, set in Old Jerusalem, later that morning, part of Vacation Bible School at the church. She just needed the car to get there. 

Flickr - CC

Monarch butterflies are disappearing. Scientists agree that in the last 20 years, populations of the black and orange insect have been in precipitous decline. But there's much less certainty on what’s causing them to vanish.

As each new scientific paper on monarch decline is published, the image becomes slightly less opaque. So far, potential culprits include disease, climate change, drought, deforestation, and nectar plants. Blame has been cast on everyone from loggers to farmers to suburban developers.

Through the centuries, technological advancements, from the tractor to developments in crop chemicals, have revolutionized the way we farm. Now, something new is disrupting the farming industry — and that’s big data. We take a look the new normal in one of America's oldest industries.

Guests:

Attitudes toward marijuana are shifting, nationally. But which way does the wind blow in the Midwest? Are attitudes changing here, too? And what's happening on the legal front?

Guests:

  • Jamie Kacz, executive director, NORML KC
  • Jennifer Lowry, pediatrician, Children's Mercy Hospital
  • "Jessica", sufferer of an auto-immune disorder and advocate for legalization of medical marijuana

Along the presidential campaign trail, candidates are deriding free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. But here in the Midwest farmers and ranchers, the people behind one of our biggest industries, are bucking the trend.

Guests:

  • Kristofer Husted is a reporter for KCUR's Harvest Public Media. He's based at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri.
  • Chad Hart is an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, where he's a crop markets specialist.

Whether it's the debate over GMO labeling, or diseases affecting livestock and the changing business of agriculture, the reporters from Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, are at the scene. We talk with them the state of the food system in the United States today.  

Guests:

I wasn't introduced to green bean casserole until I was in my twenties. 

The dish won me over immediately, and I wanted to make it for my family one Thanksgiving. But dumping canned soup, canned green beans and a tin of crunchy fried onions into a casserole dish felt like cheating — as far as "cooking" goes. Particularly on a holiday that's about celebrating the season's bounty.

So I made a from-scratch version.

Grateful

May 15, 2015

In a season of Grateful Dead reunion shows, followers of the band reminisce about the community they once formed, and discuss its revival in 2015. 

kcrockhistory.com

For Mike McGonigle, it's a sticker on his car that gives him away as a Grateful Dead enthusiast.

"There are Deadheads amongst us everywhere," he says. "I constantly get people waving at me, I see other Deadhead stickers, and it's kind of a community of people that when you recognize it, you have a connection with those people."

In the 1970s and 1980s especially, there was a vibrant community of Grateful Dead followers here in Kansas City. They used to follow the band's tour route: going to shows, trading sandwiches for back-rubs, sleeping in cars and otherwise living the hippie dream.

Most of them have settled into mainstream society since those days, but this summer's 50th anniversary reunion shows have brought members of that community out of the woodwork — and back into contact with each other. 

Earthquakes are more frequent than ever in Oklahoma, and they're hitting harder. KCUR's Frank Morris visits Kansas's neighbor to the South and gets perspectives and stories from those directly affected by the situation. Is the cornerstone of that state's economy shaking its foundation?

E.G. Schempf, courtesy of the artist and Haw Contemporary, Kansas City, Mo.

Curators from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., set out on a road trip to find the most compelling unknown artists hidden away in studios across the country. About a thousand studio visits later, artists had been selected for The State of the Art exhibitTwo Kansas City artists made the cut. 

Guests:

Scott Ross

Walt Disney, Johnny Carson, Carl Sandburg, Ronald Reagan, Henry Ford . . .  small Midwestern towns aren't typically the stuff of sensational headlines - more sunset strolls than Sunset Boulevard. But growing up, these and other great men called such communities home.

On Tuesday's Up to Date, Steve Kraske talks with author John Miller about the enduring importance of the small town, and the role of "flyover country" in producing some of the 20th Century's most influential men.

Guest:

Pam Morris / Flickr--CC

Midwesterners are hard-working, friendly and polite.

Those were the recurring adjectives that came up when we asked Kansas Citians for their take on the heartland.

When we took to social media and asked, “What does it mean to be a Midwesterner in five words or less?”  you also shot back these common themes:

• Underappreciated

• Family-oriented and pragmatic

• We feel we know what’s really important (priorities)

• Compassionate

• Considerate

Teemu008 / Creative Commons, Flickr

Former Kansas City Star columnist Bill Tammeus, who still blogs for the paper, recently released a memoir titled Woodstock: A Story of Middle Americans.

It's about his boyhood in the Illinois town of Woodstock, in the middle of the 20th century. Through critical reflection on his early experiences and observations, Tammeus arrives at a handful of truisms about life in the Midwest, offered without sentimentality or rose-colored glasses, but with measured fondness.

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