Agriculture

Liam Niemeyer | Ohio Valley ReSource

Tony Silvernail swings a heavy machete at a stalk of bushy hemp and chops the plant near the root, grabbing the five-foot-tall shoot with his sun-weathered hand.

It’s an unusually hot October day on his farm, Beyond The Bridge LLC, tucked in the hills outside of Frankfort, Kentucky. But the heat doesn’t faze Silvernail, sporting a sweat-soaked shirt, a huge smile, and a fat cigar between his teeth.

Silvernail and hundreds of others of farmers across the Ohio Valley are finally getting to harvest thousands of acres of hemp, the first harvest since the federal government legalized hemp cultivation last December.


Owensboro Regional Farmers Market/ facebook

The Owensboro Regional Farmers Market is showing significant growth in the number of vendors and customers.

One reason for the increase is the new permanent structure.

This first full season with the permanent pavilion offers shoppers a comfortable place to relax and chat with neighbors, as well as an expanded choice of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and crafts. The permanent structure opened in late spring 2018, giving roots to the market that began 35 years ago.

Jim Gilles, president of the board of Owensboro Regional Farmers Market, said the market used to have an average of 30 vendors, and now it’s jumped to 40. He said customers like the increased offerings.


Kentucky Small Grain Growers Association

In spite of challenges from the weather, Kentucky farmers boosted production of winter wheat by 27 percent for the 2019 season over the past year. 

Kentucky farmers planted 460,000 acres of winter wheat last fall, an increase of 10,000 acres over the previous season.

David Knopf is director of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Office in Louisville. He said the initial seeding of those acres wasn’t promising.  

“Winter wheat production for the 2019 crop season turned out to be a relatively pleasant surprise," said Knopf. "It got off to a slow start last fall when there was a lot of rain and prevented farmers from getting the fields planted.”

But Knopf said the weather cooperated during the spring and early summer and that brought in a harvest that was a 27 percent increase over the previous year.  


U.S. Drought Monitor

The current hot, dry spell has put some of Kentucky’s 120 counties in “moderate drought” conditions. That’s having an impact on the state’s agriculture industry in some regions.

Kentucky farmers have been dealing with nature’s unpredictable extremes. Unusually wet conditions earlier this year delayed some planting, and now the long, dry spell may affect some of those late-planted crops.

Stuart Foster is the state climatologist and director of the Kentucky Climate Center based at Western Kentucky University. He said the center has been getting impact reports from farmers in areas around Breckenridge, Hardin and Meade counties, as well as in some parts of eastern Kentucky, including the region around Breathitt County.

Liam Niemeyer

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.”


Kyeland Jackson

Kentucky officials are celebrating the results of a program that increases access to fresh produce for low-income families. 

The “Double Dollars” program doubles the buying power when people use benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at some farmers markets and food sale locations. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said other states have come to Kentucky to learn about the program.

 


If you're caught in a trade war, it's good to be a farmer.

Lots of American companies have lost sales since the Trump administration and China embarked on the current cycle of tariff-raising and retaliation. Few, if any, have been compensated as handsomely as farmers.

Something strange is happening to Pengyin Chen's soybean experiments at the University of Missouri's Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville, Mo.

"You see how small they are?" says Chen, gesturing at a field filled with thousands of small plots of soybeans.

Liam Niemeyer

West Liberty University Professor Zachary Loughman has dedicated his professional life to crustaceans – specifically freshwater crayfish. He dips his hand into one of the water tanks at his laboratory near Wheeling, West Virginia, to pick up a teal crayfish the size of a dollar bill.

“See the little guy dropping down? We caught mom and she had 300 babies. So we just let them grow,” Loughman said. “We’ve had our feet – my lab – in over 3000 rivers in the past ten years.”


Evan Heichelbech

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in Louisville Tuesday to talk to hemp farmers and providers about the industry’s challenges.

All three officials echoed similar sentiments of the challenges hemp farmers and providers are experiencing, despite being just six months removed from the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the crop.

At hemp processor Commonwealth Extracts warehouse on Tuesday, McConnell said Kentucky is “in the red zone” with hemp.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is sponsoring legislation that would reduce paperwork and streamline worker visa programs used by U.S. farmers. The Bowling Green Republican said the measure would be a major help for the commonwealth’s agriculture industry.

The bill would make it easier for farmers to apply for H-2A and H-2B visas used to employ temporary workers from other countries. Those work permits are often used in the equine, livestock, agriculture, and dairy industries.


Liam Niemeyer

The U. S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday details of a second round of aid totaling $16 billion for farmers affected by the trade war with China. But some Ohio Valley farmers worry about the ongoing consequences of these payments and tariffs.

As with the first round of tariff relief offered last year, farmers will again be paid extra for the soybeans, pork and dairy they produce. But instead of paying farmers a flat rate, USDA officials said these payments will depend on the assessed “trade damage” and the commodity production of each county.


A Growing Recovery: Food Service And Farming Jobs Provide A Path Out Of Addiction

May 20, 2019
Brittany Patterson

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. The menu today is apple sage pork tips, spiralized zucchini (or “zoodles”), roasted broccoli, and a salad of spinach grown just a few miles away.

Autumn McCraw helped prepare today’s meal. The 35-year-old Charleston resident sports a maroon apron and greets every customer with a smile. Her days here typically start around 8 a.m.


Rhonda J. Miller

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its five-year census on April 11, and for the first time it includes a category for military veterans who are farming. The census shows that Kentucky currently has about 13,000 farmers with miltary service. 

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture recognized the value of this combination in 2013 with the creation of a program called Homegrown By Heroes. It's a marketing initiative to spotlight and support agricultural producers with military experience.


Kentucky Farm Bureau

The new U.S. Department of Agriculture census released April 11 shows the number of young farmers in Kentucky is increasing. 

The USDA Census of Agriculture is done every five years and the newly-released data on crops, acreage and demographics is for the 2017 year. The previous census used as a five-year comparison is based on 2012 data.

David Knopf is regional director of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service based in Louisville. He said the census shows a significant increase in the number of young farmers in Kentucky. 


Pages