Agriculture

Feeding Kentucky/Farms to Food Banks

A perfect appearance isn’t everything when it comes to produce. 

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program proves that by purchasing what's affectionately called 'ugly produce.'  That's fruits and vegetables with a bruise or imperfect shape that makes it hard to sell to grocery stores that want to display 'perfect' produce. 

But ugly produce can still be fresh and nutritious, and help stock the pantries of families that are food insecure. 

The Farms to Food Banks program is beginning to line up farmers who want to sell extra produce ranging from apples to zuccini this year.

Farms to Food Banks is in excellent financial shape thanks to the generosity that continued through the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Kyeland Jackson

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles says he expects a smooth transition as he takes over an agriculture agency previously housed in Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s office. The agency manages millions of dollars in grants and loans intended to help farmers and businesses every year.

The GOP-led legislature moved the Office of Agriculture Policy out of Beshear’s administration and into Quarles’ Department of Agriculture during this year’s lawmaking session—one of several measures shifting duties out of the governor’s office and into state offices currently controlled by Republicans.

During a legislative meeting on Tuesday, Quarles said he’s still “kicking the tires and checking the oil” of the office and looking for ways to improve operations during the transition period.

USDA

Spring is casting its welcome sense of hope across the Bluegrass State, especially among farmers.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows Kentucky farmers intend to plant more acres in corn and soybeans this year than in 2020.

The USDA Prospective Plantings report found Kentucky farmers anticipating 1,550,000 acres of corn this spring. That’s 60,000 more acres than the previous year.

Farmers are also preparing to plant about 100,000 more acres of soybeans this year, compared to last year.


Rhonda J. Miller

Spring is blossoming across Kentucky and refugees who have resettled in Bowling Green are planting seeds of vegetables common in their native countries.

A greenhouse is a welcoming place to  bring together people - and plants - from Asia, Africa and America.

The greenhouse at Bowling Green Housing Authority is vibrant with the shiny leaves of butterhead and romaine lettuce, and beans with bright magenta shells.

On a recent spring day, Angele Niyonzima was in the greenhouse planting seeds in small trays.

“It’s almost times to grow, so we come here to start getting ready,” she said. 

Niyonzima was raised in Burundi until she was 14. Then she was in a refugee camp for 10 years in the Central African Republic. She’s 38 years old, has lived in Bowling Green for 14 years, and works at Dart Container in Horse Cave.


Bryce Baumann

A new bill in the Kentucky legislature could ban large-scale solar projects on farmland in the state, out of fears that the growing solar industry could be a detriment to the preservation of productive farmland. But a leading solar advocate in the state believes the bill is an overreaction and could significantly hamper the dawning solar industry. 

Republican State Sen. Steve West said the bill filed Monday is his way to address a long-term problem of increasing development destroying prime farmland for future generations, with large solar installations adding to that pressure. 

“What was once an income-producing property for the people of that county, is now possibly, you could say maybe an eyesore to the neighbor,” West said. He is also concerned that solar projects could degrade the farmland where projects are placed over time.

Adreanna Wills

The golden hue of the sunset shines across the sky and through the window as a woman drives down Van Meter Road in central Kentucky’s Clark County, passing by green rolling hills and hay bales.

In her social media video from early September, Adreanna Wills points out white signs in yards along the way, displaying the phrase “Industrial Solar” with a slash through the words. 

“Imagine these signs being ‘for sale’ signs in front of these properties instead of the signs demonstrating where they stand on this, because that’s probably what we’re looking at for some of these families,” said Wills, who runs the county animal shelter. 


AppHarvest.com

An innovative ag tech company in Kentucky building some of America’s largest indoor farms went public on Nasdaq Feb. 1.

Morehead-based AppHarvest rang the opening bell on Nasdaq virtually on Monday, and is trading under the new ticker symbol APPH.

The new publicly traded company was created when AppHarvest was  acquired by Novus Capital, a 'special purpose acquisition company' or SPAC.  

The goal of SPACs is to acquire private companies, allowing them to go public faster and with fewer regulatory hurdles than the standard Initial Public Offering, or IPO, process.


Screenshot/SHARK

Members of an Illinois-based animal protection group say one of their members was assaulted and another was driven off the road recently after confronting a suspected cockfighting event in southeastern Ohio. 

Animal rights activist Steve Hindi said his group Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK, received a tip from the group’s hotline about a cockfight planned in Lawrence County, Ohio. It is a felony in Ohio to engage in a cockfight. Hindi and another member approached the rural property on Jan. 3 where the suspected cockfighting event was said to be happening. 

Alice Welch

A study published Thursday in a prestigious scientific journal links significant increases in COVID-19 transmission rates to meatpacking plants, especially those facilities that the federal government has allowed to speed up processing lines.

Researchers found evidence that linked meatpacking plants to a “high potential for community spread” in the surrounding areas. The findings have implications for the Ohio Valley, where Tyson Foods plants in western Kentucky and southern Indiana received waivers this spring to increase work line speed even as dozens of workers were falling ill to the virus.

AppHarvest

An eastern Kentucky agritech company is breaking ground on a third greenhouse in the region after cutting the ribbon on one greenhouse and breaking ground on another last week. AppHarvest said Monday that the planned 15-acre facility in Berea will use recycled rainwater like the company’s other facilities.

The company recently cut the ribbon on a 2.76-million square foot greenhouse growing tomatoes in Morehead and broke ground on another similarly-sized greenhouse in Madison County. The facility near Berea will be used to produce leafy greens.

AppHarvest

An eastern Kentucky agritech company that is cutting the ribbon this week on a massive greenhouse in Morehead is also announcing construction of another large-scale greenhouse in the region. 

AppHarvest said in a release Tuesday that the second large-scale greenhouse will exceed more than 60 acres when completed in Madison County, south of Lexington. The company states the greenhouse would double AppHarvest’s growing space for fruits and vegetables, to go along with the company’s freshly-minted 2.76 million-square-foot greenhouse in Morehead.

Rick Murdock drives past his neighbors on rural back roads in southwest Calloway County, Kentucky, most days in his pickup truck, where he’ll pass by some signs of the season — “Trump 2020” flags and signs.

Murdock said he’s never been the type to put up signs or banners himself supporting a particular candidate — “I would not want to offend my brother, or my neighbor” — but he does consider himself to be a conservative, a Christian. He recalled a past Election Day when he took his then 8-year-old daughter with him to the voting booth to show her what the process was like. He voted for former President George W. Bush that year. 

 


Sydney Boles

A line of blue and yellow pop-up tents stand along the North Fork of the Kentucky River during a sunny September weekend in downtown Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Valerie Horn is doing her part to keep the Letcher County Farmers Market rolling. 

 

Pumpkins and watermelons fill tarps laid out on the ground next to a farmer, and another is offering bottles of maple syrup. As chair of the farmers market, Horn finally has a moment to relax after a busy week leading up to this day. 

“OK, the market’s open, we have good produce, we have customers, we’ve made our invite out, we’ve done what we can do to set up and create a successful market for today,” she said. “Just enjoy seeing who comes by, and stir a little when and if it’s helpful.”

 


KET

Kentucky health officials are suggesting revisions to a proposed regulation that would have dramatically increased food safety inspection fees for some small food producers. 

Department officials said they received hundreds of public comments on the proposal with concerns about fee increases and they now plan to limit fees according to a producer’s income.

Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Resources officials spoke to the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture on Thursday about the planned rule revision, getting feedback from state lawmakers on concerns about the rule’s impact on small farmers.

Kentucky Corn Growers Association

Many segments of the economy have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is positive news for Kentucky agriculture.

Corn and soybean crops are having a very good year.

Kentucky farmers are forecast to harvest 259 million bushels of corn this year, an increase of six percent over 2019. 

David Knopf is regional director of the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service based in Louisville. He said the temperature and rainfall have been good for corn, and harvesting is expected to continue for a few more weeks.

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