Amy Mayer

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also  previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth.  She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times,  Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.

Amy has a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from Wellesley College and a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Amy’s favorite public radio program is The World.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture touches Americans from the field to the cafeteria, with a bevy of programs that include subsidies for farmers and for school lunches. It also has a role in supporting rural communities more generally, with things like broadband internet, telemedicine and microloans for entrepreneurs.

It’s a diverse mandate, but it fits with the man at the top: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is now the longest-serving person in that position since Orville Freeman left the post in 1969.

Children Of Latino Immigrants Forge Paths In Agriculture

Nov 4, 2014
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

In a dimly-lit lab on the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools’ agricultural science campus, students in aprons, safety goggles and plastic gloves poke and probe chicken wings. About 15 girls and just one boy in this vet careers class are looking for ligaments, tendons, cartilage and other features of this animal part that teenagers more often experience cooked and covered in barbecue sauce.

A 17-year old senior, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail for the dissection, high-fives her lab partner when they identify the ligament and show it to their teacher. This young woman is a chapter officer in the Des Moines FFA group and recently got elected to a district-wide leadership position. She’s already earned a full scholarship to Iowa State University and aspires to be a large animal veterinarian with her own small cattle herd.

Her name is Melissa Garcia Rodriquez. Born and raised in Iowa, Garcia comes from a Mexican family.

Young Immigrants Search For Home On The Farm

Nov 3, 2014
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Bear Creek Dairy in Brooklyn, Iowa, is home to more than 1,100 cows, who provide about 100,000 pounds of milk each day. The 15-year-old farmer who works closely with the farm’s calves comes from a long line of dairymen – in Europe.

Technology, Infrastructure Cut Down On Farm Food Waste

Sep 23, 2014
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

On a wet, grey day in Grinnell, Iowa, the rain beats a rhythm on the metal roof of a packing shed at Grinnell Heritage Farm. Crew member Whitney Brewer picks big bunches of kale out of a washing tank, lets them drip on a drying table and then packs them into cardboard boxes.

Like most farms in the United States, this one uses ample labor, harvesting tools and technology, and readily available refrigeration to ensure that most of its produce makes it to market. Most food that can’t be sold is eaten by the crew or donated to area food banks that can distribute it to people who need it.

Forthcoming Poultry Rules Get Mixed Reception

Aug 12, 2014
Raul Perez Foto / Flickr - Creative Commons

Change is coming to the poultry industry and not everyone is happy about it.

Until now, inspections have been governed by a law written in 1957. It’s nine pages long. The new rule — finalized recently by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service — fills 379 pages. Even accounting for differences in font type and size, and formatting, there’s a whole lot more in this one.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

TV shows like “CSI” have made forensics a hot topic, spawning books and even science programs for kids. The same technology used at crime scenes to link a stray hair to a suspect can also find antibiotics or other medications in milk and meat. And the use of sophisticated testing is becoming increasingly available for livestock producers, who stand to lose lots of money if their products are tainted.

Neil Palmer / Creative Commons

More than 90 percent of U.S. field corn is genetically modified, according todata recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Is Corn Dust Killing Bees?

May 26, 2014
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Nathan Anderson stops his red pick-up truck alongside a cornfield on his farm near Cherokee, Iowa. The young farmer pulls on a heavy brown hoodie, thick, long, sturdy gloves and a beekeeper’s hat with a screened veil. He approaches a pair of hives sitting on the edge of a field recently planted with corn and adjusts a yellow plastic flap that traps some of the pollen the bees bring back to their hive.

Integrated Local Food System Can Grow The Market

May 2, 2014
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.

For Local Food Movement, All Signs Point To Higher Sales

Apr 30, 2014
Matt Hannon / Flickr

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases detailed data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture in May, the numbers should illuminate all sorts of details about the country’s farmers. And for those involved in local food initiatives, the data may finally make it possible to update the statistics on the size and scope of their successes.

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