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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

How Do Consumer Perceptions Impact Farmers’ Bottom Lines?

Business reporter Annie Ropeik is interested in consumers' feeling about food and how that impacts farmers. Then, beet vinaigrette on our veggie burger.

corn plant

On today’s show, we talk about farming and the economy with Annie Ropeik, reporter for Indiana Public Broadcasting.

She likes reporting on stories about business and the economy because, as she puts it, those stories tend to have numbers behind them and it’s harder for numbers to lie. But she’s becoming more interested in issues that don’t always come with data, like how do our feelings about the food we eat impact farmers?

I spoke with her in the fall of 2016 after she attended the National Press Foundation “Future Of Food And Agriculture” in St. Louis. She heard presentations from scientists, policy makers, lobbyists and farmers. They visited local farms and they visited Monsanto’s headquarters. She was free to ask any question she wanted with her recording running — even the most basic of questions, like how does corn grow?

Now when I look at a corn plant I will know that the tassels on top are the male part that have the pollen on them. When it’s time to grow the corn, the pollen drifts off of the tassels onto the silk, which is attached to the kernels. And the kernels are on the ear of corn, which is the female part, and when they’re pollinated, the kernels grow. That’s how you get corn. Who knew!

The conference was sponsored by Monsanto and National Pork Board, but she says every presenter had an agenda. “Whether they’re touting the benefits of organic food or the benefits of GMOs, it’s because they’re going to turn a profit on those things,” she says.

It’s with genetically modified foods that Ropeik’s love of data conflicts with the sorts of conversations she’s hearing in the general public.

You can talk about GMOs, but then you want to talk about why people care so much about what they think of as GMOs, and why we’re responding to it the way that we are. I think just generally I’m really interested in why consumers decide that things are good to eat, and how those demands affect farmers’ bottom lines.

More: Read Annie Ropeik’s latest story. A federal judge says a farm labor recruiter must pay $56,631 in back wages to a group of visa workers who came from Mexico to Indiana in 2014.

Stories On This Episode

Down Times In Farm Country Persist, But Not Yet A ‘Crisis’

The USDA expects payments from government safety net programs to reach $12.9 billion for 2016, an increase of nearly 20 percent over the previous year.

Some Students Develop An Appetite For Healthier School Meals

When Cheryl Johnson visits school cafeterias, she sees kids eating more fruits and vegetables, but the amount of food thrown away has not increased.

Our Delicious Veggie Burger: Harrison Lake Garden Burgers

Garden burgers are a great way to use up lonely veggies in the crisper. Add all types of stuff to these from corn kernels to sautéed zucchini or eggplant.

Beet And Honey Vinaigrette With Orange

This versatile condiment goes well on just about anything, from a burger to a salad.

Former Ag Secretary Vilsack To Head Dairy Industry Trade Group

Tom Vilsack announced that his first job outside the Cabinet will be heading up a dairy industry trade group that pushes for access to foreign markets.

Organics Hope For A Boost With USDA Check-Off Program

Check-off programs pool money from organic food producers and handlers, and distribute the funds for organic food promotion, education, and research.

GOP Takes Aim At Endangered Species Act

GOP leaders have announced their intentions to roll back the Endangered Species Act, saying, "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species."

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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