Give Now  »

Farm-To-Table Fraud, Midwest Lavender, Indiana Wine And More

Read Transcript
Hide Transcript


KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana I'm Kayte Young and this is Earth Eats.

LAURA REILEY: And so I didn't have an investigative team, I didn't have a data team, or all the things that people now have at newspapers. And I mostly bumbled my way through dumpster diving and getting moles and kitchens to feed me invoices and that kind of thing.

KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show a conversation with Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley about her groundbreaking work exposing fraudulent claims in the world of farm to table dining. We give that 2019 interview a second listen. Harvest Public Media has a story about lavender farmers in the Midwest and I share a simple apricot fennel salad recipe. All that and so much more just ahead here on Earth Eats, stay with us. I'm Kayte Young and this is Earth Eats. Renee Reed is here with food and farming updates. Hello Renee.

RENEE REED: Hello Kayte. Only one out of every twenty farmland acres in the Corn Belt have cover crops planted. Harvest Public Media's Dana Cronin explains what this means for the environment.

DANA CRONIN: A mountain of research shows the benefits of planting cover crops, from sequestering carbon from the environment to keeping waterways cleaner. And yet according to a new study from the environmental working group only 4.8% of corn and soybean acres have them. Sorin Runquist is the director of spatial analysis for the EWG and a lead researcher.

SORIN RUNQUIST: This should be alarming to anyone that cares about clean water, which should be every human because we rely on it for survival.

DANA CRONIN: Runquist says the low low adoption rate falls in line with federal investment in cover crops which has gone down the past few years in the surveyed states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. I'm Dana Cronin, Harvest Public Media.

RENEE REED: Our global food supply is at risk due to the rise in infectious diseases, that's according to a new study from the University of Illinois which focused on diseases affecting plants and animals. Those diseases are on the rise due to climate change and globalization according to the study. Valeria Trivellone is one of the researchers.

VALERIA TRIVELLONE: The bad news here is that this is going to become more and more common as we go along. But the good news is that we have all the information to anticipate and mitigate the emergence of the diseases.

RENEE REED: She says doing what we can to prevent diseases from emerging will be critical, rather than reacting to their spread. Thanks to Harvest Public Media's Dana Cronin for those reports. For Earth Eats, I'm Renee Reed. 

(News theme)

The invasive perineal vine kudzu has long been termed a scourge of Southern U.S. landscapes and is now seen in states as far reaching as North Dakota, New Jersey, and yes, Indiana. One DIY permaculture collective is investing in new ways to use rather than simply erase this stubborn plant. Josephine McRobbie reports from Asheville, North Carolina.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Kudzu the East Asian vine was introduced to the us as an ornamental and erosion control plant in the late 1800's. But now...
JUSTIN HOLT: It's like considered maybe the worst invasive species in the Southeast. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: The so-called vine that ate the South can grow a foot a day, covering whole trees, fields, and telephone poles. It's beginning to expand to landscapes as far flung as Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon. Kudzu is the target of huge numbers of eradication projects. But despite this many southerners are captivated by the plants power. It's inspired folk songs, poems and books, as well as advocates. 
JUSTIN HOLT: Kudzu was one of the first plants that really captured my imagination. Cause it's so dramatic and it's kind of like big green monster. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Justin Holt is an ecology educator and permaculturist in Asheville, North Carolina with Zev Friedman and Lauren Baccus he runs the collective kudzu culture, which aims to raise awareness about the many uses of kudzu. It's a fertilizer for soil and fodder for livestock, and can also be processed to make foods, fibers and herbal medicines. 
JUSTIN HOLT: It was a staple of cultures and industries in parts of the world where people have developed relationships with the plant. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: It's a challenge that is central to permaculture. How do we co-evolve with our environment? Studies have shown that kudzu thrives with rising temperatures. And so with the changing climate...
JUSTIN HOLT: This is a plant that is not going anywhere anytime soon. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Kudzu Culture runs regular camps for those who are interested in the plant. Depending on the season, they dig the roots, harvest the vines, and then process the kudzu using traditional Japanese methods.
JUSTIN HOLT: That is, I don't think very scalable in like today's modern industrial economy in the Southeast. So we're trying to figure out ways to move away from like the processing that's dependent on a lot of hand labor. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: So at a recent research and development camp, they experimented with using a food grade cement mixer to clean off the roots and a chipper shredder to process chunks of roots into mash. Next, the mash went into pillowcases and into the wash.
JUSTIN HOLT: We just like ran a cycle through the washing machine and caught the water that came out. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: This kudzu water can be used in a couple of ways. It's sort of a cold extract tea. One that kudzu culture has sold to local kombucha companies as an ingredient, but it can also be settled and then refined to make a chalky white starch. 
JUSTIN HOLT: The cold water, I'm going to add it to this. As it's simmering...
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Holt is stirring up the base of some silky tofu made only with starch powder, peanut butter, salt and water. 
JUSTIN HOLT: Very very thick paste. Cause I've got a lot of kudzu starch in here. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: The Kudzu Culture trio source recipe ideas from all kinds of places, old Southern recipe books, kudzu Instagram hashtags, and East Asian cooking blogs that they run through Google translate. You can eat the kudzu leaves alone. They're similar in taste to pea shoots. The starch can be used to make a turmeric golden milk or a mochi ice cream. And one of the few traditional uses in the South is using the flowers of the vine to make jelly. 
JUSTIN HOLT: And that they'd use that cause the smell of the flowers is like, it's like the color purple smells like purple. Like grape markers or something. 
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Despite kudzu's reputation and negative qualities, Holt in his colleagues think it's possibilities can be leveraged, and the plant can truly be integrated into farm and food economies. They're documenting their methodology and starting to apply for grants. They're looking at ideas like how to become a buyer of the roots dug up by farmers or how to process starch or weaving fiber more efficiently. 
JUSTIN HOLT: And that's kind of like the main driver behind what we're doing is asking that question, like how can this really scale up? How can harvesting kudzu as a means of control as a means of providing food and medicine in a resilient way to people, how can that really take off beyond some crazy permaculturists who think it's a cool thing to do?
KAYTE YOUNG: That story comes to us from producer Josephine McRobbie. Find more on our website


The Midwest is known for agriculture corn, wheat, soybeans, but lavender? Maybe not so much. For Harvest Public Media, Rachel Schnelle has the story of one couple who decided to give it a try.

RACHEL SCHNELLE: Katie Lockwood and her husband both work for the IT department for the MU system colleges but were also hobby farmers for 20 years. So when they move to Centralia in 2011 and has small plot of land beside their house, they weren't sure what to do. For Katie, it was simple, she'd always wanted to try and grow lavender, but as they quickly realized it was a different kind of crop than they were used to.

KATIE LOCKWOOD: Here in Missouri difficult to grow lavender so we did a lot of research before we planted our first plant, worked very closely with MU extension because they do soil analysis and make recommendations around how you can improve your pH levels and so on to make it more suitable for growing lavender.

RACHEL SCHNELLE: They also got help from people outside the state as they realized lavender is not a native Missouri crop. Kelly McGowan is a field specialist in horticulture for MU Extension. She said she knows Lockwood's but realized there wasn't a lot of data about what it looks like to successfully grow the crop in Missouri, which is very different from the plant's Mediterranean origins. She says in a lot of ways Missouri couldn't be more different, instead of arid dry climate Missouri is wet muggy, and sometimes has harsh winters. She started a series of small lavender farms across the state, through this and conversations with people like the Lockwoods they hope to figure out how to make the crop viable for small farmers. 

KELLY MCGOWAN: Diversifying, growing lots of different things is sometimes helpful and including lavender in that is really my goal. I want people to not be afraid of growing it, you can make pretty good money off of it. It isn't cheap to go to a lavender farm and pick lavender or buy products or essential oils, so I just want to see our farmers be successful with it.

RACHEL SCHNELLE: McGowan says the great thing about lavender is the variety both in products, from coffee to cocktails, to essential oils, and soaps to the crop itself. At first glance all the Lockwood's rows of lavenders look exactly the same, but as you get closer you realize there are differences in colors. And while their 14 varieties at the farm there more than 450 in the world.

KELLY MCGOWAN: There's actually more than that, but those are the ones that have names. So we actually don't grow from seed, because lavender cross pollinates really easily and it's hard to get the true strain. You're not necessarily going to get the same plant with the same scent or the same oil content, or the same color and so on.

RACHEL SCHNELLE: Katie's idea for a lavender farm began in 2016, and the first planting was in 2018. They planned to open a you-pick season for customers in 2020 but because of the covid-19 pandemic, this is the first year they've offered it. They began this year's season at the beginning of April and are open daily from 10am to 6pm as well as 10am to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays. Surrounded by fields of lavender with bees buzzing, and birds chirping, Katie and her husband welcome people to the lavender farm. And they say bringing people to rural Missouri was one of the reasons they started this business in the first place.

KATIE LOCKWOOD: We felt like it was a good choice for us, and would be fun to bring to the community, a fun thing to bring people out to an area that maybe of Missouri that people don't tend to visit very often. They could learn more about the battlefield nearby and see some of the historical places even in town, and just introduce people to an area they might not normally come.

RACHEL SCHNELLE: While their you pick season ends for the summer; Katie said their business doesn't stop there. They plan to be at the Columbia farmers market and to sell their lavender merchandise all year long. For Harvest Public Media, I'm Rachel Schnelle.

KAYTE YOUNG: Harvest Public Media is a reporting collective that covers food and farming in the Midwest. Find more at (music)

(Banjo music)

Thank you for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. For most of us, the motivation for shopping at farmers' markets is to purchase local food, support local producers, and to basically know where your food comes from. Here in Bloomington we have more farmers' market opportunities than ever, and there's never a doubt that the stalls are the ones who grew the food. 

Our guest this week had a different experience in Tampa Bay Florida. As the food critic for the Tampa Bay Times, Laura Reiley started wondering about some of the sourcing of the foods offered in the stalls of open-air markets, as well as the menus is some of her favorite restaurants. Laura Reiley visited the IU campus in the fall of 2018 as part of the IU food institute's speaker series, and she stopped by the Earth Eats studio to talk with producer Alex Chambers about her work.

ALEX CHAMBERS: Welcome to Earth Eats

LAURA REILEY: Thanks so much for having me

ALEX CHAMBERS: Yeah, glad to have you. I wanted to start off with the investigation into food fraud, what got you started on that and then what did you end up finding? 

LAURA REILEY: So I've been thinking for a number of years that I was being lied to, and I'll tell you the small ways, the kind of like everyone (knows). Everyone all the restaurants claim this is a housemaid desert and it's like I know that dessert, I have seen that dessert come off the back of the Sysco truck. And you kind of think those type of lies are benign, they're kind of white lies in the scheme of things. But I started seeing it with the advent of kind of farm-to-table restaurants more pernicious lies that were misrepresentations of farmers' work essentially, or I suspected as much.

So I had been talking, kind of haranguing I guess, the paper for a while. I'd said a number of times that I thought, "I think there's something here." 

And my editor, or my editor's editor basically said, "Reiley bring us one thing and we'll talk." 

So I went to one of my favorite restaurants, a restaurant I'd reviewed really favorably, and I just took a picture of their chalkboard. And it was one of those multicolored chalk chalkboards, I brought it back to the office and I started calling the farmers or food producers listed on the chalkboard. And the first one I called it was a this the Grouper and Snapper at the restaurant where they were reportedly caught by Captain Kirk Morgan, that was his name. And I was kind of like do I call this guy Captain Kirk, or do I call him Captain Morgan? And either way it's terrible. (Both chuckling) 

So anyways, I called up Capitan Kirk and I said, "Hey I want to talk to you about your relationship with this restaurant Boca."

And he said, "What's a Boca?"

And I said Well, "Well, you're a commercial fisherman, right?"

And he said, "Yeah, yeah." 

And I said, "Well so must maybe through a middleman sell to this restaurant, your snapper and grouper." 

And he said, "Well that's impossible because I don't catch snapper and grouper. I catch mullet and sheepshead - very different species." And I said, "Well how could this have happened?"

So we talked for a few more minutes and then the guy said, "Wait a second... I was at I.C. Sharks which is kind of this retail and wholesale Fish Market. I was at sharks and a chef stopped me and asked me what I caught, and we exchanged business cards." 

So I honestly think what was happening with that this chef at this restaurant had a file drawer full of business cards of farmers and it was like a game of Mad Libs. So he basically would fill the chalkboard up with all the business card names in his file drawer. 

So I went to the paper, and I said I have proof that at least this restaurant that I suspected as much of his misrepresenting what's on their farm to table items on their list.

And they said, "Well go ahead. We'll give you a couple months off of your regular duties and bring us back a story."

And so I didn't have an investigative team, I didn't have a data team, or all the things that people now have at newspapers. And I mostly bumbled my way through dumpster diving and getting moles and kitchens to feed me invoices and that kind of thing. And eventually kind of had a critical mass of stuff that I found out, and then I kept the scale of it hyperlocal in very small. And I think it actually had more impact that way because I think everybody at that moment, when something went online, people nationally were all saying, "Yeah I think that's happening here where I am too."

So it was an interesting moment I think to do something that was very very local that resonated with people in all different parts of the country.

ALEX CHAMBERS: And you started with restaurants but then you also moved to looking at Farmers Markets? 

LAURA REILEY: I was from northern California and moved to Florida and wondered why the farmers markets had no farmers at them, that was a mysterious development in that it was clear they were a lot of outdoor markets, and I hate to even calling farmers markets, outdoor markets where in Florida you could buy apples and asparagus and things that flagrantly don't grow in the state of Florida. And I kind of thought well this is another area where I don't know if they're doing anything illegal or really even immoral, but it certainly seems in poor taste to have a reseller kiosk right next to a legitimate small-scale farmer who is struggling and doing all the delivery and marketing and all the things himself. It seems like a surefire way to get to kill off a lot of small farmers.

So for that part of the story I would basically, I used to the wonderful world of Facebook. So I would go to these people's Facebook pages, figure out where their farm was and just drive there on a Sunday morning and surprise them. Basically me and a photographer would show up at people's front doors and they'd be in their pajamas, and we'd say, "Hey we tried to call, we're just here to see your animals. We wanna meet your chickens." 

Or whatever it was, and half the time people were happy to have (us). Most farmers are like, "Come on in! I'm in my pajamas but you're welcome to see my chickens!" And half of them mysteriously didn't have anything planted, or were "in transition" with the farm, that kind of thing. So it was a pretty mixed bag. 

ALEX CHAMBERS: So where is this coming from?

LAURA REILEY: Well I think first of all there are more and more people all the time that are interested in the prominence of their food, and some of that is because they want to be gourmands, and fresh local food tastes better, it travels shorter distances. Some people it's very fear based, people want to understand the origins of their food because they're afraid of what that you could do to them. Sometimes it's people want to keep the money in the local economy. There are a lot of different ways that people get to this idea of wanting local or sustainable food.

And it's certainly easier to tell someone you're doing it than to actually do it. And I think he's still having a structure in terms of policing at the local, state, or federal level to really crack down on fraud.

ALEX CHAMBERS: So about the policing, what can we do about this? You've said consumers need to make more of an effort, push harder at farmers markets I think, at restaurants, to ask about where their food is coming from. It seems like wouldn't it be better to have more regulators?

LAURA REILEY: Well any change either happens bottom up or top down, right? And it's a situation in this case where both could potentially be effective. If we kind of demand that legislators take a look at some of this stuff, that is one avenue, and I'll tell you in the state of Florida I went to the commissioner of agriculture and told him about this problem, and said, "This is serious, what are you going to do about it?" 

And he was utterly unruffled by the prospect of people misrepresenting at farmer's markets. This is a guy who wanted to be governor, and has a long history, many generations in ag in Florida, so has a vested interest in Florida farmers. And that's kind of always been part of his platform. But for him it was more important to get farmers markets, well let's just call them outdoor markets, in places that were food desserts to get wholesome food into those places was more important than to drill down on "Are they farmers or are they resellers?" And I get that, I totally understand that, and I think that's a totally legitimate argument, he had other fish to fry.

But I think there are other subtle ways of demanding change. For instance the state of Florida has about forty seafood festivals every year. These are huge draws, huge tourist draws. A hundred forty thousand people come to a town of 20,000 people to go to these festivals. Well I did another story kind of in this series on that phenomenon, and you know these kiosks, or these kinds of vendors, the front will say Florida Grouper sandwich $9. Or Florida Shrimp Po Boy etcetera etcetera. All you have to do is walk around to the back of the kiosk and there's stacks of boxes of like Vietnamese shrimp, and Southeast Asian Basa which is like kind of a bottom feeder fish that is frequently substituted for expensive fish like grouper. It would have been easy to bust these people.

Consumers have to exert pressure on whatever bodies do you govern those kinds of things, obviously at the federal level it's FDA, USDA. But there are state officials, state inspectors that should oversee those kinds of things. They should be more concerned about that than they are.

ALEX CHAMBERS: Have you seen changes happening since... so the articles came out two years ago, have you seen ripple effects from them?

LAURA REILEY: Yeah, our state attorney general took a real interest in this. She did initiate this investigation and there were there has been some kind of token effort to make people accountable. But I think in any industry liars will be liars. And so they will amend their behavior fleetingly. One of the restaurants that kind of was the most egregious perpetrator in the series that I did, they hired someone to be their forager, their kind of farmer liaison. And this young woman was essentially just doing PR, but kind of trumpeting the farmers and that kind of thing. And they promptly fired her as soon as they felt like the heat was off of them. 

So I think also restaurants in particular, that they operate with such narrow margins that there are times where it's just really hard to do the right thing and it's so tempting to hedge, or greenwash a little bit, or buy a lot of Sysco stuff and then kind of finish off over the top with some microgreens from down the street. So it's very hard to do the right thing, especially if you're talking about a place where there's real seasonal change, because consumers don't know what's in season.

We had an Olive Garden commercial recently in the State of Florida, that was talking about local gulf seafood and the picture on the ad was a salmon that does not in any way grow... you cannot find a salmon in the Gulf of Mexico! That reflects that people don't know and it's easy to pull the wool over our eyes.

ALEX CHAMBERS: Has doing this investigative project, you were a food critic, you've been a food critic, did doing that investigative project change how you approach your writing? 

LAURA REILEY:100% because I felt I was part of the problem. I was blithely parroting back lies that people were telling me in my reviews. And so now I am much more skeptical, and I also frequently say, "Prove it" if people make claims.

I recently did a review of a restaurant, that is another restaurant from one of the chief perpetrators in the series. And they told me about this deal they had with this cattle rancher in Florida, and that they were basically raising cattle, whole life cycle and not corn finished etcetera for this restaurant. And I absolutely was not going to write this down until I had proof. So I had to independently find out whether they were making up tall tales. And in fact that it was completely valid, but I increasingly feel like that's part of the job.

You know food critics, there aren't that many of us left it at major U.S. Dailies. Newspapers are under critically hard times and lots of financial pressures and it's a job that's largely gone away, but the ones that are left are beats a change and there's a lot more investigative work and Metro work, and even just kind of consumer journalism that we all do. It's not so much just thumbs up, thumbs down I think now.

KAYTE YOUNG: After producing this investigative series Laura Reiley decided to reveal her identity publicly, instead of trying to stay undercover as many food critics do. Alex asked her how this changed her work.

LAURA REILEY: It definitely has allowed me to do some bigger stories, and some more deep divey stories where you're kind of immersed. 

Earlier this year I did a project on Florida Oyster aquaculture. So Florida wild oysters have been really decimated and the short reason for that is that the salinity of that body of water has increased dramatically in recent years. And the oysters can hack it, they're pretty sturdy beasts, but it has meant that the predators that come in from the Gulf of Mexico now can do it 12 months out of the year and it's just a buffet. So the wild oysters have been completely decimated. 

So they're all this oysterman who are essentially on the dool waiting for something to turn around that's probably never going to turn around. So meanwhile all these young people, all of these millennials with like marine biology degrees, are like let's do oyster aquaculture at the top of the of the water column. So all the apparatus sits up high, the predators can't get to it, and you can pull it in and out. It's the difference between hunting and farming though. It comes with a lot of ideological differences, and this kind of Crips and Bloods kind of mutual distrust kind of things. So I love those stories where it's about disruptive technology and the culture that inters to see this happen, kind of where the old meets the new. 

So I did the story in Apalachicola Bay with this young guy whose family has been fourth generation oyster tongers from Apalachicola Bay and he's having to go into the next county, cause he can't do it there. So he goes into the next county and is doing top of the water column oyster aquaculture, and he's a little bit of a pariah, amongst his kind of longtime family and friends. So it's those kinds of stories that are just much harder to do if you're if your kind of worried about who knows you.

ALEX CHAMBERS: Thanks so much for being here.

LAURA REILEY: Thanks for having me.

KAYTE YOUNG: Laura Reiley served as food critic for the Tampa Bay times for nearly 11 years. Her award-winning Farm to Fable series let the nominations for a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, and a James Beard award. She was a finalist for both in 2017. She left the Tampa Bay Times in 2019 for a position at the Washington Post. Find links to her work on our website, 

Stay tuned for more Earth Eats after a short break, I've got a simple, yet delightful apricot recipe and Susan Mintert takes us on an Indiana wine tour. All that and more just ahead, so stay with us.

(Banjo music) 

(News music)

Kayte Young here, you're listening to Earth Eats. Across the country, feral hogs are causing big problems. It's estimated they cause more than 2.5 billion dollars in damages each year when they root up land and crops. And the wild pig population is continuing to grow. While some states encourage hunting, others have come up with a surprising way to control the population. Harvest Public Media's Seth Bodine reports.

SETH BODINE: It's estimated that there more than 6 million feral hogs across the country and they can be huge, weighing up to 200 lb. - about the same as a great dane. The damage they cause can be extensive. 

DYLAN SCHOONOVER: It's a menace. They do nothing to but tear up your property.

SETH BODINE: That's Dylan Schoonover, a hunting guide at Hog Wild Preserve in Purcell Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of the states that still encourages hunting to help control the population. On a rainy-day Schoonover is leading Todd Kissinger on a hunt after zigzagging through the woods for more than an hour they see a group of hogs, and he starts to make oinking noises to lure them closer.

DYLAN SCHOONOVER: [Whispering] I told you there's a bunch of pigs in here.

(Hogs snorting)

SETH BODINE: Kissinger came here from Kansas just for this hunt. As a farmer and rancher in Mulvane Kansas he understands how damaging some wildlife can be.

TODD KISSINGER: We have huge flocks of geese that come in our wheat fields, and they will mow it down. I mean they will just eat it down to the bare dirt. So I can only imagine what a bunch of hogs will do, when that's what their deal is to do 24/7 to eat, root, and tear up.

SETH BODINE: But allowing hunting can be a double-edged sword. Dale Nolte heads the USDA's feral swine program, one of the problems is that people bring in hogs to make it easier to hunt. 

DALE NOLTE: One of the big struggles we have is what seems to be a constant release of animals back into areas where they've been removed, or into new areas.

SETH BODINE: Nolte says he has no problem with someone shooting a feral hog, but when they're released to encourage hunting, those hogs can destroy a lot of land. They can also be a health risk.

DALE NOLTE: Feral swine carry a number of zoonotic diseases which are detrimental to humans. I mean swine brucellosis, hepatitis, we're finding leptospirosis in about 50-60% of the feral swine in some areas. There's a definite hazard out there.

SETH BODINE: Instead of hunting the USDA is luring them into of big traps or shooting them from helicopters, both of which the department considers better options. In the Midwest, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska already have a range of restrictions on hunting feral hogs. Sam Wilson with the Nebraska Games and Parks Commission says when you allow hunting, it's actually harder to control the population.

SAM WILSON: The law seems counterintuitive at first because we're prohibiting people from hunting feral hogs, however if you know anything about hunting and hunting culture, often the people who hunt deer for instance are interested in having good deer population.

SETH BODINE: The 2018 Farm bill created funds for wildlife services to address hog problem areas. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation started restricting hunting in those areas, but Eric Cowan who works for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Oklahoma says he runs into roadblocks trying to trap hogs on private land.

ERIC COWAN: We've gotta have their permission, and there's a lot of people that won't give us the us the permission to work on their property.

SETH BODINE: While states with growing wild hog populations are adding more restrictions, others like Texas and Oklahoma are still embracing the hunting of feral hogs, and hunting guides like Schoonover insist that they're helping control the hogs.

DLYAN SCHOONOVER: Just like a manager of a company manages the company, and employees are employees. We manage the populations, and in turn we get to eat awesome, awesome meat.

SETH BODINE: But guys like Schoonover might have a had time finding a place to hunt as more and more states embrace hunting bans as a way to control populations. Seth Bodine, Harvest Public Media.

(News Music)

KAYTE YOUNG: Harvest Public Media is reporting cooperative covering the food and farming in the Heartland. Find more at


(Funky music)

KAYTE YOUNG: Normally I don't share my own recipes here on Earth Eats, but I'm making an exception this time. This recipe is simple and delightfully suited to summer, and I want you to try it. So here goes.

I'm going to start with two ripe apricots, if yours aren't perfectly ripe I think it's better to slightly under ripe rather than overripe, you want them to be pretty farm. And then you're going to want to pit these and slice them thinly. 

Next you want a medium sized fennel bulb, if you're not familiar with this ingredient it's basically the wide stalks at the base of a fennel plant. And this variety of fennel is grown specifically for its bulb rather than for its seed that is often used as a seasoning. The fennel bulb is similar to celery or to like a napa cabbage stalk in terms of its texture, the flavor is much milder than fennel seed but still carries that subtle hint of licorice. So you want to cut off that rough end of the fennel bulb, and cut the bulb in half, and remove the core with a knife. Then using a mandolin or sharp knife slice the fennel bulb as thinly as possible. Don't go all the way up into that upper stem part of the plant, just the main body of the bulb.

Combine that with the apricot and then cut a quarter of a small onion into small chunks with cubes. It would be fine to also use a sweet onion or even a shallot here, just use whatever you have. Next take a small jalapeno or a quarter of a large one, remove the seeds and finely dice it. Toss that in with everything else.

Sprinkle the whole thing generously with salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Add a teaspoon or more of fresh lime or lemon juice, and if you don't have that try a splash of rice vinegar or white wine vinegar would also work. Drizzle with olive oil and gently toss to combine. Serve this salad immediately while it's still crisp. This is not one where you want to let it marinate. Be sure to garnish it with a few of those feathery fennel fronds.

This salad is light, fresh, surprising, and bright. You get the sweetness from the apricot and the fennel also has some sweetness, than you cut the start of the onion, and a little of that acidity from the lemon or the vinegar. And then you've got this surprising little kick from the jalapeno. It's really nice. Those in my family that tasted the salad declared it brilliant. I hope you do too. Let me know if you try it. You can easily get in touch by emailing

I love the intensity and the softness of apricots in this salad but if fresh peaches are easier to get your hands on, by all means you can use peaches.


(Jazz music)

Summer weekends are the perfect time to visit some of the nearly 100 wineries throughout Indiana. As Susan Mintert discovered the state's signature wine traminette is an ideal wine to sample and compare as you traverse the Hoosier State.

SUSAN MINTERT: You could say traminette is the perfect companion to summertime in Indiana - a hybrid of the German gewurztraminer and the french Joannes Seyve, traminette is All-American developed decades ago by researchers at the University of Illinois and Cornell University. 

It's well adapted to Indiana, and traminette wines take on a variety of characteristics depending on the grapes' growing conditions and the winemaker's style. I sat down recently with Meredith Easely of Easley Winery in Indianapolis and Tom England of Ivy Tech's culinary arts program to learn more about the range of styles our Indiana winemakers produce with traminette.

MEREDITH EASELY: People often ask us when they're always trying to identify what is traminette, where does it fall in my current wine knowledge. And I always say, "Well have you had a sauvignon blanc?" 

and they'll say, "Yes I'm familiar sauvignon blanc."

I'll say, "Have you had a Riesling?" 

And they're like, "Well yeah, yeah I know what a Riesling is."

Those are both white wines as is traminette. And if you look at kind of what's in the middle when you look at it from an acidity standpoint, and from a fruit standpoint with some of that citrus there there's no wrong answer what you perceive in a wine is absolutely there, but we always welcome it that when folks are at our wine bar sampling, or we're at festivals introducing the traminette, or even with different chefs who've never been introduced to traminette, we like say, "What do you notice?" First it is about the aromatics, and just swirl that glass let those aromas unlock and climb out and see what's there.Wine is just so much fun and it's still a mystery in so many ways, but all of these things are factors.

TOM ENGLAND: Interesting thing is, and you mentioned this, is there is a big color difference from these. Partly it has to do with the age, two of them are 2016, and 2018. So the older wine gets, the darker it's going to get. So we see that number one with a color in there, but it also has a lot to do with the winemaking process and how they treat those grapes. 

The first one is aged a little longer on the leaves, on the trellis, and it's created this almost creamy texture to it and notes to it. Although the acid is what you would expect from a traminette, it's nice crisp acid in this, even though it doesn't have any sugar it's cleansing, this would be a great starter type wine that you could have with shellfish, or even a little shrimp cocktail just starting out for a meal. And that clean acid will clean your palette and get you ready for the rest of the meal.

SUSAN MINTERT: So what about the next one?

TOM ENGLAND: Yeah the next one is really light in color and it's a 2018 I believe, so it's younger and shows that younger color. I like how the honeysuckle comes out in this. The sweetness is just a little bit, it's only 1% sugar, so a lot of people can't even detect the sugar in that. And this is a great example of what you can do here with traminette is do these really light crisp white wines and then build up to semi sweets and even sweets. So we see these first two are what I would say are dry wines, or crisp great starters to a meal, or even drinking on their own. They're a great start to a reception even. 

MEREDITH EASELY: I just love the fruity and flora characteristics of all these. They smell so pretty.

TOM ENGLAND: They are very floral, and I think rose even is gonna come out of this, a carnation. And this again comes from that lineage of gewurztraminer and how that grape brought over into the traminette, those grape floral flavors. The Easley traminette, the third one, this is my go-to summer wine.


TOM ENGLAND: I do! I have a case of it and after a hot day in the sun you want something to drink, this cold is great way to refresh and after that it's great with foods, it's great with smoked meats.

MEREDITH EASELY: I'll tell you what, pad thai is a great staple in our house, this goes great with pad thai. And I’m just really proud of when I'm sampling here from the different Indiana wineries and their traminette, and you talk about making a traminette run across the state, you definitely could go from winery to winery, from the north to the south, and say, "Hi can I try your traminette?" and get a really good sense of the different growing conditions, and the different wine making styles, and I'm just really excited. Let's do a road trip.

SUSAN MINTERT: Right, I know. So let's try the last one here, the sweetest of the four.

TOM ENGLAND: And it's not sweet by any means, I mean this still is maybe 3 or 4 % sugar.

SUSAN MINTERT: There's just subtle differences from wine to wine that we've got set in front of us.

TOM ENGLAND: When I taste that last one from Butler, I get this almost iced tea kind of a feel, like peach ice tea to it.

MEREDITH EASELY: Yeah I could see that. 

SUSAN MINTERT: So this is the Butler 2018 traminette. 

MEREDITH EASELY: And I think this one just won a big award at the International.

SUSAN MINTERT: It did, it was traminette of the year, at the...

MEREDITH EASELY: So the folks at Butler, nicely done. 

SUSAN MINTERT: All four wines we sampled were from award winning Indiana Wineries, Easely, Country Heritage near Fort Wayne, Tunny Winery in Muncy and Butler Winery in Bloomington winner of Traminette of the year at the 2019 international wine competition. Meredith Easely is with Easely winery in Indianapolis, and Tom England is a certified executive chef with Ivy Tech's culinary arts program. For Earth Eats, I'm Susan Mintert.

KAYTE YOUNG: That story comes to us from Susan Mintert at Indiana Home Cooks. Find more at

(Calm jazz music)
(Earth Eats theme) 
That's it for our show this week, thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time. 

RENEE REED: The Earth Eats team includes Eobon Binder, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Abraham Hill, Payton Knobeloch, Josephine McRobbie, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. 
KAYTE YOUNG: Special thanks this week to Laura Reiley, Alex Chambers, and Susan Mintert
RENEE REED: Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artist at Universal Productions Music. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.

A woman handing money to another woman at a farm stand with asparagus in view

When Laura Reiley saw ‘local asparagus’ offered in open-air markets in Florida, she knew something was wrong. Asparagus crops need cold weather to thrive. (Peter Moore/flickr)

“I didn’t have an investigative team, I didn’t have a data team and all the things that people now have at newspapers, and I mostly bumbled my way through with dumpster diving and getting moles in kitchens to feed me invoices and that kind of thing. “

This week on the show, a conversation with Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reily about her groundbreaking work exposing fraudulent claims in the world of Farm to Table dining.

We give that 2019 interview a second listen, Harvest Public Media shares a story about lavender farmers in the Midwest and one about destructive wild hogs.

Josephine McRobbie brings a story about the potential virtues of kudzu, Kayte shares a simple apricot fennel salad recipe and Susan Mintert of Indiana Home Cooks takes us on an Indiana wine tour, celebrating Traminette


Laura Reiley served as food critic for the Tampa Bay Times for nearly 11 years. She recently revealed her identity, after years of being undercover, as many food critics are.

Her award-winning “Farm to Fable” series led to nominations for a Pulitzer Prize for criticism and a James Beard Award. She was a finalist for both in 2017.

In 2019, Reiley left the Tampa Bay Times for a position with the Washington Post.

Music on this Episode

The Earth Eats’ theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Aditional music on the show comes to us from the artists at Universal Production Music.

Stories On This Episode

Kayte's Apricot Fennel Salad

apricot and fennel salad on a white plate with fennel frond garnish

This salad not only tastes like summer, it looks like summer, too.

Cooking With Kudzu: Experimental Permaculture Collective “Eats The Vine That Ate The South”

Woman holding large Kudzu root

As Kudzu creeps further north, One DIY permaculture collective is exploring new ways to use, rather than simply erase, this stubborn plant.

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Harvest Public Media