Margaret Kuchenreuther discusses how a special combination of soil type, precipitation and animals life worked together to form and sustain prairie. Kuchenreuther explains the prairie ecology and how natural forces, such as fire, contribute to its health.
It was a mechanics cracked winter-chapped hands that inspired Cliff Larson to develop a soy-bean based lotion. The mechanic, who worked at the soybean processing plant Larson co-owns, noticed his hands healed after a few days of working on the soy-oil coated machinery. Larson profits from the sale of the lotion, while processing it has raised the demand and the commodity price for soybeans, which helps local farmers.
General Manager, Chippewa Valley Ethonal Co.
Ethanol is Minnesota's most well-known value added product. Bill Lee explains how ethanol plants improve local economies by creating jobs in rural communities and additional markets for corn. Because it is biodegradable and burns cleanly, it also has environmental benefits.
Only about one-percent of the soil's world wide are more fertile than those in the Minnesota River Valley, but forces such as erosion threaten them. Mike Lindstrom explains wind, water and tillage erosion and how they reduce soil fertility. He discusses some potential solutions and the future of the Minnesota River Valley.
Director, Rivers Council of Minnesota
Barb Liukkonen believes a good way to improve river health is to provide the public with the scientific know-how to explore problems facing their rivers. The rivers council of Minnesota gives volunteers opportunities to improve river health so that they can make educated decisions about the river's future.
CURE, which stands for Clean Up Our River Environment, is an organization dedicated to educating the public about river health and ecology. Lynn Lokken plans events that give people an opportunity to explore the river. She hopes their experiences with the river will cause them to get involved with issues that affect the river environment.
Episodes One and Six
Joe Magner describes how the conversion of prairie to crop land affected the waterways. As farmers began to drain prairie potholes and small streams in order to grow crops, water flow into rivers such as the Minnesota increased, which changed the shape, depth and water quality of the rivers.
Director, Rural Mental Health
Ted Matthews deals with the human side of falling commodity prices. As farmers struggle to remain economically viable and rural communities grow smaller, farmers and their families are beginning to experience many problems associated with stress. Matthews discusses the issues facing farmers and how they are impacting mental health.
VP Institute for Local Self Reliance
David Morris believes that one of the best ways to strengthen the farming economy would be to return to a "carbohydrate economy," which means our fuels and industrial materials would be made from plant matter. Morris describes how such an economy would benefit farmers and rural communities by increasing the demand for raw commodities and keeping the dollars spent in a rural community local.
Craig Murphy, an organic farmer from Hancock Minnesota, describes how he controls weeds and pests and maintains soil fertility using mechanical and natural means. His decision to farm organically stems from his discomfort with chemicals, a belief that organic farming is better stewardship of the earth, and his sense that organic farming, because it would open up new markets, would make his farm economically viable.
Stan Musielewicz works with area farmers to develop a soil conservation plan that will work within their goals. He describes how no or low- till farming is an effective way to conserve soil and how it will benefit our environment and the farming economy.
Professor of History (Retired from Southwest State University)
David Nass describes how the American farm changed since the turn of the century as mechanization enabled farmers to produce more food with less labor. Twentieth Century farms evolved from diversified and self-sufficient to increasingly specialized systems, and more people, particularly young people, began to leave rural areas from jobs in cities.
Former Director of Economic Dev., Lincoln County
"Harvesting the Wind" is the slogan Jim Nichols uses when talking about the use of environmentally friendly wind powered turbines on the Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota. The implementation of over 200 wind-powered turbines, that sprout out of the prairie landscape like giant wildflowers, can generate enough electricity to supply the entire state of California.
Paul Porter describes the evolution of the corn and soybean economy in the Minnesota River Valley, and the challenges facing it. Corn and soybeans are growing increasingly resistant to pests and diseases that are lowering yields, and the growth cycles of these two crops grow leave soil open to erosion, yet farmers in the region find it difficult to grow other crops.