Hot Farm
Part 1: Change is hard

More than 30 years ago, after a drought wiped out his commodity crops, Dave Bishop changed the way he farmed. It was 1988, the same summer that a scientist named James Hansen told Congress that human activity was causing “global warming,” unofficially launching the climate-change era. While Bishop’s neighbors vowed that next year would be better, Bishop decided that he couldn’t go on doing the same thing. He started diversifying the crops he grew and replacing chemical fertilizer with manure. Over the next decade he kept asking himself, “What else can I do?” He began selling what he grew directly to consumers—something virtually unheard of in farm country back then. He didn’t consider what he was doing a crusade against climate change, but rather a way to break free of a system that was squeezing farmers from both ends—forcing them to grow only a handful of commodity crops and sell those crops to a handful of big buyers who set the prices. In this episode, producer Eve Abrams uses Bishop’s story to explore what some farmers in the Midwest are doing to combat climate change—from cover cropping to agroforestry. We need more Dave Bishops if we are going to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions coming from U.S. agriculture. But as Abrams makes clear, change is hard. “Once you have an entrenched system the resistance to change is unbelievable,” Bishop tells her.

Show Notes by Eve Abrams

Main character:

  • Dave Bishop of PrairiErth farm in Atlanta, Illinois.  His farm is now run by his son, Hans Bishop and daughter in law, Katie Bishop.

Other farmers:

  • Jeff and Dan Bonnacker – father and son farmers in Cedar Hill, Missouri.  They farm soy, corn, cattle, and cover crops at Windy Hill and Big River Grain and Cattle farms.
  • Nikki Morgan of HeartBeet Farms in Eolia, Missouri farms a wide variety of vegetables with her wife, Katie HochStedler, and parents, Beth and Daryl Morgan have. HeartBeet Farm is certified Naturally Grown.
  • Ben Brownlow of Fox Holler Farmstead in Rutledge, Missouri raises pigs, chickens, goats, turkeys, cows, and trees.  Ben writes a wonderful blog about what he’s doing with the land.

You also hear from farmers:

  • Paul Krautman of Bellews Creek Farm near Hillsboro, Missouri.
  • Serena Cochrane of Stuart Farm in Gerald, Missouri.
  • Tom Martin is a corn and soybeans farmer at Martin Agricultural Enterprises.
  • John and Jim White farm corn, soybeans, and a small amount of organic corn and soybeans at White Farm.
  • I had incredible help in finding many of these farmers from Known and Grown, which is part of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

Read a transcript of Hot Farm episode one.

Additional Reading:

  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michaell Pollan
  • Our Margin of Life, by Eugene M. Poirot (Paul Krautman’s grandpa!)
  • Lentil Underground, by Liz Carlisle (many farmers I talked with mentioned this book!)
  • Ben Brownlow’s blog