News / USA

Wheat Field Sprouts in Downtown Washington

Farmers mount a campaign to teach Americans where their food comes from

The National Association of Wheat Growers brought a wheat field to Washington as part of a campaign to convince policymakers to rethink environmental regulations.
The National Association of Wheat Growers brought a wheat field to Washington as part of a campaign to convince policymakers to rethink environmental regulations.

Multimedia

Audio

For two days this fall, a wheat field grew in Washington, D.C.

It was part of an effort by wheat farmers and food makers' trade groups to educate Americans on where their food comes from.

But some saw it as a public-relations move to counter popular movies and books that blame farmers for damaging the environment and endangering health.

On a closed-off street at the foot of Capitol Hill, workers hauled in containers with wheat plants in each stage of the life cycle — from grassy young sprouts to green-headed shoots to amber waves of grain ready for harvest. The mobile wheat field filled about quarter-block of a D.C. street.

Farm-to-fork

There was a grain mill that grinds the wheat into flour. There were supermarket shelves full of bread, cereal, and other wheat foods. And a chef was on hand to show visiting groups of schoolkids how wheat becomes cupcakes.

The idea of a two-day wheat field was a bit puzzling to Hearst Elementary School fifth grader Alyssa Campbell.

"I was, like, 'That's impossible! Wheat fields are in the ground!' And so I was really wondering how wheat fields could move, because they're not alive and they don't have legs."

School groups came for a fun field trip. But the event carried a serious message, said Jerry McReynolds, a Kansas wheat farmer and president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. He said the exhibit is important because Americans don't know enough about where their food comes from.

"All we can do is give some education and try to help them understand that it's a process. It doesn't just happen. You don't just go to the store and it's magically there," he said.

A chef was on hand to show visiting groups of school children how wheat becomes cupcakes.
A chef was on hand to show visiting groups of school children how wheat becomes cupcakes.

Educating lawmakers

According to McReynolds, school children are not the only ones who need a lesson on where their food comes from. Policymakers writing environmental regulations have lost track, too, he said.

"We wouldn't do anything to harm the environment," McReynolds noted, "but when there's undue regulations that cost us either financially, or makes it impossible to meet those regulations — that may have to do with water, or dust, or spray or any of those types of things — it just drives agriculture away."

He said if lawmakers and regulators understood agriculture better, they would not make rules that threaten American farmers' ability to raise food for the nation and the world.

Overblown

But environmentalists say farmers' complaints about over-regulation are overblown.

Containers of wheat plants at various stages of the life cycle formed a mobile wheat field that covered a quarter-block of a DC street.
Containers of wheat plants at various stages of the life cycle formed a mobile wheat field that covered a quarter-block of a DC street.

For example, "They have exemptions under the Clean Water Act," said Don Carr, a spokesman for the non-profit Environmental Working Group. "Agriculture is the biggest contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico — you've got all this farm runoff that's coming from the Mississippi River basin. That's not regulated."

Carr said events like this one are the farmers' response to popular movies such as "Food, Inc." and books including "The Omnivore's Dilemma" that criticize their practices.

He added that not everyone who learns more about modern food production comes to the same conclusion.

"The more they learn about some of the environmental perils of some of the agricultural practices that we engage in, the more they've made their voices heard, which makes these [public relations] campaigns needed by the big growers," he said.

And while fifth grader Alyssa Campell is too young to vote, her father is not. The fate of rules and regulations governing how farmers raise our food and protect our environment rest in the hands of his elected officials — just up the street on Capitol Hill.

You May Like

Somalia: No Popular Elections in 2016

In interview Wednesday with VOA, President Mohamud says 'one person, one vote' elections will not be possible due to continuing insecurity More

Scientists Predict Climate Change Will Increase Child Malnutrition

Public health expert in Germany says that by 2050, 25 million more children's lives will be put at risk because of lack of nutrients tied to climate change More

Erdogan in China Amid Tensions on Uighurs, Missile System

Turkey's president has criticized China's heavy-handed policies toward Uighurs in violence-plagued Xinjiang region, where China says it is fighting foreign-backed separatists More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs