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.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora