Heartland celebrates the world of our Nation’s agricultural landscape by profiling the people, places, and processes that bring food, fiber, and fuel from farm and ranch to American consumers. First, a historical overview of our agrarian roots, followed by a visit to a South Dakota farm family who have farmed the original homestead for 120 years. The show travels to New Hampshire to review the Old Farmer’s Almanac; and we see a Midwest icon up close – the Corn Palace, and then travel to find the origin of sweet Georgia carrots.
Heartland visits New England to see a master syrup maker demonstrate how the process of turning sap into syrup hasn’t changed much in over a hundred years, and then moves to the far west to discover how a community of Basque sheepherders maintain the farming techniques and culture of their ancestral home in Spain. A visit to Louisana, and the historic Loyd Hall, a beautifully preserved mansion and a symbol of plantation agriculture. Then, to the dry environs of Yuma, Arizona to see lush fields of iceberg lettuce and pick up preparation tips from noted chefs. Finally, it’s time for the “Schmeckfest” – an annual celebration of food and art in tiny Freeman, South Dakota.
A look at the growing soybean biofuel industry in Pennsylvania, and how farmers there are using their harvest to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Then, to Babcock Ranch in Florida, where an ancient breed of livestock known as ‘cracker cattle’ are raised along with alligators. Some of the world’s finest bourbon comes from Kentucky corn, and we go inside the Maker’s Mark distillery to see why. Peanuts are one of Georgia’s most important crops, and Heartland travels to the farm that grew a President, Jimmy Carter. Finally, a profile of an organic farm Massachusetts for proof that stress-free, well-fed hens produce superior eggs.
Episode four includes some of the “biggest” stories in American farming: the King Ranch of Texas, the Iowa corn harvest, and the country’s largest rainbow trout farm (in Idaho). Paul Ryan begins with a visit to the historic King Ranch occupying more than 800,000 acres in South Texas. Its legend is told through the experiences of cowboys who have ridden its vast stretches for decades. Viewers get glimpses of the King family photo album back to the days of founder Captain King as well as the Texas Longhorn cattle he helped introduce to the American diet and to the legend of the Old West. Jason Shoultz follows with a report from Iowa as the state prepares to reap one of the Heartland’s biggest crops: corn. But the focus is on the early harvest of “sweet” corn – the kind even Iowans love on their late summer dinner plates. Shoultz follows a farm family who made the switch from growing soybeans and field corn to perfecting the delivery of farm-fresh sweet corn to neighbors and grocers. Along the banks of Idaho’s Snake River near Twin Falls is Clear Springs Foods, the country’s largest and one of its oldest rainbow trout farms. The restaurant and market delicacy needs the pristine water of the Snake River and environs to live; the farm takes pride in raising its fish in water even purer than the river itself – underground springs that literally spout from canyon walls. Paul Ryan introduces viewers to the process of trout farming from spawning to shipping. Correspondent Craig Miller visits to California to witness the use of a new technology –GPS – to solve an old problem: tracking cows Finally, Jason Shoultz revisits Kentucky for a lighthearted peek into the “Colonel’s” world: the Kentucky Fried Chicken Museum and the restaurant that started it all.
Episode five continues Heartland’s exploration of America’s organic farms and farming with a visit to MaryJane’s Farm in northern Idaho. Paul Ryan reports on how with her new book and successful, self-published magazine, MaryJane Butters is rapidly becoming known as the “Martha Stewart of organic farming” and a widely known champion of a simple, self-reliant lifestyle. Viewers witness a summertime celebration at her farm that brings together artisans, musicians, and passionate fans of MaryJane, with an intimate chat with Butters herself. The rich, troubled history of the Creole farmers of old Louisiana is explored in Jason Shoultz’ report from Natchitoches. The Creoles were central to an agricultural area established even before New Orleans; among them was the state’s first cotton farmer. Direct descendants tell the story and viewers get a tour of the historic Melrose Plantation house. From Ohio, Pat McConahay reports on the production of some of America’s finest Swiss cheese at a business in which the local Amish community plays a central role. In the fourth segment, Jason Shoultz returns with a look at the careful breeding of Kentucky’s thoroughbred horses, and a visit to a park that has become a public showcase for the unique farm culture and history surrounding these legendary animals. Pat McConahay closes the program with a visit to a Texas farm family that specializes in one unusual but versatile crop: Aloe Vera. Viewers learn the secrets of cultivating aloe for harvest of the jelly-like fluid that’s used in everything from popular stomach remedies to serious burn treatments.
Episode 6 opens with Pat McConahay’s visit in Pennsylvania with a man who once made his living demolishing old barns, but now devoted his life to saving them. Viewers learn about traditional barn construction and the intricacies of restoring old barns from the ravages of work and weather. Heartland then moves northeast to Gloucester, Massachusetts with Paul Ryan’s visit with descendants of the hard-working, hard-living Gloucester fisherman. It’s the story of generations of men and women sailing hundreds of miles into the dangerous North Atlantic to earn a living, and the stories and legacy they left behind. A modern Gloucester fisherman tells of the respect he feels for his predecessors and the challenges and freedom of the work. Jason Shoultz heads back out to the Midwest and Illinois to visit Muller’s Farm – an 11-acre family farm operating in much the same way family farms did more than a century ago; that is, mostly by horse and hand power. Shoultz discovers why the young owners left prosperous jobs to take up this difficult challenge, and why they’re committed to teaching their children the same self-reliance they’ve taught themselves. Along the way, viewers get an authentic portrait of 19 th century Midwest farm life. Life in the Heartland is about innovation and the time-honored philosophy of having the right tool for the job. A visit to the John Deere factory in Illinois shows viewers the making of the complex equipment that helps keep American farmers productive. The factory’s centerpiece is a fascinating high-tech combine featuring everything from air conditioning to stereo sound to GPS navigation. And viewers meet the third generation of one Kentucky family that’s in the grain milling business – using the same equipment their ancestors did more than a century ago.
The Montana rancher is a storied icon of western agriculture. In Jason Shoultz’ opening segment, we meet a modern Montana cattle breeder who mixes the rough-and-ready lifestyle with science to build a better stock. His story illustrates why even on a successful family-run farm, everyone must pitch in to make ands meet. Few spectacles in American agriculture can match the energy and color of a genuine Wyoming cattle auction. Heartland viewers meets some men who have developed the skill of calling an auction into a fine art, and witness some of the region’s finest livestock going to the highest bidders at prices in the tens of thousands of dollars. Jason Shoultz travels to central Louisiana to report on a crayfish farm, packing, and sales firm operated by just one couple. They demonstrate why a farmed crayfish may be a superior product to its wild relative, and share the secret of preparing the creatures perfectly. In addition, viewers learn the challenge of running a farm by day – and fulfilling hundreds of customers’ orders by internet at night. Some Midwest farmers are learning that their most lucrative “crop” might be… tourists. Paul Ryan introduces viewers to an Illinois couple who imported a small herd of reindeer to their ranch, which in turn are attracting visitors by the busload. It’s another example of how agritourism is taking root in the Heartland. Finally, from New Bedford, Massachusetts comes some of the America’s tastiest specialty foods and produce, thanks to Sid Wainer & Co. Pat McConahay explores a family business that looks for the best of the best in produce throughout the Heartland to create best-selling products for gourmet kitchens across the land.
Two of the largest and most important crops in Montana are wheat and barley. Host Paul Ryan takes us to the heart of Big Sky country to meet a family that has harvested the grains for decades, but stands at a crossroads now as the youngest generation decides whether to stay with the farm or move on to other pursuits. America’s favorite upscale seafood dish is the genuine Maine lobster. The storied Downeast Maine lobsterman may be an icon, but the task of bringing the crustaceans in from the coastal North Atlantic is fraught with a growing number of challenges. Pat McConahay visits Maine for the story. A lesser-known crop growing in the heart of Nebraska is simply… grass. Viewers learn how one farmer has turned turf into a lucrative nationwide business, and why Nebraska is the right place to be home-based. In south Texas, one crop can often be located by pillars of smoke dotting the horizon. Sugar cane is making a comeback in the region. Pat McConahay shows viewers why farming it is so labor-intensive, and why fire is a critical part of the harvest. In addition, local scientists work with the sugar crop in a novel way to experiment with substances that may one day lead to a cure for some of our most serious afflictions. What kind of fair can attract half a state’s population? Host Paul Ryan visits Iowa for a colorful look at that famous – and huge – celebration of the Heartland’s agricultural culture and output: the Iowa State Fair.
What did America’s Heartland look like before agriculture? Many of its hundreds of millions of acres were covered in tall, waving prairie grass. Jason Shoultz begins Episode 10 with a visit to the greater Flint Hills area of Kansas, which is one of the few places people can see the prairie as it once was. In addition, viewers will meet entrepreneurs creating organic farm products from some of the prairie’s wild flora. For the finest potatoes, consumers in the East look for the “ Maine” label, while pretty much everyone else expects their spuds to come from Idaho. Host Paul Ryan offers an overview of this critical crop in both states, and why their potato farmers proudly tout the advantages of their locales. One common feature of America’s Heartland is the ubiquity of the “boutique” potato chip brand. Every state seems to have its own favorites, and a small potato chip-making group in Ohio shows how they make the chips that the locals love. It’s not the most popular vegetable in school cafeterias, but it’s among the most nutritious: spinach. A visit to a huge Texas spinach farm shows viewers how sophisticated the production of the leafy green has become. Finally, host Paul Ryan visits a Louisiana town that steadfastly celebrates its strawberry harvest with a colorful festival, even as that crop is fading from the region. Viewers will meet a family farmer determined to grow the best strawberries as long as he lives regardless of shifting economic pressures.
They’re magnificent and intimidating, and two centuries ago millions of them roamed the Heartland at will. Jason Shoultz opens with a visit to a place on the Kansas prairie where the American bison is making a comeback, and they’re more than an historical curiosity – they’re a new agricultural opportunity. Pat McConahay visits Pennsylvania to get a local variation of a growing national story: fuel from agriculture. One of the Commonwealth’s oldest farms – it was established in the late 1700s – is at the leading edge in employing technology that converts manure from its dairy cows into energy. The result? Enough power to run the entire farm – and sell the excess back to the power company. Following the “earth-friendly” theme, Jason Shoultz visits another “earth-friendly” farmer in Iowa to investigate the new practices he’s developed to keep his land and his animals healthy – and that have earned him a major award from the Beef Cattlemen’s Association. Finally, Pat McConahay visits the scenic Wisconsin ranch of country music star Michael Martin Murphey. He’s a prolific writer and performer of music celebrating the heartland, a champion of the farming and ranching lifestyle – and the author of the America’s Heartland theme music. On his own working ranch, music’s usually playing and running it is purely a family affair.
North Carolina is still a leading producer of America’s first crop: tobacco. But times are changing. Smoking is down, and the state’s tobacco farmers are looking at other crops to grow. Jason Shoultz visits two tobacco farmers to learn how they’re making the transition from tobacco to alternative crops like strawberries and flowers. For a time in New England and the northern Midwest, round barns were all the rage on the farm. Architects argued they used space more efficiently; the superstitious believed they kept the devil away. Few remain on the landscape, but Pat McConahay discovers one area in Wisconsin where many round barns still stand and are a source of pride in their communities. Throughout the Great Plains and particularly on the cattle ranges of Montana, an eastern European weed called spurge is invading valuable rangeland. It destroys native grasses, poisons the soil, and cattle won’t eat it. Host Paul Ryan discovers how some ranchers are cooperating in the use of a novel solution: sheep ranchers “lend” their flocks, who love the stuff, to cattlemen – and the range is cleared of spurge, at least for a while. Pat McConahay visits an affluent Florida couple and the farm they built to better the lot of farmers everywhere. The aim of their “Harvest for Humanity” project is to demonstrate that farmers can and should earn a decent living, and that it’s also the responsibility of the food consumer to choose food coming from producers who compensate their farmers adequately. The Harvest for Humanity farm has grown into a full-fledged community in which farmers are offered the additional opportunity to own a home. Drive along certain highways of the Southwest, and you may spy a 20-foot high, startlingly realistic painting of a farmer in his field… a cow… perhaps an infant playing with a life-sized tractor. This roadside “farm art” is the creation of a self-effacing painter with a sense of humor, and the farmers he paints for love his work. Jason Shoultz discovers how, why, and where he paints, and meets some of his satisfied customers.
In late autumn, thousands of trees start shaking throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley. They’re walnut trees, and as correspondent Dawn Smith discovers, using a motorized shaker is the best way to bring the nuts down. Dawn shows how walnuts are processed to move from farm to market, and finds that new information about walnuts’ medical benefits have local walnut growers excited about the future. Many Americans may not realize that herds of wild horses still roam free in the American West. Pat McConahay finds that it’s a difficult challenge for the ranchers whose rangeland is affected by them, and for the Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for rounding a number of them up annually and placing them for adoption. Paul Ryan introduces us to an Arizona woman who was compelled to become a horse rancher out of mercy. Over the past decades, many horse ranchers in the U.S. and Canada have maintained herds of mares in pregnancy to produce widely-used drugs for hormone replacement therapy in women. Amid reports those drugs may carry health risks, the need for the mares has declined and thousands are being sold for slaughter. More than a hundred lucky ones have found their way to Frances Causey’s Equine Voices ranch, where she and a number of volunteers try to “teach them to be horses” again. In Montana, home to vast ranches and hard-nosed wheat farmers, a new industry is blossoming: organic farming. Jason Shoultz profiles a company named “Timeless Seeds,” which started as a small organic garden in the 1970s and now ships its products worldwide. Pat McConahay closes the program with a visit to two “sultans of scent” in Wisconsin’s dairy country: America’s last remaining producer of odiferous Limburger cheese, and a cheesemaker capitalizing on the growing demand for Feta cheese. Both have at least one thing in common: they’re certified “Master Cheesemakers” in a state that has some of the country’s highest standards for the art.
Two brothers and their families are running sheep on their vast 50-thousand acre Wyoming spread much as their grandparents did at the turn of the century. Host Paul Ryan discovers why these hard-nosed ranchers in their 70s still love what they do – and why they’re concerned about the future of their business. Near the tiny town of Elk River, Minnesota lies the perfectly preserved mid-1800s farm of Oliver H. Kelley, founder of the National Grange. Jason Shoultz visits to find out just how difficult things were for America’s early farmers, and how that motivated this telegraph operator-turned-frontier farmer to work tirelessly to persuade American farmers to form their first national organization. They’re the color of hot lava and they were developed just east of volcanic, towering Mount Rainier. Rainier cherries are among the sweetest in the land. Paul Ryan discovers why the delicate fruit have been a passion for three generations of orchardists in Washington’s Yakima Valley, and how they’re using new high-tech means to both grow them and sell them. Pat McConahay visits two small apple orchards in Maine that hit on separate ways to cope with a collapse in apple prices a decade ago: one turned to pre-baked, homestyle apple pies made from the tart McIntosh apple; the other simply invited the public in to pick their own – at a price five times what they were getting before. Each family is an example of how Maine is working hard to preserve its agricultural heritage. Jason Shoultz ends the program with a story about a patient farmer and his decidedly odd “herd.” Emus – those large Australian birds – were once thought to be “the next big thing” in agriculture, which might someday even supplant beef cattle on many farms and ranches. But as this farmer discovered, the real money may be in emu oil, and that this kind of ranching is anything but conventional.
It’s been called "The Superbowl of Agriculture." The Farm Progress Show, lately held in Decatur, Illinois, is a mega-bazaar of the latest farm equipment and products being marketed to America’s food producers. Pat McConahay tours the grounds to hear the sales pitches and check out products, prices, and how farmers respond to the innovations designed to make their lives a little easier and their farms more productive. Along the way, Pat tries out the controls of some ultra-high-tech equipment. Countless American kids have worn the green clover emblem and learned their first real lessons about farming and animal husbandry as members of 4-H. Jason Shoultz travels to the Kansas State Fair to discover why enthusiasm remains high for many non-farm kids: besides growing show-ready cows, hogs, rabbits, and produce, many are learning furniture-making, photography – and rocket science! A select assortment of America’s food producers harvests their products underwater – and in person. Count the abalone farmers of California’s Monterey Bay among them. Pat McConahay visits the only business of its kind in the U.S., and its energetic proprietor dons his scuba gear to show how the very best of these mollusks are grown and harvested. Old farmers never die – they try a new line of farming! Jason Shoultz visits with a retired Nebraska farmer who never quite got his fill of growing corn, so he made a switch to popcorn. Now he and his wife are pioneering new ways to make the perfect popcorn – right in a laboratory in the back of their barn. The world’s best wild blueberries thrive in the cool, salty air of Maine’s northeastern coastal region. Pat McConahay looks into the challenges of hand- harvesting this legendary state specialty, as well as some of the mouth-watering foods they wind up in. She discovers new nutritional findings are making the berries more popular than ever.
Each year, Minnesota delivers America’s largest organic corn crop. While a good deal of it goes directly into food products for the state’s enthusiastic consumers of organic foods, most of it becomes feed for cows who produce the most in-demand organic product of all: milk. Host Paul Ryan visits a family farm to follow the fascinating process of creating multiple products designated "certified organic," and learns why the family would never farm any other way. The music is woven into the agricultural heritage of the Appalachian region – Bluegrass. Jason Shoultz travels to North Carolina to meet one man who with his friends farms tobacco by day and strums his own high-energy, irreverent brand of bluegrass by night. A California company shows Paul Ryan some surprising things that can be made from bales of straw. Back in Minnesota, Pat McConahay introduces viewers to the quiet, timeless ritual of the annual wild rice harvest by members of the Ojibwe tribe and learns the painstaking process of hand-preparing the grain for market. And from Montana, Jason Shoultz reports on another unusual product – soap made from goat’s milk. One farmer’s 40-goat herd produces enough milk for him to produce and amazing quantity and array of products – right on his farm.
Many farming tools and techniques employed by early European-born farmers were provided by Native Americans who’d lived on this land for thousands of years. Some of those pioneers employed that valuable knowledge and the values of agriculture to build a new nation. Among them: George Washington. Host Paul Ryan discovers the fascinating story behind George Washington, Farmer. Ryan digs even deeper into our colonial farming past with a journey to nearby Sussex, Virginia, where he meets a family whose agricultural roots stretch back to Washington’s time. Seven generations later, they’re still raising the crops of their ancestors; among them, peanuts. The business is changing rapidly, but this family’s determined to build on its 200-year legacy. We’ve talked about places that capture our farming past. But America’s ag history is so much more than that and there are so many places where that diverse history comes alive. Jason Shoultz visited a number of top ag museums In the southern San Joaquin Valley of California, there is a tale of a group of black pioneers who started a farming community. The foundation of Allensworth wasn’t so much brick and mortar, or even the dry, dusty bed of the Central Valley. It was built on the passion of one man – Allen Allensworth – in a time of upheaval that changed the lives of all Americans. The people who built Allensworth a century ago are gone, but the town today is a tribute to what they accomplished. They’re cute, cuddly, and a legendary plague to American farmers. Pat McConahay travels to Texas to dig up the facts about prairie dogs – how they live, how they spread, and why they’re perpetually at the top of ranchers’ “enemies” lists.
America’s Heartland presents a special edition from the country’s most far-flung center of agriculture: the Big Island of Hawaii. Paul learns how Parker Ranch founder John Parker Palmer came to the island in 1809 and went to work for King Kamehameha. Paul visits Greenwell Farms, a coffee plantation owned by a family that’s been is growing the beautiful bean for more than a century. A yearning to raise their children on a farm inspired Jim and Tracy Redicopp to move from the hustle and bustle of Hawaii’s Oahu to the more tranquil Big Island where they decided to grow what may be the ultimate niche crop: vanilla orchids. Pat moves on to visit a farm couple working to make the Kona region as famous for its chocolate as it is for its coffee. Paul says goodbye and "mahalo" to the Big Island with a visit to some farms that are unusual even for this island state.
In Texas, Pat McConahay finds a farm operation that decided to think big and turn its cotton into jeans right on location. Paul Ryan introduces a fascinating loner who braves Lake Superior's western reaches year-round in an open boat to bring in herring. Pat McConahay visits the Heartland’s leading mushroom-producing state, Pennsylvania, where this major crop is produced year-round – and in the dark. Jason Shoultz goes truffling with an eccentric North Carolinian who’s hoping his truffles make him as rich as their fans. Paul Ryan shows how chili peppers are grown and picked – and how they’re celebrated at the state’s well-known Chile Festival.
Paul Ryan meets one Virginia woman who's not only raising crops and cattle, she's turned her farm into a tourist attraction. Jason Shoultz is in Lexington, Kentucky to find out why the organization formerly known as “Future Farmers of America” is seeking to expand its base. In Georgia, African American farmer Melvin Bishop found success raising hogs – but wanted to do more. Jason Shoultz visits a farm that’s betting its future on the kiwi. Paul Ryan visits an Indiana plant that’s one of the Heartland’s biggest operations for turning juicy young cucumbers into pickles for all tastes.
Paul Ryan visits a research center in Virginia where a company named Edenspace is exploring "phytoremediation" – developing plants that actually remove toxins from polluted soil. Dawn Smith visits a California grove to discover what it takes to grow mandarin oranges sweet enough to satisfy their avid fans. Paul Ryan heads to the arid southwest to witness the October “harvest” at a successful – and remarkable – desert shrimp farm. Pat McConahay visits Texas to get the story of a small company developing and producing dehydrated foods. Finally, Paul Ryan closes with a trip to Indiana to learn how ducks are farmed – and how Indiana almost cornered the market.