Audio Astra: Growing hemp in Kansas, being farmers’ wives, not compromising on gun rights

June 18, 2021 3:33 am

Workers at Shining Star Hemp Co. load a bag of hemp biomass into the processor. (Brian Grimmett/Kansas News Service)

Audio Astra reviews recent audio reporting on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio stories. Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

The thread that holds much of this week’s audio reporting together is how changing government programs and regulations impact Kansans, whether it’s about agriculture, gun rights or food insecurity. As government funding and regulations shift, people and businesses sway and adjust.

This week’s Kansas Reflector podcast focuses on an under-represented topic in an under-covered region: “Food insecurity in southwest Kansas.” Two advocates for Kansans who suffer with insecurity speak about the complex web of social problems that lead to hunger, including immigration status, federal programs and human trafficking.

“Kansas Farmers Find The Only Thing Harder Than Growing Hemp Is Selling It”
Kansas News Service, June 14

Brian Grimmet’s report shows how complex the crop of hemp has been over the past few years for Kansas farmers. The four-minute story digs into personal anecdotes (such as a man who painstakingly built the processing equipment for one hemp business) as well as statewide stats (many hemp businesses have closed their operations).

The story also paints a frustrating picture. Perhaps most jarring from Grimmet’s reporting: Last year, a minuscule portion of the acres planted with hemp were actually harvested. And some of those acres had to be burned. Why? Because the THC content of the crop was above the legally allowed limit.

With weather and market conditions, agriculture throws so much uncertainty at farmers each year. This report shows how Kansas farmers exploring hemp production face even more obstacles than traditional crop farmers.

“The one where we grow slow”
Midwest Farm Wives, June 12

Podcasts like Midwest Farm Wives allow you to meet people in an unmediated, conversational way. That unedited nature can sometimes require a huge time commitment from listeners but can also open up a new world — in this case right here in Kansas.

Featuring Kylie and Whitney, who are wives, farmers and mothers, this podcast first launches into recent personal tales of managing life on the farm. The honesty here breaks the idyllic stereotype of farm families enjoying a slow-paced, simple life on the land. We hear about a husband who falls asleep at the late-night dinner table while eating his burrito. We laugh at the seeming life-or-death drama of one of the hosts forgetting watermelon for a baseball team treat. Finally, during the interview section, the host talks with Jennifer Dukes Lee about her book on parenting with a “hurried heart.”

The portrait of farm life is both fraught and frantic, but the hosts clearly love their lives of planting, growing and harvesting — and this episode shows how committed they are to helping others manage as families on the farm.

“Johnson County Museum Offers ‘Sensory Friendly’ Outing”
KCUR’s Up To Date, June 15

Steve Kraske interviews two Kansans who worked to create a more welcoming experience for some visitors to the Johnson County Museum. Having long ago explored most museums in our area with my two kids, I know the noise and chaos that often awaits — especially in any exhibit with dinosaurs or water. It’s natural that many other kids need less stimulation when they visit.

Leah Palmer, the museum’s curator of education, explains why it is again cordoning off some visiting hours with fewer visitors and a more “sensory friendly” experience. Janette Foster, an expert in serving such visitors through Britain Development, explains how this is accomplished. Especially interesting is how the project first surveyed the museum’s user experience by doing a detailed walk through, taking note of buzzing lights, congested areas and potential helpful aids.

“No Compromise”

As a journalism instructor, I constantly look to the Pulitzer Prizes for classroom examples. This year’s winners showcased so much that our young journalists should emulate, including inspired feature writing and a podcast with a local connection.

Lisa Hagen and Chris Haxel, who works at Kansas City’s KCUR, take us on a six-part odyssey to unexpected places in the “no compromise” gun-rights movement, whose members believe that the Second Amendment gives Americans absolute and unregulated guns privileges. They fight for their position using Facebook, confrontational politics and some suspicious accounting.

“When we first started reporting this story, we didn’t have any idea that it would end up being about anything other than gun policy,” Haxel says in episode six. “But these long, loud Facebook videos turned us to a lot of other issues: dismantling public education, anti-vaxxers, Aryan Nations, anti-abortion activism, homophobia, militias … and of course, downplaying the dangers of a pandemic.”

That list of issues unfortunately has strong connections to Kansas politics and history. After my binge listening to the episodes over the past week, I highly recommend it.

What did we miss? Email [email protected] to let us know of a Kansas-based audio program that would be interesting to Audio Astra readers.

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Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas

Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, a nonprofit that supports student journalism throughout the state. He also teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He lives in Leawood with his wife and two children.