Recent Stories

Iowa experiment tests potential to pair solar with carbon sequestration

As thousands of acres of Iowa farmland are eyed as possible sites for solar farms, a research project is getting underway to explore a new crop that could co-exist with this burgeoning source of power: carbon sequestration. The state’s economic development office last month awarded $297,000 to an environmental consultant to create a business model “for monetizing carbon capture on solar energy farms.”

Although solar energy production and “carbon farming” exist independently, the consultant, Mike Fisher, said he didn’t think they’ve been combined, as he has proposed. He will test his theory that the right combination of crops could stash significant amounts of carbon in the ground while enhancing the soil’s fertility. Both the landowner and the solar developer could benefit, he said, from the sale of credits for the sequestered carbon and the enhancements to the soil. 

The most common Midwestern crops — corn and soybeans — don’t sequester much carbon because they put most of their energy into producing above-ground “fruits,” said Randy Jackson, an agronomy professor at the University of Wisconsin. Perennials, which plow much more of their energy into roots, stash more carbon as a result. Pasture grasses, such as brome, direct carbon into just the top 12 inches or so, Jackson said.

Sunset on the Farm returns to support IowaWatch’s mission

Iowa City, Iowa – Corridor area residents are invited to enjoy great food, wine, music, and scenery at an annual fundraiser to support IowaWatch.org. Get tickets here. Sunset on the Farm will take place Thursday, September 23rd, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Walker Homestead just outside of Iowa City. 

This event will consist of unlimited pizza and salad, s’mores for dessert, access to a cash bar, a silent auction, and live music from the Mission Bluegrass Band. Tickets are $40 for adults and $20 for children over 5. 

IowaWatch.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that provides Iowa’s news outlets with top-quality in-depth reporting for free while training future journalists. Tickets and other donations at Sunset on the Farm go toward supporting Iowa-focused investigative journalism such as the recent “Small Town Solutions” project. This is the first Sunset on the Farm since September 2019.

Evans: Enforcement of Texas abortion law in un-American

Let’s set aside our views on abortion. Instead, let’s consider one aspect of the new Texas abortion law that took effect last week. All of us should be able to agree on this, whether we find abortions abominable or support a woman’s right to end her pregnancy: The enforcement mechanism created by Texas lawmakers is un-American. It farms out enforcement of a state’s laws to vigilantes and bounty hunters. Iowans who followed news of the new law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last week to let it go into effect, at least for now, can be forgiven if they missed details about this enforcement mechanism.

IowaWatch names new editor and adds veteran fundraiser

IowaWatch, or the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, has named Suzanne Behnke as its new editor, marking a transition for Behnke from executive director to a new role focused on developing high-impact investigative news and fostering collaborations. Mary Ungs-Sogaard

IowaWatch also has hired Mary Ungs-Sogaard, a proven fundraiser and long-time newspaper publisher in Eastern Iowa, as the news nonprofit’s business developer. The leaders will boost IowaWatch’s capacity to provide high-quality public affairs news and information that improves civic life and public policy outcomes across Iowa. “I am grateful to have a role with IowaWatch that allows me to focus on in-depth journalism and working with talented reporters and writers,” said Behnke. “This change plays to my strengths and to Mary’s.

Evans: There’s no escaping the chaos of war

The news out of Afghanistan last week about the terrorist bombing at the airport in Kabul brought fresh heartache — and old memories — to Iowa. A native of Red Oak, Marine Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, was among 13 members of the U.S. military who died in the blast. Page and the others were screening U.S. citizens and Afghanistan civilians heading to evacuation flights — among 120,000 people the United States and its allies have airlifted out of Afghanistan after its government collapsed following more than 20 years of civil war. Not surprisingly, there have been many questions since President Joe Biden announced in April that American forces would be gone by the end of August. Questions are nothing new about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan — or about our handling of other wars and conflicts. There were questions when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and again in 2003 when we invaded Iraq.

Iowa towns that are thriving, bucking trend of rural decline

A handful of small Iowa towns with 5,000 or fewer people and not part of a larger metro area bucked the trend in the 2020 census and grew their populations. These towns grew populations at a time when the 2020 census showed Iowa’s urban population growing to 64% of the state’s 3.16 million people. The share of urban dwellers in Iowa was near 61% in both 2010 and 2000, 58% in 1990, and 57% in 1980. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network

A four-month IowaWatch investigation that included visits to 58 towns of 5,000 or fewer people turned up examples of growing rural communities. One of those growing in population isn’t even incorporated, but counted, none the less, by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Businesses band together for southern Iowa’s Humeston

HUMESTON, Iowa – Terrie and Tom Woods enjoy road trips to small Midwest towns and their locally owned stores, which explains why the retired Sherwood, Arkansas, couple ended up in Humeston in mid-May. “We just like small towns,” Terrie Woods said about being eight-and-a-half hours away from home and searching through Civil War-themed fabric at Snips of Thread Quilt Shop and The Yarn Pantry. With support from the Solutions Journalism Network

A group of downtown shop owners in this southern Iowa town of 465 people love stories like  that. They see it as a sign that their efforts are working when collaborating to make Humeston a vibrant place, even though the town lost population in the 2020 census from the 494 counted in the 2010 census. 

“Our businesses work well together to promote Humeston,” Leigh Ann Coffey, a local real estate agent, said. “We’re not in competition with each other.”

Their pitch: good products, good service and the charm of small-town shops.