Pat Blank

All Things Considered Host

Pat Blank has been with Iowa Public Radio for 27 years. She was hired as a reporter and eventually was chosen to host Morning Edition at the Cedar Falls studios in 1986.  She has been host of All Things Considered since 1995. She is a nationally award-winning reporter who has also worked in commercial radio and television. Pat has served as a part-time instructor at Wartburg College and at the University of Northern Iowa, where she teaches journalism classes.  She is on the Board of Control for UNI’s student run radio station, KULT. She is currently serving a second term on the  Iowa Archives of Broadcasting National Advisory Board. Most recently, Pat was honored by receiving the Jack Shelley Award for Broadcast Excellence, in 2014.

Pat has a bachelor’s degree in radio-television broadcasting from the University of Northern Iowa.

Pat's favorite public radio program is This American Life.

Bushel Boy Farms

Minnesota-based Bushel Boy Farms is expanding its fresh produce business to Mason City. North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation president Chad Schreck said the $35 million investment involves a 50-acre facility to grow and package tomatoes. He said the project will be built in three phases.

Pat Blank/IPR

Fifty-one year old Jean Schilling left her home in North Iowa right out of high school. She lived on the East Coast and then in Minnesota before moving back to Iowa to help take over her mother’s floral and greenhouse business.

Iowa DNR

High water and swift currents on Iowa rivers are prompting Department of Natural Resources officials to warn kayakers and canoers to find other options.

Todd Robertson is an outreach coordinator for river programs. He said the conditions are dangerous, especially for rookies.

"Make sure you know how to control your boat properly, that you’re an efficient paddler," he said. "The best way to do that is to stay off of moving water and start practicing on flat water. Right now with the way rivers are, flat water and lakes are the safest place to be."

IPR/Pat Blank

Advocates of a more comprehensive medical cannabis law in Iowa continue to push to make it a top legislative priority, and some who are enrolled in the program say it needs to be expanded.

On a typical morning at the Iowa Cannabis Company dispensary in Waterloo, staff members are taking phone calls, doing inventory and filling prescriptions. The Waterloo location is one of five licensed in the state and the second busiest.

Iowa DNR

A group of state, federal and local law enforcement officers will join forces Friday through Sunday to draw attention to the hazards of boating while intoxicated.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Boating Law Administrator, Susan Stocker, says the effort called Operation Dry Water will use random check points on several of the state's lakes and rivers. She said they'll be especially looking for boaters who've had too much to drink.

IPR/Pat Blank

Ohio Congressman and Democratic candidate for president Tim Ryan stopped in Eastern Iowa Wednesday. At the University of Northern Iowa, Ryan said he thinks he’s meeting the challenge of setting himself apart from the more than 20 other candidates in the field.

“I think I best understand in that we are living in this age of anxiety, whether it’s economic anxiety or around health care, around what we see with immigration and the reality of it is the candidate that best understands that I think is going to be the candidate that the people are going to put forward," he said.

Flickr

Along with the vibrant colors and occasional loud bangs, fireworks produce a tremendous amount of smoke. 

Iowa air quality experts, including the DNR's Brian Hutchins, monitor the atmosphere to make sure the buildup of smoke does not exceed federal standards.

Hutchins said humid conditions add to the concern.

Dean Borg/IPR

Rail workers using specialized heavy equipment are clearing wreckage from an early Thursday morning Union Pacific derailment in Stanwood in east central Iowa.

The train was traveling on one of Iowa’s busiest rail lines, carrying coal eastward through the state.  Several coal cars derailed, stalling the train in the Cedar County town, and blocking Iowa Highway 38 northward.  Those cars have since been moved, resuming highway traffic on Iowa 38.

The Union Pacific railroad runs parallel to U.S. Highway 30, and the derailment is one block north.

Iowa DNR

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is sponsoring free fishing this weekend. State residents can try fishing without buying a license Friday through Sunday.

DNR Chief of Fisheries, Joe Larscheid, said there are a number of activities planned designed to help make memories.

Courtesy of Youth Art Team

One hundred fifty student artists from Waterloo and Cedar Falls have designed and painted a 3,000 square foot mural along the Cedar River.

Youth Art Team Director Heidi Fuchtman said the mural commemorates Waterloo’s civil rights history. The students conducted interviews of about a dozen local people. Student artists and volunteers together put in more than two thousand hours before anyone lifted a paintbrush. 

Iowa DNR

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has unveiled a new online hunting and fishing license system.

DNR Customer Service Supervisor Alex Cross said the new system called Go Outdoors Iowa also offers a free app with handy connections to a number of sources.

Pat Blank /IPR

As the spring planting season hits full speed, state public safety officials are asking motorists to check their own speed as they approach over-sized farm equipment on the road.

Iowa Highway Patrol Sgt. Nate Ludwig said traditional cars and trucks are no match for the agricultural machinery, which often weighs several tons. He said attempting to get around them could be dangerous.

Pat Blank/IPR

A year after one of their classmates died in a firearms accident, junior high students at Clarksville in northeast Iowa are enrolled in the school’s first hunter safety education program. Superintendent Joel Foster says 15 year old Cain Schild’s death in an accidental shooting last May helped set the curriculum in motion. 

Courtesy photo

A southern Iowa woman is part of a canine search and rescue team that will likely be deployed to Nebraska to help with flood recovery.

Robin Greubel of Lucas works with a group of volunteers who are often called with little notice.

"We do that in a variety of different capacities whether it’s in a disaster or a lost or missing person such as a hunter or even, we work with law enforcement to work on criminal cases," Greubel said.

Pat Blank / IPR

The inscription just above the sun visor in William Burt’s mini-bus reads, “Life is a journey, and only you hold the map.”  Burt’s journey began when as a child, he moved with his family from Mississippi to Iowa.  He became a father for the first time at the tender age of 14 and was soon in his words, “making money the easy way” by dealing drugs.

He was eventually arrested and sent to prison.  At the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, Burt gave haircuts to the other prisoners, and realized he had pretty good skills.

Iowa DNR

A pilot program in its first year at Big Creek State Park near Des Moines is using black locust trees to build wooden chairs.

Department of Natural Resources Park Manager Chad Kelchen says the trees are considered an invasive species so it’s a bonus to be able to make use of them in a worthwhile fashion.

"It’s not the furniture component I’m after, I’m after the whole end user, that’s the ultimate goal," he said. “I’m tired of just piling the stuff and burning it, somebody’s got have a use for it.”

Courtesy Cris Bro Hospitality

In less than a year, the Cedar Falls will likely have two convention centers.

Chris Bro Hospitality Monday broke ground on an expansion to its existing Hilton Garden Inn.  The project will add 92 rooms and include meeting space for 700 hundred people.  A second proposed development just a mile away includes a new hotel and banquet seating for one thousand.

Cedar Falls Tourism Bureau spokesperson Becky Wagner says the new development will compliment a second proposed development just a mile away.

Courtesy: Brandon Pollock/Waterloo Courier

A Wisconsin couple with a passion for horses is keeping alive a one-of-its-kind operation in Waterloo: The Jerald Sulky Company -- world famous for its products in the show ring and on the race track.

A group of ten highly-specialized workers is putting the finishing touches on a busy season. They’re handcrafting something that resembles a one horse sleigh, called a sulky. 

IPR/Pat Blank

According to two term Republican Rep. Rod Blum, health care is the number one topic of discussion when he talks with constituents.  He admits what’s in place now is not working but he thinks it can be made better.

IPR/Pat Blank

Although much of the talk in the state’s agriculture sector centers on trade tariffs between the U.S and China, stalled negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA are also causing concern.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says dairy farmers are continuing to struggle. 

Pat Blank/IPR

A Midwest summertime tradition is in full swing -- corn detasseling.  Seed corn companies hire thousands of mostly teenagers for about 20 days to remove by hand the very top of the corn plant to produce hybrid varieties. DuPont Pioneer is one of Iowa’s largest companies. Production Manager Colby Entriken oversees facilities in Dysart, Toledo and Reinbeck in northeast Iowa. He said the company has added more safety experts in 2018. 

"We also bring in a field nurse as a resource,” Entriken said. “Each of the three sites also has an EMT on staff.” 

Matthew McGuire/ Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers

Discovering a large swarm of bees in a hollow tree or in an abandoned building can be unnerving. For many people the first instinct is to destroy them, but there are alternatives.

Jeff Becvar of Indianola is a bee removal specialist. He says it’s not an easy task, but the honey comb and its residents can be relocated.

Michael Leland/IPR

Despite this past winter’s extended stretch of extreme cold, Iowa’s honey bee population is in good shape.

State Apiarist Andrew Joseph says he’s impressed with the numbers.

"Well I’m happy to say that things are going pretty well right now in this blink in time," he said. "There’s a lot of bees out there that are building up quite nicely through this spring and there are a lot of plants that are coming into bloom for them."

Pat Blank/IPR

In the early morning hours of May 12, 2008, large numbers of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents moved in on a kosher meat processing plant in the small northeast Iowa community of Postville. They carried military-style weapons and some wore riot gear, carrying out what remains the nation's largest immigration raid. Postville businessman Aaron Goldsmith says he was awakened by the sound of helicopters.

Mercy Corps

Recovery from a very active hurricane season continues in Texas and Puerto Rico. Iowan Jill Morehead has seen the devastation as part of her work with the global humanitarian aid organization Mercy Corps.

Morehead says although restoring power to Puerto Ricans is getting significant attention, she says clean, affordable water is a more immediate need.

IPR/Pat Blank

A collaboration of food producers in North Iowa has resulted in the opening of one of the area’s first farm to table restaurants. That means as much of the menu as possible is locally grown.  

Joshua Frederick is so passionate about his new venture that his steel blue eyes fill with tears as he talks about it.

IPR/Pat Blank

The nonprofit organization Joppa continues to receive tiny houses for its proposed community village for the homeless in Des Moines. Earlier this month, three of the shelters built by Drake University alumni, students and volunteers were donated. Three more are on their way to the capital city from the University of Northern Iowa.

UNI Senior Baily Abbott says he jumped at the chance to get hands-on experience helping build the houses.

Alliant Energy photo

Several hundred utility workers from Iowa have been among the army of workers trying to restore power to millions of people cut off after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida and Georgia this month.  Mid-American Energy sent 250 employees and contractors, including 150 tree trimmers.

Twenty-six vehicles from Iowa’s Association of Electric Cooperatives are there along with 46 linemen. And Alliant Energy dispatched 200 workers and equipment from Iowa and Wisconsin.

IPR/Pat Blank

An Iowa Army National Guard medical helicopter unit based in Waterloo will leave Saturday for a mission that will eventually take its members to the Middle East and nearby regions.

National Guard spokesperson Greg Hapgood says this assignment will be familiar for many of the 35 soldiers who are part of the group known as the Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion.

Iowa DNR

Next week as classes begin, Northwood Kensett secondary principal Keith Fritz will include something in his fall assembly speech that’s not heard often in Iowa schools.

“I mention, in addition to ‘we have the right to search your lockers, guys, we’re going to have a great year this year,” he says. "Those of you who hunt, federal firearms regulations prohibit you from having those on campus.’ And that’s all it takes, they just comply.” 

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