An ag biz reporter and cow poop

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Los Angeles Times staff writer Zohreen Adamjee interviewed the paper’s agriculture business reporter P.J. Huffstutter about how she got her story about the problems California farmers face turning cow manure into electricity.

“You are leaving everything tied to Los Angeles behind,” said Huffstutter. “It is fields of green as far as the eyes can see…This is farming on a very large scale.”

Huffstutter has personal experience with farms. She previously covered the
country’s heartland as the paper’s Midwest bureau chief. And although Huffstutter is a southern California native, she split her childhood between her family’s home in Seal Beach, Calif., and her grandparents’ farm in Sibley, Iowa. Her father also runs a farm.

Having cows as sources, particularly for a story about their manure, proved to be a hurdle that few business journalists have to overcome, she said in the interview. “It was one of those moments where I deeply regretted not having my rubber boots,” said Huffstutter. “The cows, they eat a lot, and they poop a lot.”

Huffstutter said that the story developed from calls she received from dairymen in central California, which she then visited.

The biggest hurdle for the story, Huffstutter said, was getting the cows to moo for an audio slide show that accompanied the print story. Apparently, cows only moo when they’re upset. “I ended up spending a lot of time trying to get reportings on cows mooing,” said Huffstutter.

Listen to the interview with Huffstutter here, and read the story here. The audio slide show — including the mooing — of the story is here.