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The Price of Plenty: The Environmental Cost of Fertilizers

Presentation by Sara Shipley Hiles and Students.

Join Sara and students from the Missouri School of Journalism as they share the findings of their report on the environmental impacts of the fertilizer industry.

Time and Place

Tuesday, November 14, 2023
7:00 pm

Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro
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Presentation by Sara Shipley Hiles and University of Missouri School of Journalism Students

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

The Bistro Restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, but the bar will be open. You ARE welcome to come early, bring some food and gather with friends before the presentation. Speaker Series attendees are welcome after 6:00 p.m.

Hosted by Missouri River Relief

Matthew Backer spreads anhydrous ammonia onto a field on April 4 at Wise Bros Inc. in Kingdom City. Photo by

Few inventions have changed the world like synthetic fertilizer. Without it, the planet’s population would be roughly half what it is today. Scientists learned to mine nutrients from the ground and pull chemicals from the air to boost food production and make farming more efficient.

But fertilizer production and use also threaten human and environmental health. The energy-intensive industry emits more heat-trapping gases than global aviation while leaving an unfair industrial burden on low-income communities. Meanwhile, less than half of fertilizer spread on fields is taken up by plants. The rest pollutes air and water, contributing to climate change, toxic algae blooms and oxygen-depleted water where life is snuffed out.

Funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center’s nationwide Connected Coastlines reporting initiative, The Price of Plenty teamed up student journalists from the University of Florida and the University of Missouri to report on the fertilizer industry from the ground up. Join University of Missouri Professor and Executive Director of the Ag & Water Desk, Sara Shipley Hiles, as her and her students share the findings of their report: The Price of Plenty.

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Sara Shipley Hiles is an award-winning journalist and journalism educator with almost 30 years’ experience in the field. She specializes in environmental and investigative reporting and is a recognized journalism teacher and editor with a dozen years of teaching experience. She has won awards and recognition for teaching, feature writing, digital journalism and investigative reporting. Hiles also directs the Smith/Patterson Science Journalism Fellowship and Lecture Series and serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists.


  • 14020 W. Hwy BB, Rocheport, MO
  • Take I-70 to the Rocheport, MO, exit (Exit #115). It’s the first exit east of the Missouri River.
  • Head north toward Rocheport.
  • After about a mile, turn left at the sign for Les Bourgeois Bistro. Follow the signs to the Bistro. You will probably need to park in the lot above the Bistro and walk the trail down.
  • The presentations are held in upstairs in the restaurant. The restaurant is no longer open on Tuesdays but the bar is! You are welcome to bring your own food or snacks.

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The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport

is hosted by these wonderful partners.

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Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place in St. Charles.

The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public.