Dr. Valerie Kilders, Assistant Professor of Agribusiness Marketing

Throughline hosted by Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah

While it seems like our society is developing at an evermore rapid pace, current events are inherently contextualized in historic developments.

Throughline is an NPR podcast hosted by Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah that tries to explain these connections between the past and present. Fittingly, their slogan is “go[ing] back in time to understand the present”. To take the listener along on this journey, the podcast artfully blends interviews with experts, historic audio clips and discussions between the hosts

In one of the recent episodes entitled “400 Years of Sweetness”, Arablouei and Abdelfatah examine how high fructose corn syrup became a dominant force in the U.S. sweetener market. Dwayne Andreas, then CEO and chairman of Archer Daniels Midland, capitalized on surplus corn in the Midwest to first process it into sweetener, before selling it both domestically and internationally. From the conceptualization of the idea, it took only about a decade for corn syrup to become virtually ubiquitous in consumer diets. This incredible success continued a more than 400-year cultural transition during which sugar transformed from a good only the wealthy had access to, to a staple good around the world, which has shaped consumer diets like few others.

Not only does the episode explain critical steps in this transition process, but it also lays out how it shaped and, in turn, was shaped by the political landscape.

Some other episodes from the last 12 months that hold particular relevance for consumers and agricultural stakeholders are “The Mystery of Inflation”, which looks at the history of inflation in the U.S. and “Force of Nature”, an episode dedicated to exploring the history of environmental protection laws in the U.S. As an added bonus, most episodes have a transcript available, making them accessible to those who are hearing impaired.

This podcast allows me to learn about historic events I might otherwise not have known about and gain a better understanding of the why behind current events, all in digestible, bite-sized episodes typically less than an hour long.