By buying land in America’s most productive ground for growing hay, which just happens to be a desert, Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company now can grow food for its cows back home – all year long. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/NASA Landsat

What happens when your ancient desert springs start drying up? Why, you find another source, of course!

Saudi Arabia is almost out of water. For decades, farmers drilled for groundwater to transform their deserts into irrigated fields suitable for crops. Note how the area in the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin changed between 1987 and 2000.

Reveal’s Nathan Halverson and Ike Sriskandarajah don’t travel quite that far to get the story.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company, Almarai, bought 9,600 acres of land in a desert in the American Southwest. The company then converted it into hay fields to feed – get this – cows back home.

DIG DEEPER

Nathan Halverson (he/him) is an Emmy Award-winning producer for Reveal, covering business and finance with a current emphasis on the global food system. Before joining Reveal, Halverson worked on projects for FRONTLINE, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and PBS NewsHour. He was the principal reporter on Reveal's story about the Chinese government’s involvement in the takeover of America’s largest pork company, Smithfield Foods Inc. He was awarded a 2014 McGraw Fellowship by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and he received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Minnesota. He has won a New York Times Chairman’s Award and has received reporting honors from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, California Newspaper Publishers Association, San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and Associated Press News Executives Council. Halverson is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Ike Sriskandarajah

Ike Sriskandarajah is an Emmy award-winning senior reporter and  producer for Reveal. He has also won awards from Third Coast, the Education Writers Association and the New York Associated Press Association. He was a narrative audio producer at The New York Times, making investigative episodes for "The Daily," and once tracked down the kids who appear on “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Before that, he worked at Youth Radio in Oakland, California, and PRI's "Living on Earth" in Boston. His own reporting has appeared on "Radiolab," NPR News, "Marketplace" and The Atlantic, among other outlets. Sriskandarajah is from Wisconsin, graduated from Brown University and reports from New York City.