Posts Tagged With: corn

Farmer Perspectives: Farmers Grow Snacks Too

By Kim Baldwin, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Kim Baldwin and her husband Adam grow a variety of crops in central Kansas, including popcorn.

Originally a native of New Mexico, Kim is a teacher and has worked as a television news professional for PBS and NBC affiliates. Kim moved to Kansas to marry her husband, Adam, in 2010. With their two children, the family raises wheat, corn, popcorn, soybeans, grain sorghum and cattle.

This year, our family farm ventured into a new crop for us: popcorn. In a typical year, our farm will raise field corn, soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum. Yes, we have experience growing field corn, but popcorn is quite a different crop. Field corn is primarily used as livestock feed. On the other hand, popcorn is ready for movie night (almost) the moment it leaves the field.

As farmers, we experiment with different seed varieties and growing techniques all time. Yet, planting a different crop takes a lot of research, patience and practice.

 

Kernel of an idea

The idea to grow popcorn began when my father-in-law read an article about specialty crops. Our farm has been looking to diversify to help provide additional income.

Right now, prices for our standard set of crops is low. For these commodities, farmers can either accept the market’s cash price, or we can hold the crop in storage and hope the price improves with time. To do this, we typically risk degradation of the product’s quality and incur storage fees. There are also options to hedge our sale price on the futures market, but commodities prices have been depressed for some time now.

Before putting a single popcorn seed in the ground, we read research and even visited with popcorn farms in other states. We had to make sure our existing equipment would work for popcorn, and not all of our fields would be well suited to grow it.

We decided to plant about 5 acres to popcorn. The field that would work best for popcorn would be ground we rent with access to irrigation. Before planting, we had to seek the landlord’s approval to try a new crop, which would be a risk for both of us. In many cases, the landowner and the farmer share profits.

 

Off to a popping start

Growing a crop like popcorn takes different management — even farmers need practice! The environmental conditions in Kansas aren’t ideal for growing popcorn, so we have to be sure we selected the right type for our climate. Next, the crop must work with our whole farm.

For example, the popcorn field is non-GMO but is bordered by other crops like GMO field corn and GMO soybeans. Our use of precision agriculture technologies allows us to precisely target the applications, and helps keep our non-GMO and GMO crops distinct.

Once harvested, we had to make sure our corn would pop. To do this, we plucked an ear right out of the field, put it in a paper bag and turned on the microwave. We had a bowl of popcorn in just a few minutes, which was exciting and quite a relief after watching the crop grow for so many weeks.

Our family has always enjoyed popcorn as a snack, and we’re excited to be growing it too. The process to try, and succeed, with a new crop can be a frightening business decision. I have new respect for the people behind one of my favorite snacks. I hope you’ll think of our family next time you’re grabbing a bag of popcorn — whether it’s at a grocery store or a locally grown flavor at your farmer’s market.

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Farmer Perspectives: Food for Thought

By Katie Stockstill-Sawyer, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Katie Sawyer farms with her husband and two boys near McPherson, KS

Katie married into the farming world in 2010. She is no longer brand new to the farm but still finds herself asking questions about agriculture as she and her husband raise two sons on a farm and ranch in central Kansas. Katie is also the district director for her Kansas congressman.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what most modern moms-to-be do — I went online. As it turns out, many expecting moms are fearful about their food.

I didn’t feel the same way, but I may have an unfair advantage. I was able to simply step away from my computer and ask my husband, Derek. He’s a fourth-generation farmer and has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture to boot. Derek is my first and primary resource. I’ve seen him make decisions based on scientific research to ensure our practices are both safe and effective. He can answer questions as both a businessman, farmer and father.

I never hesitate to ask him what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Today, I’m going to share some of my questions and our farm’s answers with you.

 

  1. Why do we use GMOs?

This was a practice put into place by my husband’s father and grandfather. We continue to plant GMO corn and soybean seeds. Today’s GMO seeds help make our plants more drought tolerant, resistant to extreme weather and less susceptible to devastating pests.

This technology helps our business — yes, farms are businesses too — produce more crops with less water, herbicides and pesticides. It helps us carefully manage the resources we use to produce a consistent crop from year-to-year, and positively contribute to a stable global food supply.

That’s doesn’t mean we take the safety of GMOs for granted. We’ve read the research and firmly believe they are safe for humans. In fact, GMO crops surround our family’s home and our children regularly play in the fields.

 

  1. Why do we use antibiotics in our cattle?

Raising cattle is an emotional part of our farm. We watch a mother cow’s movements, appetite and interaction with other animals in the herd. We can see when she isn’t feeling well. It’s our responsibility to alleviate that cow’s suffering and treat her illness. It’s an animal welfare decision for us. While our cattle are under our watchful eye, they are going to be cared for.

We don’t give antibiotics without reason and track their use diligently. We work closely with our veterinarians to oversee the health of our herd and administer antibiotics, and other treatments, when necessary. Animals treated with antibiotics are never sent off our farm when they are still being treated. We don’t sell sick cattle.

 

  1. Is farming a lifestyle or career?

It’s both, and a whole lot more. Farming and ranching can be fun and inspiring. It’s our job, but it’s also a heritage. In fact, we hope that one (or both) of our sons will want to continue our work. That’s the main reason I believe farmers, like us, are inherently responsible stewards of our resources. Every decision is made with the idea that our farm will see a fifth or sixth generation one day.

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Kansas Farms Highlighted at Hy-Vee Simple Fix Mini

img_5387Did you know much of the food you buy in the grocery store has a Kansas connection?

CommonGround Kansas hosted a Simple Fix Mini featuring Kansas-grown foods Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Topeka Hy-Vee. Guests enjoyed appetizers and wine, visited with Kansas farmers and prepared a three-course meal to take home and bake for their families.

The menu featured Southwest Avocado Ranch Salad, Layered Beef Enchiladas and Tres Leches Cake. Each recipe showcased connections to ingredients that are grown in Kansas, such as the wheat that goes into flour tortillas, corn that is fed to beef cattle and soybeans that are made into oil for salad dressing. The salad even featured grain sorghum as a topping.

Each work station was equipped with easy-to-follow recipes and all the prepared ingredients needed to create each dish.

Volunteers Melissa Hildebrand Reed, a dairy farmer near Junction City, and Laura Handke, a rancher near Atchison, visited with guests and answered questions about their farms. Guests also sampled flavors of milk from Hildebrand Family Dairy.

Hy-Vee dietitians Kylene Frost and Alyssa Gehle answered nutrition questions and served samples of the prepared meal.

The meal and event was sponsored by the farmers and ranchers of CommonGround Kansas. Ticket proceeds benefited Harvesters Community Food Network. Guests also brought canned and dry goods to donate.

Thank you to all who attended for the great discussions and for helping feed the hungry in our community!

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Conversation Flows at “Dinner on the Farm”

dinner on the farm

by Laura Handke, CommonGround Kansas volunteer

Handke

Laura and Chris Handke, with daughter Audrey Ann, are proud to represent the fourth generation on Chris’ family farm near Atchison, KS.

Grain finished beef brisket, fresh-from-the-garden green beans, butter yourself (and lots of it, please) homegrown sweet corn and homemade dinner rolls preceded a perfectly crusted, vanilla ice cream topped peach cobbler—is your mouth watering yet—all from the farm and all the main topic of conversation at the Dinner on the Farm evening hosted by Bismarck Gardens, Lawrence, KS, on July 9.  It was a made-to-order event: a nice breeze beat the heat, the location was picture perfect and great conversation flowed throughout the event. It was a perfect evening!

Both the owners and employees who make Bismarck Gardens so successful, in cooperation with Kansas Corn, made sure that the evening was all about mingling, food, fun and lots of conversation! Farm owner Patrick Ross addressed the group right after the meal to talk about the farm, the dinner we had all just enjoyed and to thank everyone for coming and sharing in the evening.

I sat by a fun-loving couple from Shawnee Mission: she manages the produce department at HyVee and he is an Uber driver; a lively pair of BFFs in their eighties; and a young entrepreneurial couple from Arkansas who moved to Lawrence to grow their business of helping foreign students acclimate to a new environment, both academically and socially.  I couldn’t have hand-picked better conversations! We talked about the advantages of grain fed beef, nutrition, sweet corn versus field corn and how field corn is used, and the incredible feats agriculture technology has achieved in the past decade. We shared childhood stories of growing up on the farm — we all had farm roots, but most had long-since pursued lives in town.

As events go, I would have to say that this has been my favorite to participate in as a CommonGround volunteer. I was excited to have been invited to participate and even more excited by the thought of similar events in the future! These are the events that spark those touchy conversations that ignite interest, but with a farmer on hand to meet that interest with correct, factual and current resources and information. Way to go, Bismarck Farms and Kansas Corn, you hit the nail on the head with this event!

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Guests experience modern agriculture during farm tour

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Volunteer Kim Baldwin talks about growing wheat on her family’s farm near McPherson, KS.

Have you ever been to a working farm? Has it been many years since you saw a farm firsthand? You’re definitely not alone. Even in a highly agricultural and rural state like Kansas, most consumers have never seen modern agriculture firsthand. That changed for about a dozen guests who attended a special tour of Kansas farms on Saturday, July 19.

Volunteers Kim Baldwin and Katie Sawyer opened up their McPherson County farms and ranches to bloggers, media, dietitians and consumers during the first-ever CommonGround Kansas Farm Tour. Guests arrived via tour bus to see how the women and their families raise corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and cattle.

During the tour, the Baldwins showed guests their farm machinery and explained how each is used, including the innovative technology that allows them to more precisely plant, fertilize and harvest crops. Guests also learned about the family’s cow herd and were able to see the animals grazing on pasture near the farm. During a visit to the farm’s test plot, Kim and her husband, Adam, shared about biotechnology while showing different corn hybrids growing in the field.

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Volunteer Katie Sawyer explains how her family uses subsurface drip irrigation to more efficiently utilize water in one of their corn fields.

The bus traveled on to the Sawyer’s farm, where guests walked through a soybean field irrigated with a center pivot. Katie and her husband, Derek, also learned about subsurface drip irrigation and saw the technology working in one of the Sawyer’s corn fields. Katie talked about how the family cares for their cow herd and when and why antibiotics are used to care for sick animals.

Guests also visited the Mid-Kansas Cooperative Groveland facility, where they learned about grain markets. The tour concluded with a barbecue lunch at Knackie’s in Inman.

Thanks to everyone who attended! If you or someone you know is interested in visiting Kansas farms, please email us and we’ll notify you as future opportunities arise.

 

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

 

 

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Kids’ Reading List: Corn

Corn on the cob is one of my absolute, favorite foods.  When I had braces, my mom would cut the corn off the cob, but it just wasn’t the same.  I couldn’t wait until the next summer, when my braces came off, to taste the sweet kernels right off the cob.  The summertime staple has an impact on our lives beyond the supper table.  Learn more about the impression of corn on our daily lives from the authors of Corn,  Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey

Corn

A part of the Awesome Agriculture series, Corn explores the important commodity crop from A-to-Z for kids ages five to eight.  AGRI, the tractor, shares interesting facts at the turn of every page.  In addition to photos that illustrate the multi-faceted agricultural industry, each book ends with an activities section for continued learning and fun.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.
Check out the past selections in the reading list:

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