Tag Archives: agriculture

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) announces the availability of its latest report, Lessons Learned from Specialty Crop Growers Across Kansas. The 42-page report is a compilation of five previously published profiles of successful Kansas specialty crop growers, plus the proceedings of a one-day facilitated discussion in February 2018 between those experienced growers and five beginning specialty crop growers.

“Interest continues to grow among Kansas farmers and want-to-be farmers for ways to diversify their farms or to find new enterprises for the growing market demand for local, fresh fruits and vegetables,” stated Mary Fund, KRC Executive Director. “This report is a modest attempt to share information among growers, and to document what
growers see as the challenges and needs if specialty crop production is to move forward in Kansas.”

Kansas only grows about 4% of the fruits and vegetables it consumes, which points to potential economic opportunity. Historically, Kansas grew many more acres of specialty crops until commodity crop agriculture took over most of those acres.

The Lessons Learned report is available online at the Kansas Rural Center’s website at website https://kansasruralcenter.org/growing-under-cover/. A limited number of hard copies are also available by contacting mfund@kansasruralcenter.org. Farmers profiled include Dave Svaty of Svaty’s Produce near Kanopolis, Frank Gieringer of Gieringer’s Orchard and Berry Farm near Edgerton, Chris and Christi Janssen’s C and C High Tunnels in Scandia, Dan and Kathy Kuhn’s The Depot Market in Courtland, and Nina and Jeter Isley’s Y Knot Farm and Ranch near Bird City in far northwest Kansas.

Most feature high tunnel or hoop house production in addition to field production. Crops feature a full range of vegetables from salad greens, tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins to a variety of fruits: you-pick strawberries and other berries, and apples and peaches. More than one also direct market grass fed beef, lamb and chicken. One also raises certified organic grains and another conventional grain crops.

The report joins KRC’s trilogy of specialty crop guides: Growing Under Cover: Polytunnel Options (December 2014, Updated Oct. 2018); Growing Under Cover: A Kansas Grower’s Guide, 2016; and Growing Over Cover: A Kansas Specialty Crop Grower’s Guide to Cover Crops. All are available for download in color and/or black and white at KRC’s website https://kansasruralcenter.org/growing-under-cover/.

Hard copies are also available upon request for the Growing Under Cover: A Kansas Growers Guide.

The report was published as part of a project supported by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the SCBG Program at the Kansas Department of Agriculture in Kansas.

Growing Over Cover: A Kansas Specialty Crop Grower’s Guide to Cover Crops is the latest publication in the Kansas Rural Center’s series of grower guides for fruit and vegetable growers in Kansas. The guide is now available for download on the KRC website, and a limited number of hard copies are available by contacting KRC.

Growing Over Cover was prepared with funding from the Kansas Department of Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through Grant No. 16-SC-BGP-KS-044.

The guide is the third in a series of specialty crop guides prepared by the Kansas Rural Center in collaboration with Kansas State University Extension. The first was Growing Under Cover: A Guide to Polytunnel Options that outlines the choices available for low and high tunnels, and how to select the right plastic tunnel or hoophouse option for you. Available at http://kansasruralcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Growing-Under-Cover-0-FULL.pdf.

The second guide is Growing Under Cover: A Kansas Grower’s Guide that provides basic management strategies for hoophouse or high tunnel production, as well as enterprise budgets for seven major specialty crops popular in hoophouses including tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, peppers, leafy greens and root vegetables. It is available at KRC’s website at https://kansasruralcenter.org/growing-under-cover-a-kansas-growers-guide/.

The Kansas Rural Center is a non-profit research, education and advocacy organization promoting a sustainable agriculture and food system.

Food packaging today is really about marketing and making money – lots of it. Food handlers and marketers care about competing for shelf space and selling their product. They’re in the business of selling their packaged products to consumers. Can’t blame them. It’s the American way.

Environmental consequences, consumer satisfaction and selling a product at a fair and equitable price doesn’t rank at the top of the ptiotity list of priorities for food marketers.

It’s estimated the global food packaging market is expected to reach $411.3 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. Due to changing lifestyles that may alter eating habits, an increase in demand for convenience foods will propel their growth in the global market.

You know, processed, tasteless food you can pop out of your freezer, microwave and eat in a jiffy.

The industry exhibits rapid growth for single-serve and portable food packs. Increasing purchasing power of buyers owing to rising per capita income is expected to boost growth. Furthermore, increasing urban population and attraction toward ready-to-eat meals by consumers is expected to escalate industry growth.

As the amount of packaging increases, so does waste and environmental costs not to mention the added costs to consumers. The plastic bottle containing your favorite soda or the aluminum can that holds your favorite brew costs more than the soda or beer.

On average a beer can or bottle may cost three, four, five or maybe six times the cost of the beverage. The same is true for sodas. It depends on the company and the product.

Don’t get me wrong,  I understand the need for packaging that provides a protective coating between the food product we wish to eat and our environment, thus keeping the contents safe and ensuring hygiene.

Some packaging prolongs the food life while other packaging is necessary for safe and efficient transportation. And lastly, God bless their souls, other packaging is used to provide consumers with information and instructions for which there are some legal requirements. You know, like the small, rectangular preservative pack inside a bag of beef jerky with the instructions, “Do not eat.”

However, all this convenience, marketing and profit comes with a price – additional waste for this nation’s landfills and the rest of the globe. In this country and other wealthy nations, a decrease in the size of households has resulted in more people purchasing smaller portions of food and that means more packaging.

A higher living standard around the globe has also resulted in the desire to acquire “exotic” foods from other lands and eat them. Transportation of such food and the ability to keep it fresh also costs more in packaging.

So how much waste has this galloping packaging industry produced?

It’s difficult finding information like this in our country. Seems like our folks in the food, beverage and packaging companies would rather talk about their proposed plans to eliminate waste in the future, never mind the past.

Still, the packaging industry may be making some headway. According to figures by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the food, beverage and packaging companies intend to eliminate an additional 2.5 billion pounds of packaging waste in the United States during the next couple years. These companies already have avoided creating 1.5 billion pounds of packaging waste since 2005, the trade group says.

Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin – a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017.

To achieve a change toward more sustainable packaging, it’s not just the packaging that requires alterations but also our lifestyles and habits of consumption.

Support companies that use packaging most efficiently. Avoid buying disposable items, such as non-refillable razors, alkaline batteries, etc. Recycle. Buy in bulk. Reuse shopping bags and buy only recycled products.

Change comes with personal responsibility and the ability to look in the mirror and say, “It’s up to me.”

“I know farming is expected to be just another business. But I believe farming will always be a way of life as much as a business for me.”
A longtime farmer friend conveyed this message at Kansas Farm Bureau’s centennial annual meeting. He is not a retired farmer thinking of old ways and old days.
While he’s cultivated and no-tilled many an acre, harvested thousands of bushels of wheat, raised countless cattle and more importantly a wonderful family, this gentleman remains a vibrant, modern farmer from western Kansas.
Truth be known, there are many, many like-minded individuals who take pride in their chosen professions of farming and ranching.
Without a doubt today’s farmer/rancher knows very well his or her vocation constitutes a business. Many carry a ton of debt on their shoulders while at the same time realizing their livelihood hinges on the fickle fate of Mother Nature. Still, they understand this business of agriculture is more than dollars and cents.
“My most important possessions remain my family and way of life,” my sage friend said. “That’s who I am. That’s who I will always be.”
Some of his fondest memories include late suppers during the bustle of wheat harvest with everyone gathered around the back end of a pickup, eating cold cuts as the golden Kansas sun sinks under the horizon on the wide-open Kansas plains. Other recollections involve covered picnics in the hay field on a late summer Sunday.
How could he forget a story about a walk through the old red barn about midnight to check on a young heifer ready to calve while listening to other cows shifting in their stanchions and chewing their cuds.
And the smells – not just manure, but freshly turned soil, or new-mown hay, a just-filled trench silo full of silage or a barn full of Holstein cows on a cold, winter day.
It’s no secret the farm and ranch vocation may be one of the few remaining holdouts where those who toil on the land seek to balance the headlong search for economic viability with emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Most family farmers and ranchers have not lost sight of this tight-rope act. They understand to stay in this business of farming/ranching, they must continue to learn how to farm more efficiently, and smarter. Without a profitable operation, they would be forced to leave their land. To exist anywhere else would be inconceivable.
Farmers and ranchers remain emotionally tied to the sights, sounds, smells and the rewarding performance of planting, growing and harvesting crops as well as feeding, raising and continuing the life cycle of healthy livestock. The indefinable desire to carve out a life with the earth and sky remains an overpowering force that belongs in their hearts.
Could it be when asked about their vocation, farmers and ranchers often refer to it as a “business,” rather than a way of life?
Or could it be they are wise enough to know – that must be their answer?

Christmas and other December holidays have changed a lot over the years, but even amidst wide-scale, rapid transformation, many holiday season traditions and ideals that have been influenced by farm communities and rural America still endure. Rural America continues to symbolize the American ideal of what the Christmas and holiday seasons are all about, as it has since the early days of our country.

American culture was mostly rural until the late 1800s. At Christmas, rural Americans gave small, modest gifts to family members, friends and neighbors. Many of these handmade gifts were fashioned following harvests or during other down times. It was common for those who were better off to give small presents to those who were economically distressed, sometimes secretly, to preserve the recipients’ pride. In farm country, common gifts were simple – food, wood items, handmade toys, clothing or sewed items, or a pair of work gloves.

Gift-giving traditions were carried forward at the turn of the century as rural Americans flocked to cities for employment or in search of the other benefits of urban life. But in the cities, they could not produce their own food to give away. Factory and office jobs left no time to make presents, leading to purchases of inexpensive gifts. Many turn-of-the-century purchased gifts were irrelevant, useless or of poor quality and became the brunt of social criticism and disdain by both givers and receivers.

Christmas cards soon became more practical and artful small gifts. Christmas postcards may have been American’s first social media, by allowing all a glimpse into the lives of the senders.  The large volume of greeting and postcard mailings sent to and from rural America helped subsidize the Rural Free Delivery system, at that time a controversial nationwide free rural postal delivery system proposed by the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the nation’s oldest agricultural organization.

Just as they do now, the Christmas cards that first appeared in America starting in the 1870s featured rural landscapes, snow-covered houses, barns, forests and prairies, along with rural family scenes, hay rides and horse-drawn sleighs, and lavish displays of food and meals around the holiday table.

In the early 1900s, these Christmas card images continued to depict aspirational visions of beauty and prosperity in rural America. Even then, the cards and language represented desires for an “old fashioned Christmas,” a message that still resonates today. In 1910, the American urban population surpassed the rural population for the first time. Cards created a strong sense of nostalgia and portrayed an idealized vision for former farm children who had migrated to cities in search of jobs and, often, to flee rural poverty.

A spirit of unity during the holiday season is, perhaps, one of the most important, enduring symbols of rural America.

Many of the symbols of Christmas as we know it today – gift giving, Christmas trees, the joy of children, sharing with friends, neighbors and families, and community celebrations – were brought to America and fostered by immigrant farmers and rural settlers. While many describe cities and urban areas as the melting pots of America, holiday celebrations in rural and farm communities brought people together, along with diverse traditions, religious beliefs, cultures and languages from many different countries. In churches and one-room schools in rural communities, differences were ignored or blended in favor of honoring the spirit of the season.

Christmas and the holidays provide an opportunity to unify, celebrate and re-connect urban dwellers to farmers and rural America. This holds true for everything from holiday cards depicting rural images to visits to Christmas tree farms or farms offering hay rides and other opportunities to experience old holiday traditions.

On behalf of America’s farmers and ranchers, and all those involved in American agriculture, have a Merry Christmas and a joyous and safe holiday season, and best wishes for a happy, productive and prosperous new year.

A coalition filed a lawsuit this week in Kansas challenging the state’s law that protects the property rights of livestock owners.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Hope Sanctuary and others argue that the law violates the First Amendment by deterring activists from undercover investigations at animal facilities.

Meat industry publication Meatingplace reports the groups have popularized the phrase “ag gag” to describe such laws. The Kansas law was enacted in 1990 and is the oldest of its kind in the country. The Animal Legal Defense Fund claims the law “exists solely to protect the financial interests of industries that abuse animals.”

The Animal Defense Fund also led a coalition that saw significant parts of similar laws in Utah and Idaho struck down. Lawsuits against such laws are pending in Iowa and North Carolina.