Italian Group Visits Northeast Kansas Farms

By Ken McCauley, Kansas Corn Commissioner
White Cloud, KS

Ken & Mary McCauley of White Cloud hosted a group from Italy who were involved in Agriculture, on June 19 & 20.  The group was led by Anna Trettenero, a farmer (and was the interpreter for the group)—the group included 6 farmers, a professor of Agronomy, an animal nutritionist, and an Italian Government official.  The group was interested in and practice no-till farming.  They were also interested in irrigation techniques that Midwest farmers practice.  Prior to their arrival in Hiawatha they visited farms in South Dakota & businesses in Nebraska.  In Kansas they visited Great Plains Mfg., Agco Inc. and Kansas State University.  Kansas Corn Commission staff Sue Schulte and intern Paige McFarland arranged the group’s tour in this part of Kansas.  From there they traveled to Hiawatha.

They arrived in Hiawatha in the afternoon and checked in to the Hiawatha Lodge.  The group visited the Davis Memorial—they were excited to learn that much of the marble had come from Italy.  Before dinner, the group was thirsty so we traveled to First Street Grill for a “locally produced beer”.  We quickly found the language barriers eased with the universal language of “beer”.  Next stop was our dinner at the Country Cabin where the group enjoyed refreshments on the deck before dinner.  They enjoyed the Cabin’s famous smoked pork chop and rib eye steak and of course some red wine.

Thursday morning the group started out the day at 7 am. for coffee & pastry at the Daily Perk on Oregon St.  Ashleigh did a great job preparing for us–her coffee supplier came and made the espresso and cappuccino coffees taste their best!!  The group was very impressed with Ashleigh, her new restaurant and the friendliness with the local folks who came in and visited with us. 

Our next stop was a visit to Hiawatha Implement to see Larry Roeder’s new building and look at the equipment he had on hand. They also enjoyed the opportunity to buy some John Deere souvenirs!  While there, we had presentations by Andy Pederson on seed trends, and Keith Grimm regarding irrigation.  We then went to the Keith Grimm farm near Morrill for a demonstration of irrigation on his farm. 

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The group enjoying a nice lunch at the McCauley Farm in White Cloud, KS.

We journeyed on to the McCauley Farm Shop just before noon and looked at machinery, grain storage and crops in the field. We all enjoyed lunch at Ken & Mary’s house where we ate in the shade under their Maple trees.  The group had fun seeing where and how we live here in Kansas!  Next stop was “Lookout Point” in White Cloud where you can see four states and a great view of the Missouri River valley.  We then went to LifeLine Foods in St. Joseph, MO for a presentation and tour of their facility. 

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Kansas Corn Commissioner, Pat Ross, discusses cattle and crops with the Italians.

The final stop of the day was at the Pat & Mary Ross home near Lawrence to see their farm and feedlot.

We finished the day at their hotel near the KC Airport.  The group flew back to their homes in Italy the next day.

The group was very impressed with Hiawatha and the surrounding area, making comments about how nice the city looked and the friendliness of the people they met.  I think that our little communities have much to offer groups like this.  We tend to take our surroundings for granted until we look at things through a strangers’ eyes!!  This group’s visit made me appreciate the things in our own back yard.  

A week of Italians, Banjos and “Angoose”

By: Paige McFarland
Kansas Corn Intern

Hello again! I’m back for the summer- for those of you who haven’t heard! So far, this summer has been filled with some unforgettable memories and networking experiences. Most recently the Kansas Corn Commission hosted a group of farmers, agronomists and professors from Italy! We spent our three days touring Great Plains International (www.greatplainsint.com), AgCO (www.agcocorp.com), and the International Grains Program (http://www.grains.k-state.edu/igp/) and Wheat Innovation Center (www.kswheat.com) on Kansas State University North Campus.

DAY ONE: The group arrived and met the corn staffers in Salina, Kansas. We went to dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, about as American as you can get! The first thing they noticed when we walked in was that there were peanut shells on the ground. Often times, we get so used to our culture that we don’t notice the little things like this. They laughed and immediately picked up a peanut (nut and all) and chucked it onto the ground, just because they could. We started to discuss different cuts of steak and proportions, one of the men asked “Is this an-goose steak?” As soon as I heard goose, I immediately thought um no, this isn’t goose meat. There was a slight language barrier but it was fairly easy to understand once I got used to it! Shortly after we ordered I realized he was asking if they were Angus steaks- at that point in time I was feeling pretty dumb. We had some great conversations over dinner and got to know the group pretty well.

DAY TWO: While we were loading up in cars early Tuesday morning we split up and I ended up traveling in a rental car with three Italian men. The first thing the driver said was “You know, Italians are known to be pretty crazy drivers.” I just laughed it off. I wish I would’ve known then what I know now! I may or may not have underestimated how factual his statement was. That morning we traveled to Great Plains International. Personally, I had never toured an implement company before last week. We had phenomenal tour guides who drove us around first class! There was a lot of interest in the different equipment as well.

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Our first class ride around Great Plains International

It was a great experience; I was simply amazed by how big the company was. They said they shipped parts and equipment to 60 different countries. (Wowza!) We also had the opportunity to listen to a speaker talk about Vertical Tillage and Conventional Tillage- the group was very interested in the different tillage options. If you ever get the chance to go on a tour at Great Plains, I would highly encourage you to do so- great hospitality and people.

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Vertical tillage on the back of a napkin: K-State Department of Agronomy researcher DeAnn Presley discussed vertical tillage and no-till methods.

We stopped for lunch and had a good discussion with K-State researchers DeAnn Presley and Ignacio Ciampitti and then quickly headed to Hesston to tour AGCO Corporation- another implement company. We had the opportunity to discuss the oil rigs and different crops on the drive to Hesston. I learned that a lot of our crops are similar to Italian farms. The average Kansas farmer farms soybeans, corn, wheat, and grain sorghum which is the same for the Italian farmers we spoke with. Once we arrived at AGCO we started our tour. It was quite the experience to tour two implement companies in one day. The two companies were completely different- they produced different types of equipment, and each had their own way of doing things and it was really neat to see that firsthand. Ivan, our AGCO tour guide started working at the plant in 1961, so he could explain the purpose of every bolt and nut. While touring AGCO we were able to see the whole building process of their Challenger combine. Once the parts are ready to assemble, they produce three combines per day. Those are pretty crazy numbers considering how much work goes into building a combine.

We were able to head back to the hotel and rest up for dinner after a full day of touring. We went to Tucson’s Steakhouse in Salina- you must try this restaurant if you’re in the area. My first experience there was earlier this summer on another work trip; it was great both times- wonderful service and FAN-tastic food. We enjoyed our meal while talking about American sports and music. We discovered in order to impress an Italian man you need to know how to tango dance or be a skilled banjo player! (I am not physically capable to dance or play music- I am about as coordinated as a two day old calf.)

DAY THREE: We made the drive to Manhattan, Kansas Wednesday morning- driving through the Flint Hills never gets old for me. (I guess it’s a good thing I’m a K-Stater!) On our drive to Manhattan we passed Bill Snyder (KSU football coach) hauling his boat on I70. My neck about snapped as I did a double take and discovered it really was him, BILL SNYDER- the man, the myth, the legend. I tried to explain who he was to my car full of Italians. Due to the way I reacted they thought he was the President. (I’m not saying I’d complain if he was!) Right about that time we pulled onto 77 highway- which is named Bill Snyder highway. I don’t think they quite understood what our obsession with this man was all about- crazy Americans and their sports.

We stopped at the Scenic Overlook right outside of Manhattan to kill some time. The Italians thought it was amazing how much open space there was. They informed me that you couldn’t see the horizon in Italy because it was so highly populated.

Flint Hills

Our Italian friends enjoying the Scenic Overlook outside of Manhattan, KS.

We then made our way to The International Grains Program Conference Center Jay O’Neil and Mark Fowler explained IGP’s mission to educate foreign grain buyers, and also to offer courses to grain millers. We were able to tour the flour mill and the brand new feed mill that will be up and running very, very soon! It’s great that we have such an amazing asset at Kansas State University. We then moved on to tour the new Wheat Innovation Center, the new research center where wheat breeding work is being done using the double haploid technology. I said “Ciao” to the group as they traveled on to Ken McCauley’s farm in northeast Kansas.

Overall, this was definitely an experience for the books. I hadn’t had the opportunity to experience international agriculture before our Italian Ag tour. I will definitely be looking for more opportunities to broaden my knowledge in the next few years. This opportunity just fell in my lap and I couldn’t be happier that I went along for the ride. If the opportunity presents itself for you, don’t hesitate to take part. I couldn’t have asked for a more fun, energetic group to make this a lasting experience for me.

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Our full group, including our new K-State research friends!

Agriculture Education

Agriculture Education
Paige McFarland, Intern

      Do you know where your breakfast came from this morning? I do, but I’ve read that nearly 98 percent of Americans have absolutely NO idea where and how their food or clothing is made. I obviously can’t tell you exactly which pig on a farm in the United States my bacon came from. But I do know my bacon comes from a pig. The majority of people assume that you just buy your food and clothing from a store, where their factories make it. Contrary to popular belief, that statement is false. In today’s society, with resources vanishing, people need to understand the importance of agriculture now more than ever. How can you help people come to the understanding? I have chose Agriculture Education as my major at Kansas State University to help people better understand the importance of agriculture and where we would be without it.

            So many people fail to understand the extent of which that corn is used. Things you would never guess like plastic Wal-mart sacks, diapers, fireworks and ceiling tile are all made with corn. The different types of corn are used for different things. Field corn is mainly used for livestock feed and ethanol but a very small amount of our crop is used for sweeteners, cereal and other types of food. Sweet corn and popcorn are different types of corn. and others are used to make the other products.

            If you have followed my posts on Facebook, Twitter or even my previous blog posts I have shared some of my experiences about teaching moments. The most recent was just a few days ago when a little girl asked me “Why is your corn not green? Is it because it’s sad because it’s so hot and sweat the green out?” Yes, that really happened. She pretty much hit the nail right on the head with that one. (In an explanation that would make sense to a six year old.) I proceeded to tell her that when it gets really hot (like this year!) that the corn gets tired and hot just like we do.

            Agriculture is a part of people’s lives, whether they want it to be or not. It is extra important to me to educate people because it is such a big part of my life. Today is the last day of my internship at the Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum offices. I will continue to advocate for agriculture and hope that I can make an influence in the agricultural industry.

A Whole New World

A Whole New World

Paige McFarland, Intern

As some of you know, I had the opportunity to take a road trip to Dodge City this past week for the 3i Farm Show. This was the first farm show booth I have worked and also the first time I’ve spent a lot of time in western Kansas. It was a trip  to remember!

I came to a few realizations along the way:

1. Feedlots and Meat packing plants are A LOT bigger in Western Kansas

2. Irrigation makes a HUGE difference and,

3. The heat makes people do crazy things (myself included!)

As we were welcomed into Dodge City one of these first signs we saw read “Scenic Overlook.” In eastern Kansas you would see the Flint Hills and other sorts of attractions, but in Dodge City the Scenic overlook was of the feedlots. I couldn’t help but state the obvious: “Wow, that’s a lot of cows!” I have seen smaller feedlots but never one of this size. This cattle feedlot is said to be one of the largest operations in Southwest Kansas.

On our five-hour trek to Dodge City, I was shocked at the difference irrigation has made on the corn in southwest Kansas. Obviously, if the crop is getting water it will grow like it is supposed to but, SHEESH! I think I was starting to forget what a good corn crop looked like after having two consecutive dry years in our neck of the woods. I didn’t fully understand how the irrigation systems worked at first, mainly because I haven’t been around them much.  Seeing them in action was a pretty neat experience. I also learned that even the irrigators are struggling against the hot, dry weather we are having. I also learned that irrigators spend a lot of time and money to keep those fields productive—especially this summer.

Last but certainly not least, the heat. It was pretty hot in Dodge City. I was told it is usually hotter and drier in western Kansas, but I couldn’t tell a lot of difference. The drought has baked out most of the humidity in eastern Kansas.  Although it was not as hot as the week prior (for which, I am soooo thankful!) there were times I felt like I was melting.

On the drive out west we came across a few interesting sights as we stopped, including a 50+ year-old man at a gas station sporting an enormous  red wig who proceeded to tell stories about his buddy, Buffalo Bill. If you were present at the 3i show late Saturday afternoon, you may have also seen a few corn staffers rolling around on a golf cart squirting water guns at random people. The water guns came from my new friends at the High Plains Journal (definitely the best giveaway at the 3i Show).

On a more serious note, I am most definitely glad I gained this experience. I had the pleasure of speaking to a few of our growers and board members during the show. I hear these names on a daily basis and read their Facebook updates but had never been able to put names to faces prior to the 3i Show. I talked to a variety of people who were visiting the show. Some of them showed interest in what we do and wanted to get a closer look at our ethanol powered Harley Davidson motorcycle.  Some just wanted the freebies, but that was to be expected, it is a Farm Show after all.

Representing the Kansas Corn Commission was a rewarding experience for me. Not only was I helping the general public to understand what we do in agriculture, I was learning from them and I was learning from our growers. I truly enjoyed the experience but by Saturday night I was ready to “Get the Heck Outta Dodge!”

Ridin’ Green: E85 Promotion

By Paige McFarland, Intern

If you are familiar with the Kansas Corn Commission, you know there has been a multitude of cars and trucks used to promote ethanol over the last 20 or 30 years. Some of you may be having flashbacks of the Chevy Silverado, the Ford Mustang convertible from the 1980s, or the more recent corn cars engulfed with green and yellow ears of corn.

So what’s next for Kansas Corn? Here’s a hint: the familiar face you see in the current corn car, will most likely not be the same face you see on the new and improved Harley! Kansas Corn Growers Executive Director, Jere White recently took his motorcycle to Comb’s Custom Cycles of Lawrence, Kansas to have a few cosmetic changes made after converting it to run on e85.

Jere had his motorcycle converted in Rapid City, South Dakota in the spring of 2011. In order to convert this bike to run on E85 they had to replace the computer and injectors. A bike like his normally runs on 91 octane, which is a higher octane than a normal car would run on, and is roughly a dollar more in cost than E85. E85 fuel is naturally high in octane, and costs less than regular unleaded. This is one of the many benefits of converting the bike to run on American ethanol.

The question has surfaced time and time again, are ethanol blends safe to use in our vehicles? The sole purpose of the eye catching corn cars is to promote the use of ethanol as a renewable fuel. By using E85, we are showing that it used safely. Nothing is more American than a Harley Davidson motorcycle, so it makes sense to use American-made ethanol. The bike is the next step in demonstrating the benefits of American ethanol.

“Over the years we have utilized different vehicles and ideas to engage discussion in what we are promoting. The presence of ethanol has definitely increased,” Jere said. “We have to branch out to engage others. If we are going to be successful we have to promote ethanol to a variety of audiences. The bike will offer us the traditional audience at the 3i Farm Show in Dodge City, and also the non-traditional audience at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.”

The flex fuel motorcycle is accented with a glossy green environmentally sound paint. 

On the tank is an eagle holding an ear of corn. This image represents the foundation in which American ethanol originates from.

The front fender holds more of a whimsical theme. There is a skeleton farmer (skeletons are popular with the bike crowd) sitting on an old John Deere tractor with a jar of moonshine. Ethanol is an alcohol fuel–essentially moonshine. Ethanol has been used to fuel vehicles since before the moonshine days. (In fact, the first Flex Fuel vehicle was Henry Ford’s Model T.) This part of the bike ties the farming industry and biker imagery into one.

Over the years, we’ve put ethanol in just about everything—pickups, cars, airplanes, and now motorcycles. Kansas Corn staffers have driven hundreds of thousands of miles using ethanol blended fuels as they’ve crisscrossed the state over several years. They can definitely answer any questions you might have about ethanol’s performance in a variety of vehicles.

 “Probably the most important thing is that we are using fuel that is made right here in our state,” Jere said. “When you are using 85 percent ethanol, that’s 85 percent fuel made right here in several small Kansas communities and not imported from the Middle East.”

The bike will make its first appearance at the 3i Farm Show in Dodge City July 12th-14th. Come take a look!

Final Farewell

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Today is the day. After nearly three years, this is my last day in the Kansas Corn & Grain Sorghum office.

It has been a pleasure to work with all our growers and to meet so many genuine folks. Thanks to social media, I’ve been able to connect and learn from farmers across the nation—and world. With the U.S. Grains Council I had the opportunity to travel with corn growers to China for the Spring Corn Tour last May. I learned about Chinese corn production and gained more knowledge about exports.

2011 Spring Crop Tour to China with U.S. Grains Council

One of my favorite projects over the past year has been CommonGround Kansas. I’ve met so many strong and talented women who inspire me. Thanks to each of the volunteers who have been a pleasure to work with.

CommonGround Shared Voices Conference

I’m leaving the communications specialist position with a strong social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, a brand new website (if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do), new logos for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers, and branding for Agriland at the Kansas State Fair.

Topeka Farm Show Display

The best compliment I received came from one of our corn growers at Commodity Classic the first year I attended. He asked me to tell him about my family farm back home and was shocked when I informed him that I didn’t grow up on a farm and I didn’t study agriculture in school. I must have blended in well! He asked how I was able to share so much about agriculture though our website and social media platforms and I explained that everything I had learned had come from the research I did or the folks I met.

Wiscombe plants corn near Overbrook, KS

I thank those who answered my e-mails, tweets, and Facebook questions. A special thanks to Pat and Mary Ross and Kirk Wiscombe for letting me visit their farms each time I asked. I greatly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to teach this Iowa girl a few things about Kansas agriculture!

At Ross-Nunemaker Farms in Lawrence, KS

I’m on to new adventures at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO where I’ll be the Communications Manager for the Harriman-Jewell Series. Please continue to keep in touch with me on Facebook and Twitter! It’s been a pleasure getting to know each of you.

Farewell,

DeEtta

What’s the beef with antibiotics?

By: Paige McFarland, Intern

I recently read an article in Redbook magazine called “Antibiotics are not Candy”. In this article it discusses the risks of antibiotics developing superbugs. This article defines a superbug as a medicine resistant disease. The most well-known superbug is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. It also discussed how these “bugs” could potentially become uncontrollable if the dilemma is not addressed.

As a farm girl myself, I experienced the trials and tribulations that went with raising cattle. I am frustrated with the misinformation I read the Redbook article regarding antibiotics in animals.

Medicines are used in animals just as they are used in humans- to treat and prevent illness effectively and to keep or maintain good health. Cattle are often given an antibiotic when they are sick, just like humans. These antibiotics are not the same as the antibiotic given to humans. They are utilized to create healthy animals so they can produce nutritious meat.


Farmers and ranchers monitor their livestock closely to know when, and if, these medicines are needed. If antibiotics are not needed they will not spend the money to administer the medicine. It doesn’t make good business sense to spend money on resources that aren’t needed.

Precautions are taken by the producers because they are fully aware of the potential harm antibiotics can cause. This is where groups such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) come in to save the day. Meat cannot be released into the food supply with any antibiotics above the strict safety limits set by the FDA. They undergo rigorous testing before seeking FDA approval to keep humans healthy.

TV shows, magazine articles and other sources often lead consumers astray with faulty accusations of animal agriculture. It is important to research the facts, and if you have questions, farmers are happy to speak with you. Groups like the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and CommonGround are just two of the grassroots programs that Kansas Corn are involved with.

Image from Redbook

The article showed a graphic that depicted animals on farms being fed low doses of antibiotics in their feed and water. They claimed the use of these antibiotics correlates directly with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develops in animals and is then transferred to humans, making them sick. Contrary to popular belief, animals are not injected with antibiotics and directly put into our food supply to cause illness.

As I stated before, I grew up around cattle on my family farm. We have used antibiotics strictly for sicknesses in our cattle. Between the times the vet prescribes the antibiotic and the time it is injected, it is recorded. When we record an injection such as this one it is very important to have the type of antibiotic, date, time, and reason for the injection.

The antibiotics are subject to a thorough review process by the FDA before they are approved for use in food production. Antibiotic use in animal agriculture is not the reason for antibiotic resistance in humans. There are three key reasons for this:

1) It is unlikely that the resistant bacteria would survive the animal processing phase
2) It is unlikely that the bacteria would survive if the meat is cooked properly

3) The antibiotics used in animals are different from those used in human healthcare

A more likely reason for the uprising of the resistant bacteria is the over-use of antibiotics in human healthcare.

Animal agriculture is under a microscope now more than ever. There are activist groups out there looking to completely abolish animal agriculture, which is why I chose to write about this specific Redbook article. I could have read it and looked the other way, but I know how important it is to share my story. It is important to continue advocating and I encourage you to do the same.

More great articles:

Livestock Antibiotics: Super Bugs?

Antibiotic Superbugs: Why Farmers Aren’t To Blame

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