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.

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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!

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