Feast of the Fields: from Farm to Fork

By: Paige McFarland, Intern

Fine cuisine, talented musicians, local products and an evening full of the beautiful scenery only found in the Flint Hills—this is what I was lucky enough to experience recently at an agritourism event called Feast of the Fields. I, along with a few fellow K-Stater’s, had the opportunity to volunteer at this event on Bob and Mary Mertz farm east of Manhattan. The Mertz Farm is tucked away in a river bottom with the most beautiful limestone barn overlooking the Flint Hills. There isn’t a better place to host an event for people to gain the experience on the farm. A majority of guests that I spoke with were from the Kansas City area, and were also in awe of the scenery. This is an excellent opportunity for the Mertz family to share the story of their farm. I was very inspired by their story and want to encourage you all to make sure that your story is heard. People are interested now, more than ever, about the production that goes into putting food on the table.

Agritourism has gained a great deal of interest over the past ten years. Agritourism is defined as “The act of visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural, or agribusiness operations for the purpose of enjoyment, education or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operation.” Farmers and ranchers continue to be challenged by misinformation being translated to consumers, who hold the livelihood of the industry in the palm of their hands. By investing our time in acts of agritourism, we can help to bring more knowledgeable opportunities to the average consumer.

Bob and Mary Mertz are striving to bridge the agricultural gap between rural and urban demographics by opening up an opportunity for dialog on their farm east of Manhattan, KS. A magazine article captivated Mary to envision china, silverware and glass spread upon linen-clad tables stretching out into the field of green cornstalks. This vision that Mary had five years ago is what we now call Feast of the Fields.

The Feast of the Fields event at the Mertz’ family farm is one of few agritourism events in the area. They usually offer the event twice a year, once in the fall and once in the early summer. Some guests were eager to learn more about where their food comes from, while some were taking part to make connections with their family history. Guests were able to talk to the local chef and farmer about what they grow, how they grow it, how they cook it, and what inspired them to make these dishes.

“My main hope for this event is that guests leave feeling positive about Kansas farms and foods, and that they will share that message with others,” Mary stated.

I had the opportunity to speak with a gentleman who had traveled from Indiana for the event on Saturday evening. He had heard about the event from his brother who formerly sold real estate in the Manhattan, KS area.

A ticket to this event landed guests a delectable meal made with Kansas products by Scott Benjamin, owner and chef at 4 Olives Wine Bar in Manhattan, KS, the opportunity to try three Kansas made wines, and music from the “Tallgrass Trio.”

Obviously, not all farms are set up or inclined to hold agritourism events like this. But each of us can do our part by taking the time help our non-farm friends and relatives understand farming and how we raise our crops and livestock. Many special interest groups aggressively spread misinformation about farming, and it is up to us to tell our story!



Know the Facts about GMOs

Know the Facts about GMOs

By Paige McFarland; Intern

“Biotechnology has helped farmers grow 311.8 million tons more food per acre in the last 15 years.”  (www.croplife.org).

How are we going to feed more people on less land and with only 1% of our population being farmers? That’s a great and frequently asked question. So what’s the answer, you ask? Biotechnology- but what is that? A new website called  www.gmosanswers.com gives us this definition of biotechnology:

Biotechnology in plant agriculture has come to mean the process of intentionally making a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and using it in another plant. The result is a GMO (genetically modified organism).”

This image was found on gmoanswers.com to brief consumers on how it all started.

This image was found on gmoanswers.com to brief consumers on how it all started.


There are a multitude of common misconceptions involving biotechnology in agriculture. So how do you as a consumer distinguish between the facts and fiction of this topic? Here is the truth behind a few commonly discussed issues with GMO’s.

Fact or Fiction: GMO’s are bad for our environment.

Fiction. Here are the facts:

There will be an estimated 9 billion people on the planet by the year 2050. The World will need 100 percent more food than we produce today. 70 to 80 percent of that food will have to come from improving technologies. Well folks, 2050 sounds like a long ways off but that is in 37 years. Biotechnology in agriculture is an efficient, cost-effective AND environmentally sound way to accomplish this. Using GMO’s is increasing yields in the fields that have been planted, therefore farmers are becoming more efficient on less land. Farmers are some of the greatest environmental stewards.

“Our deep respect for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables, preserved our landscape, and inspired us with a powerful work ethic.”- James H. Douglas, American Politician.

Fact or Fiction: GMO’s have been in our food since the 1990’s.

Fact. GMO’s were studied by scientists for YEARS before they emerged. There has been more testing on biotechnology in our crops than any other agricultural study. These biotech crops are also rigorously tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before emerging into our food source. Since the mid 1990’s there has not been one documented case of harm to humans or death caused by GMO consumption.

Fact or Fiction: Our crops today don’t have as much nutritional value due to GMO’s.

Fiction. Through the rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing they have found that GMO’s have the same, if not better, nutritional value as non GMO’s. This includes the same levels of amino acids, fibers, proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Farmers and the agricultural industry deserve to be respected for all the advancements and improvements they have made in the last 50 years and even more so for the substantial amount of work they will do in the next 50 years. It’s not an easy job, if it were everybody would do it. Don’t forget to ‪#‎thankafarmer and ‪ #‎agvocate every chance you get folks.

If you still have questions about GMO’s and biotechnology you can visit the following links for some extra information:




It’s County Fair Season!

By: Paige McFarland
Kansas Corn Intern


Isn’t that the truth!! To find out more about the 4-H organization check out this link! https://www.facebook.com/4-h

It’s that time of year again. Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about- COUNTY FAIR TIME. This is probably one of my favorite seasons. (If you’re a former 4-Her you know exactly what I mean when I say season!) It’s not just four days of funnel cakes, rodeos and rides. County fairs take months and months of preparation- whether you are the extension agent organizing fair books or the 4-Her halter breaking their heifer or even trying to perfect that apple pie.

Looking back on my 4-H years, I cannot tell you how many taste tests my family had of pies where the filling was just too runny or breads that did not rise perfectly. I cannot tell you how many times I messed up an entry card when it asked how many years I’d been in 4-H (because it seemed like the answer should be infinity.) I cannot tell you how many times I stepped in animal feces walking around the fairgrounds waiting on club tours. I cannot tell you how many sodas I sold during the demolition derby while our club did their concession stand time. But there is one thing I can tell you- I can tell you that looking back it’s been one of the single most memorable experiences from my childhood.

4-H isn’t just the county fair. 4-H helps many young children, including myself, learn key morals and values in their lives and for that; I owe so much to this organization. Responsibility, leadership, work ethic and determination are just a few that come to mind. So while you’re walking around your county fair this year try to recognize these kids and extension agents for all they do for the county. It’s a wonderful time of year for so many reasons, embrace it!



This picture couldn’t be more true! To find out more about the 4-H organization check out this link! https://www.facebook.com/4-h


Smile and Wave.

Paige McFarland

We live in a society where people are always in a hurry. They often speed by farm implements on the roads at dinner time and honk, maybe because they’re in a hurry to get to their dinner reservation. But do they realize that farmer hasn’t eaten yet because he is doing everything he can to put food on our tables?

I’m sure we’ve all either been stuck behind a farm implement on the road, or been driving the farm implement other people were stuck behind. With wheat harvest and the growing season for fall crops both in full swing, there are more and more implements on the roads. As a reminder to all the drivers: use the three C’s- be cautious, courteous and use common sense.

Be cautious– Farmers don’t like using highways and they avoid highways as much as possible. BUT it is legal to drive farm machinery on public roads and it’s often the only way farmers can get from field to field. The most important thing you can do when approaching a large piece of equipment traveling down the road is to SLOW DOWN. Most times there will be a slow moving vehicle sign on the back to let other drivers know that they are going slower than 25 mph. For this reason, it is important to be paying attention at all times.


Slow moving vehicle emblem on the back of the tractor. This sign is required on vehicles moving slower than 25 mph.

Be courteous– This reminds me of the song “International Harvester”

Well I know you got your own deadline
But cussing me won’t save you no time Hoss
But this big wheel wide load ain’t going any faster
So just smile and wave and tip your hat to the man up on the tractor”

Use common sense
-Give yourself plenty of distance to pass, before passing make sure they are not turning.

-Bigger equipment takes longer to speed up and slow down. If you don’t want to be stuck behind one that DOES NOT mean you should pull out right in front of them.

– Be extra careful at night- farm equipment is not required to have the same lighting


A truck passes a tractor on the highway. Tractors are not required to drive on the shoulder.

 Most of all- slow down, enjoy the season and drive safe. Don’t forget to smile and wave and tip your hat to the man up on the tractor! 🙂

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. 


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.