Food, Farming and Fun

I have the privilege of working for Kansas farmers and ranchers in my position at Kansas Farm Bureau. Part of my job (and my most favorite) is connecting non-farm folks with the people who work their tails off to feed and clothe us everyday. One of the projects I work on is our annual #FarmFoodTour. KFB partners with Kansas Soybeans to bring influencers to the Wheat State to meet real-life farmers and ranchers. My dear friend Jancey (who works at Kansas Soybeans) put together this piece about our 5th annual Farm Food Tour. This work wouldn’t be possible without her heart and energy and I am so thankful for her!

Every fall I have the incredible opportunity to host online influencers in Kansas for the #FarmFoodTour, sponsored by the Kansas Soybean Commission (KSC) and Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB). Our influencers, Meagan Cramer with KFB and I on behalf of KSC journey from border to border visiting farms and ranches across the state talking food and farming.

Very simply, our mission is to have meaningful conversations about food and how it gets to the table. To do this, we strive to create a culture in which all questions are welcome. I make a point to share some of the ”stupid questions” I’ve asked my farmers over the years so they feel comfortable in opening up a sincere, trusting dialogue with someone who has gone through a learning curve just like they are.

People in agriculture often see the misinformation out there. We’ve had to deal with regulations that impact how we grow our products–the nation’s food, fuel and fiber supply. Frustration mounts further because these regulations are frequently put in place by those who have never stepped foot on the farm. It’s easy to get upset and yell at each other, but our goal with this #FarmFoodTour is to start with a conversation, not a yelling match.  Every farm is different and each farmer puts different practices in place that work for them and their operation. Yet, even with these differences, they all have a similar mission – to grow food for a growing world while taking care of the land and livestock entrusted to them.

Jancey Hall and friends on the Farm Food Tour

This is Jancey and the Farm Food Tour attendees. She’s amazing!

To begin our tour, Meagan and I always ensure there is delicious food along the journey and provide ample snacks, because frankly if someone’s hungry or has bad food, it’s hard to be friends. From there, we choose diverse farms to stop at and just let conversations happen.

Although  we are always sure to have the bus stop at a soybean field, the number one consumer of soybeans is animal agriculture, so we see a lot of livestock. Over three days, we stopped at a pig farm, numerous cattle operations (from ranchers to the feedlot), a dairy, saw some of Kansas’ top row crops (soybeans, corn, and sorghum- no wheat because of the timing of the tour), and a vegetable farm. From the soybean field to the pig barn to a vegetable farm to the picturesque Flint Hills, we talked about sustainability, GMOs, pesticides, hunger, food waste, antibiotics, weather, the cost to own a combine, added hormones, labor, family, and so much more.

Kansas Farm Food Tour attendees in the Flint Hills

We cover lots of ground in the #FarmFoodTour including learning about the Flint Hills.

After five tours, I shouldn’t be so amazed, but I am always in awe of how much those from very different backgrounds than me love farmers just as much as I do. Putting someone on a farm, with a farmer telling their story (and being incredibly transparent about it) is a powerful thing. I am grateful to the farmers who open their farms, for those who speak up and tell their stories in person and online, and for these bloggers who take time away from their lives to hear our farmers’ stories firsthand.

I’ve seen what these tours can do in moving the needle for a greater understanding of agriculture, in having conversations (even when they are tough), in bringing those of diverse backgrounds together in a world that seems to be more and more siloed. I’d love to share more of those stories, but for now, I’ll leave you with the links to connect to their stories and takeaways of those from the fifth annual Kansas #FarmFoodTour.

Leanette runs a blog called Funtastic Life and is one of the most fun, lively, and just down to earth humans I’ve ever met. Her love of eating good food and desire for adventure was my favorite and her zest for life was contagious:

Silvia hangs out online at Garden in the Kitchen. At first she was quiet, but the more I was able to talk to her, the more I wanted to be her best friend. She laughed and laughed at me as I ate chocolate cake first for one meal (it was delicious). I can only dream of having her photography skills.:

Shashi is Savory Spin and I loved her strong faith and how she so soundly connected with the farmers over it. Her love of food and family was palpable, and she posted three incredible recipes inspired by each day of the tour. Here’s one, but be sure to check them all out:

Anna-Marie is Beauty and the Beets and I loved talking about the difference between our lives with her. She is bold and laughs with abandon. Also, I loved her takeaway about Amazon:

Lisa with Low Carb Yum retired from engineering to blog, and her story keeps me in awe. She is incredibly kind and had some insightful observations. I loved her perspective, and although I am on a full-carb diet, her recipes are divine and simple enough for me:

Madi is Mildly Meandering and a college student with a pet hedgehog. I loved talking about life with her, and her recipes have me itching to get into the kitchen even though that’s not where I spend my time. She is such a kind and creative soul:

Jessica is a farm girl, so A Farm Girl’s Kitchen is where she lives on the internet. She loves farm to table and she makes me believe I can make anything on my own. She’s a cookbook author and you’ll love her passion:

Vaishali with the Kitchen Docs is well, a Kitchen Doc. She has her doctorate and is incredibly smart. She asked questions the farmers loved answering (yet were well above my head), and I loved her passion for trying new things:

These women are remarkable, and I learned so much from them. If you’re from an ag background, I hope you appreciate their takeaways. If you’re not, I hope the same. No matter our differences, coming around the table together, enjoying food, and seeing farms firsthand has an incredible way of bringing us together.

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