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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Finding common ground at local farms

  • CommonGround Kansas held a farm tour Saturday for women in the Wichita area.
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  • CommonGround Kansas held a farm tour Saturday for women in the Wichita area. The tour took 25 women with little or no experience in farming to tour McPherson area farms, the Mid-Kansas Cooperative Groveland Terminal in Inman and finished the tour by having lunch at Knackies Meats and Sweets restaurant in Inman.
    CommonGround is a nation wide movement of volunteer farm women who want to share information about farming and the food grown on farms, with consumers in the cities and suburbs that are disconnected from farm life. CommonGround works to dispel myths and build networks of trust with the people who grow food in Kansas.
    “The goal of this tour is to build relationships with folks to dispel any myths and explain things they may have heard,” CommonGround Kansas coordinator, Shannon Kruger said. “They can ask farmers any questions they may have and get a complete picture on what they feed their families.”
    The first stop of the tour was Balwin Farms. This farm’s specialties include grain and cattle production. Adam and Kim Baldwin were selected as the District Seven Kansas Farm Bureau Farm Family of 2014. Adam serves as a board member for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and recently participated in a U.S. Grains Council trade mission to China.
    At Balwin Farms, the Baldwins educated the visitors on the changes in agricultural technology and how those changes affect current day farming.
    Once upon a time, how straight a farmer’s rows were in their fields determined how good a farmer he was and perhaps determined if someone was going to have them work their land or not, Adam said. Now there are GPS programs that allow the tractor to navigate itself and make straight rows within an inch of each other.
    These programs can also be linked with soil sample data. The GPS uses the data to ensure that the proper amount of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides needed for a certain area is dispersed accordingly. For example, once samples are taken from various areas, it may be determined that one area is lacking quite a bit of phosphorous, where as another area has plenty. Once programmed into the GPS, it will disperse the proper amount of fertilizer to each location without even having to stop. With the exception of the uncontrollable circumstances mother nature throws their way, this technology allows farmers the highest possible yield from their crops.
    After taking an up close and personal look at the farm equipment and the some of the product grown on Baldwin Farms, the tour continued on to a corn test plot that Kim and Adam have. The test plot the Baldwins have, holds different hybrids of corn. Each hybrid is studied to see how they stand up to certain elements such as ear worms or water levels. At this plot the Baldwins explained their stance on genetically modified plants and attempted to dispel many rumors and myths about such foods. With so much controversy surrounding biotechnology, the Baldwins feel its important to be informed and to inform others.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We don’t want to persuade or dissuade people, but educate them,” Kim said. “We respect peoples’ food choices.”
    The second farm the tourist visited was Sawyer Land and Cattle, owned by Derek and Katie Sawyer who are the fourth generation to own it. The farm is primarily a cattle and livestock feed farm. Derek and Katie were chosen as the District 7 Kansas Farm Bureau Farm Family of 2013. They both served on the Kansas Farm Bureau, Young Farmer and Rancher Committee and the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmer and Rancher National Committee. Derek is also the Kansas Farm Bureau McPherson County president.
    At their farm, the Sawyers discussed various irrigation techniques for their crops. They explained the difference between the different types, surface irrigation, sub-surface drip and sprinkler. The Sawyers showed the tourists their different plots and explained why they used different irrigation techniques in an effort to promote water conservation.
    The tour then went to the Mid-Kansas Coop where the visitors were able to see how grain received, stored and bulk handled prior to shipment. Kaela Moore, 25, of Derby attended the tour. She is owns a web management and social media company and didn’t have a vast amount of knowledge about farming prior to the tour.
    “I wanted to have a better understanding of farming and the people who do it,” Moore explained. “I had no idea how much attention goes into what they do.”
    CommonGround Kansas seeks to educate consumers about their food to help them make choices about what they eat and feed their families. Tours like this further that agenda.
    “We hope that by seeing things first hand people get a better understanding about food and gain a new perspective of our decision-making processes,” said Katie. “Transparency is very important, people should know exactly where their food comes from.”
    Learn more about CommonGround Kansas at http://commongroundkansas.wordpress.com/
    Contact Teri L. Hansen by email at thansen@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow her on Twitter @HansenSentinel.

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