As a member of the media, Duane Toews, farm director for KFRM 550 AM radio and "Voice of the Plains," has his thumb on the pulse of Kansas Agriculture.

At the 33rd annual Farm Forum, hosted by the McPherson Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, Toews discussed several hot topics affecting McPherson County producers. Toews explained that the rising suicide rate of farmers is making national press.

"I received a newsletter from a dairy co-op that they send out every month and at the end of the newsletter they thought it was a good idea to send their patrons the suicide hotline prevention number — that's sobering. We have to look out for each other," Toews explained.

Toews also mentioned that farming technology could be making big headlines in the near future.

"Many of you in this room have seen some unbelievable changes in your farming careers. Younger people that are engaged with farming are going to see additional changes with technology in the next 10 years. I think it will be spectacular," he added.

While technology has moved forward in the farming industry, Toews also mentioned that farmers should embrace the changes with open arms.

"We've moved on for a number of reasons, like the size of our farming operations and the lack of labor force has certainly changed. Kids are not coming back to the farm and just the fact that we're covering more acres than we can. It’s amazing what combines can do now when they talk to a grain cart working through the field. Or the remote sensing going on in the soil microbes and the biological climate," he noted.

With the vast changes in technology, farmers may need to do the same with their operations.

"We need to diversify our revenue streams and evaluate what are the opportunities for our operations to generate revenue in these kinds of times. Whether it be letting the guy from Oklahoma shoot deer or trying another crop on the farm," Toews said.

While Toews was the keynote speaker for the 33rd annual Farm Forum, others were also recognized for their hard work and dedication to the farming industry in McPherson County.

Mary Jane Lauer of Canton, was awarded the 2017 Friend of Agriculture award for her dedication to the community of Canton and the county fair. She was noted as a ring leader for all of her hard work.

Arlyss and Letha Schroeder of Inman were named the 2017 Farm Family of the Year award for a number of reasons.

The pair work their lives around a diversified crop and livestock operation along with working on a 12 variety wheat plot that helps the McPherson K-State Extension Office gather information for farmers each year on wheat varieties. The pair has given their hearts to the community and the farm bureau as well as a farming safety camp where Arlyss Schroeder shows kids the dangers of PTOs. 

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel