Power of Kansas ag

October 11, 2010

Kansas Farmers Tony & Anita HorinekThe second Kansas Farm Bureau Masters class proved how powerful ag is in Kansas — and the impact our producers have worldwide. Tour stops included:

This was my first trip to northwest Kansas. I often wondered why people lived here, a question based on solely on television weather reports. It always seemed desolate and prone to severe weather. Both are true. However, I now understand the pull of an area that is so true to its Kansas beginnings — pioneers committed to making a living from the soil.

These Kansans are continuing to pioneer the way, now with the intersection of agriculture and technology. Here, Tony Horinek explain how and why he farms 8,000 acres using no-tillage methods and precision ag technology: http://www.youtube.com/user/lynnwoolf?feature=mhum#p/u/0/yPNJOQSt1kA

Listen also to KSU research engineer Freddie Lamm detail his work in underground drip irrigation. The approach may offer a solution to shrinking water supplies: http://www.youtube.com/user/lynnwoolf?feature=mhum#p/u/1/SJoG2YULj3I

Overall, I was amazed at how much these professionals shared about their work. They truly seemed to love their jobs. Maybe it’s because they’re in the middle of it all, despite being tucked away in Kansas.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

Wheat harvest

June 30, 2010

Sharing scenes from our 2010 wheat harvest:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqsxVkG7_7c

Cutting began on farmer-son’s 9th birthday, a perfect gift from my farmer, farmer-in-law and Mother Nature. Farmer described this year’s harvest as excellent cutting weather with average yields. We’ll take it. Last year, we flooded out.

For farmers, harvest is stressful, exhausting, hot and rewarding. For those who watch or ride along, it’s a thrill. For my farmer-son, it’s his favorite time of year.  He spends all day working with his dad and grandpa, in the combine or wheat truck or making the inevitable machine repairs. They come in about 10 p.m. to eat a full late dinner. Then, off to sleep to do it again the next day — year after year, if you’re lucky. And we are, even with the occasional weather disaster or poor yields. Wheat has been harvested on this family farm for more than 70 years.


April 29, 2010

I was never interested in creepy-crawly creatures. I’m more enamored with the four-legged, panting, drooling kind. However, thanks to my work with Extension 4-H School Enrichment, I can spell — and use in a sentence — worlds like chrysalides and proboscis. And, butterfly larvae are staring at me right now, merrily exploring their cup — their sealed cup — on my desk.

I helped develop the Life Cycle Miracle (butterfly hatching) program last year and I just wrapped up this Spring’s classroom presentations to nearly a dozen schools and hundreds of elementary students. The students capped off the program by releasing the butterflies they raised.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity to see the 4-H experiential learning model at work. Here’s a summary:

  • Experience – Youth do before being told or shown how.
  • Share – Youth describe results of the experience and their reactions.
  • Process – Youth relate the experience to the targeted life skill.
  • Generalize – Youth connect the life skill discussion to the larger world.
  • Apply – Youth use the new life skill experience in other parts of their lives.

It’s been fun testing out the project at home with D. and E. The other day, we struck gold. We witnessed one caterpillar make its chrysalis when it shed a final layer of skin. D. described it perfectly:  It’s like the caterpillar unzipped its sleeping bag. E. released one batch of butterflies last week. Pure joy for her, the butterflies, and me watching.

If you’d like to do the project, go here to download the guides: http://www.sedgwick.ksu.edu/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=481.

Women in Ag

March 8, 2010

LaDene Rutt, portrait by Paul Mobley, from American Farmer: The Heart of our Country, by Katrina Fried


LaDene has been to all 25 Women in Ag conferences, sponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. I now know why. I recently attended for the first time and these words come to mind: welcoming, informative, inspirational and motivational. 

The conference celebrated the role women play on the farm. However, the conference wasn’t about awards or pats on the back. This was about farm wives, mothers, daughters and grandmothers gathering to share meals and learn from the experts — and each other. Learn we did, about the government’s farm program, marketing strategies, advocating for agriculture, operations and financial management and so much more. 

One woman in her 70s was planning for retirement, while seeking advice about how to  pay for her mother’s healthcare. Another young farm wife attended with her mother, also a farm wife. One presenter on Medicare and Medicaid shared stories about her own farm life in a remote part of Nebraska — 35 miles to the nearest grocery store. Many studied and asked questions about which government program to enroll in — to protect their operations from the inevitable weather disaster. 

I have great admiration for what these women do and manage each day. I play a smaller role on our own farm. However, there was no discussion about who was bigger or better. The conference was about preserving a livelihood and building a legacy for future generations. I’ll definitely go back. 

Click here to learn more about the conference. Click here to see some amazing portraits of farmers, including LaDene.


February 23, 2010

I felt quite clever last week. I mistyped the word “farm” and “family” in a story and wrote “farmily.” Thought it was such a cool word, that I tweeted my discovery. Ann Wylie, a leading communications and writing consultant, retweeted me. She has more than 900 followers, so I was now both famous and clever.

A Google search deflated my ego. Urban dictionary listed the word, so somebody, somewhere got there first. No matter. I still love the word.

Farmily is the reason my D. choses to spend every June in the combine with Grandpa, instead of at the baseball field. It’s the reason E.’s recipe box is right at home in the same kitchen in which her grandma and great-grandma cooked, baked, boiled and fried. It’s the reason V. introduced me to his family at a noontime meal, when everyone was in for a break. (I knew I had to marry him when his mom offered me seconds on her out-of-this-world chocolate cake, with home-made fudge frosting and pudding filling.)

A great word. A great way to raise our family.

Life skills

January 31, 2010

Before ag journalists had Google searches and social networks, there was the Extension ag agent. I first learned of their knowledge, connections and resources on one of my first writing jobs. I was a reporter for a farm magazine, whose focus was farm management and the commodity markets. My knowledge of farming then was based on what I learned in a dairy tour in grade school. I knew even less about marketing crops. It was the late 80s, so there was no turning to a search bar or Wikipedia to find sources or story ideas.

Like many ag journalists, I turned to Extension agents many times in that first position — and afterward. One story source was so captivating I just had to marry him. (A story for another time.)

Now, many years later my respect for the Extension Service is even greater. Our family participates in 4-H, an Extension program. Our kids belong to a local club and have projects ranging from photography to rockets to chickens to sheep. E., at just 11 years old, has already made three club presentations and won a merit award in a regional photography competition. D. is just getting started at 8 years old, but has given a presentation and won a showmanship award. But, any 4-H agent would say awards are just part of the story — and I think the kids would agree. 4-H is about learning life skills, whether it’s speaking in public, knowing how to cook healthy food, or donating your time and talent to your community.

I am now starting my second year, working for the 4-H school enrichment program. I teach elementary students about wheat science, fractions, healthy eating and butterfly life cycles. The programs are simple, but loaded with interaction and hands-on learning. We reach lots and lots of kids — 1,600 with wheat science alone.

I was even lucky enough recently to bring my own kids to a class. I was scheduled to teach, but they were off school.  “Bring them along,” said my boss. She said it would be a great community service entry for their record books. So, I did. I suited them up with aprons and assigned them each to a group of kids. They did great and even talked about growing wheat on our farm. I was so proud of my little 4-H and farm ambassadors.

And, now my own pitch: I would highly recommend joining a 4-H club in your community — or starting one. How can you go wrong with an organizati0n, where the kids cite this pledge:

“I Pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
my Heart to greater loyalty,
my Hands to larger service,
and my Health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

Thank a farmer

November 30, 2009

Agriculture advocates are working hard to educate Americans about farms and food. Twitter has the #thankafarmer initiative, with nearly 4,000 tweets using the hashtag so far. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson declared Nov. 20 “Thank a Farmer” Day. USDA rolled out its “Know Your Farmer, Know your Food” campaign, saying “Today, there is too much distance between the average American and their farmer.” One advocate, Gene Hall, PR director for the Texas Farm Bureau (@TxAgPRGuy) summed it up in a recent tweet, “With city folks 3 generations from farm, we have a disconnect. That’s why web and soc med are so important.”

As a relative newcomer, farming is a culture to me. Agriculture influences where we live (10 miles from the nearest town), what we eat (homemade wheat bread), what we talk about (fertilizer, planting conditions, yields), the slang we use (cutting wheat, working ground), even when we take vacation (between wheat harvest and wheat planting). Agriculture also provides the wonderful opportunity to integrate work with family. My kids tag along with field work. They spend hours jumping in and out of hay bales and chatting with V. and their Grandpa at the machine shed.

I hope I’m doing my part to spread the word about agriculture. I’m proud to teach wheat science classes for the Extension service. This year, I’ll bring along our own wheat seeds to show the kids. And, I was very pleased when my “tweet cloud” showed that  “Kansas,” “wheat,” and “thanks” were my top three words.

I pledge to do more, helping connect others to the way of life I love.



(Guest blog post on www.lifemeetswork.com)

LifeMeetsWorkA funny thing happened on the way to my home office. Actually, it’s not all that funny. I’ve lost my knack for time management. Here’s why.

Read more here:  http://www.lifemeetswork.com/blog/blogdetail.asp?sectionID=3&articleID=150

Job title dilemma

August 4, 2009

top-logo[1](Guest blog post on www.lifemeetswork.com.)

I have lived the “life meets work” philosophy for almost 20 years now. It’s not because I discovered the trend early. I simply married into a farm family. Even in today’s world, farm families have an uncanny approach to integrating work and life. Case in point: New tractors still come with a “companion seat” option, for kids to ride along.

Lately, though, I struggle for an answer when a professional acquaintance asks me what I do. Read more here: http://www.lifemeetswork.com/blog/blogdetail.asp?sectionID=3&articleID=128.

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