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.

Prairie explorations

June 21, 2010

Cat-claw Mimosa


E. and I ventured back into the Flint Hills last week, as part of the 18th Annual Flint Hills Prairie Wildflower and Pasture tour. More  than five buses of photographers and nature lovers were lucky enough to explore private hay meadows and native prairie. The wildflowers were in full bloom, not as a cascade, but a wonderful peek-a-boo of color and shape.  

We headed out from Cassoday (population: 130), which E. was delighted to find out is the “prairie chicken capital of the world.” Extension and Conservation experts walked us up and down the meadow, naming every bloom, grass and seed pod.  We ended up on a majestic open range near Matfield Green (population: 60). In the Flint Hills, one ranch may consist of hundreds if not thousands of acres. It’s not feasible to fence such an expanse, so cattle roam freely, sometimes across county roads. Guards built into the roads keep cattle from wandering off the ranch. It felt like a prairie safari as we came upon a surprised cattle herd.  

It was a beautiful evening and E. got some great shots for the county fair. I was sorry to leave, but will definitely be back. I can’t get enough of those rolling hills.   

(Thanks Butler County and Chase County Extensions and Conservation Districts.)  

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.

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.


Lost farmland

December 8, 2008

The size of Connecticut and Vermont — that’s the amount of farmland and forest lost in the last six years, according to the American Farmland Trust. Those lands will never be reclaimed.

Commercial and rural development have been encroaching on traditional farming areas for years.  Farmers west of Wichita, for example, see housing developments — even a YMCA — from their front porches.

We feel fairly insulated, since we’re outside a small town, and two miles off a paved road. We’re a mile from our nearest neighbor. Many days the mail truck is the only vehicle — outside of tractors or combines — that drives past our house. We can’t help but wonder, though, when that might change. Probably not in our lifetime, but will we be able to say the same for our kids?

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