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Burracos in Rolla

June 2, 2011

Rolla, Kan., is half way between here and way over there — and home to Archuleta’s restaurant. Or, maybe Archuleta’s is home to Rolla.

I didn’t venture into the city on my recent trip through Western Kansas. I’m sure there’s more to see than this trailer-house restaurant, but this trailer-house restaurant was all my empty belly and I needed.

My wonderful western Kansas friends Donnie and Chris introduced me to Joe Archuleta and his burracos — a combination burrito and taco.  He  makes them in his kitchen and you devour them at the kitchen table. You grab a Coke (no diet drinks are worthy of this meal) in the refrigerator. Burracos: $2.50 (or $24 a dozen). Coke: 50 cents.

The burracos are full and meaty and juicy and perfectly paired with his homemade salsa and a paper plate. Archuleta’s is about food and friends, not tableware.

Chris asked if I could guess the secret ingredient. It was right on the tip of  my tongue, literally, but I just couldn’t name it. I’ll share the secret after you take your first bite.

You can find Archuleta’s on Highway 56  in the southwest corner of Kansas. Meet me there when I head back in late June. I already have my spot picked out at the picnic table out front.

Kansans are familiar with wide swings in the weather. This year, however, the weather seems more extreme than most.

We were lucky at the start of wheat season. We had a nice rain in early October, just in time for planting of our hard red winter wheat. Our wheat sprouted and established a good stand before it went into winter dormancy. Farmers in western Kansas and other areas weren’t so lucky. Planted fields stood bare, without enough moisture to sprout wheat seeds.

Our wheat quickly became thirsty, too. We didn’t have any more moisture  until the Feb. 1 blizzard. Snow brings moisture, but it takes 6.25 inches of snow to make 1 inch of rain. I’m convinced Kansas snow produces even less moisture. It seems dry compared to the soggy snow of my native Wisconsin.

Now, in February we’ve had temperatures in the 60s and 7os, warmer than our usual  high 40s and low 50s. These warm temperatures are waking up dormant wheat too early. Here’s why that’s bad. The wheat could use up valuable moisture too soon. It could become susceptible to freeze damage if the weather turns frigid again. (Several years ago, we suffered a near total loss when a late freeze hit.) Insects and diseases could also become a problem. (More details in this Kansas Farmer story: http://tinyurl.com/6b37k7e.)

We’re watching wheat prices along with watching our fields. Prices are high now, close to $7.80 per bushel today on the futures market.

What does this mean for those of us who eat? There are many factors that dictate food prices, including the price of our wheat commodity, global supply and demand and more. Here’s what the Agriculture Department is predicting:

U.S. consumers should brace for rising food costs this year as higher commodity and energy prices make their way to products lining grocery store shelves, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday. Food prices are forecast to rise a sharp 3.5 percent this year — nearly double the overall inflation rate.

So, as farmers and consumers, we watch and wait. The bright side:  Green wheat fields cheer up a cloudy winter day.

Hard red winter wheat field on our Kansas farm

Hard red winter wheat field on our Kansas farm

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