May Flowers

May Flowers

Monday, June 26, 2017

Connecting with Consumers: Carbetarians Unite!

Leaving the farm during wheat harvest isn't standard operating procedure. Well, unless it's a flying trip to the parts counter. (Is it a bad thing when they call you by name when you walk in the door of the Case dealership? Yes, yes, it is. But it happens when you visit the parts counter three times in 24 hours.)

Anyway, on June 17, I didn't make a parts run or a grocery store stop. I drove 2 3/4 hours (one way) to Manhattan for the National Festival of Breads.
I could say it was for these two cuties. But in reality, they live in Manhattan and were going with their mom and dad anyway.
Plus, they know a little bit about wheat after visiting Grandpa Randy's and Grandma Kim's farm during harvest and having specially-designed reading material about farm life from Grandma.

I try to do my part in connecting the farm with consumers through blogging, something I've done since beginning Kim's County Line in January 2010. But face-to-face interaction is better in the long run. So I spent some time on Saturday, June 17, in the children's activities area of the National Festival of Breads. (I actually worked with the two ladies below, and yes, I intentionally moved out of the photo when it was taken.)
Photos from Kansas Wheat
With all the gluten-free promotion and companies marketing "non-GMO" to consumers, it's important for those of us in production agriculture to tell our stories. Goodness knows, popular restaurants and so-called nutrition experts aren't shy about doing it.  (For the record, there is no GMO wheat commercially available at this time. And yes, those with celiac disease must avoid gluten. However, many of those who don't have celiac disease avoid gluten based on inaccurate information from non-medical professionals who make unsubstantiated claims.)
So I was glad to do my part to develop a new generation of "Carbetarians" at the National Festival of Breads by baking up silver-dollar-sized pancakes featuring three grains grown in Kansas - wheat, soy and corn.  The smell of freshly-baked pancakes had little consumers and their families lining up for a nibble.
The children also got to mix together the dry ingredients to take home to use to make their own pancakes.
Kinley and Brooke already help in the kitchen at home, but I hope it gave other children - and their families - a glimpse of using Kansas-produced commodities to make nutritious, cost-conscious meals at home.

Our daughter Jill also helped behind the scenes in the afternoon, setting up and cleaning up for the on-stage demonstrations.
She grew up on a farm and is a dietitian who went to school for five years to study nutrition and the role it plays in our lives. She promotes eating a balanced diet, all things in moderation, including carbohydrates and gluten.
Earlier in the week, Kinley and Brooke had experienced harvesting the wheat with Grandpa Randy.
The girls learned that Mommy had driven the truck during harvest during her high school years. But at the Festival of Breads, the girls - and other children - tried their hand at grinding wheat with a mortar and pestle. 
They tried a hand grinder ...
... and then an electric grinder, taking on milling in miniature and making whole wheat flour.
While our two granddaughters had just ridden a combine that week at our Central Kansas farm and have a tangential connection to Kansas agriculture, fewer and fewer consumers do these days. In 1870, 50 percent of the U.S. population was directly involved in agriculture. Today, farm families comprise less than 2 percent of the population.

So, in a nutshell, that's why I left the farm during the middle of wheat harvest. (I left the noon meal in the slow cooker and had the supper coolers packed and in the fridge, ready for the guys to grab at noon. Randy worked it out so they could be in the same general area and didn't need to move repeatedly during the day. And we all hoped and prayed for no breakdowns since the go-fer parts runner was hours from home. Thankfully, all that worked out.)
Timing for the festival is a legitimate question, and one that I heard on Sunday at church.

"Why would they schedule a Festival of Breads in Kansas during wheat harvest? Aren't people too busy? Doesn't it make it harder to involve farm families?"

Yes, summer is busy. Yes, it does make it harder to involve farm families. But, yes, it makes perfect sense. If I had any question, it was answered as I talked to some of the eight finalists.
Photo from the Kansas Wheat Facebook page
The day before the baking competition, the contestants traveled to a wheat farm near Brookville in Central Kansas. They took turns riding a John Deere combine as it "ate" its way across a golden field of ripened wheat. For most of them, it was their first time on a farm, their first ride on a combine and the first time they'd had a chance to talk directly to a farmer about producing the wheat that will eventually end up in the flour they'll put in their shopping carts and make into meals for their families and entries for the cooking contests they love.
Lunch for contestants and others in a farm shed on June 16, 2017 - From Kansas Wheat's Facebook page
After I completed my volunteer time in the children's area at the Festival, I talked to several of the finalists as they made their winning recipes three times during the day.
Cleveland, Ohio, baker Michele Kusma was ready for a job on a farm during wheat harvest. I told her it could be arranged.

She and the other finalists will go back to their homes in Maryland, Ohio, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Utah, Missouri and Minnesota with a story to tell.  The people in their communities may actually listen to them more readily. They can tell about their trip to a Kansas farm. They can share their memories of hospitality offered by Kansans and farm families. 

And that's why I left home during harvest to go, as did several of my fellow producers.

Here's the recipe for the pancakes we served. (I should have taken more photos, but I was too busy mixing ingredients and making pancakes)! For recipes from the finalists and more bread baking tips, visit the National Festival of Breads website.

Three-Grain Pancakes
From the National Festival of Breads
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups soy milk or regular milk
1 tbsp. corn oil
3 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry all at once. Whisk until blended and still a little lumpy.

Pour 1/8 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased frying pan or griddle. Flip when pancake has bubbly surface and slightly dry edges.

When cooked through, remove pancakes. Serve with butter, maple syrup, jelly, etc., if desired.


  1. Kim,
    Sounds like a great festival. I'm glad you had the opportunity to go and share your farming story. Looks like you enjoyed spending time with consumers, ag producers and your favorite girls too!

    Thank You, and Randy, for all your ag-vocate efforts and sharing through your blog too. I always enjoy your personal and educational spin on agriculture and life.

    1. I felt guilty leaving, but I enjoyed myself once I was there. It's a fun event!