Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hot Commodity

It's a brilliant marketing plan. Gather a bunch of your friends. Stir together some flour, yeast, water and salt (along with a few other key ingredients). Entice the public with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Slice it up and serve it along with a side dish of information about the wheat industry.

Nebraska Wheat set up their traveling trailer in the parking lot of the Wichita Airport Hilton during last Saturday's National Festival of Breads. They came at the invitation of Kansas Wheat, one of the sponsors of the breads festival.

During the day, they made 13 dozen chocolate chip cookies for festival goers. They followed that up with 125 cinnamon rolls. Before shutting the trailer window in the afternoon, they churned out 80 loaves of fresh bread.

Festival goers didn't mind leaving the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel ballroom to traipse out for a slice of homemade bread - even if it was 103 degrees in the shade.

It was hotter than that in the Nebraska Wheat trailer, but I hope it was worth it for the Nebraska wheat farmers who volunteered their time. They are nearing harvest, and I'm sure they have combines to get ready and trucks to roll out of storage sheds.

They set up shop for the entire run of the Nebraska State Fair and have also made appearances at the Iowa State Fair and a couple of county fairs each summer. They pulled the trailer to the Urban Wheat Field project in Washington, D.C., where wheat organizations from across the U.S. came together to educate people about all things wheat, including growing, milling, baking and nutrition.

Nebraska Wheat Executive Director Zoe Olson admits it's a lot of work for the staff and for the farmer volunteers. Everything is mixed from scratch. And, by golly, it's hot in a parking lot on a summer day - even without ovens turned to 350-degrees-plus all day long.

But what better way to talk to someone about the importance of agriculture and the nation's wheat crop than when they are chomping down on a slice of nice, warm bread. It's hard to argue that point when your mouth is full.

Now that's a hot commodity.

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