Monday, February 3, 2014

Kansas: The Wheat State

The kids loved the bushel of wheat. The school janitor? Probably not so much.
There are approximately 1 million wheat kernels in a bushel of wheat (though we didn't personally count them, so don't hold me to it). But there were a few less in the tub by the end of Randy's presentation during Kansas Day festivities at Stafford Schools last week.

Teachers Denise Dickson and Natalie Clark organized a day full of activities celebrating Kansas wheat. My very own Kansas Association of Wheat Growers board member was glad to go to school to talk about the major crop on our farm.
It's fitting that wheat was the focus for the day, considering its history in the state. In the 1870s, the Russian-Germans brought hard red winter wheat, called Turkey Red, to Kansas. It was a strain that was particularly suited for the Great Plains and became the major export of the wheat belt of the central and western states. 

According to the Kansas Historical Society, the kind of wheat to plant was actually a subject of much debate in Kansas prior to the Russian-German arrival. Most natives preferred corn for its greater household use and as feed for livestock, especially pigs.

Land promoter T. C. Henry was one of the first to plant winter wheat on a large scale, in virtual plantation style, near Abilene in 1873. The question of which was to be the dominant grain for Kansas was actually being settled upon the Russian-German arrival, and the grasshoppers deserve some of the credit, since they wiped out the corn crop and most of the spring wheat. Only winter wheat was generally successful in 1874.  At the time the Volga Germans were settling down around Victoria, the Hays City Sentinel proclaimed that the question was now resolved: Winter wheat was the kind to plant.
Did you know that a bushel of wheat would make about 67 14-inch pizza crusts? It could make 192 large cinnamon rolls or 42 1.5-pound loaves of white bread. Americans eat close to 138 pounds of wheat flour a year.
We had some good guessers during the program.
The students also enjoyed picking a souvenir. We gave out lots of pencils. But, by our fourth group of students, we ran out of the postcards that had a little packet of wheat and instructions for growing it. Maybe we had some future farmers in the room.


  1. What a great program for the kids!

    1. There were several different stations. One of the favorites was making their own pretzels with a blend of whole wheat and white flour. They also got to play pioneer games and churn butter. Farmers who live closer to town brought in equipment and parked it in front of the school in the AM. The students also toured the local elevator. It was an awesome day!

  2. Randy did a fantastic job. I admit, a few pieces of wheat were gone from the bucket because I ate some!

    1. We didn't miss them, and there's more where that came from if you get a hankering for chewing more wheat kernels. I'm glad you and the students enjoyed it.