Monday, July 27, 2015

Our Littlest Consumers: Sharing the Message

This littlest consumer is what agricultural education is about.  Hadley was her mommy Erica's tagalong during a blogger gathering I went to last week. Like me, Erica's Whimsical September blog is a mishmash of who she is - a Mommy, a military wife, a woman of faith, a closet fashionista, a recipe experimenter and a workout advocate.

There are some overlaps on our interest lists and favorite blog topics, but there are differences, too.  We both came to Baldwin Farms in McPherson County to learn and to connect with other bloggers for a farm tour and sweet corn picking. It was Erica's first time at a Kansas farm. She grew up in Alabama and lives in Manhattan while her husband is stationed at Fort Riley.

For me, farming is an integral part of who and what I am, the very fabric of my life as a fifth-generation Kansas farm from both my family and Randy's family.

But, for both of us, family is of utmost importance. Just like me, Erica wants what is best for her family, including what we put on their dinner plates.

Giving consumers accurate information is what I most appreciate about what Kim and Adam Baldwin (along with his parents, Dwight and Cindy) are doing through farm tours. Kim also is a volunteer for Common Ground, whose slogan is "Make food choices based on facts, not fear." With so many food choices available, Common Ground serves as a resource to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food. Volunteers help consumers discover that America's farmers produce food that is safe, affordable, accessible and nutritious - whether it's from conventional or organic farms, whether the seeds used are GMO or non-GMO, and the myriad of other choices U.S. consumers are privileged enough to make.
The sweet corn is the shorter plant. This human treat was nestled in a circle of field corn, which will be used for livestock feed and other commercial uses.
Kim and Adam spend a lot of time giving farming a "face." Kim shares information through her blog, Alive and Well in Kansas. They show snapshots of farm life through Instagram and Twitter. They're active with Farm Bureau and state and national producer organizations.
During the Baldwin Farms tour, I watched as Hadley stood next to corn that was more than triple her height. She pulled back the husk and silks and sunk her baby teeth into corn that had just been plucked from the field. The sweet corn seed was Seminis produced by Monsanto. It was right next to field corn also raised with Monsanto seed.

Hadley's mom got the same handouts I did. Kim, who is an educator at Inman High School, gave us a Farm Vocabulary Cheat Sheet in true teacher form. I'm sure the terms like "no-till" and "dryland" and "double crop" were new to Erica, while they are second nature to me.

She got to see that terminology in action when we walked into a non-irrigated field where the Baldwins had no-till planted milo after wheat harvest. 

But I figure what spoke most fluently to Erica was seeing Kim's and Adam's son, Banks, in that field with his Mom and his new puppy, Milo.
He was with his Grandpa Dwight in the sweet corn field, picking corn.
And he and his Daddy had a conversation in the soybean field just across from the corn field while they waited on all of us to pick as much sweet corn as we wanted.
The Baldwins' 2 year old was out in the fields with his parents and grandparents. He will be eating the GMO sweet corn that his parents raised. As he sinks his teeth into corn on the cob in the coming years, they'll discover whether he's a methodical typewriter-carriage-type of corn eater or someone who prefers the hunt-and-peck method.

The Baldwins put a name to a face for consumers. They open their farmstead to visitors from China and Japan through Adam's efforts with the Sorghum Checkoff. Their littlest ambassador - their 2-year-old son - charmed a recent trade delegation from China with his skills on his Strider bike, tooling around the machine shed.

Connecting with consumers is what I try to do when I take crop photos and share them along with other photos in the "family album" of Kim's County Line." It's why I do step-by-step photo posts of alfalfa production or show the 9-month life cycle of wheat.
Bloggers from left: Jenny Burgess, Kim Baldwin, Kerry Wiebe, me and Erica DeSpain.
It's what other Kansas farm bloggers are doing. Some 99 percent of the people who grow food in the U.S. are family farmers. At the blogger event, I loved meeting a few people from my social media network. I shook hands with first-generation farmer Jenny instead of interacting through the Farmer's Wives Facebook group and learned more about her blog, Farm Wife Transparency.  I met some new-to-me bloggers, Kerry, from I Married A Milkman, who, with her husband owns and operates Keriel Dairy near Whitewater, the last remaining dairy in Butler County.

There was another Kim blogger. (We had a lot of Kims at this event, but Kim Fee is not pictured above.) Kim Fee runs Sunflower Supper Club in Hutchinson with her friend and business partner, Julie Kimmel, (and there are lots of recipes on her site that I'm anxious to peruse and try)!
The machinery that Adam showed us was familiar to me. But we can always learn something new. They have cameras hooked up on their equipment, helping them see the back of the sprayer to make sure it's working or helping them see any vehicle traffic jams they are creating as they travel from field to field. (Dwight told us farm wives that if our farmers are wanting to add the cameras that it's a good investment, both for safety and efficiency. Perhaps for chiropractor bills, too, to prevent some of that constant neck strain from turning around to look at what's going on behind you.)

I also learned about drip system irrigation. While we are dryland farmers, my parents and brother use center pivots for irrigation, and, back when my Dad was just getting started, my sister and I rotated wheels on the system to move it from one pivot to the other. Drip system irrigation uses sub-surface tape to apply water and nutrients to a crop. Through technology and sensors, specific amounts of water can be applied to crops throughout the growing cycle. Technology is making a difference in conserving water - one of our most precious resources.
At the Baldwin Farm, just like on the County Line, plants are nourished with fertilizer and sprayed with herbicide to combat weeds and insecticides to combat infects (as needed). The Baldwins, like us and other farmers, observe the regulations for application and the time restrictions before harvest. It costs money to apply these "extras" and to use quality seed. But it's part of our commitment to producing quality and safe products for human and livestock consumption.
We want it to be: For consumers like Hadley and Banks, our own families and the rest of the world. 

Disclaimer: My meal and a portion of my travel expenses were paid for by Monsanto.  I also received promotional items from Kansas Farm Bureau, Common Ground, Kansas Wheat and the Soybean Checkoff. And we are thoroughly enjoying our free sweet corn from Baldwin Farms. However, all opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Awesome post Kim! It was so great to meet you!

    1. Thanks, Kerry! It was great to meet you, too!

  2. What an excellent post! Thank you so much for your sweet words and for including Hadley and me! We so loved meeting you and thoroughly enjoyed our time on the farm. Such a great day!

    1. Thank you, Erica. I'm looking forward to reading yours, too. It's great to connect on a personal level rather than just online, especially when it involves a sweetie like your little one!

  3. What a great post, and such a wonderful day for you all. It must be so great to be able to catch up with other bloggers in your area.

    1. It was fun to meet people face-to-face. And we have sure enjoyed the sweet corn!

  4. What a great outing -- and I bet it was educational as well as fun! It sounds like Hadley just got to try everything out! And great for you to get some more viewpoints and the low-down on how some other farmers approach their work, too. The cameras on the back of the sprayers sound like a brilliant idea

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