Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Story To Tell: 2016 Ag Day

"A picture is worth a thousand words." 

That familiar, probably overused phrase is on a display of space photos at the Cosmosphere. Last summer, while at the national convention of the Master Farm Homemakers Guild in Hutchinson, we acted like tourists in our own backyard. One of my favorite Cosmosphere displays showed photographic images taken from space.
  The display says, in part: 
The best way to judge the role of the camera in space is to try to imagine what it would be like if it had not been taken along. Try to imagine how difficult it would be to visualize the stark beauty of the moon's surface or an Earth-rise over the lunar mountains or the brilliant rays of the rising sun reflecting off a space-walking astronaut as he dangles from his orbiting spacecraft. Imagine what would have been lost to us if we had not experienced the image of our small, fragile, blue Earth floating against the backdrop of the heavens. ... The photographic images are a permanent record that will forever demonstrate the role our few generations have played in the evolution of human history.
Today (March 15) is National Agriculture Day, a day designated each year by the Agriculture Council of America to celebrate the accomplishments of agriculture. This year’s theme is Agriculture: Stewards of a Healthy Planet.
Last week, I was the pickup driver while Randy,  his cousin Don and Don's son, Hans, fixed fence at the Big Pasture. The pasture has been in the family for more than 100 years. The ground was purchased in 1900 for about $4 per acre by August Brinkman, a great-great-great uncle of Randy's. Originally in a tract of 1,040 acres, 560 acres remain in the Fritzemeier family.

A few years ago, this location was designated as a Farm Bureau Century Farm. Randy's Grandpa, Clarence, and two of his brothers owned the pasture together. Now Randy and Don are the owners.
Traditionally, we don't move cattle to the Big Pasture before May 1, but we were working on fence to get it ready for another season during which cattle can graze on the native grasses and drink from the Rattlesnake Creek that runs through it. Though the lushness of spring is several weeks away, there was still beauty in the starkness of the winter landscape, too, especially on a day that hinted of spring to come. 
It wasn't just a trip down memory lane for Randy, who is the fifth generation on his family's farm in Stafford County. I was also remembering that my first job on my parents' Pratt County farm was driving the pickup while my Dad worked on electric fence. I, too, am the fifth generation in my family associated with Kansas farming.
According to the 2012 Agriculture Census, there are 3.2 million farmers and ranchers in the U.S. Last year, American's farmers - who represent only 1 percent of the U.S. population - had 912 million acres in production of food and fiber.
  • The U.S. farmer of today produces enough food and fiber for approximately 160 people. This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960, and 115 people in 1980.
  • Farmers receive just under 16¢ of every consumer dollar that is spent on food. The other 84¢ is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution and retail costs of the food supply.
Yet it seems consumers would much rather get their information about how their food is produced from someone who has never set foot on a farm or a ranch. They let restaurant public relations gurus define what is safe to eat. Yet it is America's farmers and ranchers who devote their daily lives to it. 

Just like those astronauts who carried cameras to outer space, I carry my camera with me as we live and work on the County Line. It's up to us - farmers and ranchers - to tell our story. As I've said before, I don't want to leave it to PETA or HSUS to tell the story of farming today. It's one of the reasons I began my blog, Kim's County Line, six years ago.
For more than 100 years, Randy's family has been fixing fence in that very same pasture. Randy, like his father and grandfather before him, make sure those fence posts are in solid ground. If something isn't solid, he fixes it.
Just like other industries, farmers have changed some agricultural techniques through the years in an effort to improve and advance, all the while keeping their livelihoods and their families on solid ground. Just like looking in a rearview mirror, they use the past as a guide, but they also have their eyes firmly fixed on the future.
Information flies toward us, popping up on Facebook feeds. "Tweets" and "Snaps" signal their presence with immediate pings on the phones that are always in our pockets or in our hands. But maybe - just maybe - consumers could ask a  real farmer if they have questions about modern food and fiber production. What might change if they would look at photos or read words from a real Kansas farm and not just let a self-proclaimed "expert" determine their viewpoint?
Wouldn't that be a more solid connection with the world of agriculture? March 15 may be National Ag Day and Kansas Ag Day. But you know what? Every day is Ag Day around here, no matter the date on the calendar.
As the Cosmosphere photography display said: 
The photographic images are a permanent record that will forever demonstrate the role our few generations have played in the evolution of human history.
It's true for those images from space. But it's also true for we farmers and ranchers of today.


  1. What a beautiful post! I have a few rich memories of the Big Pasture. (Dad didn't have cattle when I was older.) I loved the pictures and and the family pride that surged as I read of our family's ongoing connection with the land and providing for others. I wish I had what it takes to be a farmer! I greatly appreciate what you and Randy do - and how well you communicate your stories to share the importance of agriculture - and the incredible beauty and challenge that accompanies that lifestyle and occupation!

    1. Thank you, Dana! You are doing important work, too.

    2. Lovely thoughts and pictures! Keep telling your story, Kim! You are a great ambassador for agriculture.

  2. Interesting post. More people should know about all these wonderful family farms. Cheri and Cameron are ranching on the Harder Ranch that has been in the family since the late 1800's. They love it and are the best stewards of the land one can imagine. I know you and your family are too.
    I had a have a neat picture I was going to post here but I don't know how. I will send it to you. It just shows appreciation for the wonderful Farmer.
    Keep on keeping on!

    1. I got the graphic. Thanks! I know there are many families who are carrying on their livelihood for many generations. I'm glad we're a part of it!

  3. What a wonderful history of farming both you and Randy have. We have only farmed our farm for 26 years, having moved a long way from our home farms, so we are first generation on our farm, with the second generation working alongside us. We have a long way to go to get to Randy's fifth generation on the same land!

    1. We all have a story to tell, and I love seeing yours told through beautiful photos!

  4. Knowing our ag background is important and can be quite interesting!

    J and I are the 4th generation on this land. J's Great-Grandpa was a sheep man. Lots and lots of sheep. J's Grandpa introduced cattle to the ranch and that seems to have stuck.

    Sister and I are the 5th generation to be involved in ag on Mom's side of the family. One of Mom's cousins has traced history back to our farming ancestors from the Czech Republic.

    Thank You for sharing a slice of Randy and your ag history.

    1. I always enjoy learning more about the backgrounds that circle back generations in the farming heritage.

  5. Wonderful to read of the history of your farm. My Grandfather took up a selection almost 110 years ago. It was divided into 3 farms for his sons after the war. My father had to sell his block in 1960 but my cousins still own the blocks of their parents, running beef cattle, but they have to have a supporting job.
    I love your final photograph. So much hope for the future captured in the sunflower, rainbow and ear of wheat.

    1. Thank you, Helen. The final photo is one I took at harvest in 2012. I've always thought it symbolized Kansas very well and I've used it for lots of things.

      Since our children aren't coming back to the farm, we'll see what happens. Perhaps they will still choose to own the land after we're gone. We shall see.

  6. Awesome post! Every day is Ag day in my family, too--and though I don't live on the farm any more, the farm is still a huge influence on my life, too.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. E! Really, every day is Ag Day for anyone who eats, but most people don't look at it that way. Hope you had a great spring break and are refreshed for the rush to the finish line of school.