That pioneer spirit brought people to Kansas. And some of the heartiness remains generations later. Today is the 2017 National and Kansas Ag Day.
And at the same time, cattlemen and women in southern Kansas had the grim task of burying thousands of cattle and calves that perished in the largest wildfire in Kansas history. Some of our farm and ranch neighbors in Oklahoma and Texas face the same seemingly insurmountable task. In Texas, some even lost their lives trying to move cattle to safety.
I don't watch a lot of national news. But, if my Facebook feed is right, there has been very little coverage of this emergency on the national level. The local TV stations, radio and newspapers have done a credible job of telling the stories. Yesterday, The New York Times featured an article, in which one rancher called the wildfires, "Our Hurricane Katrina."
I read the article, and then came back later in the day so I could link it to this blog post. I was dismayed by the comments from the majority of readers (up to 422 comments this morning). It again demonstrates how deeply the country is divided, as if we needed any reminders these days. (For the record, I didn't vote for President Trump, though most commenters assume I did - just because of where I live and what I do for a living.) After reading those comments, maybe it's better that the national media largely ignored this story.
However, I know that many farmers and ranchers from across the country have responded with truckloads of hay and semis packed with fencing supplies. Some 4-H groups have volunteered to foster baby calves until the ranches have time to build fence and reintroduce the babies back into their herds. There have been funds set up so regular people like you and me can contribute to the rebuilding, including at Kansas Farm Bureau and at Kansas Livestock Association.
(FYI: I would recommend Amy Bickel's article in The Hutchinson News, plus sidebars and follow-up stories, as well as the accompanying photojournalism by News photographer Lindsey Bauman. The Wichita Eagle also provided in-depth coverage of the wildfire.)
Journalists, TV personalities, TV chefs and CEOs were all perceived as more influential on food than farmers, who come in at No. 50 on a list generated of The 50 Most Powerful People in Food on The Daily Meal.com. And that was likely an arbitrary inclusion as a collective group. What's it gonna take for farmers to move up that list?It's up to us - farmers and ranchers - to tell the 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 Kim's County Line seven years ago.
The Gardiner Angus Ranch has been in the news because of their losses. Two of the brothers - Mark & Greg - were in FarmHouse fraternity at K-State at the same time as Randy. The Gardiner Angus Ranch's annual production sale is still scheduled for March 31, though things will be somewhat different this year after losing more than 500 of their cows, hundreds of miles of fencing and even Mark's & Eva's home. But I was amazed at some of what Mark Gardiner had to say. I've put the link to the whole video clip below, but I wanted to highlight these quotes from Mark, just in case you don't take time to listen to the whole thing:
I want you all to know how truly fortunate we are to have so many friends and customers and family. When we had a bit of a challenge, our customers actually were some of the first ones who came running to help us. …If we listen to the detractors commenting on the wildfire story, it's clear that we're not doing a good job of sharing agriculture's story. With this post, I'll likely be "preaching to the choir." I can't seem to reach those people who really believe that we modern farmers are ignorant puppets who "are only looking for handouts."
The sale is on. It is on because it’s what we do. You know, we learn a lot in these situations about who we are as people. And people are good, especially people in agriculture and especially our customers, neighbors and friends. We’ve had some losses; we’ve had some challenges. …
We've had help from almost every state in the union. ... That’s what America is. That’s what rural America is. That’s what agriculture is. That’s what the cattle business is. We actually have no problems. We have worlds of opportunity. We have the greatest friends and the greatest nation … We’re excited about this sale. We’re excited about the things that matter with people, with family, with friends.
We need to celebrate this way of life. Even more importantly than the cattle, we need to celebrate the people who make this business so great.
The true story of agriculture is being written each and every day by the people who are living it.