Late last month, I was able to experience something that was on my bucket list, yet I didn't even realize it WAS ON my bucket list before I did it! I accepted an invitation to be part of the Kansas Corn Tour (#KSCornTour), and had the opportunity to visit several places and learn so much about the agriculture of corn, ethanol, and farming in general. There is so much interesting information to share, that today I have just a taste of some of the experiences I was so excited to have while taking part of the Kansas Corn Tour.
Let's be real. We all know corn, right? It's what we all reach for during those busy backyard barbecues or even what we might keep year round in our freezer to pair with a last-minute weeknigh meal. But do you know that corn is so much more than just food for human consumption?
I was floored to learn on the Kansas Corn Tour that about 80% of corn that's grown and harvested actually goes to overseas markets so that other countries can feed their own animals. If it weren't for the great states here in this country (including Kansas, of course!) who plant and grow the corn, millions of animals across the globe might go without food. Much of what is grown is either used as livestock feed, and is not what we are most used to seeing - that sweet corn on the cob we can buy in any local grocery store.
I loved being able to visit a local farm and take a walk through their corn fields to see up close what our wonderful farmers do day in and day out to feed us on a global scale. Through this process, I have come to adore and appreciate farmers all across the land, but those especially in Kansas who have taken so much time and put so much effort into educating us about what they do and their mission as farmers.
Before this trip, I honestly had no clue about what ethanol really was or how it was made or what the benefit of it was. Of course that all changed when we were able to visit Kansas Ethanol and go on an extensive tour to learn more about the purpose and production of ethanol. It boggles my mind (still!) that the corn crop can actually produce a sustainable fuel. Did you know that most cars year 2001 or newer can run on ethanol E15 gas? If you ask me, we as a country need to focus and push the production of ethanol and ethanol-friendly vehicles so that our future generations won't have to depend on fossil fuels in their lifetime. The state of Kansas with its 12 ethanol plants produce nearly half a billion gallons of this clean-burning, sustainable fuel.
And, let me remind you that "No Wars Have Been Fought Over Ethanol". I thought this hard hat from one of the engineers at Kansas Ethanol spoke volumes about what our country's priorities need to be.
I truly have such an appreciation and admiration for what a big job it is to produce ethanol. The tour we received was so thorough, taking us from the moment the trucks deliver the corn seed, all the way to the lab coat facility where they do the monitoring, and then all the way to when the trucks leave with the ethanol gas to distribute it.
One other great takeaway from this tour of Kansas Ethanol, is that the people that work in and for these facilities are some of the smartest people! They're all highly educated, highly skilled and trained at doing their jobs with the betterment of our society in mind. They are truly fueling our families on a daily basis, whether you realize it or not.
What sealed the deal for me that the Kansas Corn Tour was an experience truly worthy of being on my bucket list, was being able to meet, connect, and engage with SO many of the wonderful farmers the great state of Kansas is home to. WOW! I was blown away by how they have all made it their life's work to keep the farm going in an effort to feed the world. These farmers, both young and old, have embraced the life of "modern agriculture" to make farming more efficient and better quality for us all.
Take Katie Sawyer of Sawyer Land & Cattle, for example. She and her husband Derek (a 5th generation farmer, I believe), live in McPherson, Kansas with their 2 young boys. They live, eat, and breathe farm life. Getting to visit with Katie and talk more with her about their passion for farming, makes me feel so appreciative that there are people just a few hours away who are working everyday to produce good, wholesome food for my family and theirs.
Honestly, meeting all of these great farmers has me hoping that one of my kids marries into a farming family! Seriously, these are some of the best people on the planet!
Our last night in Wichita for the Kansas Farm Tour, culminated in a special dinner out with several farmers so that we could get to know them and ask them questions about what they do and why they do it. I seriously never wanted this dinner to end. I could have talked to these fine folks for days.
I loved hearing their stories about how they grew up on the farm and how they always knew they wanted to come back to farming after receiving their college educations. Of course, I had to ask if they had any funny farm stories and they all just laughed and said every day is so different, that they can't pick just one thing to laugh about! In talking with them I realized that this is their way of life and they've embraced it wholeheartedly - the ups and the downs. We talked at length about how the rise of technology has played a huge role in how efficient they can now be as farmers. Jerry DeWeese (pictured far left) showed us on his mobile device how he keeps track of soil conditions and water levels with this amazing app that helps him monitor his land. It was all so fascinating!
Below is a photo from our dinner out and although our large table was full of farmers who came to eat with us, the ones pictured below are who I had the most conversation with at my end of the table. They're pictured from left to right as follows:
Jerry DeWeese, Sedgewick county farmer; Shanley, blogger at Out To Eat; me; Kent Winter, Sedgewick county farmer; La'Shonda, blogger at Fashion Plate KC; Sarah, blogger at Sarah Scoop; and Anita DeWeese (wife of Jerry, far left), Sedgewick county farmer.
I truly hope I can connect with all of them again someday!
I learned so much while on the Kansas Corn Tour. I realized how little I truly know or understand about agriculture and the important role it has played and will continue to play in my life and the lives of those I care about. If you EVER have the chance to visit a local farm or talk to a farmer, I would highly encourage you to seize that moment. I am sure there is so much more that I still don't know about this way of life, but I'm eager to learn! Farmers are truly the heart of this world.
I'm so grateful to Kansas Corn for hosting this trip and for inviting me to come along. It was educational and inspiring in so many ways. And stay tuned because I'll have some other great info, plus a yummy recipe from the tour to share here very soon!
CANDY TAI is a wife to David and mom of 5 with a degree in Communications. She's a native Texan (Hook 'Em Horns!) who's been making her home in the Kansas City metro area for nearly 15 years. She loves being able to shuffle her kids from their various sports activities, piano lessons, and school activities. She enjoys fashion, beauty, reality TV, and moviegoing.