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Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Bit More Than Just Planting Seeds

I will admit that prior to three weeks ago, I never had much experience with planting crops – I grew up on a cattle farm – and I still don’t a lot of experience with it now. But after submitting a project for my crop science class, I have a deeper respect for those that grow crops for a living. 
Let's see, the rows have 15 inches between them and three inches between each plant. Wait, why is there so much math in farming?
photo courtesy: SumaGroulX
For my project, a few of my classmates and I were assigned a field and were given a description of what the farmer has done in the past, as well as problems that he has run into recently. Our group had to take on the role of consultants to the farmer and provide educated suggestions for what he should do in the coming year. While none of us were experts on the subject, we ended up submitting a 12-page proposal, highlighting as much information as we could. 
Among the most important information, we had to detail:

  • Different types of soil in the field
  • Varieties of seeds for the crops that we were planting
  • How much fertilizer should be used to keep the plants growing and healthy
  • How we should plant the seeds in the ground, how far apart the rows of crops would be and how many seeds we planned to use
  • Estimated costs for everything that we would use
I don’t know about you, but what I knew about growing crops was just a fraction of what we covered in this assignment. I even called a family friend that sells different types of seed, asking for his advice and recommendations.

At times, I think it can be easy to assume that the typical procedure for growing crops is to stick the seed in the ground and pray for rain. That might be the most simplistic view of it, at least. When looking at every angle of it, however, it really looks like a science. Farmers have to know what they are doing to ensure that everything on the farm will work out day to day, month to month and year to year. They also have to be able to adapt, which I found out as I had to provide backup solutions to our group’s original suggestions just in case they would not work out.

Have you ever seen a planting season or harvest? Have you seen the farm equipment going down the road early in the morning? Just imagine how long farmers spend out in the field, and then think about how much time is spent out of the field, double and triple-checking everything to make sure that their plants and land not only survive, but thrive.

I may not find myself plowing up the ground or applying fertilizer any time soon, but when I see a farmer out in the field I will know that he has been up for longer than me, and will probably stay up longer than me, more than likely thinking of what more he could do than just putting seeds in the dirt and praying for rain.

Until next time,


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

There Are No Snow Days in Agriculture

Let me start by saying that I am no fan of cold weather.  Absolutely hate it.  As icy and cold as it’s been across our state lately, I’ve been thinking about how especially thankful I am for farmers and ranchers that brave the elements to take care of their animals and the land.

Growing up with a dad who managed a large cattle feedlot, I learned early on that a change in weather could flip our family’s life upside down.  The worst such occasion was a horrible ice storm that crippled southwest Kansas in late December 2006 and January 2007.  My family had just gotten to Texas to visit my grandparents after Christmas when Dad got a phone call that the weather was getting a little western.  So we turned around and sped the entire ten hours home, only pit stopping in Oklahoma City to buy a few electric generators.

We arrived back in Garden City to find the roads completely iced, powerlines and trees down, and snow and ice everywhere.  Before it was all said and done, we ended up with three inches of rain, topped with over four inches of ice and some snow on top of that.  To be frank, it was my dad’s (and every farmer or rancher’s) personal version of hell on earth. 
Over the course of the next few weeks, I rarely, if ever, saw my dad.  He and the feedlot crew were working around the clock, 24/7.  As you can see in these photos, machinery was constantly running to clear snow and slop out and dump sand in pens.  The cattle still had to be fed, so alleys, roads, and bunks (what cattle eat out of) had to be shoveled and cleared so feed trucks could get the feed where it needed to go.  On top of that, power was out so they ran the office and the mill off of generators for seven days.
Feedyard employees using equipment to clear mud out of a feedyard to keep cattle comfortable
The feedyard employees are using equipment to clear mud out
of the pens and haul in sand to keep the cattle comfortable.
At Garden City Feed Yard the goal always, and especially during those times, was to keep cattle comfortable and take the absolute best care of them as possible.  That’s exactly what they did.  Were they able to make the conditions ideal?  Absolutely not.  Were the cattle feeling like they were living in paradise?  They sure weren’t.  But how would the cattle have fared without their human caretakers?  If they could, I’m sure that the cattle would have said “thank you” to the guys for caring about their wellbeing. 
There are no “snow days” when you are caring for other living creatures—these guys sacrificed time with their families, warmth, and often sleeping in their own beds to do their part.  That’s just how it works in this industry.  Putting your animals ahead of almost everything is simply a way of life.  The next time I feel myself getting ready to complain about how much I despise how cold it is, I’m going to stop myself and remember how thankful I am that farmers and ranchers, like my dad, are toughing it out so that I can have something on my plate to eat.  I hope you will remember that too.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 23, 2015

Turkey Day Talk


You make your grocery list, count how many people are coming (multiple times), plan the seating arrangement so that crazy uncle Ted doesn't sit by grandma, and recruit all the members of the family to help clean the house all for the big day. Thanksgiving day is the perfect time for stuffing your face and spending time with the people you love. It is also the perfect time to refresh your knowledge of food safety!

 Food Safety is a bid deal. One in Six Americans will get food poisoning this year. is a great website for information on recalls and food safety steps and tips. Read more in the link below on how to safely cook your turkey this holiday season! Another resource available for food safety questions from the USDA is the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 or chat live with a food safety specialist at
USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish. - See more at:
USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish. - See more at:
the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.
If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  You can also ask questions of “Karen,” FSIS’ virtual representative, 24/7 at  Visit for questions in Spanish.
- See more at:
the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.
If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  You can also ask questions of “Karen,” FSIS’ virtual representative, 24/7 at  Visit for questions in Spanish.
- See more at:
the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.
If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  You can also ask questions of “Karen,” FSIS’ virtual representative, 24/7 at  Visit for questions in Spanish.
- See more at:

Keep you and your guests safe this Thanksgiving day and make sure to follow these guidelines as you prepare for your Thanksgiving meal!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

At the End of the Day, It's All About the People

This past weekend I took a vacation from school. Not to some exotic location with warm sandy beaches but to a place I can call home in Southwest Iowa, 4K Farms. Being an Oregon native, going to school in Kansas can be difficult at times since I don’t get to go home as often as I’d like.  However, the generosity and hospitality of the Swanson family has become one of the things that keeps me in the Midwest. That and the pigs. This Saturday was filled with pigs, puppies, and time spent with lots of good people. 

A child involved in feeding pigs on the farm
Max feeding a boar a Gatorade
When I hopped in the farm truck on Saturday morning, I knew it would be a long day of work. As Drake, the neighbor farm help, and I started in the farrowing house (where the sows and piglets are), we fed the sows and checked on the babies while carrying on a conversation on how his high school football season went. We continued from barn to barn, to the Double L nursery where we found a sick pig that would need treated. Part of being an excellent caretaker of livestock involves spotting out the animals that aren’t acting “normal” and nursing them back to good health.

I then got to climb from pen to pen with Kirk (my Iowa dad), his friend from Missouri, Jesse, and Jesse’s five-year old son, Max. We spent this time looking at the young pigs, sorting through gilts and sows, and discussing pedigrees with genetic lines that go back to the early nineties. While many people would think that sounds crazy, standing there listening to the conversations taking place, I got to see two individuals talk with passion in their eyes about the swine industry and ways to help it progress. Even little Max was in on it. He came walking over to us after looking at the pens and pens of boars to say “Kirk, you have some very impressive boars.” I just smiled and laughed, thinking that the ordinary 5-year old probably doesn’t talk about boars everyday. 
Taking pictures of pigs
It takes many moving parts to get the best picture

The main task of the day was to take pictures of some of the elite breeding stock on the farm.  We would wash the pigs and then take them to a big grassy area to capture the perfect shot. It takes a lot of patience, creativity and perfect timing to get those photos, but the end result is highly satisfying. Several hours and over 400 photos later, it was time to call it a day for the pig photo shoot.

As the sun began to set on Saturday evening, Jerra (my Iowa mom) and I worked on feeding the pigs their second meal of the day while the boys snuck in one last picture of a boar before the sun was all the way gone.  After finishing up the evening chores, we gathered in the kitchen where Jerra had whipped up my favorite lasagna and cherry pie. Exhausted from a long day at the farm, and full from supper, we all talked late into the night about hogs, dogs and the livestock industry. One quote that resonated with me came from a conversation Kirk had had a few years back with another swine enthusiast. He said “When leaders begin to follow, the breed will fail to progress.” I think that line is one that could be taken and applied to many different aspects of life.

Pigs eating their supper from a bunk
Kirk feeding sows at the bunk
Sunday I rode around in the farm truck with Kirk to work on morning chores before I headed back to Manhattan. The life conversations in between bedding down pens and vaccinating piglets are when some of the most valuable advice is given.

As I sit on here on Monday back at school and reflecting on the weekend, I can’t help but realize I have been blessed to have the weekend I did. It’s not very often that you find a warm sunny Iowa day in mid November, with views of harvested corn fields, all while being surrounded by people that share the same passion as you. A wise person once told me “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time it was said to me, but after this weekend I finally do. The classroom is a valuable place to pick up facts, but it’s the unscripted days that I have spent in Iowa outside the walls of a classroom that I have learned the most.  At the end of the day, agriculture is a way of life, and it’s the people that make it worthwhile.

Until next time,

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How Much Food Do You Waste?

Cheeseburger at burger joint in Alaska
I said no jalapenos, but they arrive anyway. Classic food waste problem.
Food waste is a big issue for everyone: farmers, ranchers, consumers, food retailers, policy makers etc. Everyone has a stake in food waste and has something to lose.
Which is why it's an issue that all people should be fully aware of and should be working together to find a solution. I mean, Americans waste 40% of the food we buy at the grocery store. Imagine this: you go buy your fruits and veggies, Cheetos, lean meats and chocolate milk, go through the checkout and dole out your hard-earned cash. Then go home and through almost half of it in the trash, straight away. Boom gone. That's what Americans do, we waste food.

U.S. residents spent on average about $2,273, or about 6.4 percent of their annual consumer expenditures, on food in 2012, according to the USDA. In other countries, like Pakistan, residents spend almost half of their income. HALF. In India and China that number is upwards of 25%. I mean, why wouldn't we throw away our food, we have can always buy more?

While we tend to talk about food waste on a personal level, there is also a level of responsibility to retailers and restaurants. I can't remember how many times I have been at a restaurant and asked for them NOT to send out lettuce and tomatoes for my cheeseburger and a) the waitress will say "well, it comes on the side" and not write it down or b) the chef will forget and include it anyway. Guess what happens when that tomato and lettuce gets to my table? You guessed it - nothing. I don't eat it and it undoubtedly goes in the trash. That is food waste!

The bottom line is that we can all do a better job of not wasting food because honestly, I don't believe that we have a food production problem in the world. If we could cut back our food waste and improve our food distribution throughout the world, we could make giant steps in world hunger.

So, next time you go to a restaurant, if you don't want your veggies don't order them. Additionally, think twice about the jumbo size items - because do you honestly consume the whole jumbo bag of cereal before it goes stale?

Just some Food For Thought!


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sometimes All You Need is a Foot in the Door...Or the Barn

My name is Annie Clark, and I was raised in Overland Park, a suburban area outside of Kansas City. I want to share with others who grew up in non-rural areas like myself how I not only got involved in agriculture, but became an advocate for and plan to make a career for myself in an industry I am passionate about.

I am fortunate and proud to say that although I grew up as a “city kid”, I have roots to agriculture through my dad’s side of the family. My dad grew up on a Minnesota dairy, beef, and crop farm that is still operated today by my grandpa and two of my uncles. When I was growing up, visiting  “the farm” was always my favorite summer vacation. Feeding the baby calves in their calf hutches and walking the milking parlor with Grandpa are some of my favorite memories. I’ll never forget seeing a cow give birth, as I watched wide-eyed for hours, and the pride I felt when they named the calf, “Annie”. Although I wasn’t raised doing the daily chores like my cousins (who I envied, they thought I was crazy), I had an appreciation for the hard work and lifestyle that raised quality meat and milk for consumers.
However, it wasn’t until I got to K-State, enrolled in the animal science program, that I was really able to articulate that understanding and grow that passion. I knew I was drawn to study agriculture because of my interest in animals, particularly in livestock, but the more I learned, I realized my draw to agriculture was because I was invested in the effort to produce food for people by raising healthy and efficient animals. While I was never against large-scale farming or confined animal feeding, I lacked exposure to these practices compared to some of my College of Ag colleagues because of where I was raised. Fortunately, I had some experience from family vacations, which is more than many students from urban areas can say. The more information I gained from my coursework and extracurricular activities, the more I tried to share with friends and others around me who were not involved in agriculture. I became determined to make a career in this field, and I am now pursuing a Master’s in swine nutrition, with the same ultimate goal of producing healthy and efficient pigs to provide safe and abundant pork to consumers.

Agriculture is charged with the daunting task of feeding an ever-growing and changing global population, and we need the support of consumers to continue to produce food. Therefore, I challenge any readers that may be in backgrounds similar to myself to start asking questions. Find out where your food comes from. Visit local farms and learn about animal production. Educate yourself and make decisions based on science. What you find may not only surprise and impress you, but also leave you wanting to come back to the barn, farm, or pasture, just like me. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Farming, GMOs and Food Choices on the Docket at K-State

Farmland film movie
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are a polarizing topic among many food minds. There are passionate arguments and advocates on both sides of the issue and all parties agree they only want what is best for their families. The volatile nature of the GMO debate has led to a plethora of resources, fact sheets and resources all developed with consumer education in mind.
In order to provide engaging discussion and clarification to a popular topic, two consumer advocacy groups, the Kansas Farm Food Connection and Food For Thought, are partnering to provide interested consumers with the opportunity to discuss GMOs with a panel of experts.

Additionally, the film Farmland will be shown in advance of the panel to provide the audience with a firsthand look at various methods of raising food ranging from organic to conventional and everything in between. Farmland is directed by Academy Award-winning director James Moll and follows five farmers and ranchers through their production cycles as they raise vegetables, pigs, cattle and fruit.
Dr. Kevin Folta
The film will screen Nov. 12 at 6:30 pm in Justin Hall room 109 on the Kansas State University campus. The film will be followed by a GMO panel featuring Dr. Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida. Dr. Folta is a renowned expert on GMOs and from 2007 to 2010 he helped lead the project to sequence the strawberry genome.
Also featured on the panel will be two farmers – one who grows GMO crops and another who uses non-GMO seeds to grow crops. The panel will strive to answer audience questions about food production, science, technology and global hunger.

Free bacon samples will be provided to attendees courtesy of the Kansas Pork Association.
This event promises lively discussion from various viewpoints and is not one to be missed! For more information about the event, please contact Meagan Cramer, Kansas Farm Bureau, or call 785-587-6821.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Upson Lecture Series: Vance Crowe

Vance Crowe - Director of Millennial Engagement, Monsanto
Vance Crowe - Director of Millennial Engagement, Monsanto

Farmers and ranchers wear a number of different hats - manager, botanist, animal scientist, nutritionist and many more. All in order to grown safe food for a hungry world. However, in the past decade or so they have also had to start wearing the hat of marketing practitioner by opening their doors to people who are interested in the food grown on farms and ranches. Many of these interested consumers are millennials who are cognizant of their food choices and are constantly searching for information.

To give light to some of the thinking behind the consumer trend to discover more about the food we eat, Food For Thought is hosting the next installment of the Upson Lecture Series by featuring Vance Crowe, Director of Millennial Engagement for Monsanto. Crowe will speak at Forum Hall on K-State's campus on November 10 at 7 pm and will address common consumer misperceptions about food production and from where those misperceptions stem with his lecture titled "Crossing Over the Mountain: Understanding Memes and Networks to Outcompete the Fear of Modern Agriculture.”

Be sure to join us on K-State's campus at 7 pm on November 10 for an exciting discussion about transparency in food production!

The event is free and open to the public - the Upson Lecture Series has been fully endowed by the generous support of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine classes of 1962 and 1966.

For more information about the lecture, contact Brandi Buzzard Frobose, a Food For Thought
member, at  or Lindy Bilberry, the lecture series’ coordinator

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How Beef Goes From Pasture to Plate: A Video

It takes a lot to produce beef - not just in terms of hard work or lots of time, but also with reference to the number of people that dedicate their lives to taking care of livestock in order to produce healthy, safe beef.

The following is a video hosted on that highlights the intricate lifecycle of a beef animal.

Additional questions about beef production? Shout 'em out below!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is Withholding Eggs for Vegetarians Reasons Ethical?

Generally, public leaders have the best interest of their people in mind. Especially when it comes to food.

Indian children eat a school meal
Indian children eat a school meal
Photo courtesy PBS News Hour
For example, the current Obama administration has been taking steps to more heavily monitor and control antibiotic use in livestock in the United States. As misplaced as this guidance is, because all meat is antibiotic-free due to strict adherence to withdrawal times and judicious use by farmers and ranchers, it’s still a conscious effort by public leaders to do what they believe is best for the nation’s citizens. I highly doubt that any U.S. President would deny healthful food to a malnourished population. That’s ludicrous, right?!

Well, apparently that thought process is not taking place in India. The Chief Minister of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, recently shot down a proposal to serve eggs in government run daycare centers. Why, you may ask?

The minister, whose name is Shivraj Chouhan, is a staunch vegetarian and lives in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which is mostly vegetarian along with and a few other Indian states. That’s fine – to each their own. However, the poorest – and most malnourished – Indians are generally not vegetarian. They would absolutely eat nutritious eggs if they could afford them.

If you’re thinking this is a trivial matter, you’re wrong. India’s free school lunch program, including the government-run daycare, reaches 120+ million Indian children. Providing these children with eggs could literally save their lives. In fact, when eggs are served in the free school lunch program and daycares, attendance actually increases! Those children aren’t getting enough sustenance at home but they can get it at school – double positive because then they are actually going to school.

Remember that eggs are an extremely good source of protein and nutrients. A large egg has about 80 calories but packs a big ole protein punch of 6 grams. Additionally, eggs are a good source of Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12. For a malnourished child, those nutrients are invaluable.

It all boils down to doing what is right, not what you want and unfortunately for some, those things don’t always align. I think its best summed up with this quote from Dipa Sinha, an economist at the Center for Equity Studies, when asked about the state of malnourished children and solving that problem:
“Every third Indian child is malnourished. The best interest of the child should be driving policy. I think this ban on eggs is a big setback.”
What do you think? Should politicians' personal beliefs be a reason to deny nutrition to children?
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~
To read more about this issue, read this NPR piece.

Friday, July 24, 2015

New Member Profile: Anissa Zagonel

Hello all!

I am Anissa Zagonel and I grew up in southeast Kansas on a production agriculture operation where we harvested the usual wheat, corn and soybeans, along with running my family's fried chicken restaurant… Yes, you heard correctly, I said fried chicken. 

From planting the seeds in the field to harvesting crops to preparing and serving meals, food, in all its forms, has been a large part of my life. With my curiosity of the world's food system and my farming background, I was led to Kansas State University, where I am currently a junior majoring in agricultural communications and journalism and minoring in agronomy.
I look forward to my future involved with the Food For Thought organization and all the advocacy adventures it brings!

Lastly, GO CATS!



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