Jan/Feb President’s Report

19 01 2011

I’m biased of course, but I thought the whole convention went really well. Speakers were really good and had important topics to discuss. Entertainment was really good.

I liked the timing of an early December convention and all of the comments that I received echoed those thoughts.

The Popper’s discussed the depopulation of the High Plains and rural Kansas. An extremely timely topic with school consolidations again in the news as our population shifts to more urban areas here in Kansas.

I received a phone call a couple of weeks before convention from a feller named Wil Hylton, a journalist for Harpers Magazine out of New York City requesting the opportunity to come to our convention to cover it.

He is writing a story looking at the de-population of the High Plains and the social implications of this as multi-generation families are looking at being slowly re-populated elsewhere from where the traditional family roots are.

As we discussed how best to explore this topic in Kansas what we worked out was that he would come to our convention and then he would have to give me a couple of days to get caught up with some farming and then we would do a road trip to western Kansas and visit with farm families one-on-one in a target area that ran from Oakley, to Weskan, to Scott City, to Healy.

Convention worked well, then on Monday Wil accompanied me on a road trip with the old truck to deliver a load of Red Clover seed to the cleaner. Tuesday we sold calves at St. Marys, then Tuesday evening we started west.

Wil had several interviews lined up, all of whom I thought represented the different facets of western Kansas pretty well.

One very modern farmer probably about my age, who now farmed what several farmers did in the not-to-distant past, was in the process of trying to buy more land as the next generation was joining he and his wife on the farm.

This farmer was also very involved in the local school and was VERY proud of the kids, the facility and the faculty.

As we visited in the school hall Wil asked the farmer how much bigger he needed to get for all of them to make a living from the farm.

He told Wil that they would probably have to at least double in size.

Wil asked him how him doubling his farm operation would affect this school.

The farmer responded that it wasn’t good for the school but he was going to do whatever he had to do to supply a living on his farm for their family.

I didn’t begrudge his comments at all. I would probably do the same thing if I was in his situation, but it doesn’t bode well for the future of the rural communities of western Kansas.

On another note I just snuck back home Sunday from Denver right before our blizzard hit here from attending the annual meeting of the High Plains Food Co-op.

Kansas Farmers Union is one of the charter members of the co-op which is a group of niche producers in NW Kansas, NE Colorado, and SW Nebraska. Our NW state director for KFU, Chris Schmidt from Oberlin, is the president of the co-op and is doing a great job.

Their customer base is the front range and orders for their products are taken on-line and then delivered on scheduled routes to designated delivery points where the customers come and pick up their ordered products. I was shocked last year at the meeting when it was reported that their annual sales for 09 exceeded $29,000!

The co-op was hardly off the ground! I was REALLY shocked this year when reported sales for 2010 exceeded $49,000! Trend lines are suggesting that they should double in size again by next year!

Kansas Farmers Union had a very, very small role in the development of this co-op with almost all credit due to the producers themselves and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union but what little influence we had in the development of it I will gladly grab, because in the role I have to play so often in agricultural politics of Kansas it is in a very minority position, when I get a chance to feel good about something I’m going to grab it with both arms and hang on!

Anyhow, where else would I have had a chance to taste Yak meat???

You-all need to check out a funny moment for KFU and Jay Leno. He’s making fun of what he considers a slip reporting the Smith County Farmers Union meeting…





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