By ROBERT PIERCE • Daily Leader
“No matter who you are, there’s always something more to learn.”
That phrase speaks especially true to agriculture, a mainstay of the Kansas economy, and two local Farm Bureau leaders recently learned a little more about the industry during a year-long program from Kansas Farm Bureau.
Seward County Farm Bureau President Billie Proctor and county coordinator Starla Young recently went through KFB’s masters program, and Proctor said the program originated from the need for more knowledge about farming.
“In agriculture, there is no end to gaining knowledge of the past, present and in order to plan for the future,” she said. “We’ve gotta know where we’ve been and what we’ve done and how it worked in order for us to move forward.”
Proctor said the masters program is a good overall view of agriculture statewide. She said she and Young, along with other FB members, were taken to most of the state other than its southeast and southwest parts.
“You get to see a diversity of how they do things there,” Proctor said. “We can kind of compare it to what we do here. We find out why we can’t do what they do back there.”
The program involves six sessions, which all members must attend in order to graduate, and the first took place in August 2008 in Pottawatomie County.
“They called it ‘Agriculture: The Foundation,’” Proctor said. “We toured a cow/calf operation. We toured crops in Pottawatomie County, went to an equipment dealership.”
Proctor and Young also visited a farm in that county where black angus cattle were raised.
“They sell their own farm-raised veal. It also has the Little Apple brewery,” Proctor said. “They make their own beer on the site as well.”
The pair likewise saw dryland corn and soybean crops, many of which were waist high or higher.
“We don’t see crops that tall out here,” Proctor said.
Proctor is not actively involved in putting crops into the ground, and she said for her, it was important to get an overall view of farming operations in order to better represent SCFB board members who do farm.
The next stop in the program came in October 2008 in Thomas County.
Here, Young and Proctor learned how to relate agriculture to what Farm Bureau does.
“We went to the KSU Research and Extension center that morning,”
Proctor said. “We saw the subsoil irrigation system they have been doing for quite a few years up there.”
Proctor said the masters program shows the importance of what farmers in the rest of the state are doing, how that works and whether it would work here.
Young and Proctor also saw sunflowers processed, and SCFB’s president said she and Young learned about a new product for kids who are allergic to peanut butter.
“It’s called sun butter,” Proctor said. “They’re starting to introduce it into school lunch programs.”
Young and Proctor also saw an ethanol plant in the town of Campus, and Proctor said the fuel is made a little different there than in Southwest Kansas.
“They make their ethanol out of milo up there,” she said.
The first half of the masters program concluded in November 2008 in Manhattan with “Farm Bureau Takes a Stand.”
“That was our annual meeting in Manhattan,” Proctor said. “We just talked about policy development. We develop our policies which we can take to the state and help them to understand agriculture better so that we can work better within the state.”
Proctor said the members of the class also included people such as county commissioners and Farm Bureau Insurance reps.
“They may not be farmers themselves, but they’ve gotta help us with our insurance and our casualties,” she said.
Young and Proctor went through the fourth session in February at the statehouse in Topeka.
“We went up and had lunch with several representatives that day, got to visit with them and listen to them banter back and forth about things that had gone on in session that morning before they joined us,” Proctor said. “We went after lunch and toured the Senate side and got to see the Senate in session.”
In April, Young and Proctor went to Stafford County to see a haying and pig operation, as well as a mill.
“They take the grain and process it into bread and mixes,” she said.
“We toured the whole plant and got to see that.”
The masters program class revisited Manhattan for the last stop.
There, members learned about the international nature of agriculture.
“One of the places we went to is the International Grain Program there at KSU,” Proctor said. “The gentleman talked about how from all over different countries, they’ll come in. They educate them on grains, and they help them to negotiate and purchase Kansas grains.”
Proctor said the masters program reminds ag leaders to look at farming a little differently.
“Not everybody raises wheat and corn,” she said. “There are other things out there that you can do and to start thinking outside of the box, and it’s really not about the box anyway.”
Proctor said Farm Bureau is a grass roots organization.
“Each and everyone of us has a voice,” she said. “We need to tell our story about agriculture. We need to be talking about agriculture and educating people about agriculture, and one of the ways to do it is talk about your operation.”
Proctor said she and Young recommend the masters program to anyone who wants to know a little more about agriculture.
“You don’t have to be in agriculture to take it,” she said. “It’s just a way for us to let people know how about how agriculture has changed.”