Monday, January 19, 2015

His Passion Knows No Age

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

William "Bill" Taylor loves to work on the land. He awakes early every morning to continue his passion of farming that started when he was a young boy in the 1930’s.

Taylor, now 93, has lived near Manhattan his entire life besides the three years he served in World War II until he was honorably discharged from the military in December of 1945.

Taylor drove a halftrack (a vehicle with wheels in front for steering and tracks in the back) and saw many battles first hand during World War II including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. Taylor was deeply moved by his war experience, but does not talk about his combat experiences much.

Born in Manhattan in 1921 and raised near Wamego, Taylor described his childhood as typical of that of a Depression-era family. "My parents did a little farming but it was tough," Taylor says.

As hard as his rural life might have been, he enjoyed it enough to pursue a career of farming and raising cattle. "I love the cattle," Taylor says. "Always have and always will."

Taylor says one of the best parts about his chosen livelihood is that he is his own boss and noted the weather and government regulations have been the most difficult to work with.

After returning from the war, Taylor met Lorna, a farm girl from Wheaton, Kansas. They married in 1948 and are still together today. The Taylor’s have one son, two grandsons and five great-grandchildren.

Returning to the Farm
After returning home from the war in 1945, the G.I. Bill provided Taylor with a loan to start a farm of his own. But Taylor couldn’t find an inch of farm ground. He did the next best and got a job at the Kansas State University Agronomy Farm. It was there Taylor learned a lot about farming. "I read whatever I could get my hands on to learn," he says.

After discovering he could draw funds from the G.I. Bill for four more years if he was actively engaged in farming, he contacted the farmer he worked for in high school. "The gentlemen sold me half of his cowherd and some machinery on a note," Taylor said. "After four years, I was eager to find more land. I ended my ties with my boss and was out on my own."

In 1949, Taylor became a member of the Farmers Union Cooperative. "Our landlords were members, so [we] became members too," he says. Taylor recalls the local service station in Manhattan with the Farmers Union Co-op grain elevator beside it. "We picked up our feed there, got our flat tires fixed and delivered grain," he says. "It was similar to what we see today, just quite a bit smaller."

On the Land Today
A co-op member for 65 years, Taylor and Lorna recalled memories of attending the cooperative’s annual meetings in Manhattan.

To Taylor, the co-op has always been there. "It has been about convenience and good service," he says. "I grew up in the system so I guess you could say I don’t know any better."

As a long-time co-op member, Taylor was eager to attend the informational meetings prior to the merger of Farmers Cooperative Association and MKC. "At my old age I have seen many things change," Taylor said. "The merger and the co-op’s growth is a good change."

Farming alongside his grandson, Taylor says it takes a lot of time and resources to keep their operation running today. Taylor added he appreciates the expertise they receive from MKC.

When talking about the future, Taylor looks forward to getting ready to plant next year’s corn and soybean crops and watching his cattle finish out. "I have no plans to retire until I am called away," he says.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Connecting Youth to Agriculture

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

While farm fields are common sights around the predominately rural state we live, many students today aren’t attuned to agriculture. Although no one can discount the thousands of hours and hundreds of people who work diligently to spread the positive message about agriculture, there are still many young minds to educate.

At Grammy’s Pumpkin Patch, straw hats and chickens are common sites seen by
second grade students that visit Johnstown Farm.

For the fourth year, second grade students from McPherson elementary schools participated in Grammy’s Pumpkin Patch "In the Class and On the Farm" agricultural education program.

"For so long, I was taking our family’s farmstead south of Lindsborg for granted," says Laura Mourn, education coordinator at Grammy’s Pumpkin Patch. "Educators at heart, my mom, sister and I made it our mission to come up with a fun way to connect students with the farm."

Started in 2011, the family spearheaded the addition of the classroom element to their already two and a half acre pumpkin patch that welcomed visitors to the farm each fall.

The program is two-fold, Mourn says. The first part brings sisters and coordinators Angie Flippo and Mourn into the second grade classrooms. "These hands-on lessons are a basic introduction of the "what" and "why" of Kansas agriculture," she says.

In the classroom setting, students learn an age appropriate definition of agriculture. The definition all classes learn and recite is "agriculture is the process of preparing the soil to grow crops and livestock." The traditional classroom lesson prepares students to visit the farm.

"Most of the students don’t realize how agriculture affects them in their everyday life," Mourn explained. "We start with what the students ate that morning for breakfast or how they got to school, and almost always we can relate it back to agriculture."

Mourn added the second part of the program is a day at Johnstown Farm where students experience lessons in the core content areas taught through the lens of agriculture.

"Our lessons are in math, language arts, science and other basics, using curriculum emerged in agriculture," Mourn commented. "As an educator, I love the hands-on, real-life experience for the students."

For example, a lesson in math is taught talking about how a farmer isn’t going to count the number of seeds they will plant, instead they will estimate.

Mourn says because of sponsored support from MKC and other organizations, Grammy’s Pumpkin Patch was able to welcome nine second grade classes to the farm. In 2014, Grammy’s Pumpkin Patch reached 191 second graders.

"No matter the agricultural learning experience, hopefully the students will talk about the field trip at home, and that will in turn interest their parents and siblings," Mourn says.

All efforts made to educate youth help re-establish connections which once existed because farming was in everyone’s close family. Today that is not the case, making the need to teach about where food really comes from an increasingly important part of education.

MKC believes it is important, if not critical, for people to continue to have an idea about where their food comes from. "It is not a good thing if people believe milk comes from a carton," says Jeff Jones, MKC location manager at Haven. "Not recognizing a cow is ultimately responsible for milk production is not completely uncommon when we visit schools."

That is where MKC’s "Ag Everyday" presentation derived from. The presentation, developed for fourth grade students, discusses what grain is, what major grains are grown in Kansas, where the grain goes and what the grain is used for. To wrap up the presentation, MKC employees put together a "felt pizza" with the students and discuss where the ingredients come from. After putting together the "pretend" pizza, students get to enjoy a real slice of pizza.

"For kids, pizza is often a preferred food. And within a pizza, much of what farming supplies can be seen," Jones says. "The simple pizza in many ways encapsulates the variety of agricultural and food production into something all students can relate to."

Like many employees, Jones enjoys seeing the excitement in the classroom when the students make those real connections to agriculture. More than 75 presentations have been made by MKC employees since the program began in the fall 2012 by Shane Eck, MKC location manager at Lindsborg.

Grammy’s Pumpkin Patch and "felt pizzas" are certainly efforts which are on the right track to spread the positive message about agriculture.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Young Leaders Attend CHS New Leader Forum

By Nichole Gouldie, Communications Specialist

Twelve representatives from MKC attended the 2014 CHS New leader Forum, a program that builds next the generation's leaders for agriculture and rural America.

Those attending from MKC were Andy and Michelle Herman of Wheaton; Curtis and Betsy Patrick of Lindsborg; Hilary Worcester of Manhattan; Jameson Eichman of Wamego; Lucas Hamm of Salina; Nichole Gouldie of Inman; Nick Mazouch of Marquette; Russell and Tiffany Rezac of Onaga; and Thayne Rawson of Lindsborg.  

They were among 300 young producers from across the U.S. participating in the program December 3 - 5 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in conjunction with the CHS annual meeting.

During the three-day forum, participants heard from leading experts on agriculture, leadership, cooperatives and risk management. Speakers included Carl Casale, president and CEO, CHS Inc.; Mark Mayfield, speaker author and ag ambassador; Dr. Greg McKee, director, Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives; and Terry McClure, board members, Nationwide and president, McClure Farms, LLC.

The New Leader Forum also featured a networking event with the CHS board of directors and participating in the 2014 CHS Annual Meeting, including workshops and the annual meeting business session.

CHS Inc. is a leading global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States, diversified in energy, grains, and foods.