Kansas Farmers Union invites everyone to attend a day of tours in the Pawnee Rock, Great Bend, and Larned areas on Saturday, Aug. 10.

The morning will start at 9 a.m. at the Pawnee Rock State Historic Site at Pawnee Rock. According to the Pawnee Rock website, many of the Plains tribes reportedly used it as an observation point from which they could track and swoop down upon buffalo
herds and wagon trains.

At times, travelers on the Santa Fe Trail regarded it as the most dangerous place they had to pass. However, it was also a welcome landmark for travelers, signaling that about half of their journey was now behind them.

Unfortunately, much of Pawnee Rock was destroyed in the 1870s by the railroad and by settlers who were in need of building stone. The remaining portion was acquired in 1908 by the Woman’s Kansas Day Club. The next year it was turned over to the State of Kansas as an historic site. On May 24, 1912, a stone monument was dedicated. Pawnee Rock was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

At 10 a.m., the group will make its way north to Heartland Farm, a registered agri-tourism operation situated on an 80 acre homestead.

According to its website, Heartland Farm, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, is a Christian community committed to working for the healing and care of the Earth and its inhabitants. Members of the community are committed to exploring and living the principles of community, simple living, nonviolence, justice and peace, and the nurturing of all God’s creation.

During the morning, we’ll tour the farm, where we’ll enjoy ample space for hiking, strolling, meditating, or walking the labyrinth. Spiritual companioning, experimental art, and educational tours are also available, as well as the purchase of organic produce in season. Visitors are also welcome to browse through the gift shop. The farm’s alpacas are another unique draw for visitors. Their gentle, humming ways, beauty, wonderful fleece, and inquisitive nature have “added value” to the farm.

At around 11 a.m., we’ll make our way to Great Bend where we’ll grab boxed lunches and drive up to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center for a self-guided tour of the facility. According to its website, The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is dedicated to educating the public about wetland communities, their importance, and the need for conservation and restoration, with emphasis on Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. They accomplish this through interactive exhibits and interpretation and educational programs.

Following the KWEC tour, about 2 p.m., we’ll drive to Larned where we’ll tour the Fort Larned National Historic Site. Both Fort Larned and the city of Larned were named to honor Col. Benjamin F. Larned, paymaster general of the U.S. Army, when the post was established in 1859.

In a time of change and conflict, Fort Larned was on the front lines. According to its website, the Fort’s mission began to protect the mail and culminated in Hancock’s War and the Medicine Lodge Treaty in 1867, and then ended with the completion of the railroad in less than two decades. Today it remains the best-preserved fort of its time.

At 3:30 p.m., we’ll tour the Santa Fe Trail Center Museum in Larned. According to the website, the Santa Fe Trail Center is a unique educational institution devoted to the interpretation of the historic transportation route known as the Santa Fe Trail. It preserves artifacts and manuscripts related to the blending of the major cultures along the Trail. The museum also enhances understanding of the continued development of the Trail. The Santa Fe Trail Center does charge an admission fee of $4 for adults, $2.50 for students (12-18), $1.50 for children (6-11), and admission is free for kids under 5.

At 5 p.m. we’ll have some time to let KFU members Tom and Sheryl Giessel show us around their “neck of the woods.”
There are other historical sites such as Sibley’s Camp, Zebulon Pike Plaza, and the farm of a past NFU president. We may even get lucky and have the opportunity to visit Tom and Sheryl’s farm near Larned.

For those who need a break from the long day of touring, you’re more than welcome to relax for a few hours until we head back up to Heartland Farm for the BBQ and stargazing at 7 p.m. The event costs $15 per family (two adults and up to four children) and that includes the cookout, live music, fellowship, and stargazing when the annual Perseid meteor shower streaks across the Kansas sky.

It is recommended that you bring lawn chairs and blankets for the evening, and the farm does have space available for those want to bring tents and camp, or you may want to book one of their guest houses for the evening at $25 each. Please make reservations in advance by calling (620) 923-4585 or email hfarm@gbta.net.

For those who stay in a guest house or camp, a cookout breakfast is available for $15 per family or $5 each. There are other hotel accommodations in the Larned and Great Bend area in case Heartland Farm is booked. Please RSVP by calling the KFU office at (620) 241-6630 or email kfu.nick@gmail.com by Aug. 1.