The beauty of the Flint Hills, local food, agricultural advocacy, feeding 9 billion by 2050, and the past, present, and future of Kansas family farmers and ranchers are just a handful of topics that will be featured at Kansas Farmers Union’s 2014 convention December 4‐6, 2014 at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, 530 Richards Dr. Manhattan, KS.

Thursday, Dec. 4 is devoted to the business of the state’s oldest active general farm organization, with registration opening at 11:15 a.m. Lunch will be served at noon, where NFU honorary historian Tom Giessel will give a presentation on Farmers Union history. The KFU Board of Directors meeting and bylaws committee hearing will take place at 1:00 p.m., followed by the General Session. Convention delegates will consider and adopt KFU’s grassroots policy and bylaws changes through the afternoon.

KFU members will then tour the Flint Hills Discovery Center, a unique museum that explores the geology, biology and cultural history of the Flint Hills – the last remaining tallgrass prairie in North America. This is a must see attraction that will educate and entertain visitors of every age, with multi-media, interactive exhibits, outdoor terrace, gift store, and traveling exhibits that change throughout the year. We will then eat at Sirloin Stockade dutch treat.

The annual KFU Foundation Silent Auction will take place Thursday through Friday evening, and all members are asked to consider donating items to the auction. To donate, please contact Nick Levendofsky at, call (785) 527-0941, or bring donations with you to convention.

Friday, December 5 starts with registration at 7:15 a.m., followed by the continuation of policy and bylaws discussion, if not already finalized on Thursday. During the morning session, a Kansas Rural Center representative will share information about their Kansas Health Foundation project on a statewide farm-to-fork plan. Chris Wilson with the Kansas Aqueduct Project will speak about the proposed 360-mile long canal from the northeast tip of Kansas to western Kansas that would draw water from the Missouri River to replenish the Ogallala Aquifer. Just before lunch, National Farmers Union Senior Vice President of Programs Chandler Goule will give the Washington Update.

Larry Mitchell will once again join us as the keynote speaker at the lunch banquet. Mitchell, who spoke at KFU’s convention last year in Topeka, was appointed Administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) on June 3, 2012. GIPSA’s programs directly and significantly impact two key sectors of American agriculture – the livestock and grain markets. The markets serviced by GIPSA represent a total economic value of approximately $170 billion annually with exports contributing over $28.7 billion to the U.S. economy.

After lunch, KFU staff and NFU’s Goule will discuss family farm advocacy and the upcoming “Kansas Family Farmer Day” at the Kansas Capitol during the 2015 Legislative Session, an opportunity for KFU & KBFC members to visit their legislators in Topeka and encourage them to support legislation that benefits Kansas family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities.

Cody Holmes will speak to KFU members about farm transition, apprenticeships, and internships during the afternoon session. Holmes and his wife Dawnell are the owners of Rockin’ H Ranch near Norwood, MO, where they raise seasonal produce and free-range chicken, pork, beef, lamb, turkey, eggs, cheese and milk without the use of antibiotics and chemicals.

Convention attendees are invited to stay for the evening banquet, where the prestigious Ruth Hirsch Award will be presented. NFU Vice President Teske will speak about his new role with our national organization and Jeff Downing will give the Midwest Regional Agency report.

National Geographic Magazine photographer Jim Richardson, keynote banquet speaker, will give a slideshow presentation entitled “Feeding the Planet: Soil to Sustenance for 9 Billion People.” Starting May 2014 and continuing through the end of the year, National Geographic is focusing on food and the challenge of feeding the global population of nine billion projected by 2050.

National Geographic is world-renowned for some of the most spectacular photos ever taken and published, but when Richardson heads off on assignment around the world or across America, the types of images he hopes to capture may surprise you.
“What I look for is very much the commonplace. I look for those things that are common between us, that we all experience,” Jim, who has taken five around-the-world trips, says, “It’s life and death, and children, and getting married, and the first day you send your kid off to kindergarten, and all those kinds of things. Those are the things that really leap across the boundaries, and those are the pictures we all understand no matter which culture we come from.”

Richardson specializes in several issues — food production, native grasslands, vanishing night skies and clean water. In Kansas, Richardson is perhaps best known for proposing and photographing a story about the state’s tallgrass prairie for the magazine’s April 2007 issue. His first story for National Geographic was published in 1985. Every year since, he has been shooting for the magazine. He has 29 stories to his credit, and is currently working on projects for the magazine in 2015 and 2016.

The KFU Foundation Silent Auction will conclude at 8:00 p.m., and Jeff Davidson will wrap up the evening’s events with authentic Kansas cowboy music and poetry. Combining a unique blend of songs, historical facts, and pictures, Davidson revists the history of the west and its tremendous influence on the shaping of the U.S. economy, ideology, and heroism.

Davidson’s presentation leads audiences through the history of the west, from the time of Coronado to the end of the 1800’s. Audience members will traipse the plains with early explorers, drive spikes on the first railways, plow in new ground, ride for the Pony Express, and stop a stampeding herd. Sit back and take a deep seat – the “winnin’ of the west” was not for the faint of heart.

Saturday, December 6 is “Kansas Beginning Farmer Day,” and the day’s speakers and events will revolve around the Kansas Beginning Farmers Coalition (KBFC) and its members. KFU members are encouraged to participate in the day’s speakers and tour.

Room reservations must be made by Thursday, Nov. 26 with Four Points by Sheraton hotel at (785) 539-5311. Ask for the $75.00 Kansas Farmers Union block of rooms. Please fill out and return the included convention registration form to Kansas Farmers Union by Monday, December 1 so we can plan for meals and meeting room arrangements. For more information, and to register online, please click here. We look forward to seeing you in “The Little Apple” December 4-6!