Kansas Farmers Union, the state’s oldest active general farm organization, will hold its annual convention at the Ramada Downtown Hotel and Convention Center, Topeka, December 10-11, 2015.

This year’s theme is Cultivating Healthy Rural Communities. In addition to rural revitalization through arts, culture and entrepreneurship, conference sessions will focus on building resilient local food systems in our communities as well as renewable energy opportunities for farm and home.

Registration for convention is available online. Early bird registration discounts end on November 23.

Conference keynote speakers include Robert Gipe and Rosanna Bauman. Robert Gipe is a novelist/playwright and serves as the director of the Appalachian Program at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College in Cumberland, Kentucky. For more than 25 years, he has helped connect communities to the culture of their region. Gipe will share his insights on rural revitalization and connection through arts and culture during Friday’s convention banquet.

Rosanna Bauman is a farmer and serial ag entrepreneur from Garnett. Together with her parents and five siblings, Bauman has developed businesses that expand opportunities for local food production in eastern Kansas through USDA-inspected poultry and meat processing facilities and a non-GMO feed hub. During Friday’s lunch banquet, Bauman will reflect on how a family without an agricultural background has had a significant impact on expanded opportunities for diversified, family farms and direct marketers.

Grassroots policy development will be Thursday’s focus. Kansas Farmers Union has a rich history of working to protect and promote the interests of family farmers and ranchers by taking a leadership role in advocating for farming, ranching and agricultural interests across the state. Each year, members review past policy, propose and debate new issues, and adopt policy for the coming year.

Evening presenters include Duane Goossen and Tom Giessel. Duane Goossen is the Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s Senior Fellow. Before joining the Center, Duane was a seven-term member of the Kansas House of Representatives and a budget director for 12 years under three governors. Goossen will provide an update on the Kansas State Budget. National Farmers Union Historian Tom Giessel, Larned, will delve into the history of Farmers Union.

Friday morning sessions will highlight water issues. Mark J. Hague, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 Acting Regional Administrator, will provide updates on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Freelance journalist Sarah Green will review her Kansas Health Institute’s News Service series Telling the Story of Water in Kansas. The series explored water issues in four Kansas communities and regions, including how people access water, the economics of water, and challenges of drinking it.

Tom Driscoll, National Farmers Union Government Relations Representative, will give the annual Washington Update and Pete Lorenz, National Farmers senior grain marketing analyst, will share grain marketing opportunities on Friday morning.

Friday afternoon sessions cover renewable energy opportunities for farm and home as well as local food systems. Patty Clark, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Kansas will spotlight the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Cherri Harper and Bill Dorsett from Flint Hills Renewable Energy Co-op and Bill Wood with Cromwell Solar will discuss various solar installation and financing options.

The final report of the Local Food and Farm Task Force will be shared by Chair Ron Brown and Sen. Tom Hawk of Manhattan. The task force, established during the 2014 legislative session with the passage of Senate Bill 286, is responsible for preparing a local food and farm plan outlining recommendations for policy and funding options to increase locally grown food production. These recommendations are due to the legislature in January 2016.

Missty Lechner, Kansas Alliance for Wellness, will discuss efforts to establish Local Food and Farm Councils in Kansas. These councils bring together the people who grow food, the people who sell food, and the people who eat food to discuss and provide recommendations to lawmakers that can improve our local food system. Gary LaGrange will provide an update on the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Kansas and share the efforts to connect veterans with farming in the Ft. Riley area through Soldier Agricultural Vocation Education (SAVE) program.

Also on Friday, Tatiana Lin will present the Kansas Health Institute’s Health Impact Assessment on Potential Changes to Kansas‘ Corporate Ag Law report and farmer Josh Roe will share results from his SARE Farmer-Rancher grant cover crop project.

Nominations for Kansas Farmers Union board positions will be taken on Thursday afternoon with voting occurring Friday afternoon. The state is divided into a North District and a South District. Each district has three board members who serve three-year terms. One representative from each district is up for election each year. The President and Vice President are elected annually.

Convention meal costs are as follows: Thursday Supper $30 ($25 until 11/23), Friday Lunch $30 ($25 until 11/23), and Friday Evening Banquet $35 ($30 until 11/23). KFU members receive a 10% discount when registering online. If you’ve not yet received your KFU Member Discount Code, please contact Mercedes before ordering: kfu.mercedes@gmail.com or 785.840.6202.

A block of rooms at the group rate of $74 + tax is available until December 1 at the Ramada. Call 785.234.5400 to make reservations and ask for the Kansas Farmers Union group rate.