By Mary Howell

Make plans to attend the Kansas Farmers Union Convention, December 1-2, 2017 at the Best Western, Emporia, KS. Special guests for the two-day event are Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Erika Nelson, Kurt & Andi Dale, and Jason Schmidt.

This year’s theme of “Bridges” appears many times as we discuss ways to make connections: finding the perfect fit, bridging the gap between generations, connecting rural to urban, and farmers to consumers. Other topics include: food safety, the new Farm Bill, and reflections of the 1980s farm crisis and similarities of the ag economy currently effecting us today.

Friday starts out with 2018 KFU policy drafting. As a grassroots organization, our policy is written and approved by the members of the organization.

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Friday speaker highlights: Sarah Green sets the stage for the upcoming two days, explaining the thought and planning that went into discussing how we navigate our agricultural challenges. Jason Schmidt, KFU board member from Newton, relates his story of “Finding Your Fit”, the reality of transitioning into the family dairy farming operation. Kurt and Andi Dale tell the story of the inter-generational transfer of Kurt’s family farm and changes they’ve made with value-added by direct marketing directly to the consumer. NFU’s Matt Perdue shares what is happening in D.C. with the Farm Bill, trade, and healthcare.

Following dinner, Erika Nelson presents “Make Art, Not War”. Throughout our turbulent history, Kansans have vociferously and voraciously pursued the greater good, working both within the established systems as well as outside these systems to effect change.  With these movements come a rich array of protest art – art made to draw attention to a topic of great concern in hope of eliciting change or expanding the conversation. Erika shares many examples of such art; clever, humorous and even biting.

We move to the American Legion Post for Saturday morning’s events.  Barbara Patterson, NFU, explains the “Food Safety Modernization Act: A Bridge We Must Cross”. A panel discussion “Bridges to a New Farm Bill” is moderated by Bill Spiegel, editor of High Plains Journal.   Panelists are Lisa French, Cheney Lake Watershed Inc.; Jim French, Center for Rural Affairs; Sandy Proctor, KSRE; and Sharon Karr, Kansas Farm Service Agency committee member.

In the convention keynote, “Thoughts and Reflections on the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, and How We Came Through It,” Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker has a conversation with Nick Levendofsky about her time in the Senate, her role during the Farm Crisis of the late 70’s and early 80’s, women in politics, and how things have changed since she left office 20 years ago. Senator Kassebaum Baker represented the State of Kansas in the United States Senate from 1978 to 1997.

The formal portion of the convention concludes with the noon banquet back at the Best Western Hotel.

Saturday afternoon showcases several area farms with a bus tour for beginning farmers and other interested members. The tour highlights three local farms by Madison:

  • Our Seven Acres has a small-scale family vegetable and fruit operation incorporating hoop houses, small livestock, an a CSA. Hear from Mandy about how she connects with consumers, supports her community, and inspires young farmers.
  • Preston Beeman, is a transitioning farmer south of Madison, who rents his farm from his mother and siblings. After joining Gail Fuller on a tour of Gabe Brown’s farm in North Dakota, he discovered cover crops can be profitable when grazed. Preston has changed his farming practices and now plants cover crops on his farm and custom grazes yearlings.
  • Jacob Knobloch is a young farmer who took over his grandpa’s farm in 2005. He did conventional cropping for the first three years, followed by two years of strip till. Jacob took advantage of some cost share opportunities to try no-till and is slowly making a move to drastically reduce commercial inputs.

2017 Kansas Farmers Union Convention offers something for everyone.  Plan to join us in Emporia for policy making, business, learning, good home-like cooking and great conversation with friends and a three farm bus tour. We hope to see you at convention.

Questions? Contact Mary Howell: 785-562-8726 or

2017 State Convention featured speakers.

Featured speakers at this year’s convention include: Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Jason Schmidt , Erika Nelson, Andi Dale, and Bill Spiegel.