KFU chartered its second new chapter in as many years during the convention’s banquet. In the photo above from left, Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers, KFU President Donn Teske, Chapter President Donna P McClish, Chapter Secretary Janice Mingo, and National Farmers Union Historian Tom Giessel.

Creative Grower Connections is the name selected for this new chapter in the Wichita metro area. Most chapter members are specialty crop producers and African-American farmers. Chapter president Donna Pearson McClish operates the Common Ground Producers and Growers Mobile Market in a three-county area serving over 30 senior centers and ‘food deserts’ in South Central Kansas. As far as KFU can recall, this is the first and only African-American chapter, not only in Kansas, but also in the National Farmers Union (NFU) organization.

Kansas Farmers Union chartering groundbreaking new chapter in Ks

Donn Teske

Last year Kansas was blessed to charter a new Farmers Union chapter in Northeast Kansas. That was the work of one person, Mercedes Taylor Puckett, who took it upon herself to start networking within a growing number of active KFU members in that area who participated in our events, into socially interacting, and exploring, and then requesting, chartering. Now we have a really great and active chapter in that part of Kansas with an energy that makes one proud.

This year we will be blessed to charter another new chapter!

Again, it’s the work of one person in an area with a passion for Farmers Union that makes the difference. This time it’s Donna Pearson McClish in the Wichita area.

Even more significant with this new chapter that is especially unique in the Farmers Union family is this new chapter-in-waiting that has requested to be chartered by the Kansas Farmers Union is going to be a majority African-American chapter!

Could this be the first African-American chapter in the history of NFU?

This all started back when we held our 2016 state convention in Wichita. As we were setting up the programs, we had heard of a wonderful woman who had started a non-profit called the Common Ground Producers and Growers Inc which was doing marketing in a truly unique methodology, that of supplying the aging with a mobile farmers market which sets up at senior housing.

That person was Donna. We invited her to come and present at our convention, and since then her involvement with Ks Farmers Union has just continued to grow.

When I put out a call for Fly-in action in 2018 through our social media, Donna contacted me and expressed an interest in participating. It’s always so exciting to witness new members growing in their involvement and leadership in FU. Donna, and her daughter Keisha Couts, did join the great team representing KFU on the hill that year. I was grounded by the dang doc, but when they got back Donna and Keisha were so energized by their experience!

But Donna also had an observation. She told me; “Mr. Donn, there were 350 farmers there and Keisha and I were the only two African-Americans! We have so much work to do with you!” I told her I looked forward it.

Now she’s carried through on that.

Since then Donna was elected by our KFU delegate body to be one of our delegates to represent us at the NFU convention in Washington state in March, 2019 and she participated and represented us well. Donna and Keisha again helped represent Kansas on the Hill this past September. Keisha’s interest as a marriage and family therapist is the mental health challenges which farmers face all over the country.

Donna was ready to hold a chartering meeting by then and following hosting a great day of food safety tours in the Wichita area in October we met for a meal and meeting and they have met our by-law requirements and formally requested a charter with the Kansas Farmers Union!

A little more information about the Common Ground Project. In 2018 1,043 seniors were served by their mobile food market and this year the Common Ground Producers was awarded THE national award, in conjunction with the Central Plains Area on Aging, from the National Area Agency on Aging for their mobile market project!

This new chapter, tied closely to the Common Ground Producers Project, will be a great new addition to our Kansas Farmers Union family!