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Rural Resilience: Opportunities and challenges facing rural Kansans is the focus of the 2018 Kansas Farmers Union state convention to be held November 29-30 at the Prairie Band Resort, Mayetta.

In addition to building resilient communities, conference sessions will focus on economic opportunities with food systems development, alternative financing for food and ag projects, healthcare, and grazing. The general public is encouraged to attend.

Conference keynote speakers include Roger Johnson, Marci Penner, and Ron Wilson.

Roger Johnson serves as the president of the National Farmers Union. A third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, N.D., Johnson previously served as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner, a position he was first elected to in 1996. He grew up in Farmers Union, participating in the organization’s youth programs, serving as a county president and chairman of the board of a local Farmers Union cooperative. In addition to providing the annual Washington Update, Johnson will share his insights on the future of Farmers Union during Thursday’s convention banquet.

Marci Penner is the executive director of the Inman-based Kansas Sampler Foundation, and author, speaker, promoter and supporter of rural Kansas. Marci and her dad founded the 501c3 non-profit in 1993 after traveling the state to write three guidebooks. Penner will facilitate an interactive session, “Let’s Talk: Making rural a quality choice” on Thursday afternoon.

Ron Wilson is director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University in Manhattan. He has written and produced more than 1,000 features about small town Kansas entrepreneurs and community leaders through his weekly radio program and news column called “Kansas Profile.” During Friday’s lunch, Wilson will share “Tumbleweed Tales of Rural Kansas” focusing on fascinating stories of entrepreneurship that can be found in all corners of rural Kansas.

In May 2018, partners across Kansas hosted the Harvesting Opportunity in Kansas Symposium at the University of Kansas School of Business where 150+ farmers, bankers, economic development professionals, extension professionals, and community development advocates gathered to learn, share, and discuss a key idea: How can we build true community wealth in Kansas through food and farming?

Marlin Bates, executive director of KSRE Douglas County, and Helen Schnoes, Sustainability and Food Systems Planner for Douglas County, will provide insights from the recent Harvesting Opportunity in Kansas Symposium. The daylong event drew professionals and community members passionate about local agriculture, healthy food access, and improving Kansas communities to learn about new tools to advance their work with a focus on economic development.

Slow Money NE Kansas will be the focus of Dr. Karen Willey and Rosanna Bauman’s presentation on alternative financing for food and ag projects. The Slow Money movement is built around local groups, which catalyze local food investing in a variety of ways—peer-to-peer lending, public meetings, pitch fests, and on-farm events. Local Slow Money groups are organized as informal networks and/or investment clubs with a diversity of approaches, including everything from 0% microloans to low-interest loans of a $100,000 or more. Through 27 Slow Money local groups around the country $66 million has been invested in 697 food enterprises.

Dale Strickler, known as the Cover Crop Guru of Kansas, will address having more cows than grass in his Friday morning session. Strickler’s goal is to create a pasture system where he can graze year round with vegetation that would out compete weeds, never need fertilizer and produce excellent tonnage. More information about Strickler’s system can be found in his new book, “The Drought Resilient Farm.”

Grassroots policy development will be Thursday morning’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.

For inquiries about registration, please call Kami at 620.241.6630 or Mary at 785.840.6202.