TOPEKA, KS.- Kansas Farmers Union, the state’s oldest active general farm organization, will hold its annual convention at the Ramada Hotel, downtown Topeka, Jan. 3-4, 2014.

“This is going to be a great convention,” KFU President Donn Teske said. “It will be, above all, fun, interesting, and educational.” During the two-day convention, an array of speakers will discuss everything from rural healthcare, the 2013 Farm Bill, local food, global agriculture, climate change, and many other issues facing rural Kansas. The public is invited to attend.

During the Friday noon luncheon, Nick Levendofsky, KFU projects and communications coordinator, will give a presentation about his trip to Germany this past summer as a participant in the 26th Annual Leadership Workshop for Rural Youth. Following lunch, Linda Sheppard, special counsel and director of Health Policy for the Kansas Insurance Department, will speak on the Affordable Care Act and how it affects rural Kansans. Later in the day, KFU members will be treated to a tour of the newly renovated Kansas Capitol building.

During the Friday evening banquet, Tom Giessel, National Farmers Union honorary historian, will share history from the organization’s past and K-State students Rebecca Hall and Billie Chesney will give a presentation on their research into Kansas’ cooperative history and the role Farmers Union has played in cooperative development over the years.

Following the banquet, an entertaining evening is planned with Dave Lewis’ “Game Show Road Show.” A live and silent auction will also be held with all proceeds going to the Kansas Farmers Union Foundation to assist with education programs within the organization.

On the morning of Saturday, January 4, National Farmers Union president Roger Johnson will join the convention to discuss the Farm Bill, Country-of-Origin Labeling, and other national issues important to farmers and ranchers. Kansas Farm Service Agency director Adrian Polansky will also give an update on FSA happenings across the state.

Through the morning, Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Douglas County and the City of Lawrence will discuss opportunities in local foods and Dr. W. Chris King, Brigadier General (R), U.S. Army Dean of Academics, Command and General Staff College will discuss world instability in the face of climate change. Dr. King has authored two books and 13 book chapters with his most recent manuscript being, Understanding International Environmental Security: A Strategic Military Perspective. He has published more than 30 journal articles, dozens of scientific reports, and lectured at more than 40 professional conferences including the technical sessions of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.

During the noon banquet, USDA GIPSA director Larry Mitchell will discuss his involvement in the American Agriculture Movement during the late 1970s. Prior to serving at USDA in the 1990s, Mitchell was director of Federal and State Relation for the American Agriculture Movement, Editor of the AAM Reporter and an independent consultant and writer on American farm issues.

Following lunch, Sen. Marci Francisco, Lawrence, will give an update on the upcoming legislative session, and GIPSA director Mitchell will address the afternoon session on how USDA and GIPSA can help small livestock producers thrive. John and Karen Pendleton of Pendleton’s Country Market near Lawrence, KS will also discuss their operation and the next generation of family farming. The couple planted their first ½ acre of asparagus in 1980, and now the farm grows a wide variety of vegetables, bedding plants, and cut flowers, plus a CSA program with about 100 subscribers.

Saturday evening, an Italian buffet will be served at 5:00 P.M., followed by a 6:00 P.M. screening of the film “The Farm Crisis” which will take place in the Grand Ballroom of the Ramada. The public is invited to attend. Buffet cost is $25 and the meal is optional.

After the film, a panel discussion moderated by KFU president Donn Teske will feature NFU president and former North Dakota farm crisis director Roger Johnson, agricultural mediator and early farmer advocate Linda Hessman, Kansas Rural Family Helpline director Charlie Griffin, Kansas Agriculture Mediation Service director Forrest Buhler, and former Kansas Rural Center farm financial counselor and Nemaha County farmer Ed Reznicek.

Sunday, January 5 features the second annual meeting of the Kansas Beginning Farmers Coalition (KBFC) beginning with Linda Hessman, KFU board member and Jessie Deelo, farmer resource specialist Farm Aid who will discuss the importance of agricultural advocacy with the group.

John and Karen Pendleton will address the meeting before lunch to talk about their farm and their outlook for family agriculture in Kansas. That afternoon, representatives of the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s “From the Land of Kansas” program will discuss the program and Luke Mahin, co-director of Republic County Economic Development will discuss social media and online marketing and how they can benefit direct market producers. The rest of the day will be devoted to open discussion among KBFC members and attendees.

Kansas Farmers Union members and the public are invited to attend the annual convention. For more information, and to register online, visit or call 620-241-6630.


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If you would like more information about convention, or wish to schedule an interview with Donn Teske or a convention speaker, please call Nick Levendofsky at 785-527-0941 or email Nick at

Photo: “Larry Mitchell, Administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), is the keynote speaker during the annual Kansas Farmers Union convention.” available here.
Photo: “National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson is scheduled to update Kansas Farmers Union members on the farm bill, COOL and other key agriculture issues.” available here.
Photo: “A screening of the documentary The Farm Crisis, with a panel discussion to immediately follow, are planned for Saturday, January 4.” available here.