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Mary Fund, Communications Director, 785-873-3431,

NEWS RELEASE - October 4, 2012

For More information, contact Mary Fund, KRC, at (785) 873-3431

Community Organizes Around Healthy Food: Brown County Hosts FEAST Event
by Chhaya Kolavalli & Cole Cottin

On Monday, September 24, 2012, over 70 people gathered at Highland Community College’s historic Klinefelter Barn to engage in Kansas’ first ever “Community FEAST.” FEAST (Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together) is a model for community organizing created by the Oregon Food Bank to help involve people in addressing regional food systems issues.

According to the Brown County Healthy Foods Coalition (BCHFC), the primary goal of Brown County Community FEAST was to unite a broad range of community members under one roof to discuss challenges to and opportunities for responding to regional health issues and food access needs.

FEAST participants included: local farmers, school workers, food business owners, tribal representatives, government employees, and food bank staff members.

With one of the highest food insecurity rates in Kansas and a health status ranking of 89 out of 100 Kansas counties, the Brown County Healthy Food Coalition identified FEAST as a tool to generate greater community involvement in improving the availability of and access to healthy foods. It was supported by a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to the Community Foundation of Northeast Kansas.

FEASTs held elsewhere in the nation have resulted in increased nutrition education efforts, farm-to-school partnerships, local food hubs, new farmers markets, food producer networking groups, community gardens, food policy councils, and more.

After attending a FEAST Facilitator’s Training, held at Kansas State University (K-State) in June, BCHFC partnered with the Kansas Rural Center, K-State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development (CECD), Kansas Farm Bureau, and Glacial Hills Resource and Conservation Development (RC&D) to make this event happen.

The evening featured presentations from local and state agencies, plus small group discussions. Karla Harter, of the Brown County Health Department, kicked off the evening with a presentation on the challenges to community health in the area.

Just four grocery stores serve all of Brown County’s predominantly rural population. Harter asked participants: “What do you do when you can’t even afford to get to the grocery store? Then, if you do get there, the only food you can afford is highly processed, high sodium, calorie dense, and nutritionally poor.” In order for healthy food to become a regular part of residents’ lives, Harter says it must be available, reachable, affordable, and prepare-able. “The days of grandma in the kitchen teaching you how to prepare wholesome foods are gone, folks,” she emphasized – pointing to the need to educate people about healthy foods identification and use.

Next up, from the Kansas Department of Education, Cheryl Johnson and Barb Depew shared information on the many programs public schools can choose to offer to respond to issues of access and education. Often, they said, healthy eating “starts with the kids.” Just getting kids excited about different types of healthy foods can have a great impact on how families eat. “October is national Farm-to-School Month,” they pointed out, “We hope Brown County will be a shining example for the state!” In fact, later that evening, connections were made between farmers and school food service directors interested in purchasing healthy, local food for their schools.

Other speakers included: Matt Young, Brown County Extension Agent, who encouraged participants to use his office as a resource for increasing the local food supply. Brown County farmers, Mark Ward and Jake Johannes, emphasized the economic potential of marketing farm products locally and regionally. Annarose Hart, Agribusiness Development and Farmers Market Specialist for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, spoke about creative models for improving food access in communities. Hart pointed out that programs like Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), which facilitates vision card (food stamp) and credit card sales at farmers markets, have doubled the income of some farmers markets: “It’s a huge way to be able to capture the food dollar, to help make sure that farmers can keep farming and that people can have access to healthy foods.”

After the presentations, participants enjoyed a locally-sourced meal followed by small group discussions on a variety of topics, which included access, education, production, and distribution of healthy foods in Brown County. Driven by the premise that sustainable solutions to community challenges must be community-based, the groups submitted their ideas to the Brown County Healthy Food Coalition with a list of allies and resources that might be useful for addressing different areas of concern.

Some of these ideas included “mobile food trucks” as a solution to the challenge of physical access to food. “Brown County has limited grocery stores and only one farmers market,” they said, “but a mobile food truck operation, perhaps run through a local grocery store and in collaboration with area farmers, could deliver food to outlying communities.” Others suggested that a virtual food store, in which customers order food online and receive a delivery to their door, could increase food accessibility.

In his closing speech BCHFC Chair, Steve Smith, addressed the FEAST participants: “The things we are discussing tonight are not easy fixes. They are total societal changes. We have a lot in front of us.” His sentiments echoed Harter’s opening statement, “We can change history. We can change the course of Brown County.”

For photos and story about the Brown County FEAST, visit  If interested in organizing community around food and agriculture, or learning more about hosting a FEAST-like event, you can download a “FEAST Planning Guide” from the Oregon Food Bank’s website at:  Also, keep an eye out for the Kansas Rural Center's soon-to-be released “FEAST Toolkit,” full of resources from the planning of Brown County Community FEAST, at:

Chhaya Kolavalli & Cole Cottin work with the Kansas Rural Center’s Our Local Food Project, and helped coordinate the Brown County FEAST event.

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NEWS RELEASE - October 4, 2012

For More information, contact Mary Fund, KRC, at (785) 873-3431
or Billy Beck, KFS, at (785) 532-3308, or

Drought Proofing our Soils:
The Benefits of Cover Crops and Profiting from Streamside Trees

“How can cover crops increase my cattle and crop profits?” “Is dairy quality forage for $10 per ton possible?” “How can I turn that waste area down by the creek into long-term cash from timber and wildlife value?”

The Middle Kansas River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS), along with the Kansas Forest Service (KFS) and the Kansas Rural Center will be hosting a FREE workshop on October 17 From 1 p.m. to approximately 5:30 p.m. in Westmoreland, KS that will answer important questions like these. The workshop will take place in the Sunflower Room, located within the Pottawatomie County Building in Westmoreland, KS (612 Campbell Street). Refreshments and snacks will be provided for event attendees.

The workshop will include a wide variety of talks and hands-on activities aimed at informing producers and landowners about how both cover crops and streamside trees can impact their bottom line.

John Bond, coordinator of the Middle Kansas River WRAPS group will kick things off at 1pm with a welcome and overview of the WRAPS project. Presentations from Thad Rhodes and Billy Beck (both Kansas Forest Service watershed foresters) will follow, running from 1:15pm to around 2:45pm. Beck and Rhodes will cover a wide variety of forestry topics including: streamside timber establishment, forest management for wildlife, low cost stream bank stabilization methods, and funding/cost share for streamside forestry practices.
“There can be a lot of skepticism associated with tree planting in the Midwest”, says Beck, “however, one goal of this workshop is to show producers that establishing streamside tree plantings can be a successful, rewarding, and profitable endeavor – and there is abundant cost share out there to get you going.”

Following forestry, Dale Strickler of Star Seed (Osbourne, KS) will share his extensive knowledge of cover crops and their year-round use to increase cattle and crop profits. Strickler, a K-State alum, experienced agronomist, college instructor, farmer, and rancher, states “Our current system of feeding hay to cattle has become rapidly cost prohibitive as hay prices have skyrocketed under drought conditions. As producers seek alternatives to traditional hay feeding, they are increasingly discovering a method to reduce hay needs that not only produces better animal performance but also has a side benefit of also amazingly increasing crop yields. This no-longer-well-kept secret is the grazing of cover crops, an age old but little used method until recently.”

“Intelligently selected and managed cover crops can provide an impressive amount of grazing during the traditional hay feeding period, while at the same time fixing nitrogen, generating water saving mulches, improving soil organic matter and tilth, and deepening the root zone, all features that increase subsequent crop yields. In short, grazing cover crops can generate more income at less cost!”

Dale’s talk will cover relevant topics such as: why eliminating hay feeding is the key to cattle profits, why cover crops can increase yields of subsequent crops, and how to select cover crops to provide grazing when you need it. Dale’s talk will wrap up around 4:45pm. Following Dale, Middle Kansas WRAPS coordinator John Bond will provide information on available cost share that can help to make streamside forestry and cover crop projects a reality for producers.

All presenters plus WRAPS representatives will be available for one-on-one chats for a brief period following the event. Landowners and producers interested in enhancing both water quality and their bottom line through sustainable streamside forestry and cover crops will definitely benefit from the October 17 Cover Crop and Streamside Forestry Workshop! Please RSVP for this free event by Tuesday, October 16 (to ensure a proper amount of snacks and refreshments) to Billy Beck, Kansas Forest Service, by calling (785) 532-3308, or by email at

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NEWS RELEASE - September 19, 2012

For More information Contact: Mary Fund, 785-873-343;

Workshop focuses on water, fencing as drought intensifies

By Tom Parker

With exceptional drought conditions crippling 60 percent of Kansas and the rest of the state not much better, water is on a lot of minds lately, notably livestock producers and farmers. But it wasn’t just graziers discussing water at the Kansas Rural Center’s Livestock Water and Fencing Workshop in Courtland on Sept. 11— a pair of BBC reporters were also there interviewing attendees for an upcoming documentary on water issues.

“People are concerned about drought and water,” said Johnny Dymond, BBC reporter. “How to use it, how to get it, how to save it. It’s a global issue, and we’re in Kansas to see how people on the Great Plains are coping.”

Mark Green, regional coordinator for the SW Missouri Regional Management Intensive Grazing Schools and Missouri NRCS district conservationist, responded with a one-word assessment: “Flexibility.”

If there’s one thing the weather has taught us, Green said, it’s that no two years are alike. Producers must find solutions in an ever-changing environment, requiring systems that are flexible, practical and dependable. His two-prong approach incorporates water distribution and electronic fencing for intense rotational grazing, and of the two of them, water takes precedence.

“Water is the most limiting factor in maintaining flexibility,” he said. “It’s the most important nutrient for cattle, but you have to deliver adequate amounts of water at the right location.”

The key is to determine how much water is needed and to understand cattle behavior, he said. Cattle require eight to 12 gallons of water per day, and double that during hot weather. While the moisture content of feed should be considered, equally determining is the travel distance. Cattle within 600 feet of their food source drink 15 percent more water than cattle that walk more than 1,000 feet, Green said. On shorter distances cattle tend to drink individually, but at greater distances it becomes a social event. Unfortunately, only the lead cows get their fill because the herd heads back before the last cows have their turn.

“How flexible is a pond location?” Green asked. “The goal is for livestock to never travel more than 800 feet. You need water in every paddock.”

Concrete tanks, implement tire tanks, portable watering systems and even converted bathtubs are options available for water distribution in paddocks. All have their pros and cons, but they share the need for the correct type of piping to deliver the right amount of water. Whether installing permanent, belowground pipes or laying out aboveground plastic or PVC tubing, diameter and materials play equally important roles.

Gravity-flow systems should never use less than a one-and-a-half inch pipe, he said. Below-ground pipe should be buried at least 30 inches and, in rocky soil, pea gravel added for bedding. For aboveground piping, PVC has limited durability because of a lack of UV-stabilization, often becoming brittle after as little as two years. Black polyethylene pipe works good but 150 psi is best for durability, and should be run along fences to minimize impact. “After one season you won’t even see it,” he said.

Shut-off valves and hydrants offer an extra measure of flexibility especially when isolating paddocks or making repairs. “Hydrants should be placed at every cross fence,” Green said. “They’re inexpensive and easy to install. And you can never have too many shut-offs.”

Though frost-proof tanks are popular, Green questioned their need. “They’re the most expensive part of supplying water,” he said. “It’s what breaks the bank.”

Green prefers focusing on water management for the rest of the year and using common sense measures such as site placement when available, such as locating buried concrete tanks on south-facing slopes to capture winter sunlight and shield against winter winds.

Heavy implement tires make excellent tanks, he said, though it should be noted to avoid steel-belted tires. If it can’t be helped, a Sawzall is the best resort for cutting through the treads.

Pads should be placed around the tanks to prevent erosion and to ensure that cattle stay long enough to drink but not to socialize. “You want it uncomfortable for them to stand around,” he said. “I want them to get in and get out.”

Keeping cattle from wandering across the top of buried tanks, limiting pond access or dividing paddocks requires the right kind of fence, something he described as “any fence that keeps livestock where you want them to be.” There are two types of fences, he explained—barrier fences and psychological fences. The latter require electricity, and enough to “buckle their knees and water their eyes,” as he put it. “You want a charger that’ll get their attention.”

Electric fencing has three components: chargers, fencing and grounding. Chargers should be low impedance with a minimum of 5,000 volts output, and with as high a joule rating as possible. “Buy bigger than you think you need,” Green cautioned. “I guarantee you’re going to want to add some fence down the road.”

A minimum of three six-foot ground rods tied together should be used, and should match the type of wire. Mixing types of metals such as copper to galvanized steel can lead to electrolysis, or corrosion, and should be avoided. Lightning protection is a must and requires the same number of ground rods plus one. For instance, if three ground rods are used, four rods are needed for lightning protection, and should be placed at least 65 feet from ground rods. And even then it’s only an educated guess. “There are no guarantees for lightning,” he said.

For fencing, 12.5 gauge high tensile wire is best but requires a spinning jenny to unroll without having the bale explode into an instant Slinky. “Beg, borrow or steal one, but don’t do it without one,” Green said. Barbed wire isn’t a substitute because of the spiral threading and the barbs themselves, both of which toss off electrical current.

Portable fencing needs at least 90-strand braided wire and quality posts, preferably with long metal spikes and adequate bases for pushing into the ground. Fiberglass poles tend to splinter and unravel, he said, but the new composite-material posts look promising as long as a pilot hole is used.

“Like with all things,” he said, “quality varies. Get the right tool for the job.”

Connectors, insulators, testers and tighteners also play pivotal roles. Green explained at length the various features and foibles of each type of gadget, and said that a more detailed explanation of fencing types can be downloaded at: 
or viewed at the KRC website at 

Following the meeting, participants convoyed to the farm of Dale Strickler, where Green demonstrating installing a 45-degree angle corner post. “This was exactly what graziers were asking for for years,” said Mary Howell, Kansas Rural Center Field Organizer, Frankfort. “The number one thing graziers have requested is information on livestock fencing and water systems.”

The workshop was sponsored by the Kansas Rural Center, Kansas SARE, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternate Crops, and the Kansas Farmers Union, with funding from the USDA Risk Management Agency.

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NEWS RELEASE - September 6, 2012

For more information contact: Joanna Voigt, workshop coordinator 

Registration Open for Strategic Direct and Niche Marketing Workshop

Whiting, Kansas – Livestock producers and wholesale buyers of animal products are invited to attend a Strategic Marketing Workshop and Farm Tour on September 21, 2012, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The workshop will be held at American Legion Post 76, 506 Washington Street, Concordia, KS, and the farm tour will follow at Lazy S Farms, 616 N. 1000th Road, Glasco, Kansas.

The workshop will feature livestock producers and experts with knowledge and experience in business planning and enterprise, creating a successful “brand” and identifying the best market for your products, and regulations pertaining to direct marketing livestock and poultry products. Workshops sessions will give participants the information and tools necessary to incorporate new marketing strategies, such as direct and niche marketing, into their existing operations in order to help increase profit margins, manage risk in tough times, and expand their customer base
Speakers include livestock producers who are successfully utilizing strategic marketing techniques to increase revenue, representatives from the Kansas Department of Agriculture who will answer questions about marketing and regulations, and representatives from Kansas State Research and Extension.

All types of livestock and livestock products will be represented at the workshop, including cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, turkeys, and chickens, and meat, eggs, cheese, and milk. A broad spectrum of animal husbandry philosophies, including grass-fed, organic, humanely-raised, pasture-raised, and heritage breeds, will also be represented.

An afternoon tour of Lazy S Farms will provide a close-up look at how one farm has incorporated direct and niche marketing into their operation. Larry and Madonna Sorell breed and raise six varieties of heritage livestock on their farm outside of Glasco, KS, including Red Wattle pigs, Standard Bronze turkeys, Katahdin sheep, Jacob sheep, Scottish Highland cattle, and Large Black hogs.

The Sorells have been featured in Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Kansas City Star, and their Red Wattle pork is featured in some of the finest restaurants in the world. The Sorells sell their products through a variety of outlets including Heritage Foods USA, directly from the farm, the Salina Farmers Market, Prairie Land natural grocery store in Salina, and Local Burger restaurant in Lawrence. The Sorells also run a bed and breakfast on the farm, and are working with a number of young farmers in their area to bring a new generation of farmers into raising heritage breeds.

The cost of the workshop and farm tour is $35, and includes a BBQ lunch provided by Heavy’s BBQ, a morning snack, and an old-fashioned ice cream social at the end of the farm tour to cap-off the day. Workshop attendees will also receive a free copy of KRC’s, hot-off-the-press, Finding Your Niche: A Direct Marketing Guide for Kansas Farmers. The 150+ page guide is chock-full of information guaranteed to help farmers and ranchers get successfully established in direct marketing.

To register, or for more information, please visit the Kansas Rural Center website,  or call 785-873-3431. Registration deadline is Friday, September 14.

The workshop is funded by a USDA Risk Management Grant to the Kansas Rural Center, and is co-sponsored by the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, Kansas State University Research and Extension, and Kansas Farmers Union.

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Classes Offered at the Flint Hills Sustainability Center

The Flint Hills Sustainability Center is offering a variety of classes of interest through the Flint Hills Technical College Community Connections catalog this Spring. Examples include: Lighting Technologies, My Green Baby: Cloth Diapers, Do It Yourself (Mostly) Bike Repair, Rain Barrel Workshop, Knitting for Beginners and Refreshers, Knitting: Simple Projects, Intro to Home Cheesemaking, Wild Edibles Trek, Solar Cooking, Beekeeping for Beginners, Organic Gardening, Jams and Jellies for Beginners, Harvest Preservation Introduction, Harvest Preservation Party, and Building Technology for Energy Efficient Homes. For more information, and to enroll please visit or call 620-341-1392.

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Tire Tank for Livestock Watering Installation Guide Available

Interest in alternative livestock watering options is high around the state. In response, KRC, KSU and several WRAPS watersheds have sponsored tire tank installation demonstration workshops. The tank installations provide cleaner water for livestock and give ponds a longer life, and help protect water quality in area streams and reservoirs.

KRC field staff Lyle Kohlmeier has developed an “Illustrated Guide to Tire Tank Installation” based on KSU Watershed Specialist's Herschel George’s guidelines. The Guide is now online here.

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Douglas County Food System Report Released

The Douglas County Food Policy Council, in collaboration with re-searchers at Kansas State University, have released an analysis of the food systems of Douglas, Jefferson, and Leavenworth counties in Kansas. The report, “Building a Deep-Rooted Local Food System”, identifies the benefits, challenges, and opportunities for creating a sustainable local food system in our region.

Dr. Rhonda Janke and her team at KSU researched current agricultural production, spending habits of regional consumers, key health indicators, food access issues for low income community members and the economic impact of agriculture on the region. “The most striking findings,” according to Janke, “were the significant gaps that exist between what we currently produce in this region today (primarily corn, soybeans and beef) and the other staple food groups our community members eat (eggs, fruits, vegetables, other proteins).” The acres in fruit and vegetables in the region account for only 0.1% of total agricultural production.

Other key findings in the study were that processing infrastructure is a key missing ingredient in the region’s local food economy. The lack of food infrastructure enterprises: cold storage, light processing, packaging and small meat processing plants make it difficult for schools and restaurants to participate in the local food economy. Also food access for the low-income community members is an issue. Over 10,000 residents in the tri-county area live in neighborhoods defined by USDA as “food deserts”, where they lack access to healthy food options.

The Executive Summary and the full report can be found online at  or at the KRC website.

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Loans available for Non-Organic Hoop Houses

If organic production is not the strategy that you want to pursue for your farming operation, as is required by the USDA NRCS EQIP Organic Initiative, the Kansas Department of Commerce’s Agriculture Value Added Loan program is an excellent resource for expanding your operation. For those interested in greenhouses or hoop houses to extend their production season, the Value Added loan is available. This loan charges no interest for the first two years and then the rate is locked in at 1 percent over the prime rate for the remainder of the loan. There is no penalty for early payment. If you would like more information about the loan program, contact Mari Tucker at (785) 296-6080 or

  Agriculture Value Added Loan program flyer

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New Book on Crop Rotation on Organic Farms

"Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual" helps farmers use rotations to build better soil; control pests, weeds and diseases; and develop profitable farms. Consulting with expert organic farmers, the authors share rotation strategies that can be applied under various field conditions and with a wide range of crops.

"The purpose of this book is to help growers and farm advisors use crop rotations to build better soil, control pests, and develop profitable farms that support satisfied families," says editor Charles Mohler, a senior research associate at Cornell University.

"Crop Rotation on Organic Farms" is most applicable for the Northeast but will also be useful in other regions. Published by the Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES) and funded in part by SARE, the 154-page book includes instructions for making rotation planning maps and discusses the transition to organic farming.

Other features include:

  • Problems and opportunities for more than 500 crop sequences

  • Characteristics of more than 60 crops and 70 weeds

  • Crop diseases hosted by more than 80 weed species

  • Modes of transmission for 250 diseases found in 24 crops

  • Thirteen sample four- and five-year vegetable and grain crop rotations

  • Step-by-step procedure for determining crop rotation plans

Download Crop Rotation on Organic Farms for free at To order print copies ($24.00 plus $5.95 s/h) visit call 301/374-9696 or send check or money order to SARE Outreach, PO Box 753, Waldorf, Maryland 20604-0753. (Please specify title requested when ordering by mail.) Discounts are available on orders of 10 or more. Allow 3-4 weeks for delivery. Call 301/374-9696 for more information on bulk, rush or international shipments.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) USDA. SARE's mission is to advance - to the whole of American agriculture - innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education. SARE Outreach operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Maryland and the University of Vermont to develop and disseminate information about sustainable agriculture. Visit  for more information.

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