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Adult Ag Days
KARL trains rural ag leaders
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We often hear that programs like the Great Bend Chamber’s Kids Ag Day are here to teach fourth graders where food comes from and the importance of agriculture. It turns out this is also something that many adults need to learn.

This week, the Great Bend Kiwanis Club was visited by Susan Sankey from the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL) program, who shared some meaningful numbers: four, two and 58.

• 4 – “We’re four generations removed from a family farm,” Sankey said of the average Kansan. By a show of hands, many of the Kiwanians have family connections to a farm. But when asked how many have grandkids living on a farm, most of those hands went down. “The further away we get from that, the harder it is for people to realize where our food sources come from. There’s a gap between that experience (for) the bulk of our population.”

• 2 – Less than 2% of Americans say that they’re farmers, according to Farm Bureau. “That means 98% are not,” Sankey pointed out. Again, “there’s a lot of people out there wondering where their food comes from. They don’t know a farmer to ask.”

• 58 – The average age of a Kansas farmer is 58 years old, and only 10% of producers are 35 years or younger.

KARL’s focus is on Kansas agriculture, but it is also on rural leadership. Rural communities are connected to agriculture, and vice versa. “We have common ground between rural and agriculture,” Sankey said.

“We really need people who can help make those things grow,” she said. “So we identify, prepare and connect people who want to be engaged in their communities, to connect them with resources, other people in the state and beyond, so that we can help them do the things in their communities.”

Each class (the current one in number 16) experiences a two-year curriculum of 52 seminar days across the state of Kansas; a national study tour to Washington, D.C., and to the Gettysburg Leadership Experience at the historic battleground; and a domestic study tour. In year two they participate in an international study tour, which in this case will involve a trip to Spain.

The current class of 30 includes several area women, all identified as potential change-makers: Sara Hayden, Great Bend, president of Great Bend Economic Development; Wendy Hughes, Ellinwood, Rice County Extension Director with K-State Research & Extension; Andrea Krauss, Russell, secretary/treasurer at John O. Farmer Inc.; Christa Milton, St. John, agronomist with American Plains Co-op (formerly Great Bend Co-op); and Regan Reif, Great Bend, strategic marketing manager for the University of Kansas Health System.

When KARL is successful, it prepares and connects aspiring leaders to spark action that will positively impact Kansas agriculture and rural communities.

Programs such as this serve a purpose, but we can all learn more about agriculture and its role in our community. Maybe we do need an Adults Ag Day in Barton County.