What Is A Farmer? October Dinner Discusses state of the “Kansas Farmer”

BY BAILEY BRAWNER

Photo: From left to right — JAKO Appreciation Dinner  Panel Nicol Ragland, Dr. Jeff Davis, Gail Fuller, Jessica Gnad. 

GMO, pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, antibiotics, tillage are just a few terms that farmers and ranchers have been using when producing the food we eat. But how many people truly know what those terms mean? How do we make enough food to provide for the world as it continues to grow, but eliminate these harsh chemicals and antibiotics is now the new topic of conversation within the farmers and ranchers community.

It is a hard question to have all of the answers too, but farmers and ranchers around the world are coming together and working hard to find the answers. However, not all farmers and ranchers are on board. Why you may ask? Because change is hard. Change is expensive. 

Change is something farmers are not very open too and not all are able to handle big changes financially. Many turn and take another way out. Farmers that do this think this is the right way to go about their problems because they do not have another choice in their mind. According to the CDC, many farmers are stuck and turning to suicide. From ages, 16 to 64  17.3 per 100,000 workers have committed suicide in 2016. Those were actually reported and deemed as a suicide whereas there were a handful of “questionable” farming accidents that were ruled as accidents, but believed to be suicides.

Farmers and ranchers are wanting change as well, but farming is the way most all of them rely on making money. Consumers drive the market and so as consumers are starting to buy “GMO-free”, “Vegan”, “Chemical Free”, and “Antibiotic Free” food and products. Then the market is falling heavily for these farmers and ranchers that are not necessarily “clean”. 

With money already being really tight farmers and ranchers are really struggling. Why not jump ship and go all organic as a farm overnight? Well, simple, it takes money and time. Two things that are not always at the disposal to farmers and ranchers. Changing the soil and the way we have always used the earth and livestock have not always been the best.

With this being a topic at coffee shops in the morning among farmers and ranchers, change is coming for those willing to stick it out. For Kenny King, a farmer in the Hutchinson, KS area, he noticed a change and wanted to see change. Kenny wanted to do better for the environment and also noticed the consumer drive for this. 

Thirty years ago he started a company called JAKO. JAKO is now a family-run farm and store out in the country in Hutchinson. They are an organic farm that raises a variety of fruits and vegetables, chickens, cattle and a few other livestock and products.

King was one of the few farmers around that area that is doing rotational grazing on his farm. Rotational grazing is a way farmers and ranchers utilize their land and feed their livestock. Just down the road, King is helping farmer/rancher Jeff Brawner with rotational grazing. Oddly enough, just two years ago Brawner owned his own spraying and fertilizing business that was very successful. 

After eighteen years Brawner decided to sell the business and start something new. After looking into switching some things up and noticing the obvious change consumers are demanding he started to work and talk with King and his family.

Brawner’s operation is in year three of the change and although there have been many ups and downs with the change, the difference he is making with his soil is undeniable. Yes, livestock and crops work together and go hand in hand.

JAKO had an appreciation dinner on October 12, 2019 for all of their customers on their farm. There were many people there along with a panel of three people as well to help talk and educate others on the change and how they accomplished to change their farms. Their names are Dr. Jeff Davis, Gail Fuller, Jessica Gnad, and Nicol Ragland.  

One of the panel members, Nicol Ragland made a comment that should shock everyone. Ninety percent of Kansas is farm ground and producing product yet ninety percent of the food Kansas consumers eat every day is imported. That only means roughly ten percent of Kansas farmers are eating their own food they are producing.

The panel also talked a lot about how all of our food starts from the soil. What we put on our plants are going into the soil as well as the plants. Think about the cycle, this way. Soil to plant to consumer or soil to plant to livestock to the consumer.

The way we also treat our soil and how we manage the soil every year will have a huge impact. Tillage is one-way framers use to use all the time and some still do. However, too much tillage is actually breaking down the arrogation in the soils which is what helps the plants get their water and nutrients they need in order to grow. In every county and state there are always different soils and farmers have to adapt to that, but tillage may not be the best answer. 

When farmers are using tillage they are breaking down that arrogation in the soil and not allowing water to sink into the soil and causing major runoff. The problem with this is that your crop isn’t going to excel and the herbicides and pesticides farmers are using are running off into waterways and contaminating the water we drink as consumers. 

While there is a filtration that the water you take in has to go through; however, there may be different ways we can go about this so the water we drink does not have to go through such heavy filtration system, plus farmers may have better outcomes and can make cleaner produce.

Either way there is a system and yes as farmers and ranchers they have a lot of people to feed. However, is there a way to go around it in a more natural way? Here again, we are back to that same. Old question; how can we produce, make money, and eat right for our bodies? 

Now the answers do not lie here in this article but this article should make you think. Think about the ways if everyone came together and had the bigger picture in mind, the change we could make. JAKO for sure is making strides in the “clean” eating consumer base. To learn more about JAKO visit their website www.jakofarm.com.

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