Oh, I have such a fun few days to share with you today, friends. I went on a short trip last week that left me educated, inspired, and flat exhausted, and I’m tickled to share some pictures and stories with you, if you’re interested. 🙂
Last week I drove two hours south to Wichita to join a small group of bloggers for a tour with Kansas Corn. I’d only met one other blogger before briefly, but otherwise I didn’t know a soul. I also had very limited knowledge about corn and its byproducts, so I went into the weekend with hopes that I’d make a few new friends and learn as much as I could about a subject that’s foreign to me.
(Spoiler alert: Both were successes.)
My parents are currently here visiting, and my dad asked me a simple question as I was gathering pictures for this post.
“What is one thing you learned on this trip that really wowed you?”
I was actually surprised by how quickly I spit out an answer. I learned that farmers are already actively thinking about and planning for what the future of food will look like in the year 2050 when there’s nine billion people around the planet to feed. How will they keep up with that kind of demand?
I learned that corn is linked to so many of our necessities – gasoline, food, animal food, etc., and that it’s cheap and accessible because farmers are choosing to continue their family farms and quite literally put food on our plates while also providing other necessities that crops give.
But what will happen if families decide not to farm anymore? What happens if less and less people are making our food? Supply will go drastically down, demand will go drastically up, and future generations may be forced to think a bit more about how to feed their families. What a luxury so many of us have, which is mindless access to inexpensive, quality food to nourish our families.
Wow. Hearing this information from the mouths of farmers who are out there from sun up until sun up the next day working on their farms was humbling to say the least.
So let’s start with Wednesday. 🙂
I checked into the hotel, The Ambassador in downtown Wichita, and thoroughly enjoyed soaking up the beautiful space for a couple of hours before getting dressed to meet the rest of the group for dinner and our first night of activities.
I’m a sucker for a pretty cold shoulder top as well as anything royal blue, so this was an obvious purchase a few weeks ago. Highly recommend this blouse, which was still 33% off and available in six colors when I wrote this post. 🙂 I tucked in the front and wore it with these stretchy, low rise black jeans (GREAT skinny jeans for $39!) and black heeled booties.
We took a party bus to Wheat State Distillery and played the role of high school chemistry students, participating in a lab involving different corn elements to make gas.
While we waited on the results of our experiment, we nibbled on a nearby cheese plate.
We wrapped up our informative science lesson and then dug into dinner.
After dinner and a bit of mingling we had a brief tour of the distillery before heading back to our hotel to call it a night on day #1.
On Thursday we were all excited to see the party bus that had taken us to dinner the night before was back to tote us around for a full day of activities and tours. The party bus was so conducive to great group conversation and was a fun touch that the tour planners put together.
We kicked off Thursday with a tour of Kansas Ethanol. Talk about a production. Holy cow. To see the behind-the-scenes of the process of taking corn and milo and turning it into a handful of different things was eye-opening. It reminds you to never stop learning because there are things going on all around you that you’ve likely never given thought to before; This was one of those for me.
This picture below is the creating of “cow chow”, which is essentially made from the 30% of a corn kernel that isn’t a starch. They separate the corn nutrients and take that 30% to make nutritious food for cows.
Next, we hopped back on our bus and then stopped at a corn field to meet the Splitter family and learn a bit about their fields before heading to their home.
We got to “play” on their “toys” (including that beautiful combine – wow) before immensely enjoying a Mexican lunch prepared right there on the front lawn of their home.
After lunch, we had a Q&A time with the head of the farm (a 5th generation farmer who is close to my age with daughters the same ages as Hadley and Sadie!), and I really enjoyed hearing him speak about what life looks like for their farming family. He dove in depth about how many employees he has, what kind of benefits they offer, what his schedule looks like, what role his wife plays, GMOS, pesticides, and so much more. He was an open book, and I appreciated his candid approach to sharing his life with us.
After leaving the family farm, we went to a nearby grain elevator that was recently built. Looking back, I didn’t have any expectations for what the grain elevator would be like, but I soon realized just how little I knew about what happens between the corn being harvested and it actually being purposefully used.
Talk about a well-oiled machine. There are so many steps that have to be performed just right, from the corn being tested for quality, to storage, to the loading of semis and trains to be sent out. Wow. Every nook and cranny of this place is micro managed for perfection.
After our grain elevator tour, we loaded our bus and headed back to Wichita to clean up for dinner that night. I threw on my new oversized sweater from Tobi (so comfortable!) as well as my favorite white jeans (obviously I couldn’t care less about Labor Day rules – ha!), and my high suede wedge gray boots. I’d first created this outfit for my “Pinterest Inspiration” post and couldn’t wait to actually put it all together for a night out.
For dinner we sat around a large table with about 10 expert Kansas farmers and enjoyed learning as much as we could from them about the ins and outs of what life is truly like as a farming family. Nicole (from Cooking for Keeps), Michelle (from Blackberry Babe), and I sat by a couple who – we all agreed – we could have talked to for hours. Their stories were fascinating to listen to, and hearing how much they adore and respect each other for what they contribute to the farm made me smile from ear to ear. They were so stinkin’ sweet.
What surprised me about this particular couple was that they didn’t want to just teach us about the farm. They genuinely wanted to learn about each of us, our families, our jobs, etc. Wonderful people!
One of the best surprises of the trip was getting to eat dinner across from Kim and her husband. I met Kim during a blogging day trip two years when we went out to their farm, and we’ve been following each other on social media ever since. Getting to see her again and chat was such a treat. Do you remember Hadley’s beloved Piggy? I got Piggy from Kim’s farm. 🙂
On the last day of our tour we ate breakfast while hearing from a project analyst from Cargill, a provider of food, agriculture, financial, and industrial products. Soon after we headed to All Things Barbecue for a cooking class. If only you could smell this place through pictures on the internet. 🙂 Whew, buddy. SO good!
We worked together to put together our meal (high five to my partner Sarah from Sarah Scoop for our team work on the salad dressing – ha!) and then salivated over the sights and smells of the meal until it was time to dig in.
Around 1 p.m., we said our goodbyes and hit the road home after a very full experience on the Kansas Corn Tour. I’m grateful for the time spent away to learn about an industry I was previously so unfamiliar with as well as learn from the fellow tour attendees. We all became fast friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed swapping knowledge and sharing tips and tricks for success in this constantly evolving world of blogging and social media.
You might be wondering “Where were your girls?” They were there in Wichita as well, just right down the road in the care of my dear friend Marcy. Hadley and Sadie were thrilled to be reunited with her and her children, so they enjoyed their couple of days as much as I did. <3