Going Local at the Grocery

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We all know farmers markets are a great place to buy local produce and meats. But did you know your local grocery store also has locally sourced foods?

A lot of people don’t realize that many foods don’t travel very far to get to their grocery store shelves. Here are three foods you might be buying local without knowing it:

Milk

There are dairy farms located in all 50 states. What does that mean? It means, unlike some specialty crops that only grow in certain parts of the country, your milk will almost always be local.

In Kansas, we have about 290 licensed dairy herds. In 2016, they produced almost 380 million gallons of milk. On top of that, it only takes milk about 48 hours to travel from a farm to your grocery store. So your grocery store milk isn’t just local; it’s very, very fresh! 

The next time you reach for that jug of milk at the store, think about the Kansas dairy farmers and herds behind it. Better yet, meet one dairy family using cutting-edge robotic technology on their family farm!

Meat

Meat is one of Kansas’s top ag industries. About one-fifth of the cattle processed in the United States comes from Kansas.  Kansas has the third highest number of cattle in the country and ranks third in red meat production.  Plus, Kansas ranks 10th in hog production.  (Bacon, anyone?)

So, chances are good the meat you find at your local grocery didn’t travel too far to get there.

Meet two Kansas hog and cattle families who raise quality meats using sustainable means.

Produce

Aside from farmers markets, you can often find small local markets that feature produce from Kansas and neighboring states. Some farmers will work with these markets so they have another place to sell their crops.

There are also specialty programs that bring the farm to your grocery. BoysGrow in Kansas City introduces urban youth to farming, and their products are sold at local restaurants and stores.  Kansas State University also has a Rural Grocery Initiative designed to serve smaller communities. 

It could also be the fruits and vegetables marked “Made in the USA” in your produce aisle came from close to home. Some farms contract with larger grocery stores or wholesalers who, in exchange, might provide equipment for harvesting, which would be too expensive for smaller farms to afford otherwise. 

Meet a Kansas couple who runs a small market in Lawrence featuring produce from local farms, including theirs!

 

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Hudson Cream: The Flour Without Fault

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Gleaming elevators tower above the wheat fields at Stafford County Flour Mills. The silos are the same luxurious white color as the mill’s flour. The mill specializes in producing premium-quality flour for home bakers.

Located in the village of Hudson — population 100, counting dogs, cats and tumbleweeds — Stafford County Flour Mills may be the only remaining independently owned mill in the country.

Why Does a Flour Brand Have a Cow for a Logo?

Hudson Cream flour logo
It’s easy to spot the distinctive sack design of Hudson Cream Flour at the grocery. The logo features a golden Jersey cow standing in a green meadow by a bright blue stream. Why did they pick a cow?

As former president of the mill Al Brensing explained, “Many people believed the Jersey cow gave the richest milk and cream, so the Jersey cow was selected for the logo.”

The rich quality of the cow’s cream is symbolic of the rich quality of the mill’s flour. Hudson Cream is known as “the flour without a fault.”

Kansas Grown

The mill uses a minimum of 1.5 million bushels of wheat annually. More than 95 percent of the wheat milled there comes from approximately 80 farm families in Stafford County. Many of these same farm families have supplied Hudson Cream with wheat for generations.

In addition to the wheat suppliers, many of the employees at the mill live within a 12-mile radius. Like the early founders of the company, some of these employees have worked for the company for years and are proud of its rich milling heritage.

"The strength of the company remains its people," says Reuel Foote, the company’s current general manager and president. "From the beginning, everyone who's worked here believes in Hudson Cream Flour."

To make their signature flour, the mill typically uses a heavy-test-weight wheat — 60 pounds or more. The protein level must also test high — at least 12.5 percent. They use a “short-patent” milling process, which results in a more refined flour, with all of the lower quality flour removed in the milling process. What’s left is the very finest flour that comes from the wheat berry.

“The result is a flour that is smoother in texture and produces cookies, breads, pie crusts and other baked products that are consistently light and fluffy,” Reuel says.

Focus on Customers

Creating a quality product and selling it at a fair price has been the not-so-secret to the mill’s success for more than a century.

To address the trend toward healthier diets, Stafford County Flour Mills added whole-wheat flour to their product line more than 20 years ago. This line was added to fill a niche market of customers who wanted more fiber in their diets. A certified organic product is also available in grocery stores.

The mill is also unveiling two-pound bags to better serve home bakers around the country. Today’s hectic schedules — shuttling children everywhere, balancing work, and tending to numerous details — leaves little for baking from scratch. Having the two-pound bags will be more convenient.

“We’re banking on shoppers buying smaller quantities knowing they don’t bake as often, but when they do, they may use less flour and have less left over,” Reuel says. “And they can buy fresh product as needed.”

Environmentally Friendly

Two years ago, Stafford County Flour Mills erected an 850-kilowatt wind turbine south of the site in Hudson.

“As far as we know, we’re the only flour mill that has the physical capability to run on 100 percent sustainable energy,” Reuel says. “We strive to be good stewards of our resources just like the farmers who supply us and the customers who buy our flour.”

Hudson Cream flour turbine
As Stafford County Flour Mills continues to evolve and grow, this privately owned company remains committed to customers, employees and producing high-quality flour.

“We take no one for granted,” Reuel says. Every customer is important and every sack of Hudson Cream Flour is the same as the next.”

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Summer Fun for Kids: You-Pick Farms

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Looking for something fun to do with the kids this summer? You-pick farms are a great family-friendly activity—and they are all over Kansas!  

Many farmers open their fields to folks this time of year. For a small fee, you can check out their operation, learn about farming and pick your own produce. Now that’s something we can sink our teeth into! 

Here are a few listings to help you find your perfect farm adventure: 

And there are plenty of options near major cities, too: 

We always recommend contacting the farmers first to double-check hours, cost and to make sure produce is in season for picking! 

Imagine their glee as your little ones bite into a sweet, juicy strawberry fresh off the vine. (Just make sure you get to try some, too!) 

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Summer Fun for Kids

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Ah, summer. Backpacks and books make way for swimsuits and summer camp. It’s a great time of year. Unless you’re trying to figure out how to keep the kiddos entertained and their brains (at least somewhat) engaged. After all, we want them to relax and have fun, but we don’t want their minds to turn to mush. (Sheesh! When did I become my mother?!) 

With harvests in full swing, summer can be a great time to introduce kids to agriculture. There are some really fun ways to get them involved and teach them healthy habits, without turning it into a character-building chore. (Not that there’s anything wrong with character. We approve.) 

How? Enter My American Farm. 

This initiative from American Farm Bureau has great ideas for families to bond over hands-on activities, as well as games to keep the information fresh and fun. 

Here are just a few of their family-friendly activities: 

  • Make a flower pen: Great for younger kids, this activity teaches them the parts of the flower while they make a festive pen in the process. (How about a sunflower?) 
  • Create a rubber glove window box: This simple activity will give your little offshoots a front-row seat to watching seeds start their own shoots. Unlike planting in soil, this unique project will let them see the actual seed as it sprouts. 
  • Make a necklace with a live plant inside: Geared toward older kids, this activity uses the same principle as the window box, only kids can wear their sprouting seeds as jewelry—so cool! 

The website also features recipes the whole family can make—and enjoy—together.   

Bonus—there’s a technology element. Sure, we’ve all felt a little guilty handing our kiddos a tablet to try to keep them engaged (or at least quiet!). We’re not bad parents—we swear! But if they’re playing educational games for a little while? See ya, techno-guilt. 

From a farmer’s market challenge to a STEM-related game focused on farm equipment, there’s plenty to keep your kids occupied and learning. Best of all, when used with the hands-on activities, the games really help the information sink in. You can play online, or on their tablet app, available on the App store, Google Play and Amazon. 

Get the App

 

MY AMERICAN FARM

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Sorghum and Sustainability

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In the United States, sorghum grain is primarily used to feed livestock and in ethanol production. It’s also becoming more popular in kitchens across the country. With so many health benefits packed in every delicious grain, consumers are finding creative ways to use sorghum in recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks. Plus, sorghum grain can be cooked using a stovetop, slow cooker, oven or rice cooker to add a new twist to favorite recipes.

But did you know that sorghum is also considered a sustainable crop? 

When used as feed for poultry, beef, dairy and swine, hardly any of the plant is wasted. Not only does sorghum grain go into feed rations, but its stems and foliage are also used for green chop, hay, silage and pasture.  

Sorghum also plays an important part in renewable fuel production. About 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. sorghum crop is used for ethanol production. Plus, sorghum produces the same amount of ethanol per bushel as comparable feedstocks while using up to one-third less water, making it more environmentally friendly.  

As a drought-resistant plant, sorghum can survive harsh conditions where other plants might fail. 

Sorghum's versatility and flexibility have also made it a great option for other markets like building materials and packing peanuts—further solidifying its spot as a sustainable crop. 

Learn More About Sorghum

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