Hi! Megan here, Cindy’s niece. I was lucky enough to fill in for Cindy on the Kansas #farmfoodtour while she was away. Just a few short weeks ago some regional bloggers and Skip to my Lou were invited by the Kansas Farm Bureau and The Kansas Soybean Commission to participate in a tour visiting Kansas Farms to learn directly from the farmers and ranchers how our food is grown and raised.
farm food tour group Photo credit: Kansas Soybean Commission.

It was a fantastic tour, and similar to last year’s trip. This year, Cindy wanted to really dig in and focus on current consumer food concerns. I feel the conversation about food in America is really heating up with hot button topics such as labeling, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and antibiotics. This was an opportunity to ask the tough questions directly to the farmers and ranchers. These topics are so polarizing, and we really learned a lot.

Are GMOs bad?

Before I tell you all about the various farmers, ranchers, and stops we made, I want to share some of my reflections from the trip. The biggest message that became clear to me was simply that Kansas farmers are feeding all kids of consumers, and consumers have choices. I love that there are small ’boutique’ farms that produce high end specialized products and that there are massive farms producing a product at a price that ensures it’s consumer won’t be without food. This was what really sold me on GMO crops. GMOs can be grown with fewer pesticides, more responsible no-till techniques, and produce more food. More food! With so many people around the world where starvation is an issue, to those living on a tight grocery budget, to those that just want a tasty snack, GMOs get the job done. GMOs offer a choice when before there wasn’t one. As with any new technology, learning and researching will help shape and grow the conversation, but for now, GMOs mean a choice for consumers. Each stop we made along the trip demonstrated a different type of product made possible by a Kansas farmer. We saw all natural basil, heritage pork, GMO soy, grain fed cattle, grass fed cattle, milk producing cattle, allergen and gluten free products, sorghum, healthy land, happy animals, and lots of hard working family farmers. Regardless of the type of consumer you choose to be, a Kansas farmer has likely helped you put dinner on the table; here are a few of their stories:

We boarded a bus and off we went around Kansas for three days:


Day 1:

Our first stop was at Jeff and Pam Meyer’s hydroponic basil farm in Basehor, KS called Cal-Ann Farms.

basil 3
They are doing exciting things in their greenhouses! If you’re lucky enough to live in the Kansas City area you can buy their fresh basil at most of the major grocery stores around town. I was so impressed with their growing practices and their technology. The basil is sold with its roots intact in peat to keep it fresher, longer. As you can see in the pictures, the greenhouses are so pretty and provide everything the basil needs: (and could be tweaked as needed) natural light, fresh air, food, water, and insect control.

basil 1
basil 2
It was easy to see that the Meyers take pride in their product and grow it without pesticides or other interventions. I was surprised to find out that organic certification does not include hydroponically-grown plants yet. While Cal-Ann grows a natural product, they aren’t able to gain the benefits of the Organic label. This made it clear to me that labeling in the U.S. has a long way to come. Some consumers only buy products with the organic label, and would have missed out on something as fresh and great as Cal-Ann’s basil. Until labeling can catch up, it is important as consumers to do a little bit of research into local food producers so you don’t miss out on fresh products that also support your community.

Westward we went to Olsburg, Kansas and the home and farm of Craig and Amy Good.

farm food tour group

The Goods raise heritage pork as well as Angus beef and sell their top of the line products to chefs in New York, Napa, and Kansas City. We were fortunate enough to try their (very delicious) pork. Amy cooked homemade pork meatballs with gorgonzola on greens. Had I not just met them, I might have taken the whole platter home with me- they were that tender and delicious! Cindy will be sharing that recipe soon!


When we went out to see the pigs, we wore beautiful blue plastic shoe protectors. The protectors were keeping our shoes clean, but were really meant to keep the areas where the pigs live clean so they stay healthy. Animal health is extremely important to the Goods and part of their success is the density of the pigs on their farm. While Craig and Amy choose to keep their operation small at around 500 hogs and 60 sows, Craig was quick to point out that all sizes and types of pork producers have a place feeding Americans. A variety of consumers exist, and therefore a variety of producers must exist to meet demand.


Our last stop for day one was at Derek and Katie Sawyer’s farm and ranch in McPherson, KS. Katie writes her own blog about life on the farm. Be sure to check her out at New to the Farm. Sawyer Land and Cattle grows a variety of crops on their 2300 acre farm, but our discussion focused on their soybean and cattle operations. We talked a lot about hot button topics such as genetically modified organisms (in this case soy) and antibiotics in beef.
The Sawyers grow GMO seeds and feel that it is the best product that they can buy to plant because it allows them to use less pesticide and the plants are heartier. There is a lot of negativity surrounding GMOs even though current science overwhelmingly says that GMOs are safe for consumption. Sawyer Land and Cattle firmly believe in the science behind the soy they grow as Derek points out: “This is the best way I know how to grow food for the public.” Katie was quick to add: “We are going to do everything we can to keep this land in the best shape possible.”

soy 2

Antibiotic use in beef

The other hard topic we discussed was about the use of antibiotics in beef. This turned out to be a very clear cut issue. Only cows that get sick at their farm receive an antibiotic if necessary to return the animal to normal health. That animal must follow very strict guidelines about clearing the antibiotic from their system through a withdrawal period before they can enter the food market. Derek pointed out that antibiotics are expensive, and he would be out of a job if they didn’t use antibiotics responsibly.

soy 1

Derek and Katie run a successful business and did a great job fielding all of our tough questions. They provided us with a lot of very good information based in science and fact on sensitive subjects. The visit to their farm made it abundantly clear that there is a lot of misinformation out there about GMOs and antibiotic use.

Day 2:

Kansas is a pretty big state, and we spent much of the day traveling to and from our only stop on day two. We toured the Nu Life Market headquarters in Scott City, Kansas and it was well worth the travel time. President, Earl Roemer showed us around the facility. Nu Life produces gluten free flours and sunflower seed spread for consumers and provides bulk gluten free products including popped sorghum and other products to well-known manufacturers.



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The facility production areas do not allow peanuts, gluten, dairy, or soy products in order to ensure an allergen free product. We were lucky enough to have a home-cooked meal provided by the staff there featuring their pearled sorghum and all purpose flour. They made homemade tortilla chips and bread from the flour, and used the pearl sorghum in many dishes as one would rice or barley including chilaquiles and salisbury steak. Everything was delicious! Their products are sold on their website and at Costco.

Day 3:

We started day three in Rexford, KS at the McCarty Family Farm, a large dairy farm. Although a big operation, this is truly a family farm. Four brothers are the main operators: Mike, Clay, David and Ken, each one managing one of the four farms. Ken was our tour guide and gave us some astounding stats: they milk 8,500 cows each day which produces 76,500 gallons of milk! All of the McCarty’s milk is sold to Dannon and processed in their Dallas/Ft. Worth facility to produce yogurt. We saw everything from calves born that morning to the open air barn where the cows hang out to the milking facility and milk processing facility.





This large operation is run on a tight schedule to keep the cows in a routine and happy. In fact, everything at the McCarty’s farm was about making the cows happy. The cows had scratching brushes, fans, misters, tire toys, and plenty of shade. I got the feeling that the cows were running the show and the employees were only there to keep the cows safe, fed, and milked. My suspicion was confirmed by Ken when he said: “Our goal with this entire system is to make it as stress free as possible for the cows.”
I was also impressed by the McCarty’s attention to community. They provide jobs in their communities, participate in providing yogurt snacks to schools, as well as focusing on water recycling on their farms.

Our final stop was in the Flint Hills at the ranch of Debbie Lyons-Blythe in White City, Kansas. Debbie was on the tour with us all three days and writes her own blog Kids, Cows and Grass. Debbie raises certified black Angus cows who graze on the native grasses of the Flint Hills. This was the perfecting ending to our trip complete with a very tasty dinner of homemade crock pot beef enchilada soup (Cindy will post this recipe soon, so keep a lookout) and a beautiful Kansas sunset. Debbie told us all about the benefits of burning the grasses in the Flint Hills in order to preserve the native grasses and eliminate invasive species. She absolutely loves the land that she works and she works hard to preserve it. Debbie also let her cows roam all around us which made me a bit nervous at first, but we soon forgot that they were there. They were so quiet! And they looked so clean! And it only smelled like grass.




Being in her field at sunset really provided the perfect setting for reflecting back on this short trip across Kansas. The take home message for me was this: Kansas farmers are feeding America in a variety of ways using a variety of methods for a variety of consumers. They are all doing their best to feed their families and our families, and they love doing it.


Be sure to check out the other bloggers that attended the #farmfoodtour
Stefanie Cornwall, Making of a Mom
Debbie Lyons-Blythe, Kids, Cows and Grass
Sharmin Meadows, What You’re Missing KC
Naomi Shapiro, Superdumb Supervillain
Dana Zucker, wineloversvillage.com, www.momsgoodeats.com, triwivesclub.com, Food Editor for TravelingMom.com
Natasha Gandhi-Rue, The Hungry Family

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  1. It was great to spend time with Megan on this trip and experience different points of view on farming and the food chain.

  2. It is great you had the opportunity to see the heart and passion of our Kansas farmers and ranchers. It seems the culture of “food fear” forgets that farmers are eating the very food they produce. If it wasn’t safe, why would they feed it to their very own family? Choices are the key. We have so much to be thankful for in food choices.

  3. Great post!

    I’m a farmer from central Kansas and I, along with my husband and children, grow Genetically Modified Crops. As a farmer I can understand the absolute fear of the unknown. But something I do know is about these crops. There are so many common misconceptions about the way we grow them and take care of them. With the help of GMO’s and proper crop rotation we have not had to spray insecticides. Our herbicides are reduced as well. One thing you have to be aware of is that these crops are food that goes to my plate and my children’s plate. I would never give my family something that was dangerous for their bodies. Another thing to think of is that this is a process and not an ingredient. 
    My husband is from England and was not allowed to grow these crops. Never had the opportunity. Now that he does he sees the difference. Growing where you normally wouldn’t be able to grow, more bushels per acre, less input costs (chemical, labor, fertilizer…) better for the ground. I could go on.
    I encourage those who have questions to ask those who develop them, grow them, and eat them. Thank you to those asking questions. 

  4. Wonderful synopsis of your trip, Megan! My farm hosted the bloggers for a lunch last year. As farmers and ranchers, we don’t have the resources or time to “advertise” what we do. So opening up our homes to you…are lives and livelihood to you and others is especially meaningful. As you discovered, we are ready to dialog about tough/controversial issues. Our attempts to educate the general public on the realities of farming so many times get lost and silenced by those very loud voices that don’t actually know agriculture but insist we should all be afraid of the food we eat. I welcome talking to anyone that is confused about the messages they are hearing out there. I invite anyone to come to my farm and learn about crop and livestock production.

  5. Hi Karen,
    No, Megan is not an expert in GMOs but all of the information on this blog post did come directly from experts – the farmers and ranchers who raise the animals, grow the seeds and produce the end products.

    My husband and I own the farm Megan and the other bloggers visited (see top picture) and we discussed our use of GMOs and why we CHOOSE to use GMO seeds on our farm.

    We are in no way forced to use GMO products but opt to do so because they allow us to grow more crops using less water, chemicals and resources.

    GMOs have never been shown to be harmful to humans or to the land. They have safely been grown and consumed in all parts of the world for decades.

    If we remove science and scientific innovations from the agriculture industry, we will struggle to not only feed people here in this country, but millions around the world will die from a lack of access to nutrient-rich foods that are made possible from genetic engineering. (Cindy’s post has come great examples)

    We and others in the agriculture industry support existing legislation for national labeling. However, we cannot support voluntary or state-by-state measures because of the financial burden it would place on consumers.

    It sounds like you are very passionate about this issue. I would be happy to answer any more questions you have. We believe in the safety and need for crop technology and are always happy to help consumers learn more.

  6. You just lost a loyal reader. I hope what you were paid was worth it. I wonder how you can sleep at night.

  7. Hi Karin, I can appreciate your opinion. There is scientific evidence for both sides for sure. I wanted to share what I personally witnessed while I visited these Kansas farms. I took the trip last year and was blown away by how these farmers care for their animals and their attention to the food they produce. I finished the trip extremely impressed by these families and so proud to be a Kansan. What a beautiful state!

    I just read an article in Eating Well Magazine http://www.eatingwell.com/food_news_origins/organic_natural/gmos_are_they_safe_pros_cons. They did a nice job of presenting two different views on GMOs. For me this issue comes down to feeding a starving world. Scientist Pamela Ronald’s comment, “What scares me most is that the poorest people who most need the technology may be denied access because of vague fears and prejudices of those who have enough to eat,” made me pause. If we are able to produce “Golden Rice”..a rice that has beta carotene and could help prevent as many as 2 million deaths and 500,000 cases of blindness each year, I think we should. My concern is that over 20,000 people are dying from starvation daily, while 65% of Americans are overweight, our affluence and ability to choose might cause us to be oblivious to those who need to be nourished.

    I do believe that foods should be labeled so we can be informed consumers. I also know that I am not an expert. I am sharing my personal thoughts.

  8. We’re so glad you could join us on the farm. Once people get on the farm there’s always so much to learn. Unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation and fear surrounding both of these issues. There’s no better person to ask than the folks who use the technology every day.

  9. Great write up, Megan! I’m so glad these on-farm experiences are getting some misinformation straightened out.

  10. I can’t help but be quite impressed with how well the propaganda machine of the GMO producers is working! But This is going to far! Using a blogger to talk about something that they clearly got paid to do (and yes that includes free trans, hotel etc) and has no expertise in? That is just low! They will reach readers that will repeat this like its the gospel and not reasearch the topics themselves! This blogger isn’t an expert! There are vey clear scientific findings that state that GMOs are dangerous! Ask yourselves, why are the GMO producers lobbying so hard against required (not voluntary) labeling? I really used to love this blog! But now I won’t read it anymore!
    P.S look at Monsanto!

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