CHASE — Growing up, Doug Keesling, the son of a farmer in Chase, never expected he would be a spokesperson for Kansas farmers in front of the U.S. Congress or at the United Nations. Neither did he ever imagine he would be on a U.S. president’s agricultural advisory committee. He was a farm kid, and now he’s a farmer — with a mission — to help his fellow farmers.
While in high school, he showed sheep and pigs, helped his dad with cattle and harvest, and was voted class president — all the while dreaming of exploring the world.
After graduating from Chase High School, Keesling took a baby step, leaving for Manhattan and majoring in botany at Kansas State University. But soon his dreams of learning photography got in his way — he transferred to the Brooks Institute of Photography in California. Through the use of his camera lens, he was able to travel the world — but the Great Plains and his father’s land were always close at heart.
After all, Keesling’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather raised crops from 1876 on the land he grew up on. When Keesling decided he wanted to get back into farming, he went in full force. Not only does he grow corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans and grasses on Keesling Farms’ no-till farm, he raises Red Angus, custom farms and sells equipment and seed on his 3,000 acres.
Advocate for farmers
Keesling understands farmers need to be heard, and he helps speak out for them by being a part of organizations that advocate for the farmer. He was just named to the Board of Directors for the National Sorghum Producers and also serves on President Donald Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee.
“Farmers elected me to boards in order to help them do what I can to promote Kansas grains,” Keesling said. “I never saw myself traveling so much, but there is a need to promote our products.”
By helping shape agricultural policy through his involvement in local, state, national and international agricultural organizations, Keesling is helping farmers. Along with being on the National Sorghum Board, Keesling served on the Board of Plains Grains, the Wheat Foods Council, U.S. Wheat Associates and International Grains Program Institute. He is also a former chairman of Kansas Wheat and a member of the U. S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba. In addition, he is a founding board member of Heartland Plant Innovations.
“The agriculture economy is down overall,” Keesling said. “Farmers are not making a profit right now.”
To combat this, Keesling wants to cultivate new frontiers in agriculture and help all farmers sell their products. By being a member of Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, an international agricultural development organization that specializes in the design and implementation of sustainable, enterprise-based agricultural initiatives, this Kansas farmer is bringing his passion to farmers worldwide.
Keesling also promotes health benefits of certain grains and nutrients, including flour fortification.
“We promote adding nutrition and vitamins in wheat flour to combat health issues,” he said. “It’s making a difference for people’s lives around the world.”
Through his travels, Keesling makes a point to connect with agricultural ambassadors from other countries and often shares insights regarding the health benefits and innovations that can improve an individual’s overall well-being.
“They’ll sometimes listen to a farmer rather than a politician,” he said.
Keesling just returned from Seoul, South Korea, where he spoke on agricultural innovations and technology. He is passionate about the linkage between technology and agriculture. By working with a U.S. company to introduce virtual reality to agricultural ventures worldwide, he is helping farmers improve yields and secure safe foods. For example, through virtual reality, farmers in Nigeria can look up diseases that appear in their fields in real time.
“This helps the farmer raise more crops and helps keep the farmer safe,” Keesling said.
Keesling is away from home at least one week each month. Aside from keeping up with the farm, he wants to be there for school meetings, sports events and family gatherings. Each time he comes back to Chase, he looks at his four kids and remembers why he is doing what he is doing — to help farmers and to end world hunger.
“I want to use my experience and talents in order to help others out,” Keesling said.
Keesling is also working to bring nonprofit organizations together with farmers and donors. He wants to create bridges of opportunities that help children and farmers.
“Kansas is my roots,” Keesling said. “We need to find ways so that farmers can make a living and feed the world.”