After 45 years covering agriculture in Kansas and Missouri, I will “pull the pin” (retire) from Kansas Farm Bureau on Thursday. I’ll put my pen in the desk drawer, close my computer, hang up my camera and turn off the phone. Don’t worry Insight will continue.
But I will not forget this vocation of agriculture and more importantly the men, women and children who call this vocation their own.
After a few months I may put pen to paper and write about this most honorable profession once more.
The opportunity to advocate on behalf of agriculture for 45 years has given me a reason to believe. No other career I could have embarked on would have fulfilled my inner need to remain connected to a life I was born into 70 years ago in northwestern Kansas.
My family and four others literally carved the community of Angelus out of the prairie during the waning years of the 19th century. Before settling in northwestern Kansas, they’d settled in up-state New York by way of Germany in the early 1830s. From there they moved to a small farm near Milwaukee, Wis. A decade later, on to Wein, Mo., and finally the short-grass prairie on the great High Plains.
Growing up in a family of hard working, dedicated German and French immigrants, I was destined to “tell the story of agriculture.” I will carry a place in my heart for the farmers and ranchers who remain a part of this vocation as long as I inhabit this old world.
After four decades of writing a weekly column, starting “Kansas Living” magazine, producing “Insight” on the radio, “Voice of Ag” radio spots, writing speeches for three Kansas Farm Bureau presidents, video production and managing KFB’s print media department, far too many events occurred to mention them all. Here are a few highlights:
Droughts, killing freezes, brutal winters with blizzards and loss of livestock, farm bills including the Freedom to Farm spearheaded by Kansas’s own Sen. Roberts, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin cutting wheat at the Rau farm in Sedgwick County followed by a visit from the white combine.
The advent of animal welfare including PETA and HSUS, waters of the U.S. in a semi-arid western Kansas, the over-appropriation of irrigation out of the Ogallala Aquifer, yearly governor’s tours, Farm Bureau members lobbying congress in Washington D.C. led by KFB President John Junior Armstrong in ’78.
So much history, so much fun and so many wonderful farm families. The opportunity to visit farms and ranches in all 105 counties. The chance to visit with members — in their pickups, combines or drive through a pasture filled with fleshy momma cow-calf pairs — as they proudly showed me their farms and shared the intimate details of their lives and livelihood.
I also witnessed the sorrow and pained hurt in the eyes of a wheat farmer a few minutes after a hailstorm hammered his crop into the ground. Followed by his vision and hope for the next great year. I’ll never forget and always cherish these moments.
I will remember always the friendships forged with farmers and ranchers throughout Kansas. We all share a love of this business of agriculture, each other and our Farm Bureau organization.
This continues to make Farm Bureau the best. We care on a personal level. Our families and lives became intertwined.
We share common concerns. Kansas agriculture remains a moving target, always changing. What’s right for you, may be wrong for me. Still, in Farm Bureau, we work together to find solutions for our shared industry.
At the end of the day, week, month or year, we love our great organization. We’re unafraid to tilt at windmills like the brave Don Quixote. We toil behind the scenes “to finish the task,” driven by dedicated farm and ranch leaders and dedicated staff, we make a difference in the agricultural vocation.
While it might seem like a long, hard road, it’s been an exhilarating ride. One I wouldn’t change for anything. I’m truly honored and humbled to have served with each one of you.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.