Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Wheat State

"As I sat on a Kansas hilltop,
While, far away from my feet,
Rippled the lights and shadows
Dancing across acres of wheat,

The sound of the grain as it murmured
Wrought a wonder with me.
It turned from the voice of the Prairie
Into the roar of the sea.

And I saw not the running wind-waves,
But an ocean that washed below
In ridging and crumbling breakers
And ceaseless motion and flow..."

("A Wheat-Field Fantasy", by Harry Kemp. Poetry of Kansas)

Kansas is known around the world as both The Sunflower State and The Wheat State. The nicknames denote two different aspects of our state. The wild, tenacious sunflower signifies the stubborn spirit of Kansans. Through storm, drought, fire and famine we have struggled up through the hard times and bloomed, our gaze always on sun, that bright star pointing the way to a new dawn.

Wheat symbolizes the outcome of that struggle... A harvest of plenty amidst the once supposed "Great American Desert." It is that stubborn spirit of the Kansas sunflower come to fruition in fields of waving grain spreading across rolling hills as far as the eye can see. Wheat is a survivor, often flourishing in the harsher climate of the prairie better than other crops. It is an "immigrant," originally brought to Kansas by hard working folk intent on creating a place where they could be free to live and experience life according their own beliefs.

So how important is wheat in the 21st century to Kansas? From the Kansas Dept. of Agriculture: "On average, Kansas produces more wheat than any other state. Nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown in Kansas. And, Kansas ranks first in the nation in flour milling, wheat gluten production and wheat stored. Roughly one-third of Kansas' 63,000 farmers grow wheat. Normally, Kansas farmers produce about 400 million bushels of wheat a year, with a production value that hovers around $1 billion."

Kansas wheat... It's is a vital part of our economy, culture and history. Below are links to information on Kansas wheat provided by various online resources.

Kansas Wheat Commission
(The Kansas Wheat Commission is a grower-funded, grower-governed wheat products advocacy organization)
Their site includes:
--Annual Recipe Book
--Bake and Take Month
--Baking Laboratories
--Educational Materials
--Just For Kids
--Kansas Bakeries Directory
--Kansas Wheat Blog
--Kansas Wheat Products
--Online Videos
--Straw Artists
--Wheat Facts
--Wheat Fun
--Wheat Mania: All About Wheat

Wheat Page
(Kansas State University Research and Extension)

Wheat People: Celebrating Kansas Harvest
(An online exhibit provided by the Kansas State Historical Society)

Kansas Memory: Wheat
(Digitized primary sources provided by the Kansas State Historical Society)

Kansas Wheat History (2009 publication by Kansas Agricultural Statistics cooperating with the Kansas Dept. of Agriculture)

Winter Wheat in the Golden Belt of Kansas
(A transcription of a 1944 history of wheat in Kansas agriculture written by James C. Malin)

Wheat Varieties
(Information from the National Agricultural Statistics Service)

KU Waving Wheat
(OK, OK... Apologies to Wildcats, Hornets, Shockers, Tigers and others.... But we can't leave out the University of Kansas' famous "Wave the Wheat" tradition. And for those of us who are "cheer challenged" there's actually a video on how to do it just right!)

Kansas Wheat (FaceBook)
(A FaceBook page that promotes wheat growing and growers in the Sunflower State)