last week to see firsthand where the food they provide consumers comes from. The Farm Road Rally II, a bus tour of three working farms in eastern Nebraska provided these leaders an opportunity to see how contemporary farms are operated, see what Nebraska farmers and ranchers are doing to care for the land and their animals and to have their questions about the food system answered by an expert—a Nebraska farmer or rancher.
The June 26 event was co-sponsored by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) and CommonGround Nebraska, a movement of volunteer farm women aimed at having conversations with consumers about their food.
Participating in the bus tour were 15 leaders in the retail food industry, including seven management professionals from the Lincoln-based B&R Stores, which operates the Russ’s Market and SuperSaver supermarket chains, along with President Pat Raybould; three Omaha area Hy-Vee dieticians; Kathy Siefken, the executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association; and three chefs from the American Culinary Federation (ACF) of Lincoln.
Discussions on the bus were led by Willow Holoubek, organizational director for A-FAN. Also onboard was CommonGround volunteer Chandra Horky of Sargent, who shared details about the cow-calf farm she runs with her husband and two children.
The daylong tour left from the Village Pointe shopping center in Omaha and made three stops to learn about three different aspects of agriculture in Nebraska.
The first stop was at Kristy and Scott Wagner’s farm near Hooper for a look at a row crop operation. There Scott explained to the group the differences between yellow corn, sweet corn and seed corn and how Nebraska farmers use fertilizer and chemicals responsibly. The Wagners are fifth generation farmers and they are a part of a rich family agricultural legacy that has produced food for over 130 years.
The tour’s second stop was at Dan Kluthe’s farm near Dodge to observe a pork production facility. There Kluthe explained to the group what he does to ensure that his livestock are properly cared for and humanely treated. The group also learned that Kluthe’s farm is on the forefront of being responsible environmental stewards. Kluthe’s operation features an innovative methane digester, which captures the methane gas from the pigs’ waste and converts it into energy. Kluthe’s farm generates enough electricity to power 23 homes for a year.
The final stop on the tour was at the Joan and Steve Ruskamp feedlot, also near Dodge, to learn about a cattle operation. Joan, an active CommonGround volunteer herself, discussed the use of vaccines and implants in beef cattle as well as what they do to care for their livestock during the extreme weather conditions experienced in Nebraska.
Drew Guiney, consumer relations director of the Nebraska Soybean Board and co-coordinator of CommonGround Nebraska said “We were extremely pleased with the attendance of the tour. We are appreciative that such important influencers took time out of their busy schedules to join us. A-FAN and CommonGround are proactive in getting the word out about how modern farming is environmentally and animal friendly and how important agriculture is to Nebraska’s economy.”
According to Kelsey Pope, director of advocacy and outreach for the Nebraska Corn Board and co-coordinator of CommonGround Nebraska, “Follow-up responses from participants showed a strong appreciation for the tour, with all rating the experience very positively.
“Farmers are better maintainers of their land not just for themselves but for future generations,” said B&R’s Pat Raybould. “Over the years I have visited several plants but not the ‘beginnings’. It’s now much clearer how important the ag business is to our state’s economy.”
Hy-Vee Dietician Whitney Ceas said, “I have already started brainstorming on how I can use all of the great information I learned to inform my customers, family and friends.”
“As a result of the tour,” said another participant, “I now realize how passionate livestock farmers are and how they really care about producing quality products to feed our country.”
“The tour confirmed my positive view of the agriculture industry,” another said. “Ag industry members are the original environmentalists that are out front with the leading technology, using it to become more efficient.”
Plans are under way for a third Farm Road Rally in the fall, to reach additional food industry influencers. “It’s important people realize just how dedicated Nebraska farmers are to environmental issues, the humane treatment of livestock and the production of healthy food products,” Guiney said.
For more pictures of the Farm Road Rally II, visit our Flickr page.