McPherson, Kansas is home to Sawyer Land and Cattle where Derek and Katie Sawyer grow soybeans and are raising cattle for steakhouse quality beef. I visited this farm while attending a three day farm tour across Kansas which you can read about here.
Sawyer’s Soybean Field
The Sawyer family has been farming for 80 years and have benefitted from the technology advances of farming. They buy their soybeans from Pioneer which is a GMO seed. They compare Monsanto is to farmers as Apple is to consumers, meaning we don’t have to buy an iPhone or they do not have to buy a GMO seed but with all the all the work they have done to put the technology in place to make their crops better, it is hard not to take advantage of that.
Their soybeans are grown for mostly for feed which they sell on a global market. Being a GMO seed makes them a bit more pest resistant which means they are not treated with pesticides very often. Derek explained that if a pesticide is used there is a waiting period after the pesticide is applied before the plat can be harvested which helps ease my conscious a bit.
Those of us on the tour who are against pesticides and GMO grilled him on some issues concerning GMO, pollution and other environmental factors and asked how he felt about in terms of it affecting his own young family with another on the way and if was he concerned about risks.
Soybean and pod
His response was “Obviously it hard to predict the future, but from what we knows now this is the best way we can produce food for the general public.” He did note that before having children he did not think so much about the food as it was feeding the masses, but now that he is feeding it to his own son does take more things into consideration. He notes that it is always going to be a challenge to prove anything is 100% safe but with what he knows now and the practices he uses, he would have no concerns that it is anyway unsafe to feed his family and does.
Just down the street is Derek and Katie’s cowherd where they raise beef for high end restaurants and steakhouses where you pay $40 to $50 for one steak.
Derek and Katie Sawyer
We had the chance to meet their new heard he just received the day before we visited. The cows were a little fussy as they were just separated and wanted their Momma’s. This weaning process makes the calfs fussy for about 3 days and then all is good. It is also the best way for both momma and calf, as the momma would continue to nurse draining her of all her nutrients and the calf needs to learn to eat the grain to grow properly.
Although, the Sawyers grow soybeans for feed, they do not typically feed their soybeans to the cattle as they don’t possess the ability to grind the beans. The cattle are fed some type of mixture of corn, grasses, hay/alfalfa and distillers (an ethanol by-product). All of this except for the distillers is grown on their farm and remains on their farm from the field to the feed bunk. The exact feed mix is determined by the gender, age and nutritional needs of the animal.
Derek runs about 600 calfs a year and once the cows are around 600 pounds they are custom grazed throughout the spring and summer in small towns around Emporia, Kansas where they will beef up (no pun intended) to about 800 – 850 pounds. The cows are then taken to Ellinwood, Kansas to a feed lot for a 120 days where they will end up around 1300 pounds. The cows are then taken too Garden City or Dodge City for harvesting.
The calfs at Sawyer farms get a hormone implant in their ear that releases a small amount of estrogen that helps convert the feed to muscle. The controversy on the hormone use is it gets into the meat. Derek explained that a serving of a steak with estrogen will have about four nanograms of estrogen while the beef without only contains two. That seems pretty low for both as he mentioned cabbage has 15,000 nanograms! The hormone also helps the animal grow faster resulting in a more tender cut of beef.
As I mentioned earlier about the waiting period after pesticide has been applied to a crop, the same applies if an animal has been given antibiotics. The Sawyers take their responsibility very seriously about raising the best beef as possible and will never give a cow an antibiotic just for the heck of it but if a cow gets sick, it is their job to take the best care they can of that animal. If that means it needs an antibiotic on occasion to help the cow heal instead of just letting illness make it sicker and sicker they will do that. Kaite explained that taking care of the animal quickly also ensures the health of the others in the heard because just like kids can spread things at school the same can happen to a heard. Records and documents are also kept on which cow received what and when so there is never a question on anything.
Just as it was at Good Farm (another stop on the tour), the Sawyer farm was clean and the cows had plenty of room to roam. I cannot say enough about the care the Sawyers give to the animals as they monitor them multiple times a day and during calving season it is a 24/7 operation so if a cow of calf needs assistance they are there to help. If needed, Katie even lets distressed calfs into their house and where she can warm them up with extra blankets and a hair blow dryer.
If you happen to catch any of my #farmfoodtour pics on Instagram a few weeks ago, then you are aware of the great time I had when I was invited by the Kansas Farm Bureau to spend three days traveling across Kansas visiting local farms. All of these farms are impacting our nation as they supply their goods all across the country and beyond. I also learned many lessons about how are food is raised and truly had an eye opening experience.
I love writing about local food and love meeting the farmers behind the food so I was excited to have the opportunity to experience this.
The trip consisted of a handful of writers and bloggers from the Midwest along with our hosts which was a representatives from Kansas Farm Bureau and The Kansas Soybean Association.
There was a lot of talk on the tour about the GMO controversy and although, I get the need for GMO for world hunger, the need for pesticide and virus resistant crops, etc…, I am anti GMO in the foods I eat, against factory farming and am adamant that our food should be labeled if it contains GMO.
So before the tour I have to admit I am the one who only listened to one side of the story and spent too much on organic produce.
There is still much debate on this subject but after this tour I am a bit more relaxed about things. I learned there are only eight GMO crops; corn, soybeans, cotton, papaya, canola, sugar beets, squash and alfalfa. I also learned there is rigorous testing done to ensure safety.
In addition to what I learned on the tour, I have been scouring sources to make the right decision for what I want to feed my family. Each side has a great argument and I am not an expert by any means so it really has to come down to a personal choice.
With a daughter recently diagnosed with some allergy and other health concerns, I am probably still going to stick with buying organic and non GMO foods but won’t freak out as bad if we get a GMO in our diet every now and then.
There is research that states GMO’s don’t cause allergies there is other research that says certain allergies did not exist until GMO’s where introduced. While we are on the topic of allergies there is now talk of making a GMO peanuts that would remove the allergen. There is also talk of a GMO wheat grain that would remove the gluten. For people who suffer from gluten issues or have peanut allergies does that make GMO a good thing?
My daughter is having some gluten issues so as a mom is that something I would try to help my daughter although I have been anti GMO, I don’t know. I would certainly have to do my homework. Again so much controversy that you have to choose what is right for you.
If gluten is an issue for you, do not miss reading about day two of the tour where we visited NuLife Market in Scott City, KS. They have amazing gluten free flour as well as other products.
NuLife Market Sorghum Field
The labeling issue was another hot topic. I think it is super important for people to know what is in their food but we also need to educate ourselves as well. If you are trying to avoid GMO’s, know what crops are modified so you don’t have to fear if that cucumber is a GMO or not, because it is not one of the eight.
Before the tour I was adamant that GMO foods need to be labeled. After the tour I learned how much labeling laws would increase food cost and no one wants that. I decided that if the labeling is not going to happen then I need to educate myself on what crops are modified, and buy organic when I am not sure. There is already organic and non GMO labeling available that can probably help make the decision I need, so I don’t know that I am such a stickler on that topic anymore.
Other hot topics included antibiotic use, organic produce and crops as well as grass fed beef.
What about grass fed beef? Well, all beef is grass fed because they graze in the pastures. How it is finished is the difference. This is not too much of a hot button for me as my father in law raised cattle and gave them grain and that is all we ate. He recently quit raising the cattle so now I buy organic beef, but do not necessarily focus on grass finished or not. Grass finished has more omega 3 than grain finished but not enough to make a difference in your diet, so if you are looking for more Omega 3 eat some salmon or take a supplement.
What about antibiotics? All of the farms we visited do not give their animals antibiotics just for the heck of it and Good Farm that raises pork does not use any at all. The farmers that do use them explained that they are only used if medically necessary. Just as we get sick and occasionally need one, so do the animals. I also learned that there is a stringent documentation process on what animal got, how much and when it was. There is also a waiting period before the animal can be processed after an antibiotic is administered to make sure it is out of its system.
What about organic? Before the tour I envisioned non organic produce being doused with chemicals and then picked and put on the grocery store shelves. After the tour I am a little less concerned. Farmers have guidelines they have to adhere too on many levels and pesticide use is one of them. There is a certain waiting period they have to follow before they can harvest the crop after a pesticide has been applied. Does this make the fruit any safer to eat? I don’t know but it makes me feel a little better knowing there has been time for rain-showers and other environmental elements to shake off some the residue.
I appreciate that Cal-Ann Basil Farm we visited on day one does not use any synthetic pesticides since that is the brand I buy. I was happy to learn about the waiting period process on harvesting after pesticide use but will still buy organic especially the produce listed on the dirty dozen list because that is what works for me. I will say that knowing what I do now will help me not be so concerned if I see my son eating a non organic apple or knowing my daughter is not getting organic produce in the dining hall while she is away at college.
Me photographing some basil
The last issue we will tackle is Factory Farming. When I hear the term factory farm I envision hoards of pigs or cattle crammed into a tiny pin covered with gunk and who knows what else. The McCarty Family Farms we visited that produces milk for Dannon Yogurt is considered a factory farm and it was a total 360 from what I had in mind. You can read more about the McCarty Dairy on day three of the tour.
Newborn Calf at McCarty Family Farms Dairy
I cannot say enough about everything I learned and how compassionate these farmers are to make sure the crops they are growing and the animals they are raising meet the highest quality standards. It is truly is all about family and they care for their families as much as we do ours and are feeding them just like us so they want to produce the best food possible in the best way they know how.
I wish to thank the Kansas Farm Bureau and all the incredible farmers for this amazing experience. You can read more about the farms in the links below.
Day one: Cal-Ann Farms, Good Pork Farm, Sawyer Land and Cattle.
Day two: Nu Life Market
Day three: McCarty Family Farms, Blythe Angus Ranch
My husbands job recently relocated us to Wichita from Kansas City and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the new Whole Foods Market here in Wichita. The store opened just four weeks ago and I think I have been there at least 15 times already.
There is something about the store that is intoxicating.
I love the fresh flower bouquets awaiting as you first walk in the store, the beautiful fresh produce and the handy bulk bins that have just about any dry ingredient you would need. The fresh meats and seafood are amazing. We recently got some cherry chipotle thick cut bacon and it was incredible.
The pre-cut fruits and vegetable make having quick snacks on hand a breeze and of course the deli has all sorts of wonderful pre-made salads, entrees, soups, sushi, pizza and more to make dinner on the go easy!
The bakery is my weakness with the whole wheat sourdough bread, carrot cake and key lime pie being my favorite indulgences. But at the coffee and smoothie bar, I can balance out that key lime pie with the Super Greens Smoothie!
The decor is delightful and uses many reclaimed airplane parts which is a refection of Wichita being the air capitol of the world.
I could go on and on but I am sure you get the picture. There are so many fun things I find there that I am sure this won’t be my last post about Whole Foods.
Don’t be fooled by the “whole paycheck” phenomenon that is associated with it. Most things are reasonably priced and much better quality. If you haven’t been yet it is worth the visit!
If you have something you think makes living finer please contact me.
Overland Park is home to the first Verizon Wireless Smart Store in Kansas and now a second one has opened in Wichita’s New Market Square shopping center. The company eventually plans to convert all 1,700 of its retail locations to this new “Smart Store” concept.
I had the chance to take a tour of the store and was astounded by all of the products and services available.
In addition to the smart phones, tablets and wireless plans you would expect to find at a Verizon store, there are several different areas or zones with devices and gadgets all designed to work with your smartphone or tablet.
The technology and gadgets available allow you to control the thermostat in your home while you are still at the office, track the calories you just burned during your workout, remotely record a favorite television show or get a notification when your plant needs watered and much more!
The different zones include:
• Amplify It – This area includes wireless speakers, headphones and accessories.
• Get Fit – For those looking for health and wellness devices, this area includes devices that will track calories, steps, sleep, heart rates, blood pressure and more!
• Verizon at Home – This area has everything you need to stay connected including internet service plans, home phone service and more.
• Have Fun – Designed for both big and little kids, here you will find everything from educational and learning devices to remote control helicopters.
• Home and on the Go – Everything you need for your home is here whether you want to monitor the security of you home, record a TV show or need to adjust the thermostat while you are away, there is gadget that does just that.
There is also a workshop zone designed with horseshoe shaped table and chairs and big screen television where guest can learn how to run and operate all of the different products available.
Each zone has interactive stations that tell about each gadget and if you need customer service, you can see if there is a wait time, if any for the next customer service rep.
Speaking of customer service, the Verizon Smart Store is dedicated to making customer satisfaction a priority and instead of the sales staff, standing behind a counter; they are all out on the floor with tablet computers and can handle inquiries and sales from anywhere in the store.
I had a great time touring the store and to my surprise, even found a gift for my nieces 5th birthday, The “Learn to Write Mr. Pencil” from Leapfrog. I can honestly I never expected something like that when I thought of Verizon before!
11868 W. 95th St, Overland Park, KS 66214
2441 N. Maize Road, Wichita, Kan. 67205