Oct 27, 2020

NOW THAT'S RURAL: KS wheat, K-State grain science flour distribution

Posted Oct 27, 2020 1:27 PM

( Courtesy Little Apple Post )

Kansas State University

Flour power! No, I’m not having a flashback to the 1960s. I’m referring to the kind of flour that comes from wheat and is used for baking bread.  

When the pandemic hit in Spring 2020, and people were stuck at home, such flour was less available in stores. Then Kansas Wheat and the K-State Department of Grain Science and Industry mobilized to provide a free flour distribution to Kansas families. Such generosity led to these entities being recognized as Ag Heroes by the Kansas Department of Agriculture during the 2020 Ag Growth Summit.   

Justin Gilpin is the chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat. Gordon Smith is head of K-State’s Grain Science and Industry Department. That department includes several facilities, including the Hal Ross Flour Mill. These entities came together to provide this flour distribution in June 2020. 

The flour distribution. Photo courtesy KSRE

Kansas Wheat is the product of a cooperative agreement between two organizations:  The Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.  

The Kansas Wheat Commission is a grower-funded, grower-governed organization working to secure the future of Kansas wheat in the global market through international trade, research, export system studies and continually improved varieties of wheat. Its mission is wheat-related research, education and market development. The KWC is funded by a voluntary, two-cent assessment on each bushel of wheat produced in Kansas. 

The Kansas Association of Wheat Growers is a dues-based, member-governed organization representing wheat growers in planning legislation, advising government and international agencies on matters affecting wheat, and providing grass-roots leadership to the United States’ wheat industry.   

The two entities jointly support an integrated office with shared staff, located in the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center which is owned by Kansas wheat farmers and is located on the campus of K-State. Nearby is the Hal Ross Flour Mill, a teaching facility for the K-State Grain Science and Industry Department. K-State is the only higher education institution in the world with degree programs in milling, baking, and feed science. 

Both the wheat commission and wheat growers organizations are led by farmers who are elected to those positions. These are wheat producers from around Kansas, including rural communities such as Gypsum, population 405; Lebanon, population 218; and Muscotah, population 176 people. Now, that’s rural. 

After the pandemic hit, there was a run on flour in the stores. College campuses closed, meaning that K-State’s flour mill also shut down. As the exceptional need for flour continued, Kansas Wheat and the K-State Grain Science and Industry Department responded. The Kansas Wheat Commission donated 20,000 pounds of wheat, all of which was locally grown. The Hal Ross Flour Mill was brought back online.  The wheat was milled into flour and packaged into 10-pound bags. K-State President Richard Myers even assisted with the flour milling. 

A drive-through flour distribution was scheduled for June 18. All the bags of flour were given away, free of charge. Any extra were to be donated to the Flint Hills Breadbasket and Harvesters, a community food network. 

“Kansas wheat farmers were glad to help support this project,” said Kansas Wheat CEO Gilpin. “Wheat is a staple food for many Americans and this project by K-State will help put it in the hands of people in need.” 

Smith said his department at K-State “has a long and distinguished record of domestic and international service. We greatly value being a part of the Kansas agricultural community and embrace any opportunity to help Kansans.  

“This summer’s flour production and distribution efforts were accomplished through the unselfish actions of faculty and staff, who look forward to the next occasion to serve,” he said. 

As the Ag Hero nomination said: “This project was a truly collaborative effort of the wheat farming community to meet the needs of Kansans.” 

Flour power. No, it’s not the 1960s. In this case, I’m referring to flour from Kansas-grown and milled wheat. We salute the people of the K-State Grain Science and Industry Department and of Kansas Wheat for making a difference with their initiative and generosity. They came together to provide flour to the people. Right on.

Ron Wilson is director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.