Heartland trip sheds light on feeding the world

Farmer contemplation (Photo courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln.)

Driving across south central Kansas reminds me how busy October is in the heartland. 

All of the production seasons—and stress—are on display as farmers and ranchers race to get so many projects finished. 

Dave Bergmeier
Dave Bergmeier

Driving from Dodge City to Hutchinson along U.S. Highway 50 all of the major tasks were on display—gathering cattle, planting wheat, picking corn and cutting sorghum.  As the sky became overcast east of Dodge City, I thought to myself that those farmers and ranchers were not going to be able to partake in any of the eclipse activities. With so much to do I’m sure it was not a top priority. 

When I see older equipment in place whether in the harvest field or planting wheat it brings a smile as I think about how those tractors, combines and implements were once state-of-the-art. Innovation was alive and well. Even 40-year-old equipment continues to feed the world. Those vintage John Deere, Case-IH, Gleaner combines or old hoe drills have fed many people over the years. 

The traffic was heavy enough—even on a weekend—that my focus had to be on what was right in front of me. Following a line of vehicles waiting for my opportunity to pass changes my priority. 

As I see the busy traffic it also makes me wonder about the disconnect that sometimes occurs in production agriculture and the consumers who buy the end products. While my lifetime background in agriculture lends itself to taking the side of farmers and ranchers, I watch vehicles pass others, particularly the out-of-state license plates, and I wonder if those motorists only think of the stretch as merely a pass-through zone to get to another destination. 

An out-of-state vehicle can mean one of the kids moved to another state but had returned home to visit. I still wonder whether most travelers realize the commitment it takes to grow food and feed a hungry world. Tim Unruh’s cover story discusses what wheat farmers face as they planted their 2024 crop where drought lingers. 

Food insecurity questions on other continents are continuing  as we watch the ongoing invasion of Russia into Ukraine and now war in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas. When populations are hungry it changes the mindset of what is important. And as I travel across the Plains and watch the ongoing practices of growing food I know I should never take it for granted. 

It all starts on the farm and ranch. 

Like everything else in life the sight lines can get clouded but every day is a new day with opportunities because of hope, planning, prayer, and a dose of good luck. It is a timeless message for all that the bread of life endures. 

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].