Meet our family farmers

SteveV

When we went to Kansas in the summer of 2009 to meet some of the family farmers who grow wheat for us, I knew we had to go back with a camera crew. I wanted to get to know them better, find out why they do what they do and what keeps them at it. I wanted to hear their stories. And I wanted you to hear it all straight from them.

In June 2010 I returned for another week in Kansas, just before the winter wheat harvest, to make it happen. The film crew consisted of our fantastic videographer, Sawyer Broadley, and me. Sawyer chose the locations, set up the camera and lighting, and shot the video.

It was my job to mic the subjects, occasionally hold a light reflector (not easy to do on a windy day in Kansas!), and conduct the interviews. King Arthur Flour CEO Steve Voigt joined us for a couple days, too. Steve had the chance to meet and talk with the wheat producers of Farmer Direct Foods, a cooperative that supplies us with hard white and hard red winter wheat.

 

As we traveled across Kansas to Colorado, from county to county, farm to farm, several themes emerged from the conversations we were having on film. I began to picture in my mind how we could weave the threads together so they would make sense, so they would be compelling, informative and enlightening. We transcribed every minute of video, hours and hours worth. I pored over the transcripts, making notes, marking the passages for the themes we had discovered during filming.

Then Sawyer (who, incidentally, has produced our other fabulous videos) edited all those marked passages together into a cohesive whole and put in the cinematic touches that make these videos so entertaining. The music, the transitions, the scenic footage—all this has transformed our interviews into a documentary-quality presentation that explores contemporary American agriculture.

How many generations had these families been farming? Why do they keep doing it? What’s it like on the farm and in the community? These are some of the questions we asked. I also wanted to give them the chance to address consumers directly to dispel any misconceptions they thought people have about farming.

People want to know whether farmers are taking care of the land. Do they know they are producing food for people to eat? Are they trying to conserve energy and water? Are they using a lot of unsafe chemicals? Is their business economically and ecologically sustainable? What’s the future for the American family farm? Those are some big questions. And our farmers had some great answers. There are some surprising differences of opinion among our subjects—not unexpected when you’re talking about such important and complex issues.

Lastly we wanted to know what it means for these farmers to raise wheat for King Arthur Flour. Most farmers see their products enter the commodity market and get “lost” on the way to your dinner table. It’s not often a farmer can walk into a grocery store, point to a product on the shelf and say, “That’s my wheat/corn/beans/apples in there!”

The farmers you’re about to meet in our video series know for certain that wheat from their farms end up as flour in our products. They grow certain varieties especially for us, keeping it segregated from any other wheat they may grow. Its identity is maintained from the farm all the way to the mill where it is ground into King Arthur Flour. The farmers in these pieces take great pride in growing our wheat, as we take great pride in turning it into flour for you.

These families welcomed us onto their farms and into their homes. They spared several hours to talk with us (and wait for us to set up and take down all the equipment). In many cases they shared lunch or supper with us as well. Sawyer and Steve climbed to the top of a 100-foot grain storage bin to catch the view from there. Once we even filmed in a church. The Prairie Home Methodist Church, located on the Griffith family farm in WaKeeney, Kansas, stands on virgin ground the family set aside for a community church over a hundred years ago. Wheat fields surround the picturesque little white country chapel. It was a beautiful, peaceful location.

The videos are grouped according to four themes: Families Growing Wheat, The Life of a Farmer, Preserving the Land, and the King Arthur Flour Connection with Farmers. For each topic we’ve prepared an overview video with some of the best relevant commentary. Then, if you’re interested to learn more—and we know you will be—you can watch more in depth interviews with individuals.

I think you’ll agree that these folks are truly the “salt of the earth.” A very heartfelt thank you goes out from all of us at King Arthur Flour to the folks who helped us make these videos (especially Kent and Marcia at Farmer Direct) and all the people who produce the wheat that makes our flour the best in the world. As these videos show, an incredible amount of hard work, long hours, dedication, integrity, passion, and love make it all possible.

Watch the videos at:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/ourfarmers/

About

Tom Payne is the Director of Marketing for the King Arthur Flour Company, Norwich, VT. Tom has nearly 10 years experience marketing in the baking industry and several years working as a baker himself.

comments

  1. Judy

    Oh! I can’t wait to sit and watch and enjoy!! It’s like having an awesome baked treat waiting for you!

    Reply
  2. Erin

    Bravo for showcasing our proud Kansas farms and farmers. Living here I take for granted what’s normal for me to see every day. :)

    Reply
  3. "Paul from Ohio"

    Much thanks to Tom, Sawyer, Steve for these insightful, compelling, well-produced and edited videos. All of us are blessed that KAF’s dedicated farmers love and live what they do day after day after generation, so that all of us might eat. A hearty thank you to all, for your labors in the fields and at KAF. It all mightily benefits my life, and I am so glad to have ‘made your acquaintance’. Thank you for sharing.

    And thanks Paul, as always, for sharing YOUR enthusiasm. It’s people like you that make the work we do so worth it… PJH

    Reply
  4. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - FMP-FASE - Petrópolis, R.J. - BRAZIL

    Without those excelence wheat producers at backgrounds, we customers around world and specially at USA, cannot get better products, better flours…
    Nice videos, another gift from KAF´s Staff at this season.
    Well i hope one day KAF turn his eyes to giant Brazil. We deserve the best flours, to bake the best breads we could!!
    It´s a challenge to KAF.
    Can we wait for this day?

    Reply
  5. Meg Caulmare

    I have a lot of respect for farmers, and I’m glad to see King Arthur Flour does, too. Thank you for this superb video series. I’ve lived in New England all my life and have never seen anything like the expanse of wheat being ruffled by the wind.

    Thank you to King Arthur Flour and the farming families. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  6. milkwithknives

    Oh, boy. I can’t wait to watch this tonight. My husb and I recently watched the documentary “Food, Inc.,” and were quite shocked, to say the least. Thanks so much for producing these videos. Another reminder of why I truly love and admire KAF and its people and products.

    Reply
  7. stierneyc

    It’s such a treat to read your post and watch the video of the families that make it possible for growing such perfect wheat for the flour I love to bake with. I just returned from taking a class at your education center and this brings me full circle understanding the process.
    Thank you all for such a wonderful product.

    Reply
  8. leafpeeper

    Fantastic idea to do the videos! I’ve always been proud to be a KAF customer – and now even more so. Thanks to all the hardworking farmers and others throughout the process that make KAF flour the best on the market – you are all appreciated!

    Reply
  9. meltsner

    @Ricardo– perhaps KAF can trade its excellent flour for the ingredients to make pão de queijo so that everyone can do what they do best. (I thought the reason for the manioc/cassava flour was because wheat didn’t grow that well in Brazil.)

    Reply
  10. johnsonel

    Wow, brings tears to your eyes of the commitment and dedication. You realize when we sing “amber waves of grain”, where it comes from what a beautiful sight! Thanks to all of you for your hard work!
    Believing in America!

    Reply
  11. "Hey Stella"

    OK, so it’s a cliche, but this kind of thing is one of those, ‘Why I’m proud to be American’ moments. Honor. Integrity. Tradition. Commitment to doing one’s best. The individual working hard and doing an honest day’s work. It makes you think, ‘This is what America is really about.’

    One tweak to this text: it’s not ‘pouring over’ some text, but ‘poring over.’ Pour syrup over your pancakes. ‘Pore over’ something you are reading.

    Yes, an English teacher – who would like to find a way to fit this film into classes…

    “Hey Stella” (I can hear Marlon Brando now) – can’t believe I missed that one… I skimmed too quickly, I guess. I’m chagrined! Will go in and fix it now – PJH (another English major and proud of it!)

    Reply
  12. martibeth

    Happened to come across this quote by John F. Kennedy: “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

    As a farmer myself (cattle and hay), I know it’s a very tough business to be in. As one of the farmers in the video stated, you either have to inherit it or marry into it – or you have to be independently wealthy simply to buy the land and/or equipment. Farmers are always tired, because they lie awake at night worrying about the weather, soil conditions, and the cost to repair the indispensable tractor that broke down just when you needed it most. If you’re a cattle farmer, you worry about the baby calf just born, and hope it’s not taken by a coyote again, as happened last year. My hat’s off to the great farmers of Kansas for producing the wheat that makes the flour that is turned into bread – thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply
  13. Kansas wheat farm wife

    Thanks for showing the beauty and the trials of the Kansas farmer. It is a message that needs to be shared. With so few of the population having any even remote ag connection, it is great to see you sharing it.

    Reply
  14. Jean

    This was such an enjoyable, quality piece to watch. How touching, and vital, to see the connection from the food we prepare at home to the farmers and the land, without whose care it would never arrive at our tables.

    Reply
  15. ogardengirl

    Thank you KAF for the wonderful interviews. I talk with farmers wherever I meet them, from Moline, IL to potato farmers in Idaho. Raised by an engineer of sugar beet and corn harvesters, I was taught to respect the hard work of the farmers who grow our food. I am impressed by the dedication and care of the farm land by everyone you interviewed. I especially enjoyed Charlie Ayers thoughts regarding the stewardship of our resources.

    The results of no-till farming have made impressive improvements to our farmlands and I hope we continue to find better ways to bring large harvests of healthy food to our tables.

    Reply
  16. cindyj

    You have done an outstanding and extremely professional job with these videos. It is a very compelling and worthwhile look at the current state of family farming in the midwest.

    I sat and watched all of the videos when I first came upon them.

    Thank you to you and the KAF farmers for participating in this project.

    Reply
  17. Franklin Klein

    I’d sure love to see these videos sold to KAF customers through your catalog. Give it some thought. Thanks much, Rev. Klein

    We find DVDs don’t sell well for us at all – way too much available on YouTube, I’d guess. But thanks for the suggestion, Rev. Klein. PJH

    Reply
  18. Oinkbubblegum

    I live in a land where the entire country is a city. My home is Singapore in Asia. Where I am from, we are surrounded by bricks and cement. The words ‘Farm’, ‘Farmers’, ‘Agriculture’ means nothing more than vocabulary for us. I am so delighted to stumble upon your videos and I watched everyone of them from beginning to end. I never gave much thoughts to the food that is served on the table. Yet I cried when I watched these videos and they awakened my heart. You guys are truly blessed with such beautiful land to carry on that legacy.

    We are indeed blessed with good land in our country. And here at King Arthur, we truly value our farmers, those who devote their lives to feeding the rest of us. It’s a tough job, depending on weather and the vagaries of the market; and we appreciate so much those willing to carry on our American farming tradition. PJH

    Reply

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