Today is Earth Day.

Earth Day isn't a shopping holiday, like President's Day; nor a gift-giving extravaganza, like Christmas. Nor even a holiday marked with special foods, like Thanksgiving and many other holidays we observe throughout the year.

No, Earth Day is strictly a celebration: of our Earth, and how it sustains us. With air, and water, and food, the things we simply cannot live without.

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Being a flour company – and devoted to baking – we're keenly interested in our environment, and in sustaining the earthly gifts we've been given. So today, our thoughts turn to the farmers who feed us – all of whom have our unending gratitude and admiration.

Let's meet some of our Kansas farmers. We've enjoyed visiting these men and their families; and we have a solid working relationship – they belong to a small, local farmers’ cooperative that provides us with some of our whole wheat and white whole wheat flour.

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Here's Bill Mai, of Sharon Springs. He prides himself on growing white whole wheat that's super for baking – especially bread.

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Ron Suppes of Grigston farms a few thousand acres of white wheat; he's also one of three district commissioners for the Kansas Wheat Commission, in his "spare time."

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And here's Stacy Kaufman, of McPherson. He welcomed us into his combine one warm, sunny Saturday morning...

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...and took us for quite a ride!

"Make hay while the sun shines" isn't just a quaint old saying to today's farmer. Wheat is best harvested on warm, sunny days, and if the best time to harvest is Saturday morning – then that's when you gather the family and head out to the fields.

Certainly farming is a business. But when you actually visit these wheat farmers on their land – hear their stories of good years with bumper crops...

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...balanced by seasons of drought and hardship, you know wheat farmers aren't in it strictly for the money.

They're in it because they love the land. And they want to pass along this love – something good and true and lasting – to their children, and their children's children, for years to come.

I'd like to close this post with a few words from Carl Grimstad, a 23-year-old Norwegian farmer who immigrated to America in the late 19th century. In October 1879, Grimstad staked a land claim by the Park River in "Dakota Territory" (now North Dakota, where much of the wheat that goes into our King Arthur bread flour is grown).

He and his friend and fellow countryman, Julius Iverson – my great-grandfather – surveyed the land, and this is what Grimstad wrote:

Before us was the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen. As we stood side by side gazing over the level luxuriant prairie untouched and unspoiled by the hands of man, the soft wind came down from the northwest and gently caressed the tall grasses that grew there, and as they moved, their silvery sheen gave one the impression of an endless ocean of fertility.

Here the broad acres were bounded only by faint purplish timber lines on the north, the south, and the east – the timber lines of the river systems. The West – the whole West – was just as the Indian and buffalo had left it. The grandeur of the prairie, one vast expanse of solitude, made our hearts well up with gladness.

Here, I thought, we shall dedicate our youthful years and our lives to tilling, toiling, and building.

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Tilling the land, toiling endlessly, and building a future for family, community, and the well-being of all of us: that's our farmers. America's farmers.

Today, on Earth Day, we salute you. And every day, we say a silent thanks to all of you across the country who've devoted yourself not just to feeding your fellow Americans – but to stewarding the land, keeping it safe for the next generation, and for generations to come.

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PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!