MANHATTAN, Kan. — Every so often I have the opportunity to visit a classroom full of elementary students and read a book to them. More often than not, I’ve accomplished my guest reading visits using virtual platforms that so many are now accustomed to using. Thanks to technology, and a decent internet connection, I’ve been able to read to classrooms hours away from our farm.
While the books I read vary depending on the grade level of students, the subject matter and the conversations we have following ultimately always focus on agriculture.
It’s a time I truly look forward to as it allows this former teacher to briefly get back into a classroom and get kids excited about reading while also sharing our farm with them.
After reading, the students and I spend time talking about the story and they can ask me questions about my farm. While I never really know the direction the students’ questions may go, I do know a lot of elementary-aged children are very curious about how many dogs and cows I have on my farm. I also know that during every single one of my visits, without fail, I will have a child inquire about my favorite crop.
While I generally answer that question diplomatically — just as a parent would if asked who their favorite child is — the reality is that while I value and appreciate all of the plants we grow on our farm, I do give one of our crops a bit more attention than the others.
Our popcorn crop receives a lot of my time and focus throughout the year. It’s the smallest crop we grow based on the total number of acres, but it’s definitely the one I spend a lot of my thoughts on.
Maybe it’s because we’ve only grown popcorn for a handful of years, making it the “baby” of the farm. Maybe it’s because it requires a bit more attention and TLC compared to the other crops.
Maybe it’s the fact that we market it directly to consumers, which is different compared to our other commodities.
Like a doting parent, the popcorn is also the most photographed on our farm — second only to my own two children. My cellphone is full of images I’ve captured of this crop’s milestones throughout the growing season. From observing the small seeds getting planted into the soil, celebrating when tiny plants emerge from the earth, and cheering them on as they develop and grow larger and larger by the day. It’s all documented.
Whether it’s the threat of weather in our area, making sure the plants are getting plenty of water during the hot days of summer, or obsessing over the moisture content of the kernels leading up to harvest, I definitely fret over the popcorn a bit more as well.
I always experience a sense of relief when we get the combine into the field and finally begin picking the corn. I’m calmed once we safely tuck the grain away into its bin for storage until it’s time to send it off to be cleaned, sorted and bagged. And I can also breathe easier knowing when the grain has safely arrived at its destinations.
So, while I can honestly say that I appreciate all of the plants that we grow on our farm equally as they provide my family with the life we have, I find myself quite fond our little popcorn crop. It might be the smallest, but it definitely receives the mightiest amount of my attention annually.
— Kim Baldwin, McPherson County farmer, Kansas Farm Bureau
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