The View From Rural Route #8
From the resurgent wheat industry in Kansas something has risen and expanded like yeast dough over the last two decades from a biennial competition inside the Wheat State to a contest for home bakers across America called the National Festival of Breads.
Cash and prizes totaling $15,000 will be awarded winners after the eight finalists bake their recipes in Wichita during a June 23-25 series of activities, which will include visits to a flour mill, wheat farm and grain elevator and participation in baking workshops, trade shows, bread tasting and just fun. The grand prize winner will receive $2,000 in cash plus the free flight and hotel stay, a year’s supply of Fleischmann’s Yeast, and a baking class later at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, VT.
The flour company, King Arthur Flour, and the yeast company, Fleischmann’s, are helping the Kansas Wheat Commission sponsor the contest.
The event, begun years ago by the Kansas WheatHearts, an auxiliary of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, is now a modern contest in which contestants will send in their original yeast bread recipes to a website only. That is NationalFestivalofBreads.com. Submissions will not be accepted by mail, fax, e-mail or telephone. The deadline is Feb. 7, 2011. The officials began accepting recipes Sept. 1.
Cindy Falk, nutritionist for the Kansas Wheat Commission and chairman of the event, said the affair is a “way for amateur bakers to be recognized for their baking skills and creativity.” She added that it’s also “a tribute to wheat farmers, millers, home bakers and ingredient companies.”
The Wheat Commission operates the granddaddy checkoff program in Kansas, and it, as the others, is charged with using the producers’ money to fund research, promotion, marketing and education. What better way than to spur interest in using wheat to make bread products at home? Eating wheat products is one big step toward good nutrition. For years the commission staff has worked to promote the eating of more wheat-based food.
The checkoff amount of 1.5 cents a bushel collected from growers is voluntary. In the last fiscal year just ended June 30, the commission collected $5.36 million and refunded $321,784.
The staffs of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, a trade and lobbying group, and the Wheat Commission, a few years ago essentially combined overlapping missions and staff operations into Kansas Wheat, but the commission isn’t by law allowed to lobby governmental bodies. The director of communications is a real farmer and a real journalist, Bill Spiegel, who still has farming interests in Jewell County. The new office seems to be lending a new vibrancy and direction and clarity to the overall wheat industry, and growers should be very pleased with it, in my opinion.
A lot of new wheat variety research and development in bolstered facilities is happening, now. Some of the newer varieties are yielding much better than ones used as recently as 20 years ago. Biological laboratory techniques have speeded up trait selections. Production still hinges on market price levels high enough to give farmers a decent outcome on the profit side of the ledger. When that happens, the world eats better and we are all happier.
Jim Suber is an award-winning farm, ranch, and rural life columnist residing on Rural Route No. 8, Topeka.
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