Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Month: June 2019

Better Kansas – June 27, 2019

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Welcome to Better Kansas, a weekly update that touches on a few of the many events, resources and programs available around the state. For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. In the meantime, check our Better Kansas site for archived entries and to sign up. Share it with friends, family and colleagues! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

WHAT A RANGE OF EMOTIONS WE HAVE WHEN FIGURING OUT WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF OUR CHILDREN when we’re heading off to work or school. Maybe you’re considering a child care home where an individual cares for children in a home setting. How do you find a good one? They’re adorable, but babies and toddlers take time and a lot of attention! How many babies are allowed to be cared for by one individual? How many children can one person care for if all of the children are school aged? There are rules and regulations licensed child care homes must abide by in Kansas.  Choosing Care For Your Children: Child Care Homes is one of several K-State Research and Extension resources available that focuses on the ins and outs of choosing the best care for your kiddo.

REMEMBER THAT PROMISE YOU MADE TO YOURSELF EARLY THIS YEAR? The one about eating healthier? If you’re like me, it’s a good time to revisit that promise. Summer is a great time to try new fruits and vegetables! Go to your local farmer’s market or visit with someone in the produce section at your grocery store about what’s in season. Many even have or can direct you to recipes using those foods. The prices on

foods in season are often lower than at other times of the year, making them healthier for your budget, too. There are even foods that help keep you hydrated during the hot weather …. think watermelon! Check out the recent Sound Living podcast Healthy Summer Eating and get familiar with a list of when fruits and vegetables are typically in season in Kansas.

BY THE WAY, MANY FOODS CAN BE PRESERVED SAFELY NOW so you can enjoy the taste of the season long after the season is past. My mind is drifting to strawberry jam and pickles but there’s so much more you can do. Many K-State Research and Extension offices offer tips and training on safe food preservation including in Wichita on June 28 and in Topeka on July 9. Check with your local office to see if there’s one available near you. Even if there’s not, there’s great information on the Preserve It Fresh, Preserve It Safe web page.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

DON’T MISS ONE OF THE VERY BEST AG BUSINESS CONFERENCES IN THE COUNTRY. The 2019 K-State Risk and Profit Conference is Aug. 22-23 at the K-State Alumni Center. Sara Wyant, president of Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc., leads things off as the keynote speaker at the opening lunch, followed by breakout sessions on tons of topics, industry exhibits, social time, dinner, and “A Conversation with a Kansas Producer.” And that’s just the first day. The second day features the grain and livestock market outlooks and more breakout sessions on even more topics, plus lunch. This is the place to be if you want relevant big-picture – plus regional and statewide – information on managing your farms and ranches.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get to hear the Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band practicing next door again this year. What can I say? I was a band parent!

LOOKING FOR A BETTER WAY TO KEEP YOUR GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE WATERED? COLLECTING RAINWATER IS FREE! If you don’t already have rain barrels, there’s no time like the present to make a trip to the hardware store to get you started on implementing this efficient way to collect rain water for use in the landscape and to help protect water quality. And we’ve got step-by-step information to show you how in How to Build a Rain Barrel Part 1 and Part 2.

Several extension offices across the state have held workshops on how to make and use them. For example, K-State Research and Extension offices in Ellis, Russell and Ellsworth counties have teamed with the KSU Big Creek Middle Smoky Hill River Watersheds, the City of Hays & City of Ellis, Ellis County Master Gardeners, County Conservation District Offices in Ellis, Russell, & Ellsworth counties, and the Fort Hays State University Agriculture Department to build and distribute more than 6,500 rain barrels and kits, including to at least 15 states – even Alaska. That’s collaboration with great outcomes.

Check with the extension office in your area for more information.

SUMMER HAS BEGUN IN EARNEST, AND MANY OF US ARE FUSSING OVER OUR FLOWERS AND WONDERING WHEN watermelons will appear under those leaves. Take that green thumb of yours to the next level and become a Master Gardener! If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity with an educational component, the Extension Master Gardener program has your name on it. Some county and district K-State Research and Extension offices offer the program, which involves donating time in your community in exchange for horticultural training. It’s a great way to meet others and use your training to work at public gardens, garden shows, staffing horticulture hotlines, giving horticulture-related presentations or other activities. Last year alone, Master Gardeners in Kansas donated more than 103,700 hours for a total value of over $2.3 million.

Some extension offices are accepting applications RIGHT NOW. Check to see when and if yours does.

Better Kansas – June 20, 2019

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Welcome to Edition 3 of the Better Kansas blog from K-State Research and Extension, written by yours truly, Every week we’re shedding light on a few events, resources and other information designed to make Kansans’ lives, businesses, communities and state better. This is new for us, so be sure to scroll through weeks 1 & 2 also. For many more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area.

Better Living, Better Communities

YOU’RE CRUISING DOWN THE MEAT AISLE AT YOUR LOCAL GROCERY STORE, looking for dinner inspiration. We’ve all been there. The label on this package says it’s “Natural/Naturally Raised” and another package says “Raised Without Antibiotics” and yet another says “Grass-Fed.” Really, what does all of this mean?! The Meat Product Labeling and Marketing: What Do All Those Words Really Mean factsheet explains these and a lot more. 

REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE PRESCRIBED THAT STRONG PAIN MEDICATION AFTER SURGERY? Or maybe it was your neighbor managing pain from aching chronic arthritis? Or your niece’s soccer injury? Opioids are a class of drugs that include powerful prescription pain relievers, which can be an important part of medical treatment. They also carry a significant risk, however, for addiction and overdose because of the euphoria they create and a human’s tolerance that occurs after repetitive dosing. Many of us don’t realize we have some of these medications in our own homes. Approximately 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and many more are at risk. Learn more with the fact sheet The Opioid Crisis: What You Need to Know and video.

WORKING WITH KANSANS ACROSS THE STATE TO IMPROVE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH is the plan behind a K-State Research and Extension effort called the Culture of Health. The goal, part of a nationwide effort, is for extension to do for mental and physical health what extension has done for agriculture for years. Extension offices across the state have always offered classes and resources aimed at educating the public about ways to live healthier lives. The Culture of Health initiative, however, sharpened the focus and is providing extension agents with more tools to support mental and physical health programs.

The initiative kicked off in 2018 when K-State Research and Extension brought together 250 representatives of health departments, health coalitions and other stakeholders with extension staff in seven locations around Kansas to identify existing resources and challenges. Among the most significant concerns were:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • addictions
  • farm stress
  • suicides
  • access to health care
  • access to healthy foods

Read more about how extension agents and specialists are enhancing resources in Kansas communities.


Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

KANSAS RANKS 10TH IN HOG AND PORK PRODUCTION, AND GROWING THE NEXT GENERATION of producers and other industry professionals is imperative to keep the industry moving forward. Many in that next generation will participate in the 2019 Dr. Bob Hines Kansas Swine Classic June 28-29 at CiCo Park in Manhattan. This is not your run-of-the-mill competition for Kansas youth and their animals. Educational workshops, a photo contest and a skillathon are built into the agenda, along with showmanship and the Prospect Pig and the Barrow and Market Pig shows. And this year a family pork cook-off has been added! Oh, by the way, in 2018 Kansas producers sold 3,505,878 market hogs, feeder pigs and seedstock with a gross market value of more than $471 million.

MANY OF US LOVE THE BELOW-AVERAGE TEMPERATURES; THE WHEAT CROP, NOT SO MUCH. We all need certain conditions to grow and thrive and that’s true for wheat, too. This spring’s below-average temperatures slowed the Kansas wheat crop’s development, which may cut the amount of grain coming out of those fields. And don’t get me started about the rain. Much more detail is included in the June 10 Agronomy eUpdate. What’s at stake? Kansas is typically the No. 1 wheat producing state, in recent years averaging about 328 million bushels from an average 8.5 million acres. Nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown right here in Kansas. And we help feed the world: About half our wheat is exported to other countries.

SIDEDRESSING, DEADHEADING AND SUCH … FLOWERS, THAT IS: Abundant spring rainfall kept many of us from having to water flowers much early on, but those lovely flowers still need TLC and a drink when they get dry. Modern annual flowers are bred to flower early and over a long period of time. Recent K-State Horticulture Newsletters dig into – pun intended 🙂 – such topics as sidedressing annual flowers and when it’s helpful to remove old, spent flowers, an activity also known as deadheading … and when it’s not. This has me thinking about the other Deadheads, as in fans of the Grateful Dead, but again, I digress! The newsletters contain a trove of information on horticulture topics from how short to mow the grass to pests in vegetables (and how to excuse them from your garden) to tree diseases and way more.

Better Kansas – June 13, 2019 – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

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Welcome to Edition 2 of the Better Kansas blog from K-State Research and Extension, written by yours truly Every week we’re shedding a little light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, your businesses, your communities and state better.

For many more resources and activities, check with the extension office in your area. Watch for Better Kansas on Thursdays. In the meantime, check  for archived entries. Share it with friends, family and colleagues!

Better Living, Better Communities

CALLING ALL FOODIES (and others who cook either for the love of it or out of necessity :). Check out the latest edition of You Asked It. This month it covers Food Science vs. Food Myths, Ace the (Food) Waste, Pressure Canner Testing, What is the Cloud Point of Cooking Oil,  Mixing Matters and more.

WHERE’D THEY GET THE MONEY FOR THAT? Ever wonder where the money came from for that new set of benches at your neighborhood park or how local firefighters got certain equipment? It’s possible the funding came through a grant. K-State Research and Extension is holding workshops in communities large and small to help Kansans develop their grant writing skills. Nonprofit organizations, church boards and others can learn the ins and outs of writing effective grant proposals. More information is available online or by contacting Nancy Daniels at 785-410-6352 or

SHOP LOCAL, BE SOCIAL: It’s June and activity at farmers markets across the state is buzzing. It’s hard to imagine a better way to find locally-grown foods, meet the farmers who produced them and see your friends and neighbors. Some even have music! What’s not to like? For great tips on shopping at your local market, take a look at Shopping Safely at Farmers Markets. Check out a list of farmers markets and if you’re selling fresh produce or other products, read Food Safety for Kansas Farmers Market Vendors: Regulations and Best Practices cover to cover!

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

COPING IN CHALLENGING TIMES: Though average net farm income rose in Kansas last year, many farmers are experiencing a string of tough financial years, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time. And recent flooding and delayed planting only compound the problem. No matter the difficulties, confidential help is available through the Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services and the K-State Research and Extension Farm Analyst program … let me say that againconfidential. The Farm Analyst program offers one-on-one consultations with people trained in business analysis specifically for farmers and ranchers and KAMS  can assist with legal, financial and mediation services. To reach either, call 1-800-321-FARM.

THE RIGHT WHEAT: Combines will soon roll through Kansas harvesting this year’s winter wheat crop. But how do you know which wheat varieties work best in your part of the state? Take a look at the K-State Department of Agronomy 2018 Kansas Wheat Performance Tests.

THIS YEAR’S PRECIPITATION HAS BEEN GOOD FOR A LOT OF PLANTS, INCLUDING WEEDS! All of you corn, soybean, grain sorghum and sunflower growers will want to check out the Weed Management Field Day set for July 2 in Hays. Can’t make it to this one? We know it’s a big state! Check with your local county or district extension office to see if there’s one closer to you and what other resources are available.

Better Kansas – June 6, 2019

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By Mary Lou Peter

K-State Research and Extension – 6/6/2019

Greetings! Today we launch a new way to give you a glimpse each week about cool things happening around the state, plus resources available for individuals, families, communities, farms and other businesses.

Again, it’s just a glimpse!

For many more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area.

Watch for Better Kansas again next Thursday. In the meantime, please share it with friends, family and colleagues. Email me at and let me know what you think.

Better Living, Better Communities

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE! Many Kansas communities are dealing with flooding, tornadoes and other disasters that hit the state this spring and the possibility for more. As of June 1, 33 of the state’s 105 counties were on the federal emergency declaration list. Dealing with basement cleanup? Flooded farm fields? K-State has helpful information on those topics and more, provided by our own specialists and partners at land grant universities across the country.

HAPPY TOGETHER AT HOME? Some call them creepy crawlies; I call them “corner spiders” and maybe a few other choice words, but whatever you call those multi-legged, fascinating creatures that hang out in your basement, bathroom, garden and other places in your home or office, you’ll likely find them in a new publication, Household Pests of Kansas. One of my favorites is the boxelder bug, but then, I digress. Check it out.

TIES THAT BIND: How long has it been since you sat down with family and friends and played checkers, Monopoly or another board game? Playing board games brings people together like few activities can and with the right game, almost anyone can participate. Unlike watching television or attending sporting events together, games encourage interaction among all the players. Sedgwick County Extension and other extension offices host “Bonding Thru Board Games” at different times of the year. Grab your favorite game or play one provided … and don’t forget the camera!

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

KANSAS NET FARM INCOME CLIMBS, BUT WITH A CATCH: Kansas net farm income rose last year to an average of $100,000 despite weather extremes, trade disputes and depressed market prices. That marked the third year in a row of gains after a steep slide in net income in 2015. However 63% of the 2018 income came from government payments and crop insurance. The data came from an annual summary of the records of Kansas Farm Management Association member farms. The data digs deep into income by type of farm and includes value of farm production, total farm expense, crop production costs, total family living expense and more, plus year-to-year comparisons. Check out more about the KFMA or call 785-532-8706.

DON’T PUT THOSE RAIN BOOTS AWAY JUST YET: K-State climatologists Mary Knapp and Chip Redmond with Kansas Mesonet have issued their take on the summer weather outlook. Think cooler and maybe rainier than usual in some parts of the state.

WET FEET: We often have weather extremes in Kansas … too dry, too windy, too much rain … this spring it’s been the latter, which delayed spring crop planting through much of the state.  As of June 2, 79% of the Kansas corn crop had been planted, compared with 96% last year and 93% average, while 26% of soybeans had been planted, well behind 77% last year and 53% average, according to the National Ag Statistics Service. Similar scenarios are happening across the country, with 67% of the corn planted across the 18 primary states, far behind 96% a year ago and 96% average. Just 39% of U.S. soybeans had been planted compared with 86% a year ago and 79% average. Recent K-State Department of Agronomy eUpdates have information about what this means for crops, tips to manage your situation and much more.

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