Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: community vitality

Better Kansas – May 14, 2020

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In today’s Better Kansas, we touch on stretching dollars, supporting communities, wind energy, tree and shrub challenges, meat supply disruptions and Kansas sunflower production. This is a small glimpse of what K-State Research and Extension across the state has to offer. Share on social media and subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

NEWS THAT FOOD PRICES HAVE JUMPED, even as unemployment has skyrocketed largely due to COVID-19, just reinforces that we need to make the most of what we have. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Summary reported May 12 that the price index for food at home in April posted its largest monthly increase since February, 1974. Resources that can help us be more efficient with what we have include Cook Once, Eat for a Month and When Your Income Drops, which include information about budgeting, resources and financial survival skills. These and much more are on the COVID-19 Resources page.


SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES and the individuals, families and businesses that comprise them is a focus of K-State Research and Extension. Through programs and activities, the Kansas PRIDE Program works with volunteers in communities across the state to make them even better places to live and work. Check out the May newsletter for more about what they’re up to. Kansas PRIDE is a partnership of KSRE, the Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Masons and Kansas PRIDE, Inc. And what a good idea, painting address numbers on curbs – important for first responders, but also for people like me who still aren’t sure which house when my GPS says I’ve reached my destination.


LAST WEEK I TOUCHED ON SOLAR ENERGY AND HOW IT’S HARNESSED TO POWER OUR HOMES AND BUSINESSES. In discovering that, I also learned that wind energy is a form of solar energy. Wait. What?! It’s because air is affected by pressure and temperature so methods of heat transfer such as convection, conduction, radiation, and advection relieve the temperature imbalances and are the driving forces for wind. This two-page article takes a complex subject and makes it as easy to read and understand as these things can possibly get.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

AS TREES AND SHRUBS START TO PUT ON THEIR LEAFY SPRING SHOW, it’s easier than ever to identify problems with Tree and Shrub Problems in Kansas. It’s a handy guide to whatever might ail our landscape plants, including pests, diseases and environmental stresses, and ways to manage the problems. Plus, it includes great photos. Nobody really wants a picture of dying trees UNLESS it can help us identify what’s going on in our own backyards, right?! Pine wilt, powdery mildew and Japanese beetles … we’re onto you!



THE TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF SOME MEAT PACKING PLANTS LINKED TO COVID-19 is leaving grocery meat cases less full and on the other end of the supply chain, livestock producers with animals that were ready to go to market… like two weeks ago. Whether you’re a consumer or a producer … or just curious about how this all works, this fact sheet by experts  will shed light on the market disruption and what it means for the cattle industry.


MANY OF US LEARNED AS CHILDREN THAT THE SUNFLOWER IS OUR STATE FLOWER. The state legislature designated it so in 1903. But there’s a lot more to them than the gorgeous golden addition they add to our landscape. In fact, Kansas is the 4th largest commercial sunflower grower in the U.S. In 2018, 89 million pounds of sunflowers worth more than $16 million were grown on 65,000 acres across the state. Sunflower seeds make a healthy snack or salad topper and oil produced from them is used as cooking oil. And, oh yes, birds love them. Many commercial bird seed mixes have sunflower seeds as a main ingredient. If you’re a grower or are thinking about it, check out Agronomy’s Sunflowers page and 2019 Kansas Performance Tests with Sunflower Hybrids.


For more resources and activities, contact the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here:

Better Kansas – August 8, 2019

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Welcome to Better Kansas, where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. Don’t forget to hit subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

IT’S SO GOOD TO DRIVE THROUGH A COMMUNITY and see thriving businesses, whether a store that’s taken an innovative approach or a restaurant that serves great food AND has figured out a way to market it. Running your own business, however, leaves little time to communicate with your peers in other communities who have similar challenges or successes, or ways to learn about technology or legislation that may affect your business. To support small businesses in communities across Kansas, First Friday e-Calls are available the first Friday of the month. It’s professional development information without leaving your business and the only cost is the time it takes to participate. Previous First Friday e-Calls are archived, and topics run the gamut from “Funding Options for Small Businesses” to “Effective Use of Social Media for Rural Organizations”; “Cyber Security Threat to Small Business”; “Innovative Rural Business Models”; “Business Valuation and Business Transition Planning” and many more. Take a look at the website or send an email to to learn more or to be added to the notification list about upcoming e-Calls.

THINK OF ALL OF THE WAYS OUR LIVES HAVE BECOME CONVENIENT, the drive-throughs, the remote controls, and now the grocery delivery! But is that convenience always a good thing? A decline in physical activity is especially a problem for older adults, less than 20% of whom engage in adequate physical activity. That loss of muscle mass can sneak up on us and post-menopausal women can lose 1%-2% of their bone mass annually. To help get us back to where we should be, many K-State Research and Extension offices offer the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program. Participants meet for one-hour sessions, twice a week for eight weeks. Activities include warm-up exercises, strengthening exercises with or without weights, and cool-down stretches. Class members are encouraged to do the exercises on their own once more per week. Benefits? A potential to restore bone density and reduce the risk of fractures, plus a decrease in arthritis pain, weight maintenance, and a reduction in the risk of diabetes, heart disease and depression.

DO YOU DREAD GETTING THOSE LATE SUMMER ELECTRIC BILLS as much as I do? Thank goodness for electricity and air conditioners, but some days they can barely keep up with our heat and humidity. Air conditioners use about 5% of all electricity produced in the United States, costing homeowners more than $29 billion a year. Save on cooling costs by installing a programmable thermostat and replacing your home’s air filter. Take a look at more tips to beat the heat or listen in.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO THIS TIME OF YEAR is to spend time on my patio with my flowers, something good to read and yes, the bees, flitting from flower to flower as though they’re trying to decide which classmate to ask to the prom. As a child I was afraid of bees, but that was when I was ignorant about the crucial role they play in our lives. Nearly 75% of the world’s food crops depend on honey bees and other pollinators. But bee populations have been declining and there is evidence to suggest that humans’ inappropriate use of pesticides may be part of the problem. For a closer look, including great photos, check out Pesticides and Bees. So yes, I’m happy to share my space with the bees. Certain other crawly creatures not so much, but I’m really trying to stick with the idea, can’t we all just get along?

SORGHUM (AKA MILO) IS ONE OF KANSAS’ MOST IMPORTANT CROPS, partly for its drought-resistant ways. It’s a key ingredient in livestock rations and increasingly food products, not to mention other uses. But some insects, such as chinch bugs and sugarcane aphids among others, also love sorghum and can take more than their share from a farmer’s yield (and the bottom line). For a whole lot of practical, research-based information on how to control the pesky bugs, take a look at Sorghum Insect Management. And for a radio interview on sugarcane aphids in sorghum, plus other ag related topics listen to Agriculture Today .

IF YOU EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES of farming in southwest Kansas, there’s a spot (or many spots) for you at the K-State Southwest Research-Extension Center Fall Field Day on Thursday, Aug. 22 in Garden City. It’s a place to come learn what scientists have found, including what’s working well and what isn’t in this part of the state, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions of researchers and your fellow producers. And this is one of those days where you tour the fields and see for yourself what the researchers are working on. Topics range from weed control, summer annual forages, irrigation efficiency, Bt corn refuges, beneficial insects, and several on control of the weed, kochia, that can cut crop yields by more than half. Industry exhibitors will be on site and did I mention, there’s lunch?!

For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here:

Better Kansas – August 1, 2019

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Welcome to Better Kansas. Where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. Don’t forget to hit subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

SOMETIMES IT FEELS LIKE THE WORLD IS DIVIDED! I DON’T MEAN politically, although there is that, but this time I mean between pet lovers and non-pet lovers. And those of us in the first camp – almost 85 million households in the U.S. alone – know that food, vet bills, grooming and that ever-important flea protection can take a bite (yes, I said that!) into our finances. But how often do we really sit down to figure out just how much we spend on our dogs, cats, parakeets and fish? Dogs, Cats, and Birds, Oh My! Factoring Pet Costs into a Family Budget takes a look at pet-related expenses, how to keep track of them and suggestions to keep them in check. Plus there are sections on travel, end-of-life considerations, disaster preparedness for pet lovers and the benefits to sharing our lives with pets. Apparently even the CDC has statistics on this. And then there are those things that REALLY divide us – cats versus dogs! (FYI … that’s Lizzie in the photo … 14 years old and going strong. I also love dogs. Really, I do.)

HAVE YOU EVER DRIVEN INTO A COMMUNITY FOR THE FIRST TIME AND HAD AN INITIAL IMPRESSION? Maybe a nice park gave a welcoming feel. Or maybe you were running late to your daughter’s softball game and frustrated there were no signs to the high school. Or maybe you wondered why anyone would leave that abandoned building with broken out windows right on Main Street. The First Impressions program is a way to help provide Kansas communities with a glimpse into how others view their towns. It matters. Think of the first-year teacher who’s considering taking a job at the local school or the company assessing whether your community is right for their new venture. What do they see that maybe you don’t? First Impressions sheds light on a community’s strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of a first-time visitor, so community members can come together to put their best foot forward.

IT’S PRETTY HARD TO BE IN A BAD MOOD WHEN YOU HEAR A BABY LAUGHING AND PLAYING! What’s not always obvious is how important that play is to a baby’s development. Through play, they explore their environment, learn new skills, test how things work, and if you think about it, they’re making decisions constantly. What can adults do to help facilitate play and its role in a child’s development? Check out Building Baby’s Brain: The Importance of Play.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

NUTRITION IN PORK PRODUCTION REPRESENTS 60%-75% OF TOTAL COSTS, so it’s important to get it right to maintain swine health and ensure productivity and profitability. The K-State Swine Nutrition Team recently updated the Swine Nutrition Guide – go-to reading for anyone in the business. Categories (on left side of page) include general nutrition principles, with sub-categories such as nutritional value of ingredients, economics in nutrition, feed safety and more. There’s also a wealth of information about pork production in general at, including information about our swine research team.

MY FRIEND LEIGH MENTIONED LAST WEEK THAT SHE’S BEEN PICKING BAGWORMS off her trees, which got me looking for more information on those fascinating woody-looking bags that you find on trees and shrubs this time of year. Turns out they were named the Pest of the Week for several weeks by K-State’s Horticulture and Natural Resources Department this summer. They can be a problem for deciduous as well as coniferous trees (learning all kinds of new things here). Deciduous trees (those that drop their leaves in the fall) can better withstand the damage bagworms cause by feeding because they can rapidly replenish foliage. Coniferous trees are more susceptible to damage because of their slower growth. Leaving bagworms unchecked can kill large, established conifers such as those that make up most windbreaks – kind of a problem in Kansas where we can have ferocious winds. Take a look at a short fact sheet or the publication Home and Horticultural Pests – Bagworms for information about when and how to manage these interesting but pesky larvae that turn into moths.


IF YOU ARE IN THE BEEF CATTLE STOCKER BUSINESS, GET SEPT. 19 ON YOUR CALENDAR. That’s the date of the 20th Annual Beef Stocker Field Day at the KSU Beef Stocker Unit, 4330 Marlatt Ave., in Manhattan. It’s a day full of practical information from industry professionals, including veterinarians, finance experts, marketing professionals and more. Lunch is a highlight of the day, featuring Niman Ranch Certified Angus Beef Natural Prime Ribeye. Topics include a beef cattle market outlook, cattle health, business relationships with feedyards and more. As usual, the day ends with “The Cutting Bull’s Lament” when Prairie Oysters (you know what those are, right?) and Call Hall ice cream will be served. Registration is requested by Sept. 10.

For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here: