Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: farm management

Better Kansas – May 7, 2020

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This week in Better Kansas I shed a little light 😊 on solar energy, preserving fresh produce, a farmer’s generosity, butterfly habitat, a wheat threat and farm-focused online gatherings – all to help make your life, businesses, communities and state better. 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

WE KNOW THAT THE SUN EMITS SOLAR ENERGY BUT UMMM… I NEVER KNEW how it’s collected and turned into energy we can use. A great two-page fact sheet covers the basics. The amount of solar radiation hitting Earth in just one hour is enough to produce more energy than the entire world population used in 2001. And there are a variety of technologies and processes used to collect and utilize solar energy. This is a great one to spark conversation with those kiddos you’ve been spending so much “quality time” with lately! 😊


SOME OF US ALREADY HAVE VEGETABLES PLANTED AND THEN THERE ARE THE REST OF US. Either way, if you want to preserve this year’s fruit and vegetable harvest, take a look at Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe for all kinds of good information. The latest newsletter gives tips on preserving broccoli and cauliflower and the page has links to helpful videos, including many in Spanish. The very night I planted a tomato plant this week I learned that we may have a freeze this weekend. I have a feeling I’m going to be tucking it in with a blanket for a couple of nights and crossing my fingers. 


HERE’S A P.S. TO AN ALREADY WONDERFUL STORY: You may have heard about the retired Troy, Kansas farmer who sent a N95 mask to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide to a front line worker and the governor’s grateful and heartfelt response? Amid now months of devastating pandemic and economic news, this was one of those bright spots that I just had to share … years after that farmer left school just short of a bachelor’s degree, he’s now a college graduate. Don’t miss the rest of the story.


Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

PUTTING NEW PLANTS INTO YOUR LANDSCAPE THIS SPRING? CONSIDER BUTTERFLY FRIENDLY PLANTINGS. This has been on my mind since I saw a butterfly habitat in a Minnesota neighborhood a couple of years ago. Take a look at a video on the topic that can help get us started, plus a terrific fact sheet with great pictures that focuses on the incredible monarch butterfly, whose numbers are dwindling and need our help. They REALLY like various types of milkweed, but also verbena, echinacea, sunflower, beebalm and a lot more. Kansas is one of 10 states targeted as critical in a national plan to support the monarch migration to Mexico where they overwinter. Overwintering in Mexico sounds like a great plan to me!

WE’VE BEEN PRETTY FOCUSED ON A PARTICULAR THREAT THIS PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, but wheat growers have yet another one to watch for. It’s wheat stripe rust, a disease caused by the fungus Puccinia striiformis. Wheat stripe rust is a threat to wheat crops around the world because it cuts into yields and in turn, into a farmer’s bottom line. A recent Agronomy eUpdate article says now’s the time to scout your fields for the symptoms, including long stripes of yellow or orange blister-like lesions on the plant’s leaves. For great photos and even more in-depth information, check out Wheat Stripe Rust.

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I PASSED ALONG INFORMATION ABOUT ONLINE “GATHERINGS” for farmers, ranchers and those in related industries, focused on the economics of agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is still with us and continues to roil commodity markets. The online events, at 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings, have proven so popular that we’re doing more. Coming up are:

May 7 – More on Livestock Markets – Glynn Tonsor, livestock market specialist

May 14 – More on Grain Markets – Dan O’Brien, grain market specialist

May 21 – 2019 Kansas Farm Income Report – Kevin Herbel and Mark Dikeman, KFMA

Register for the online gatherings or see previous sessions on the webpage.


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 29, 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

FOR MANY EVENTS, WE PREPARE. Planning a wedding? The to-do list is a mile long. Expecting a baby? Another crazy list. But disasters happen every year in Kansas, and most of us are woefully unprepared. We’ve had tornadoes, floods and blizzards this year, with more extreme weather likely to come. It’s human nature to be in denial about bad things that might happen, but preparing ahead of time can make getting back to normal easier. Check out the Prepare Kansas blog and also look for resources on the FEMA page for National Preparedness Month. Thinking about being in denial reminds me of the Pam Tillis song Cleopatra: Queen of Denial. The mind does veer sometimes!

WHAT DRIVES YOUNG ADULTS’ FINANCIAL DECISIONS? I don’t mean the occasional stop at Starbucks, but bigger-picture decisions like buying a home or saving for retirement? Student loan debt, which tops $1.5 trillion, is a top-of-mind factor. A section of the article Money Matters in the spring 2019 K-State Seek research magazine sheds light on this and other factors that drive young adults’ financial decisions. In addition, eXtension offers student loan related fact sheets for students and parents, including savings options, such as 529 plans, types of student loans, responsible borrowing, how student loans can impact your later life, plus information on recovering from student loan default. K-State Research and Extension is part of

MUSIC CAN CONNECT US, SOOTHE US AND HAVE POWERFUL EFFECTS on our emotions like nothing else can. It can take us to a different place. And research shows that listening to music as a child can affect the way we think. Researchers believe that the complexity of classical music especially, primes the brain to solve spatial problems more quickly. Take a look at Building Baby’s Brain: The Role of Music to learn more.

So maybe there WERE benefits to those squeaky 4th grade violin lessons despite your family’s cringes while you were practicing!

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

SEPTEMBER IS A GREAT TIME TO GIVE YOUR LAWN A BOOST. Tips on seeding, overseeding and fertilizing plus power raking and core-aeration are outlined in a recent horticulture newsletter. And there’s more! Information on dividing peonies, thinking ahead for next year’s vegetable garden and current challenges for oak trees are also covered. And check out the video Fertilize for a Healthy Lawn.

WHEN WE’RE HYPER-FOCUSED ON SOMETHING IT MAY FEEL LIKE WE’RE operating in a vacuum. That can be true of running a farm business or any kind of business. But stepping back and evaluating the growth and progress of your farm or other agricultural enterprise can help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. Benchmarking against similar farms can also help you assess your financial position and inform your plans for the future. The Financial Benchmarking Tool was developed by K-State and the CoBank Research Fellow program to help agricultural producers, bankers, consultants and others benchmark their financial ratios with cohorts who are members of the Kansas Farm Management Association.


GOING THROUGH STRESSFUL TIMES IS EASIER WITH A BUDDY, RIGHT? Cattle feel that way, too. So, some cattle operations have installed cattle handling systems called the Bud Box, designed to reduce stress for animals and the humans working with them. I admit, when I first heard of the Bud Box I thought it was so named because cattle are more comfortable when other cattle are nearby. That is true – think herd instinct – but the Bud Box is named after stockman Bud Williams who designed the system. It does draw on basic principles of cattle behavior and movement, including that cattle want to be with other cattle. Other principles and more information are outlined in the publication, Designing a Bud Box for Cattle Handling.

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: