Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: food safety

Better Kansas – July 9, 2020

Header image for the Better Kansas Blog

In today’s Better Kansas, we address timely financial topics, support for small businesses, food safety resources, feeding a growing global population, rates for custom farm work and a classic radio broadcast. 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


MAYBE YOU CAN IDENTIFY WITH THIS, TOO?!? Apparently some of us are spending more money while socially distancing despite the fact that we’re going out less, according to a “Financially Speaking” blog post.  WalletHub calls it “comfort buying” or shopping as a way to relieve stress or boredom. There’s some odd comfort in knowing that it’s not just me. Anyway, take a look at the post and other Financially Speaking entries, such as managing the financial implications of furloughs, Coronavirus and student loans and other timely topics written by extension agents and specialists across the state. Good stuff. Now I just need to figure out where I’ll wear that dress from Banana Republic. Kind of tough when your car hasn’t left the garage in days. Too dressy for neighborhood walks?


SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS DON’T OFTEN HAVE THE LUXURY of traveling to multi-day meetings in expensive hotels for in-depth seminars on how to attract and retain customers. That’s all nice but who will run the store? Who will help with that special order? Enter First Friday e-Calls, which can be accessed online right from your home or business and are designed to bring relevant topics to businesses for free. The program is part of K-State Research and Extension’s commitment to supporting community vitality. Upcoming First Friday e-Call topics and speakers include:

Friday, Aug. 7 – 9:30 a.m.: Deb Brown, Co-Founder, SaveYour.Town, “Growing Your Own Entrepreneurs.”

Friday, Sept. 4 – 9:30 a.m.: Becky McCray, Co-Founder, SaveYour.Town, “Idea Friendly Communities.”

Previous calls have included Creating an Online Sales Presence for your Business; Emergency Programs to Help Small Businesses and Displaced Employees During COVID19; Filling Empty Buildings and more. To register for upcoming e-Calls or to listen to previous sessions, take a look at First Friday e-Calls. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting. Check it out!


AREN’T WE ALL JUST A LITTLE WEARY OF COVID-19? Unfortunately, COVID-19 is not done with us. Our understanding of the pandemic and its implications for food safety are evolving, as are the resources on the Food Safety and COVID-19 page. It covers everything from guidance for restaurant re-openings, county fairs, social distancing and much more. Whether you’re a restaurant owner concerned about the health of your employees or a casual shopper (or vendor) at your local farmer’s market, there’s information for you.


Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

IT’S EASY TO GET BOGGED DOWN IN OUR DAY-TO-DAY SITUATION, but a recent video presentation provides a glimpse of the long view. In “The Global Agricultural Landscape: Feeding more than 9 Billion People,” the head of K-State’s Department of Agricultural Economics shares a two-part presentation available to us online. Globally, we have a population of about 7.8 billion people, but that number is growing and to some extent, in places least able to grow their own food. Listening in to these sessions is like listening in to college classes for free on a topic important to us all, whether you help grow the food or are a consumer like me. No, that tomato plant in the back yard doesn’t count :). Check out The Global Agricultural Landscape: Feeding More Than 9 Billion People: Part 1 and Part 2.


THIS JUST IN FOR FARMERS: HAVE YOU WONDERED WHAT YOUR NEIGHBORS (or for that matter, growers on the other side of the state) pay for custom work done on their farms? The results of the 2020 Custom Rates Survey have just been posted. The report shows the average rate paid in different regions of Kansas for such work as grain harvesting, seed cleaning, grain hauling and haying. For comparison purposes, the page also shows the 2018 rates for the same categories. The survey was conducted by K-State’s Land Use Survey program in the Department of Agricultural Economics in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Agriculture.


SINCE WE WORK TO SUPPORT AGRICULTURE ACROSS THE STATE, not to mention nationally and globally, I thought I’d throw this into this week’s Better Kansas. Just something I thought worth highlighting. Remember Paul Harvey and his “The Rest of the Story” segments? A friend reminded me recently about the iconic radio broadcaster’s tribute to farmers in “God Made a Farmer” that he wrote more than 40 years ago. Agriculture has changed a lot since then, but much remains the same. Paul Harvey died in 2009 at the age of 90, but his words and that voice live on.


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 – Feb. 13, 2020

Header image for the Better Kansas Blog

This week in Better Kansas we touch on building your personal savings, the loss of birds in North America, how soybean varieties performed last year and more information designed to 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

A RECENT BANKRATE ARTICLE SAYS NEARLY 3 IN 10 (28%) of U.S. ADULTS have no emergency savings. For many of us it’s a struggle to put that money aside and not spend it. But if the refrigerator dies, the car’s transmission goes on strike or the roof needs repair, we’re out of luck. There’s no better time to commit to building or adding to an emergency savings account than during Kansas Saves Week, Feb. 24-29. Check out the website for tips and encouragement. Plus listen to a Sound Living radio interview on the topic. Kansas Saves is part of the national America Saves campaign. I can attest that some of these tips are effective. After years of reading about such things and knowing that I should, I opened a savings account at a different bank than where most of my salary was deposited, and arranged for a small amount of my salary to be diverted to that savings account every payday. It CAN add up if you truly save it for emergencies! HINT: That cute pair of shoes does not qualify as an emergency — even if they’re on sale.

IF YOU GOT ENGAGED RECENTLY OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DID … OR IS ABOUT TO, YOU’LL DEFINITELY WANT TO READ THIS (or pass it along to the happy couple). Financial problems are among the top stressors for couples, and that can start even before the marriage. While you’re planning the wedding is a good time to learn whether you and your significant other are on the same page in regard to money, plus how you differ, and what you can do to meet in the middle. Then, recognize that the wedding is just the beginning of working through a lifetime of financial decision-making. The article, With This Ring … We Plan, walks us through things to think about and discuss when planning a wedding, as well as considerations for married life, including outstanding debt, aligning goals, who is responsible for paying the bills and so on. And trust me, you don’t have to be 20-something or 30-something for this to be relevant. Parts of it can also serve as a conversation starter for longtime married couples.

FOR THE MEAT EATERS AMONG US, THIS WILL SOUND FAMILIAR: You open the refrigerator and realize that you left a package of ground beef in there to thaw a couple of days ago …. or was it three days ago? If the surface of the meat is brown, is it still safe to eat? Maybe. In addition to how long it’s been sitting in the fridge, other factors such as oxygen and packaging affect the color of meat. Take a look at Fresh Ground Beef: A Consumer Guide for helpful information before you turn on the stove and start that chili.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

SOON WE’LL BE OUTDOORS MORE AND WELCOMING THE SOUND OF HAPPY BIRDS that are going about their business mating, nesting and raising their young, but are there a lot fewer of them? Survey results published in Science magazine last September indicate that since the 1970s in North America alone, we’ve lost 3 billion birds, nearly 30% of the total. Read what one of our agriculture and natural resources extension agents, who also happens to be a longtime birder, wrote about the topic in Did We Actually Lose 3 Billion Birds? Part 1. Two species that have shown significant declines are the House Sparrow and European Starling. Others, such as ducks and geese appear to be doing well and may be increasing. Thinking about this brought something to mind. You may have heard the expression, “the canary in the coal mine?” For years, miners took canaries into coal mines to detect toxic gases, thinking that deadly gases would affect the canaries before they would people. With modern technology, that practice has gone by the wayside, but I found an interesting article about it.

Watch for Part 2 next week, which addresses what we can do about the declines.

GEOGRAPHICALLY, WE HAVE A PRETTY BIG STATE and differences in precipitation, soil type and other factors mean that plants, including crops and crop varieties that grow well in northeast Kansas, say, may not grow particularly well in southwest Kansas. Last year was a challenging year for soybean growers, what with delayed planting in many areas because of wet conditions and slow early growth, and because of wet soils. Growers will want to take a look at the results of the 2019 Kansas Performance Tests with Soybean Varieties report that’s now available to see how different varieties fared across the state.

SPRING IS DRAWING NEAR and so is the state’s primary calving season on Kansas farms and ranches. It’s a beautiful sight to see, but not the easiest for producers and their cattle. Last spring was a particularly difficult calving season at least partially linked to cold, wet weather. Listen in to an Agriculture Today radio segment on successful calving strategies, plus a grain market update and other topics. A recent article on calving is also available and for a look at factors that influenced last year’s calving season, the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab put together a fact sheet.


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 – Dec. 12, 2019

Header image for the Better Kansas BlogWelcome 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. 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

WHETHER IT’S A HOT DOG AT A DAUGHTER’S BASKETBALL GAME or a birthday dinner at a favorite restaurant, many of us are eating meals away from home OR food in our homes that was prepared by others. Think DoorDash and other meal delivery services. Sixty percent of suppers served at home in 2014 were actually cooked at home, down from 75% in 1984, according to an interesting report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service released last year. That’s a lot of food that we’re trusting others to prepare for us. One of the less visible, but incredibly important programs that works behind the scenes to keep that food safe is the ServSafe program for food handlers and foodservice managers offered by K-State Research and Extension. We do this in partnership with the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

LET’S KEEP GOING WITH THAT FOOD THEME since after all, it’s the “season of feasting!” For our office just yesterday, it was a cookie exchange and a holiday party. I don’t know about you but it’s nearly impossible for me to stop at just one cookie or a couple of crackers and cheese and whatever else is being served. And never mind the cookies I bought from the youth group fundraiser last weekend. It’s philanthropy … sort of … right?! Listen in to a Sound Living radio program for tips to reduce fat and calories while still enjoying the foods of the season. Or take a look at this news article on the subject.

THIS ALSO SEEMS TO BE THE SEASON FOR EVERY CHARITY AND NON-PROFIT WE’VE EVER THOUGHT ABOUT GIVING TO (plus some we’ve never heard of), to send requests for donations. It’s so easy to be caught up in the spirit of giving and that’s often a good thing. Check this article for tips to help keep all of that good will from completely blowing your budget at this time of year. Wait, did I say budget? What budget? 😊

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR BY LEARNING SOMETHING NEW in the Farm Financial Skills for Kansas Women in Agriculture workshop sessions planned for four consecutive Wednesday evenings starting Jan. 15. The workshops will be held in 32 locations across the state, so there’s likely one near you. The training delves into recordkeeping, balance sheets, income statements, cash flow, goal setting, plus managing living expenses, coping with mental stress and developing a whole-farm financial management plan. Plus, there will be time to network with others. The deadline to register is Dec. 31. The cost is $40. Whether you’re running your own farm or play a role in your family’s or someone else’s farm business, what better way to start the new year than by sharpening your skills, having an evening meal and setting goals specific to your operation? Oh, by the way, the training has been approved to satisfy Farm Service Agency Borrower Training Financial requirements. Check the website for specific locations and more information or contact Robin Reid at 785-532-0964 or LaVell Winsor at 785-220-5451.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR WHEN ROW CROP PLANTING, GROWING AND (HOPEFULLY) HARVESTING IS FINISHED and that means many educational opportunities happening during these off-season winter months. They include the 2020 Soybean, Corn and Sorghum schools starting in early January at locations around the state. If you plant any of these crops or are even thinking about it, this is a great way to get updates on what the latest research shows and information on production practices. The schools are free to attend and designed for growers and industry partners, plus a complimentary lunch will be served at all locations, thanks to industry sponsors.

WHEN WE THINK OF KANSAS, WE MAY THINK OF WIDE-OPEN PRAIRIES AND BEAUTIFUL SUNSETS, but trees are not always top of mind. Yet there are 5.2 million acres of forests, woodlands and trees in Kansas that occupy 10% of the state’s total land area. The Kansas Forest Service, housed as an independent agency within K-State Research and Extension, works to improve water quality and quantity in Kansas, offers low-cost tree and shrub seedling for conservation planting, assists with fire management and supports community vitality in small towns and large cities across the state, plus a lot more. Read more about the KFS and for a look at recent projects, check here.


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 – Sept. 5, 2019

Header image for the Better Kansas Blog

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. Share on social media and don’t forget to hit subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

DO YOU THINK MEDICARE IS CONFUSING? It can be! It’s nice to have choices but not so easy to know Plan A from Plan D much less which plan to sign up for. And oh, the seemingly endless changes every year! Many extension offices offer Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas, or SHICK. During open enrollment in 2017, K-State Research and Extension SHICK counselors educated almost 8,000 Kansans on Medicare plan comparisons and available benefits, saving them a total of $6.1 million. Outside open enrollment, SHICK counselors had contact with another 8,316 people through classes and plan comparisons. Remember, Medicare open enrollment is Oct. 15-Dec. 7.


FRESH TOMATOES, PEPPERS AND ONIONS are plentiful right now, and that means one thing: It’s salsa time! Whether it’s a game-day gathering or a birthday party, salsa has become a must-have condiment for many of us, and everyone’s recipe is a little different. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced cook, check out tips to keep your salsa safe in Sassy Safe Salsa at Home. It’s also available in Spanish, Atrevida Salsa Casera Segura. Among the factoids: Salsa flavors tend to mellow during storage; and there’s an optimal way to roast peppers. There’s even information about whom to contact if you’re interested in selling your own special salsa.

THEY CHEW THROUGH WIRING AND CONTAMINATE FOOD AND FEED and as the days grow colder, house mice will be looking for warmer digs, like our homes and businesses. They’re among the most common and economically destructive rodents in the United States, but their tiny size makes them so hard to keep out. Plus, forget rabbits – house mice reproduce like crazy. One pair can make more than 100,000 babies a year. Their scientific name, Mus musculus, makes me think of the muscle-bound cartoon character Mighty Mouse, but that was all in fun. It’s no fun though to find they’ve chewed through food packages in the pantry or left not-so-delightful droppings ANYWHERE. A new fact sheet Controlling House Mice provides all kinds of information, including ways to keep your space look less inviting to the little critters.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

A NUMBER OF PINE TREES IN MY NORTHEAST KANSAS NEIGHBORHOOD ARE DYING. It’s tough because they provide an evergreen wind break and serve as a visual barrier from people driving by, so it has me wondering what kinds of trees might be good options to replace them. The publication Conifer Trees for Kansas is a comprehensive guide to conifers (you know, the cone-bearing trees like pine, spruce and fir :). It tells which do well in different parts of the state, what their primary pests and diseases are – plus it has pictures. It even gives an idea if they’re slow-, medium- or fast-growing. Questions still? Check with your local K-State Research and Extension office. By the way, we’re proud to say that conifer publication won the 2018 American Society of Horticulture Science Extension Materials Award.


IF WEBER AND CALL HALLS WERE YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME for a few years in college or if you’re in or want to be in the livestock business in Kansas, come together with family and friends at the 5TH Annual Animal Sciences and Industry Family and Friends Reunion from 5:30-9:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4, at the Stanley Stout Center, 2200 Denison Ave. in Manhattan. The evening offers great food, entertainment and activities for the kids. This year, the Don L. Good Impact Award will be presented to the Kansas Livestock Association. More than 1,000 attended last year’s event. We hope to see you there!

APPARENTLY, ALFALFA, WHEAT SEEDLINGS AND OTHER CROPS HAVE BEEN ON GRASSHOPPERS’ MENU lately, and most are full grown by this time of year, which makes controlling them tricky, according to Grasshoppers – Eating their way through Kansas in a recent Agronomy eUpdate. The article has great photos and the nitty gritty on when and if to treat them in several crops. Plus, you’ll see that entomologist sense of humor I mentioned in a previous post.


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:


Subscribe By Email

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.