Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: Kansas State University

Better Kansas – Nov. 14, 2019

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. 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

IN CASE YOU CAN’T TELL BY ALL THE ADVERTISING, THANKSGIVING IS IN JUST TWO WEEKS! Whether you’re hosting a crowd or having a party of one, take a look at Food Safety for Holiday Meals for all manner of tips and information to keep the good times on track. It’s really relevant information for any time of year. Maybe it’s just me, but I especially enjoyed: “Hotline Answers ‘Panic Button’ Food Safety Questions.” I wonder what percentage of first-time turkey cooks have accidentally left the bag of giblets in the turkey while cooking it? MANY of us, I think! It’s amazing how many things are hidden in the nooks and crannies of those birds!


WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF FOOD, we should recognize that even in a state like Kansas where we grow so much food, there are plenty of people who don’t have enough to eat. About 11% of U.S. households are food insecure, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. It might be those children walking by on their way to the school bus. Or the elderly man in front of you at the store. Listen in to a Sound Living podcast on improving food security.


THE YOUNGEST BABY BOOMERS ARE ABOUT 55 YEARS OLD; THE OLDEST IN THEIR 70s. That means a whole lot of people are retiring every day in this country. I know a few of those folks. Some say that after a few months, they didn’t know what to do with themselves, so they went back to work. Others say their blood pressure dropped and health improved. If you’re considering taking this big step, it sounds like a good idea to have a plan. A good conversation starter (even if that conversation is with yourself) is the factsheet So Now What? Tips for Managing Life after Retirement. It goes through typical stages, starting with the “honeymoon” stage. You know … that’s where you catch up on sleep!

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

IF LIKE ME, YOU HAD GORGEOUS ROSES THAT PUT ON A SHOW ALL SEASON LONG, consider protecting them from the winter cold by mounding soil or compost around them. Check out more information, plus a link to a video on winterizing roses. Other topics include the lowdown on an annual turfgrass conference, getting amaryllis to bloom for the holiday season, watering your landscape NOW (may have to get that hose out one more time), the nitty gritty on what you can do to improve garden soil now and more.


ALMOST ALL LIVING THINGS NEED IT – WATER, THAT IS. A recent Dig Deep podcast delves into basic facts about water in Kansas – where it comes from, where it goes, and conservation. The segment features Dan Devlin, a K-State professor who’s also the director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE). He sheds light on a new effort called the Irrigation Innovation Consortium that brings researchers from several universities together with private industry to come up with better ways to use this precious resource more efficiently. Listen in.

THE USDA REVISED ITS LATEST ESTIMATE ON HOW MUCH CORN U.S. GROWERS WILL PRODUCE THIS YEAR downward to 13.661 billion bushels – 118 million bushels less than what it predicted a month ago, largely owing to harvest delays. And that’s just a small portion of what’s in the U.S. Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates released Nov. 8. For a closer look at the numbers and what they mean, take a look at an analysis of the data. Ending stocks, stocks-to-use, supply-and-demand balances … it’s all in there. And it’s not just about corn. The nitty gritty on soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum is also put into perspective.


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 – Nov. 7, 2019

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 subscribe and get acquainted with your local extension office! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

FOR MANY OF US, THE HOLIDAYS MEAN TRAVEL … DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT DOING THIS ONE THING! Whether you’re driving to your in-laws, home from college, or just a quick jaunt down the road for groceries, download the winter survival kit app, compliments of the enterprising folks at North Dakota State University Extension. It’s available free for Android or iPhone and does cool things in case of an emergency, such as determine your geographic location, call 911, contact friends or family, store insurance policy and auto club information, and more. NDSU, like land-grant universities across the country, is one of our partners in the cooperative extension system. Thanks for sharing, NDSU! We all benefit.

I’VE HEARD THAT BLUEBERRIES ARE A ROCK STAR when it comes to healthy eating, but what other foods help lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes?

  • Strawberries
  • Avocados
  • Carrots
  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Apricots
  • Sweet potatoes

They’re all on the list. So are a lot more. Take a look at Choose Foods that Lower Your Risk of Cancer for a more complete list and health benefits they provide. It turns out that making a colorful plate isn’t just about being visually pleasing!

IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO OUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH, but sometimes good, sound sleep is elusive. I know, when I don’t get enough zzz’s, every little ache is magnified, it’s harder to focus and more difficult to make decisions. The fact sheet Sleep: Want It, Need It, Get It sheds light on numerous sleep-related topics, including suggestions for dealing with sleeplessness. I was not familiar with the term “parasomnias” but now I am!

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

REMEMBER THE PHRASE, “WHERE’S THE BEEF?” made famous by actress Clara Peller in a Wendy’s commercial. Yes, it was a long time ago 😊, but this went viral before social media even existed! For those who are curious about meat demand through the years, including demand in this country, as well as exports of beef, pork and chicken, it’s all on the Meat Demand page on I still enjoy watching Clara and the commercial.

LATE OCTOBER BROUGHT A SHARP DROP IN TEMPERATURES and we’re not the only ones shivering. The newly planted winter wheat crop in some areas may have been affected, depending on soil temperatures, moisture and other factors. Read about it and take a look at some interesting photos and graphics in this Agronomy eUpdate article. As of Nov. 3, 94% of the Kansas crop had been planted, ahead of 81% last year and 91% (five-year) average, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

KANSAS HAS LONG BEEN A LEADER IN BEEF PRODUCTION, with cattle and calves generating $8.27 billion in cash receipts in 2017 alone. That accounted for more than 50% of overall agricultural receipts that year, which included some of our other well-known agricultural claims to fame such as wheat and grain sorghum. To support beef cattle producers and provide the latest research and management information, seven Calving Schools are planned around the state from November-January.


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 – Oct. 31, 2019

Happy Halloween! And 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 subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I WROTE ABOUT CHILD DEVELOPMENT and linked to a fact sheet on milestones that children typically reach in the first year. But what about the second and third years and so on? Check out Understanding Your Child’s Development for activities children often accomplish by certain ages. Remember, these are AVERAGES! For babysitters, parents, grandparents and ANYONE who’s trying to calm a crying baby, there’s even a section on that. Where is Dr. Spock when you need him?! For you Trekkers, that’s not Mr. Spock. Again, I digress!


AS I WRITE THIS, WE’RE STARING WINTER RIGHT IN THE FACE! Listen to a Sound Living radio interview about what forecasters are expecting in the next few months and how you can prepare your home or car to avoid problems as the temperatures (and snow and sleet) fall. This was a good reminder for me to add to my own car … things like a phone charger, blanket, snacks and other items. And while you’re at it, consider giving your spouse, teenager, grown-up kid or friend an early Christmas gift of an emergency kit for their own car. These are not the kinds of things people tend to buy for themselves! It may not be as well received as tickets to a big concert, but …. 😊 Click here for a more complete list.

WHAT BETTER WAY TO REACH MORE PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY IS THERE than training others to be trainers? That’s how the Master Food Volunteers program works in several communities across the state. Extension agents and specialists provide training to volunteers who are interested in food and nutrition. Those volunteers, in turn, work with others in their communities in myriad ways, from teaching children – and sometimes adults – basic cooking skills to safe food preservation, menu planning and much more. While you’re on the site, check out the “Making a Difference” reports for examples of MFV activities.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

YEARS AGO, I LEARNED THE HARD WAY after a costly trip from the plumber, that we’re supposed to disconnect garden hoses from the spigot before it freezes. One of those Adulting 101 things I missed! Depending on your plumbing setup, not detaching them can lead to a burst pipe and interior water damage. And by the way, if you have a lawn irrigation system, they need the water blown out with an air compressor. Find further tips in the Draining Hoses and Irrigation Lines section of the Oct. 29 Horticulture 2019 Newsletter, along with other seasonal info about garden mums, fertilizing lawns in late fall and … roasting pumpkin seeds. Now there’s a left turn! Also found a YouTube video showing what can happen and why if you don’t detach those hoses.


WE KNOW THAT THE VAST UNDERGROUND RESERVOIR OF WATER known as the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source of water for parts of eight states including western Kansas, is depleting faster than it can recharge. So, figuring out the best ways to maximize the benefits of rainwater and nutrients for crops on southern Plains farms is the goal of a new research effort led by Kansas State University. In addition to the K-State team, the five-year, $10 million project includes researchers, educators and extension specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oklahoma State University and the University of Maryland. Take a look at this news article for more information.

IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO SIGN UP FOR ONE OF THE 2019 KANSAS INCOME TAX INSTITUTE sessions happening in numerous locations around the state in November and December. The two-day sessions, offered by the K-State Department of Agricultural Economics, are designed for tax professionals and anyone interested in training on current tax law, regulations and updates. Check here for more information and online registration or call 785-532-1504.


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 – Oct. 24, 2019

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 subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

OCCASIONALLY I WRITE ABOUT WHAT RURAL COMMUNITIES ARE DOING to stay vibrant, so a recent study of the economic impact of Brown County’s healthcare system caught my attention. The study, by the Extension Office of Local Government (OLG), is part of the Kansas Rural Health Works program initiative sponsored by the Kansas Hospital Association. It turns out that the Brown Co. study is just one that the OLG has conducted in each of Kansas’ 105 counties. Think about it … and research backs this up: local health care and education are two primary factors in economic development in any community. In the case of Brown County, the health care sector in 2018 accounted for an estimated 10.2% of Brown County’s total employment, or about 725 jobs. After accounting for economic multipliers for 13 health care sectors, the study’s authors estimated the sectors accounted for more than $46,286,000 in total county income and about $9,828,000 in county retail sales. Read an article in the Hiawatha World newspaper or contact John Leatherman at the OLG at or 785-532-4492 for more information.

WE SOMETIMES TAKE FOOD and what it takes to grow it, for granted. If you’re anywhere near the Kansas City area and interested in thought-provoking (and free 🙂 films, check out the Food for Thought Film Series the second Tuesday of every month, hosted by the Urban Food Systems program at K-State Olathe. Next up on Nov. 14 is “A Place at the Table” about three Americans who maintain their dignity even as they struggle to eat. On Dec. 12, “Biggest Little Farm” chronicles the eight-year quest of a family who trades city living for farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. Each film is followed by a panel discussion of experts on the night’s theme, plus an opportunity for audience questions.



THE ANSWER PEOPLE: In my communications role I often see questions emailed from an extension agent to their colleagues across the state. It might be that someone in their county is looking for help identifying a certain weed in their lawn or farm fields. Or looking for resources as they prepare to do a program for teens on financial literacy. Honestly, a lot of interesting topics come up. Before I know it, responses with offers of help and resources are popping up. It’s a cool thing about cooperative extension. K-State Research and Extension educators in every county specialize in finding answers to questions for Kansans. If they don’t have an answer, they’ll do their best to track down the best information. If you’re not familiar with your extension office, now’s a good time to take a look.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

TURN SOME OF THOSE PLENTIFUL LEAVES COMING OFF THE TREES plus lawn clippings, dead tomato vines and other organic waste into a valuable top dressing or addition to your vegetable and flower garden soil by composting it. If the thought seems daunting, the short four-page Making Compost: A Beginner’s Guide takes you step by step through the how’s and why’s of getting started, with illustrations, benefits and cautions, plus additional resources. It’s a win-win … and win some more. It keeps the material out of landfills and once that material is composted and added to your garden or planting beds, can make the soil looser and easier to work with (especially helpful in some of our heavy clay soils); provides nutrients and even can be used as a top dressing for seeded vegetables and flowers. If you don’t want to do it on your own, start a neighborhood compost pile where several contribute and reap the benefits.

NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF BUSINESS YOU HAVE, IF YOU HAVE EMPLOYEES (and yes, adult children who work for you count 🙂 check out ‘MANAGEMENT MINUTE’ in the KSU Animal Sciences newsletter. This month it reminds that good help is hard to find, so good employees are worth hanging onto. It may be a good idea to sit down with Bill, you know, that guy who was invaluable in helping you get through this challenging growing season, for a talk about job satisfaction or Megan who found new software to simplify and improve your accounting. These monthly messages transcend the cattle industry. They’re relevant to anyone who has employees.

IT’S OFTEN HELPFUL WHEN PEOPLE AGREE and it appears that projections by the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service for how much corn will come out of Kansas fields this year syncs pretty well with the yields K-State’s agronomists are expecting. That is, an average of about 136 bushels per acre, which would be up from 129 bushels last year. K-State uses a new yield forecast tool, sponsored by Kansas Corn, primarily based on satellite data, historical county-level yields and prediction of current geo-location of cornfields across the state. Read more about it in Forecasting Kansas Corn Yields for 2019. By the way, overall across the U.S., corn production is expected to be 13.8 billion bushels, down 4% from last year with yields averaging 168.4 bushels per harvested acre, down 8 bushels from 2018.


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:

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