Earth Day: we thank our farmers

Today is Earth Day.

Earth Day isn’t a shopping holiday, like President’s Day; nor a gift-giving extravaganza, like Christmas. Nor even a holiday marked with special foods, like Thanksgiving and many other holidays we observe throughout the year.

No, Earth Day is strictly a celebration: of our Earth, and how it sustains us. With air, and water, and food, the things we simply cannot live without.

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Being a flour company – and devoted to baking – we’re keenly interested in our environment, and in sustaining the earthly gifts we’ve been given. So today, our thoughts turn to the farmers who feed us – all of whom have our unending gratitude and admiration.

Let’s meet some of our Kansas farmers. We’ve enjoyed visiting these men and their families; and we have a solid working relationship – they belong to a small, local farmers’ cooperative that provides us with some of our whole wheat and white whole wheat flour.

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Here’s Bill Mai, of Sharon Springs. He prides himself on growing white whole wheat that’s super for baking – especially bread.

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Ron Suppes of Grigston farms a few thousand acres of white wheat; he’s also one of three district commissioners for the Kansas Wheat Commission, in his “spare time.”

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And here’s Stacy Kaufman, of McPherson. He welcomed us into his combine one warm, sunny Saturday morning…

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…and took us for quite a ride!

“Make hay while the sun shines” isn’t just a quaint old saying to today’s farmer. Wheat is best harvested on warm, sunny days, and if the best time to harvest is Saturday morning – then that’s when you gather the family and head out to the fields.

Certainly farming is a business. But when you actually visit these wheat farmers on their land – hear their stories of good years with bumper crops…

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…balanced by seasons of drought and hardship, you know wheat farmers aren’t in it strictly for the money.

They’re in it because they love the land. And they want to pass along this love – something good and true and lasting – to their children, and their children’s children, for years to come.

I’d like to close this post with a few words from Carl Grimstad, a 23-year-old Norwegian farmer who immigrated to America in the late 19th century. In October 1879, Grimstad staked a land claim by the Park River in “Dakota Territory” (now North Dakota, where much of the wheat that goes into our King Arthur bread flour is grown).

He and his friend and fellow countryman, Julius Iverson – my great-grandfather – surveyed the land, and this is what Grimstad wrote:

Before us was the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen. As we stood side by side gazing over the level luxuriant prairie untouched and unspoiled by the hands of man, the soft wind came down from the northwest and gently caressed the tall grasses that grew there, and as they moved, their silvery sheen gave one the impression of an endless ocean of fertility.

Here the broad acres were bounded only by faint purplish timber lines on the north, the south, and the east – the timber lines of the river systems. The West – the whole West – was just as the Indian and buffalo had left it. The grandeur of the prairie, one vast expanse of solitude, made our hearts well up with gladness.

Here, I thought, we shall dedicate our youthful years and our lives to tilling, toiling, and building.

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Tilling the land, toiling endlessly, and building a future for family, community, and the well-being of all of us: that’s our farmers. America’s farmers.

Today, on Earth Day, we salute you. And every day, we say a silent thanks to all of you across the country who’ve devoted yourself not just to feeding your fellow Americans – but to stewarding the land, keeping it safe for the next generation, and for generations to come.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. joan smith

    See? That’s King Arthur Flour! I love it when you remind us about where our baking really starts. You remind us of the glory of our earth and the people who make it flourish. You are the best!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Glad we could help start your day in a positive way, Joan. Happy Earth Day! PJH

  2. Dunyia

    A beautifully written and touching article. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for the farmers who remind us the things we often take for granted and the beauty they bring to our great country. God Bless them all.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Hear, hear… Farmers are responsible for the food on our tables every day. 🙂 PJH

  3. Bonnie

    My dad’s family were wheat farmers in Kansas, and growing up I spent a lot of my summers there helping one of my aunts cook during harvest time for the field crews. We made a LOT of food for breakfast, dinner and supper. There is nothing prettier than a field of wheat just before harvest, under a blue sky with a breeze rippling those golden waves. Thanks for the post and the pictures, brings back so many memories and gratitude for hardworking farming families.

    Reply
  4. Carol Martin

    If you’re interested in thinking about what it actually cost some of the 19th-century Norwegian settlers to become farmers in the Dakota Territory, you might read O.E. Roelvaag’s Giants in the Earth. That beauty and fertility was won at a sometimes terrible cost.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We sincerely appreciate our forebears, who recorded the history of our food through books and oral history. If only we could convey our appreciation to them for their persistence and ingenuity – may we do this through respect and kindness to one another. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  5. Evie

    Thank you for sharing the nice article. I was alive when the very first Earth Day was celebrated! It has always been my dream to live out in the country, but life and finances never allowed that dream to be fulfilled. However, I am a grateful woman and make do with whatever I have. I live on a small city lot in a small town, and I grow a nice veggie garden along with some beautiful flowers. I so appreciate those who love the land and have made it their lives work. Thank you to all of the farmers and the businesses like King Arthur that bring that food to us!!! Happy Earth Day!!!

    Reply
  6. Amanda

    Great way to view Earth Day! We are so thankful for the rains we received this last week. The wheat is starting to look much better around McPherson, KS!

    Reply
    1. Mimi

      I was about to ask if the farmers profiled in the article grew non-GMO wheat. So glad to hear that, especially the larger farms. Is KAF part of the Non-GMO Project?

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      We don’t work with a third-party non-GMO certification group at this time, Mimi, but we have updated our 5lb Signature Flour bags to include the text: “Wheat is a non-GMO product.” This can be found below the nutrition and ingredients on the side of the bag. Happy baking! Jesse@KAF

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      While we don’t work with a third-party non-GMO certification program at this time, you’ll be glad to know that we do now list “wheat is a non-GMO product” on the side of our 5lb signature flour bags. You can find it below the nutrition and ingredients information–second to last line: http://bit.ly/1OaArSZ Happy baking! Jesse@KAF

    4. Netra baker

      I am delighted to know that your wheat is non-gmo. It goes with what I believe in for my life and my baking business. Thank you.

  7. Laurel

    I can see saluting organic farmers on Earth Day, but not those who are polluting the earth. On Earth Day why not focus on your ORGANIC farmers who aren’t spraying chemicals every waking hour?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We intend our message of gratitude to embrace all of the farmers who work so hard on our collective behalf, including those who produce the wheat used in our 100% organic line. Thank you for drawing attention to their importance, and for joining us in celebrating their hard work! Jesse@KAF

    2. Mary

      Laurel, I agree with you! Organic farmers should be saluted on Earth Day!!! They are saving our land, our children and our future!!!!

  8. mail465

    PJ,

    Thank you so much for the beautifully written article. We farm and our families have farmed for as far back as we know. We love the land and growing crops to feed a growing population. We are so connected to what is going on in our fields and to the weather that can make or break a crop. I’m proud to work alongside my parents, my husband’s parents, my husband and children and think back to our ancestors and all the hardships and sweat that they put into farming. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  9. Docrob

    What a nice tribute to the long-standing tradition of family farming and a most fitting way to observe Earth Day. May your message travel far and wide.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We love the dairy farmers too! Your dedication to milking twice a day gives us cream and butter so we can keep baking! Thank you. Laurie@KAF

  10. Mary

    Thank you so much for the lovely article. We are dairy farmers, and life can be difficult, but also so rewarding when we just stop and appreciate the beautiful gifts the earth gives us every day.

    Reply
  11. Karen Burnham

    Great article. I love the golden fields and wish I could see them in person. Are any of these wheats GMOs?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Our GMO statement includes the following info: All King Arthur flours are non-GMO. King Arthur Flour is milled from wheat sourced exclusively from North America; GMO wheat is not approved for sale or commercial production in North America. Happy Baking to all-Irene@KAF

  12. Paul

    My great-great grandparents homesteaded in Madison, Minnesota around the same time as your great-grandfather. That piece at the end was fantastic, and warmed my heart. I can only imagine they had the same thoughts upon digging into the soil to be sure it would be viable for the following two generations of farming that were to com. Thank you!

    Reply
  13. Alice

    Having a hand in the dough bowl for the majority of my 75 years on this earth, I celebrate not only Earth Day, but am grateful daily for this beautiful land we have been given. My view from the computer is of barren hills, patched with green and a few trees along the ridge in Northern Nevada. It is beautiful. Thank you for the salute to our wheat farmers and farmers everywhere.

    Reply
  14. elissa feldman

    Thank you for all you do! I love the way you help use celebrate the past the present and the future! Cheers KA

    Reply
  15. Phyllis Broadbent

    Without the American farmer, we would have nothing. Please thank them today for their blood, sweat and tears to keep us fed and clothed. May God richly bless the American farmer.

    Reply
  16. Barbara Ann Dell

    KAF’s White Whole Wheat flour is used exclusively by four of us ladies who bake the communion bread for our Lutheran congregation (also a farm community — corn, soybeans, livestock & poultry) here in southern Indiana.
    Thanks, farmers; thanks KAF!

    Reply
  17. barb

    Earth day makes me sad as I think of greedy farmers no longer trusting G-d to feed mankind. To trust Monsanto chemicals and genetically modified seeds risking the health and lives of their own families
    and mankind to make more money from their farm than G-d had alloted for them. We were given all we needed but that wasn’t enough for the vain and the greedy.

    Reply
  18. Joanne Kurtz

    The shaft of wheat reminds me of our wheat fields and going through the field grabbing one shaft and eating the wheat as I walked to my grandmothers.house
    .
    Today it seems that those days were so important to me, love of the land animals and being taught that you didn’t waste anything. That land had to sustain the family year round.

    There was no electric at the “old house” the power company would not string wire because it was the only house even my grandmother was forever till they strung wire so she had electric.

    There were.no computers or video games, your play was outside for the most part and somehow working which we thought was playing until we got older, was how you spent your day
    .
    When they combined the lunches were taken to the field and table clothes put on the ground then the food. It was a huge meal and they could really eat when they stopped to have lunch.
    Much different than today’s world with machinery that is enclosed with heat and air conditioning.

    Remembering the wonderful smells of the bread making and baking one day a week ..I got the job of making the butter for the the bread. Wow memories.

    Reply
  19. Diane

    Wish this article was more reassuring telling bakers that this KA wheat is NON GMO.

    Farmers work hard yet they are being run over by Big Ag and monopolizing chemical companies. America cannot possibly “feed the world” as Big Ag suggests. American farmers need to concentrate on sustainable farming and clean farming practices.

    Reply
  20. Karen

    Thank you for the excellent and well-written post. As a farmer, we sincerely appreciate the acknowledgement. Also want to thank King Arthur Flour Company for providing and marketing high quality flours. It is the only flour I buy and use. All others do not even compare. Thank you King Arthur Flour Company for providing many farmers a place to market their grain.

    Reply
  21. TTL

    Farmers are truly one of our unsung heros, providing food for not just our country, but for others as well. I cannot imagine the difficult life they lead, to do such a noble job. Not only do I thank each and everyone who cares for our precious land, but I include a prayer for them as well. My heart overflows with gratitude for such a beautiful earth we’ve been given! Blessings!

    Reply
  22. Lisa

    Beautiful article! I cannot wait to show my mom and dad…we still own farms in Kansas, and grow mostly wheat…our farmers are wonderful people, and I feel so blessed, as a baker, to have this wheat growing heritage. Thanks for focusing on the farmers….they are our unsung heroes! KAF does a wonderful job, by the way, of giving credit where credit is do…such a truly ethical company!

    Reply
  23. Leslie Tianen

    My grandfather who emigrated from Denmark, farmed outside of Yankton, South Dakota in the beginning early 20th century. He spent several years plowing with a hand plow and horses. Droughts and plagues of grasshoppers came, but he still loved the land. Even though my father did not follow in his dad’s footsteps, he loved to drive the roads through farm country. He saw beauty where many might call the sights boring. I’m grateful for all he taught me about the beauty and struggle of farming. I would also like to thank all my local farmers for providing me the choice to purchase produce, grains, meats, etc. that is sustainably grown without chemicals.

    Reply
  24. Carleen O.

    Happy Earth Day! What a fantastic article. I wish it could be sent to every classroom in America. Its so important to know where our food comes from and who the people are that grow it. I truly appreciate all the hard work that these farmers do for us everyday! Thank you to all of America’s farmers and their families!!

    Reply
  25. Alex

    Hailing from Atchison in the great state of Kansas, raised in farming and agriculture, and now employed in the food and baking industry with ties to Farmer Direct Foods, this article hits home and is a great way to reflect on the themes of sustainability and conservation in a new light this Earth Day! It is refreshing to hear thanks and appreciation for the producers of essential agricultural commodities, like wheat, as they are the humble heroes behind every cookie, muffin, or loaf of bread through their efforts starting in the field!

    Reply
  26. Marj

    I add my thanks to all who work so hard to make wholesome, nutritious food. Baking our bread is an important part of my life and it would not be possible without the dedication of our farmers.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  27. mptruxton

    Thank you farmers who have invested in their relationship with the land and tend it with an interest in preserving it for future generations! What a wonderful story for Earth Day, and thank you for including the story of your Great-grandfather and his friend. In the go-go-go of everyday life sometimes we can forget how beautiful this place (any place) can be.

    Reply
  28. Carole Yocom

    I was born and raised in northern Illinois but have lived in North Iowa for the last 39 yrs.Each Spring I watch fot the first Robin and the first tiny green rows of new corn and soy beans. I love the rich black soil and beautiful fields of corn. As the population increases and more farm land is sold and developed for building instead of farming I worry how the world will survive as the cultivated land disappears. Our lives depend on our farmers and I’m thankful for recognizing Earth Day and reminding us what we owe to the farmers. Thanks KAF

    Reply
  29. Sara Daley O'Toole

    I started reading this article because my husband, Brian O’Toole is the Vice Chairman of US Wheat and Ron Suppes is a friend that we have gotten to know from all of our years in the wheat commission. I got the chills though when I got to the bottom of the story because I am originally from Park River, North Dakota and my great grandfather was friends with Carl Grimstad (I have the copy of the book he wrote). My grandmother was Jennie Iverson Daley daughter of Julius and Oline Iverson! They homesteaded in Fertile Township east of Park River. My father was their oldest child, LeRoy or as he was known to his friends, Archie. My husband is a fourth generation farmer from Crystal, North Dakota and wheat is our main crop. Between the two of our families and now our combined family, we have been stewards of the land for generations! Very interesting to read that you are one of my Iverson relatives! I am very interested in the connection! Happy Earth Day!

    Reply
  30. Dorie

    Happy earth day ! Your story was touching & warm ! My husband & I travel ALOT around this beautiful country of ours ! When you drive for hours , or days & only see wheat growing , I think of these farmers who work this land ! Sharing the country road with their equipment can be challenging to say the least! We always let them go if at all possible ! They are working after all ! It really is Mind blowing to see miles of the wheat that may be in my loaf if bread ! God bless the farmers of America !!!

    Reply
  31. Frank Farinelli

    For years farmers have used what is called “no til” farming. Instead of plowing the ground for new crops they poison the old crops. One has to wonder what all that poison is doing to the consumer.

    Reply
  32. Sara Daley O'Toole

    I started reading this article because my husband, Brian O’Toole is the Vice Chairman of US Wheat and because we have become friends of Ron and Shirley Suppes over the years through our association in the wheat commissions. I got to the end of the article and it actually gave me chills when Carl Grimstad was quoted and mentioned to be a friend of Julius Iverson. Julius Iverson is also MY great grandfather! His daughter Jennie Iverson Daley was my grandmother. Her son LeRoy, also known by his friends as Archie, was my Dad. Dad’s family all settled in Fertile Township in Dakota Territory, which is along the Park River and just east of the town of Park River,North Dakota where I grew up. My husband, Brian O’Toole is a fourth generation farmer from Crystal, North Dakota, which is 13 miles north of the town of Park River and together we are raising the next generation of farmers. We have been celebrating the Earth everyday for generations! I am curious to know which of the Iversons was the author and I are related through!! (down the line from our great grandfather, Julius) It’s a small Earth!! Sara Daley O’Toole

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sara, then Andrea must be your sister? My grandfather was Inman Iverson; apparently Julius and Oline had quite a few children. I believe Inman was one of the oldest, if not the oldest. He settled in Daleyville, WI to raise his family (are you related to the Daleys there, perhaps?), and that’s where my mom grew up. Small earth, indeed! PJH

    2. Sara Daley O'Toole

      Andrea is my cousin. Her father was Merle. You may notice in the posts above that I was so excited that I posted twice when my first post did not show up. I also posted on the King Arthur Facebook page and included a picture of the Julius and Oline Iverson family. I believe my Grandma Jennie is the little girl standing next to her father in the picture. Go to the Facebook page and check it out. I remember having my picture taken with my brother and sister by the Daleyville sign on one of our trips to Wisconsin when I was younger. Dad passed away in 1994 and Mom died in 2007, but Mom was very good to keep up with the Iverson cousins after Dad died. Dad’s sister, LaMae ended up back in Wisconsin when she got married. She raised her family in Verona with her husband Burr Weiland. I do remember the name Inman, but I think I would need a picture of the Iverson tree to trace the children’s children. So fun to find “family” and with like interests. My husband used to tell me that wheat is his passion on the farm and I believe it with where he has gone with it. Maybe out paths with cross one day with our connections in the wheat industry! Your article made my day yesterday!
      Sara

    3. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sara, I’ll definitely check out your Facebook post. Thanks for all the detail here – I’ve been sending your comments to my mom to enjoy, and she may hop on here, too! Thanks for you and your husband’s contributions to our great farming tradition – esp. wheat, which of course is very dear to our hearts here… 🙂 PJH

  33. Andrea Daley Stennes

    Tilling, toiling and building a future for family…
    Julius Iverson and Oline Iverson were my great-grandparents, too! My grandmother was their daughter, Jennie Iverson Daley. My parents were Merle and Marilyn (Boe) Daley. I was born by Park River, ND. I grew up on a farm by Adams, ND. Growing up on a farm, I appreciate all the hard work a farm family does each and every day. I’m always in awe when I see the “amber waves of grain”. What a beautiful sight! Thank you to all our farmers!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Andrea, then we’re related! Jennie was my great aunt; I’ve heard my mom speak of her often, when she reminisces about growing up. Thanks for connecting with us here – small world! PJH

  34. Lucille

    Thanks for a beautiful tribute to our nation’s farmers and for reminding us of their careful stewardship of the land on Earth Day!

    Reply
  35. Janelle, a South Dakota-born vegan baker

    Beautiful article and photos. I love all of you farmers and the land that you care for so well. Thank you!

    Reply
  36. sandi

    Thank you King Arthur for this wonderful article! And God Bless our farmers! My family and I thank them from the bottom of our hearts! They are gold!!!

    Reply
  37. Rosemary L. Coss

    I love to see our farmers! They love what they do! They are truly the salt of the Earth. I’m grateful for this fine tribute to our Mother Earth, divinely given to us all.

    Reply
  38. Laura G.

    Bravo! My husband and I are farmers in Wisconsin. Having transitioned from dairy to crops in the past few years and dealing with a devastating hail storm last summer, farming is not for the faint of heart! We are at the mercy of Mother Nature, Wall Street and the tides of change. We love taking care of the land and growing food for the American people!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Thank you so much for all that you do, Laura. We sincerely appreciate our family farms here in Vermont. ~ MJ

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