Topeka, KS- Christmas is a season of giving. In Kansas, however, giving isn’t unique to the holidays. Kansas farmers and ranchers give their time and talents 365 days a year to ensure people here at home and around the world have food, fuel and fiber to power their lives. It is because of their giving spirit that we can all enjoy the food and festivities we have come to love during this special time of year.
I recently visited Mill Dam Christmas Tree farm in Fredonia. While walking among the new crop of Christmas trees with owner Shelia Steel, it became obvious how much the family has invested into this great tree farm. The amount of time they give around the holidays to ensure that families across southeast Kansas can have a traditional Christmas experience of cutting down and taking home a real Christmas tree is unmatched. The Steeles are just one of 69 different Christmas tree farms located in Kansas and more than 400 registered agritourism businesses in the state offering unique on-farm experiences.
Of course, it’s not just those Christmas trees that we can grow here in Kansas – so much of the food on our plates and drinks in our glasses are products of our robust and diverse agriculture industry.
Believe it or not, Kansas has a growing wine and cider industry. Nearly 60 wineries and cider mills are responsible for nearly $64.5 million in economic output annually. Add to that the 175,000 dairy cows living in Kansas creating more than 4 billion pounds of milk annually that is not only used for dunking cookies but an essential ingredient for many holiday recipes.
And most any holiday treat is not possible without the flour that is harvested and milled here in Kansas. In 2021, wheat farmers here harvested 364 million bushels, and nearly 62 million bushels were milled into flour and sold across the U.S. In 2021, Kansas was the top wheat-producing state in the country.
When it comes to the various meats on your plate this Christmas, you’ll be interested to know that our ranchers are responsible for more than half of all Kansas agricultural cash receipts, generating nearly $9 billion in economic activity and producing more than 6 billion pounds of red meat, or roughly 11 percent of the nation’s total red meat produced annually. You can also find farmers raising chickens and turkeys alongside a pork industry that ranks 11th in the country and is responsible for 600 million pounds of pork annually – remember that when you eat a slice of bacon Christmas morning.
And we cannot forget the potatoes, carrots and apples that can all be found at a Christmas dinner, each of which is grown in Kansas. In fact, in 2018, Kansas ranked 5th in the country in summer potato production, with more than 160 different farms raising potatoes. Even ginger root, which is a must for your gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pies, is grown on a handful of farms in our state.
The diversity of the state’s agriculture industry never ceases to amaze me, nor does the time, talents and investments that our state’s farmers and ranchers continue to make to ensure our state’s agriculture industry is producing food, fuel and fiber in the safest, most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible.
When you decorate your Christmas tree, enjoy a cup of hot apple cider or cut into that slow cooked beef tenderloin this Christmas, gives thanks for the men and women across this state who make these rich traditions possible and make our great state an agriculture powerhouse.