Kansas Wheat Commission breaks bread to open new Kansas Wheat Innovation Center
By Jennifer M. Latzke
The crowd gathered in front of the brand-new Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. But, instead of the traditional ribbon cutting ceremony, they were treated to board members of the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and distinguished guests “breaking bread” to open the new multimillion dollar research facility.
The KWIC officially opened its doors to the public in the middle of a light rainstorm April 26, in Manhattan, Kan. The $10.3 million center was built by the KWC with funds from the Kansas wheat checkoff. It sits on land owned by Kansas State University, but KWC has a 50-year lease on the property. The KWIC houses office and meeting space for Kansas Wheat, as well as greenhouse space for Heartland Plant Innovations. HPI moved its doubled haploid wheat breeding operations to the greenhouses at KWIC, where the added greenhouse space has allowed it to expand its offerings to breeders.
“I think what farmers, as they walk through here today, are most interested in and excited about is that this is not just a building, but it’s also laboratory and greenhouse space,” said Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of the Kansas Wheat Commission. “They can see the investment in research and plants growing and the wheat that they see today will potentially be seen in five years to be the next best variety that they will plant on their farms.”
And, he added, it’s important to remember that this facility is farmer-owned.
“We are excited to share the story of how the KWIC will lead the way in new wheat research that gives Kansas wheat farmers the tools to produce high-yielding, high-quality wheat varieties that will continue to feed the world,” said Rich Randall, chairman of the KWC.
The idea for the KWIC came from farmers who wanted a facility that could house wheat research and leverage checkoff dollars to the fullest. Doug Keesling, past KWC chairman, served on the building committee and said the KWIC will reduce duplication in research so that dollars spent from farmer initiatives will go as far as possible. While the KWIC is housed in Kansas, research conducted there will benefit wheat farmers up and down the wheat producing region of the High Plains.
Ron Suppes, KWC vice chairman, spoke to gathered supporters before the bread breaking ceremony and reminded them that all of this was possible with one little kernel.
“We are a room full of dreamers, but then we have to hire researchers to lead us through the dream to become a reality,” Suppes said.
He held up a kernel of wheat to the audience, “envision the power in this one little kernel to bring us all together today.”
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.