2014-07-28 00:00:00.0 07/28/2014 In This Week's Journal
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ISSUE: 07/28/2014

Purple reign: A splash of lavender in the heartland

By Doug Rich

Lavender was not their first choice, but it turned out to be the best choice for Jack and Kathy Wilson. They started the Washington Creek Lavender farm in 2005 after trying several other specialty crops on their hilltop acreage in rural Douglas County, Kansas.

In 2004 the Wilsons moved to Kansas from Chicago, where Jack was a TV producer and Kathy was a nationally recognized food photographer. Kathy is originally from nearby Lawrence, Kansas, but Jack is from New Jersey.

Jack said even now he will look out the window of their log home and ask his wife, “What is that out there?” and Kathy will say, “For the last time, Jack, that is a tree.”

The idea for moving to Kansas arose when Kathy inherited some land in the valley along Washington Creek. They purchased some land for their house and the top of the hill above their home, which is where they eventually planted lavender. Jack said they tried several crops before settling on this colorful crop.

They tried tomatoes first but a hailstorm wiped out their first crop. Next they planted organic basil. It grew well and a store in Lawrence agreed to buy their crop, but there were some problems. In order to deliver fresh basil, Kathy had to drive up the top of the hill at 4 a.m., shine lights from the truck on the basil to harvest it, clean it, and then deliver it to town.

“I didn’t realize that the weight we were paid on was mostly the stems,” Wilson said. “I took all the leafs off the stem and delivered nice, clean bags of basil leafs that weighed basically nothing.”

Black gold pumps green into economy

By Lacey Newlin

Things have changed a little since Jed Clampett first struck oil on television in the early 1960s. With the rising cost of operating a farm, especially in the midst of a drought, the term “oil boom” has become a safety net for agriculture. Rather than financing a mansion with a cement pond in Beverly Hills, oil strikes have kept many family farms afloat during trying times of late.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the cost of production has shot through the roof. In 2007, the census reported $241.1 billion were spent on farming expenses. That number increased by 36.4 percent in 2012, totaling $328.9 billion American farmers spent to keep their operation going. These numbers are only expected to increase.

With the rising cost of raising a crop and purchasing cows, it’s no wonder the average farmer’s age keeps going up. The average age of the primary farm operator has risen from 50.5 years of age in 1982 to 58.3 years as of 2012. The 2012 census also indicated only 10,714 farmers in the U.S. are under age 25.

Some parts of the United States, like Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and Montana, among others, have been lucky in that the existence of oil and gas has helped to alleviate these two problems by some measure.

“It has really made a lot of good paying jobs,” said one farmer. “These young men can come home, back to the farm and can stay and raise their family instead of going to a city and getting a job in a different profession.”

Red Angus members appointed to BIF board

The Red Angus Association of America was well represented at the 46th annual Beef Improvement Federation Research Symposium and Convention in Lincoln, Neb., June 18 to 21. At the end of the annual mee

Momentum remains strong for U.S. pork, beef exports

U.S. pork and beef exports maintained their strong momentum in May, with export volumes for both products exceeding last year’s totals and value increasing by double digits, acco

National Junior Red Angus Association elects officers

Members of the National Junior Red Angus Association recently elected six young men and women to represent the Red Angus breed as the National JRA Board of Directors. Electio

Larson chosen Hereford National Junior Merit Scholar

Michael Larson, Tecumseh, Oklahoma, was chosen as the 2014 National Junior Merit Scholar by the Hereford Youth Foundation of America. The award was presented July 11 during the


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