Agriculture, Friendship, Kansas

Quality of Wheat, Quality of Life.

Life man. It sure throws you some twists and turns. After an insanely busy couple of weeks, some of it expected and some it not… my goal is to get caught up on the blog with a few posts this week, because not only do I enjoy sharing my adventures with you (Hi Mom and Grammy!), but this also is my way of journaling. Right before I left on my trip I posted this graphic on social media. As usual, my life over the past few weeks was right on target.

weird life

So first up, my trip to Kansas, May 20 to 27…

“Quality” is a general characteristic that I think most people would agree is hard to define. We determine quality based on what we value, or more simply on what our needs are, and those variables are obviously going to vary from person to person. With quality usually comes discussions on consistency, efficiency and impact. And then there is the question of the value of quality versus quantity.

My trip to Kansas was all about quality.

I traveled out to Kansas to join one of my colleagues in leading the Overseas Varietal Analysis (OVA) Hard Red Winter (HRW) Wheat Quality Summit. My organization invited overseas wheat customers from five countries (Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Israel and Nigeria), who have participated in our OVA programming to travel to Kansas to discuss HRW quality directly with wheat breeders, public researchers, grain handlers and farmers. These customers represented some of the largest milling and baking companies in their respective markets. We were also joined by three of our USW overseas technical staff who were accompanying the customers on the trip.

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group photo edited
The HRW Quality Summit group at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center.
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Two of my fellow USW colleagues from Nigeria and Korea.

In the United States, there are six distinct classes of wheat grown, each one providing different baking qualities important for different products. So while you might use the same all-purpose flour for everything you cook at home, the products we enjoy from the store or bakery are going to vary in the class of wheat that was used to make it based on characteristics such as texture, protein content, moisture, color and weight. Without going into a huge lesson, the challenge is that quality targets are not the only thing to focus on. The breeders develop different varieties for each wheat class that also focus on yield, disease and drought resistance, and more, and that process takes many years. In grain handling, there are also processes in transportation that impact the overall quality and export process. And then the farmers have the task of choosing the variety that are best for their farm and growing practices.

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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.

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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.
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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.
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K-State Research and Extension wheat field day in Hays, KS.

Like I said, quality is important. If you want to read more about the Summit and my work click the link below for an article I wrote. (Psst..it’s the second story down.)

Overseas Customers Discuss Need for Stability and Consistency in HRW Wheat Quality

So as I thought about the importance of quality and how we each define it in a different way, I thought about the rest of my trip and my life in general.

It’s so easy to focus on the negative and as hard as we try we often spend too much of our valuable time focused on things that don’t matter in the long run. I don’t know if I am just plain lucky, but the amount of QUALITY people in my life, in every place that I have lived, is humbling. These people love and accept me, and make me always want to be a better person. My “me” time while in Kansas for work was pretty short, but it never takes long for me to be reminded why I will forever be so thankful for my QUALITY time living there.

It’s hard sometimes living in a new city, with a new job and having to make new friends. I want that instant gratification of the QUALITY of life that I have built before, and in my impatience, forget that like breeding and growing QUALITY wheat, some things in life take time,  and trial and error.

During my vacation part of the trip I was able to FINALLY meet my best friend Leah’s new little one, Robin Michele. That look you see on my face below is pure joy! I had to wait two months before I got to hold her, and all the pictures and text messages in the world were just not enough for me.

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Instagram Caption: Finally got to meet and cuddle with baby Robin Michele. She is such a sweetheart, I wasn’t very good at sharing.
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Kyla and Baby Robin

I also got to spend some QUALITY time with friends and enjoying the place that I called home for six years. My old co-worker Jodi invited me and our friend Jancey out to her home for dinner. Her little girl #outlawainsley was born while Jodi and I worked together, and I had a wonderful evening flying a kite, “hopping through the onions,” eating “puppies” (puppy chow) and throwing rocks down a dirt road. My friends Kyla and Nathan came up for the weekend to visit which included walking through and seeing all of the new construction on K-State’s campus and a reminiscing night out in Aggieville. The real champ of week though, was my friend Brandi, who let me crash on her futon for a few nights until I could check into my hotel for work. We watched way too many episodes of Grey’s (she finally got me addicted), drank a decent amount of wine and were obnoxious as can be watching The Bachelorette premiere together.

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Instagram caption: “I wouldn’t give a nickel to have it paved in gold. Everything I love is at the end of a dirt road.”
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Flying a kite with Ainsley and Jancey.
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Kyla and I stopped by Smurthwaite, the women’s leadership/scholarship house where we first became friends.
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Instagram caption: I couldn’t imagine going through life without friends who just get it… Who get me, who laugh at the same things, who appreciate a good glass of #wine and obsess over the same ridiculous things
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Besties back in the Ville.

At this point I would end my blog post complaining about the awful time I had trying to get out of Kansas and back home to DC in time to meet my Mom who was flying in to visit and help me move. Out of all of the crazy travel stories, it might be the best one.

But my trip to Kansas also gave me a good reminder lesson on perspective. That week Kansas saw three days of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, and one of the farmers that I met at the Hays Field Day, went home that evening and lost everything on his farm and home just a few hours later. Twice I drove along I-70 near Chapman where one of the tornadoes crossed and saw just a little of the damage it had caused. It angers me when news reports say the “thankfully” a tornado “only hit a rural area,” and seem to forget that those areas are people’s whole livelihood. I only lived there just short of 6 years, but I consider Kansas home just as much as I do Oregon. I love that state so, so much and the people there even more. I’ve complained my fair share, but I would welcome all of my “troubles” over and over again if it meant those people still had their homes to sleep comfortably in.

Quality people, it’s important, worth recognizing and worth being patient for, in all walks of life.

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Thanks to Pat for snapping this picture of me!
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Instagram caption: #Kansas, blue jeans, Romeos and #wheat… These are a few of my favorite things.

Cheers, friends!

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post!

 

 

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