Keesling Farms

(Mikhayla DeMott) Good morning, and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host, and I’m here in Chase, Kansas, talking with Doug Keesling about his crops, his livestock, and his advocacy for agriculture. Stay tuned, and we’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.

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(Mikhayla) Good morning, and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host, and I’m here in Chase, America with Doug Keesling. First off Doug, tell me a little bit about the operation you have here. (Doug Keesling) Keesling Farms here was once Keesling Seed Farms under my dad and my grandfather. I’m the fifth generation to run and live here at this facility. We have wheat, corn, soybean, milo, and a cattle operation here on the Santa Fe Trail. (Mikhayla) Okay. Tell me a little bit; I know this farm has a unique history. Tell me a little bit about the history of the farm. (Doug) Yes, there was a doctor who actually homesteaded right here at this location, and would treat settlers as they were coming by on the Santa Fe Trail. He had a unique position, because we find different plants and stuff here that he used as medicine. We also have a cemetery in our pasture, from some of the mistakes of his practice I guess you could say, or the people who did not make it out of here. When you think about the hard times that we go through sometimes, and what we complain about., the settlers had it a lot harder than what we’ve ever had it. (Mikhayla) Talk a little bit about, I know you have crops and cattle here, talk a little bit about that. (Doug) Okay. We raise a lot of wheat in rotation with corn, beans, and milo, and soybeans. The last couple of years has been interesting, because we’ve gone from a drought, to this year kind of a wet time. We had tremendous yields on our wheat this year, with prices being down, but ended up being about the same as in the past years. It’s interesting to have those good crops, and we’re harvesting corn right now, and those yields are way up. (Mikhayla) I know you have an interesting story about how you got back to the family farm. Tell me a little about your history of coming back to the farm. (Doug) Sure. When I was in high school, I didn’t want anything to do with the farm. Everything seemed like that I did with my parents, I was determined I was going to leave. Ended up going to school for botany, and ended up switching to journalism, went to California for a while, and took a job out there. Then with my mom getting sick with cancer, I came back to help, and I’ve never left since. It’s been an interesting road, because I do a lot of ag advocacy, and the journalism degree that I have has been able to help me promote the love of agriculture to the world. (Mikhayla) How has the transition from generation to generation been here at the farm? (Doug) Actually, ours has been very smooth. I know some farm families that struggle. I’m the fifth generation, and we’re already planning for our sixth generation. I have four children, and I’m wanting to go ahead and try to help them get set up, where they can have a future for it. We’ve been able to do this fairly well. My dad decided to retire five years ago. When he did, he went to pursue some other interests, and I took over full-time. Prior to that, we have several businesses here. He just started turning me loose with one business at a time, and was able to help that transition then as I could grow and learn about those different entities. (Mikhayla) Sure. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.

(Mikhayla) Good morning, and welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host. I’m here with Doug, in front of his cornfield, and on some conservation land. Tell me a little bit about how you use your conservation here on the farm? (Doug) Sure. We’re standing on a CP33. Its filter strips go all the way around our farms. The majority of our pieces of land have these. They work for multiple purposes. One, they clean up; this farm has lots of terraces. It cleans up any water coming in and out of the farm, so that we’re doing a better job with the environment and all of this. Also, this is perfect hunting grounds and nesting grounds for pheasants, upland birds, quail, turkey, the deer love to lay in here. With four children, and I enjoy to hunt, it’s nice to be able to come out here on the weekends. Spend time your family and your kids to be able to go hunting. Also, we bring other people out, and we’re educating them about the farm and farm life. A lot of times hunting comes up, because it’s something that they’ll do. We like to bring them out here, and we’ll walk these strips to be able to do this. I guide pheasant and quail hunts also in order to do this. Also, we do this as something that we can give back to the community. My son was in the hospital a little bit. Children’s Mercy treated him so well in Kansas City, that I donate hunts either to Children’s Mercy or St. Jude’s. It’s something that I can give back to the community by donating pheasant hunts and then guide those hunts back to the community too. (Mikhayla) Great. We’re here in front of your cornfield. Tell me a little bit about the crop and land side of things on your farm. (Doug) Sure. We’ve got cornfield behind us. This isn’t considered to be one of our most productive fields, but this year it is doing very well. It’s a blow sand field with high elevation changes. As you can see, that really drops off behind us. This year, the corn is doing tremendous. Dryland yields what we’ve cut so far, been running 140 to 150 bushels on this, which is tremendous for this piece of soil. We’re really blessed by all of that to be able to have this good of corn on here in this type of year. After we harvest the corn, we’ll be planting wheat back so it will be no till right into these stocks shortly after. Then, we’ll have two years worth of wheat on there. Then we’ll go back and either double crop beans or milo back into those. Whichever we choose, we choose the opposite of those two the following year, and then it’ll go back to corn, and then after the corn, then it’ll continue right on in with the double crop wheat and back into the rotation again. (Mikhayla) Okay. What are some other practices? I know you do some organic type farming here. Talk a bit about that. (Doug) Sure. All of the fertilizer we use on our crops across our whole farm is organic chicken litter from an egg-laying facility that’s only four miles from this site. We stockpile the chicken litter as it comes out every week, spread it that week in order to keep flies and insects down, and use that as a source of organic manure. It’s natural. It’s high in phosphorus, trace minerals, and it works perfect for the soil. It’s a way to keep not only the crops, but also our grasses going in our pastures and in these conservation reserves. It’s a natural thing so that we feel very comfortable that we’re doing the right thing for the environment. (Mikhayla) Speaking of your grasses, I know you have some unique things about some of your land here and some history to this farm here. (Doug) Sure. Almost all of the land that we farm is owned by family members, my father, myself, I have two older sisters that each have a piece of land that they keep. Even my two sons already have a piece of land that’s in their name. This piece of dirt, my grandfather bought during the depression for $192. He bought 160 acres here and it was his father-in-law’s. His father-in-law during the depression, the bank was in the process of foreclosing on this piece of dirt, and he went in and paid the loan off and got it. I’m sure that made extra bonus points for a son-in-law to do that. Even back then, I’m sure people went for bonus points. This was kind of an interesting piece of history. I now own this piece of land and really enjoy the history and all that goes behind that. I believe that God only made so much land and that we need to do the right thing by it and protect it and do the right thing for our environment, because I plan on living here all my life. (Mikhayla) Great. Thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.

(Mikhayla) Good morning and welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m back here with Doug in front of his Red Angus herd of cattle. Doug, why Red Angus? (Doug) Several years ago we bought seven that were Red Angus Polled Hereford crosses. Then we went and bought multiple bulls that are involved in purebred Red Angus. They’re getting more and more red all the time. There’s still that little bit of Polled Hereford in them. It’s funny because as you look back, as we all should in history, when my grandfather had his cattle herd, it was all dairy cattle. When my dad graduated high school, they all disappeared off the farm because there wasn’t any extra manpower to help, and so dad always complained about that. I remember hearing that growing up. History tends to repeat itself. My dad bought Polled Herefords. When I was the last child to graduate, and when I left home, all of the Polled Herefords disappeared off the farm for several years until I came back. It’s interesting always as history does repeat itself. (Mikhayla) Sure. Talk a little bit about what the cattle have been grazing on here. I know you have a unique piece of land here on your farm. Talk a little bit about those things. (Doug) Sure. This one is not a native pasture here, man-made. We’ve been getting ready to turn them out on some cover crops and with our crop rotation, we pick one it’s near one of our pastures and plant a mixture of sedan, any leftover milos or anything else that’s left just to clean up the warehouse. We usually mix it in with some millets, cowpeas, few other things from year to year whichever we think might be best for that piece of ground or that year. We plant it as a cover crop mixture and this one’s planted on the other side of the fence and they’re going to be turned out here tomorrow on it. That way they can graze it and continue. That way we’re able to keep most of the herd together or a bigger chunk of a herd together in one spot instead of rotating. You mentioned that one eighth of piece. We have one piece that’s in still native grass and we try to take extra care of it because you can still see the Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts through that piece and its really interesting piece of history, because as we go on further in time, there’s less and less of those native ones and you can still the buffalo wallows and the wagon wheel tracks. It’s just a neat part of our family history. (Mikhayla) Awesome, great, thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.

(Mikhayla) Good morning, and welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host here with Doug Keesling. We’re going to talk a little bit about his involvement in the Wheat Commission. First off, talk to me about your involvement in Kansas Wheat Commission. (Doug) Sure. The Kansas Wheat Commission has helped farmers for 50-some years across Kansas, whether it be research and development, whether it be education around the world and several other facets. Let’s talk about some of that. For every bushel of wheat that we raise here on our farm, there’s two pennies that go to the Wheat Commission through the Checkoff Funds and those wheat, those funds go to promote new varieties back on our farms, new wheat research for disease and insect protection. They also go back to help go in with other funds as matching funds to the federal government to fund US wheat associates across the world to promote growing markets like Latin America, or Africa, or things like this. They also go into promotions and education in order to educate the people, whether it be an urban market to combat Celiac disease and to go to funding in order to help find a cure for something like that. All of those are important things. (Mikhayla) How do those private funds support that research? (Doug) They’re using that through the Wheat Commission as a board. We sit down, and with farmer input we try to figure out what is the most important things for that year and that those funds can be used for. We may have part of it maybe for developing a new wheat variety in Kansas. We can have a new Everest, or a new KanMark, or any of those new varieties, and so as farmers we can raise more. It might be in order to have disease protection and stuff like this. Then it goes a step further by promoting wheat in other ways. That goes into developments of the International Grains Program, promoting it internationally by bringing in foreign trade buyers that way. It might be because we developed the Heartland Plant Innovation Center that’s there in the building also. The Heartland Plant Innovation Center has green houses, office space and genetics labs where we’re working on doubled haploids. This ties back, because it helps a program like Allan Fritz’s to develop new wheats for Kansas in a shorter amount of time for the farmers so that benefits that farmer. (Mikhayla) Perfect. How do those things benefit you here on your farm? (Doug) All of those by being able for Allan to be able to develop a variety of wheat in seven years by the use of double haploids in marker technology rather than taking 10 plus years. It gets into my farm faster in order so that we can increase our production here on a local level. (Mikhayla) Perfect, great, thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.

(Mikhayla) Good morning, and welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host and Doug is going to talk a little bit about his involvement outside of Kansas. I know you’re really involved in the state of Kansas. Talk to me a little bit about your involvement outside of Kansas and internationally. (Doug) Sure. When it comes to agriculture a lot of times we cannot think just right here on this farm and this county and sometimes even in the state. We have to think globally. I had been trying to work on several fronts in order to help out Kansas wheat farmers sell other products. Lately, we had a group of Cuban millers in Kansas. We showed them around, went through Kansas City with them, Topeka, Manhattan, showed them the Innovation Center we talked about. This helps, because it helps to educate foreign buyers, whether it be from Cuba, Mexico, the Middle East, Africa, any of our major buyers in order to help them understand how we operate and the rules and how to write a contract in order so they get the product that they want. That’s one of the main things. I’ve traveled a lot, whether be in a Mexico. Lately, several times to Cuba in order to open free trade up there. That really affects us a huge amount in Kansas, because Kansas just got done raising the bumper wheat crop. We have piles of grain on the ground in certain places around, and we’re starting fall harvest. I’m starting corn harvest now and the elevators want to move this. If we could open up the embargo to Cuba, you’re talking about 10% of the wheat that’s raised right here, in Kansas, could be shipped down to Cuba immediately, and be used by people right away. They’re buying right now from the European Union, from Canada. Logistics-wise, we have an advantage. If we could open that up, sell that and that 10% would get rid of a huge amount of stockpiles of grain here. We also work a lot with US Wheat Associates over abroad. Working on projects like Food Aid, the Jerry Moran has talked about a lot in some bills he’s working on. Also, the Flour Fortification for Africa, because sometimes bread is some of their only staple crops that they get on a regular basis. The end goal is to sell more US ag products, and I want to sell wheat from my farm. (Mikhayla) For sure. You talked a little bit about education. Tell me about the work that you do in DC to educate, to bridge the gap for agriculture. (Doug) Sometimes, with the agriculture, we have representatives that represent our individual states. We have to educate them on what that means. We have to educate them that 10% of the wheat crop here, in Kansas, could be shipped to Cuba, for instance, as we talked about. How that makes a difference, how that could raise the tailgate price that every one of us that sells wheat, and how that can help us out economically. It’s all about supply and demand from a farmer, and the farmer is a price-taker. If we can raise the price of wheat just a little bit by raising the demand, then that helps every farmer out in this region. We have to be educated not only about things here on our farm, but about what’s going on in DC, whether it be directly with food safety, food regulations. Maybe it’s about our fertilizers that we use, or chemicals in order just to cut down on the rules and regulations from an EPA standpoint that we deal with. There’s just so many things that we could talk about on all of those that we end up going to DC and trying to do an educational basis on them. (Mikhayla) We are a month away from the elections. How does that affect you here on your farm? (Doug) There’s lots of things that affect us, coming into elections with everyone, with the uncertainty of elections, but part of the thing I’d like to say is, I’m trying to help agriculture out because, through my advocacy work, I am part of the Trump Agricultural Advisory Board, so with this we’re able to give input into his candidacy, if he shall win, in order to help agriculture out with all of the rules, regs, the farm prices, the trade and the embargoes that we’ve talked about throughout this interview, in order to help agriculture out for the better. (Mikhayla) Thank you Doug, and thank you for watching this episode. Stay tuned every Friday morning for another episode of That’s My Farm.

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