Sawyer Land and Cattle Co

(Dr. Dan Thomson) Hey there folks, welcome to That’s My Farm, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University. And today we’re going to be outside of McPherson, Kansas, with Derek and Katie Sawyer and we’re going to talk about their diversified cropping operation, their cattle operation and some of the technology that they’re not only incorporating into their operation on a day-to-day basis, but some of the technology they’re using to talk about agriculture around the world. Thanks for joining me and we’ll be back in a minute.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Dan) Hey there folks, welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and we’re down here in central Kansas, we’re just south of McPherson with Derek and Katie Sawyer. Thanks a lot for taking time out of your day to spend with us. You know Sawyer Land and Cattle Company is something that you all are involved with on a day-to-day basis. We’re very fortunate that you’re going to share a little bit of your history and talk with us about your farm and ranch. But Derek why don’t you start off and kind of give us the lay of the land. (Derek) I grew up in the seat of the pickup and on the floor of the combine you know, since I was a baby with my Dad and Grandpa. And we operated a commercial cattle feedlot for about 20 years, since the time I was born. We’ve been farming in central Kansas for years and years. I’m the fourth generation and really hope to see it through to the next generation and our young son. (Dan) And both of you are from around the area and it really does become a family event. It’s a business. But it’s a tradition, it’s a heritage and it’s a sense and point of pride. And talk a little bit about the diversification of your operation now. (Derek) We, like I said, we’re involved in the farming and the cattle business. We find that it goes real well hand-in-hand. We try and play cowboy in farming country around here. But we have a cowherd and they spend the summer, basically southeast of Wichita in the Flint Hills country. But when they come home for the winter, we have the products around here. We utilize the corn stocks and if we happen to have a summer with more drought than rain, then we chop that corn for silage and we utilize all of the very by-products we have on the farm to feed to the cows. And it’s become a big advantage for us in trying to produce, trying to keep cattle as cheaply as we can. (Dan) You bet. Well, when you start to think about sustainability and utilizing our resources to the fullest, that ruminant animal is so versatile and utilize the stocks and utilize the grain and kind of clean up. Like you said, some of the things that may go wrong during the year here still make it an operational advantage to having that ruminant. (Derek) And then to be able to use the manure out of our backgrounding operation to go back on to the crops and you know it all works hand-in-hand. It cuts down on the tillage because we’re out there cleaning up some of the stubble with the cows and it’s become a neat little niche for us here. (Dan) Kind of fun when you think about all the people that are sitting around tables in cities and things to that talking about sustainability and agriculture and you all are doing it. You have cows to feed, you have crops to fertilize, and you have places to put water to optimal usage. And now you’re bringing people from the city out on to your farm and opening it up and being able to share what’s actually being done with people that are making these decisions. (Derek) And a farmer… you hate to go out and say that you’re proud. I mean a farmer is really hard to admit that he is proud of doing something a lot of times, but it does bring you some pride to have people that have no idea what you do for a living and they just take for granted the food that they eat. To bring them out and show they around and explain why we’re doing the things we’re doing and to have them go home and pass that on to their friends is enjoying what they did or seeing what they saw, that’s fun. (Dan) Dang right. Well folks, we’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to talk a little bit with Katie about what she’s doing with her blog and communication. We’re going to go look at some of the pasture too here at Sawyer Land and Cattle Company. You’re watching That’s My Farm, and we’re sure glad that you joined us.

(Dan) Well folks welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson, we’re south of McPherson, Kansas, with Derek Sawyer and we’ve talked, Derek, about the diversification of your farm and now we’re out here at the pasture. So let’s talk a little bit about your beef operation and some of the things that you all are doing there. (Derek) You know one of the projects when I was in 4H was showing steers and then I got into the beef cows. And that’s always been my love of agriculture is cows and calves. And so we run about 500 Mama cows. And they’re basically Angus based, we basically run all Angus bulls. They spend the summer southeast of Wichita in the Flint Hills. And then come home in the wintertime and we calve everything out basically around here in little pastures that we have. As far as our breeding program, I’m wanting to breed a product, I’m wanting to grow a product that is the high quality steak, that is going to marble and going to cut a good product out. And so when I go to a white tablecloth restaurant I want to be thinking that that is my steak that we’re consuming at that time. (Dan) Absolutely. I just saw a thing on the TV the other day talking about the guy that started Sam Adams Beer and said if you want a viable product you either have to be better or you have to be cheaper. (Derek) That’s right. And it’s hard to be cheaper right now in the beef business. (Dan) Exactly. But you’re working toward that. You’re working towards the quality, whether it’s taking care of your land, taking care of the area, working on the genetics of your herd and you’re always pushing the envelope. (Derek) Right. (Dan) It’s great to see somebody that’s passionate about the beef industry, taking it from conception to consumption and thinking all the way through. And I appreciate you being with us today. Folks, we’re going to take a break on That’s My Farm. When we come back, more from Sawyer Land and Cattle Company.

(Dan) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and we’re outside of McPherson, Kansas, with Derek Sawyer of Sawyer Land and Cattle Company and we’re talking about technology. And you guys certainly have done some very cool things with your irrigation systems. (Derek) We had a big opportunity to start with. We had quite a few acres of flood irrigation. What we found was it was inefficient and time intensive, labor intensive and we really weren’t really getting that crop watered like we needed to or as productive as what it could be. And so we looked into this SDI, Subsurface Drip Irrigation. We bought in, jumped in with two feet and it’s really allowed our farm acres to be more productive and more profitable in the overall situation. (Dan) Yeah and as you and I visited about it, it’s really interesting when you think about being able to be more productive, more… maybe you’re using the same amount of water but you’re growing more crops per the amount of water being used. And some of the reasons for that was your energy conservation on your pumps and more effective distribution of the water within the field. (Derek) Exactly. (Dan) So talk a little bit about some of that energy savings and why that was important to you all. (Derek) We’re pretty blessed to have fairly low electricity rates, but any electricity bill when you get it in the mail, is still too high. And I’m sure everybody cusses that, but we want to get to where we were using the electricity as efficiently as possible. When we turn on that motor that’s a very prime, it’s the heaviest use of that motor to start it up and get it going. So we went to variable drive on all of our motors here. So that when we start that motor it will start up real slow, stay under a threshold that the utility company has to try and keep those bills down. And then we’re pumping through this underground irrigation. We’re pumping a lot less rate of water. We’re running about 450 gallons a minute instead of up to 1,000 or 1,100 in some cases. (Dan) Good night! (Derek) And so… and then we’re getting the water out and into our subsurface tapes, it’s putting that water exactly where the crop needs it. The roots will grow down and feed basically right out of that tape and we’re not having any over use of the water to get it a half mile down the road so the crops down there can get it. It’s all flowing out at an even distribution and feeding that crop, as it needs it. (Dan) Well, and you start to think about when you talk about flood irrigation, you were having to push it into the draws and into the low spot and then have it come back up out of that area and push it back up hill or to the crops and gravity doesn’t work too well. (Derek) No. Water will always flow downhill; we found that out a lot. When you have a low area in the field and instead of getting to the end where it needs to be it just spreads out and covers that low area. And so we’re able to irrigate more acres. It’s all in the acres that we’re allotted, but we’re irrigating those acres more efficiently than trying to dig ditches or push water where it doesn’t naturally want to go. (Dan) Well, it’s really cool when you start to see the new technology and adapted toward sustainability of water and more efficient and as we said more efficient use per corn produced. (Derek) Exactly. We’re looking…in the overall scope of things, I really want to cut down my water usage, but as I look at using a natural resource, I want to get the most production out of each gallon of water that I can. And this system is allowing me to do that. (Dan) Cool. Well thanks for joining us. Thanks for joining us on That’s My Farm, we’ll be back after the break.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to That’s My Farm, we’re outside of McPherson, Kansas, here at Sawyer Land and Cattle Company and Katie Sawyer is with us. (Katie) Hello. (Dan) Thanks for joining us. (Katie) You’re welcome. Thank you for coming. (Dan) You bet. And you do some pretty cool stuff, getting the message out to people about ag. So, just tell me a little bit about some of the things you’re involved in, quite a few things, but what are some of the things that you’ve involved with right now. (Katie) Well, I come from a newspaper background but I don’t come from a farming background. So, I took my love of writing and my love of just kind of telling a story and combined that with my learning curve when I married a farmer. And so I created a blog, aptly called New to the Farm. And I basically kind of told the story of what I was learning as I was on the farm and if you’ll ask Derek I asked probably a million questions each day for a while. And I still ask a lot of questions but I try to take what I learn and put it into layman’s terms and kind of spell it out for the consumer. My target audience is people who do not live on a farm but who obviously have an interest in agriculture and beef production and how we care for our animals and how we raise our crops. And so I do that through blogging. I take lots of pictures, I tell lots of stories. And my blogging has kind of branched out and I’ve joined with some other groups such as Common Ground Kansas and the Kansas Beef Council to blog for their different groups and to kind of tell the story through their different channels. In addition to that, we are on Twitter; we’re on Facebook, all the social media sites. (Dan) It’s just amazing and when I met the Common Ground group and of course we do a lot of work with the Kansas Beef Council and know the producers in the state. I’ve actually seen some of your video work and your blog and it’s fantastic. When you sit down and you’re writing it or you’re thinking about the topic, does… is it things that you’re just coming across on the day-to-day basis or things that maybe that combine, not only what you’re dealing with but maybe what’s in the news to kind of help explain? (Katie) It’s kind of all of the above. Some times it’s just stuff that I wonder about and so I kind of find out for myself, And so and then kind of pass around my newly found knowledge. Sometimes it’s reaction to headlines. You know when we had a lot of incidents that were dealing with beef and beef production, I really tried to respond to that and talk about what we were doing or not doing on our farm. And then sometimes it’s simply stories that pop into my brain as I am running down a country road. And so I kind of take all of that, I throw it together and I try to provide a little bit of hard hitting mixed with fun and easy, mixed with pictures, mixed with text to try to hit on all points and try to get all audiences. (Dan) So, what are some of the reactions you get? Tell me what some of the people that are coming back or you know… (Katie) You know, a lot of what I get is people who recognize a farm and recognize what’s going on but don’t understand the details and the day-to-day behind it. So, I actually get a lot of positive response in terms of, wow, I didn’t realize you guys were doing that, or oh, that’s neat. Like every blogger I get a little bit of resistance occasionally of people who are questioning why we use genome crops or why we still continue to administer antibiotics to our sick cattle. Or maybe you know why are we using so much water in our crops. And so I do counter a lot of that. But those are great opportunities to hit one-on-one with an individual and really drill down and figure out what their questions are and how we can provide answers.

(Dan) Hey folks, welcome back to That’s My Farm, we’re at Sawyer Land and Cattle Company south of McPherson. We have Derek and Katie Sawyer. And you all have been very active in Farm Bureau and Kansas Farm Bureau, American Farm Bureau and you were the District Seven Farm Family of the Year. And so… active role in organized agriculture. What are some of the experiences, what does that mean to you all? (Derek) You know when we were involved with the American Farm Bureau, Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee it was amazing to get involved with other producers from across the nation. And the life long friends that we’ve formed from being involved in that organization has been tremendous. (Dan) Yep. What about you Katie? (Katie) I think one thing that was neat for me being new to the farming world was just learning about the diversity of agriculture that’s represented in American Farm Bureau and even across Kansas Farm Bureau to go from one end of the state to the other. We were very involved in policy development. And so it was neat to kind of see the intersections of where what we do impacts, or how the policy impacts what we do. And kind of how it all merges. And how we, even though we’re here on the farm, not in Washington D.C. or not in Topeka do have a voice and do have a way of passing along our messages to the different organizations and agencies to try to change and tweak what they’re doing. (Dan) What do you guys think about…there’s a lot of farm families in Kansas that watch this show, and young farmers and ranchers, get involved? (Derek) Absolutely. It seems like a lot of hassle to get off the farm when things are going on, when you need to be harvesting and when you need to be planting, and go to meetings. But the relationships you form in those meetings and like Katie said, the overall impact of the policy as a return on the farm, it’s great to have that voice. And the organizations need young people involved and staying involved. (Dan) How do they…what’s the best way to get involved Katie? (Katie) I think it’s fine whatever you’re passionate about. Derek was involved in Farm Bureau because it has an overall, overarching… but say you’re just a crop farmer, go with one of the organizations that represent one of the commodities you grow. Or go with another general organization but find what you are passionate about. Find somebody who kind of reflects those passions and find out how you can get involved. I personally kind of stepped out of the agriculture-based stuff, and went into more of an advocacy role. And so that’s why I got involved in Common Ground Kansas was to talk about just why we farm and what we do, not as much as from policy development but more from an education point of view. (Dan) Well, thanks a million for letting us come on your farm. (Derek) Absolutely. (Dan) It was a great day. Great to meet you. Great to get to know you. And I am very thankful for everything that you all are doing. (Derek and Katie) Thank you. (Dan) And thank you for watching That’s My Farm. If you want to know more about what we do on That’s My Farm or see archived episodes, you can find us on the website at You’ve been watching That’s My Farm, south of McPherson, Kansas. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I’ll see you down the road.

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