Consumer outreach focuses on baking and social media

Posted October 30, 2014

Photo: Sandwich.
In the age of information, consumers are more curious than ever before about their food. From the farm to the fork, gourmet cooks and young moms alike want to know everything. This presents a huge challenge for farmers, who may not be used to the younger generation's demands for instantaneous knowledge. But this newfound curiosity is also a huge opportunity for people in the agricultural community, especially for those involved in the wheat industry.

Wheat foods have been intensely scrutinized over the last few years due to growing consumer interests in gluten-free and low-carb products. While hungry patrons should have the pick of their choice in the marketplace, these fad diets are largely based on misinformation and fear. Kansas Wheat, a member of the national Wheat Foods Council, is aiming to counteract these fallacies with an expanded consumer outreach program.

One of the most visible, and tasty, outreach programs that Kansas Wheat hosts is the National Festival of Breads (NFOB), sponsored by King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast. This will be the fourth NFOB, and likely the biggest year to date. The festival, hosted in Manhattan on June 13, 2015, will combine a "good-ol'-fashioned bake-off" (between eight national finalists), with baking workshops, exhibits, door prizes, sampling and much more. Entries for the competition are currently being accepted until January 16, 2015. The biennial competition receives hundreds of original bread recipes developed by amateur bakers from across the country. The top eight finalists are flown into Kansas to participate in the competition, as well as to tour a Kansas wheat farm at harvest time and a flour mill.

"This contest helps us bridge the gap between farmers and the end users of their crops, the bakers," said Cindy Falk, nutrition educator at Kansas Wheat and Chair of the National Festival of Breads baking contest. "The finalists who get the chance to tour the farm and flour mill are excited to go back to their home states and tell their friends about what they've learned!"

Kansas Wheat has also been working to expand its social media presence for both consumers and producers. Followers will notice an increase in online content all over the web, from the National Festival of Breads Pinterest page to our websites. Some recent additions are food-blog style recipes (complete with photos) for our followers to try, creation of wheat related infographics, important statewide weather forecasts and a more consistent posting schedule. Many of these recipes are tested in our Kansas Wheat test kitchen to ensure your baking success.

"Development of relatable and reliable online content is critical for any commodity organization," said Jordan Hildebrand, program assistant at Kansas Wheat. "Consumers are looking to Dr. Google for information on their food and diets, and anti-agriculture organizations are pros at using internet platforms. We need to be able to make this a two-sided conversation, and starting it now is crucial."

Be sure and follow Kansas Wheat on Twitter and Facebook @KansasWheat, and remember to share photos of your operation, fabulous wheat-filled sunsets, the future generations of farmers or whatever you think represents the industry. We would love to show them to curious consumers who might never get to see Kansas' famous amber waves of grain.