Posted August 11, 2015
Families from as far as Johnson County hit the road to Hays on Thursday, August 6 to learn about wheat research at Kansas State University’s Agricultural Research Center in Hays. The annual Kansas 4-H Wheat Expo, previously known as the Kansas 4-H Wheat Show, also offered youth participants the chance to test their judging skills and compete in various wheat-focused events.
Deryl Waldren, K-State Research and Extension northwest area extension specialist, helped organize the event in coordination with local extension agents and the Ag Research Center. He said the event, which focuses on wheat education, has been conducted every year since 1954. Kansas Wheat is a regular contributing sponsor for the event.
“The Wheat Expo is a fun, educational field day,” he said. “And it is very easy to have wheat-focused activities here in Hays.”
The event cost just $5 to attend and the Market Wheat Show is open to all 4-H and FFA members. This year’s participants brought 52 entries in categories from one quart jars of clean wheat, yeast rolls, cookies, wheat photography and wheat educational displays. Youth also could submit bin run samples from a 4-H wheat test plot or “adopt a producer” plot to the Kansas State University Milling and Baking Laboratory for analysis and judging. In addition to the exhibits, all participants could practice their judging skills by ranking classes of wheat, cookies and photography as well as identifying common weeds.
At the end of the day, judges for each category awarded not only ribbons, but also provided oral comments for each category – helping participants improve their projects for the next year.
Speak for Wheat spokesperson Anita DeWeese from Pratt said her family has attended the event for the last eight or nine years. Her three children pick exhibits for their local fair that can also be brought to the Kansas 4-H Wheat Expo. This year that included samples from her son’s test plot, two displays, three wheat photographs and even some cookies and yeast rolls. But, she said the tours during the event are even more valuable than the judges’ feedback.
“The Wheat Expo is a good family event,” she said. “You get to explore some of the things you do not get to see on the farm.”
This year’s event featured tours of the Ag Research Center’s wheat breeding program. Stops highlighted the color sorting technology used to help differentiate white wheat from red, how varieties are evaluated for milling and baking quality, the customized six-row planter and mini-combine used to harvest test plots and all the by-products made from wheat. In addition, participants took a quick tour of the main research buildings and feedlot research areas as well as a visit to historic Fort Hays. Throughout the tour, Ag Research Center and extension staff highlighted possible future career choices for youth attendees in fields from genetics to milling.
The Kansas 4-H Wheat Expo rotates locations across the state, giving participants even more reasons to return year after year. Watch the Kansas 4-H website next spring for information on next year’s event for your chance to rediscover wheat.