WELLINGTON Mexican flour miller Emiliano Gallego arrived this week in Kansas to take the flour milling short course at Kansas State University's international grains program.
Friday, Gallego -- along with fellow millers from Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco, Nigeria, Philippines and Taiwan -- got a chance to get out of the classroom and into a wheat field in Sumner County, where they could experience a Kansas wheat harvest firsthand.
Some carefully eyed every grain in a handful of wheat at the Wellington Co-op grain elevator. Others chewed a few kernels to check out the moisture levels. Still others watched wide-eyed as the heavily laden trucks brought their loads to the grain elevators and the big combines quickly cut through vast acreages. Everybody took pictures.
But Gallego's attention was riveted by the two pretty, blonde-haired young women driving one of the big grain trucks into the Wellington grain elevator. He told them they were the cutest truck drivers he had ever seen.
"I can't believe this -- this is paradise," Gallego said after they drove away. "I am impressed."
Gallego, general manager of Molino Harinero El Rosal in Tijuana, Mexico, told his classmates on the tour bus later he had never before seen a "girl truck driver." That memory probably is not what the Kansas Wheat Commission had in mind when it brought the flour millers to watch the harvest. But it is all part of the harvest experience.
Kendall McFall, of the International Grains Program at Kansas State, said the milling course and wheat harvest tour helped educate grain buyers about how to buy wheat at market and to know its value.
"It adds to the educational experience required to be a buyer in today's world," he said. "We believe when world buyers know how to operate in the U.S. system, we become a valued resource for the buyers."
At a stop at the Wellington Co-op elevator, manager Ken Fitzpatrick told the group that 384,000 acres of wheat were planted in Sumner County, historically the largest wheat-growing county in the state.
Fitzpatrick drew incredulous gasps from some millers when he told them Sumner County has 18 grain elevators alone.
He said most of the wheat now coming into the elevator was grading as No. 2 wheat, with average test weights of 58 pounds per bushel. A little has come in as high as 61 pounds a bushel. Farmers are figuring about 40 bushels an acre average yield in the county.
At Tom and Mary Morton's farm in Oxford, Boniface Isunuoya, the mill superintendent at the Honeywell Flour Mill in Nigeria, was one of the lucky ones who got to ride the combine with Tom Morton.
"Quite an experience," Isunuoya said breathlessly after getting off the combine. "Wow. It is a big farm."
Mahjoub Sahaba, director of IFIM in Casablanca, Morocco, said he came to Kansas to "understand deeply" the wheat industry. He said it surprised him the expertise he found in the state.
"My understanding is it is quality wheat," Sahaba said. "My recommendation (to buy U.S. wheat) would be very strong because I witnessed the quality of the wheat."