Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Farm wives stake common ground for food education

LaVell Winsor is pictured with her husband, Andy Winsor, and their 1-year-old son, Brayden, on Friday on their farm outside of Grantville. LaVell is one of several women in the state who participate in CommonGround, a woman-to-woman group that works to dispel misconceptions about farming. Winsor would like others to understand her belief that the overwhelming majority of farming in the country is done by family operations rather than corporations.

LaVell Winsor is pictured with her husband, Andy Winsor, and their 1-year-old son, Brayden, on Friday on their farm outside of Grantville. LaVell is one of several women in the state who participate in CommonGround, a woman-to-woman group that works to dispel misconceptions about farming. Winsor would like others to understand her belief that the overwhelming majority of farming in the country is done by family operations rather than corporations.

January 15, 2012


With the green and yellow John Deere logo on everything from clocks to cooking canisters, a quick glance around LaVell Winsor’s kitchen is all it takes to tell she’s a farm wife.

From the kitchen to the field, Winsor wants to share what it means to be a farm woman as part of a program geared toward dispelling misconceptions about conventional farming. Winsor is part of a campaign backed by the United Soybean Board and the National Corn Growers Association called CommonGround. The goal is to cultivate conversations between the women who grow food and the women who buy it.

“We see that in a grocery store it is usually the women and moms of the family doing the grocery shopping. So what better way to connect with the consumer than farm moms, who grow the same food they put on the table?” said DeEtta Bohling, a communications specialist for the Kansas Corn Commission.

The program originally started with five states and has expanded to 15. Earlier this month, farm women had dinner with academics, media and government officials in Lawrence before the Kansas University and K-State women’s basketball game to talk about farming.

“We aren’t trying to tell anyone how to eat,” Winsor said. “But we would like them to know what actually happens on our farm.”

Winsor lives near Grantville on a corn and soybean farm with her husband, Andy, 1-year-old son, Brayden, and 16-year-old son, Kade. Andy is a third-generation farmer in the area and farms with his brother and father.

Among the misinformation Winsor would like to counter is that corporations are growing the nation’s food.

“If you look at the statistics, it’s like 96 percent of (farms) are family-owned,” Winsor said. “The family is there working day to day.”

Winsor is one of four women in the state who have volunteered to share their experience of farm life, mostly through blogs, Facebook and Twitter. The other farm women are from Alton, Ulysses and Clay Center.

On Winsor’s blog, she has written about everything from the need to improve agriculture production to meet a growing world population, to hot chocolate recipes. One of the more popular posts was an explanation of how soybeans are harvested. The post came with photos of a combine in action, the unloading of grain and the family taking a snack break out of the back of a minivan.

Winsor was surprised by how many of her friends were interested in the process.

“This is what we do everyday, but people have no idea how that works,” she said.

Winsor, who married her husband eight years ago, has been around agriculture all her life.

She grew up on a wheat, barley, cattle and hog farm in eastern Colorado, majored in agribusiness at Colorado State University and worked for Cargill, where she helped advised farmers on when to sell grain. She is now a consultant at Loewen and Associates.

Even before becoming a part of CommonGround, Winsor was asking how farmers could inform others about agriculture.

“How can we get information out there, what can we do about this, how can we get more knowledge out on how (farming) actually happens in this area?” Winsor said.

Along with the misconception of farms as corporate entities, Winsor said that few consumers realize the amount of safety regulations farmers have to follow. And, while Winsor supports the concept of buying local foods, she also said there are great benefits to being able to buy food that comes from far away. The system is one that allows folks to eat fresh fruit and vegetables all year long.

“We want to have conversations, we want to educate people about what is going on, on the farm,” Winsor said.


Kris Adair 6 years, 2 months ago

Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing about this intriguing topic. I look forward to positive growth of Common Ground in Kansas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

It could have been stated somewhat more clearly, but the point is clear enough.

If you disagree, why not just state your disagreements?

Pastor_Bedtime 6 years, 2 months ago

These folks operate more independently than you do, I'll bet. Use an ISP? Have a bank account? How about a mortgage? Easy to cast stones from your urban perspective. Freedom comes in many flavors.

Barbara Emert 6 years, 2 months ago

Of course the farms are "family owned". That's because by law corporations can't put the screws to the government for huge subsidies. So Dad gets his share, Mom gets hers and each of the kids file too. Ag Welfare.

frontierfarmwife 6 years, 2 months ago

Growing the nation's food supply is very important to the American farmer. It is an occupation that is taken very seriously, and with much devotion. It is not an easy way of life by any means, and as a wife/co-operator with my husband, enjoy being able to raise my family on a farm. It teaches them the value of hard work and appreciation for how their food is produced. We need the American family farmer, because without them, our food supply would not be able to sustain the growth in our country's population.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 2 months ago

Wow, the haters are out in force on this thread.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Farm subsidies recipients, 1995-2010 1 Russell T Winsor Grantville, KS 66429 $ 819,494.64 2 Andrew T Winsor Grantville, KS 66429 $ 129,306.37 10 Benjamin J Winsor Grantville, KS 66429 $ 1,496.0

Jennifer Dropkin 6 years, 2 months ago

This story says almost nothing about food education or contemporary farming. There's some talk about dispelling "misconceptions" about conventional farming, but all it says is that corporations don't do the farming. It doesn't say anything about the corporate ownership of soy and corn seeds that have been genetically modified to necessitate buying herbicide from the corporation that sells the seeds. It doesn't say anything about governmental subsidies provided for growing genetically modified corn and soybeans and how that determines what farmers choose to grow. It doesn't say anything about the energy inputs needed to run an industrialized farm growing soy and corn. It doesn't say anything about irrigating with ancient water from aquifers and depleting that source of water. It doesn't say anything about loose and eroding topsoil that has been sterilized and is devoid of all life and nutrition. It doesn't say anything about the need for industrially produced fertilizer because the soil has been killed and reduced. The farming woman quoted mentions that it's good to have a food import system that makes all kinds of foods available out of season and from far away without pointing out that the nutritional value of food declines as import distance increases, that much of it is from seed that has been selected for storage quality instead of taste and nutritiousness, and that the cost of transporting food huge distances for such convenience is high and uses up fuel. It doesn't say anything about corn being used to produce ethanol instead of "food to feed the world," which isn't correct: food isn't grown to feed the world; it's grown to make a profit. I am sure that the farming woman quoted in this article loves her farming life, but she has allowed herself to be a shil for the United Soybean Board and the National Corn Growers Association.

i_know_beans 6 years, 2 months ago

"a shil (sic) for the United Soybean Board and the National Corn Growers Association"?? Do you even understand how those organizations work? They are farmer-funded, farmer-directed, self-help programs. Speaking up for herself doesn't make her a "shill." She's not pretending.

Dan Thalmann 6 years, 2 months ago

After graduating from high school in rural Kansas and eventually making my way to Lawrence, I started to believe some of the propaganda put out by the anti-conventional farming folks in Lawrence. I eventually moved back to rural Kansas and now know that most Lawrence folks claiming knowledge on this topic really don't understand jack. Their generalizations are believed by people wanting to be against a style of farming that isn't their style. Unless you live here, I don't think it is possible to understand it. I feel bad for Winsor and folks like her who are trying to counter the propaganda, because rural folks like us are outnumbered and the city folks refuse to believe anything outside their leftist agenda.

Pastor_Bedtime 6 years, 2 months ago

And yet these hard workers work hard and endeavor to support themselves and their familes in the best possible manner they can, despite the fact that their playing field may not be the most optimal, instead of throwing their hands in the air in failure and dispair. Name a single market that isn't "fixed" or managed through government meddling. Many farmers make independent decisions that would suprise you, just as all you city folks don't act en masse. Rest assured, rural folks don't have the luxury of opting out because of ideological difficulties.

Pastor_Bedtime 6 years, 2 months ago

Aviation. Petroleum. Mining. Logging. And let's not forget the biggie, Education.

Agvocate 6 years, 2 months ago

I encourage each of you to check out the CommonGround website: Obviously, this article doesn't go into depth about agriculture but it appears they have lots of neat videos, recipes and blogs that speak to moms and consumers. What a neat way to educate- through conversation. Kudos to this grassroots program and the women taking time from their busy schedule to be a part of it.

LaVell 6 years, 2 months ago

Thank you to Christina Metz for reporting on CommonGround. The difficulty with any industry, but particularly with farming, is that each part has many factors that are involved. Questions, similar to the comments above, are what really inspired me to become involved with CommonGround. There are so many questions to what is involved with farming and how food gets to our plates. I did not volunteer to work with CommonGround to tell people how to eat, but to share with others what is actually done on a farm in today’s world and why. There are too many individual issues above to address in this comment section, but I would like to touch on these topics in my blog over the next few months, so please feel free to visit at:

Vanann 6 years, 2 months ago

As a farmer, I am curious why some people think we only have one company to buy seed from and that we have no choice but to use Monsantos chemicals. While like many other business segments there are fewer choices, that does not mean there are none. And like grocery and pharmacy lines we have generic chemicals available. Do not feel sorry for me or claim I owe my life to a corporation. We are independent but definitely have industry partners that help build our business, ie., the bank, the grain elevator, the farm cooperative, seed and chemical companies. Farming for us has been and continues to be both a great business and a great way of life.

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