Carnahan Family

The opportunity to see agriculture on the nation’s western edge provided a fresh perspective on farming in southeast Kansas for Altamont farm owners Craig and Lori Carnahan.

 After the Carnahan family was named Farm Family of the Year for Kansas Farm Bureau’s third district, they were invited on a KFB tour of Californian agriculture. The trip was an eye-opener on many levels, especially the complexity and diversity of California crops compared to their farm in southeast Kansas.

“When you’ve lived somewhere as long as we have, it’s easy to feel like your style of farming is getting harder and more complex every year,” Craig said. “But dealing with stubborn weeds pales in comparison to what Californian farmers are facing with migrant workers in jeopardy and using complex protocols like releasing beneficial insects.”

The Carnahans visited commercial lemon groves, avocado, strawberry and flower farms as well as visiting the Port of Long Beach. Craig said the scale of the farming is what surprised and challenged him the most.

“Some of the farms we were on seemed to be producing more with 50 acres than we produce here with 500,” Craig said. “It made me think about increasing efficiencies and implementing new technologies at home.”

KFB takes its winning farm families to California each year, and although the Carnahan family had visited California before, they had never been as close to the California ag community as they were on this trip.

 “Now when I go to the grocery store I see strawberries from the county we visited,” Lori said. “Knowing we may have met the producers of the products we’re buying here in Kansas changed my perspective.”

The Carnahans primarily grow corn, soybeans and wheat, with around 50 head of cattle as a side business. Craig returned to the farm to join his dad and brother in 2002, after completing a degree in agricultural economics at Kansas State University. Lori also graduated from K-State with a degree in elementary education and taught school in her hometown of Edna for several years before staying at home with their two daughters, Kennedy, 5, and Keeley, 3.

The Carnahan family focuses primarily on corn and soybeans, with a smaller number of acres in wheat. Craig uses minimum till practices for a number of his wheat and corn acres, as well as conventional and no-till practices. While farming full-time isn’t an easy job, Craig said he enjoys the feeling of self-employment and choosing his own hours.

“One of the nicest thing about farming close to home is being able to be near my family,” Craig said. “Since Lori keeps the kids at home, I can come see them much more often than I would be able to with a different job.” 

Looking back on his experience in California and his experience farming with family for 15 years, Craig said he would encourage new producers to be quicker adopters of technology and thoughtful risk-takers.

“If I could go back, I would probably encourage myself to take more of the opportunities I saw as risky,” Craig said. “I would buy more land at the lower prices we had and adopt new technologies faster to get the most benefit out of them, and I would encourage other young producers to do the same.” £

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