Mahin speaks to KS House Ag Committee

January 29th, 2019 – Topeka – Republic County Economic Development Director, Luke Mahin, was asked to join KSU Research & Extension Director, Marlin Bates, in presenting to the Kansas House Agriculture Committee. The presentation was on Harvesting Opportunities conference from last May an speciatly crop resources in rural Kansas.

Audio of the presentation –


House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee

Harvesting Opportunity in Kansas – A Symposium on Building Community Wealth Through Food and Farming

January 29, 2019

In May, 2018, the Douglas County Food Policy Council and K-State Research and Extension –Douglas County with the assistance and support of local, state and national partners hosted Harvesting Opportunity in Kansas – A Symposium on Building Community Wealth Through Food and Farming. Over 150 farmers, bankers, economic development professionals, extension professionals and food and farm council members gathered to learn, share and discuss topics related to several recent national publications including Harvesting Opportunity, The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities released by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Keynote presentations delivered information ranging from food consumption trends, consumer preferences, and community capital development to farm profitability by market channel and food systems advancement as a means to strengthen rural/urban linkages.

Post-event surveys and conversations led to the development of two resources to assist with continuing the conversation. Community Food Systems: A Tool for Building Wealth in Kansas Communities was developed to provide Economic Development professionals with a framework for how food system development may fit into their work and to provide examples of such work. Eco Devo 101: A Discussion Guide for Kansas Food Councils was developed to provide food and farm councils with a tool to better engage with economic development. 

Inspiration for this event also came from previous work in Kansas that has pointed to opportunities for strengthening local food systems across the state. Namely, the Kanas RuralCenter’s Feeding Kansas Report from 2014 and the Local Food and Farm Task Force (created by SB 286 Sec. 15 in 2014) reports from 2015 and 2016.

County and Regional Food Policy Councils continue to grow in abundance. Typically based on food system assessments (see the North Central Kansas and Republic County examples), these coalitions help communities identify local needs and opportunities. Republic County stands out as a prime example of how Economic Development professionals can play an integral role in the development of food systems. Two Republic County farms were profiled in the 2018 publication Lessons Learned From Specialty Crop Growers Across Kansas by the KS Rural Center.

Opportunity to strengthen Kansas communities through food and farming economic development certainly exists. The USDA’s commitment to supporting projects in the local food supply chain is promising, and local efforts like NetWork Kansas E-Communities offer further support, but this KDA Specialty Crop Survey from 2016 indicates that there are likely additional needs beyond what those programs can deliver.


Keynotes from the Harvesting Opportunities Conference