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Farmers show New Yorkers what raising wheat's all about

Agriculture.com Staff 10/29/2008 @ 10:00am

The Urban Wheat Field -- a Wheat Foods Council effort more than two years in the making -- reached thousands of consumers from New York and beyond during its recent three-day run in the South Seaport area of Manhattan. Visitors were drawn to the exhibit by the bright red combine, a dash of color in the monochrome city.

New York native Bob Frank said the colorful display was a welcome, if not surprising sight.

"I thought I'd seen everything in New York City but now a wheat field in South Street Seaport," he says in a report from Kansas Wheat.

From there, tourists walked through the quarter-acre of green wheat, stopping to read information about the history of wheat and its current production practices. Farmer volunteers from several states teamed up with professional millers and dieticians to tell the story of wheat.

Larry Kepley, Kansas Wheat Commissioner and farmer from Ulysses, Kansas, volunteered at the Urban Wheat Field with his wife, Virginia. Kepley escorted visitors through the quarter-acre field that represented wheat in growth stages from emergence to maturity.

"We had stockbrokers, architects and attorneys and out of town visitors. All of the comments we had were very positive. One of the surprises I received, were several people told us this was the greenest they had ever seen the island of Manhattan," Kepley says.

Other visitors included hundreds of New York elementary school students, 4-H members, international travelers, visitors from many states and residents of Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn and throughout the metropolitan area.

Marcia Scheideman, president of the Wheat Foods Council, sums up the Urban Wheat Field initiative: "We never would have been able to do it without the cooperation and the dedication of the entire membership of the Wheat Foods Council, which includes the entire grain industry, from producers to millers, to bakers to food manufacturers. All came together with one goal in mind: To educate the consumer about how complex it is to get a bowl of cereal on the table, or a dish of pasta or a loaf of bread, that it doesn't just materialize on the grocery shelf."

Frank, the New York native, believes the exhibit will open the eyes of consumers.

"Maybe these people will find out a little about what they eat and the things that grow in this country that, without this, we wouldn't have the country we do."

The Urban Wheat Field -- a Wheat Foods Council effort more than two years in the making -- reached thousands of consumers from New York and beyond during its recent three-day run in the South Seaport area of Manhattan. Visitors were drawn to the exhibit by the bright red combine, a dash of color in the monochrome city.

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