September 13, 2018

Bryan Painter's Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture: Joann Hamburger

Joann Hamburger of Weatherford is being recognized as a Significant Woman in Oklahoma Agriculture.

Weatherford, Okla. - Tucker Sawatzky was in a jam.

So the 17-year-old took out his cell phone, pulled up his contacts, found Joann Hamburger’s name and number and hit it.

Understand, this is at 1 in the morning on a stormy night in the spring of 2013.

Didn’t matter, she always said, “If you need help, call me” and for most farmers and ranchers “hours of operation” are 24 hours a day.

Sawatzky needed help saving a cow that was having trouble calving. His parents were there to help as much as possible, but they don’t farm. So, ever since his mentor and grandfather Jimmie McPhearson had passed away when Tucker was 16, he had turned to Joann when it came to questions about his wheat crop or his cattle.

They live about 2 miles apart, south of Weatherford, and within a short while she pulled in on that rainy night.

The cow was weak, but Joann and Tucker didn’t give up. For weeks, Joann came by, and they’d get her up.

“One day we went out to feed her and she was up and gone, out with the herd,” said Radonna Sawatzky, Tucker’s Mom. “She cares deeply about animals and how they are treated.”

That’s Joann Hamburger.

“This was a long process,” said Tucker Sawatzky, now a student at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. “Joann wasn’t going to do it unless I was there. She wanted to help, but she wanted me to learn how to do it myself. This last week her husband Kurt was sick and in the hospital, so I checked her cows. I don’t know how she does it. She starts at 7 in the morning and doesn’t get done until 7 at night. She doesn’t just pull in, count cows and go on. I think she counts them about three times and makes sure every one of them is OK. They are like kids to her. She will drop whatever she is doing to help an animal.”

Those who have known her for any time at all, are quick to praise her for her work ethic and commitment to agriculture.

Rick Payne of Thomas said,She’s always out building fence and tending to cattle.”
“In fact, she’s the reason we bought our posthole digger at the farm show,” he said. “She said it works for her, so that was good enough for us.”

Joann has had total daily control of their operation since 1995.
“The farm and cattle became my everyday life,” she said.

After all these years

In 1977, a 13-year-old Joann, who had shown sheep, decided to try something new. She bought a Simmental show heifer. That wasn’t a passing interest.

“With my love for the Simmental breed of cattle, and Kurt having been around the breed too, we started building a herd of registered cows and bulls,” she said. “We utilized grass pasture available on family owned land.”

They gradually improved the grasses and later along the way put the rest of the farm ground to Bermuda and Plains Bluestem. Joann said they planted wheat on several places to be more self-sufficient for grazing and haying. Plus, they harvest some wheat for grain.

They’ve hosted as many as two cattle sales a year but have made a transition to doing private treaty sales off the farm.

So, she manages their 140-plus cows and bred heifers and helps to oversee a neighbor’s commercial cow herd.

“I treat the commercial cattle as if they were my own,” she said. “Growing up, I learned, ‘Do your best because at the end of the day you will still have your self-respect and integrity.’”

That perspective is why she answered the cell phone at 1 a.m. and drove a couple of miles to help Sawatzky save his cow. That perspective is why this western Oklahoma family has donated beef for the local food resource center and why they have hosted international visitors to their farm, the last coming from Uruguay.

Joann has also helped their nephew Jacobey with showing cattle and expanding his herd. He is often by her side and has an active part in their daily operation.

Plus, Joann has touched numerous lives in the show industry and has shared that opportunity with many young people.

Her ways of reaching out to others are many.

“I grew up with Joann, and she is an outstanding woman,” Radonna Sawatzky said. “She has taught Tucker so much about farming, ranching, care of animals and just good old morals. Joann loves the land and the rural way of life.”

Enjoying today, excited about tomorrow

In casual conversation, some will ask Joann what she’s going to do today.

“Mostly my answer is the same thing I did yesterday, check cows,” she said, “but even though it’s the same thing, it’s always different.”

One day it may mean taking care of a sick calf. Another day, the fence may be down. And then there are those days, like a recent Friday, when she had a flat on the old white farm truck.
However, morning after morning, she opens the glass door and heads north to the barn, always with the same attitude.

“I can’t wait to get outside and see what the Lord has in store for me today,” she said.

KDA Participates in Trade Mission to Peru

Kansans were part of a corn and sorghum trade mission to Peru in August. Pictured (from left): Kyler Millershaski of MK Farms Inc., Lakin; Wayne Cleveland, Texas Sorghum Producers; Jerry Long, Long Farms, Clifton; Thad Geiger, Geiger Farms, Troy; Sue Long, Long Farms, Clifton; Pat Damman, Pat Damman Farms, Clifton; Earl Roemer, Nu Life Market LLC, Scott City; Amy France, France Family Farms, Marienthal; Dr. Joe Hancock, Kansas State University; Max Tjaden, Tjaden Farm, Clearwater; Marri Tejada and Ana Ballesteros, U.S. Grains Council; and Suzanne Ryan-Numrich, Kansas Department of Agriculture. 

Manhattan, Kan. - In late August, the Kansas Department of Agriculture participated in a trade mission to Peru, where the team promoted U.S. grain through seminars and meetings with some of the largest end users in Peru. The seminars were organized by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and U.S. Grains Council.

The team representing Kansas on the trade mission included: Pat Damman, Pat Damman Farms; Thad Geiger, Geiger Farms; Jerry and Sue Long, Long Farms; Max Tjaden, Tjaden Farm; Earl and Barbara Roemer, Nu Life Market, LLC; Amy France, France Family Farms; Kyler Millershaski, MK Farms Inc.; and Suzanne Ryan-Numrich, KDA international trade director.

Millershaski and Roemer had the opportunity to share about corn and sorghum production practices in Kansas. Other topics covered at the seminars and meetings included livestock nutrition as well as export shipping and logistics. 

“While things are getting sorted out on the Hill, it puts tremendous pressure on agricultural organizations to start new conversations,” stated France. “It’s humbling and challenging to work on behalf of the U.S. farmer. I look forward to seeing how relationships grow between the U.S. and Peru.”

Historically, Peru has been a strong customer for Kansas grain farmers. In the past five years, Kansas has exported over $186 million in goods to Peru with the top export being cereal grains, primarily corn.

“While in Peru, the team was able to meet with two of the largest end users of corn. Both had recently started using distillers’ grains in their feed rations and were pleased with their results,” said Ryan-Numrich. “Peru is a very price sensitive market and both companies shared their plans to purchase grain sorghum from the U.S. when the price is right.”

The trade mission was organized by KDA, USDA FAS and the U.S. Grains Council. It was funded through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration using a State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant. KDA strives to encourage and enhance economic growth of the agriculture industry and the Kansas economy by exploring and expanding both domestic and international marketing opportunities. The Kansas Ag Growth Project identified both corn and sorghum international market development as key components for state growth. For information on this or other international trade missions, please contact Suzanne Ryan-Numrich at or call 785-564-6704.

Lifeline Awareness Week Promotes Telephone and Broadband Resources Available to Help Low-Income Kansans Stay Connected

Topeka, Kan. - Access to local emergency services and community resources is vital to all residents. Lifeline offers discounts to help low-income consumers connect to the nation’s voice and broadband networks, find jobs, access health care services, connect with family, and call for help in an emergency.

The Kansas Corporation Commission wants to create awareness of the Lifeline program during National Lifeline Awareness week, September 10-14. Under the federal Lifeline Program, low-income consumers can receive up to $9.25 per month off their monthly bill for phone, broadband, or bundled phone and broadband service.  Some may also be eligible for the state Lifeline program that provides an additional $7.77 monthly discount. Forty-eight companies currently offer Lifeline services in Kansas.
Residents enrolled in any of the following assistance programs are eligible: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FHPA), Veterans Pension & Survivors Pension Benefit, Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Head Start Tribal Programs (only those meeting its income qualifying standard), the Food Distribution Program on Tribal Lands.  Those at 135% of the federal poverty level also qualify. Participants must provide three consecutive months of statements as documentation of income, or provide a copy of their tax return for the previous year. Recertification is required each year.
Since 1985, the federal Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying consumers. In 2016, the program was extended to include broadband.
More information on program eligibility, enrollment and annual recertification is available on the KCC’s website: For a list of Kansas providers, go to

Kansas Receives Troops to Teachers Grant

Kansas is one of six new states to be awarded a grant by Troops to Teachers, a military transition program within the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support that assists U.S. service veterans looking to start a teaching career.

“This grant is another great resource to assist service members interested in becoming a teacher in Kansas,” said Steve Harmon, Education Services Office, Kansas National Guard. “We encourage qualified service members to explore this career opportunity.”

Alabama, Michigan and Ohio Were also awarded grants along with two consortia comprised of New Jersey and Delaware, and Missouri and Iowa. The 2018 grants received will provide services for a five-year term ending in May 2023.

With TTT state grants, local state education departments and agencies are able to assist military members, veterans and TTT participants with local counseling and guidance. These local offices become the frontline for certification and hiring information, resources, and technical assistance on meeting teacher requirements related to each individual state.

Registration for the program is free and requires no commitment. Members can register via the program website, The website also offers a list of teaching opportunities available to participants and a calendar of events listing recruiting and other types of program events. Headquarters TTT program reps also can be reached by calling 1-800-231-6242 or by emailing

North Carolina farmers bracing for Florence

It’s a horse race for North Carolina farmers trying to complete as much harvest as possible before hurricane Florence hits that state’s shoreline, with projected 140+ mph winds and rainfall accumulations of up to 30+ inches in some areas.

Justin Edwards, a North Carolina row-crop and hog farmer, located in Duplin County, approximately 50 miles inland of the North Carolina coastline where hurricane Florence is predicted to make landfall was 90 to 100 acres from being done with corn harvest.

“My wife and I were talking about it last night—they're projecting 140 mile an hour winds to come in here and I don't know how you get prepared for pretty much a tornado that's going to stay around a couple days—it's got me worried,” Edwards said. “We have to pray to the good Lord that he'll have mercy on us. 

Forecasters there were predicting very dangerous winds in excess of 75 mph may arriving overnight Thursday into Friday morning.

“We're trying to finish up corn harvest right now—I'm hoping we can be done by hopefully the time I go to bed tonight—it'll be a tight race. Luckily our neighbors that are finished are stepping up and helping us out,” Edwards said.

It’s a testament to the way things will evolve throughout rural North Carolina, once Florence has passed, says Edwards. “We’re in rural America and we're really good about helping our neighbors. If one person is in need, a neighbor doesn't mind stepping up and helping—we're really good about pulling together and overcoming adversity.”

Even so, Edwards says area farmers, home to as many as 9 million hogs with major swine production facilities concentrated in the area, are also focused on preparing for the worst, securing livestock facilities, stocking extra fuel for generators, supplies and feed inventories.

“We've got to make sure the animals are taken care of just in case we lose power for a couple of days,” Edwards said. “We've got to make sure we've got fuel on hand, our feeders are full; our feed tanks are full of supplies, so that if the feed mill can't run we’ve still got access to feed.

As focused as Edwards is on making sure his livestock are taken care of, he also has a higher priority and worry. “No matter what, I need to take care of our livestock but I'm more worried about my family and myself and our well-being,” he said.

Marlow Vaughn, a hog farmer located approximately 90 miles west of the North Carolina coastline in rural Wayne County, expressed similar concerns. “Not only do I worry about my family I worry about this farm—it's our livelihood so it's our top priority,” she said.

“We're busy right now preparing our feed, preparing our houses, preparing our barns, making sure we have enough feed to feed our animals in case something happens,” Vaughn said. “We're making sure generators are working in case the electricity goes out and making sure our farm employees are safe and they don't have to worry about coming out here and that things are already taken care of.”

Saying it’s definitely, “all hands on deck” Vaughn said she doesn’t know what to expect. “We've never seen a hurricane like this before so we just don't know—we're preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. That's going to be hard when you are inside and the storms hitting and the wind is howling and you don't know what's going on or what's happening at your barns.”

Based on past hurricane experiences, Edwards says they have a time-tested protocol to follow. “Anytime you have significant damage to a barn you have to improvise and do the best you can to take care of those animals,” he said.

“If you have if you have roofs ripped off it affects your watering system, it affects your feed system, it affects the electrical supply to your barn. So you just have to improvise, but we do have protocols and what we have done in the past has worked for the most part.”

This map from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, shows the concentration of livestock facilities in the projected path of hurricane Florence.

According to the North Carolina Pork Council, additional actions that farmers are taking include:

  • Shifting animals to higher ground. Farmers and integrators are working to move animals out of barns in known flood-prone areas, shifting them to other farms to prevent animal mortality.
  • Ensuring feed supplies are in place. Farmers and integrators are taking precautions to ensure ample feed provisions are on farms in anticipation of impassable roadways.
  • Preparing for power outages. Farmers are securing generators and fuel supplies to respond to extended power outages.
  • Assessing lagoon levels. Farmers have carefully managed their lagoons throughout the summer growing season, using their manure as a crop fertilizer. Every hog farm lagoon is required to maintain a minimum buffer to account for major flood events. Farmers across the major production areas of North Carolina are reporting current lagoon storage levels that can accommodate more than 25 inches of rain, with many reporting capacity volumes far beyond that.