Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Passionate for Rural Kansas

Edgar Hicks didn’t grow up in rural Kansas. He is originally from Shreveport, LA, went to college in NYC and is a grain trader in Omaha. But I’ve yet to meet someone more passionate for an area than him. He originated the Spotlighting USDA Event in Hill City, KS where I spoke.

Hicks’ love of history originally drew him to Nicodemus, KS (population 34), a National Historic Site that is the only remaining western town out of over 100 established by African-Americans in KS, OK and TX fleeing oppression from the Jim Crow laws of Reconstruction following the Civil War. The site is a very unique one, having had over 700 residents at its peak. This past weekend the town held their annual homecoming, bringing in over 500 former residents and ancestors from as far away as Los Angeles and New York.

Hicks also has led an effort to cultivate Teff, an Ethiopian cereal grain that is drought resistant, gluten-free and highly sought after by the Ethiopian immigrant community. Hicks obtained a $197,000 research grant for the project which is supported by Kansas State University.

Teff has the potential to develop into one of those niche products that I’ve seen help to transform regions and allow farmers to exit from the commodity crops with their normal highs and too often, lows. It’s great to see someone like Edgar Hicks have the passion and drive to help make a difference in rural Kansas.

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