Each year, more than 20,000 Kansas wheat farmers take dramatic risks to grow the wheat that feeds the world. We hope you enjoy learning more about these farmers through our series, “The Faces of Harvest.”
When a journalist heads to the farm, he or she can usually be spotted from a mile away in a dapper, professional suit getting ready for the five o’clock news. But when Phil White heads down to the farm, he instead dons the traditional farmer’s tan. White, a wheat producer in Wellington, farms around 1,500 acres with his father and brother in the Wellington area.
White recently made a career change from a reporter at KAKE in Wichita to taking over as the programming and news director for KLEY and KWME Radio in Wellington and KKLE Radio in Winfield. He had previously been employed at the radio station in high school, and when Travis Turner, the man who hired a teenage White, passed away in February, Phil was offered the job.
“I was already looking for houses in Wellington,” said White. “I’ve always wanted to move back so I could help out on the farm. Then the opportunity to work in the community came up and we were able to come to a deal.”
Working as both a journalist and a production agriculturist has been an interesting dynamic. When you’re a journalist in Kansas, being a born and raised farm kid has its advantages.
“The managers that I had at KAKE were great with agriculture pieces,” said White. “They recognized how important it is for the Kansas economy, and their viewers.”
On the farm, Phil has seen a lot of growth, both in the size of the operation and his involvement. The operation itself has grown by about 300 acres in the last few years. But White is excited to be more involved in the operation than when he was growing up, especially with being able to make production decisions.
White, who is getting married in August, said that one thing he is enjoying about moving back to Wellington is the influx of young professionals coming into the area.
“Unlike many small towns in Kansas, Wellington is enjoying a young person population growth that I am happy to be a part of,” said White. “And I am glad to be working at stations that are doing an important service for the community, that I think should stay in the community.”
White has started his wheat harvest this week and believes that his crop conditions leave much to be desired.
“If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have thought it would be worse,” said White. “We are averaging about 15-20 bushels per acre. But the stuff that is making 20 had 60 bushels per acre on it last year.”
Even though this year’s harvest isn’t what White had hoped, harvest has always been a fond memory of White’s.
“I have always had good memories of harvest,” Phil said. “Even when I’m frustrated with equipment breakdowns, it’s all worth it in the end. No matter what, harvest is always an exciting time.”