Wheat fields a’plenty

Ann Millington, Kathryn Ingerslew, Bill Allen, Nina Furstenau, Shawna Rowe, Meghan Eldridge at the wheat testing fields during the Borlaug 100.

Ann Millington, Kathryn Ingerslew, Bill Allen, Nina Furstenau, Shawna Rowe, Meghan Eldridge at the wheat testing fields during the Borlaug 100.

We made it to the wheat fields of the Yaqui Valley in Mexico. Hectares of testing fields, miles of tassels. Though it reminded me of my Kansas homeland, I am at the Borlaug 100 in Cd. Obregon, Mexico, with co-professor Bill Allen, my students and 500-plus scientists that work on the world wheat supply. It’s a fascinating gathering of perhaps the top scientists in the world—Kenya, Tanzania, Turkey, India, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and many more. We’ve seen 60-80 percent of the wheat varieties grown in the world this morning—all laid out in testing plots tended by the good people here, and by cameras. There’s been a drone flight over the fields. There’s been talk of yields, and drought, and rust resistant varieties.

Once before, Norman Borlaug worked here alongside others and developed the strains that would net the Green Revolution after WWII. He is probably the least known hero on the planet among non-ag or science people. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work and millions avoided starvation. Not without problems. But still. Starvation.

As I watch the conference unfold and speak with people from the far reaches of my known world I think a bit about dedication and about connection. Borlaug worked years here, never losing sight of the end goal of feeding the hungry. I spoke with the Indian ambassador to Mexico about cultures connecting over food. I spoke with a Kenyan scientist about farmers raising maize when it’s wheat shoppers want for breakfast in her region. Change, unsurprisingly, is hard.

The students are posting on http://www.muearth.com. Check it out. Tomorrow, there’s a possible Howard Buffett interview and more. I stood in wheat fields and twirled today. There’s problems, so many, but I look around and see a level of dedication that gives hope.


About ninafurstenau

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau teaches a Food and Wine Writing for the University of Missouri Science and Agriculture Journalism program and the MU School of Journalism School. Her book, Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland was the winner of the MFK Fisher Book Award and Grand Prize Award for culinary/culture writing and designated as a Kansas Notable Book. She has also written Savor Missouri: River Hill Country Food and Wine, celebrating Missouri foodways. Her essay, "And Then There Was Rum Cake," appears in the 2017 anthology, Pie & Whiskey: Writer's Under the Influence of Butter and Booze. Ms. Furstenau was in the Peace Corps in Tunisia from 1984 to 1986 and then began working life as a journalist and publisher/editor of three construction magazines beginning in 1987. Ms. Furstenau and her husband launched and published these magazines and two others until 2001. She was a month-long resident at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, in 2008.
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