Couple enjoys first year at K-State

Joe and Sarah Janzen met in Nebraska and have finished their first school year as educators at Kansas State University.

Global food security and poverty, and how commodity prices affect farmers’ bottom line are key research priorities for two agriculture professors at Kansas State University, who happen to be married to each other.

Just wrapping up their first full year of teaching at K-State, Sarah Janzen, Ph.D., assistant professor of agricultural economics, and Joe Janzen, Ph.D., assistant professor of agricultural economics, have tremendous zest for propelling the ag econ department.

“My research focus is international agricultural development,” Sarah Janzen said. “Over the past few years, KSU has established a reputation for outstanding research in this area, particularly through the establishment of four Feed the Future Innovation Labs. I feel fortunate to have such smart colleagues tackling important questions related to global food security and poverty, and look forward to collaborating with them in the future.”

K-State’s Feed the Future Innovation Labs were funded by four competitive grants totaling more than $100 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development. With the goal of ending world hunger, these labs are a global project among universities, industry and nongovernmental organizations to improve production of food crop plants and prevent crop losses in key, grain-producing countries.

Also in K-State’s Ag Econ department, Sarah’s husband Joe is passionate about his research in grain marketing and commodities.

“KSU is an institution with a mission to serve all parts of agriculture,” Joe Janzen said. “My research and teaching work focuses on commodity futures markets, grain marketing, and agricultural finance. Being at K-State puts me closer to more faculty doing research and extension work in these areas and closer to a number of exciting opportunities to share my research.”

For example, Joe was energized about the opportunity to participate in the joint KSU-Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Agricultural Commodity Futures Conference in Overland Park, Kan.

Both professors appreciate the fascinating agricultural material presented at the annual K-State Risk and Profit Conference. At last year’s conference, Joe Janzen delivered a presentation on the growth of high-frequency and algorithmic trading in agricultural futures markets.

“We hear a lot about how futures markets have changed since the adoption of electronic trading,” he said. “Risk and Profit gave me an opportunity to share how this might affect farmers and ranchers who rely on futures prices and get their feedback on the commodity markets issues affecting their bottom line.

“Risk and Profit is a prime opportunity for people involved in the business of agriculture to hear about the exciting and relevant economic research happening in the Department of Agricultural Economics. It’s also a place to open a dialogue on current issues facing Kansas agriculture.”

Both professors grew up around the agriculture industry.

Sarah grew up on a small family farm at Grant, Neb.

“Growing up, I gained an appreciation for agriculture while walking beans, driving a tractor and managing a pasture poultry business as part of an FFA project,” she said.

Curious about the global economy, she decided to study economics and international studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. That’s where she met Joe, but that was far from his home.

“I grew up on a family farm, but my family farm is north of the U.S./Canadian border in Manitoba,” Joe Janzen said. His dad and brother now farm together, growing wheat, canola and soybeans. “While I am no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the farm, I spend a lot of time discussing grain marketing with them and I typically go up there to help with harvest in summer.”

The Janzen family moved to Manhattan from Montana.

“Montana was an amazing place to live, and we loved exploring the mountains around Bozeman,” Sarah said. As assistant professors, their jobs in Montana looked pretty similar. “We were both responsible for teaching, research and service, but it was a much smaller university. KSU is bigger, and one of the biggest differences is the PhD program.

“We’re both excited to mentor and learn from the talented graduate students here at KSU.”

Amy Hadachek can be reached at