Kansas road signs

Kansas Agri-Women placed road signs stating “1 Kansas Farmer Feeds More than 155 People + YOU!” around the state. It is a long-time advocacy project of the organization. One of the newest signs, shown here, was installed on Kansas Highway 75 southbound between Beto Junction and New Strawn, Kan.

Kansas Agri-Women make a mission of connecting producers, consumers

The familiar grocery sack signs along Kansas highways, a long-time project of Kansas Agri-Women (KAW), has been reinvigorated with the installation of five new signs.

The signs read: “1 Kansas Farmer Feeds More than 155 People + YOU!” It’s a simple message that is the cornerstone of Kansas Agri-Women’s mission, which is to connect producers and consumers through understanding.

Kansas Agri-Women was founded in 1974 and one of its original members Jeanne Mertz was the visionary behind the sign project. The first sign, which was hand-painted by Thomas Signs of Manhattan, Kansas in 1977, was placed on her property. Thomas Signs has supported the project since the beginning, later installing vinyl signs.

“We lost a true visionary in 2017 on the passing of Jeanne Mertz. She helped show the impact our organization could have on spreading the message of agriculture,” Kansas Agri-Women president Lori Bammerlin said.

Upon Mertz’s passing, her family set up a sign memorial fund to go toward replacing and installing signs. You can see the newest signs at these locations:

• Interstate 470 turnpike near the Tonganoxie Exit, both eastbound and westbound sides of the interstate

• Highway 75 near the Carbondale exit, both northbound and southbound sides of the highway

• Highway 75 southbound between Beto Junction and New Strawn

The signs on Highway 75 near the Carbondale exit are on the property of Wanda and Darrel Kinney. Wanda has been a member of Kansas Agri-Women for 40 years and one of her signs was installed when Jeanne Mertz was president of the national organization, American Agri-Women.

“We’re so pleased to have the signs on our property. We’re very proud of our business and industry of helping feed America and the world by raising both grains and cattle,” Wanda said.

The sign project was conceived in the fall of 1977 when Harold and Jeanne Mertz drove to San Angelo, Texas, to purchase livestock. Along the miles of highways, they noted billboards advertising everything except the land they stood on. In Jeanne’s words, “Looking at these signs made me wonder why agriculture wasn't advertising its commodities.”

When they returned home, she contacted some of the United Farm Wives of America (UFWA) leaders and asked them if they thought UFWA could undertake a project promoting the farm commodities in our state. They took the idea to their board and the project was underway. UFWA later was named Kansas Agri-Women.

The first sign was installed in the spring of 1978. This project has had a strong and influential history, but it has not been without the support of two important partners: Thomas Sign Company and landowners. Thomas Sign Company hand-painted the original signs in 1978, and have continued to do maintenance and replace signs. And, landowners have generously offered to host signs on their properties.

Kansas Agri-Women focuses on ag education and advocacy. Its motto is “From Producer to Consumer with Understanding.” Along with the highway signs, the group is known for its outreach to legislators and consumer education activities, such as supporting the National Festival of Breads.

Kansas Agri-Women also provides professional and leadership development opportunities through its affiliation with American Agri-Women, the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business women.

The group is continuing the Mertz Memorial Grocery Sack Sign Fund to go toward replacing and installing signs statewide. To join their efforts to recognize the impact of Kansas farmers and ranchers, go to www.ksagriwomen.org.