The description of the MR340, a Missouri River race, went something like this on www.rivermiles.com "Imagine a race across the entire state of Missouri, just you and your boat thrown against 340 miles of wind, heat, bugs and rain. This ain’t no mama’s boy float trip."
Well, it is a good thing the Missouri agriculture community has strong men willing to take the challenge because Shane Kinne and Gary Wheeler suited up for the 340 mile trek to bring awareness to the benefits the river has for the state's agriculture industry.
Wheeler, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council executive director, and Kinne, Missouri Corn Growers Association director of public policy, made up the team known as Ag Rowers. The Missouri 340 is an endurance race across the state which started in Kansas City Aug. 12 and finished in St. Charles Aug. 15.
They were among 283 registered kayaks and canoes at the start of the race. Last year, just 2/3 of the teams finished. Competitors were only allowed 88 hours to paddle the entire course. Wheeler and Kinne were the 119th boat to cross the finish line this year after hitting all nine race checkpoints within the allotted time frame.
"Participating in the MR340 provided a unique opportunity to connect with others who share a passion for the river and to highlight the important role this river plays in Missouri agriculture and our state's economy," Wheeler said. "It is important we work together to maintain this valuable resource for the benefit of all Missourians - for agriculture, transportation, and recreation, among other uses."
Fans of the Ag Rowers were able to follow their journey on Twitter (#AgRowers) and Facebook with posts from family and friends. And while I enjoyed the scenic pictures of river banks during the light of day, it was images during the dark of night that made me appreciate their sacrifice.
This is not your weekend float trip. The Missouri River is massive. The current averages between 3 to 5 miles per hour with a flow that can range between 30,000 and 100,000 cubic feet per second, according to the Missouri River Water Trail. It is one powerful river.
I have been along the Missouri River at night. The rush of the water can be peaceful, but I have seen it raging. Whenever a night photo popped onto my screen, my mind went back to images during times of flooding where refrigerators, large logs, and piles of debris went rushing by. It quickened my breath as I thought of just one leftover, unseen piece of debris, one log that could capsize them in an instant. There is a danger with paddling the Missouri River. But these two were willing to take the risk to promote agriculture. And they garnered attention.
They were able to share their message with fellow kayakers, as well, as the media. "Our goal in competing was to bring some awareness to the benefit of the river to Missouri agriculture. It is a vital resource for corn growers, whether it is transporting grain and other ag products or providing the rich bottom ground needed to grow crops to help feed the growing population," Kinne said. "It was an honor to compete and complete this race representing Missouri farmers."
So, kudos to the Ag Rowers for taking an unorthodox approach toward sharing agriculture with another group of consumers. And the ag community is grateful you rowed safely home.
But, I have to admit guys; there was one description on the www.rivermiles.com site that I have to share. It states: "Just entering (the race) will impress your friends. Finishing it will astound them… and winning it? Well, you always thought you were sort of a legend anyway, didn’t you? It’s time to prove it."
Well, it impressed me that you entered it. I was not astounded that you finished (although some of your friends and family may be), I knew you would. And while you may not have won the race, you really can be considered famous as the only ag sponsored group to compete in this race. Yep, I see legendary status waiting.
The Ag Rowers team would not have been able to make the journey without the help of their sponsors: American Soybean Association, Central Bank, FCS Financial, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Lifeline Ethanol, MFA Incorporated, Missouri Cattlemen's Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Pork Association, Monsanto, National Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Corn Board, Pioneer, POET-Ladonnia, POET-Macon, Show-Me Ethanol, Syngenta and the Missouri Levee & Drainage District Association.
Learn more about the MR340 at http://rivermiles.com/mr340/. For more information on the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and Missouri Corn Growers Association, visit them online at mosoy.org and mocorn.org.