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Serving: KS

Wheat Fields Dot Landscape Amidst City Growth

As Wichita's growing housing areas, businesses encroach, patches of wheat grow smaller and smaller

Driving from the sprawling wheat fields of west-central and western Kansas home into Wichita gave me a unique sense of just how much, little by little, the city is nibbling away at the wide open spaces of Sedgwick County.

I can clearly remember when I first moved to Wichita in 1990 how quickly I left the city behind when I headed out 21st Street toward Cheney Reservoir. Maize Road was the edge of the country; 119th and 135th Streets were gravel roads.

Today, Wichita's sprawl is evident as far out as 167th street, with housing divisions and business encroaching, even as patches of ripe wheat dot the landscape like lonely little pieces of the countryside desperately clinging to life.

Wheat Fields Dot Landscape Admist City Growth

The cynic in me is well aware that the only reason these wheat still exist at all is so developers can continue to pay agricultural taxes while they wait for the next great opportunity to pave them over.

I wonder if anyone will ever make note, and take time to regret, that some of the richest, most productive farmland in the world is being turned into asphalt to build strip malls with beauty salons and bank branches and duplicates of stores and restaurants.

Wheat Fields Dot Landscape Admist City Growth

I wonder if anyone will realize that sprawling lawns where nobody grows anything but grass are a waste of the the natural resources that hold the potential to feed thousands of hungry people.

The loss of cropland is witnessed in the Census of Agriculture numbers through the decades.

In 1997, Sedgwick County had 646,082 acres of land in farms. By 2002, that was down to 533,871 acres. By 2007, it was 510,308 acres.

That's 135,774 acres of land lost to food production -- land that at average south-central Kansas yields would produce
5,430,960 bushels of wheat -- enough to bake 543,096,000 loaves of bread.

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