Opinion: Dutch perspective
Only once in a blue moon do Kansas farm and ranch families have an opportunity to tell their story to people half way around the world. That was the case March 23-24 when a Dutch public broadcasting company television crew traveled to Smith and Sheridan counties to portray life on the farm in rural Kansas.
Theron and Lori Haresnape and family of Smith County and Harold and Bridget Koster and grandchildren and Wilfred Reinert from Sheridan County provided an up-close and personal view of their farming operations, family, faith and how folks live in the Heartland.
So often, visitors from other countries travel to the United States and they only travel to the East or West coasts, says Paul Rosenmoller. He interviewed the Kansas farmers and ranchers as part of the Dutch film crew.
People who live and work in the Midwest are often overlooked and seldom included in visits by travelers from abroad, he continues. The same holds true for television documentaries.
"Farms, ranches and small villages of 14 people like Seguin are an integral part of the United States of America," Rosenmoller says. "I believe these rural areas are underestimated. The people who live here have sentiments, opinions and views just like other parts of America. So what is happening in the countryside has a huge impact on what we know in Europe as the United States."
Rosenmoller and the other three members of the crew were fascinated by the big sky and wide-open spaces. All expressed the feeling of being at the edge of the world — albeit very, very beautiful with so many acres of land and so few farms and people.
"It gives you the ultimate feeling of freedom," Rosenmoller says. "It's like you are here by yourself, on your own, and you can do anything."
And that's what the Dutch crew found with the farm and ranch families they interviewed. They met their families, broke bread together and shared a fabulous, home-cooked meal, walked on their farm or ranch land and looked at their crops and cattle and even attended mass in St. Martin's church in Seguin.
The Haresnapes, Kosters and Reinert shared their faith, family and vocations with the film crew from the Netherlands. These Kansas families all opened their hearts and homes to the Western European visitors while extending the legendary hospitality of those who inhabit central Kansas and the Great High Plains.
The three Kansas families' willingness to share their intimate thoughts on life's tough day-to-day issues was inspiring. All provided a comprehensive, thoughtful portrayal of their farm and ranch vocation as well as family life in rural Kansas.
All were truly outstanding representatives of our state — true ambassadors for agriculture, family and their faith. The three Kansas families demonstrated their care for livestock. They said doing so allows them to continue in their vocation of farming and ranching. They also talked about the thirsty winter wheat crop.
At their final stop on Reinert's farm on the northwestern edge of Seguin, the lifelong (75 years old) Angus cattleman fed his cow herd as the Dutch cameras rolled. When he finished, he told the film crew his cattle love him.
"I look after them every day," Reinert says. "I feed them, doctor them, fuss after them and care for them in return."
On the Haresnape farm, the central Kansas family expressed its appreciation for the opportunity to "teach four people from another country about our industry and make friends in the process."
During their interview, the Kosters emphasized how important every person is in the community of Seguin.
"We may only have 14 people here, but they're 14 of the best people anywhere," Bridget says. "You can count on them. They look out for you and you reciprocate."
When the Dutch crew departed Kansas, they left knowing they had indeed spent time they would remember always with some unique, wonderful people. As he departed, Rosenmoller asked the Kosters if there had ever been a film crew in Seguin.
Not to their knowledge, they replied.
"You did very, very well," Rosenmoller told them. "You can be proud of the way you conducted yourselves and proud of your story."
— John Schlageck is a commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.