By BECKY MALEWITZ

bmalewitz@gctelegram.com

Brian and Joanna Schmeekle have become experts at balancing farming and family life.

The Finney County family was honored as this year's Kansas Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year for Farm Bureau's 9th geographic district. Each year, the Kansas Farm Bureau selects 10 Kansas families for the award.

"We did feel honored to be recognized by Kansas Farm Bureau for this," said Brian. "Farm and family are two words that are very important to us, so to be honored for a combination of the two that meant a lot to us."

The Schmeekle's are third generation farmers. The family raises 550 acres of corn, 600 acres of milo and 1,000 acres of wheat on land passed down from Joanna's family. Much of their corn and wheat is sold locally to Royal Farms Dairy in Gray County.

In addition to their farming work, the award also recognized the Schmeekles' involvement in their community.

Brian serves as the county Farm Bureau president and board president of his Pierceville Church. Joanna, is a member of the Ingalls school board. Together, the couple teaches fifth and sixth graders at their church on Wednesday nights and like many Kansans, the entire family takes part in the county 4-H program.

"Our kids are members of Wide Awake 4-H club. I'm the 4-H horse project leader for Finney County," Joanna said. "We're just involved, our kids show horses at the fair we do clothing, just kind of the normal 4-H activities."

If that weren't enough to keep the family busy, Brian is also a substitute bus driver for Ingalls schools and he and Joanna have organized and participated in the Friends on the Farm program and assisted with Ag in the Classroom.

"I think it's important as farmers to tell our story to non-farming people, especially kids so they have an accurate view of what we do on the farm," Joanna said. "They hear a lot of false information and we want to make sure that we are telling our story, and we are telling what it's really like to be farmers and ranchers."

Brian agrees that educating the younger generation about farming is important.

"A lot of kids these days don't understand, or take the time to think about where the food that they eat comes from," he said. "I think it's important for myself, or just producers of agricultural products, to continue to educate (children) where the products that they eat or clothe themselves with come from. Of course, we do more of that in the late fall and winter than we can do in the spring and summer. We are pretty tied up at that time of year."