More farmers pursue progress with new crops, opportunities.

More farmers in Kansas and beyond have embraced the need to change with the times.

A prime example has cropped up in Kearny County, where Fred Ritsema has pinned his hopes on a plant not so familiar in these parts.

Ritsema recently decided to grow canola, which is best known for the cooking oil it produces.

Canola seed contains an edible oil, one considered healthier than oils containing more saturated fat.

Plus, canola oil has grown in use as a biofuel feedstock over the years.

Ritsema, also owner of Lakin Dairy, hails from Holland, where he grew canola. He decided to give the crop a try in the southwest Kansas soil.

He's currently farming 125 acres of canola. With demand on the rise, he believes the crop has the potential to offer double the profit of wheat.

At a time extreme drought has made growing such crops as corn and alfalfa all the more difficult, more farmers have been willing to try something new. As a result, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are among states seeing a spread of canola, now viewed as a profitable rotation crop with winter wheat.

Such new opportunities cannot be ignored.

Farmers in the Sunflower State, after all, face a roller-coaster ride of weather extremes, price fluctuations and uncertainty over the quality of their crops. They do their best, often in the face of tough circumstances and long odds, to help feed the world and fuel other business ventures.

Those who plan to stay in the business much longer shouldn't fear taking a chance on something new.

As Ritsema noted, the region may one day in the not-so-distant future be unable to foster corn production. It's important for farmers to consider alternatives to stay viable.

In a state where agriculture has long been a way of life, farmers and producers know how new technology and innovation can improve crop quality, yield and profitability.

Crop growers determined to make it long-term also will acknowledge the potential of producing something different as a way to stay in business and continue playing a vital role in powering local economies.