The agricultural industry as a whole is always looking for the next best way to reach our consumers. A group of Kansas women decided the best way to reach them 24/7, was to be there 24/7 — in the form of a roadside sign. The familiar grocery sack signs along Kansas highways, a long-time project of Kansas Agri-Women, is now being reinvigorated with the recent installation of five new signs.
The signs read: “1 Kansas Farmer Feeds More than 155 People + YOU!” It’s a simple message that is the cornerstone of Kansas Agri-Women’s mission, which is to connect producers and consumers through understanding.
Kansas Agri-Women was founded in 1974 and one of its original members Jeanne Mertz was the visionary behind the sign project. The first sign, which was hand-painted by Thomas Signs of Manhattan, Kansas, in 1977, was placed on her property. Thomas Signs has supported the project since the beginning, later installing vinyl signs.
“We lost a true visionary in 2017 on the passing of Jeanne Mertz. She helped show the impact our organization could have on spreading the message of agriculture,” says Lori Bammerlin, Kansas Agri-Women president. Upon Jeanne’s passing, the Mertz family set up a sign memorial fund to go toward replacing and installing signs.
If you are local to Kansas, you can see the newest signs at these locations:
- I-470 Turnpike near the Tonganoxie Exit, both eastbound and westbound sides of the interstate
- Highway 75 near the Carbondale exit, both northbound and southbound sides of the highway
- Hwy 75 southbound between Beto Junction and New Strawn
The signs on Highway 75 near the Carbondale exit are on the property of Wanda and Darrel Kinney. Wanda has been a member of Kansas Agri-Women for 40 years. “We’re so pleased to have the signs on our property. We’re very proud of our business and industry of helping feed America and the world by raising both grains and cattle,” Wanda says.
The sign project was conceived in the fall of 1977 when Harold and Jeanne Mertz drove to San Angelo, Texas, to purchase livestock. Along the miles of highways, they noted billboards advertising everything except the land they stood on. In Jeanne’s words, “Looking at these signs made me wonder why agriculture wasn’t advertising its commodities.”
When they returned home, she contacted some of the United Farm Wives of America leaders and asked them if they thought UFWA could undertake a project promoting the farm commodities in our state. They took the idea to their board and the project was underway. UFWA later was named Kansas Agri-Women.
The first sign was installed in the spring of 1978. This project has had a strong and influential history, but it has not been without the support of two important partners: Thomas Sign Company and landowners.
Donate to the Highway Sign Fund
KAW is continuing the Mertz Memorial Grocery Sack Sign Fund to go toward replacing and installing signs statewide. Join their efforts to recognize the impact of Kansas farmers and ranchers by going to www.ksagriwomen.org.