Karl Esping Recognized as McPherson Chamber of Commerce Friend of Agriculture

Karl Esping Recognized as McPherson Chamber of Commerce Friend of Agriculture

Karl Esping, Lindsborg, has been named the McPherson Chamber of Commerce Friend of Agriculture for 2021.

Karl is being recognized for the advocacy work he has been involved with for nearly 15 years as a member of the Kansas Sunflower Commission and the National Sunflower Association. Karl was the first Kansan to serve as president of the National Sunflower Association and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. He is the current vice chair of the Kansas Sunflower Commission after serving as the chairperson for over 10 years.

Karl began growing sunflowers after the Easter freeze of 2007, which killed most of his wheat crop. He also had heart bypass surgery at about that same time so his son, Aaron planted that first sunflower crop as a double crop into wheat stubble. He was pleased with the results.

“The rest is history,” Karl said. “We use it as a rotational crop, planting 300-500 acres a year.”

He soon became involved with the state and national sunflower organizations and has used those platforms to advocate for sunflowers and Kansas agriculture in general on local, state, national and international levels. He frequently mans a booth at events, such as the recent Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers meeting, and is a frequent guest spokesperson on television and radio programs. He has a regular program on stations serving western Kansas and Eastern Colorado. He has spoken at state and national events promoting sunflowers and has visited Spain, Mexico and Canada speaking at conferences promoting the crop. That included a food show in Canada where he promoted the use of sunflower oil.

“Many people don’t know that Spain is one of the largest importers of U.S. sunflower oil. Canada and Mexico use more sunflower oil than we do in the United States,” Esping said.
But, while promoting sunflowers can help all of Kansas agriculture as they gain more use as a rotational crop, particularly in no-till operations, with the potential for more local markets, he hasn’t limited his advocacy to just sunflowers.

Karl volunteered for several years on the McPherson Chamber AFA Scholarship selection committee, interviewing high school students who had applied for the scholarship. He has advocated for agriculture through serving several terms on the McPherson County Farm Bureau Board. He is also a member of the group that plans the Agriland exhibit at the Kansas State Fair, introducing thousands of children to the state’s agriculture over the years. Karl is also working with the Kansas Farm to Food Connection putting together boxes of Kansas farm products for selected recipients.

Karl is always looking for new ways and audiences to tell the story of agriculture.

-written by Cindy Baldwin,  Baldwin Creative Services/ The Country Register-Kansas
McPherson Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee