Foodies and Farmers Connect at Zest and Zing 15

Kansas has long considered itself America’s Breadbasket — not to mention America’s Meat Locker — but many Americans have lost touch with the origins of their food. Rebuilding the bridge from farm to table is one goal of the Kansas Farm Bureau‘s annual Zest & Zing event, which connected foodies and farmers April 30 at Abode Venue in Wichita.

KSWB members at Zest and Zing

KSWB in the house! Left to right: Naomi Shapiro, Shelbi Gustafson, Andrea Merrigan, MeLinda Schnyder, Nicole Small, and Julie Vogts.

We were fortunate to have several of our members represent Kansas Women Bloggers at the event. Thanks to KFB for the invitation! Here’s a look at what three of them learned and experienced:

MeLinda Schndyer,

Zest and Zing swag

I don’t consider myself a foodie, really. And while I grew up in a small town of about 60,000, I wasn’t exposed to farming much growing up, and certainly not now living in Wichita. My husband and I try to buy local when we can (Yoder Meats is in our neighborhood), so I was interested in attending Zest & Zing more for the education than the cooking competition. What I enjoyed the most were the first 30 minutes of the event, when I spent time talking to the folks manning booths set up in the side room.

Zest and Zing

I learned about a female-run cattle farm, talked to educators about Chipotle/GMO headlines, learned about the great things the Kansas Food Bank is doing in cooperation with farmers — and my favorite booth was From the Land of Kansas. This is a state-run organization that promotes products grown, raised, and processed in Kansas. I learned that not only do they have an online store, they provide resources for people just getting started to people who have storefronts. Resources range from putting you in touch with groups that will help you develop your business (like label testing) to marketing. Check them out at

Zest and Zing

KSWB member Andrea Merrigan talks to a rep at the From the Land of Kansas booth

Zest and Zing

Shelbi Gustafson,

Upon being invited to Zest & Zing I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for. I knew the event was being put on by the Kansas Farm Bureau and that there would be a Top Chef-like cookoff between Chef Patrick from DooDah Diner and Chef Paul from Harvest Kitchen/Bar. What I didn’t know was how much fun I would have, all the amazing people I would meet, or how good the aromas at Abode would be!

Zest and Zing cookoff

Besides the cookoff (which was awesome!!) we, the audience, had the opportunity to hear from different farmers in Kansas. Having grown up a “city girl” who loves her beef, it was a great chance for me to learn more about where our food really comes from and the genuine, hard-working, and friendly people who grow it all!

Zest and Zing cookoff

Andrea Merrigan, A Modern Hippie

Zest and Zing Andrea

I’m Andrea and I blog over at A Modern Hippie about eating real food and living naturally. So I jumped at the chance to go to Zest & Zing because this type of event fits great with what I chat about on my blog.

Zest and Zing drink

The event started with a social hour, which allowed for some networking and meeting the other Kansas Women Bloggers. They had a room with several vendor booths, and I spent the majority of the first hour speaking with the organizations. Abode VenueI purchase our meat from local farmers who raise their animals without antibiotics, on organic fields/feed, and GMO free. Going into this event I was not sure where those involved would stand on these controversial topics, so I was pleased to meet the people from Circle JM Ranch, which has grass-fed beef, raised without antibiotics, growth hormones, grain, soy, or animal byproducts.

Zest and Zing farm bureau

I also enjoyed speaking with the people at the From The Land Of Kansas booth. They celebrate our state’s agricultural roots and entrepreneurial spirit by promoting products grown, raised, and processed in Kansas. Businesses can join (several member levels available) and enjoy all the benefits they offer, including a website where customers can order products. I had never heard of From the Land of Kansas, so I was excited to learn about this program since I’m in the early stages of creating and selling homemade spice mixes. Looking for a Kansas-made gift for someone? Check out their website for some great ideas!

Zest and Zing cookoff

After the social hour, the cooking competition began. I have always loved cooking so watching the chefs in action was a lot of fun. Chef Patrick Shibley and Chef Paul Freimuth had to use some interesting ingredients, one of them being Vienna sausages. I’m pretty sure the judges even struggled with the Vienna sausages!

Zest and Zing 15 chef

Overall the event was well worth it, and I would definitely attend the next one.