Harvesting the High Plains

Friday, November 9th - 07:00 PM

HTHPFREE SCREENING – Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

About the film, Harvesting the High Plains:

Colby, Kansas, 1933 – America is beginning to recover from the Great Depression but while recovery is beginning, the Great Plains, from the panhandle of Texas to western Nebraska is battling an even greater foe and much less forgiving one; nature.  Rising out of the dust came two men, Ray Garvey and John Kriss, who saw that the ground in western Kansas and eastern Colorado was fertile and capable of raising wheat and did so conquering the odds, all at a time when the world needed the food even more.

The semi-arid plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, known as the Great American Desert, are hardly the setting for an agricultural empire, but it was here that a former field hand, John Kriss managed G-K Farms for Wichita entrepreneur Ray Garvey.  From a “Grapes of Wrath” exodus duringchildhood, field hand to owner and wheat farmer, John Kriss, and entrepreneur and visionary Ray Garvey capitalized on the idea of dry land wheat farming conquering the depression, the dust and every other stumbling block to eventually oversee enormous wheat harvests that not only fed the US, but fed the world at the conclusion of World War II and then played a powerfully strategic role in Cold War diplomacy.  The methods pioneered by these men revolutionized farming in the Great Plains and created the agricultural empire that exists today.

The High Plains is a  “rags-to-riches” story of how Garvey and Kriss applied hard work and common sense to make large-scale farming work under the most adverse conditions.  Their enterprise became one of the largest wheat operations on the plains and yielded Garvey and Kriss a record crop in 1947.  During this process GK Farms came face to face with challenges that many face today.  Not only the weather but the government, consistent policy changes midway through a crop year, increasing tax rates and as the war took hold, rationing, employees and the desperate need to feed the country and the world.

Inspired by the historical research of Craig Miner and on the extensive correspondence between Kriss and Garvey as well as interviews with family members, former employees and contractors, former associates and farmers from the area, the film celebrates a common heritage shared with all in the “breadbasket.” Harvesting the High Plains traces the evolution of two men’s “progressive” search for agricultural answers in the face of the Dustbowl changing the once Great American Desert into the Breadbasket of the World. 

Harvesting the High Plains takes western Kansas from the dustbowl to post World War II, from 1930 – 1950.  Following each step, each decision, each failing and each triumph.  The film lays the foundation for the agricultural industry today and the important role wheat and the American farmer have played in both the United States and the world.