GARNETT — The sun sets on another day at the Kueser farm just as it has for nearly 50 years. But in the fading light of a late fall day, a new addition to the homestead can be seen by the passing motorists on U.S. 59 — a sign that reads “Kansas Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year.”

Gail and Debbie Kueser recently were named one of the state’s 10 Farm Bureau Farm Families of the Year. The Kueser family received its award during Kansas Farm Bureau’s 94th annual meeting Dec. 4 in Manhattan. The Kuesers were chosen among families in the bureau’s second district, which includes Anderson and Franklin counties, as well as eight others.

They had applied for the award a few times before, but said they didn’t think they would win. The Kuesers described the second district as very “active,” so they were very pleased to hear that they had won.

“It’s quite an honor. There’s a lot of people in our district that are worthy of getting it, so it’s been really nice,” Debbie Kueser, 58, said in the living room of their home.

On a 3,000-acre farm, just north of Garnett and south of the Franklin/Anderson county line, Gail and Debbie Kueser have raised soybeans, wheat, corn, cattle and children for the past 46 years. But it’s not only their work as agricultural producers that won them the award — it was their dedication to the Farm Bureau, as well.

“I don’t know that we necessarily worked just to get the honor,” Gail, 64, said. “We’ve just always been involved in the Farm Bureau.”

He and his wife have made the trip to Washington, D.C. several times with the Farm Bureau. It’s a means of promoting their occupation to those who maybe don’t understand how important agriculture is to the American way of life.

Although farms dot the landscape in Kansas, family farms appear to be a dying breed, analysts say. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 5,382,162 farms in the country in 1950, but the number has declined to about 2.1 million. Ninety-one percent of the U.S. farms are small family farms, but the percentage of crop value produced by these farms is only 27 percent.

Family farms remain the backbone of American agriculture, Gail Kueser said.

“I think the more you get the family involved ... I think everything works out better,” Kueser said. “We’re here to take care of ourselves and help feed the world.”

The Kuesers have been involved in Farm Bureau for many years, serving in various leadership roles. Gail was vice president and president for two years on the Anderson County Farm Bureau board, and he currently serves as policy chairman. Debbie was president for four years and currently is the vice president and women’s chair for the Anderson County Farm Bureau. She also serves on the state Promotion and Agriculture Education Committee. They work to inform people about the bureau and agriculture, Debbie Kueser said.

“It’s a grassroots organization, and it works,” she said. “The system works. I mean everything starts with the counties.”

As part of winning the award, the couple gets to travel to California in March to see farming practices on the West Coast.

Like many of their fellow small family farmers in Kansas, the couple doesn’t have any plans to slow down their farming ways, Gail Kueser said.

“I love it. Hopefully I just keep doing it,” the lifelong farmer said. “People always ask me when I’m going to retire, and I say as long as I feel good, I’ll keep going.”