Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
2010 Profiles
Wes Bainter – Bainter Construction

Betts Abraham – Coffee Loft

Aaron Higbie – Santa Fe Trail Meats

Aaron McKee – Purple Wave

Alan Townsend – J. Hawkens Beans

Bruce McMillan – Tri-County Congress

Carol Kirk - Burrton

Cliff Ralstin – Humboldt Union

Dan Ledeboer – Quest Center

Debra Nelson – Garden of Eden

Dee Ann Goertzen

Don Hullman – Dodge City Beef

Doug Thompson – Auto Racing Museum

Doug Thompson – Kansas Racing Products

Pony Express

Galen Lambert - CSI

Heather Hartman – Perfect Pair

J. D. Cox - Neodesha

Jean Smith – Melody Twigg - Cedar Vale

Jim Meinhardt – Kan-Equip

Joe Jindra - KNCK

John Brewer – Wyldewood Cellars

Josh Shultz – Fine Furniture

Julie Hower – Farmers and Drovers Bank

Kevin McMurry – Fort Larned

Pony Express 2

Len Schamber – Historic Preservation

Marieta Hauser - Grant County Home Products Dinner

Mary Jane Constantin – 1 - Main Street Market

Mary Jane Constantin -2 – Half-Cup Kid

Mary McCune – Motorcycle Mary

Mary Mertz – Feast of the Fields

Miss Leona Wright

Natise Vogt – Walton School

Pat Carver – Pat’s Beef Jerky

Perry Schuckman – Nonprofit Chamber

Phil Brokenicky – New Horizons RV

Randy Billinger – Mustang Saddle Club

WMA Kansas Chapter

Roger Barta – Smith Center Redmen

Ron Hirst – Community Development Academy

Scott Bergkamp – Bergkamp Inc.

Sharon Brown – Flint Hills Regional Council

Sue Jean Covacevich

Susie Haver – Kansas Barn Alliance

Svetlana Hutfles – Community Foundations - 1

Svetlana Hutfles – Community Foundations - 2

Todd Kuntz – Mr. K’s Farmhouse

Warren Weibert – Decatur County Feed Yard

Wes Bainter – Bainter Sunflower Oil







Wes Bainter – Bainter Construction


             This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Need a lift?  No, I’m not talking about giving hitchhikers a ride.  I’m referring to an innovative hydraulic jacking system which allows grain bins and other cylindrical towers to be lifted into place as they are constructed.  This ingenious system is being utilized around the world, but it was created and produced in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Wes Bainter, founder and owner of Bainter Construction, which created and produces this innovative jacking and lifting system.  Wes has been described as a “prolific inventor.”  He is an entrepreneur with deep roots in rural Kansas.  In fact, Wes lives on ground which his family homesteaded more than a hundred years ago east of Hoxie, Kansas.

            Wes went into the construction business after school and found that he loved it.  In 1972, he started his own construction company in Hoxie.  Today, Bainter Construction includes several businesses.  One specializes in the construction and operation of senior independent living complexes.  Bainter has an apartment complex under construction in Cimarron and is already operating complexes in such rural communities as Hoxie, Smith Center, and Hill City, population 1,543 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            These senior apartment complexes include dining and meeting rooms plus roomy, two-bedroom apartments that are wheelchair and scooter accessible with no-step shower stalls.  Wes said, “This allows our older citizens to continue to make their own decisions and live independently.”  He said, “Since there’s no government money that goes into these, there are no regulations that would keep a family member from living with them, for example.  We offer a lot of flexibility and service.”

            Bainter Construction also specializes in the hydraulic bin jacking business.  Wes designed and patented a system for lifting and building grain bins.  He started out building grain bins on western Kansas farms, but today his business has gone global.

            Wes said, “We have a patented jacking system for nearly every cylindrical tower-type structure made in the U.S.”  The system starts with a center support and a rolling stairway.  Curved metal panels are bolted into a ring, which the hydraulic jacks simultaneously lift into place until another ring can be placed below it.  As the process is repeated, the round metal bin is essentially lifted up into position.

            Today, Bainter Construction makes the jacking system for both on-farm and large commercial construction.  A set of 40 commercial jacks, for example, can build a 105 foot diameter bin weighing up to 500,000 pounds.  Wow.

            The Bainter Hydraulic Grain Bin Jacking System is used from coast to coast and around the world.  Wes said, “We have 95 percent of the all the (bin jacking) business in this country, and we’ve shipped them to every continent in the world except the Antarctic.”  Gee, I think those penguins should get a grain bin.

            In the U.S., grain bins are used for storage and export.  In countries such as Israel, grain bins are used for storage of imported grains.  In both cases, grain bins are an essential part of the operation, and the Bainter system is utilized.

            Wes Bainter’s innovative mind continues to work.  When skid loaders became popular several years ago, many attachments were developed for them.  The only such trencher, however, would dig only while backing up.  Wes said, “For our construction, we needed that trencher to dig forward so we could see exactly where it needed to go.”  Wes designed such a piece of equipment, and now his patented trencher sells coast to coast.

            Wes said, “We’ve got to build our business in these rural communities if they’re going to survive.  We’re trying to help our community and serve our fellow man.”  For more information, go to www.bainterconstruction.com.

            Need a lift?  No, not a ride to town.  I’m referring to this innovative hydraulic jacking system from Hoxie, Kansas which is being used around the globe.  We commend Wes Bainter for his entrepreneurship and innovation, which is making a difference for rural Kansas.  Not only is his hydraulic jacking system lifting grain bins, it is helping to lift rural communities.

            And there’s more.  Wes Bainter’s innovation now extends into your kitchen.  We’ll learn about that next week.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Betts Abraham – Coffee Loft

 

This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.  The image on the giant screen brings a cheer from the people watching.  That may sound like a jumbotron in a football stadium, but these people are not outside eating greasy hot dogs.  Instead, they are enjoying panini sandwiches and flavored lattes in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment called The Coffee Loft.  Remarkably, this giant screen and upscale menu is found in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Elizabeth Abraham, known as Betts for short, is co-owner of this remarkable restaurant in Garnett, Kansas.  She was born and raised here.  After college at KU, she married an Air Force officer whose career took them various places over 30 years.  After he passed away, she moved her family back to Garnett.  “When I was a kid,” Betts said, “the downtown square in Garnett was really active.  There were dress shops and eating places and all kinds of stuff going on.  But now it is law offices, government buildings and empty lots, and we wanted to reinvigorate it.”

            Betts was talking about this with another person in Garnett.  She said, “I wish there was a place around here where a person could get a good latte.”  They decided they should build such a place themselves.

            So Betts and her business partner, Mark Powls, identified a downtown location to house their new enterprise.  Unfortunately the building, which Mark already owned, had deteriorated to the point that it was deemed unsafe by the building inspector.  But this gave them the opportunity to create a new design in that space.

            In place of the old building, they built a new structure from the ground up.  They reused the bricks from the old façade and utilized some of the original limestone in a stone fireplace.  Innovative design elements inside the structure include a balcony, spiral staircases, and a giant video screen.  “We had to go to MSM Systems in Lawrence to get a projector big enough for the image to fit the screen,” Betts said.

Other interesting things were uncovered during construction as well.  They found liquor and beer bottles hidden in the floor and the walls. “Apparently this was quite a happenin’ place during Prohibition,” Betts said.  “These bottles date back to the 1920s and `30s.  Now they’re on our tables holding flowers as a centerpiece.”

            Taking its name from the aforementioned balcony, the restaurant was called The Coffee Loft.  It opened on February 19, 2010.  “On our first day open,” Betts said, “There was a lady who came in and had breakfast, lunch, and dinner here.”In addition to walk-in traffic, The Coffee Loft hosts wine tastings, class reunions, birthday parties, brunches, Bible studies, book clubs, and bikers.  Visitors have come from as far away as Oregon.

    The menu is upscale, including items like chicken artichoke Panini and grilled veggie Panini in addition to burgers, salads, soups, and desserts.  There are breakfast and baked goods such as biscotti, healthy yogurt bowl, and kashi oatmeal cups.  Of course, the Coffee Loft has lots of flavored coffees and espresso.  The beans are ground just before the coffee is brewed.  There is also a variety of teas plus wine from three Kansas wineries.

    The giant indoor projection screen creates a “wow” factor when one enters the restaurant.  On this 12 x 16 foot screen, diners can view such things as tv shows, ball games, car races, and a slide show of performers and Mark's Renaissance Man Construction crew, who worked on constructing the building .
            Performers?  Yes, the restaurant features live entertainment almost every weekend.  The house band plays and local talents host a live talk and variety show that will soon be streamed online.  Guests include performers ranging from indie/folk and country music to a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby-type USO show.  The Coffee Loft is definitely more than one would expect to find in a rural community like Garnett, population 3,391 people.  Now, that’s rural.  For more information, go to www. coffeeloftgarnett .com .

The image on the giant screen makes the people cheer, but this is not some football stadium.  It’s the Coffee Loft in Garnett, Kansas.  We commend Betts Abraham and her partners for making a difference with their innovation and service.  All in all, it’s a lofty idea.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Aaron Higbie – Santa Fe Trail Meats

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            The results are in.  The final scores are tabulated at the national intercollegiate meats judging contest, and Kansas State University has the winning team.  One member of that team is Aaron Higbie.  Now fast forward to the present.  Aaron’s expertise in meats selection has continued to the point that he is operating his own meat processing business in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Aaron Higbie is owner of Santa Fe Trail Meats in Overbrook, Kansas.  Aaron is originally from a farm near Williamsburg.  He was active in 4-H and FFA and studied  Animal Science at K-State.  In 1992, Aaron was a member of K-State’s national championship meats judging team.  He went on to get a master’s degree in meat science   and served as head coach of the livestock judging team and the livestock and meat animal evaluation team at LSU.

            In 1999, Aaron and his new bride moved back to the farm in Kansas.  As he considered marketing his home-raised beef and pork directly, he looked for a processing plant to utilize and found Santa Fe Trail Meats at Overbrook.  Aaron ultimately purchased the business in 2004.

            The original part of the locker plant was constructed in the 1950s.  The business named Santa Fe Trail Meats was established here in 1986 and expanded through the years.

            Santa Fe Trail Meats’ specialty is custom processing.  The company offers a full range of custom meat processing services for beef, pork, lamb, goat, deer, buffalo, elk, and other game.  One hunter even had an outing in Texas and brought back a gazelle to be processed.

            Santa Fe Trail Meats also offers both retail and wholesale products.  Many people who have their beef and pork processed here use the meat themselves, while others market theirs to other consumers at grocery stores or farmers markets.

The retail trade is conducted at Santa Fe Trail Meats’ storefront facility at the plant in Overbrook.  Customers can purchase steaks, roasts, hamburger, patties, and fully cooked products like summer sausage, jerky, and smoked brisket, plus pork chops, roasts, smoked and cured products, and much more.

            In 2009, Aaron initiated a catering business.  Their niche is catering events of 50 to 100 people, or up to 300 for a whole hog roast in the smokehouse.  Aaron said, “It’s a way to highlight our product and get it into people’s mouths.  Let’s say they go to a wedding and have some of our pulled pork and brisket.  Once they try it, they’ll want it in the future.”

            Aaron buys beef and pork from local producers who meet his quality specifications, such as all grain fed, top quality, Angus and Angus-cross cattle.  He said, “If we start with a good product, it makes our job a lot easier.”

            All processing is done in a fully inspected, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Overbrook.  People travel for hours to come to Santa Fe Trail Meats.  The community’s slogan, which is prominently displayed around town, is Don’t Overlook Overbrook.    Overbrook is a town of 974 people.  That’s rural – but there’s more.  Aaron’s original hometown of Williamsburg has a population of 351 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Aaron likes helping with 4-H and FFA events.  He said, “I enjoy that giving back.  Lots of people helped me along the way.”  His specialty is live meat animal evaluation.  Because of his background, he can help young people understand the connection between a live animal and its ultimate use.  He said, “I’m looking at the animal from the inside out.”  That perspective has led to not only a successful judging career, but success in the meat processing business as well.

            For more information, go to www.santafetrailmeats.com.

 

            The results are in.  But today it’s not the results of a meats judging contest, it is the reaction of a satisfied customer who is enjoying the savory, delicious cuts of beef and pork provided by Santa Fe Trail Meats.  We commend Aaron Higbie and all those involved with Santa Fe Trail Meats for making a difference by putting their knowledge of the meat industry to work for consumers.  Does all this benefit rural Kansas?  I think it’s no contest.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 
 

Aaron McKee – Purple Wave

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            What happens when a Kansas auctioneer meets global Internet technology?  The result is a remarkable enterprise connecting buyers and sellers through the Internet.  This combination is a match made in heaven – or at least, in cyberspace.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Aaron McKee is the founder of Purple Wave Auction in Manhattan.  Aaron is originally from a farm in western Kansas, where he grew up around ag and cattle auctions.  While studying at K-State, he attended the Missouri Auction School and became an auctioneer.

            While his wife was finishing her degree in vet school, Aaron tried various entrepreneurial ideas.  In 2000, he established his own business:  Purple Wave Auction, where he put his auction skills to work to sell small items of personal property on consignment.

            The business started small, but along came a powerful new element:  The Internet.  Aaron recognized that, not only could auction items be promoted over the Internet, the auction itself could be conducted online.

            In 2002, Purple Wave conducted its first Internet auction.  Today, all of its commercial auctions are conducted online.

            What is an Internet auction?  The process starts when a seller contacts Purple Wave and lists an item for sale.  The Purple Wave staff takes pictures of the item and posts them on their website.  The sale is also promoted in traditional ways, with flyers, advertisements, and posting in auction magazines.

            A time is set for the bidding to start to close at a certain hour on a certain day.  Until that time, any registered bidder can submit a bid online.  Once a high bid is established, any other registered bidder has the opportunity to top it – just like in a traditional auction.  That process continues until there is only one high bid left, and the sale is made.  The difference is that those bids are submitted online via computer, rather than in person.

            Aaron McKee said, “Our DNA is about 98 percent that of a live auction.  We are a full-service auction company, so we organize the sale, advertise it, conduct the sale, collect money, and pay the seller when it’s done.”  The remaining two percent of the process is the technology, which connects a far-flung community of buyers with the auction.

            Aaron said, “We are an agent of the seller.  We insist on representing the assets accurately and serving the seller professionally.”

Purple Wave specializes in sales of agriculture, construction, industrial and government assets.  For example, an ag equipment auction might include combines, tractors, and other equipment, while state governments might sell surplus road equipment or automobiles through the auction.

            These auctions are unreserved or absolute, meaning there are no minimum bids.  Unlike a traditional auction lot to which items must be transported, Purple Wave sells items where they sit.  This saves the sellers the cost and hassle of transporting the assets.  It means that 10 combines could be sitting in 10 different farmer’s fields, for example, yet put together they make an attractive sale.

            What about the buyers?  Aaron said, “Our core buying community is many of the same people we were working with when doing live auctions,” but now they are joined online by many others.  Purple Wave has more than 52,000 registered bidders.  More than 100,000 potential bidders visit purplewave.com every month.  A typical auction will attract bids from more than 15 states and six countries.

            Aaron said, “We can (virtually) bring thousands of buyers to a county that might not have thousands of people in it.”  The results have been amazing.  Aaron said, “We might have sold $150,000 worth of product in our whole first year.”  In 2009, sales topped $40 million.  Wow.

            Not bad for a guy from the rural community of Spearville, Kansas, population 817 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Aaron said, “We’ve put together a really good team.”

            For more information – or to bid! – go to www.purplewave.com.

 

            So what happens when a Kansas auctioneer meets the Internet?  Buyers and sellers connect in whole new ways.  We commend Aaron and Suzy McKee and all those involved with Purple Wave Auctions for making a difference with this innovative enterprise.  And, what am I bid?

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

Alan Townsend – J. Hawkens Beans

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            On January 12, 2010, a huge earthquake devastated Haiti.  Many charities and governments responded quickly.  The United States provided one of the first and largest food shipments, including a supply of pinto beans from western Kansas.  Today we’ll learn about a rural Kansas entrepreneur who was a part of producing those beans.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Alan Townsend, President of the J. Hawkens Bean Company at Goodland.  He is a pinto bean producer and a director of the 21st Century Bean Processing LLC.

            Alan has deep roots in rural Kansas, as the fifth generation on the family farm near Goodland.  Son Ross, an incoming freshman at K-State, would be the sixth.

During the 1950s, Alan’s grandfather started raising pinto beans and other dry edible beans.  Alan said, “The prime growing area for these beans is far western Kansas because it is a dry weather crop.”

            In 1999, a group called the 21st Century Alliance organized what was called a new generation cooperative to handle marketing and processing of the dry edible beans in Alan’s region.  In 2003, that business changed its business structure to become a limited liability company.  Today, 21st Century is USDA’s second leading provider of pinto beans in the entire nation.

Alan remains a director of the LLC, and three years ago, he developed his own label to market his beans privately.  He pays a fee to the LLC for the handling and cleaning which it performs on his beans.

            Alan’s daughter is in Nashville.  Through a friend of hers in an ad agency there, Alan had the agency develop some possible designs for his private label.  One design called the product J. Hawkens Beans and featured a mythical character in a cowboy hat and plaid workshirt.

            The ad agency representatives flew to Denver to show Alan their designs.  He met them at the airport and drove them to the field where bean harvest was underway.  When they stopped at the combine, a local man named John Golden happened to step out to meet them in his cowboy hat and workshirt.  The ad agency rep said, “Oh my God – it’s J. Hawkens.”

            The resemblance was purely coincidental, but it did give some weight to the selection of the J. Hawkens brand and logo as the design to be chosen.  Now Alan is marketing his product over the Internet at www.jhawkensbeans.com.

            Bean production and processing has been an asset for the local economy.  Bulk processing and receiving of beans is done at Sharon Springs.  Further cleaning and retail packaging is done at the nearby unincorporated town of Ruleton, with a population of perhaps 30 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Health benefits of pinto beans have given the product a boost in the marketplace.  With their high fiber and significant amounts of folate, magnesium, and potassium, Pinto beans help prevent heart disease and can potentially reduce the risk of heart attacks.  Two recent studies suggest that eating beans can lower the risk of developing a colon adenoma, a non-cancerous tumor that can progress into colon cancer.  Since dietary fiber stabilizes blood sugar, pintos are a recommended fiber source for diabetics.

One serving of pinto beans provides 58 percent of the recommended fiber and a quarter of the recommended level of protein daily.  Pinto beans also increase energy levels by helping the body replenish iron and are a good source for the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin which are said to help maintain memory.

Alan said, “This health thing has brought beans to the forefront.”  Pinto beans are also a natural, ready-to-eat food.  Alan said, “All it takes is fire and water and you have a meal.”  This fact makes pinto beans especially appealing as an emergency food, such as the food shipments to Haiti.

It’s time to leave Haiti, where a shipment of beans from rural western Kansas was part of one of the first food shipments after the earthquake.  We commend Alan Townsend of J. Hawkens Bean Company and 21st Century Bean Processing LLC for making a difference by producing and adding value to this crop.  This is one producer who knows beans about his business.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bruce McMillan – Tri-County Congress

 

                    This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
        “Let’s go visit the Congress.”  If that comment gets you thinking about a plane flight to Washington DC, please save your ticket money.  I’m referring to a special type of Congress which was held right here in the Flint Hills region of Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
        Meet Bruce McMillan, a Manhattan architect.  In addition to designing buildings, he is also a key architect of regional cooperation in the northern Flint Hills.
        Bruce is a native of the St. Louis area.  After college and corporate life, he served in the Army and was stationed at Fort Riley.  The GI Bill made it possible for him to pursue a further academic career.  He chose architecture at K-State.
        After working for other architecture firms for several years, he set up his own firm in Manhattan in 1983 named Bruce McMillan AIA Architects PA.  He said with a smile, “It was a three-person firm:  Me, myself, and I.”
        From that humble beginning, his firm grew.  It has since played a key role in many projects around the Manhattan area, including those in the neighboring communities of Junction City and Wamego.  Bruce became active in each community.  For example, he was working with the renovation of the Columbian Theatre in Wamego while living in Manhattan and chairing the Junction City Chamber Board of Directors.
        In 1990, a Manhattan Chamber of Commerce study suggested that Manhattan is not an island and should work with regional partners.  Bruce saw first-hand the importance of that conclusion.  He was working with city and county leaders in Riley, Pottawatomie, and Geary counties.  He saw how the influence of Fort Riley, for example, clearly transcended county borders.
        Bruce said, “I found myself in the region working with partners on all sides.  Because I knew many of the players, I found myself in the role of a go-between.”
        But how would the vision of regional cooperation be put into action?  A group of volunteers held a Tri-County Congress at Fort Riley to discuss common issues with representatives of Pott, Riley, and Geary counties in 1991.  A Flint Hills Regional Leadership Program was also initiated.
        Bruce chaired subsequent sessions of the Tri-County Congress.  These efforts helped multicounty relationships continue to build.

     Then along came a four-letter word:  BRAC.  BRAC stands for Base Realignment and Closure, which is the name of the government’s initiative to close and consolidate military bases.  BRAC was scary because of the importance of Fort Riley and the devastating impact which closing this base would have on Kansas.
        Communities in the region rallied around Fort Riley.  A multi-county initiative was launched to support the military base.  The Governor set up a military task force.  Representation was hired in Washington DC.
        These efforts paid off.  Not only was Fort Riley saved, it grew with the addition of units which came from other bases during this process.  The federal government even provided a grant to develop a growth management plan for the region.
        A 2007 study suggested that the next step should be the creation of a regional council.  As plans were developed for such a council, one practical question was:  Who would chair the committee?  The answer was Bruce McMillan.  Bruce said, “I became the common denominator.  I guess it helped that I have worked in all three jurisdictions.”
        Under his leadership, plans moved forward.  In January 2010, a brand-new Flint Hills Regional Council was launched.  It included representatives from the larger cities in the area, plus rural communities such as Riley, population 692; Leonardville, population 441; and Randolph, population 135 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Now the new regional council is working together on behalf of the Flint Hills region, benefitting from the groundwork laid by the Tri-County Congress.

        “Let’s go visit the Congress.”  No, we didn’t have to make a trip to Washington.  This Congress was located right here in Kansas, and it provided the foundation for the regional efforts which would follow.  We salute Bruce McMillan for making a difference by sharing his vision of a united Flint Hills region and leading the effort to make it happen.
        And there’s more.  We’ll learn about the implementation of the new regional council next week.
        For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Carol Kirk - Burrton

 

                   This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
        Here’s a Kansas trivia question:  What is the longest running non-animated television series in American history?  The answer is:  Gunsmoke, a western that ran for 20 years in the `50s, `60s, and `70s.  What does that have to do with Kansas?  Well, Gunsmoke supposedly took place in Dodge City during the days of the old west.  But there is an even better Kansas connection:  One of the stars of the TV show Gunsmoke was a native Kansan, and he came from the rural community of Burrton.  Today, Burrton is not only honoring that legacy, the community is moving forward in many other ways.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
        Carol Kirk is Chair of the Burrton Community Development Committee.  She has helped me learn about the many good things going on in Burrton, including the native son who gained a starring role on Gunsmoke.
        Milburn Stone was born in Burrton, Kansas in 1904.  Burrton is located between Hutchinson and Newton on Highway 50.  It is a rural community of 929 people.  Now, that’s rural.
        Milburn Stone was the son of a shopkeeper, but he must have caught the show business bug from his uncle who was a comedian on Broadway.  Young Milburn followed his uncle into vaudeville and then moved to Hollywood in 1935.  He played various parts and B-movie leads for the next twenty years.
        Then came Gunsmoke.  It had been a successful radio show, so CBS was adapting it for television.  For the part of Doctor Galen Adams, CBS cast Milburn Stone.  The show debuted in 1955.
        Gunsmoke became a huge hit, and Doc Adams became a popular character.  Milburn Stone and James Arness, who played Marshall Dillon, were the only starring actors who were on the show for its entire 20 year run.  (Miss Kitty, played by Amanda Blake, joined the show in its second season.)
        For his supporting role, Milburn Stone earned an Emmy in 1968 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  He would make return visits to his hometown of Burrton through the years before passing away in California in 1980.
        Today, a pretty park is situated on the east side of Burrton.  It is named Milburn Stone Park, and the entrance features a stone sign with a drawing of a buggy like Doc Adams and country doctors of his era would have used.
        The Burrton library includes information about Milburn Stone as well.  The library is situated on the Main Street, next to a beautifully landscaped park.
        Burrton has many other attractive features as well.  The city auditorium has been beautifully restored, through the donation of many contributions and volunteer hours.  An active school and businesses along the highway are assets for the community as well.  Volunteers from a local church recently planted flowers and bushes to beautify the downtown area.
        Every September, Burrton has a Fall Festival on Main Street.  The Burrton Community Development Committee organizes a host of activities around that event.  This includes a parade, car show, dog show, train display, activities for kids, a play, community band performance, and lots of craft booths.  Often the churches put on a lunch at noon and the Lions Club holds a hamburger fry in the evening.
        The Burrton Community Development Committee has another project in mind for the long-term.  The group would like to establish a Burrton Historical Museum for the community.  The museum could feature the story of the founding of the community, its history through the years, and of course, its famous native sons -- such as Milburn Stone, the one and only Doc Adams on Gunsmoke.
        For more information about the community, go to www.burrtonkansas.com.

        So that’s your Kansas trivia question.  Not only did the longest running non-animated television series in American history revolve around Dodge City, Kansas, it featured a Kansas native as one of its starring characters.  We commend Milburn Stone for his history in Hollywood.  More importantly, we commend Carol Kirk and the members of the Burrton Community Development Committee for making a difference by preserving this history while working to make their community better.  For them, the community of Burrton can be a star.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cliff Ralstin – Humboldt Union

 

            Tokyo, Japan.  April, 2010.  The television is carrying a documentary about the state of the media in the United States.  Unfortunately, the broadcast is in the Japanese language which I don’t understand.  But part of the program is video coverage of a small-town Kansas newspaper.  Why would the Japanese send a television crew halfway around the world to rural Kansas?

            Cliff and Kim Ralstin are owners and publishers of The Humboldt Union in Humboldt, Kansas.  Their remarkable story was featured on Japanese public television in spring 2010.

            The Humboldt Union is a weekly newspaper which had been continuously published for 129 years, but closed its doors in 2005.  Two years later a man named Stewart Braden restarted the newspaper.  He also operated the paper in nearby Yates Center.  One of the people working for him there was Kim Ralstin.

            In March 2008, Kim and her husband Cliff Ralstin, who live near Humboldt, took over the ownership of The Humboldt Union.  “He does all the writing,” Kim said.

            “I don’t consider myself a journalist,” Cliff Ralstin said.  “I came from a background in manufacturing.  But the people here wanted a newspaper, and the community has embraced us.  They’re glad to have us back.”

            The re-opening of a small-town newspaper caught the eye of Gloria Freeland, director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media in K-State’s School of Journalism.  She and professor Steve Smethers, associate director of the school, did some research on the topic.  They concluded that it was vital for community citizens to have a newspaper.

"I think it's wonderful that Humboldt, Kansas didn't give up the idea of having its paper back," Freeland said. "Although I haven't met Cliff and Kim, I've talked to Cliff on the phone, and I admire the couple's hard work to give their community the news it needs."

            When they published their research, it caught another set of eyes much further away:  Clear over in Japan.  The Japanese national public television network was working on a special about the state of the media in the U.S.  Ultimately, the Japanese arranged for a television crew to come to Humboldt, Kansas to see this phenomenon first-hand.

            “They followed me around for four days,” Cliff Ralstin said.  “They showed me selling advertising, going to press, and even came in at five in the morning when we were putting together the paper.”  Only two of the four-person crew spoke English.

            “On the morning they left, the producer stated that being here changed his whole perspective on print media,” Cliff Ralstin said.  “It helped him realize how important it is to the community.”  The producer even found it a moving experience.  “He used the word “moved” three times,” Cliff said.

            “I think they set out to do a story about how newspapers were dying in America, but that’s not what they found,” Cliff said.

            What makes a newspaper significant to a community?  The key appears to be local coverage.  “All Humboldt, all the time,” Kim said.  “We focus on Humboldt,” Cliff said.  “People can get the national news anywhere.  We try to focus on the positive things in the community.  There’s so much happening in this little town. We have a positive, faith-based, progressive community.”

            Humboldt is a town of 1,964 people.  That’s rural – but there’s more.  The Ralstins actually live in the nearby town of Rose, which is unincorporated.  When asked the population of Rose, Cliff said, “Well, there’s Mrs. Wright, Kelly and his wife, and Terry and JD…”  When he was done counting, he concluded that Rose had a population of 16 people.  Now, that’s rural.  “I believe the rural way of life is the best way of life there is,” Cliff said.

            It’s time to leave Tokyo, where the national Japanese public television network was broadcasting a show with video of a rural Kansas newspaper.  We commend Cliff and Kim Ralstin and the people of Humboldt for supporting local coverage and bringing the newspaper back to life.  I can’t understand the Japanese language on the television show, but I do understand that this newspaper is making a difference.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dan Ledeboer – Quest Center

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            What does an incubator do?  According to Webster’s dictionary, an incubator is an apparatus in which eggs are hatched.  The dictionary goes on to say that to incubate is “to maintain at favorable conditions promoting development.”  Today we’ll learn about a special kind of incubator – not to help eggs, but to help businesses.  This is an innovative business development organization which is serving rural and urban businesses throughout Reno County, Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Dan Ledeboer, Director of the Quest Center for Entrepreneurs which is a business incubator and small business development organization located in Hutchinson.

            Dan is well-qualified, having a degree in accounting plus an MBA from K-State.  More importantly, he successfully started and operated two companies of his own.  Dan became the Director of the Quest Center in Hutchinson in 2006.

            Last week we learned about Ron Hirst, who assists Dan as an Economic Development specialist with the Quest Center.

            Dan explains that the Quest Center began in the 1980s when Hutchinson was experiencing job losses in manufacturing.  Local leaders thought of having a facility which could serve as an incubator to grow additional new businesses.  After studying such a facility in Minnesota, the Quest Center for Entrepreneurs was founded in Hutchinson in 1986.  Richard French was the founder and long-time director of the Quest Center.  Dan became Director upon Richard’s retirement.

            Just as an incubator creates conditions favorable for egg development, the Quest Center is designed to create conditions favorable for business growth.  For example, a start-up business can become a tenant in the Quest Center building and have access to the expertise of the center staff.  Tenants pay a competitive market rate for space, but can utilize the computers, copiers, and switchboard service.  This was especially helpful when the center first began, at a time when the cost of computers and copiers was higher than today.

            By 2006, the center recognized a need to extend its outreach and services to businesses beyond the city limits of Hutchinson.  It launched an initiative called Incubator Without Walls.  That meant that incubator-type support could be extended to other communities in Reno County, and business owners didn’t have to come to downtown Hutchinson to access those services.

            In practice, this means that a Quest Center economic development specialist travels to all the communities in Reno County and is available during scheduled visits in those communities.  That includes rural communities such as Abbyville, population 127; Plevna, population 98; and Langdon, population 71 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            This service helps business owners access such services more readily.  For example, one business owner met with the Quest Center staff and learned about a sales tax credit which saved his business some two thousand dollars.  That made a significant difference in the bottom line of this new company.

            The Quest Center staff helps tenants and other clients by answering questions about starting and operating a business and getting financing.  These questions might involve marketing, business organization, sales tax, or state requirements.  In the last 2 ½ years, the Quest Center has helped local businesses receive more than a million dollars in financing from local banks and others.  The Center partners with such organizations as KTEC, Network Kansas, and K-State’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute in supporting entrepreneurs.

Now the Quest Center is also working to assist the city councils of the smaller communities in the county.  The center provided training sessions for small cities on Quickbooks and website development, and helped host a workshop from the League of Kansas Municipalities on city finance operations.

            A recent external analysis of the Quest Center concluded that the economic impact of the businesses with whom the Quest Center has worked, counting the multiplier effect, is between 34.7 and 52.5 million dollars.  Wow.

 

            So, what does an incubator do?  It helps things develop.  In this case, it’s not eggs but businesses and communities which are being benefited by the Quest Center.  We commend Dan Ledeboer, Ron Hirst, and all those involved with the Quest Center for making a difference by assisting businesses in Reno County.  Their work can help small business owners develop their nest eggs.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Debra Nelson – Garden of Eden

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Imagine a grocery store that has a full service meat counter, music playing in the background, cut-fresh deli sandwiches, homemade sausage, fresh vegetables, and a pleasant dining area out front.  Doesn’t that sound like paradise?  Like the Garden of Eden?  Well, it is.  Today we’ll learn about an innovative small town grocery store which goes by the name Garden of Eden.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Debra and David Nelson, owners of the Garden of Eden grocery store in Little River, Kansas.  Debra grew up in nearby McPherson.  She says with a smile, “I didn’t know Little River existed.”

            After attending Hutchinson Community College, Debra worked in the corporate world in southern California.  While visiting family back in Kansas, she met a guy who had joined her brother’s country music band - and the rest is history.

            Debra married David and moved back to his hometown of Little River.  They went on to have four daughters.  David was working for a pipeline company but as the girls grew and their activities increased, he wanted more flexibility.

            In 2005, David and Debra bought the grocery store in Little River.  They renamed it Garden of Eden.

            Debra said, “This was a big leap of faith, to take on this store.”  She said, “I’m a strong Christian, and I believe that God gave us everything we needed in the Garden of Eden.”  So they renamed and changed the image of the store, and took off for the promised land.

            The Nelsons made several changes to attract young families and others back into the store.  Debra said, “We bought the store in the fall so we used an autumn theme to highlight our lower prices, with phrases like, `Prices are falling, come rake in the savings.’”

The Nelsons asked customers, “What would you like us to stock on your shelves?”  They worked with their suppliers to assure fresh bread.  They started buying fresh, local produce as it came available. They added a cappuccino and coffee bar.  They expanded balloons and other gift selections.  They display high school artwork in the store.

They also made changes to make the shopping experience more relaxing and enjoyable.  David installed a speaker system and a CD player for musical background.  They installed a green-and-white awning on the front, as downtown stores used to have in the community.  They stopped selling cigarettes.  They added a dining area out front, with tables and chairs.

Debra said, “People can eat out there, and kids will come get a Popsicle after school.  People will be walking their dogs and tie them up to the chairs while they shop.  I love to see it.”  She said, “I tell people, there’s no stress allowed here.”

These changes to the store were important, because the store faces significant competition from city discount stores just ten to twenty miles away.  Little River is a rural community of 528 people.  Now, that’s rural.  How can a store survive in a town that size?  Debra says, “We can create a different experience from Super Center stores by emphasizing value, fresh foods, and customer service.”

 

 

 

Debra is active in the community, serving on the Lions Club, school board, library board, and county arts council.  David is in Lions and is a Mutual Telephone Company board member.  The Garden of Eden partners with Fat Boyz, the local bar and grill, to provide them fresh steaks.

In June 2008, K-State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development hosted a summit for rural grocers.  After attending the summit, the Nelsons decided to extend their store hours so as to be more convenient for their customers.  Debra said, “It was definitely a worthwhile change.”  Another summit will be held in June 2010.  See www.ruralgrocery.org for details.

 

Imagine a grocery store with a full service meat counter, fresh fruit and produce, organic and gluten free items, and much more.  If it sounds like the Garden of Eden, it is indeed.  We commend Debra and David Nelson for making a difference by enhancing their store to meet customer needs, thus maintaining this vital service in a rural community.  To me, it sounds heavenly.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dee Ann Goertzen

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Let’s go to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic estate near Washington D.C.  The historic farm there was needing rye berries for processing.  When the curator of the Mount Vernon estate was seeking this special grain, would you believe that the request was taken by a woman halfway across the continent in rural Kansas?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Dee Ann Goertzen is senior customer service representative for Pleasant Hill Grain.  The headquarters of this company is in Nebraska, but technology makes it possible for Dee Ann to work with this company and its customers all over.

            Dee Ann and her husband Fred live in her hometown of Gridley, Kansas.  She grew up in 4-H and took cooking as a project.  She found she enjoyed cooking demonstrations – especially baking bread.

            At Hutchinson Community College she met Fred on a blind date and ultimately moved to the farm in Nebraska.

            “When I was first married, I tried to make whole wheat bread with storebought flour and I didn’t like it,” Dee Ann said.  “But I fell in love with the fresh flour you could make from a Bosch kitchen machine and home flour mill.  It made wonderful, light, velvety bread.”

            Not only did she get one for herself, she started demonstrating and selling the flour mills and bread machines to other bakers.  Meanwhile, a neighbor in Nebraska was starting a new venture.

            “Gary and I knew each other through a Bible study,” Dee Ann said.  “His mother had bought a kitchen machine from me.”  It was the time of Y2K, when people were concerned that computer problems would tie up the economy.  Gary was helping people store food supplies just in case there was a problem.  He found there was demand all over the country.

One of the supplies he provided was wheat.  Gary wanted to make sure that the wheat would make good bread.  He asked Dee Ann to test the wheat and its baking qualities, which she did.

            “After Y2K, Gary said, `What do I do with all these customer names?’” Dee Ann said.  “He did a quick check and found that the most popular Internet search at the time was for flowers, and number two was kitchen machines.”  Gary didn’t know anything about flowers but decided to market kitchen machines to his customer base.  He asked Dee Ann to help him.

            “I was the first employee,” Dee Ann said.  They got a small inventory of kitchen machines and marketed them on a website.  She would take orders and ship products while working in her kitchen.  The business took off and has grown phenomenally.  Now some 30 people work as sales and service representatives.

            Today, www.pleasanthillgrain.com sells all kinds of kitchen machines and related products online.  These include the Bosch mixers and home flour mills which Dee Ann liked so well, plus everything from meat grinders to tomato strainers and waffle makers.

            “Most things we offer cannot be purchased in the mass market stores,” Dee Ann said.  The product range is remarkable, from cookbooks and kitchen gadgets to the best-selling rice cooker in Japan.  “Some of our customers need these products for gluten intolerance, and others just want to make their own flour and bread,” she said.

            Pleasanthillgrain.com experienced remarkable growth.  Today it is a Fortune 500 company with sales of more than ten million dollars.  Wow.

            Meanwhile, Dee Ann and her husband Fred moved to Kansas to be closer to her family.  They moved to her hometown of Gridley, but she continues to work for pleasanthillgrain.com.  Technology has made it possible for her to live in a rural setting yet seamlessly take calls and respond to emails.  Gridley is a town of 367 people.  Now, that’s rural.

One call came from the curator of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.  He was looking for rye berries for processing, and pleasanthillgrain.com was able to help.

True to her 4-H roots, Dee Ann said, “Most every day, I help someone with bread baking.”

 

            It’s time to leave George Washington’s estate, but we’re thankful that a woman in rural Kansas could help provide what it needed.  We salute Dee Ann Goertzen for making a difference with customer service.  Just like her bread, she found that this business would rise.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Don Hullman – Dodge City Beef

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            The steak sizzles on the grill as its delicious aroma wafts over the neighborhood.  That’s a sign of good times, highlighted by a good steak.  Today we’ll learn about an innovative Kansas beef producer who is marketing his steaks from coast to coast.  Thanks to Keith Lippoldt, publisher of the Pratt Tribune, whose article contributed to this story.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Don and LuAnn Hullman are owners and founders of Dodge City Beef.  Don is a cattleman in the Pratt area who has been active in the beef industry.  In fact, he was appointed to the National Beef Board and served for six years.  Don said, “I got acquainted with cattle breeders from coast to coast and got lots of good ideas about marketing beef.”

            Don said, “I like good quality steaks.  This idea of producing and providing high quality beef has been a dream in the back of my mind for a long time.”

            The Hullman’s cow/calf herd grazes on 10,000 acres of pasture in the Gyp Hills southeast of Dodge City.  Weaned calves are pastured on wheat till they reach 800 pounds and then moved to the Hullman farm in Pratt County where they are fed whole corn and hay.  The finished product is an all-natural, 21-day dry-aged Angus beef free of growth hormones and medicated feed.

            In 2007, the Hullmans established a website to market frozen cuts of their beef.  One question was, what to call the business?  Don said, “On the east coast, they barely know where Kansas is.  They don’t know about Wichita and they sure don’t know about Pratt.  But Dodge City is a recognized name because of all those years of Gunsmoke being on television.”

            So after checking with the city fathers in Dodge City, the Hullmans named their business Dodge City Beef.  The website was established as www.dodgecitybeef.com.    The website tells about the Hullman’s cattle operation and the various products for sale, including filets, ribeyes, KC strips, sirloins, and roasts, plus snacks such as beef sticks, jerky, and summer sausage.  Don said, “Those kinds of snacks are usually made from whatever’s left on the table after the good cuts have been removed.  We’ve gone the other direction.  We use high quality beef round, eliminated MSG and nitrites, and produce a high quality, low fat snack.”

            In 2010, the Hullmans opened a retail sales location in Shawnee, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb.  In regard to the store, Don said, “I am shocked at the success. The locals have backed us tremendously.”  The store is managed by daughter Heidi.  Meanwhile, son Shan is a veterinarian in Pratt.  Shan and his wife Shelley also manage the genetic development, health, and nutrition of the cattle, while the Hullman grandchildren are the third generation involved in the business.

            Don said, “A hundred percent of the beef comes from our own herd.  We ship a lot of beef to the east and west coast.  It’s a high end product that we ship from North Carolina to California.”  That’s impressive, considering that this beef comes from a truly rural setting.  After all, the Hullmans come from near Pratt, which is a town of 6,495 people.  That’s rural – but there’s more.  The Hullman farm is actually located near Iuka, a town of 184 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            This rural setting produces wonderful meat.  The whole corn ration is not as efficient as traditional feeding programs, but it produces delicious tasting beef.

            Don Hullman said, “This is meat like grandmother and granddad used to have.  He said, “A man in Kansas City who had tried the meat wrote in his blog that this was the best steak he had ever eaten. One of his readers saw this and drove 45 miles to buy some for himself.   I believe once they taste it, they’ll be back.”

 

            The steak sizzles on the grill as family and friends prepare to enjoy some high quality Kansas beef.  We commend Don and LuAnn Hullman and all their family for making a difference in producing and marketing this quality product.  Adding value to our rural Kansas products is important, because the stakes are high.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Doug Thompson – Auto Racing Museum

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Let’s go see the first-ever trophy awarded by NASCAR.   One might expect to find that in Daytona, Talladega, or Charlotte, North Carolina.  But today we’ll find this historic hardware in its permanent home, which is located in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Doug Thompson, founder of the Kansas Auto Racing Museum in Chapman, Kansas.  This museum is a product of his life-long interest in auto racing.

            Doug was born in Abilene, graduated from Chapman High and then Washburn Law School.  An attorney by trade, he is currently city attorney for Chapman, municipal judge in Abilene, Dickinson County counselor, and administrative hearing officer for the Eighth judicial district.

            Doug has always been fascinated by auto racing.  He said, “I’ve been involved in racing for 50 years.”  Of he and his brother, he said, “Before we were licensed drivers, we were racing cars around the farm.”

            When he got older, he embarked on a racing career of his own in addition to his legal work.  He started racing on dirt tracks, then graduated to asphalt and ultimately to NASCAR.

            Doug’s faith is very important to him also.  He said, “I wanted to use the skills, training and opportunities stock car racing had given me to glorify the Lord’s name.”   So he and his wife Connie created the Covenant Racing Team which has had lots of success.  Doug said, “The good Lord has blessed us with 353 feature wins, nine track championships, three Kansas State titles, two Nationals and lots of good friends.” Along the way, he accumulated lots of racing memorabilia and wanted a facility to display it.

            Doug developed the Kansas Auto Racing Museum in Chapman.  The museum is just a half-mile south of Interstate 70 at exit 286.

            The museum displays many artifacts depicting the rich heritage of auto racing in Kansas.  For example, the museum is home to the very first NASCAR trophy.  It was won on June 19, 1949 by a driver named Jim Roper who came from rural Kansas.  Jim was from the town of Halstead, Kansas, population 1,880 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            The museum is also home to the first trophy from the NHRA, or National Hot Rod Association.  The history of this association also has a remarkable connection to our state.  The very first NHRA-sanctioned race was won by Paul Flynn of Abilene.  It was held back in 1955 in Great Bend, Kansas.  At that time Great Bend had a population of 5,000 people.  When 5,000 people showed up for the race – equivalent to the entire population of the town -- the NHRA founders realized there was great interest in drag racing in the heartland.

            The Kansas Auto Racing Museum reflects this interest in auto racing.  The museum includes restored race cars from seven different eras, video play stations, rare film footage, a theater with big screen to view racing highlights, and all kinds of memorabilia.  The museum is located in a 21-acre complex featuring a scenic nature trail walk.

            Doug continues to expand enterprises related to auto racing.  He created Covenant Films, an independent Christian movie company, which produced a full-length movie called Can We Talk? which includes footage in and around the museum.  That movie was completed in May 2008.  In June 2008, the community of Chapman was devastated by a tornado.  Interestingly, the tornado hit the property next door but missed the auto racing museum.  Doug and his church played a key role in encouraging the Extreme Makeover television series to come to Chapman and rebuild a home and community center.

            Doug said, “The good Lord has blessed us.  It has been one miracle after another.”  For more information, go to www.kansasautoracingmuseum.org.

 

            It’s time to leave this museum where we found the first-ever NASCAR trophy.  We commend Doug Thompson and all those involved with the museum for making a difference by capturing and sharing this heritage.  At this museum, one can find these historic trophies and much more before making it to the checkered flag.

            And there’s more.  Also located on the museum grounds is a remarkable engine products business.  We’ll learn about that next week.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Doug Thompson – Kansas Racing Products

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

             Edgewater Sports Park, Cincinnati, Ohio.  A new drag racing speed record has just been established, with a run of 8.56 seconds and a speed of 153.34 miles per hour.   The racecar which set the record features a new type of engine block. And where was this automotive technology developed?  Would you believe, halfway across the country in rural Kansas?  Buckle up -- it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Doug Thompson.  Last week we learned that Doug is an attorney, a lifelong auto racer, and founder of the Kansas Auto Racing Museum at Chapman, Kansas.  This week we will learn about the auto-related businesses in which he is involved.

            Races are very exciting for fans and for the drivers, but of course, there are hours of work and preparation leading up to these races.  There is also the time and money put in to traveling to the races themselves.

            One day during one of the long drives to the next race, Doug was visiting with his crew chief.  He started talking about an idea he had for a new type of intake manifold on his race car engine.  It turned out that his crew chief’s son had a master’s degree in engineering, so they discussed how to design and produce such an improved product.  They gave it a try, and it was such a success that it lead to a business called Kansas Racing Products.

            Doug Thompson began the company in 1996.  Kansas Racing Products sells engine blocks, block parts, crankshafts, camshafts, and intake manifolds.  These are high quality, high performance products designed for racing automobiles.

Kansas Racing Products created the unique design of their inline engine block for after-market, high performance racing applications.  The original block design is based on the GM “Iron Duke” which later evolved into the Pontiac “Super Duty” engine block.

This product has been sold to such prestigious customers as GM Motorsports, for example.  For more information, go to www.kansasracingproducts.com.

            Doug Thompson is now involved in another new automotive venture called Grail Engine Technologies.  Formed in 2009, Grail Engine Technologies was founded by Matthew Riley, the CEO and chief research scientist.  Riley invented a pneumatic two-stroke engine with remarkable potential.

            Doug is the corporate treasurer of the new company.  He said, “This engine can revolutionize the internal combustion engine as we know it.”  Doug said, “The Grail Engine has the potential to provide the first two stroke engine that does not exhibit cross contamination of fuel and oil, resulting in lower emissions yet producing more power and torque using less fuel than larger engines.”

            The company website, www.grailengine.com, describes these benefits as the Holy Grail of automotive technology.  It says, “Our engine design will operate on multiple fuels and performance levels and will reduce pollution compared to a four stroke automobile engine.”  This is described as environmentally friendly Green technology.  It utilizes pioneering concepts such as something called Forced Semi-Homogeneous Charged Compression Ignition.

            The company has assembled an impressive list of scientists and engineers to pursue this initiative.  The website says, “We are a unique team of individuals with the same aspirations – to improve our environment by developing an efficient emissions friendly engine.”

According to the website, this engine can go more than a hundred miles per gallon while generating 180 pounds of torque and 200 horse power.  At the same time, it exceeds federal automotive emissions standards.  Wow.

            Currently auto manufacturers are evaluating the long-term commercial feasibility of this product.  As with Kansas Racing Products, the corporate address for this company is not in a metropolitan manufacturing center like Detroit.  Instead, it’s in the rural community of Chapman, Kansas, population 1,233 people.  Now, that’s rural.  These are all examples of the automotive entrepreneurship of Doug Thompson.

           

            It’s time to leave Edgewater Sports Park in Ohio, where a racecar powered by the Kansas Racing Products unique engine design helped set a new speed record.  Now more innovative automotive technologies are on the way.  We salute Doug Thompson and those involved with Kansas Racing Products and Grail Engine Technologies for making a difference.  Their technology can help us go faster toward a better future.          

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pony Express

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            The rider gallops up to the station, carrying the mochila full of mail.  It’s the Pony Express – but it’s also 2010.  This rider is reenacting this historic delivery service in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express.  A reenactment ride passed through rural Kansas in 2010, including a stop at the nation’s only unaltered Pony Express station still standing at its original site.  Special thanks to Kansas magazine and writer Mark Janssen whose article told this remarkable story.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Duane Durst is director of the Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site near Hanover, Kansas.  The Pony Express was created in 1860 to deliver mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and the west coast.  The route generally followed the wagon ruts of the Oregon and California trails through northeast Kansas.

The destination was Sacramento—1,966 miles away. The mission was delivery—transporting the mail in no more than 10 days through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California territories.

            The Pony Express concept came from the Russell, Majors & Waddell freight company, which provided the horses and hired the riders. Posters seeking riders read: “Wanted—young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18.  Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.”

            When they said they wanted skinny riders, they meant it.  Duane Durst pointed out that the consideration was for the horse.  He said, “The total weight of rider, saddle and mail could not exceed 150 pounds.”

Riders signed contracts promising they would not use profane language, get drunk, gamble, treat the animals cruelly or “do anything incompatible with the conduct of a gentleman.”  I’d like to see some behavior codes like that today.

Each rider covered 50 to 80 miles per day, riding at an 8 to 12 miles per hour clip. Horses and mochila were changed every 10 to 15 miles. The riders were allowed two minutes to make that change.  “A rider would swing off one horse and swing on another,” Durst said. “It would happen that fast.”  Although the riders were asked to risk death daily, only one of its riders was killed during the existence of the Pony Express.

            The cost of sending a letter was $5 per half ounce, later reduced to $1 when letters were written on tissue-type paper. More than 30,000 pieces of mail were delivered in the 18-month existence of the Pony Express, including the text of President Lincoln’s inaugural address which arrived in seven days and 17 hours—well ahead of the guaranteed 10-day delivery.

            The Pony Express captured the imagination of the nation, but it found itself displaced by the telegraph.  It ended on October 26, 1861.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, a reenactment ride was held in June 2010.  It passed through northeast Kansas, going to the Hollenberg Pony Express Station before going to Marysville and beyond.

The Hollenberg Pony Express Station is a 60- by 25-foot, six-room, rustic building.  Today it is a National Historical Landmark, making it unique among the 190 stations along the trail.  Duane Durst said, “It is the only original unaltered station standing right where it was built. There are other stations, but they have been moved or altered, which takes away the historical value.”

Now the Kansas State Historical Society maintains the site, which features educational displays and a beautiful mural.  This Pony Express station is located in a truly rural setting, because Hanover is a town of 632 people.  Now, that’s rural.

August 29 will mark the 25th Annual Pony Express Festival at the historic Hollenberg Station. It will include live demonstrations and a short Pony Express re-ride.

More pictures and stories can be found in Kansas Magazine, the beautiful quarterly which showcases our state.  Go to www.kansasmag.com  or www.travelks.com.

 

The rider has transferred the mail, and now he gallops away from the station as a way of celebrating 150 years since the founding of the Pony Express.  We commend Duane Durst and all those involved for making a difference by honoring this legacy.  It’s the type of genuine history which rural Kansas can deliver.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Galen Lambert - CSI

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “Go for the Gold.”  That phrase could have come from the recent Winter Olympics, but in this case it refers to an innovative rural Kansas computer company which has achieved the prestigious and exclusive Gold certification from Microsoft.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Galen Lambert, President and founder of Computer Solutions Inc. or CSI.  Galen grew up on a farm near Smith Center.  He graduated from K-State with a degree in accounting and had a job offer in downtown Chicago, but ended up in Topeka and Lincoln, Nebraska selling the first electronic adding machines and electro-mechanical bookkeeping systems.  His corporate career took him to Detroit, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis.  When he and his wife Judy wanted to start a family, they moved back to Smith Center.

            One day in 1982, the county extension agent in a neighboring county told him that there was a guy who had a computer company and he thought Galen could help him run it.  Galen did that a few years and then went out on his own.  In 1987, Galen founded Computer Solutions Inc., known as CSI for short.

            Galen had CSI before CSI was cool – or at least before it became the name of a popular television show.  I’ll bet they could sell some cool t-shirts with the company name on them.

            Today, Galen has built CSI into a business which generates $3 million in annual revenue and employs 20 people covering Kansas and surrounding states.  Company headquarters is in Galen’s hometown of Smith Center, with additional offices in Beloit, Concordia, and McPherson.  CSI is working on opening another office in the town of St. Francis, a rural community of 1,471 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Why open an office in such a rural community?  The answer, Galen said, is “people.”  He explained that one of his excellent technicians is from St. Francis and would like to move back there.

            Galen describes CSI as a “value-added information technology service and sales organization for the small business community.”  CSI also specializes in serving the financial, government, and education sectors.

            CSI is one of the five largest Hewlett Packard resellers in the state of Kansas.  This is an especially remarkable achievement because CSI is so far from large cities.  Galen’s success caught the attention of Hewlett Packard administrators.  He recently had visits from HP executives who came to Smith Center from Utah, Texas, Omaha, and California.  Wow.

            How has CSI done it?  Galen said, “Personal dedication to our customers is key, and we have an excellent combined skill set of our employees.”

            Galen believes in customer service.  He has personally driven more than 50,000 miles every year since opening the company.  This dedication has paid off.  CSI has assisted most of the businesses in north central Kansas.

            Benchmarking is another key for Galen’s company.  He is part of the Heartland Technology Group, a peer group of IT companies that share financial and organizational data as well as goals and objectives with each other.  These companies are grouped nationally but not with their direct competitors.  Key indicators are identified and then compared among these companies so they can better measure their progress.  This is like a virtual board of directors which holds each group member accountable to their goals and objectives.

            Galen believes this high-tech “measuring stick” has helped the company identify needs and opportunities for strategic improvements.  He was selected as the outstanding member of Group4 of the Heartland Technology Group last year.

            Technical excellence is another hallmark of CSI.  The company’s engineers and technical staff include many accreditations.  From both Microsoft and SonicWALL, for example, CSI has even been Gold certified.  This is the highest level of certification available and has been achieved by fewer than a dozen companies in the state.  For more information, go to www.csiks.net.

 

            Go for the gold.  No, it’s not an Olympic gold medal, it’s a prestigious and exclusive certification for computer companies.  We commend Galen and Judy Lambert and all the people of CSI for making a difference by serving the technology needs of his customers in such an effective way.  They are helping rural Kansas meet a gold standard.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Heather Hartman – Perfect Pair

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “How about a treat down at the soda fountain?”  That statement sounds like something out of Leave it to Beaver.  It’s a comment from yesteryear, but it could also apply to a current Kansas business which has rejuvenated its historic soda fountain.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Heather Hartman, co-owner of the Perfect Pair, a business featuring an old-time soda fountain in Beloit, Kansas.  Heather is a Beloit native.  After studying hotel and restaurant management at K-State, Heather went to work for Marriott in Tulsa.  She worked at other hotels in the region, but when it was time to start a family, she convinced her husband Scott to come back to Beloit.

            In 2003, Heather and her mother opened a shoe store together in downtown Beloit.  The store was named the Perfect Pair.  Three years later, a historic building came available at a corner location down the street.  Heather’s parents, Pat and Cathy Ziegler, bought the property.  The store relocated and expanded its offerings there.  Today, the Perfect Pair offers specialty gifts and toys, treats from an antique soda fountain, and more.

            The Zieglers bought the historic building and furnishings from Carl Schmidt, a retired military man who stocked the building with some wonderful antiques during the time that he owned it.  The store itself has the original pressed tin ceiling and an internal balcony that goes part way around the room, with a spiral staircase to access it.  Originally that balcony was suspended from the ceiling, but now columns have been added to secure it.  A lifesize model of an elderly butler stands in the balcony to greet customers.  Total seating in the store is 30.

            The centerpiece of the store is the antique soda fountain.  Heather commented with a smile, “My dad said he bought the soda fountain from Carl, and Carl threw the building in for free.”   By one estimate, fewer than 40 of these soda fountains remain in Kansas.

The soda fountain includes a twelve foot long counter with seating for six, plus a beautiful eleven foot tall wooden back bar and apothecary cabinets.  This is a working soda fountain, with hand-scooped ice cream and syrups to create the various flavors.  One can get hand-made Rocky Road, old-fashioned sodas, shakes, floats, Green Rivers and phosphates as in yesteryear.

            The prices are nostalgic too.  A single dip of ice cream is just 50 cents.

            This attracts a faithful group of local customers plus out-of-town visitors.  There are the morning coffee drinkers, a couple of book clubs, the after-school kids, and people traveling through.  Heather recalls having customers in the store from England, Paris, and Australia – all in one memorable day.

            Above the counter in a frame, Heather displays the original bill of sale for the wooden back bar.  The bill of sale indicates that the back bar was built by a lumber company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1909 and was shipped to a rural location: a drugstore in the town of Leonardville, Kansas, population 375 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Heather said, “It’s neat that this beautiful piece has only been in two locations in more than a century.”

            Toys are another major offering at the Perfect Pair.  Heather doesn’t purchase mass-produced toys like the big box stores, but seeks out distinctive items like hand-made wooden toys.  Heather said, “I always have a brain teaser or game out for the high school kids.”

            Those kids are a major part of the fun for Heather.  She said, “I like that I can be here for the kids.  When one of them does something good at school, they come here for a treat.  It makes my day that we can be somebody’s treat.”

 

            So how about a treat down at the soda fountain?  No, that’s not just a phrase from yesteryear.  One can still find a working soda fountain at the Perfect Pair in Beloit, Kansas.  We commend Heather and Scott Hartman, Pat and Cathy Ziegler, Carl Schmidt, and all those involved with the Perfect Pair for making a difference by preserving and sharing this rare element of Americana.  It’s a way to give rural Kansas good treatment.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

J. D. Cox - Neodesha

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Sometimes it takes a spark to get something started, such as a campfire.  Today we’ll learn about a southeast Kansas town which used a Community Development Academy as a spark to start some exciting community initiatives.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            J. D. Cox is City Administrator for the city of Neodesha.  Neodesha participated in a recent Community Development Academy which helped launch a new community improvement process there.

            J. D. and his wife come from rural Kansas roots.  She is from Neodesha originally.  J. D. attended Independence schools, but he’s from the nearby community of Elk City, population 301 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            J. D. had a career in the information technology business which took him to such places as Chicago, Dallas, and Boston.  But when he and his wife wanted to start a family, they felt a desire to raise their children in a smaller, Midwest community.  In 1993, they moved to Neodesha where J. D. took a position with a local manufacturing company.

            J. D. also got involved with the local chamber and the county leadership program.  Eventually some people asked if he would run for the city commission – and he said no.  But after more encouragement, he agreed to run and was not only elected, he became Mayor and was reelected twice.

            In late 2004, the city administrator stepped down. The other commission members asked and encouraged J. D. to take the position, which he eventually did.  J. D. said, “I absolutely love it.”

            In late 2009, J. D. saw a notice about a Community Development Academy that was being held for teams of community volunteers in southeast Kansas communities.  The academy was being conducted by a consortium of groups, led by K-State’s Center for Engagement and Community Development, K-State Research and Extension, the Federal Home Loan Bank and others, with grant support from USDA Rural Development.

            J. D. liked the fact that the academy was intended to bring together representatives from different areas of the community, so he encouraged Neodesha put together a team which participated in the 2010 academy.  The team consisted of the executive director of the chamber of commerce, a hospital representative, an involved citizen, a banker, and J. D.  He said, “We had really good folks involved with a can-do attitude.”

            J. D. said, “The content of the academy was really good.  It wasn’t just one-way delivery, it was a dialogue.”  The dialogue involved some homework, including an assessment of their community by the team.

            J. D. said, “It was a great process to go through.  We did it rapidly but as comprehensively as possible.  And once the class was over, it provided a framework for us to work on.”

            That is exactly what the team from Neodesha did.  When they got back home, they engaged a number of additional citizens and started thinking about goals and action plans for the community.  Those goals focus on planning and development strategies, community promotion, leadership and community involvement, and hazard mitigation and disaster planning.  The team will be going to the City Commission to seek its support for this community engagement process, which would include town hall meetings and more citizen input, leading to a strategic plan and action steps.

            J. D. said, “We’re excited.  We want to reach as much of the community as possible in small group settings, including schools, civic organizations, and business and industry.”  He said, “Our overall goal is to engage the community and encourage participation in setting goals and specific actions for our community’s future.”  He said, “The Community Development Academy was the spark that got us going.”

            Additional Community Development Academies are now being offered in northwest and northeast Kansas.  For more information, go to www.ksu.edu/cecd/cda.

 

            Sometimes it takes a spark to get something started.  In this case, the Community Development Academy provided a spark to help the community of Neodesha think strategically about its future.  We commend J. D. Cox and all those involved in Neodesha for making a difference by launching this initiative.  With that spark to get things started, they are now fanning the flames of community engagement.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jean Smith – Melody Twigg - Cedar Vale

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Spring can be a time of transplanting.  Those transplants can be a wonderful addition to a garden or landscape.  The same is true of people in communities.  Today we’ll learn about two individuals who found themselves transplanted into a rural community in southeast Kansas.  Now they are making significant contributions to their rural community.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Jean Smith and Melody Twigg.  They were part of a recent Community Development Academy in Independence, Kansas, representing their town of Cedar Vale.

            Neither Jean nor Melody is a native of Cedar Vale, but they are enthusiastic about their community.

            Jean is a native of Colorado.  She moved to Cedar Vale in 1995 due to the high cost of living in the Rocky Mountain state.

            Jean enjoys the rural lifestyle in southeast Kansas, but she became concerned about what was happening in many small towns – including hers.  She said, “We lost our hospital, our long term care facility, and too many small businesses on Main Street.”

            Many people have such concerns, but to Jean’s credit, she acted on them.  She said, “Well, I told myself, you have a voice.  You might as well get involved and see what you can do.”  So Jean ran for city council and was elected.

            Her approach borrowed from her career experiences.  Jean said, “As a supervisor, I used to tell my crew that I would always have an open door and I would be glad to listen to their complaints, as long as they also brought to me their suggestion for a way to resolve the problem.”  Now she is bringing that constructive approach to City Hall.

            Jean said, “It is so easy to sit back and complain.  To really make a difference requires some initiative.”

            Melody Twigg also represented Cedar Vale at the community development academy.  She and her husband moved to Cedar Vale in the summer of 2008.  Melody is enthusiastic about her new hometown.

            Melody said, “Cedar Vale is a wonderful community.  It’s in a beautiful setting.”  She said, “I’m new in town, and I have not met an unfriendly soul yet.”  She is originally from Tennessee, and she loves the hills and trees which surround Cedar Vale.  At the community development academy, Melody presented the report about the community’s many public assets.  She utilized the community’s website, www.cityofcedarvale.com.

            The website describes the city’s government; history; education and health care; attractions such as the parks, Lookout Mountain, Marsh Arch Bridge, Victorian homes and more; churches and organizations; chamber of commerce news; community announcements; and an events calendar.  The website is well done.  Do you suppose it was created by some commercial vendor?

            No.  In fact, it was created and is maintained by a high school student named Justin Davis.  The city pays Justin to maintain the site.  Justin even has his own computer business, www.pinpointtech.net.

            Having a student maintain the community website is a creative and ingenious idea.  It utilizes and engages the talents of our youth while providing a needed service for the community.  It’s an especially good idea for rural communities, which don’t have big city budgets or lots of staff.  After all, Cedar Vale is a town of 709 people.  Now, that’s rural.

As the website says:  “Are you looking for a quiet, friendly small town to call home? Cedar Vale is just about the closest thing to a Norman Rockwell print that you can get.”

Melody Twigg said, “Our people are our greatest resource.”  Jean Smith said, “I really love the people here.  The people in Cedar Vale are the most open and friendly people to be around.”  Yet sometimes it takes people who move into the community from outside to appreciate its’ benefits.

            For more information, go to www.k-state.edu.cda or www.cityofcedarvale.com.

 

Spring can be a time of transplanting.  Today we’ve met two individuals who were transplanted into the community of Cedar Vale.  They are making a difference by becoming involved.  We salute Jean Smith and Melody Twigg for representing their community at the community development academy and working to make it even better.  With the right environment, our transplants can grow and flourish.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jim Meinhardt – Kan-Equip

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            When I was a kid, I spent hours plowing with an old Farmall tractor, dreaming of a high-tech day when robots would farm in the future.  Now, that day is virtually here.  Today we’ll meet a Kansas farm equipment dealership which has modernized to keep up with changes in technology and agriculture.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Jim Meinhardt is CEO/Stockholder of Kan-Equip, a leading agricultural and construction equipment dealership.  Jim is committed to rural Kansas, having grown up at the rural community of Paxico, population 210 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Jim’s father had a store called Eddie’s Service there, and he got into farm equipment in the 1950s.  Jim grew up in the business, and after a stint in the Army, bought a dealership in Wamego in 1967.

            “We started with four people:  two mechanics, a parts person, and a salesman,” Jim said.  He grew the business through the years, and through the ups and downs of the farm economy.  By the late 1990s, several farm equipment manufacturing companies were merging.  There was pressure on dealers to consolidate as well.

            “I was at one of those dealer meetings, and I was sitting at a table with Jim Burke, an equipment dealer from Dodge City,” Jim Meinhardt said.  “We got to talking and found we are all facing the same issues.”

            So as a way to achieve more scale and deal with those issues, they chose to merge and create a new business.  It became known as Kan-Equip.

            Today, Kan-Equip is a leading agricultural and construction equipment dealership.  In fact, it is the largest New Holland dealer in Kansas.  Kan-Equip has retail locations in eight Kansas communities:  Wamego, Dodge City, Garden City, Topeka, Marysville, Clay Center, Herington, and Ellsworth.  The company has grown from four employees to 120.

            This is still a family-oriented business.  Two of Jim’s brothers, Doug and Bill, work there, while Jim’s son Bryndon, a KSU grad, manages the Marysville store while daughter Jaimee does human resources and son Grant is service manager.

            “Parts and service is key,” Jim said.  “We want to find good people, train `em and keep `em.”  He said with a smile, “They always say, hire people smarter than you are.”

            “Our main focus is farm equipment,” Jim said.  “We really serve the farmer.  We also offer light construction equipment and lawn and garden products, plus products that sundowner farmers can use also.”

            One of the striking changes that Jim Meinhardt has observed is the growth of technology.

            “Fifteen years ago, one of the leading farmers in our area brought in a GPS (global positioning satellite) map of his fields that had been done by his custom applicator,” Jim said.  “It showed where he needed more fertilizer and more seed.”  That helped spur Kan-Equip to seek equipment which could utilize such technology.  Today, Kan-Equip offers several types of precision farming equipment.

            That would include auto-steer controls, a system that hydraulically guides and maneuvers the tractor through the field itself.  The only input needed from the operator is to turn the tractor around at the end of the field.   It also includes a variable rate planter which can use the GPS map and computer controls to automatically adjust so as to provide the exact seeding rate and plant nutrition needed for each component of each field.  Wow.  A similar system on combines works to monitor yields.  This helps boost productivity while conserving time, money, and resources.  Not only that, manufacturers continue to work on improving this gee-whiz technology.

            “It just changes every day,” Jim Meinhardt said.  For more information, go to www.kanequip.com.

 

            When I was a kid, I rode that Farmall tractor and daydreamed of the time when laser beams would plow fields and robots would drive tractors.  Now, that day is virtually here.  We commend Jim Meinhardt and all those involved with Kan-Equip for making a difference by serving farmers with this innovative equipment.

            Yet, even while looking forward to where we are going, Jim Meinhardt has an appreciation for where we’ve been.  At the Kan-Equip dealership in Wamego, Jim has started a museum of old farm equipment.  Maybe my old Farmall is there.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Joe Jindra - KNCK

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Dublin, Ireland.  A traveler stops into an Internet café and goes online.  What he hears is programming from KNCK radio, halfway around the globe in rural Kansas.  This tells us two things about KNCK:  One is the station’s innovative use of technology, and the other is this station’s deep commitment to local coverage.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Joe Jindra is General Manager and co-owner of KNCK radio in Concordia, Kansas.  He worked in this business from the ground up.  In fact, while he was a senior in high school he started working at KNCK as a janitor.  He also had the Sunday morning 11 to 1 shift on-air.

            “It wasn’t much, because the Baptist church broadcast started at 11 and somebody else did the news at noon,” Joe said.  “I did a few songs and then started the classical music program each week.”  That was his humble beginning in broadcast.

            Joe studied at Cloud County Community College and K-State while working in radio.  His career took him to Norton, Beloit, and then Missouri and Arizona.  In 1989, he and two partners bought the KNCK radio station back home in Concordia.

            “I credit the previous owner, Bill Danenbarger,” Joe said.  “He left a solid foundation.”  KNCK radio opened in 1954.  An FM affiliate opened in 1979.

            Joe Jindra enhanced the station through the years.  In 2000, they took the FM station from 6,000 watts to 100,000 watts.

            “We covered less than two counties before,” Joe said.  “Now we cover all or part of 16 counties in north central Kansas.”

            Steve Smethers, associate director of K-State’s School of Journalism, and Gloria Freeland of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media praise Joe Jindra’s commitment to local coverage.

            “We’ve always had a full-time news director,” Joe said.  “We regularly cover city commission meetings, school board meetings, and the community college board, plus election results and severe weather.”  In fact, during the summer of 2010 Joe and his wife were visiting a Seattle Mariners baseball game in Seattle when his cell phone buzzed with a severe weather alert from back home in Kansas.  The KNCK news team was on the job, reporting on a tornado in Cloud County.

            “We do a local news broadcast four times a day, plus regular talk shows, a Thursday spotlight of upcoming events, and Coffee Time which is a local public affairs program,” Joe said.  “Each month we broadcast a roundtable discussion with county, city, school board, community college, and economic development representatives.  The River Valley Scoop is produced by our River Valley Extension District.”  That’s in addition to sports and weather.

            The station has also embraced the opportunities of modern technology.  Through the station’s website, www.knckradio.com, the locally produced programs are available online and on demand.  Video of city council meetings is archived on the website, for example.  Joe has listened online from as far away as Alaska and Dublin, Ireland.  Wow.

            “We want to be a positive voice for the community,” Joe said.  “When there’s news, we report it without sugar-coating, but we don’t sensationalize.  A year and half ago, we started a talk and opinion show called Talk of the Town.  It wasn’t intended to be a show to hold local officials accountable, but it sometimes becomes that.  We try to make the community a better place to live.”

            Joe’s enthusiasm for Concordia and Cloud County comes through loud and clear.  He served on the City Commission for eight years and is quick to point out the assets and enhancements of his community.  “I love being an advocate for our community and our industry,” Joe said.  In 2009, he was elected Chairman of the Board of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

            Not bad for a kid who grew up at the rural community of Simpson, Kansas, population 110 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

            It’s time to leave Dublin, where a listener can find radio programming online which originated halfway around the world in Concordia, Kansas.  We commend Joe Jindra and the people of KNCK radio for making a difference with technology and local coverage.  Through the web, this station has been able to take its local coverage world-wide.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

John Brewer – Wyldewood Cellars

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Let’s go to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.  There is only one wine being served here in the Olympic Village, and it was selected through a national tasting competition.  Where do you suppose that wine came from?  Would you believe, from rural Kansas?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            John Brewer is owner of Wyldewood Cellars, the award-winning family-owned winery which produced the winning wine for the Olympic Village and many other awards.  John’s story begins on the family ranch in the southern Flint Hills.  After growing up there, he studied physics at K-State and then got a doctorate at Arkansas before entering a career in the scientific equipment business.

            While still in graduate school, he had dabbled in making wine.  That interest increased when visiting his wife’s best friend from college who had married Mike Martini in Napa, California.  Martini is one of the best red wine makers in the country.

            Meanwhile, John was thinking about how to make the home family farm more profitable.  He started doing market research on producing wine as an alternative crop.

            John said, “I would ask people about their preferences among French-American hybrids, and people would say, “Yeah, those are good, but what was really great was Grandma’s elderberry wine.”  Well, after I heard that about eight or nine times, I finally caught on that this had potential.”

            He said, “I got hold of my mother and said, “Do you know anything about elderberries?”  She said, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.  We have those growing all over the ranch.”

            It was the beginning of something great.  After years of research, John and his sister Merry opened Wyldewood Cellars and started producing and marketing elderberry wine and related products.  In January 1995, the business began in a 3,500 square foot space in downtown Mulvane.  In January 1999, a fire broke out in a building next to the winery and everything burned to the ground.

            But John found opportunity in the disaster and built a much larger facility near Interstate 35 west of Mulvane.  In the ensuing years, he continued to grow the business.  Now the business operates in more than 36,000 square feet – more than ten times the space where the business began.  As his wine gained fame, John himself became an international wine judge – for years, the only one in Kansas.

One key to business growth was the health benefits of the elderberry product.

John said, “We found elderberries were highly medicinal.  They are the only clinically proven natural antiviral product, so they prevent colds and flu.  They are a natural antihistamine, so they stop asthma in its tracks.”  According to elderberry.net, elderberries are used for their antioxidant activity, to lower cholesterol, improve vision, boost the immune system, and improve heart health.  They are used for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsilitis.  Recently elderberry flavonoids have been found to fight the H1N1 virus.  Elderberry juice concentrate has become a major seller for the company.

Wyldewood Cellars now produces over 40 different types of Kansas wine and has won more than 400 international awards.  Wow.

The main production facility is located near Mulvane, a south central Kansas town of 5,245 people.  That’s rural – but there’s more.  The business has expanded to include retail outlets in Wichita, Legends Mall in Kansas City, St. Joseph, Illinois, and along I-70 at the rural community of Paxico, population 210 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Wyldewood Cellars’ products are sold wholesale all over the U.S.  For more information, go to www.wyldewoodcellars.com.

John is passionate about his product, and also about the opportunity which alternative crops can provide to producers.  He said, “If the grower can generate three or five or even ten thousand dollars per acre in alternative specialty crops, a medium-sized farm can be viable and we can enhance rural life.”

 

It’s time to leave the Olympic Village, where wine from Kansas was exclusively served.  We commend John and Merry Brewer and all those involved with Wyldewood Cellars for making a difference with innovation and marketing of this specialty crop.  For rural Kansas, that’s a success story of Olympian proportions.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Josh Shultz – Fine Furniture

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            These pioneers are building a log cabin in the woods of Minnesota.  It must be part of the settlement of the frontier.  No, wait a minute – this is 2010.  There’s no frontier settlement going on these days.  Instead, this is a special project by a group of custom cabinet-makers.  They are taking custom furniture-building to a whole new level, and they’re based in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Josh and Brian Shultz, brothers and co-owners of a company known as Fine Furniture by Shultz.

            Brian and Josh are originally from Marysville, and both went to K-State.  Even back in shop class, Brian was always good at woodworking.  He was working in a carpet store when some customers asked him to build and install some cabinets for them.

            In response to this demand, Brian opened Fine Furniture by Shulz in 1997.  Josh later joined as a co-owner.  They specialize in custom cabinets and furniture.

            Josh said, “Brian does the drawings, design, and shop floor work, and I do the books and ordering.  We can all pitch in and do what needs to be done, but we have employees who have far surpassed us in their skills and abilities in the shop.”

            It does take a lot of skills and abilities to create fine furniture.  The company offers remodeling and/or installation of several lines of affordable pre-manufactured cabinets plus the custom cabinets where the customer’s imagination is the limit.

            Fine Furniture by Shultz offers a wide selection of woods, finishes, and styles.  For example, they offer all types of woods from A to Z – or at least from Alder and Ash to White Oak and Walnut.  The company offers more than 29 colors of quartz countertops, more than 32 crown molding choices, more than 80 natural granite color countertops, more than 85 stain colors, more than 250 corian style countertop colors, and more than 400 laminate colors.  Wow.

            Optional features include roll-out shelves, full extension slides, spice racks, pull-out trashcans, appliance garages, pan dividers, wine racks and many more.  Josh said, “I think you can sum up that list as, ‘We can do anything the customer wants.’”

            Josh is especially excited about the company’s CNC or computer-numerically-controlled router.  It is essentially a computer-controlled robot which can cut wood or other products precisely and repeatedly.

Josh said, “The CNC router has opened up all kinds of possibilities for us.  It can make all kinds of beautiful carvings, create signs, and cut out cabinet parts within 10,000ths of an inch.”

            Josh said, “Recently we put a wine cellar in a three-quarter million dollar house.  We can make something nice enough to go in a million dollar home or cost competitive enough to go anywhere.”  Their custom cabinets were displayed recently in a house on the Flint Hills Area Builders Association Parade of Homes.

            Josh said, “We really do a good job on kitchen layout.  We make sure it works for the customer.”

            The company’s facility is located approximately two miles north of the rural community of St. George, population 442 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Yet they have done projects as far away as Aspen, Colorado and Austin, Texas.  In Texas, they built a barrister’s bookcase for an attorney.

            One of the Shultz’ regular customers has a place in Minnesota.  He contracted with Fine Furniture by Shultz to build a log cabin there.  Josh said, “It was much more rustic than what we normally do.”

            The company emphasizes high quality, competitive pricing, and the handcrafted touch.  They are one of very few small shops in the area to have the CNC router.

            For more information, go to www.ffbys.com.

 

            It’s time to leave Minnesota, where these pioneers are building a log cabin in the woods.  No, these are not the settlers of yesteryear.  They are modern day pioneers who are pioneering the use of computer technology among small shops in creating quality custom cabinetry.  We commend Josh and Brian Shultz and all those involved with Fine Furniture by Shultz for making a difference with their pioneering craftsmanship.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Julie Hower – Farmers and Drovers Bank

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            How’s your bank doing?  In the face of financial volatility and mega-bank bailouts, Kansas banks seem stable.  Today we’ll learn about a Kansas bank which is on its fourth bank President – in more than 128 years of existence.  Wow.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Julie Hower of Farmers and Drovers Bank in Council Grove.  Julie is part of the fifth generation in this family owned bank.

            Our story begins when W.H. White and his parents came from Kentucky to Kansas by wagon train.  W.H.’s mother died enroute and his father died soon after his arrival in Council Grove.  Left all alone, W.H. started farming and raising cattle.

He shipped his cattle to the Kansas City stockyards, but once he got paid, he had to put the money in a KC bank since there was no bank in Council Grove.  The obvious solution was to create one.

In January 1882, a new bank was organized in Council Grove with W.H. White as president.  In March 1882, the Farmers and Drovers Bank opened its doors.

In 1893, the bank constructed a new building on Main Street which essentially was the old Santa Fe Trail.  In fact, during excavation, a stone was unearthed with the inscription:  "On this ground is where the old Santa Fe stage station stood…”

 The new bank building was one of the most ornate structures in town.  It includes Romanesque limestone arches, stained glass windows, a Bystantine dome, and minarets on the roof.  In 1902, the bank built another building next door, which hosted various businesses through the years.

In 1982, the bank did a major renovation and expanded into the adjacent building.  Historic features were carefully preserved, such as the original pressed tin ceiling.  Modern features were added to enhance technology and provide privacy.  Today, Farmers and Drovers is rated a five-star bank by Bauer Financial Services.

W.H. White, the first bank President, served from 1882 to 1935.  His son C.H. White served from 1935 to 1958.  His son Hale served from 1958 to 1990, when he was succeeded by his son John who is President today.

That is four bank presidents in well over a century, which is remarkable in these turbulent times.  John’s cousin Hank White also works there.  Now the fifth generation is in the bank, including Hank’s daughter Michelle, Julie White Hower, and her brother Steve White.

Julie studied at K-State and moved to Indianapolis.  She tried working in a bank there to see if she liked the banking business, and found that she loved it.  She and her husband John Hower moved to Kansas City where she earned a law degree from KU and then came back to Council Grove and joined the bank in 2000.  They have two daughters: Hailey, age 9, and Ally, age 4.

Council Grove is rural community of 2,328 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Julie and John are strong believers in small town upbringing.

Julie said, “I tell my friends in Wichita that my kids are involved in lots of things, like soccer, 4-H, ballet, and horseback riding.  They ask me, how do you do all that?  I explain that it’s all a block away.  I don’t have to spend an hour driving across town.”

She said, “It’s a wonderful place.  We’re building a new school, and we’re excited to be here.”  John White is very involved with the county economic development group.

Julie said, “On my second day on the job, a farmer showed up to borrow $500.  He didn’t really need the money, but I scurried around to get it done.  The next day he paid off the note and said, `I just wanted to be able to say that I’d been a part of borrowing money from five generations in the same bank.’”  For more information, see www.farmersanddrovers.com.

 

How’s your bank doing?  Today we’ve learned about a rural Kansas bank which has demonstrated strength and stability through more than a century.  We commend the White family and all those involved with Farmers and Drovers Bank for making a difference with their long-term commitment.  That’s a type of security you can take to the bank.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Kevin McMurry – Fort Larned

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Step around the corner and up onto the boardwalk.  Your eyes behold a set of sandstone buildings placed with military precision around a cannon and a tall flagpole.  It is an 1860s-era frontier Army fort.  This is not some Hollywood movie set or artist’s reconstruction, these are the actual buildings in their original locations.  They’re found in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Kevin McMurry is Superintendent of the National Park Service’s Fort Larned National Historic Site near Larned, Kansas.  He’s an enthusiastic advocate of this element of history.

            The fort’s origin goes back to the nearly 800 mile Santa Fe Trail, which carried millions of dollars of commerce between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico during the 1800s.  Unfortunately, the trail went right through the middle of Plains Indian territory, and the native tribes attacked the trespassers.

            As a result, the U.S. Army came west to establish forts to protect the white travelers.  In October 1859, the Army set up an outpost on the banks of the Pawnee River.  In June 1860, the camp was moved a few miles west to its final location, where a fort of sod-and-adobe was built.  In 1866, the Army used sandstone and timber to begin construction of nine buildings – which still stand today.

            The post was named after Colonel Benjamin F. Larned, paymaster of the Army.  Fort Larned is called the Guardian of the Santa Fe Trail.  It was a principal protector of traffic along the route and played a critical role in the era of the Indian wars.  George Armstrong Custer and Buffalo Bill Cody visited here.

            In 1868, the tribes were moved to new reservations in Indian territory.  With the coming of the railroad in the 1870s, the days of the Santa Fe Trail were done.  The fort was closed in 1878.

            In 1884, the buildings and land were sold at public auction and purchased by the Pawnee Valley Stock Breeders Association.  In 1902, they were bought by E.E. Frizell, whose family retained ownership till 1966 when Congress named it a national historic site and it was purchased by the National Park Service.

            Frizell lived in the Commanding General’s house while he lived here.  Buildings were adapted and modified, but all nine still stand.  Much of the original stone and woodwork was untouched.

            “Most abandoned forts were scavenged,” said Kevin McMurry.  “If it wasn’t for the fact that this was in private hands for nearly 100 years, we might not have these buildings today.”

            Fortunately, the buildings were retained and restored.  Many people carved names and initials into the sandstone.  Such carving is forbidden today but makes interesting viewing.  Fort Larned got the attention of a young Congressman named Bob Dole.  He led the support for the fort, which Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback and Congressman Jerry Moran have carried on through the years.

            Thanks to Congressional appropriations, the nine buildings and grounds have been restored and improved, including the barracks, post hospital, shops, commissary, quartermaster storehouse, company officers’ and commanding officers quarters.  The one reconstructed building is the blockhouse, complete with rifle slits in the walls and an underground passageway through a trap door to the well.  This blockhouse later became the guardhouse which served as the post’s jail.  Metal shackles and a ball and chain give testimony to how prisoners were treated in those days.

            Today, Fort Larned is the best-preserved Indian era fort in the nation.  Wow.

            Fort Larned is in a rural setting, six miles west of the city of Larned, population 3,874 people.  Now, that’s rural.  On the day I visited, a deer calmly walked across the fort’s back lot.  Yet this fort will attract some 40,000 visitors a year from around the world and conduct the largest living history event in western Kansas on Memorial weekend.

            “We have a wonderful group of people here,” Kevin McMurry said.  For more information, go to www.nps.gov/fols.

 

            It’s time to step down off the boardwalk and bid Fort Larned farewell.  We commend Kevin McMurry and all those involved with Fort Larned for making a difference by preserving this history.  At Fort Larned, history comes to life.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pony Express 2

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            The rider gallops up to the station, carrying the mochila full of mail.  It’s the Pony Express – but it’s also 2010.  This rider is reenacting this historic delivery service in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express.  A reenactment ride passed through rural Kansas in 2010, including a stop at the nation’s only unaltered Pony Express station still standing at its original site.  Special thanks to Kansas magazine and writer Mark Janssen whose article told this remarkable story.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Duane Durst is director of the Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historic Site near Hanover, Kansas.  The Pony Express was created in 1860 to deliver mail between St. Joseph, Missouri and the west coast.  The route generally followed the wagon ruts of the Oregon and California trails through northeast Kansas.

The destination was Sacramento—1,966 miles away. The mission was delivery—transporting the mail in no more than 10 days through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California territories.

            The Pony Express concept came from the Russell, Majors & Waddell freight company, which provided the horses and hired the riders. Posters seeking riders read: “Wanted—young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18.  Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.”

            When they said they wanted skinny riders, they meant it.  Duane Durst pointed out that the consideration was for the horse.  He said, “The total weight of rider, saddle and mail could not exceed 150 pounds.”

Riders signed contracts promising they would not use profane language, get drunk, gamble, treat the animals cruelly or “do anything incompatible with the conduct of a gentleman.”  I’d like to see some behavior codes like that today.

Each rider covered 50 to 80 miles per day, riding at an 8 to 12 miles per hour clip. Horses and mochila were changed every 10 to 15 miles. The riders were allowed two minutes to make that change.  “A rider would swing off one horse and swing on another,” Durst said. “It would happen that fast.”  Although the riders were asked to risk death daily, only one of its riders was killed during the existence of the Pony Express.

            The cost of sending a letter was $5 per half ounce, later reduced to $1 when letters were written on tissue-type paper. More than 30,000 pieces of mail were delivered in the 18-month existence of the Pony Express, including the text of President Lincoln’s inaugural address which arrived in seven days and 17 hours—well ahead of the guaranteed 10-day delivery.

            The Pony Express captured the imagination of the nation, but it found itself displaced by the telegraph.  It ended on October 26, 1861.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, a reenactment ride was held in June 2010.  It passed through northeast Kansas, going to the Hollenberg Pony Express Station before going to Marysville and beyond.

The Hollenberg Pony Express Station is a 60- by 25-foot, six-room, rustic building.  Today it is a National Historical Landmark, making it unique among the 190 stations along the trail.  Duane Durst said, “It is the only original unaltered station standing right where it was built. There are other stations, but they have been moved or altered, which takes away the historical value.”

Now the Kansas State Historical Society maintains the site, which features educational displays and a beautiful mural.  This Pony Express station is located in a truly rural setting, because Hanover is a town of 632 people.  Now, that’s rural.

August 29 will mark the 25th Annual Pony Express Festival at the historic Hollenberg Station. It will include live demonstrations and a short Pony Express re-ride.

More pictures and stories can be found in Kansas Magazine, the beautiful quarterly which showcases our state.  Go to www.kansasmag.com  or www.travelks.com.

 

The rider has transferred the mail, and now he gallops away from the station as a way of celebrating 150 years since the founding of the Pony Express.  We commend Duane Durst and all those involved for making a difference by honoring this legacy.  It’s the type of genuine history which rural Kansas can deliver.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Len Schamber – Historic Preservation

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “We have the opportunity to make people’s dreams come true.”  Perhaps that sounds like the motto at Disney World, or maybe a political candidate’s speech.  But it’s actually a comment from a man in northwest Kansas who has a heart for preservation of historic buildings.  He is working to preserve buildings and help communities all over Kansas and beyond.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Len Schamber is co-owner of Schamber Historic Preservation LLC.  Len grew up at Damar, went to college in Dodge City, served in the Peace Corps, and became a schoolteacher.  He studied for the priesthood but came back to Kansas, got married, and worked in Wichita.

            Len was trained as a teacher, but he said, “I always wanted to be a carpenter.”  He learned the trade from his father and grandfather.

            In 1977, Len and his wife moved back to Damar to be closer to family.  A local contractor had said, “Come on out, we’ll put you to work.”  Len said, “We found an old house for sale and liked it, but it was in terrible condition – unfit to live in.”  They bought it and fixed it up.

            Meanwhile, he went to work for that local contractor.  At the end of the first day, someone with a small home improvement project said to him, “Would you do something for me?”  The same thing happened every day for a week, so Len gave his notice and went into business for himself.  That was the beginning of Schamber Construction.

            Len said, “I worked on a lot of older buildings, and I was doing band-aid fixes.  I felt like I was doing a disservice to those buildings and their owners.”  Len wanted to restore and preserve these old, historic buildings.

            In 1985, his brother Linus joined the business.  Len said, “Linus is an excellent finish carpenter.  He’s more skilled at that than I am, but I’m very patient, I have a lot of common sense, and I like people.”

            In January 1986, the state of Kansas put a building preservation job out for bid.  Len said, “We put in a bid and lost.  It was the best thing that could have happened to us.”  They learned about the bidding process, but also realized how much they had to learn about historic preservation.  Len started attending preservation conferences and soaking up information about the topic.  He said, “I have a constant need for learning.”  Eventually historic preservation became a specialty of his company.

            Schamber Historic Preservation LLC has worked on projects in Kansas and beyond.  In Kansas, the projects go from border-to-border -- from the mountain time zone to Shawnee Mission.  Len said, “We are general contractors, and we’ve developed a network of artisans and craftsmen across the state.  I have 185 phone numbers for those people stored in my cell phone.”

            Of the state of Kansas’ 17 official historic sites, Schamber Historic Preservation LLC has worked on five of them.  Not bad for a rural company based in Damar, Kansas, population 155 people.  Now, that’s rural.  For more information, go to www.schamberconstruction.com.

The company does work for individuals, communities, non-profits, historical societies, and the state of Kansas.  Len said, “When a community has a dream of protecting or preserving an old landmark, we can help make that dream come true.”

            Len clearly has a heart for people.  Through church-related activities, he has worked in numerous Central and South American countries.  Recently he volunteered in Costa Rica where a remote tribal village recently got its first school, but students have to walk three hours one way every day to attend.  Len and his friends built a dormitory so the students could stay and attend school.  For those students, it was a life-changing difference.

 

            “We have the opportunity to make people’s dreams come true.”  That’s not some marketing slogan, it’s a statement from Len Schamber about his desire to help people.  As a volunteer, he’s helping meet human needs.  As Schamber Historic Preservation LLC, he is making a difference by helping communities realize their dream of protecting, renovating and preserving historic buildings which are a vital part of their heritage.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Marieta Hauser - Grant County Home Products Dinner

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Guess who’s coming to dinner?  How about the Governor and more than a thousand other people?  Wow, that is an impressive guest list.  It is even more impressive when one learns that the entire menu is produced right here within the borders of a single county.  More impressive than that is the fact that this annual dinner has been going on in rural Kansas for nearly 50 years.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Marieta Hauser is Director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.  She told us about the Grant County Home Products Dinner.

            In 1941, a state representative named Will Christian represented Grant County in Topeka.  He proudly told his fellow legislators that he and his family were self-reliant: Everything they needed to eat could be found on their farm in Grant County.  Then, in order to prove his claim, he invited twelve legislators and the Lieutenant Governor to his home for a meal.  Representative Christian’s wife Nora prepared the meal of homegrown products and served it in their rural ranch home.

            It was a hit.  In fact, it was so popular that the Christians did it again the next year and every year after that until he retired from the Legislature.  It was served in a rural setting, in their home outside the town of Ulysses, population 5,857 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            In 1962, the Grant County Chamber revived the dinner, continuing the commitment to showcase locally-produced foods.  It was named the Grant County Home Products Dinner.

            Once again, it was a hit.  It evolved into a dinner to which the public and elected officials are invited.  Many years the Governor attends.  The event is now held at the Civic Center in Ulysses.

            The dinner attracts some 1,500 people each year.  Wow.  Marieta said, “We get people from all ages, from senior citizens down to young kids.”

            The menu has remained essentially unchanged through the years.  Barbeque beef is the main course, served with scalloped potatoes, baked pinto beans, candied sweet squash, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, whole wheat rolls, strawberry jam, watermelon, ice cream and milo doughnuts. Yes, I said milo doughnuts.  Having harvested milo myself, and experienced a fair amount of milo dust, it is hard for me to imagine that milo could produce a tasty doughnut, but I’m told they are delicious.

Every year it takes approximately 800 pounds of beef to supply the main course, along with 4000 cherry tomatoes, a pickup load or two of sweet corn, 2000 milo doughnuts (you’ve got to be kidding), 100 pounds of  pinto beans, 400 pounds of potatoes, 2000 whole wheat rolls, 50 squash, 40 pounds of  strawberries, and 50 watermelons.

An eight-person Home Products Dinner committee coordinates the event for the chamber. The event is a huge project.  In getting everything done from picking and shucking sweet corn to setting up chairs and tables to decorating the Civic Center, the committee will have coordinated some 50 clubs and approximately 700 volunteers.  Marieta Hauser said, “Nearly every club or organization in town helps in some way.”

Another remarkable fact is that the admission to the dinner costs a mere $5, which buys a meal, a collector button with each year’s artwork, and live entertainment.  The proceeds from the dinner are donated to the Grant County Scholarship Foundation which supports local high school seniors.  Each year the dinner is held on the third Tuesday of September.

In American society today, there’s seems to be renewed interest in local foods.  Grant County seems to be way ahead of the curve, having been celebrating their local foods for decades.

 

So guess who’s coming to dinner?  Yes, the Governor and some 1,500 other people.  They will enjoy a good meal of products grown right there in Grant County.  We commend the many volunteers and community leaders who have made a difference by helping this event succeed and grow through the years.   Not only have they promoted local foods, the proceeds generated for the Grant County Scholarship Foundation have made it possible to award nearly $100,000 to local high school seniors.

Pass the milo doughnuts, please.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mary Jane Constantin – 1 - Main Street Market

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “Rural grocery stores fading into history – Since 2006, 82 out of 213 stores have closed,” said the front page headline.  Against that grim backdrop, imagine finding a small town grocery store that was newly opened, just eight years ago.  Why would someone in a small town open a grocery store against these odds?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Mary Jane Constantin is owner of Main Street Market in Bucklin, Kansas.  She opened this store in 2002.

            Mary Jane is an Oklahoma native.  She and her husband Jules moved here 14 years ago when he took a position as the shop teacher in the Bucklin school.  Mary Jane commuted to work at a dentist’s office in Dodge City, some 25 miles away.

            There had been a grocery store in Bucklin, but it had changed hands several times.  In 2000 the store burned down and the owners chose not to re-open it.

            “A committee was put together to see about getting another store and I volunteered to be on it,” Mary Jane said.  “The old store closed at 6, which meant I usually couldn’t make it back here in time to shop after work.  I’d have to shop in Dodge City and I got tired of it.”

            The committee deliberated for a couple of years with no solution.  Finally Mary Jane decided to take it on herself.

            “It takes someone to throw caution to the winds,” Mary Jane said.  “I didn’t have any business experience, but I wanted our community to have a store.”

            Mary Jane got a Small Business Administration loan to buy and equip a building in downtown Bucklin.  The Bucklin Community Better Life Foundation provided a low-interest loan so she could buy stock in the supply company, Affiliated Foods.

            Mary Jane had a community painting day when local people were invited in to help paint the walls.  Meanwhile, a grocery store had closed in the rural community of Burdett, population 247 people. Now, that’s rural.  Mary Jane bought that equipment.  The John Deere dealer in town, who had served on the committee with her, volunteered to provide trucks and trailers to transport that equipment to Bucklin, where she furnished her new store.

            On December 2, 2002, Main Street Market opened in Bucklin.  The store offers a full line of meat, produce, dairy and consumer items with weekly specials.  It also demonstrates Mary Jane’s creative touch.  Antiques of various kinds line the tops of the displays on the walls.  Pinatas hang near the front doors.  A pizza counter and deli area in one corner offer hot food with a place to eat it.

            In order to install a new freezer and coolers, a section of the outside wall had to be taken out.  Instead of replacing a solid wall, Mary Jane had the creative idea to install a walk-up window.  Then when customers in town wanted pizza or ice after the main store had closed, they could pick them up at the window.

            This old building has a hardwood floor, with a large grate from a furnace that was removed long ago.  One day a girl near the pizza counter saw a pan in the basement below that grate.

Mary Jane said, “The kid had her change in hand and she could see that pan below the grate, so she had to try to drop her change into that pan.  After that everybody else had to try it too.”  It became a game and then a tradition.  (For the record, I hit the pan on my third coin.)  Mary Jane said, “At the end of the school year, I buy ice cream for all the schoolkids with the change that gets dropped through that crate.  Last year I bought ice cream for 250 kids.”

 

Rural grocery stores are closing, as a recent headline pointed out, but Mary Jane Constantin is making a difference by bucking that trend.  She is using her ingenuity to develop fun and creative ideas to engage the community.  These are vital if rural grocery stores are to survive.

And there’s more.  Mary Jane opened another business in Bucklin.  We’ll learn about that next week.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mary Jane Constantin -2 – Half-Cup Kid

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Is the cup half full or half empty?  The optimist sees it as half full, but the pessimist sees it as half empty.  Today we’ll learn about a creative small town business owner who uses a half-cup as the theme of her business.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Last week we learned about Mary Jane Constantin, who opened a grocery store in her hometown of Bucklin, Kansas in 2002.  As Mary Jane thought about other things which her community might need, she recognized that Bucklin had no coffee shop.

            The former gas company building in Bucklin came up for sale, and Mary Jane bought it.  The building needed major refurbishing, but when she cleaned it out, she found the original pressed tin ceiling which she preserved.  In the attic, she also found an old cardboard box that said, “Folgers Coffee.”  It must have been a good omen.  Now that box is proudly displayed at the front of the store.

            One question was, what to name the coffee shop?  Mary Jane said, “My Aunt Wilma was a busy lady.  She was the youngest of 12 children.  In the mornings, she would always say that she only had time for a half-cup of coffee.  And she called all her nieces and nephews “kid.”  So she would say, `How about a half-cup, kid?’”

            It seemed a fitting name.  On Memorial Day 2010, Mary Jane opened the “Half-Cup Kid” coffee shop in Bucklin.

            The décor of the store is eye-catching.  Mary Jane was at a store which had clocks on sale for half-price, so she bought a pretty clock that was painted gold and burgundy. Mary Jane liked the colors so much that the entire coffee shop is now decorated in those attractive colors, including that same clock which hangs on one wall. When she picked out a pretty brown trim to complement these colors, it turned out that the name of this color was “espresso” – another good omen.

            Unlike the tin ceiling, the gleaming wood floor in the place is not original.  The wood came from a dance floor at a place in Dodge City which had closed.

            The shop offers flavored coffees plus other items as well.  Breakfast and lunch are offered every day except Sunday.  Mary Jane’s grocery store, Main Street Market, can be a source for the makings of the meals.  The menus are written on old chalkboards salvaged from a closed school building.

            Half-Cup Kid offers smoothies, blended cream, cherry limeades, and slushies.  “The blender and espresso machine cost more than the building itself,” Mary Jane said.

            The local people seem to have a lot of fun with this coffee shop.  A sign inside the coffee shop says, “Will trade coffee for gossip.”

            A woman passerby on the street commented that Half-Cup Kid has “Starbucks quality at a small town price.”

            Rural communities face many challenges.  One challenge is to sustain institutions such as the local grocery store or the local coffee shop.   Mary Jane Constantin chose to buck the trend of closure and consolidation in rural communities by opening these new stores in her hometown.  Not only is she offering those services, she is doing so with skill, creativity and ingenuity.  That is a real asset for a rural community like Bucklin, population 713 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Mary Jane is an Oklahoma transplant, brought here by her husband’s teaching job. Why invest in a rural Kansas community?   “Maybe we have some foolishness,” Mary Jane said, “but we love it down here.”

 

            Is the cup half full or half empty?  Optimists and pessimists will forever debate that question.  For Mary Jane Constantin, the phrase “Half-Cup Kid” will forever remind her of her Aunt Wilma.  Inside the door of the coffee shop is a framed black-and-white photo of an attractive matron.  Of course, it is a picture of Aunt Wilma herself.  We commend Mary Jane Constantin for making a difference by offering this service in her rural community.

            So is the cup half full or half empty?  Either way, I’ll have a refill.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mary McCune – Motorcycle Mary

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Motorcycle Mary.  Does that name make you think of black leather, tattoos, and a do-rag?  Today we’ll meet a woman who is a financial counselor but uses the working name of Motorcycle Mary.  She teaches financial lessons very effectively because she learned them the hard way, on the streets.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Mary McCune is a speaker, trainer, and counselor on money management.  Her personal journey to financial health has been interesting.

            Mary’s family moved around Kansas while she was growing up.  After graduating from beauty school, she moved to Pratt, made it her home, and worked in a beauty salon.  Her work went well, but not her personal life.  She went through several marriages, became estranged from her daughter, and struggled with finances.

            “My life was a mess,” Mary said.  “I heard people talking about stocks and bonds and investments, and I just wanted to buy groceries without writing a hot check.”

            Mary had a cousin who had been in business in Florida.  He kept inviting her down for a visit.  “I told him, I can only justify a trip if you can help me with my finances,” Mary said.  And so he did.

            “He sat me down at his kitchen table for four days and worked through my financial situation,” Mary said.  “He organized my disorganization.  He simplified it down for me.”  He showed her specifically how to eliminate debt, control spending, and invest.  It was the first time she had been taught about managing her finances.

            “I came back from that trip a changed person,” Mary said.  Her friends noticed her changed behavior and asked her to help them too.  “I was working in the beauty salon all day and then helping people with their finances in the back room at night.”  Then she started doing seminars and a first-time home buyers workshop.

            One day a bank officer in Pratt heard her speak.  The bank officer went back to her bank president and said, “We should hire this woman to talk to some of our customers.”  The bank president replied, “Isn’t that the same woman who wrote all those overdrafts?”  The bank overcame its skepticism and contracted for Mary’s services.

              Demand for her service continued to grow.  She devised a generic name for her consulting business, but she noticed a funny thing:  People who had been her customers would tell their friends, “You need to talk to Motorcycle Mary.”

            “I co-signed for a motorcycle with a guy one time, and it was a big mistake,” Mary said.  “He never made a single payment and I ended up driving the darn motorcycle.”  The name Motorcycle Mary stuck.

            “I told the bank president I was thinking of changing the name of my business to Motorcycle Mary, and he said, `I don’t care what you call it.  Just keep educating our customers,’” Mary said.

Today, Motorcycle Mary is a speaker and personal financial consultant.  She does seminars, webinars, podcasts and I-tunes.  Among her clients are employee assistance programs in Kansas City and Wichita.  Her down-to-earth, straight-talk seminars strike home with people.  She has a simplified system for working with individual customers to create a spending plan and get their arms around their finances.

“I work with people in all financial ranges, up to $250 to $500 thousand a year,” Mary said.  “Just because you make it doesn’t mean you can control it.”

“I’ve worked with people in about all fifty states by phone, from a taxi driver in Philadelphia to a construction worker in Florida to a waitress in California,” said Mary.  That’s impressive for a beautician from the rural community of Pratt, Kansas, population 6,495 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Mary is especially thankful that she has reconciled with her daughter and her daughter is using her financial principles to get on firm footing.  “The thing I like most is helping people,” Mary said.  For more information, go to www.motorcyclemary.com.

 

Motorcycle Mary.  No tattoos or black leather, just a common sense approach to managing money.  We commend Mary McCune for making a difference by reaching out to educate others about their finances.  She’s taking her clients on a good ride.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mary Mertz – Feast of the Fields

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            The melodious music being played on the cello wafts over the diners as they enjoy an elegant meal.  Meanwhile, one of the diners looks across his table out the window of the stone barn in which he is sitting and spies a Simmental bull ambling by.  What in the world is going on here?  It is an innovative initiative to combine excellent fine dining with an authentic farm setting.  This is today’s Kansas Profile.

            Mary and Bob Mertz are co-owners of River Creek Farm in the Kansas River Valley near Manhattan, Kansas.  Mary was the instigator of this innovative farm dinner called Feast of the Fields.

            Mary is originally a city girl, having grown up in Chicago.  Bob grew up on the Mertz farm.  After graduating from K-State, he took a position with the National Live Stock and Meat Board in Chicago, where he met Mary who was also working there.  They were married in 1986, moved back to the farm in 1987, and raised their family.

            Mary said, “In a country magazine I saw a picture of somebody having a dinner outside in a cornfield.  It looked like such a pretty setting.  Then I thought to myself, `Well, there’s a cornfield right outside my door.’”  She said, “I kept hearing about groups that were having elegant meals on the farm and I thought it would be a good way to highlight farming and promote local foods.”

            So Mary explored the idea of hosting an elegant dinner on her farm.  She talked with Karen Hibbard, director of the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau, and got a lot of positive reinforcement and enthusiasm.  She contacted a local chef, Scott Benjamin of 4 Olives Wine Bar, and decided to call the event Feast of the Fields.

            In summer 2010, she decided to do a trial run of such a dinner in a cornfield on the Mertz farm.  By August, however, there was one problem:  No corn.  Due to the heat, the cornstalks were being chopped for silage.  However, there was a beautiful and historic stone barn on the place which could hold such an event.

            Mary said, “We wanted to make sure this was a positive experience for people.  We invited people we knew who would be open and willing to try this.”  Some people brought food specialties of their own.

            On August 29, 2010, twenty-five people came to River Creek Farm and had an elegant dinner in the old stone barn.  4 Olives provided the wine, appetizers, and desserts.  Local 4-H club members served the meal.  David Littrell, the K-State Orchestra conductor, played the cello.

            The menu was wonderful.  Meats included smoked brisket, garlic lamb, and mini-filets – all of which was raised and cooked by the Mertzs.  There was squash and a corn casserole and some fabulous salads and breads.  These included butter horn rolls, wheat bread, drop yeast biscuits, and butternut squash rolls.  The salads included a green salad, apple salad (with fruit from one guests’ own apple tree), corn and tomato salad from the garden, and bow tie pasta with green peppers, carrots, and onions.   Dessert was a polenta cake and blueberry compote with whipped cream.

            Excuse me, I’m salivating on my keyboard.

            The rural setting was beautiful too.  The Mertz farm is located southeast of Manhattan between the communities of Wabaunsee, with a population of perhaps 200 people, and Zeandale, with a population of perhaps 50.   Now, that’s rural.  As the sun set on the horizon, it provided the perfect backdrop to a beautiful evening in the country.

            The trial run was a resounding success, and the Mertzs plan to do this event again next year.  Mary said, "We want to highlight agriculture while offering participants an entertaining culinary experience.”  For more information, contact Mary Mertz at 785-456-9201.

 

            The beautiful music of the cello comes to an end, as the diners enjoy their dessert while the Simmental bulls stroll by outside.  We commend Mary and Bob Mertz and all those involved with Feast of the Fields for making a difference with this innovative approach to combining fine dining, good fellowship, and the farm.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Miss Leona Wright

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “What have you done for me lately?”  That seems to be the attitude of many in our society today, unfortunately.  Today we’ll learn about a woman from rural Kansas who has made a lifetime of doing for others.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Miss Leona Wright is this remarkable person, known to generations of Sunday School children in Wamego, Kansas as simply “Miss Wright.”

Leona Wright is a product of rural Kansas, having grown up on a farm that was located 10 miles between three neighboring communities:  Onaga, population 697; Westmoreland, population 628; and Wheaton, population 91 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            “I did all the work that you can do on a farm,” said Miss Wright.  “I milked cows, raked alfalfa, put up prairie hay and shucked corn.”

            While in high school, there was a particular red sweater in which she became interested.  “My dad told me I would have to earn the money to get it,” Miss Wright said, “so I took our one-horse buggy around the countryside and taught music lessons for 50 cents apiece.”  In addition to acquiring that red sweater, she acquired a lifelong work ethic and ability to teach which would serve her well.

            After normal training, she became a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.  She taught in several communities and took summer school at K-State and Emporia State.  Eventually, however, she chose to become a cosmetologist.  She worked with her cousin in Westmoreland until 1937, when she bought a beauty shop in St. Marys.

            “I’ve been here ever since,” Miss Wright said.  After operating her business on Main Street in St. Marys for 52 years, the Chamber of Commerce named her a charter member.

            So she has done a lot for her customers, but that is only part of the story.  In 1937, she joined the Methodist church in St. Marys.  She taught sixth grade, led a junior and senior choir, and was secretary of the church board for 11 years.  When her parents moved to Wamego, she joined the Methodist church there and taught Sunday school.

            Four decades later, Miss Wright retired from her Sunday School teaching duties.  For the last 29 of those years, she taught the preschool class.  During this time, she taught hundreds of preschoolers, enough to span three generations.

            Miss Wright considered her classroom materials carefully, but she kept her focus on the big picture of what those kids needed:  “My main thing is to tell those kids that Jesus loves them and I do too.”

            Her commitment to those children is remarkable.  One young mother of four who was taught by Miss Wright as a child told me about receiving a card from Miss Wright for her wedding.  “Her thoughtfulness and caring for those kids is amazing,” the young mother said.  The card bore the message:  “Jesus loves you and I do too.”

            She helped other ages as well.  One young woman came to work for her as a student.  Miss Wright took her under her wing.  “She told me she wanted to go through the Bible word for word, so we did.  It took us seven years,” Miss Wright said.  Today that young woman is a grandmother herself.

            “If I have any talent at all, I’m supposed to share it,” Miss Wright said.  “I’ve had a very full life.”  Not only has it been a full life, it has been a long one.  On July 11, 2010, Miss Leona Wright turned 102 years old.  Wow.

            When the Methodist church in Wamego remodeled and expanded its classroom facilities, it was only fitting that the preschool room was named the Miss Wright Classroom.

            So what is this centenarian-plus doing now?  She is living in her own apartment in St. Marys and teaching a Bible class to seven women once a week.  And on Mondays, she goes down to the local retirement home so she can play the piano for the old folks.

 

            So what have you done for me lately?  In contrast to that selfish attitude in society, we commend Miss Leona Wright for making a difference by serving and caring for others in more than a century of life.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Natise Vogt – Walton School

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “What’s growing here?”  That’s the type of question little kids might ask when they drive by a field with a crop they haven’t seen before.  Educators are finding that such natural curiosity about growing things can be harnessed and utilized to enhance classroom education in a rural setting.  Special thanks to Kansas Agri-Women President Jocelyn Busick whose article told this remarkable story.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Natise Vogt is Principal of Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center in Walton, Kansas.  This is a charter school with a curriculum based on agriculture.  It’s part of the Newton School District.

            The school building has been in Walton since 1964, but most country schools have closed since that time, and budgets were tight.

            Natise, a long-time special education teacher, became Principal of Walton Elementary in 2005.  She said, “Our superintendent, Dr. Morton , approached me with the idea of Walton becoming a charter school based on agriculture.  I told him no, I was just settling in, and besides, I’m a city girl.  But we talked some more.  The staff was 210 percent behind the idea.  We decided to give it a try.”

            They developed a proposal for Walton to become a charter school with an ag/tech, project-based curriculum.  The proposal was approved in spring 2006, provided that the newly organized school had to open that August.

            “We worked like crazy,” Natise said.  “We took special classes, ordered materials, and bought a greenhouse.”   In August 2006, the school opened on time.  It is named the Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center.

            What is an agriculture-based curriculum?  For example, the school hallways are decorated with buckets of wheat and soybeans.  A bulletin board displays many small pairs of garden gloves.

The topic of agriculture is woven into each subject the students cover. One class learned about math and measurement units by measuring bean plants and tractor tires. Reading is emphasized through researching agriculture topics or writing letters to go with “Flat Stanley” to other children around the world.

Each class is paired with a farm family for the duration of the school year. The students go on a field trip to visit the farm, and the farmer also comes to visit the classroom.

Each class is also involved in a special project. For example, one class followed the life of three real pigs from insemination to meat on their plates. Another class raised chickens and then sold the eggs in the community. The projects vary depending on the grade. Some of the younger children did projects like “Tomato to Salsa” or “Milk to Ice Cream.” Older students applied technology in learning about wind turbines or soil testing. Their projects are summarized on display boards and featured at a spring community agriculture fair.

On the school grounds, one will find a playground plus a barn, greenhouse, vegetable garden, chicken house, and a sensory garden for kindergarteners – and Petey the goat.

The school is partnering with K-State Research and Extension - Harvey County.  The kindergarten and first grade classes form their own 4-H club.  This is an innovative model to provide the benefits of 4-H in new ways.

            What are the results?  Natise Vogt said, “It is absolutely wonderful.  The kids have made incredible gains.  We have met standard of excellence every year, every grade, and every subject.  We’ve received the Governor’s achievement award twice for being in the top five percent of Kansas schools according to state assessment tests.”

That’s a remarkable achievement for a rural school.  After all, Walton is a town of 287 people.  Now, that’s rural.  A town that size needs creativity to sustain a school.

Natise said, “We have exceptional teachers who are dedicated to the kids.  We believe hands-on, real-life learning is best.”

 

            “What’s growing here?”  That’s the type of question that little kids might ask about growing crops.  Educators in Walton have harnessed that curiosity to enhance the education provided by their school.  We commend Natise Vogt and all those involved with the Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center for making a difference with this creative curriculum.  Here at this school, what’s growing is the kids and their learning.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Pat Carver – Pat’s Beef Jerky

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Chewy, flavorful, spicy, delicious.  Those would be some terms to describe some wonderful beef jerky.  This jerky has been shipped halfway around the globe, and it’s made right here in Kansas.  This is today’s Kansas Profile.

            Pat Carver is the owner of Pat’s Beef Jerky, which is located in his hometown of Liebenthal, due south of Hays.

            Pat’s mother is from Liebenthal originally, and when his father retired from the military, they moved back there.  After growing up in Liebenthal, Pat worked as a meatcutter at a locker plant in Oakley.  It’s too good to be true that someone named Carver worked as a meatcutter, but that’s beside the point.  Pat also cut meat for Boogarts.

            Pat was working in Hays when a friend gave him a recipe for beef jerky.  Pat tried it, experimented with various flavors, and hit on a style of beef jerky which he really liked.  He gave some to his friends, and when people started asking him to make more beef jerky for them, he figured it could become a business.  He saw it as an opportunity to involve his parents as well.

            Pat said, “My parents were retiring and I thought it could give them something to do if we made jerky a couple of days a week.  But it didn’t work out that way.  We had so much demand that we had to work five days that first week, and we have ever since.”

            Before that, however, there was the question of where to locate the business.  Pat bought a historic bank building in Liebenthal and remodeled it.  The Liebenthal State Bank building is located prominently along Highway 183.  The bank had been robbed in 1927 and subsequently closed in the 1930s.  Pat did an extensive remodeling job on the building and opened Pat’s Beef Jerky in June 1990.

            Pat said, “My youngest daughter turned three while I was working on the remodeling.  We had ice cream and cake right there in the store.  Now she’s 23 years old!”

            Pat started with one smoker oven and now he is up to six.  So what is the secret to really good beef jerky?

            Pat said, “You want to make the jerky dry but pliable.  I probably use extra flavorings compared to some companies, and my jerky is easier to chew.”  He said, “High quality beef jerky comes from the hard work of a good staff. We strive to make the best beef jerky in western Kansas. Our beef comes primarily from Kansas and Nebraska.  Using various spices and smoky flavors, we create a taste that cannot be matched.”

            The beef jerky is available online, in local convenience stores, and for walk-in traffic.  An estimated 80 percent of his business is walk-in trade, which is remarkable considering that Liebenthal is a rural community of 110 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Yet Pat has had visitors from around the globe, including such places as Japan and New Zealand.  Customers include the Gatlin brothers and Tiger Wood’s golf caddy.  Pat’s product has also gone to servicemen and women serving in Iraq.  Pat proudly displays an autographed flag which was sent by soldiers there in appreciation for his exceptional beef jerky.

            Pat sells the jerky in various size packages, plus a pepper stick which is quite popular.  For local pickup, he also sells bologna, summer sausage, and brats.  His jerky has literally been shipped from coast to coast. For more information, go to www.patsbeefjerky.com.

            A customer in Texas said, “This is no doubt one of the best jerky places.”  A customer in Colorado wrote, “His jerky was exceptional….great, thick, juicy jerky…spectacular results.”

            On June 26, 2010, Pat’s Beef Jerky will celebrate its twentieth year.  Among the guests of honor will be Pat’s mother and his other family, including his 23 year old daughter, who were there at the very beginning.

 

            Chewy, flavorful, spicy, delicious – attributes of Pat’s Beef Jerky.  We commend Pat Carver, his family, and staff.  Their hard work, entrepreneurship, and commitment to a quality product is making a difference by building a homegrown business in rural Kansas.  That makes a lot to chew on.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Perry Schuckman – Nonprofit Chamber

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “Let’s go to the Chamber office.”  That statement makes me think of our local Chamber of Commerce, which is a very important association of businesses in our community.  But what if there was a similar association of non-profit organizations in our community?  What if there was a Chamber – not of Commerce, but of Service?  That innovative idea is now being implemented right here in Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Perry Schuckman is the Executive Director of a relatively new organization in south central Kansas called the Non-Profit Chamber of Service.  Perry has been the executive director ever since the organization began five years ago.

            Perry is a Kansan with truly rural roots.  He came from the Gove/Ness County area, south of the town of Park – population 148 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            His family moved to Hutchinson and he went to San Jose State and then got a Masters in Public Administration with a certificate in non-profit management from Wichita State.  Perry saw an ad seeking a director of a homeless shelter in San Francisco, applied, and got the job.  He grew that organization from a staff of five to a multi-faceted service organization with a staff of 95 and a thousand volunteers.  But when his mother fell into ill health, Perry moved back to Kansas in 2004.

            During this time, Sedgwick County government had asked Wichita State’s Hugo Wall School and the Center for Community Support and Research to study the delivery of public services by non-profit agencies.  After a lot of work, that study led to the creation of a new organization called the Non-Profit Chamber of Service – the first of its kind in Kansas.

            The Articles of Incorporation were adopted in 2005 and the organization hired its first Executive Director: Perry Schuckman.

            Perry said, “There are up to 1,400 non-profits in the Wichita area.  This is a way to get them together and help them share ideas and best practices.”

            Just like our Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Service is a dues-based membership organization.   Members include not-for-profit organizations ranging from A to Z – or at least from Abstinence Education to Youthville.  This includes many social service agencies, including faith-based, government, and volunteer-led entities, plus theaters and museums like the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and Wichita Art Museum.  There are also a number of businesses and individuals who join as associate members.  The Chamber is helping these non-profit organizations grow and succeed, through training, networking, and advocacy.

            For example, Perry spoke of Agape Care Cradle.  This was started by a perinatal nurse who saw the heartbreak of families which had premature babies who could not survive.  Of course, it is a tragic and tumultuous time in those families’ lives.  The nurse created this service to help those families in those times of loss.  The Non-Profit Chamber of Service helped this nurse develop this project from a glimmer of an idea to an active service organization that is helping three to four families per month.

            The Non-Profit Chamber offers various types of training, such as board member responsibilities, evaluating executive directors, understanding financial statements, recruiting volunteers, and many more.  The Chamber also hosts networking events such as a garden party in the spring.

            Thanks to a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, the Non-Profit Chamber of Service is expanding to include ten counties from Salina down to the Oklahoma border.  The Kansas Health Foundation will pay 50 percent of the dues for non-profit organizations outside Sedgwick County.  This has helped the Non-Profit Chamber of Service expand to nearly 200 members, and it has served some 300 non-profit organizations.

            Perry Schuckman said, “It is exciting to see the diversity of non-profit organizations that are involved.  This is important, fun, and engaging work.”

            For more information, go to www.nonprofitchamberks.org.

 

            It’s time to leave the Chamber office – no, not the Chamber of Commerce, the Non-Profit Chamber of Service.  We commend Perry Schuckman and all the volunteers involved with this chamber for making a difference by encouraging best practices among these non-profit organizations.  For them, it is a real service.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Phil Brokenicky – New Horizons RV

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I’m Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            What’s on the cover?  Let’s look at the cover of the October 2009 Trailer Life magazine, which features a new trailer line from an RV company in Kansas.  But it wasn’t the first time this producer of high quality RVs has made the cover – in fact, this company has made the cover three times in the last five years.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Phil Brokenicky is owner and CEO of New Horizons RV in Junction City, Kansas.  Phil comes from rural roots.  He grew up at the rural community of Blue Rapids, Kansas, population 1,073  people.  Now, that’s rural.  His father ran the hardware store there.

Phil said, “One day a farmer came in and bought a replacement cord for an iron or something.  The customer only paid 79 cents, but he said to my dad, “That includes installation, doesn’t it?”  My dad didn’t bat an eye and just said, “You bet it does” and proceeded to do it.”  Phil said, “I learned a lot about customer service from my dad.”

That emphasis on excellent customer service would serve Phil well.  After getting an MBA from K-State, Phil had a successful banking and finance career.

One day a friend of Phil’s encouraged him to look at an RV company in Junction City.  This friend had taken a truck there, found that the 72-year-old owner was wanting to sell, and saw great potential in the business.  In 2002, Phil bought the company, and now his entire family is involved.

Today, New Horizons RV produces what became the top-ranked travel trailer in America for ten consecutive years.  Wow.

New Horizons RV produces top quality, fifth wheel towable trailers, sells four other lines and offers a service facility.

RV sales crashed during the economic downturn.  Yet when New Horizons employees had extra time, Phil saw the opportunity to use that time to create a whole new line of trailers.  New Horizons built a new series of trailers on a wider chassis than they had used previously.  The new series is called Majestic – and it is absolutely gorgeous.

The features on these RVs are amazing.  These are targeted to people who are “fulltiming” – that is, have retired and travel full-time in their RVs.  These vehicles literally have all the comforts of home, including wide screen TVs, microwave ovens, real wood cabinets, and much, much more.  Phil said, “Karen and I have built eight homes in our 39 years of married life.”  Their experience in interior decorating has come in handy.

Some of their RVs include a Moto-Mover – also called a toy hauler -- which is a space at the back in which motorcycles, bikes, or four-wheelers can ride along too.  Other options include side-mounted video cameras to assist driver vision in traffic or while backing.

At New Horizons RV, Phil Brokenicky emphasizes excellent customer service, a safe work environment, and high quality production.  Sales are direct from the factory.  Phil said, “Typically a customer will spend a couple of days with us, taking a tour and designing floor plans for their RV.”  There are four décor packages from which to choose.  New Horizons will work with customers to custom-design the RV just for them.

The quality of the workmanship is superior.  Phil said, “The typical RV has just 170 man-hours in production.  Ours have 2,000 man hours.”  The craftsmanship shows, in the fine cabinetry, for example.

New Horizons RV serves customers across the nation.  Phil said, “We’re much better known on the coasts than we are around here.”  On the day I visited, there were customers picking up RVs from New York, Wisconsin, and Washingon State.  For more information, go to www.horizonsrv.com.

 

What’s on the cover?  New Horizons RV of Junction City, Kansas has been on the cover of the leading industry magazine for three times in the past five years.  More importantly, the company has produced the top-ranked RV in the nation for ten consecutive years.  We salute Phil Brokenicky and all those involved with New Horizons RV for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and emphasis on quality.  It makes a fun story to cover.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, I’m Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Randy Billinger – Mustang Saddle Club

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Burns, Oregon.  A group has gathered here to study the wild mustangs which range in this area.  In fact, one couple is here to adopt a mustang and take him halfway across the continent to be cared for in rural Kansas.  Today we’ll meet this young couple which is working to preserve and promote the wild mustang breed.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Randy and Kristi Billinger are passionate about their horses.  Kristi had horses while growing up in Oklahoma and Randy rode while growing up near Solomon in central Kansas.  Randy went on to K-State and became a geologist.  He was doing oil exploration in Oklahoma when he met Kristi.  They married and moved to eastern Kansas where Randy took a geologist position with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Kristi went back to school at KU.  She told Randy that after she graduated, she wanted to get a horse again.  Kristi completed her studies and took a job at KU.  Shortly after that, Randy had been working in western Kansas for a week.  He got home on Friday night and Kristi said, “Oh, guess what?  We own a horse.”

That’s how it began.  Kristi had purchased a thoroughbred.  Then they decided that this horse needed a partner.  They did some research and learned about the wild mustangs in the western United States.  They became intrigued by the romance and excitement surrounding this historic breed.

While looking online, they saw a striking picture of a red dun mustang by a juniper tree and thought, “We want a horse from that herd.”  It turned out that this mustang is from the Kiger herd in Oregon.  Kiger mustangs are one of the major bloodlines found among the wild horses of the west.  Kigers bear some of the original markings of the historic Spanish mustangs.

Randy and Kristi made a trip to Oregon.  Eventually they adopted several wild horses through the Bureau of Land Management, which maintains western lands and occasionally gathers and disperses wild horses.  In fact, the Billingers currently have 12 horses, of which six are Kiger mustangs.

One of their horses is a beautiful, award-winning Kiger stallion named Hawk.  Among his distinctions is that he serves as a celebrity spokeshorse.  Okay, maybe he doesn’t actually speak, but he is featured on the publicity materials for the Equerry’s Inc. company.  At least that would make him an equine celebrity.

Randy and Kristi keep their horses in their rural location near the community of Wellsville, population 1,607 people.  Now, that’s rural.

In 2002, Randy and Kristi participated in a wild horse workshop in Lawrence.  It went so well that people were saying, “Wouldn’t it be neat if we could all stay in touch?”  So they formed an online network called the Midwest Mustang and Burro Saddle Club.

At first it was essentially a wild horse owner support group via email, but in 2006 it expanded to include camping and trail riding, parades and demonstrations.  Randy said, “It’s really a close knit group of friends with a love of mustangs.”  This virtual saddle club now has nearly 100 members from Oklahoma to Minnesota to Oregon.

In 2008, they had a chance to ride their mustangs in the American Royal parade.  Kristi said, “We cannot explain what an awesome feeling it was to be riding our mustangs through the streets of downtown Kansas City.  We rode over huge bridges with trains passing underneath tooting their horns, while helicopters circled overhead.  We rode past a carnival, down some narrow streets and past many skyscrapers.  The feeling of riding a once wild horse past skyscrapers was very cool!  We could not have asked for a better day for a parade and all the horses did awesome.”

            For more information, go to www.midwestmustangandburro.com or www.tornadoalleykigers.com.

 

            It’s time to leave Burns, Oregon, where this young couple is adopting a Kiger mustang to be cared for in Kansas.  We salute Kristi and Randy Billinger for making a difference by not only adopting these horses, but encouraging others to experience them as well.  If I had the chance to go see these Kiger mustangs, wild horses couldn’t stop me.

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

WMA Kansas Chapter

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            In the room there was a DJ, a farmer-stockman, a bunch of western music fans, some cowboys, an extension agent, an amateur historian, some poets, and numerous guitar players.  What did this eclectic group have in common?  They were part of creating a new group with a focus on western cowboy music and entertainment.  In fact, they created a brand-new Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association.  This is today’s Kansas Profile.

            Ray Amerine and Roger Ringer are President and Vice-President of the new Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association, or WMA.  Both are leaders and long-time advocates for western music.

            “My dad and grandpa had a ranch out by Syracuse, Kansas, and that’s where I spent lots of my growing up years,” Ray Amerine said.  He went on to be a working cowboy all over the U.S., from Montana to West Virginia.  In 1980, he came to Kansas and bought ranchland near the rural community of Toronto, which has been his home ever since.  Toronto is a town of 307 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Ray is a lifelong fan of western music.  “Most western music depicts my way of life,” Ray said.  “It’s meaningful.  So I like to promote cowboy western music, poets, and cowgirls.  I do a lot of promotional work for WMA and the Academy of Western Artists.”

            Of course, there are a number of western performers and members of the Western Music Association in Kansas.  Ray had the idea of getting them together at the state level.  He contacted Johnny Western, a famous western music performer and country music DJ in Wichita.

            On August 5, 2009, they convened a group of people interested in creating a Kansas Chapter of WMA.  The group enthusiastically agreed to move forward, so dues were paid and officers were elected.  The President of the Kansas Chapter became Ray Amerine.  Vice-President was Roger Ringer, a western performer from Medicine Lodge.

            Unfortunately,  Ray Amerine suffered some injuries and his health would not allow him to make many meetings.  “Roger’s doing a great job for me,” Ray said.

            “When I got put up for Vice President, I thought that wouldn’t be so bad because the Vice President doesn’t generally have to do anything.  Oops, was I wrong,” Roger said with a smile.  With Ray temporarily out of commission, Roger and the officers are moving forward with their plans.

            The Kansas Chapter of WMA is developing exciting plans for a special show in 2011 for the Kansas sesquicentennial, plus sponsorships, mentorships, an artists-in-the-schools program, and more.  A delegation will go from Kansas to the national meeting of the WMA in Albuquerque. We’ll learn more about the Kansas sesquicentennial show in the future.

            “We have great talent in our group,” Roger said.  “We want to help the artists, but we want to raise the environment for the fans also.  The enthusiasm of the fans is infectious.”

            “The strength of our genre is family,” Roger said.  “We provide the kinds of shows that grandpa and the grandkids can both enjoy and not get offended by it.  We want to retain that family atmosphere.”  He said, “Almost all of us have been told, `We had to drag our teenagers to this show kicking and screaming, and now they really enjoy it.’”

            For more information about the Kansas Chapter of WMA, contact Roger at 620-739-4788 or Ray Amerine at 620-637-2396.

 

            In the room there was a DJ, a farmer-stockman, a bunch of western music fans, some cowboys, an extension agent, an amateur historian, some poets, and numerous guitar players.  It was August 5, 2009.  This group was creating a new Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association.  We salute Ray Amerine, Roger Ringer, and all those involved with this initiative for making a difference by promoting this wholesome entertainment.

            A few months later, western music fans converged on Albuquerque for the national WMA meeting.  When it was time to recognize the winner of the prestigious Bill Wiley Award, the name which was announced was none other than Ray Amerine of rural Toronto, Kansas.  Congratulations, cowboy.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Roger Barta – Smith Center Redmen

        This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
        Our Boys isn’t just a term for our sons, it’s the name of a new book about a rural Kansas high school football team.  Our Boys describes the record-setting journey of this football team and its remarkable coach.  While the book is about football, it is especially about the timeless values of family and community.  This is today’s Kansas Profile.
        Meet Roger Barta, the legendary head football coach of the Smith Center Redmen in Smith Center, Kansas.
        Roger Barta and his wife Pam grew up in Plainville.  In high school, he played quarterback but couldn’t continue football due to injury.  After graduating from Fort Hays State and earning a master’s in Georgia, he embarked on a high school teaching and coaching career.  In 1987, he took his first and only head coaching job in Smith Center.
        That was the beginning of a phenomenal career.  Roger Barta built a coaching staff and a power football system which would develop into a juggernaut, with tremendous community support.
        Along came the winning streak.  One win turned into two, and then five and ten and more.   A state championship was achieved, and then another and another.
        One day in 2007, the Smith Center Redmen played Plainville and got on a roll.  A series of Plainville turnovers and Smith Center offensive strikes snowballed into a rout.  In a set of circumstances which Coach Barta regrets today, the Redmen scored 72 points – in the first quarter.  This broke a national record set back in 1925 and propelled Smith Center into the national spotlight.
        One of the national sportswriters who followed this story was a New York Times reporter named Joe Drape.  He visited Smith Center to report on it and found himself intrigued with this remarkable coach and community.  Joe is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, graduated from SMU, and worked in Dallas and Atlanta before joining the New York Times.
        Joe returned to New York after reporting on Smith Center, but something about the community stayed with him.  He thought about Coach Barta and the lives the coach had touched.  He thought about the winning streak which was approaching record-breaking levels.  And he thought about the challenges of the upcoming season, after a highly-touted senior class graduated and was succeeded by a group of players with many questionmarks.

       Joe had the unlikely idea to move his wife and young son from New York to Kansas for a year to follow the football season.  He left the big city for the rural community of Smith Center, population 1,931 people.  Now, that’s rural.
        Joe Drape chronicled the remarkable season which followed.  Coach Barta shaped this group of unheralded underclassmen into a powerful team once again.  After some early season close calls, the team came together and finished with 67 wins – the nation’s longest high school victory streak – and Smith Center’s fifth consecutive state championship.
        The best-selling book is sub-titled “A Perfect Season – On the plains with the Smith Center Redmen.”
        “Our Boys” is about much more than the football field.  Joe Drape’s book exquisitely captures the elements of rural life:  The rewards and challenges of farm life, the banter at the coffee shop, the boarded up businesses downtown, and the fun and foibles of the football players and their families.
        In the end, the book is about Coach Barta and his values.  Coach Barta teaches the simple values of hard work, dedication, and love.  He tells his players, “We need to respect each other, and then like each other, and then love each other.  When we have chemistry, that’s when together we are champions.”  He said, “We talk about getting a little better each day, about being the best we can be, about being a team.”  
        Coach Barta said, “None of this is about football.  What I hope we’re doing is sending kids into life who know that every day means something.”

        Our Boys is a great read.  We commend Coach Barta and the people of Smith Center for making a difference by teaching the importance of hard work and love for each other.  Those are the best lessons we can pass along to Our Boys.

        For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ron Hirst – Community Development Academy

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            A special community meeting was held in western Reno County.  People wondered how many folks would attend.  Someone said, “You’ll have twenty there, maybe ten.”  So, it was quite exciting when 86 people showed up.  That was the beginning of a community partnership in western Reno County, which would probably not have happened without something called the Community Development Academy.  The Community Development Academy is an opportunity for teams of community members, such as those in Reno County, to come together and learn about processes to benefit their communities.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Ron Hirst.  Ron is one of those who participated in the Community Development Academy, and he is a strong believer in its benefits.

            Ron is an Economic Development specialist with the Quest Center in Hutchinson.  He is also a long-time Reno County farmer and businessman, plus recently served as Mayor of South Hutchinson.

            A few years ago, Ron participated in a public affairs facilitation workshop put on by K-State’s Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy.  He learned about a Community Development Academy to be held in 2008 in Newton.  This academy was for teams of people from communities in the region, so Ron started checking around to see who was interested.  He helped put together a team of people from Reno County who participated in the academy.  It was a resounding success.

            Ron said, “I wish every small town would have a representative or two at this workshop.”

            The Community Development Academy is a series of workshops designed to provide community leaders the assessment and strategic planning information necessary to devise participatory community development plans and strategies. The academy is put on by a group of partners including K-State, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, with grant support from USDA Rural Development.

            The interactive four-day workshops are spread out over a three-week period.  Topics include concepts of community development, community capital assessment, leadership, action planning, visioning, assessment, housing, strategic planning, and more.  The program concludes with a resource fair of funding sources, so participants can get directly acquainted with funders who can help make those community plans become reality.

Academy participants receive extensive information, resources, and training on skills to help communities.  The goal of the academy is to empower community leaders through increased knowledge, leadership skills, recharged spirits and inspired community action.

            Ron Hirst feels the academy has been extremely beneficial.  The Reno County team included people from the city of Hutchinson, plus rural outlying towns such as Pretty Prairie, population 610, and Partridge, population 259.  Now, that’s rural.

            Ron said, “Our homework got us working together, plus we got a lot of good ideas from listening to what the other community teams presented.”

            One outcome was a partnership with K-State Research and Extension in creating Fairfield Area Partners, a joint initiative for the communities in western Reno County.  That was the initial community meeting which I referenced at the beginning.  Not only did this partnership come about through the academy, its initial meetings utilized some of the community development processes which were taught at the academy.

            Ron said, “Another thing that was very useful was learning about PRIDE and the other resources that are available.”  He said, “I wish two or three people from every city council would go through this training.  Anybody that attends will be ready to go back and do something good.”

            Additional academies are being planned in southeast, northwest, and northeast Kansas.  In addition to the community workshops, there will be a parallel Community Coaching Academy for individuals such as Extension agents or economic development professionals to receive training in community coaching.

Communities are encouraged to participate.  For more information, go to www.ksu.edu/cecd/cda.

 

            It’s time to leave this Reno County meeting, which was brought about in part through the work of the Community Development Academy.  We salute Ron Hirst and all those involved in Reno County for making a difference by learning these processes and applying them back home to improve their communities.

            And there’s more.  What exactly is a Quest Center?  We’ll learn about that next week.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Scott Bergkamp – Bergkamp Inc.

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            As we drive down the road, we see cracks and worn tracks on the highway – and then, Bang!  We hit a big pothole.  This is a sign of a road that has not been cared for.  If only there was a process for restoring or preserving these roads.  But now there is, thanks to a Kansas company which is benefitting roads in our state and around the world.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Scott Bergkamp is President of Bergkamp Inc. in Salina, Kansas.  He explained that this company is an innovator in pavement preservation.  Specifically, the company is an international leader in the design and manufacturing of asphalt preventive maintenance equipment.

            The company began with Scott’s parents, Mel and Marge Bergkamp, who came from rural Kansas roots.  Marge is from Conway Springs, population 1,308 people, and Mel is from Pretty Prairie, population 610.  Now, that’s rural.

            Mel came from the farm, but he wanted to pursue an education.  He came to school at what is now K-State-Salina, got an engineering degree, and stayed in the Salina community.  He opened a job shop to build various types of metal fabrication products.  Scott said, “He’d build one of these and two of those and then go find something else to design and build.”

            One local customer wanted a piece of road repaving equipment which the Bergkamps then designed.  It worked so well that other contractors were interested in getting a similar machine.  Eventually Bergkamp Inc. developed into a business with a specialty in pavement preservation equipment.

            Today the business which began with only Mel and Marge employs some 65 people.  Scott earned an electrical engineering degree at K-State and joined the company in 1998.  Scott now serves as President.  His brother Jason joined the company in May 2010.  Mel and Marge are still involved as directors, so this is truly a family business.

            Bergkamp Inc. has two main lines of products:  One has to do with slurry seal and microsurfacing equipment for pavement preservation, and the other has do with pothole patchers for maintenance.  Both products can be truck or trailer-mounted.  The pothole patching is a way of remedying a problem once it has developed in a roadway, but the other equipment is for proactive preventive maintenance.

            In other words, the Bergkamp units are used to seal the road surface and prevent moisture from seeping in while the road is still good.  By applying a thin layer of crushed aggregate mixed with asphalt emulsion and some additives to the road surface, it preserves and extends the life of the roadway and creates a safer road for motorists.

            Timing is key.  Scott said, “If you can put the right treatment on the right road at the right time, you can avoid more expensive problems in the future.”  He credits the state of Kansas with pursuing a proactive pavement preservation system for 20 years which has helped Kansas have good state roads compared to our neighbors.  This process makes a wise investment for taxpayers in the long run.

            Scott emphasizes quality products and customer service as priorities for the company.  In fact, the only manufacturer in North America to produce a full-size continuous slurry seal and micro surfacing paver is Bergkamp Inc. of Salina, Kansas.

            The economic and safety benefits of these products appeals to customers across the U.S. and around the world.  Bergkamp products have gone from coast to coast in the U.S. and to such places as China, Russia, Chile, Argentina, Thailand, Belarus, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Ecuador, Peru, Angola, Nigeria, and more.  The website, www.bergkampinc.com, even comes in four languages:  English, Espanol, Russian, and Chinese.  Wow.  Now I know what pothole looks like in Chinese.

 

            As we drive down the road, we look at the surface of the highway.  Now we’re thankful to see that the roadway is not marked by cracks and potholes, thanks to the processes provided by Bergkamp Inc. equipment.  We salute Scott and Jason, Mel and Marge, and all those involved with Bergkamp Inc. for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and international innovation.  For Kansas, creating this business was a smooth move.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sharon Brown – Flint Hills Regional Council

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”  Those words come from Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the most talented basketball player of all time.  Even he noted that the most talented of individuals cannot reach their full success without teamwork.  Today we’ll learn about a regional partnership which demonstrates the benefits of community teamwork in the Kansas Flint Hills.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Sharon Brown, Mayor of Clay Center and President of the Flint Hills Regional Council.  Last week we learned how a Tri-County Congress helped set the stage for this new regional organization which she heads.

            Sharon was Mayor of Clay Center in December 2007 when the Commanding General at Fort Riley invited her and other mayors and spouses to a holiday dinner.  Sharon said, “He wanted to make contact with the communities where his soldiers live.”

            Sharon and the other mayors greatly appreciated this interest.  They later served on Community Partnership Councils with the fort, where every other month some 30 to 40 community leaders in the region came together to discuss key issues surrounding Fort Riley.  Sharon said, “We would talk about issues such as health care, housing, workforce, recreation, and education and how to make them better.”

            Meanwhile, the Governor’s Military Council – directed by Manhattan’s John Armbrust -- was working on behalf of the state’s military installations.  A Tri-County Congress had convened representatives of Geary, Riley and Pottawatomie Counties.

            The culmination of these efforts to work cooperatively around Fort Riley came with the creation of a Flint Hills Regional Council.  In January 2010, members of the new council were seated.  The President of the Flint Hills Regional Council is Sharon Brown.

            Sharon sees first-hand the impact of the military, and specifically Fort Riley, on the economy of the region.  A 2004 study estimated that the military had a nearly two billion dollar impact on the economy of Kansas.

A 2009 Wichita State University study commissioned by the Governor’s Military Council estimated that the value of military contracts to Kansas companies was $7.7 billion and generated more than 169,000 jobs both directly and with civilians.  Wages generated $5.7 billion.  In 2007, Fort Riley was the largest employer in the state of Kansas.

These economic impacts are huge, and they transcend county lines.  The Flint Hills Regional Council is a way to work together and communicate about issues surrounding the fort and how it impacts its neighbors, such as in housing or education.

John Armbrust, director of the Governor’s Military Council, said, “This allows us to work together to benefit the region and each community.”  He said, “Communities need to be part of a regional organization to collaborate where it makes sense.”

The Flint Hills Regional Council is a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation whose membership is made up of local governments and whose board is formed by elected officials from member municipalities and counties, plus non-voting representatives from Fort Riley, K-State, and the Governor’s Military Council.  It is intended to be a tool to increase the flow of information in the region while working toward mutually agreed upon goals.

Sharon Brown sees the importance of the military in the impact on the rural communities around the fort.  She said, “We have 65 soldiers living in Clay Center plus 135 civilians who are working here.  We also see soldiers in the smaller towns around the fort.”  That includes rural places like Wakefield, which has 854 residents and 85 soldiers, and even three soldiers living at the rural community of Green, population 137 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Sharon said, “I observed military dads coaching the kid’s soccer teams.  It just enriches us having them here.”

 

Talent wins games but teamwork wins championships, as Michael Jordan pointed out.  In the northern Flint Hills of Kansas, counties and communities are teaming up with Fort Riley to work together.  We commend Sharon Brown and all those involved with the Flint Hills Regional Council for making a difference by coming together to work on issues affecting the region.  Our military families in the region make a cause which, together as a team, we can champion.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sue Jean Covacevich

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Sunflowers.  They are the ubiquitous symbol of the state of Kansas, and they were also the favorite subject of an outstanding Kansas artist.  This artist not only created beautiful works of art herself, but was an innovative arts educator.  She was a world traveler, but her heart and home remained in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Sue Jean Covacevich was a noted artist and educator, born in the rural community of Wellington, Kansas in 1905.  Wellington is currently a town of 8,515 people.  Now, that’s rural.

When Sue Jean was in the fourth grade, an art teacher came to her class.  Sue Jean said, “I felt a world had opened up for me.”

            She pursued her interest in art, and studied at Bethany College under the legendary Birger Sandzen.  She went on to teach art in Winfield, which became her lifelong home.

Birger Sandzen became a mentor for Sue Jean.  In fact, his international interest may have influenced her to travel to Mexico in 1931.  Not only did she experience international culture, she met and married Nick Covacevich and settled in Mexico City.  There they raised two daughters.  When a nearby village had a crucial need for clean water, Sue Jean enlisted her students back in Winfield to send pennies to help.  The result was a community fountain decorated with the flags of Mexico and the United States.

            Sue Jean continued to teach and produce artwork, but by the 1940s the marriage had ended and she returned to Winfield.  She became supervisor of art in the public schools and then established the art program at Southwestern College.

Liz Seaton, associate curator at K-State’s Beach Museum of Art, grew up at Winfield.  Liz said, “I was struck by how this one person had such an impact (to encourage the arts), not just in the schools where she taught, but in the entire community.”

In 1952, Covacevich began a huge mural on a bank in downtown Winfield.  It depicted the history of the city and took 11 months to complete, opening with great fanfare and some 3,000 people in attendance.  She later founded the Winfield Arts Center, designed a bicentennial seal for the city, and created a sculpture for the park, while teaching in various communities around south central Kansas.

Former students of hers would write how Sue Jean had a lifelong impact on their lives.  One of her innovations was to create an art therapy program for the patients at the Winfield State Hospital.  In the summers, she would travel internationally.

During the 1950s and 60s, K-State Extension sponsored a rural-urban art program which trained artists around the state.  Sue Jean was an instructor for that program for more than a decade.

Covacevich’s artistic versatility is quite remarkable.  She did both abstract and objective art while continuing to teach.  Sue Jean worked in painting, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, and stained glass.  She was commissioned for several public murals and stained glass windows in various churches.  She exhibited in New York and received a gold medal from an international art show in Florence, Italy.

Her subjects ranged from the Kansas landscape to world monuments.  One of her favorite subjects to paint was the ubiquitous Kansas sunflower.  An oil painting of sunflowers was her contribution to the Kansas Governor’s Art Award exhibition, and another of her sunflower paintings hung in the office of Kansas Senator Jim Pearson in Washington DC.

On May 14, 1998, Sue Jean Covacevich passed away at her home in Winfield.  An artist to the end, she left an unfinished oil painting near her easel at her death.

“Following the Sun:  The Art of Sue Jean Covacevich” is on display at K-State’s Beach Museum of Art through May 2, 2010.  For more information, go online to beach.ksu.edu.

 

Sunflowers.  They are an icon of our sunflower state, and a favorite motif of this outstanding artist and educator.  We commend Sue Jean Covacevich for making a difference by sharing her artistic talents with her students and her community.  Just as a growing sunflower plant seeks the sunshine, Sue Jean followed her passion for the arts while remaining deeply rooted in rural Kansas.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Susie Haver – Kansas Barn Alliance

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            The NBA is coming to Kansas!  No, not a National Basketball Association franchise, but is something that is much more deeply rooted in Kansas heritage:  Barns.  The NBA, or National Barn Alliance, will be having its national conference in Kansas, thanks to the work of the barn alliance here in our state.  Some one hundred barn enthusiasts will be coming to Kansas from across the nation.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Susie Haver is President of the Kansas Barn Alliance and director of Cloud County Tourism.  She lives on the family farm near Concordia, where her family’s barn still stands.

In 2002, a book was published through the Kansas Electric Cooperatives called “Barns of Kansas:  A Pictorial History.”  Written by Bob Marsh, an architect and author,    the book contains more than 300 colorful photos of Kansas barns.

His interest in barns is shared by Susie Haver and Sally Hatcher, who lives in Leavenworth but is originally from Michigan.  Sally had attended meetings of a barn alliance in that state.

In 2006, Bob Marsh, Susie Haver, Sally Hatcher and others with an interest in Kansas historic barns got together and organized the Kansas Barn Alliance.  Bob served as its first president.  Sally later became president, and Susie is the president today.

The purpose of the Kansas Barn Alliance is to discover and memorialize the history and architecture of Kansas farms, especially barns.  The organization produces a newsletter and holds an annual BarnFest where people interested in barns can convene, tour, share ideas and information, and advocate for barns.

The Board of the Barn Alliance includes people across the state, from both urban and rural communities.  That includes people from North Kansas City as well as from rural places like Harper, population 1,519, and Sylvan Grove, population 319 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Susie said, “Almost everyone has a barn in their past.  Perhaps it was their grandparents’ or on the place they grew up, but people seem to be really interested in them.”

Susie and Sally made contacts at the national level and one thing led to another.  In June 2010, Kansas will host the National Barn Alliance conference in Atchison and Doniphan County.  Preceding the conference is a five day timber frame repair workshop conducted by one of the leading historic building repair companies, Trillium Dell Timberworks of Knoxville, Illinois.

The conference features speakers on rural revival and barn restoration, agritourism, and the Kansas barn survey conducted by the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office.  Another session is titled “Farming To Give That Old Barn a Job.

Susie said, “Barns need a job.  If they’re no longer used for their original purpose, they need another one.”  Speakers will include people who now use their barns for sheep, cheese making, or marketing family farm products.

The dinner speaker is Dr. Darrin Rubino, a nationally known dendrochronologist -- which sounds like some medical specialty I don’t want any part of.  But in fact, dendrochronology is the study of growth rings in trees.  Dr. Rubino has gained a national reputation through his work in dating historic buildings by studying the timbers used in construction.

The final day of the conference includes tours of historic barns in Doniphan County.  In fact, Doniphan County has more barns on the National Register of Historic Places than any county in Kansas.  The tour will include six historic barns, including the barn which will have been renovated by Trillium Dell Timberworks during the pre-conference workshop.

            Susie is excited about Kansas hosting this national conference, which has typically been held in eastern states before.  She said, “It’s never been this far west.  We’re excited to showcase our state.  People will come expecting to see flat, treeless Kansas, and that’s not what they’ll find in Doniphan County.”

            For more information, go to www.kansasbarnalliance.org.

 

            The NBA is coming to Kansas.  No, not basketball -- the National Barn Alliance.  We commend Susie Haver, Sally Hatcher, and all those involved with the Kansas Barn Alliance for making a difference by promoting and preserving these valuable icons of our past and present.  For them, preserving barns should be a slam-dunk.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Svetlana Hutfles – Community Foundations - 1

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            Can an idea translate into a career?  Today we’ll learn about a case where an idea became a lifelong passion through translation – and I mean that literally.  We’ll meet a young woman based in rural Kansas who has become an international advocate of community foundations.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Svetlana Pushkareva Hutfles is Executive Director of the Kansas Association of Community Foundations.  She has had a fascinating journey from Russia to rural Kansas, with community foundations as a common theme.

            Svetlana is a native of Russia.  When an American delegation came to her town to study the possibility of community foundations in Russia, she was asked to translate.

            As she translated the words, she began to understand the meaning – and was fascinated by it.  Community foundations were being used in the U.S. to receive local donations and bequests - endowed gifts -- for betterment of those communities, for good, forever.

            Svetlana said, “I became fascinated by how community foundations empowered people.  It was a way for people to come together, help their communities, see results and seed permanent funds to support the community, instead of idly expecting the state or national bureaucracy to take care of all pressing needs.”  This was a radical change from the communist system—literally, a foreign concept.  Svetlana said, “The word ‘endowment’ didn’t exist in the Russian language.”

            She became interested and helped establish the first community foundation in Russia.  She went on to assist community foundations in eastern and western Europe and beyond, while earning college degrees in Russia and the United Kingdom.

            Meanwhile, she met and 12 years later married a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.  Flip Hutfles is an Illinois native, but his father’s family came from Nemaha County, Kansas and he spent summers here as a child.

Flip worked in various states and did community development work overseas for the UN.  After he and Svetlana got married, they moved to Kansas to be closer to his family and he became city administrator in Fredonia -- a rural town of 2,555 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Svetlana said, “I came from a city of 750,000 in Russia.  I always thought I was from a small town until I came to Kansas.”  In 2003, she flew into the Kansas City airport and thought to herself, `What a cute, provincial town.’  “Now when I go from Fredonia to Kansas City, I think, `Wow, what a city.’”

            What about coming to Kansas? Svetlana said, “I happily, consciously and voluntarily chose Kansas over other options.”  When asked what she likes about small town life, Svetlana said, “People do care.  ‘How are you doing?’ is not just meaningless conversation.  They embrace you.  You have a sense of security and comfort, of knowing people, and of being part of a community.”

            So Svetlana came to Kansas and became the first paid executive director of a new statewide association of community foundations.  She said, “Those who care about Kansas should talk to their financial advisers and community foundations about smart ways to ensure a bright future for Kansas.  We should ask, `What can I as an individual do?’”

Svetlana said, “It’s our time to contribute back to Kansas as a way of thanking this land for the wealth and all the good we were able to enjoy in our lifetime here. Kansas is at a critical juncture in terms of its philanthropic potential. $66 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next in our state by 2020. We face an urgent need to capture a portion of the intergenerational transfer by endowing a portion of it at community foundations in Kansas before it follows the population out of Kansas forever. Otherwise, much of this wealth will be lost to federal estate taxes or to heirs residing outside the state of Kansas.  We need to act now.”

 

Can an idea translate into a career?  Yes.  Svetlana Pushkareva Hutfles is making a difference by translating her international knowledge of community foundations into a tremendous resource for Kansas.  Fortunately, it gains a great deal in the translation.

We’ll learn more about how community foundations work next week.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Svetlana Hutfles – Community Foundations - 2

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            In order to build a strong house, it is vital to have a strong foundation.  Today we’ll learn about some people who are working to help their communities build strong foundations – not the kind made from cement, but rather a financial resource for the future.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Last week we met Svetlana Pushkareva Hutfles, Executive Director of the Kansas Association of Community Foundations.  Svetlana explains that community foundations promote community philanthropy and serve communities at large. They provide donor services, grant making, asset development, community leadership and services to non-profits and other grant makers.

Svetlana said, “Community foundations are stewards of permanent community resources.” They are recognized by IRS as tax-exempt public charities created by and for the people in a local area.  People with philanthropic interests can donate through these foundations to easily and effectively support the issues they care about most -- immediately, or through their will or other planned gifts. Unrestricted gifts to community foundations' endowments are particularly important for securing funds for future community needs and strategic future grantmaking.

In 1999, the Kansas Health Foundation launched an initiative called GROW Healthy Kansas (GROW stands for Giving Resources to Our World) to help build sustainable community foundations.

Today Kansas has more than 80 community foundations in both urban and rural settings, from Kansas City and Wichita to rural communities like Glasco, population 520; Bird City, population 472; and Sylvan Grove, population 319 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Others are regional, such as the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas and Western Kansas Community Foundation.

Svetlana said, “Community foundations are increasingly interested in ways they might work together to reduce the costs and improve services. Some smaller community foundations have found it beneficial to formally affiliate with a larger community foundation. Affiliations typically allow a foundation to retain its separate identity while reducing expenses and focusing on quality of its services.”

In 2005, a state association of community foundations was created.  Then a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation made it possible to hire staff, and Svetlana was brought on board as the first Executive Director.

Svetlana is literally an expert with international exposure to community foundations.  She speaks passionately of the benefits of donating locally and endowing unrestricted funds at community foundations.

Svetlana said, “Endowments are about perpetuating wealth for generations to come.  A portion of earnings from those funds is "reinvested" in the community via grants to local projects of non-profit organizations, thus providing a permanent source of funding for various good causes and acute needs.”  In 2009, these foundations made 206 million dollars in local grants for education, health, youth, arts and culture, environment, employment, and community improvement and capacity building.

By the year 2020, Kansas is projected to see a huge transfer of wealth from one generation to the next -- an estimated $66 billion.  Svetlana said, “We face an urgent need to capture a portion of the generational transfer before it leaves Kansas forever.”

In rural communities, that money often leaves the state as estate taxes or with heirs who have migrated away.  Sometimes that money is literally gone overnight.

Svetlana said, “If only five percent of the estimated wealth transfer for Kansas was captured, $3.3 billion could be preserved in community foundation endowments and reinvested in Kansas communities in perpetuity.  The question is, how do we encourage such capture of wealth?  How do we create a culture of “Endowing Kansas”?  She said, “I encourage those who care to talk to their community foundations and financial advisers about smart ways to ensure a bright future for Kansas.”

For more information, go to www.kansascfs.org.

 

In order to build a strong house, it is vital to have a strong foundation.  In this case, the community foundation is a way for people to donate funds which can help strengthen the community as a whole.  We commend Svetlana Hutfles, the Kansas Health Foundation, the members of the Kansas Association of Community Foundations, and especially those who give to their local foundations – thus making a difference by preserving and utilizing those funds locally.  For these communities, it makes a strong foundation on which to build.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Todd Kuntz – Mr. K’s Farmhouse

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            “Paddled a President.”  How’d you like to have that on your resume?  Today we’ll learn about a historic Kansas restaurant founded by a remarkable woman who, among other things, gave the President of the United States a swat on his bottom with a wooden paddle.  And it didn’t happen when he was just a kid, it happened when he was 75 years old!  Now another generation of a restaurant family is maintaining and enhancing the traditions which this remarkable woman began.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Todd and Tammy Kuntz, owners of Mr. K’s Farmhouse Restaurant near Abilene, Kansas.  The restaurant was originally founded as Lena’s.

            Miss Lena Benson grew up at Abilene and considered herself a tomboy.  On a trip to Kansas City she saw a fortune teller who said she should be selling foodstuffs to the public.  She didn’t want to be in a kitchen, but eventually entered the restaurant business.

            Her first restaurant consisted of two tables, four chairs, and a counter with six stools.  Lena served fried chicken, potato salad, and pork sandwiches at 15 cents each.  Wow.

            One day she was tarring a roof on one of her buildings and her hair caught fire.  She was trapped in the building.  According to legend, she feared all was lost but looked out a window, saw a neighboring farmhouse on a hill, and was convinced that it was her destiny.  She dove out the window and saved herself.

            She bought that farmhouse and opened a restaurant there in 1939.  It was known as Lena’s.  Lena expanded the restaurant and the business through the years.  One of her traditions was that guests who came to the restaurant on their birthday would receive a swat from a wood paddle.

            Many guests received a paddling through the years, but in 1963, Lena received a visit from Abilene’s favorite son, Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Ike had just finished his last term as President.  He ate at Lena’s around his birthday – but she didn’t paddle him.  When the regulars heard about this break with tradition, they let Lena know.  And when Ike came back in 1965, Lena presented him a surprise birthday cake – and then proceeded to give him a swat on his keister.

            Apparently the President was very good natured about all this and autographed the paddle.  Would the Secret Service let someone get away with that today?

            Anyway, Lena’s was quite a landmark through the decades.  In 1974, she closed the restaurant and retired, living there for another 20 years.

            In 1994, a couple named Ed and June Kuntz were out for a drive near Abilene when they drove by Lena’s house and spotted a “for sale” sign there.  Ed and June already owned restaurants in Abilene, and they saw the opportunity to expand.  They bought Lena’s place, shortly before she passed away.  They remodelled, expanded and opened the place as Mr. K’s Farmhouse Restaurant in 1995.

            Now their son Todd and his wife Tammy own and operate Mr. K’s Farmhouse Restaurant.  They have skilfully maintained Lena’s traditions, such as authentic pan fried chicken, great salad dressings, delicious steaks, homemade pies, and – oh yeah – birthday paddlings.  In fact, one room of the restaurant is known as the Eisenhower Room.  It includes photos and paintings of the Eisenhowers plus chairs where Ike and Mamie sat and a paddle which Mamie autographed.

            The building is a genuine farmhouse.  It has a down-home feel.   For example, the restaurant sells cookbooks from churches in nearby rural communities such as Enterprise, population 825 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Thanks to the Kuntz family, Mr. K’s Farmhouse Restaurant has recaptured the wonderful history and atmosphere of this historic eating place.  For more information, go to www.mrksfarmhouse.com.

 

            “Paddled a President.”  Imagine that on your resume.  Today we’ve learned about a remarkable Kansas woman who did paddle a President.  More importantly, she built an excellent restaurant and supported her community.  We commend Todd and Tammy Kuntz for making a difference by maintaining Lena’s tradition of good food and great service in a rural setting.  Without entrepreneurs like these, rural Kansas would be up a creek without a paddle.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Warren Weibert – Decatur County Feed Yard

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

What happens when cattle meet computers?  That sounds like one of my kid’s riddles.  Actually, it’s a way of describing a scientific process for evaluating and managing fed cattle, used by an innovative beef feedyard in rural northwest Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Warren Weibert is owner and general manager of Decatur County Feed Yard near Oberlin, Kansas.  He is the innovator who is utilizing this high-tech management system.

Oberlin is a town of 1,955 people.  That’s rural – but there’s more.  Warren actually grew up near Durham, Kansas, population 114 people.  Now, that’s rural.

After growing up at Durham, Warren went to K-State and then into a business management career.  He married Carol who is originally from Oberlin.

In 1971, some 45 local investors around Oberlin went together to create a 15,000 head cattle feedlot known as Decatur County Feed Yard.  In 1977, Carol Weibert’s father, Milton Nitsch, bought the feedyard and invited Warren and Carol to come back to Oberlin to manage it, which they did.  Warren and Carol continue to own the feed yard, and now make their home in Manhattan.

The feedyard expanded through the years to a capacity of 40,000 head.  During the 1980s, Warren set out to work more closely with the ranchers who supplied cattle to be finished at the feedyard.  He and the ranchers were seeking more data to assess the herd and add value to the cattle.

A key breakthrough came in 1994.  New technology came on the scene which made it possible to gather indepth, individualized information on each steer.  First came electronic eartags to identify each animal, followed by a software system which could track and project the growth of each one.

This allowed the feedyard managers to evaluate, sort, manage and market each animal according to individual genetics.  In other words, rather than a pen of steers being lumped together in some sort of average, each animal receives the type of management customized individually for him.  It’s a great concept, but it wouldn’t have been possible on this scale without the computer.

How does this work?  When 600 pound steers are brought to the feedlot, they go through a processing barn where the high-tech system is located.  This barn is sometimes referred to internally as the “gee whiz” barn.

The cattle are moved through a series of stations for individual evaluation.  First is a sequencing station.  The second is video imaging to determine frame score and body type.  The third station is an electronic scale, followed by an ultrasound station where the back fat and ribeye size are measured.  The fourth station is for typical processing.

It sounds like an entry into a high-tech hospital, but it is actually a way of gathering individualized data on each animal.  When the data is put together on size, shape, weight, and genetic potential, the manager can project the point at which each animal will most profitably be ready to go to market.  The animals are re-measured again at market time and then grouped according to their stage of finish and later sent to the packer.

Even though these cattle might come from different owners, they can be grouped with those of like characteristics and market date because they are individually, electronically identified.  Then after the cattle are marketed, the data on each animal are reported back to the individual rancher from which they came.  The final close-out report includes 25 columns with information on each animal.

Warren Weibert said, “We’re providing more information back to the rancher than virtually anybody else in the industry.”  These data tools help these beef producers reach the goals of providing beef with lower costs, improved quality, greater convenience, and improved consistency while maintaining the highest standards of food safety.

For more information, go to www.decaturfeedyard.com.

       So when cattle meet computers, innovative, individualized management can follow.  We commend Warren and Carol Weibert and all those involved with Decatur County Feed Yard for making a difference with their forward-looking approach to beef cattle management.  And what else happens when cattle meet computers?  Well, in the feedyard, those hungry steers take a lot of giga-bites…

            For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wes Bainter – Bainter Sunflower Oil

 

            This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

            It’s the State Fair -- time to walk the midway and get a delicious corn dog, fresh out of the fryer.  But this particular corn dog is special, because it was cooked in a healthy, all-natural cooking oil that was produced and processed right here in Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Wes Bainter of Hoxie, Kansas.  Last week we learned about his construction company, Bainter Construction.  Wes is an innovator and inventor.  One of his innovations has led to a new sunflower oil enterprise.  But this enterprise was first targeted at the field, rather than the frying pan.

            In early 2007, fuel prices spiked up to record levels.  The high price of diesel was especially challenging for farmers who use it in crop production.  Wes said, “We decided that with the high fuel prices, we needed to design, manufacture, and market a fuel system where farmers could make their own fuel.”

            He figured farmers could use a portion of their fields to produce oilseed crops which would yield vegetable oil that could replace commercially-produced diesel as a fuel.  The resulting biofuel would be a locally grown, renewable source of energy for those farmers.  Wes Bainter designed an extraction and filtration system that farmers could use to process their vegetable oils.

            His processing system was a hot seller when fuel prices were high, but when the economy turned down and oil prices fell, Wes looked for other ways to utilize his innovative system.  He realized the sunflower oil had more value as a food than as a fuel.

            So Wes researched the possibility of developing and selling an all-natural sunflower oil for human consumption.  He said, “That’s a big step.  Fuel is fairly simple, but to take it to a cooking oil level requires much higher standards.”

            So Wes refined and improved his filtering system.  The K-State Food Science Institute tested his product and verified its quality, shelf life, flashpoint, and other factors.  Wes is now producing and marketing this product through his newest business, Bainter Sunflower Oil LLC.

            Sunflower cooking oil has numerous advantages.  Wes said, “It leaves food crispier, lasts longer, has a higher flash-point, is good-tasting, and is a heart-healthy product.”  In fact, olive oil is the only vegetable oil which is better from a health standpoint.  Sunflower oil is high in Vitamin E and low in trans-fats.

            Bainter Sunflower Oil is a 100 percent pure, all-natural product made with Kansas grown sunflowers.  It has no additives or preservatives.  Wes contracts with area sunflower growers for something called mid-oleic seeds.  The seeds are processed in a crushing facility west of town.  The bottling is done at the company’s headquarters in the rural community of Hoxie, population 1,207 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            The sunflower oil is marketed directly to consumers through the company’s website, www.baintersunfloweroil.com, and to grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the region.  It is now going to 40 stores in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado.  Wes figures the company’s business in 2009 was about 20 times that of 2008.  Bainter Sunflower Oil was introduced at the Kansas State Fair in 2009 and looks to be a major cooking oil at the fair in 2010.

            Wes Bainter has nine patents, but for him the sunflower oil and his other businesses are important because of what they mean to the community.  Wes said, “Hoxie has a great school system and great roads, but we need to be proactive to build our communities so people will come.”  He said, “We’ve created a grass-roots business with local growers to help the local economy.”

            His attitude toward challenges is summarized in his frequent saying, ‘If it’s easy, we’re not interested.”  Of his many inventions and global business, Wes said, “It’s all a blessing.  I’m not very smart, but God is.”

 

            It’s time to leave the State Fair, where we’ve enjoyed an all-natural Kansas product which comes from Hoxie, Kansas.  We salute Wes Bainter and all those involved with Bainter Sunflower Oil and his other enterprises.  They are making a difference by creating private sector economic growth in northwest Kansas.  In the long run, that’s even better than a corn dog.

For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.