Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
2003 Kansas Profiles

Trappers - Tony and Becky Prochaska

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

Do you ever fall into the trap of going to the same old places to eat? Many of us do. Today, we’ll learn about a delicious new place to eat in a rural location. It’s no trap, but is called Trappers. We’ll get the story on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Tony and Becky Prochaska, owners of Trappers Bar and Grill.

Tony Prochaska’s grandparents live here in north central Kansas. Tony worked for a farmer in the area, but he wanted to try something new.

In 1994, he opened a restaurant called Trappers Bar and Grill. Tony’s bride Becky says, "Tony likes to hunt and trap and fish." It shows in the restaurant’s name and decor.

What has made Trappers a success? According to a report in the Salina Journal, Tony says the three key factors are accessibility, atmosphere, and large helpings of food at good prices.

By accessibility, he means that Trappers is located near and between several larger towns such as Beloit, Concordia, and Salina.

In terms of atmosphere, you just have to see Trappers to fully appreciate it. I would describe the decor as "early plywood..." The walls are unfinished, and adorned with a collection of mounted deer and other animals, along with old license tags and other rustic treasures. Old Kansas truck tags dating back to 1921 decorate the walls. There’s a whole variety of hides and mounted animals – even a double-barreled shotgun on the deer rack above the door.

In other words, this is a fun and relaxing place to visit.

Becky says, "The atmosphere here is real relaxed." People do come as they are, which is great for the farmers who live and work in the area. Becky says, "Some days you’ll come at noon and there are a bunch of rubber boots laid outside." And at night, people can come, even late, without having to dress up.

The good service is another part of the atmosphere. Becky says she hires hard-working local girls and also wants good personality. She says, "One girl stopped in for an application to work here, and I told her we don’t have any. Just come on back and we’ll talk. That way I can tell if they have the personality that our customers will like."

But even with a neat atmosphere, the third and final - and most important - factor is the food. As stated, Tony’s goal is large helpings of food at good prices.

The menu is a piece of newsprint with wildlife sketches, historic photos, and most of all, an offering of a variety of steaks, sandwiches, seafood dinners, appetizers, and more. The steaks are said to be charbroiled to perfection. An all you can eat prime rib buffet is offered on Friday and Saturday night, and this has proven to be a big draw.

So how has Trappers grown? It started in a small building which had been a post office and was turned into a restaurant. The area which is now the kitchen had been a beauty shop.

As Tony’s business grew, he added on another room to the back of Trappers and then another. Currently he is working on yet another expansion which will add 50 seats. A large grill sits outside the kitchen to charbroil steaks, and that aroma is bound to be good for business.

So where is Trappers? It is in the town of Simpson, just off Highway 24 east of Beloit in Mitchell County. One of Simpson’s distinctions is that it is the home of the Tri Century Bank, established in 1894. It may be the smallest town in Kansas to have its own bank, and now it has Trappers too.

Simpson is a town of 105 residents. Now, that’s rural. Yet this town of just over 100 people will have 5 to 600 people dining at Trappers during a weekend, and visiting from around the country. Becky Prochaska says, "There have been people here from California to Florida." Wow.

Do you ever fall into the trap of going to the same old places to eat? Yes, it’s a trap that many of us fall into. Today we’ve heard about a relatively new place in small town Kansas that is building its success. We commend Tony and Becky Prochaska and all those involved with Trappers for making a difference by helping a small town restaurant to succeed. Trappers can help you out of the same old trap, and it’s worth the trip.

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

 

 

Father Emil Kapaun

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

Service above self. Today we’ll meet someone who truly put that phrase into action. This is the true story of a young man from rural Kansas who gave his life for God and his fellow man. It’s a special historical edition of Kansas Profile.

Our story begins in Pilsen, Kansas, an unincorporated town in Marion County. Its residents number about 50 people. Now, that’s rural. Yet even this small town has a big, beautiful Catholic church. It is Saint John Nepomucene Church, a wonderful Gothic structure whose cornerstone was laid back in 1914.

But this church has something relatively new on its grounds. I’ll tell you what in a minute.

Here at this church, a young man named Emil Kapaun got his first education. Born in 1916, he grew up on a farm near Pilsen and chose to enter the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained in 1940 and came back home to the Wichita diocese.

Millie Vinduska, now retired in Pilsen, remembers young Father Kapaun as "a walking saint."

During World War II, Father Kapaun volunteered to become an Army chaplain. Later on, his military service would take him to Korea during the Korean War, where he ministered to the men on the front lines of combat.

He had several narrow escapes. On one occasion, he was crawling to reach a wounded soldier when North Korean bullets came close enough to shatter his pipe. Another time, Father Kapaun witnessed the death of an ambulance driver who was transporting wounded off the battlefield. Father Kapaun seized the wheel and drove the vehicle to safety through mortar and machine gun fire. One man wrote, "He became a legend to the men."

In a letter dated October 12, 1950, Father Kapaun wrote about casualties he had observed and said, "We wonder when our turn is next."

Twenty-one days later, his turn came. On November 2, 1950, his unit came under a surprise attack by the Communist Chinese. Casualties and numbers of prisoners were terribly high. Father Kapaun had the opportunity to escape, but chose to stay with his men, was captured, and marched to a communist prison camp.

Here Father Emil Kapaun found his highest hour. He called his fellow prisoners his wounded flock. His service and ministry to them was phenomenal. He celebrated Mass, protected the wounded, procured food, maintained morale, and set the highest standards of self-less behavior.

He violated prison rules by going from one unheated hut to the next to pray with the POWs at night. While the prisoners would be arguing over who had the clean the latrine, Father Kapaun would slip out and clean it. He gave away his food and clothing, comforted the sick, picked lice off dying men. His courage and stand for his principles infuriated the communists. He defied their rules against religious services, and it ultimately cost him his life.

He survived several illnesses, but in the spring of 1951 pneumonia set in. On Easter morning of 1951, he read the Easter service and collapsed. The communists refused to provide medicine, and on May 23, 1951, Father Kapaun died.

A protestant chaplain wrote, "I’ve never known a braver man or a more devoted Christian leader." Another man wrote, "He could turn a stinking mud hut into a cathedral."

Fifty years later, those prisoners who knew him are moved to tears when asked about Father Kapaun. Kapaun Mount Carmel school in Wichita bears his name. In 1993, the Vatican named Father Kapaun a Servant of God, which is the first step to sainthood – and there has never been a Kansan who has risen to sainthood. In my view, Father Kapaun has earned this distinction.

So what is it that is new at the church at Pilsen? Near the church, there is a new statue that was dedicated in June 2000. It depicts Father Kapaun helping a wounded soldier. He is a great Kansan, a phenomenal example for us all of faith and sacrifice.

Service above self. It was a way of life for Father Emil Kapaun, who truly made a difference by placing service above self.

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

 

 

Perry Crabb - Stinger Lifts - Axe Equipmt

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 National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Look at the sporty cars we see all around us. As we enter the rotunda of the museum, a beautiful classic Corvette is on display. It is on a lift, up off the ground for easy viewing. Now where do you suppose that lift came from? You’re right if you guessed rural Kansas. Stay tuned for an uplifting story on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Perry Crabb. Perry is Manager of AXE Equipment Company, which includes Stinger Lifts, the auto lift used at the National Corvette Museum. Perry explains that the AXE Equipment Company is a family-owned corporation. It is owned by Danny and Donna Axe - spelled a-x-e.

Danny Axe likes race cars. In the late 1970s, he started building race cars. He formed his own company called AXE Equipment, with a specialty in the automotive industry. In 1984, he got into producing equipment related to engine rebuilding. I suspect that the expertise for engine rebuilding came about from what happens when race cars crash...

Anyway, Danny Axe continued to build the business. Perry Crabb joined the company in 1989.

Today, AXE Equipment offers a variety of products for the automotive rebuilding industry. The company has also been an innovator that has set industry standards. Its first product was a manual stroke cylinder honing machine.

The next major product was a unique design for spraywashers used to keep shop floors clean. AXE Equipment manufactures the most unique series of spraywashers in the industry, designed with a built in hot tank using a lay down door. This helped shops maintain a much drier and organized cleaning area. AXE Equipment continues to be the only manufacturer with a complete line of spraywashers using these unique features.

Of course, shops have become increasingly sensitive to environmental issues. AXE Equipment again set another industry standard by introducing the first complete closed looped spraywasher cleaning system in 1989. This system gives engine rebuilders the benefits of wet cleaning with zero discharge, a significant environmental benefit.

Axe also offers cylinder head pressure testers, engine stands, glass bead cabinets, filtration systems, oil skimmers, agitating hot tanks, cylinder honing cabinets, and custom sheet metal products upon request. Perry Crabb says, "We are all about automotive products."

Clearly, this company has found its niche. Today, it has about 25 employees and around $2.3 million in sales coast to coast. Perry says, "There is no state we don’t sell product into. We also sell into Puerto Rico and Canada." Wow. Yet this company remains based in the community where it began, the town of Council Grove, Kansas, population 2,265 people. Now, that’s rural.

And what about those auto lifts? Perry explains that AXE Equipment bought the Stinger Lifts company in 1998. Several of their models are in use at the National Corvette Museum, as I said at the beginning, but the primary market for these lifts is residential.

In other words, homeowners buy these lifts so that they can store an extra car in their garage. Perry Crabb says, "You can park your hot rod on top and your regular car underneath." How many homes do you know where there is an extra car parked outside the garage? Well, I resemble that remark. The lifts make a great way to store a car indoors and use that garage space more efficiently.

Apparently, others see it that way too, because the Stinger Lifts are selling all over the country. More information on these products can be found on-line at www.axeequipment.com or www.stingerlifts.com. How exciting to see this company succeeding in rural Kansas.

It’s time to say goodbye to the National Corvette Museum. Oh, those cars look sporty. And just as we see on display here, you could have one on a lift in your own garage. We commend Danny and Donna Axe, Perry Crabb, and all the people of AXE Equipment and Stinger Lifts for making a difference through their innovation in the automotive rebuilding industry. It helps give rural Kansas a lift.

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

 

 

Randy Moll

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 halfway around the world to the nation of India. Here is a young woman dealing with the typical issues of teenagers. As she seeks answers of a spiritual nature, she finds a website on the Internet which offers a Biblical perspective. So she emails a list of questions to the website’s producer, who researches her questions and emails back his responses. And would you believe? – the producer of this website is a Lutheran minister out in rural Kansas. It’s a remarkable story of faith and of what is possible through modern technology – and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Randy Moll. Randy is the Evangelical Lutheran minister who produces this website and much more.

Randy’s father was a Lutheran schoolteacher and later a minister himself, so their family moved around serving various churches in Missouri and California. Randy went to seminary in St. Louis and served churches in Iowa, Nebraska, and then Stockton, Kansas.

Of course, it is a challenge for small churches to support full-time staff. Randy works at a full-time job during the week and leads worship on Sunday. He currently works as a truckdriver for Groendyke.

Another of his enterprises is photography, which he does professionally for weddings, for example. He specializes in scenic and landscape photography and even taught photography for Colby Community College. He also writes humorous columns and commentary for the local newspapers, under the pen name Griz Bear.

Randy’s wife is Yolonda – known as Lonnie – and is a nurse at the Phillips County Retirement Center. Her family comes from the northwest Kansas town of Stuttgart, so Randy and Lonnie moved there in fall 2000. He now pastors St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, which meets in their Stuttgart home.

Stuttgart, by the way, is spelled like the city in Germany, but the locals in Kansas call it Stu-gert.

Anyway, the church needed a website so Randy did some research on it. Private companies would charge a lot of money to develop a website, but Randy learned how to create one himself. Now that has become another enterprise for him, as he has created websites for several businesses and communities. He offers photography and web site design and hosting.

Randy says, "My wife and I talked about getting our own domain name on the Internet where several sites could be hosted, and several of the ones we were interested in were taken." Then Lonnie suggested God’s Prairie.com. Sure enough, www.godsprairie.com is now online. It showcases Randy’s beautiful photography as well as providing links to the church site and other sites. Then came the next step.

Randy says, "My wife and I were eating out one night and talking about how to more effectively reach teenagers for Christ." They decided to try to use technology – specifically, their website.

So Randy wrote some questions and answers about topics teens are facing and posted them on the web. They are listed as Teen Issues on the God’s Prairie.com website, which also has links to their church which has numerous other links to pages for prayer requests, biblical references, and devotions.

This website has struck a chord. It deals with very real and difficult questions which many teens face, about relationships and other issues, in a Biblical way. The website has generated responses from all over the country and around the world. Randy has had email requests come in from as far away as the UK and Australia, and of course, the example from India which I shared at the beginning.

And so, today, this resource is reaching people around the world through technology – yet it is based in the Phillips County town of Stuttgart, Kansas, population 45 people. Now, that’s rural.

How amazing that this technology can connect rural and urban people around the globe. That website, again, is www.godsprairie.com.

It’s time to say goodbye to this young girl from India who sought help through the Internet from a resource in rural Kansas. We commend Randy and Lonnie Moll for making a difference with their innovation, faith, and entrepreneurship in small town Kansas. The Internet truly uses a world wide web.

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

 

 

 

Doug Asper - Kansas Korn

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

Here is a story that will catch your ear. No, not the ears on your head, I’m talking about ears of corn. Today, we’ll meet a rural entrepreneur who is cooking and selling delicious ears of corn. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Doug Asper, owner of an enterprise called Kansas Korn – that’s corn spelled with a K as in Kansas.

Doug Asper was born and raised at Anthony, Kansas, which is in a very rural area. Anthony is a town of 2,285 people. Now, that’s rural.

Doug says,"My wife Melissa and I have worked for other people around here, and we wanted to do something for ourselves."

They came up with some specialty foods which they could cook and sell – namely, sweet corn and turkey drumsticks. They had a special corn roaster built, and in June 2002, began selling the corn and turkey legs at various festivals and events around Kansas. I had some at the state fair. Now they are getting a concession trailer which will, of course, be painted corn-yellow.

Doug says, "We want to serve the best product in Kansas at the lowest price. Everything’s so overpriced these days. We do it to help the families."

They also try to support the local economy. For example, the turkey legs come from Wichita and their first choice as a source of sweet corn is a farm near Buhler. Doug says, "They’ve probably got the number one corn in the country." But when corn is out of season here, they may get corn from as far away as California, Pennsylvania, or Florida in their efforts to find the very best.

These are not skimpy portions. They sell 12 inch ears of corn, and the turkey legs weigh approximately two pounds each. Wow.

Then, of course, the products are specially prepared. Doug says, "We’ve got a specialty way of cooking these. Our corn is so sweet and tender it is good for all ages. We like to say you can eat it with no teeth or false teeth."

Doug and his family have gone to 40 different events around Kansas and Oklahoma. This includes county fairs, shows, and auto races. Wichita 81 Speedway has been a good site for them.

Doug says, "We would be home on Monday and Tuesday and leave on Wednesday. Then you start cooking at 10 in the morning and don’t stop until midnight. But if you’re gonna make something work, you’ve gotta hustle." He estimates that, in just a half-year, they have sold some 9,000 ears of sweet corn.

This is a family affair for Doug and Melissa. Their kids accompany them to the shows and help out. The kids do their share of the work, but there are also certain perks with the job, such as getting to eat their fill and going to stage shows and festivals all over the region.

Doug also tries to provide jobs for other kids in the community. They hire at least one highschooler for the summer season.

There have been times when a little kid will come by and look longingly at the ears of corn, but without cash in hand to by. Often those kids will get a freebee. Doug says, "You can’t turn a little kid away. We can give them some of the smaller ears we wouldn’t want to charge full price for anyway."

After all, it’s the people which make this worthwhile to Doug and Melissa. Doug says, "It was fun to travel around, and the people are so nice. This is one job where I can stand around and visit and not get in trouble for it."

This is a story that will catch your ear – not just those on your head, but the ears of corn which are prepared and marketed by the company called Kansas Korn. We salute Doug and Melissa Asper and their family, for adding value to Kansas products and taking them to the consumer, and making a difference with hard work and entrepreneurship – even if that sounds, well, corny.

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

 

 

 

Bob Awerkamp - Onyx Collection

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

Today we’re going to think about sinks. Yes, I said sinks – those vital fixtures also known as lavatories where we wash our hands. But today, the sink is not just a necessity, it can be a fashionable centerpiece of a modern bathroom. Now we’re going to meet a company which produces such top quality sinks and showers. They have sold these sinks from coast to coast – without any advertising. It is truly remarkable, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Bob Awerkamp, owner and manager of The Onyx Collection. Here is the company’s story.

Bob Awerkamp came from Quincy, Illinois, where he gained skills by growing up in the family machine shop. In 1981, he moved out to St. Marys, Kansas to put his kids in the Catholic school there. In 1985, he saw a market opportunity: producing sinks and lavatories. He says, "I hired a couple guys and bought a couple molds." They started by making lavatories to go with bathroom cabinets made by a local cabinet shop.

Today, the company called the Onyx Collection employs nearly 100 people and produces custom-made, high quality, elegant lavatories, showers, and related accessories that are sold through distributors and home stores. These products are made of molded, cultured onyx, created with polyester resins blended with pigments.

Just last year, the company grew 23 percent in gross sales – and yet the company has no salesmen. Bob says, "People hear about us through word of mouth. And we have companies calling us who want to sell our product."

Boy, that’s a nice position to be in. But the point is that this company has earned this position. What are the reasons for such success? One is an emphasis on quality and service. Another is a commitment to continuous improvement. Bob says, "We’re constantly working to improve the chemical mix and the features of our product."

Another key is Bob’s emphasis on his people. Bob says, "We have virtually zero turnover of people. In a given year, if I lose two of them out of a hundred it’s a surprise." Why such low turnover rate? Bob says, "I treat the people as I would like to be treated. And I hire correctly."

Bob says, "The best investment you can make is in the man and building up his knowledge. I invest in them rather than in fancy buildings." The result is a stable, productive, and continually improving workforce.

But how does a person successfully upgrade the product? Bob Awerkamp says, "Mainly it’s just listening to the customers."

The company’s website is www.onyxcollection.com. It includes photos of sample products, inlay pictures which can be added as accents, printable design sketches, scale drawings of various options, a color selector, printable care instructions, and more. You can order these fixtures in colors ranging from snowswirl to black onyx, and some 70 colors in between. You want Antique ivory, Coral Reef, French Burgundy, Burnt Amber, Adobe, or Heron Blue? You got it.

A final key is in using technology. Bob is striving to make the company more paperless, using the capabilities of the computer to track supplies and do cost accounting. And on their website, a person can actually select different color samples on-line and digitally put them side by side onscreen to see how they look. It’s a remarkable use of technology.

All this has had great results. Their products have been sold all over the country and as far away as France, Israel, Norway, Japan, and Russia. Wow.

Yet the company’s headquarters is in a remodeled school gym in Belvue, Kansas, population 222 people. Now, that’s rural.

How exciting to see this enterprise succeed in rural Kansas.

Think about sinks. That’s not something you and I do every day, but at the Onyx Collection, such thinking has produced an outstanding business. We salute Bob Awerkamp and all the people of the Onyx Collection, for making a difference with entrepreneurship and commitment to workers, customers, and quality. That’s something into which rural Kansas can sink a lot of hope.

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

 

 

Hazel Estes - Kanorado PRIDE

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 Cinco de Mayo celebration. You know Cinco de Mayo is the colorful festival that is held each spring to celebrate Hispanic culture and heritage. At today’s festival, there is wonderful ethnic food, music, and dancing. Now where in Kansas do you suppose this festival is taking place? Perhaps Kansas City or Wichita, where many Hispanics live? Yes, they have it there, but this particular celebration of Cinco de Mayo is being held in a very rural place – namely, in Kanorado, Kansas. Cinco de Mayo is just one of the many community service projects sponsored by the PRIDE program in Kanorado, in far western Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Hazel Estes, Mayor of Kanorado and chair of the PRIDE program. Hazel grew up here, went to college at Hays, taught school and then worked in real estate near Denver, before her father died and she moved back here.

In case you don’t know where Kanorado is, the name will give you a clue. The Kan- comes from Kansas and the -orado comes from Colorado. In fact, the town is just a mile from the Colorado border. That is truly far western Kansas.

In 1991, Kanorado joined the PRIDE program. PRIDE is a community betterment program jointly sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing.

Folks in Kanorado wanted to improve their community, and PRIDE provided a vehicle to do so. Volunteers met, identified community needs, and then developed a plan for activities which they could implement as the PRIDE committee.

These include several community enrichment projects, such as cleaning up the parks, painting signs, and holding events such as a recycling project, city-wide garage sale, Christmas festival, Thanksgiving dinner, business appreciation, and more. PRIDE involves kids in these projects, and this year PRIDE will hold a dinner for local parents and students who make the honor roll each quarter.

In 2002, a woman volunteered to chair a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Merchants donated door prizes and a street dance was held, complete with pinatas and an ethnic pot luck dinner. Some 100 people participated.

Now, I expect to find a Cinco de Mayo festival in the larger cities that have more resources and larger Hispanic populations, but this one was held in Kanorado – population 250 people. Now, that’s rural.

There is a significant Hispanic population in the area, dating back to the migrant workers who came to work in the sugar beet fields in the 1960s. Some families stayed, and now they work in various positions. But this is an excellent example of a rural community reaching out to diversity.

It’s just one example of community service in Kanorado. The PRIDE committee also sponsors the Twice-Loved Toy Shop. To operate this shop, PRIDE members collect used toys, clean them up, and sell them in the shop for 15 or 25 cents each. Then kids can come in and Christmas shop for brothers or sisters or parents, and it’s a real community service. PRIDE even puts on an annual Teddy Bear Picnic, where the food is free but the price of admission is one stuffed toy.

Here’s another example. In November 1991, a series of snowstorms hit Kanorado. People were getting snowed in, and it was clear that many would not be able to travel to meet their families for Thanksgiving dinner. PRIDE committee members had an idea: Why not put on a community Thanksgiving dinner of their own? They cooked a turkey, had nice decorations, and it was a big hit – so big that they have done it every year since. Now people are even traveling in from neighboring counties to participate in this annual dinner.

Hazel Estes says, "We prepare plates and take them to the shut-ins in town also, so nobody has to eat Thanksgiving dinner by themselves." She says, "That’s what’s neat about small towns – you can take care of everybody."

It’s time to leave the Cinco de Mayo festival in Kanorado. We commend Hazel Estes and all those of the PRIDE program for making a difference through celebrating diversity and service to their community. Adios!

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

 

 

 

Ron Willis - Green Porch Swing

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

Let’s get into the swing of things. We’ll visit a company called Green Porch Swing Productions. No, they don’t build swings to hang on your front porch. What they build is people. Today we’ll meet a wonderful man from rural Kansas who is traveling the country helping people to be at their best. He is highly educated and well qualified – but his best education came while sitting on an old green porch swing. So set and swing with us a minute for today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Ron Willis of Green Porch Swing Productions. Ron grew up at Concordia, has an education specialist degree from Fort Hays State and graduate work from K-State and the University of Denver. He was a school psychologist and then clinical director at the Juvenile Correctional Facility in Beloit.

Ron says, "My grandfather was a retired railroad engineer in Downs. I’d sit on his green porch swing each summer, and he would pour himself out to me, teaching me with stories."

In 1984, on his own time, Ron started doing continuing education sessions for nurses. He would weave stories and illustrations into his seminars, as his grandfather had done. His message struck such a responsive chord that he started doing more and more.

He called this enterprise Green Porch Swing productions, in honor of his grandfather’s teachings.

Then came 1999. Ron went in to the hospital for surgery, a repair of a hiatal hernia. It is the type of surgery that usually has a person in a hospital for two days. But complications developed, including pulmonary emboli and hemorrhaging. Very scary. At one point, his family gathered around him in prayer. The next day, the surgeon came in to check his numbers and said, "I don’t know how to explain this." But the recovery was real. After 14 days in the hospital, Ron went home.

Ron knew that his business of presenting seminars had been growing, but he told his wife Karen he needed a sign to tell him there was enough demand for his business to go full-time. When he came home from the hospital, there were 25 calls requesting his services from five states. Ron said, "Well, I guess I received the sign." So he took early retirement from his job in Beloit and concentrated full-time on Green Porch Swing Productions.

Ron’s goal is to help men and women be lifted up to a higher ground of partnership and service to others by the application of life principles in daily behavior. He uses stories to teach the daily application of vital life principles, such as integrity, compassion, honesty, affirmation and genuineness. He presents keynote addresses, seminars and training workshops to corporations, businesses, educational associations, health care providers, social service agencies and child care organizations across America.

His passion is to share concepts on how people should treat each other. His seminars deal with such topics as personal growth, enhancing workplace relationships, and enriching family marriages. He speaks with such a soothing and humorous manner that he has been called the Mr. Rogers of mental health. His seminars include titles like In Case We Have to Eat Our Words, Make Them Tender and Sweet, and, I’ve Fought less Fires since Recognizing I Was the Arsonist.

This isn’t just a feel-good message, it is good for business too. One Kansas City CEO said Ron’s message helped reduce turnover, increase productivity, enhance employee relationships and improve corporate morale.

Ron’s company offers 12 audiotapes and 4 videotapes which can be ordered on-line through www.greenporchswing.com. He has given presentations from Massachusetts to California and even up to Alaska, in 32 of the 50 states. Wow. Yet he remains based in Jewell, Kansas, population 483 people. Now, that’s rural.

Ron Willis says, "We become better professionals, parents and spouses in only one predictable way: we must become better people."

Today we got into the swing of things, by learning about the wonderful messages presented through Green Porch Swing Productions. We salute Ron Willis for making a difference with his message of helping people to be their best. It also helps rural Kansas to come out swinging.

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

 

 

 

Chuck Comeau - Dessin Fournir

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

Today let’s visit Elton John’s penthouse. As you might guess, it is stylishly and lavishly furnished. These furnishings are beautiful. Where do you suppose they came from? Stay tuned for the remarkable answer on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Chuck Comeau, owner of Dessin Fournir. This remarkable Kansas firm is the supplier of furnishings for this penthouse apartment of Elton John and many others. Here is the story.

Chuck Comeau comes from rural northwest Kansas, where his family has a ranch. He went to Fort Hays State University and became a petroleum geologist and then a banker. Meanwhile, his wife Shirley was in the retail business. Shirley collected antique furniture and fabrics, which Chuck also enjoyed. Chuck says, "I loved design, textiles, and beautiful furniture."

So in 1993, he decided to start a business which would specialize in those things. It is named Dessin Fournir, which loosely translates from the French to mean design and furnish. Just listen to what this company has done in just a decade.

Chuck Comeau says, "In our wholesale division, we design, manufacture, market and distribute furniture, textiles, and lighting for designers and architects across the U.S. and Europe." The company has 15 showrooms from New York to San Francisco.

The retail side combines the concepts of Shirley Comeau’s 20 year old gift store, the Pineapple Post, with her husband’s fabric and furniture companies. The result is called C S Post and Company, a general store in Hays, Kansas.

Chuck says, "We wanted a lifestyle concept store, with products that would enhance people’s lives." The store features a variety of high quality, upscale products. It also has a full on-line catalog. Its website at CSPostGeneralStore.com has been called by Instyle magazine one of the best websites in the country.

Do you suppose this website was built by a zillion-dollar-a-year New York web designer? No, by the inhouse staff of CS Post.

Dessin Fournir also has a website at www.dessinfournir.com. That’s www.d-e-s-s-i-n-f-o-u-r-n-i-r.com.

The company’s top quality products are targeted at the high end residential market, and in doing so, it has found its niche. These beautiful furnishings are sold coast to coast and overseas. They are marketed wholesale to designers and architects for such people as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Mel Gibson, Paul Hogan, and Arnold Schwartzenegger. If Arnold’s a repeat customer, do you suppose he says, "I’ll be bock"...?

Elegant hotels from Budapest to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas use Dessin Fournir products. Wow. Yet the design and customer service for all these products are handled at the company headquarters in Chuck Comeau’s hometown of Plainville, Kansas, population 2,069 people. Now, that’s rural.

How exciting that a company in Plainville can serve such customers. Chuck explains that the fabrics are milled in nine European countries and the furniture is produced in California, but some of the manufacturing is in Kansas and all the design work is done in Plainville. The company now employs 107 people.

Chuck says, "We run a manufacturing facility in LA from Plainville." They utilize phone, fax, email and the website to communicate virtually instantly over the distance.

To be a devil’s advocate, I asked, Why not go ahead and move to LA? This business could easily be on the east or west coast. Why stay in Plainville? Chuck says, "This is a wonderful place to raise a family. We have a lower cost of doing business here. And you cannot get a workforce as hardworking, loyal, and intelligent as we have right here."

He says, "The one downside is that we have to travel a lot. But being in the middle of the country, we’re two hours from anywhere." He says, "Plainville is a wonderful community. We had an employee move here from LA, and he said, People here don’t realize how good they have it."

It’s time to leave Elton John’s apartment. Yes, his furnishings are beautiful, supplied by Dessin Fournir of Plainville, Kansas. We salute Chuck and Shirley Comeau and all the people of Dessin Fournir and CS Post for making a difference with entrepreneurship, innovation, and high quality. For rural Kansas, it furnishes a great example.

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

 

 

 

Josh Eilert - K-State basketball

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 Virgin Islands. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here are the beautiful waters and the sunny beaches. This is also the site of a pre-season basketball tournament, and here comes the K-State men’s basketball team. But what we see isn’t just a basketball team, it includes someone who is living a dream. Stay tuned for a special March Madness edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Josh Eilert, a junior on the K-State men’s basketball team who has rural Kansas roots. Josh comes from Osborne, a town of 1,686 people. Now, that’s rural.

Josh Eilert’s hero growing up was another small town basketball player: Steve Henson, who came from McPherson, Kansas and went on to K-State. Henson had a great career, leading K-State to the NCAA tournament for four consecutive years. Henson’s jersey number was 12, as had been worn by Lon Kruger and Mike Evans before him. Josh imagined himself playing ball for K-State in that Number 12 uniform too.

Josh Eilert enjoyed playing ball. He says, "That was small town life. You had to grab a ball and entertain yourself." So he and his older brothers played football, baseball, and basketball. As Josh grew taller, basketball became his sport of choice.

By the time he was a senior, Josh had grown to be 6 feet seven inches tall. He had a great senior season, averaging 21 points and 10.1 rebounds a game. Some colleges contacted him, but he didn’t get scholarship offers from the big schools so he went on to play basketball for Cloud County Community College, where he started his sophomore year and became an Academic All-American.

Upon graduation, Josh still hadn’t received the interest from the big schools that he had hoped for, so he decided to concentrate on academics. He came to K-State, as his mom and dad and brother had done, and majored in marketing.

A friend of Josh’s was a manager for the K-State women’s team. He told Josh that the women needed players to play against in practice, so Josh agreed to help out. He says, "They needed a matchup with Nicole Ohlde."

Josh worked as a women’s practice player a couple of times. Then one day, as he walked off the court, men’s coach Jim Wooldridge approached him and asked if he would consider joining the men’s team as a walk-on. Josh says with a smile, "Two days later I was practicing, and one week later we were on our way to the Virgin Islands." As a walk-on, he practices and travels with the men’s team but receives no scholarship. However, Josh has been assigned a jersey and a number: The number 12. Wow.

Josh says, "I’m doing this for the love of the game. It’s a lot of work, and the practices are intense. But I’ve always done the blue collar work or whatever it took to get the job done. And those old days throwing bales back home have helped."

Josh says, "It’s a great experience, getting to see all the Big 12 arenas."

What about the importance of sports to small town Kansas? Josh says, "Sports are a central part of life in a small town. There’s great camaraderie among the little towns."

Noted scholars and sociologists these days are calling for a return to having community conversations, so I was intrigued when Josh happened to use the same term in describing sports. He said, "Ball games are a great place for the town to get together and converse. It’s great for the community."

The date is January 11, 2003. K-State is playing the number 23 ranked team in the nation, coached by Bobby Knight. Before a sellout crowd, K-State shocks the pollsters and steamrolls their opponent. And there on the court is number 12, Josh Eilert, living the dream.

It’s time to say goodbye to the Virgin Islands, with beautiful water and sunny beaches and also a pre-season basketball tournament. Among the participants is one Josh Eilert, wearing K-State’s number 12. We commend Josh Eilert and all those small town athletes who make a difference by providing a rallying point for their communities. It helps make March marvelous.

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

 

 

Tom Hemmer - Solomon Corp

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

Let’s talk transformers. No, not those little plastic robots my boys play with. I’m talking about electrical transformers – those essential components of our power system which make it possible for you and I to enjoy the benefits of electricity in our homes. Today we’ll meet a company which is a key player in the electrical transformer business. It’s located in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for a high powered version of Kansas Profile.

Meet Tom Hemmer. Tom and his siblings are the co-owners of this company, named the Solomon Corporation. Here is their story.

In 1971, Gene Hemmer was farming in South Dakota. Then he and some neighbors, being entrepreneurs, noticed a transformer and electrical supply business which they thought they could emulate. They looked for a location where they thought they could operate such a business and finally found one: An abandoned hardware store in Solomon, Kansas, just east of Salina. So that is where the Solomon Electric Supply Company began. There were three employees.

Today, that company is known as the Solomon Corporation. It employs more than 300 people, operates facilities in Kansas and Tennessee, and buys products from all over the country. Still, the company is family owned and operated. In fact, it’s in the hands of the next generation of the Hemmer family.

In November of 2000, Eugene Hemmer’s four sons and one daughter went into partnership together to purchase the business. Tom says, "We are rather unique in that we don’t have a corporate CEO. Each of the partners has their own managerial responsibility within the company. And fortunately," he says, "Each of us has different strengths and interests."

For example, brother Phil is in charge of production and operations. Brother Joe is an accountant and serves as chief financial officer. Brother Matt does procurement and manages the Tennessee facility. Sister Katie Platten is responsible for human resources and environmental issues. And younger brother Tom, a K-State alumnus and former chief of staff to Congressman Jerry Moran, is in charge of sales. Wow, talk about all in the family...

So what does this company do? Solomon Corporation produces and sells electrical equipment such as transformers, reclosers and regulators; and performs supporting services to electrical utilities and industries throughout the country. As they say, they offer solutions throughout the life cycle of electrical equipment — from manufacturing to maintenance and service to disposal.

The cornerstone of the business is selling and servicing distribution transformers to power systems such as municipalities and rural electric co-ops. Solomon Corp has some 10,000 units in stock and can even custom build a transformer. The transformer, by the way, gets its name from transforming electrical voltage from a very high level to a level that can be used by household appliances. Solomon Corp handles everything from small units to monster-size industrial type transformers. The company also helps reclaim and recycle old transformers in an environmentally safe fashion.

Service is a top priority for Solomon Corp. The company has six rolling repair shops in large trucks which can go to help customers. These have gone from Arizona to Pennsylvania.

The company performs a whole range of electrical system support services, which can be crucial when the power goes out. Solomon Corp has done business in all 50 states and sent equipment as far away as the Phillipines. It has sold raw materials to India and China. Annual sales are about 35 million dollars. Wow. Yet this company remains right here in Solomon where it began. In fact, that original hardware store is still part of its production facility.

Because of this company, the largest authorized Cooper Power repair center and the largest independent provider of voltage regulator repair and maintenance services in the nation is found right here in Solomon, Kansas, population 1,027 people. Now, that’s rural.

Let’s talk transformers -- no, not those little plastic toys, and not just those electrical transformers either. In a larger sense, the members of the Hemmer family are transformers too. They are making a difference by helping transform their business and community through entrepreneurship and initiative. That makes them the type of transformers we need in rural Kansas.

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

 

 

Barbara Oplinger - KFAC

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 a school in inner city Wichita. It’s a tough neighborhood. In fact, there was a shooting in the parking lot last night. But when morning comes, we find something new: A group of Kansas farmers in their coats and ties, coming into the school to teach kids about agriculture. What are Kansas farmers doing in an inner city school? They are there through the vision and inspiration of a young woman, who would later apply that vision to an organization known as the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom or K-F-A-C. This program is celebrating its 20th year. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Barbara Oplinger, administrator of KFAC. She is uniquely qualified to coordinate this program. Why? For starters, she was a city girl. That may sound surprising, but it means she can relate to city dwellers. Barbara grew up in the city of Topeka.

But listen to the next step: Barbara married a farmer. She was studying education when she married Roger Oplinger and moved to the farm near Jewel. Barbara says, "It was culture shock." She learned agriculture first hand and became a producer herself. With this experience, she also understood the communications gap between rural and urban. Jewell is a town of 483 people. Now, that’s rural.

In 1993, she became a member of KARL - the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program. Barbara challenged her classmates to do more to tell agriculture’s story. She organized an experience for them to teach about agriculture in an inner city school in Wichita, as I described at the beginning. It would be a sign of things to come.

Barbara later came back to K-State and finished a dual degree in social work and family studies. In January 2000, she became administrator of the Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom.

Nationally, this program began with leadership from USDA some two decades ago. The concept is to integrate an understanding of agriculture into the elementary school curriculum. It was applied differently in each state. In Kansas, KFAC is affiliated with the K-State College of Education and supported by various partners.

For many years, this program has offered a special summer class for teachers. The teachers learn about agriculture and then prepare educational programs which they can use in their home school districts. To date, some 700 teachers have taken these classes.

KFAC also reaches out in other ways. A Teacher of the Year is recognized annually. Now there is a new initiative called Connecting Kansas Kids, Crops, Critters, and Conservation. That includes a kids magazine called Kansas Kids Connection, an excellent educators guide that teachers can use, and a school assembly program about agriculture.

In just its first school year, 980 classrooms have the Educators' Guide and 45,000 kids have the magazine. Between those and the school assembly which has been in 45 counties, this program has reached every county in the state. Wow.

KFAC is primarily supported through private funding, although the Kansas Department of Education has also contributed. Funds go for teacher scholarships as well as operations. In fact, Kansas has the first non-profit foundation for Ag in the Classroom in the nation.

Barbara Oplinger says, "I have a passion for this, because too few people understand agriculture. If food cost 87 percent of people’s income instead of 7 percent, people would pay more attention to it." She says, "We are fortunate in that we have abundance, we have safety, and we have choices in our food supply."

It’s time to say goodbye to that inner city school in Wichita, where Barbara Oplinger organized an educational experience for these KARL class members to teach about agriculture. But perhaps everyone learned a lesson that day – that each of us can learn from each other. Barbara took that expertise to the Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. We salute Barbara Oplinger and all those affiliated with this program, for making a difference by educating our children about the importance of agriculture. Congratulations on 20 years. And now – class dismissed.

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

 

 

 

Community Leadership Day

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

Today let’s seal the deal. That sounds like a business transaction, but I’m really referring to the name of a leadership program. Let me explain.

Down in Meade County, Kansas, local people recognized that their county could benefit from additional leadership training. With help from neighboring county leadership programs and from K-State Research and Extension and others, they organized a new adult leadership program. They also came up with a catchy name for it: SEAL. That’s S-E-A-L. It stands for Seeking Effective Adult Leaders. This is just one example of an excellent leadership program which has been started around the state in recent years. So let’s seal the deal and learn about these innovative leadership programs, as well as an upcoming special event, on today’s Kansas Profile.

First, let’s rewind the clock about five years. The Board of Directors of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development was thinking strategically about how the Institute could help rural communities help themselves. After considerable research, the Institute decided to narrow its focus onto a crucial need: Local leadership development.

Dr. Marc Johnson, Dean of Agriculture and Director of K-State Research and Extension, further encouraged the board to set a visionary yet specific and measurable goal, which would provide accountability. The goal which the Institute adopted could be summarized in the phrase 500 in 5. That means the goal was for an additional 500 Kansans to participate in new leadership development training within five years.

It seemed like a lofty goal at the time. Fortunately, a lot of other Kansans were recognizing the need for new leadership also.

Actually, Kansas has been investing in leadership for years, through such programs as Leadership Kansas, the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program, and the Kansas Leadership Forum.

The Huck Boyd Institute’s goal was to create new and additional leadership development opportunities in rural communities. In addition, K-State Research and Extension set up an interdisciplinary team to work on leadership development issues. That team developed an extensive leadership development curriculum called LEADS – Leadership Excellence And Dynamic Solutions.

The Huck Boyd Foundation offered mini-grants to counties which wanted to start new county-level, educational leadership programs in partnership with Extension. Typically, these programs were called Leadership Scott County or Leadership Mitchell County. In Meade County, however, they came up with the new and catchy name I described at the beginning: Seeking Effective Adult Leaders, or SEAL.

This is an excellent example of an innovative program serving a rural area. The Meade county seat is the town of Meade, population 1,540 people. Now, that’s rural.

All in all, some 20 counties received mini-grants to start new county leadership programs. Others did various other types of leadership programming.

So, five years later, the results are in. How did we do on the 500 in 5 goal? The answer is, it has been achieved beyond belief. Altogether, counties report that during the five years, an additional 1,080 Kansans have received leadership training – more than double the original goal. Wow.

According to a recent survey, those leadership participants are contributing hundreds of additional volunteer hours of service to their communities because of these programs.

Now the achievements of these leadership programs are being recognized at a special Community Leadership Day, featuring idea sharing and inspirational speakers. Community Leadership Day will be Friday, March 28, 2003, at the K-State Union in Manhattan. Presenters include Terry Woodbury, President of the United Way of Kansas City; Leslie Small, a K-State student and Truman Scholar; and state 4-H specialist Pat Fultz. The invited wrapup speaker is Senator Sam Brownback. Contact the Huck Boyd Institute for more information at 785-532-7690. That number again is 785-532-7690.

Today, we’ve learned to seal the deal. Not about business transactions, but about an innovative leadership program called SEAL and other similar programs around Kansas. Great credit goes to those county extension agents, chamber of commerce executives, economic development professionals, and others who have made a difference by initiating new leadership programs across the state. We’ll give them our seal of approval.

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

 

 

Rob Phillips - Eldridge Hotel

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

Let’s make room for history. No, not room in your daily schedule. I mean let’s visit a place which is steeped in Kansas history, and it has rooms where you can stay. It’s the historic Eldridge Hotel, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Rob Phillips, owner of the historic Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence, Kansas. Rob truly has rural Kansas roots. He was born in Eureka in southeast Kansas, but his mother died at age 7 and he lived with family in such places as Severy, population 374; and Virgil, population 87. Now, that’s rural.

Rob attended K-State and Wichita State, served in the Army in Vietnam, and came back to Kansas where he would ultimately settle in the city of Lawrence. It was there he encountered the Eldridge Hotel.

Talk about history. This historic location goes back to "Bleeding Kansas," when our state was in turmoil from the conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces.

In 1855, settlers from the New England Emigrant Aid Society built the Free State Hotel on this location. As you might guess from the name, the purpose of this hotel was to temporarily house the free state advocates who were flocking into the state. Of course, the other side was flocking into Kansas too.

In 1856, the Free State Hotel was attacked and burned to the ground by pro-slavery forces. An abolitionist leader named Colonel Shalor Eldridge had the hotel rebuilt and even added another floor, vowing that he would build on another floor every time it was destroyed.

The hotel stood until 1863 when along came a fellow named Quantrill. Quantrill made his infamous raid, burning downtown Lawrence – including this hotel.

Colonel Eldridge promptly rebuilt the hotel, which is now four stories tall, and gave it his own name – The Eldridge Hotel. Fortunately, there were no more raids.

The Eldridge Hotel became one of the finest hotels this side of the Mississippi. By 1925, however, the hotel had begun to deteriorate. A group of Lawrence business leaders tore down and rebuilt the Eldridge Hotel and restored it to its former place of dignity and elegance.

This time, however, a changing economy accomplished what Quantrill could not. Downtown hotels were becaming fewer and fewer during the 1960s. The Eldridge finally closed its doors as a hotel in1970. In fact, a key had to be made to lock the front door because it had been lost many years earlier. The hotel was converted to apartments and so it remained until 1985.

Fortunately, Rob Phillips and a group of Lawrence business leaders had an appreciation of what The Eldridge Hotel had been, and could be again. They set out to rebuild and renovate this historic hotel. The City of Lawrence committed two million dollars in Industrial Revenue Bonds to match the one million dollars in private money raised by Phillips and the investors.

Now, the hotel has been completely rebuilt and converted. The lobby has been carefully restored to its original elegance and beauty. Each one of the suites is named for a local historical figure. The first one at the top of the stairs, for example, is the James Naismith room – very fitting for the inventor of basketball.

Today, The Eldridge Hotel is a 48 room, all suite, full-service hotel, including the Jayhawker Lounge and Shalor's Restaurant. The Eldridge Hotel is the only full-service hotel in Lawrence, offering 24 hour room service, twice daily maid service, and a courtesy van for guests.

Those who have stayed at the Eldridge have made modern history too. Those include Martin Luther King, Clarence Thomas, Michael Landon, Cheryl Ladd, John Wayne, Danny Glover, and Bill Kurtis. Wow. For more information, go to www.eldridgehotel.com.

Let’s make room for history – no, not room on your calendar, but take an opportunity to literally stay in a room at the historic Eldridge Hotel. We commend Rob Phillips and all those involved with the Eldridge Hotel for making a difference with their commitment to quality and history.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s a whole `nother dimension to the Eldridge. What’s that about? A horse, of course. We’ll get the story on our next program.

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

 

 

 

Rob Phillips - Horse-drawn Parade

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

I love a parade – especially when it has horses, wagons, and riders, going proudly down the street. Today we’ll learn about such parades, which are helping to celebrate our state’s western heritage and the cowboy experience. Saddle up and enjoy the ride on today’s Kansas Profile.

On an earlier program, we learned about Rob Phillips of the historic Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence. This classic, luxury hotel reflects the history of our state. Now Rob Phillips is taking it to a new level.

Rob Phillips enjoys Kansas history – particularly the legacy of the American west and cowboy life. He is incorporating this appreciation into the Eldridge Hotel.

For example, several years ago Rob went on one of those old-time wagon train rides which are offered around the country. He noticed that people would come out and watch as the wagons went by.

Not long after that the Eldridge Hotel was involved in promoting a Christmastime festival in downtown Lawrence. Rob suggested, "Let’s have an old-fashioned parade to publicize the event."

So downtown Lawrence became the site of an old-time parade sponsored by the Eldridge Hotel, featuring horse-drawn vehicles. Rob Phillips says, "That first year’s parade had 25 horsedrawn vehicles" - of which three were his. It lasted about twelve and a half minutes long and had a handful of spectators watching.

But listen to this. That parade has become a holiday tradition on the first Saturday of December in Lawrence. Last year there were 118 entries, of which 90 were horses or horse-drawn vehicles, from 10 different states. The parade lasted about an hour, and an estimated 20,000 people came out to watch. Wow.

This is just one example of the way Rob Phillips is giving leadership to the opportunities for western heritage tourism in the state of Kansas.

The Eldridge Hotel itself is now offering chuckwagon suppers each Wednesday night. This includes an all-you-can-eat menu of barbecue brisket, beef sausage, cowboy beans, potato salad, biscuits, and peach cobbler. Each night also features authentic cowboy singers.

Rob says, "We can be innovators because we are not a corporate hotel, so we can make changes quicker."

In January 2003, the hotels in Lawrence went together to sponsor a cowboy gathering. That included two days of exhibits and western entertainment, headlined by the Sons of the San Joaquin at Liberty Hall. Some 2,000 people participated. The chair of this initiative was Rob Phillips.

Rob is especially proud of the partnering which is going on throughout the state. In the case of Abilene, for example, Rob donated to their county historical society some gift certificates for a stay at the Eldridge Hotel.

Rob says, "We want to be the Kansas hotel. The thing I’m most proud of is that we’re working with the rest of Kansas."

Rob Phillips is now serving as chair of an alliance of western heritage attractions in the state. One of these locations is the central Kansas town of Ellsworth, population 2,654 people. Now, that’s rural.

Ellsworth was a destination point on the old cattle trails. Today it’s the site of the Cowboy Mercantile store which features authentic old-time western wear and gifts. It is also the home of the Kansas C.O.W.B.O.Y. Society, as has been featured on this program previously. COWBOY has a double-meaning in this case. Besides the literal meaning, it is an acronym for Cock-eyed Old West Band Of Yahoos.

On April 12, Rob Phillips of the Eldridge Hotel is going to help put on a horse-drawn parade in Ellsworth, in conjunction with the spring cowboy gathering there. Because of the horse-drawn winter parade in Lawrence, the Eldridge has a data base of some 550 horsedrawn vehicles in the midwest. Besides the parade, the cowboy gathering will feature two days of rip-roaring fun.

I love a parade – especially with horses and riders. We commend Rob Phillips of the Eldridge Hotel and the folks of Cowboy Mercantile in Ellsworth, for making a difference by promoting tourism through western heritage. Such tourism reflects genuine Kansas history, and it’s a good opportunity to market to those with an interest in the American west world-wide. It’s time we join the parade.

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

 

 

Argonia

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

Let’s stamp out discrimination against women in politics. When I say to stamp out discrimination, I mean it. There is a campaign underway to honor a pioneering Kansas woman by having a postage stamp issued in her honor. It’s an effort to recognize the very first elected woman mayor in the history of the nation, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

So where in this broad country of ours do you suppose was the very first elected woman mayor? Not in trendy California or the historic east coast. The nation’s first elected woman mayor was found right here in Kansas, back in 1887.

Her name was Susanna Madora Salter. Today, her hometown of Argonia, Kansas is generating renewed interest in this history. Elizabeth Hemberger, chair of the PRIDE committee in Argonia, provided me information. A Washburn University website also provided excellent background.

Susanna Madora Kinsey was born in Ohio in 1860. When she was twelve years old, her family moved to a farm near Silver Lake, Kansas. At the age of sixteen, Susanna entered what was then Kansas State Agricultural College in Manhattan. While attending college, she met Lewis Salter. They married in September of 1880 and in 1882, came to Argonia.

In the 1880s, anti-alcohol groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were active. Susanna Salter was involved in the Argonia WCTU. Sometimes these anti-alcohol advocates were called "drys" for short. The other side, of course, was called "wets."

In 1887, the wets and drys were competing hard for city elections. The Argonia WCTU chapter held a public meeting and pointed out that the current administration was not adequately enforcing prohibition laws. They developed a proposed list of alternative candidates for city office – all gentlemen – which they would recommend.

After that, a group of the wets met in the backroom of a local restaurant. They decided they would play a joke on these uppity women. They nominated Susanna Salter for mayor. They thought Mrs. Salter and her organization would be embarrassed if only a few people voted for her, so they put her name forward.

As a side note: History does not record if they were under the influence of alcohol while coming up with this idea.

In any event, they put her name forward as a joke. But when the ballots were all counted, of course, the joke was on them. Susanna Salter received two-thirds of the votes and became the nation’s first elected woman mayor.

Perhaps the wets did not realize that she was more familiar with politics than people realized. Her father had been Argonia’s first mayor and her father-in-law had been lieutenant governor of Kansas.

The election of a woman brought national attention to Kansas. She received congratulatory telegrams from as far away as Italy, and served well as mayor though she declined to run for re-election. She died in 1961 at the age of 101 years old.

Today, the Salter House Museum, mural, and city park in Argonia provide a tribute to this historic woman. Since 2000, students in Ms. Lawanna Ford’s fifth grade class of Argonia Elementary School have been conducting a campaign to have a postage stamp issued in honor of Mayor Salter. They are organizing petitions to go to the U.S. Postal Service in Washington DC. As the class writes, "She did her job well and proved that a woman could serve in the same office that had formerly been held only by men."

Argonia is located southwest of Wichita. Today it is a town of 523 people. Now, that’s rural. How fitting that she should make history in rural Kansas.

For more info, contact the Argonia Elementary School, Salter Project, 202 Allen Street, Argonia, Kansas 67004, 620-435 - 6716. That’s Argonia Elementary School, Salter Project, 202 Allen Street, Argonia, Kansas 67004, or call 620-435 - 6716.

Let’s stamp out discrimination against women – in fact, let’s issue a postage stamp in honor of Susanna Salter. We commend the school children of Argonia, their teacher Ms. Lawanna Ford, and the citizens of the PRIDE committee for making a difference by honoring and promoting this historical figure. She is one who put her stamp on Kansas history.

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

 

 

Valley Graphics

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

It’s a sign of the times. There are economic problems and corporate layoffs all around. People say, Well, it’s a sign of the times, as they comment on the times we’re in. Today, we’ll talk about signs in a different sense. We’ll meet a company which specializes in designing and producing customized signs and banners. They have found a niche which has grown across the country, yet they remain in rural Kansas. Consider yourself signed up for today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Patti Morgan, co-owner of a family business named Valley Graphics and Design in Arkansas City, Kansas. Here’s the story.

Patti Morgan is a chemist. She went to KU and worked for oil refineries in the Ark City area. She and her husband have two children.

Patti’s husband works in Ark City. At one point, his company told all their distributors that they should make more signs to advertise and promote their product. Patti looked into this and found there were ways to make certain signs and banners themselves, so she gave it a try.

Patti also got into another unusual enterprise: Llamas. Yes, Patti became interested and invested in a llama.

A friend of theirs wanted a banner which she could hang above her llamas at a show. So Patti worked up a design for her. It went so well that one thing led to another.

Today Valley Graphics and Design produces a variety of banners and signs for all types of needs. These include banners as a large as six feet long, with optional colors, artwork, and photos. The company produces flags, pennants, magnetic signs, decals, license plates, and more.

I mentioned this is a family business. Her co-owners are her daughter Lindsay and son Michael – truly a family business. Son Michael is a student at Southwestern College in Winfield. Daughter Lindsay has an undergraduate degree in art education and is working on a masters in graphic design at K-State.

So where have these signs and banners gone? Thanks to the llama connection, many of them have been used for breed shows and sales all over the region. She does similar banners for other specialty animals such as donkeys.

Of course, they can design items for all types of products. For example, a customer in New Jersey orders signs for his customized automotive parts and supply business.

Valley Graphics and Design has sent products from Utah to North Carolina. In fact, through daughter Lindsay, the company has done team basketball banners in Florida. Wow. The Florida Fury semi-pro women’s basketball team has a team banner made in Arkansas City, Kansas, population 12,694 people. Now, that’s rural.

How exciting to see that this company in rural Kansas is serving a customer half a continent away in Florida.

There is a saying in community development work that every town is looking for a quick economic development solution that can take care of 100 percent of our problems – but what we really need are 50 two-percent solutions. In other words, for most rural communities there is no magic wand or silver bullet which will create zillions of jobs overnight. But there are lots of small businesses which we should foster and encourage.

The cumulative effect of those decentralized small businesses will create jobs through the years. It can be a slow, long-term process, working with entrepreneurs one new job at a time, but those become the building blocks of a solid yet diverse economy. We should celebrate and encourage those small businesses and entrepreneurs.

One of those many two-percent solutions just might be found in Valley Graphics and Design, a small business based in rural Kansas.

It’s a sign of the times. There are economic downturns and corporate layoffs, but independent companies like Valley Graphics and Design are moving forward due to entrepreneurship and creativity. We commend Patti, Lindsay, and Michael Morgan for building this enterprise with signs and banners. Having people who are willing to try these new ventures will make a difference in the long run. It may be premature to say that this can mean a banner day for rural Kansas, but at least – it’s a very good sign.

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

 

 

Misty Schultz - Curio’s Inc.

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

It is July 3, 2001. Friends and family have gathered for a home fireworks display to celebrate Independence Day. Unfortunately, this happy celebration would take a tragic turn. One of the fireworks displays is a box of small missiles. When it’s lit, the box suddenly tips over and the missiles sail into the crowd, hitting one little girl directly on the shoulder. The missile explodes, searing her arm and face. Her family rushes her to medical care. That trip would begin a journey – not just to a hospital, but to a recovery and beyond, to the development of a soothing skin lotion and then to a new business venture. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Misty and Chris Schultz, whose daughter suffered that fireworks accident. Misty is originally from Manhattan. She married Chris Schultz in the early 1980s. Their careers took them to Cincinnatti and Orlando, where Misty worked in mortgage banking.

But when Misty and Chris had their second little girl, they wanted to raise their kids in small town Kansas. They settled in Wamego, population 4,260 people. Now, that’s rural.

Chris now works for a bank in Wamego and Misty stays home with the kids. But on July 3, 2001, their youngest daughter was burned in that fateful accident. She was rushed to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. There she had a severe allergic reaction to her pain medicine. Misty says, "For about 20 minutes there, we weren’t sure they could save her."

But thank goodness, their daughter recovered. Then she went into the burn unit where the long, difficult road to burn recovery began. Misty says, "Our surgeon said she would suffer from itching the rest of her life, and would have to have liquid benadryl and cortizone cream every day."

As their daughter endured those treatments, Misty started searching for a better way. She asked the surgeon what types of components would be helpful to her skin. They talked to chemical companies and experimented with lotions of their own. Misty developed a type of lotion using hydrolyzed silk amino acids which really helped their daughter.

Misty says, "Since that time, she has not had to use any benadryl or cortizone or anything else." Wow. Misty says, "It worked so well on her, and it left my hands silky smooth too."

Misty and Chris saw a market opportunity. Now they have developed their own business called Curio’s Inc., which markets a line of high quality, home-made bath and body products. For K-State fans, they offer a lotion called Wildcat Silk Body Lotion. There is an unscented lotion called Simply Misty. There is one called "It’s a Guy Thing, " with a masculine scent, and one called "It’s a Girl Thing." Nice balance.

There is a Wildcat Men’s Cologne and a Lady Cat Women’s Cologne. Misty even has special items such as fizzing bath bombs, lip balms, oatmeal soap – I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds like it would make a healthy breakfast – and something called a sea salt scrub.

Misty says, "Some of our customers have psoriasis and find this very soothing, but most of our customers are just regular body lotion users."

The K-State products are sold through GTM Sportswear in Manhattan. Curio’s Inc. products are available at some craft shows and through direct purchase. Misty is working on opening Curio’s Bath and Body Boutique, a retail store which would include a small manufacturing facility. Until then, however, this is literally a home-based business, with Misty making small batches in her home. Misty says, "My kitchen looks like a laboratory."

Through friends, family, church, and word of mouth, these products are going all over. They have been sent as far away as Colorado, Florida, and Vermont. Wow.

July 3, 2001. After their daughter is severely burned in a fireworks accident, they developed a skin lotion which would benefit their daughter and turn into a business opportunity for the family. We commend Misty and Chris Schultz and their family for making a difference by turning tragedy into opportunity. Misty says, "My daughter’s face has healed wonderfully, you’d never know this happened." That is soothing to the soul.

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

 

 

 

Lydia Hein - Grannie’s Homemade Mustard

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

Was your grandma sweet? Or did she get a little spicy when you misbehaved? Today we’ll meet a very special grandma who has developed a food product that is sweet, tangy and delicious. This product is mustard. It was developed by a little old lady in rural Kansas – and it’s selling coast to coast. Stay tuned for a spicy edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Lydia Hein, also known as Grannie. Lydia lives near Hillsboro, Kansas, a town of 2,395 people. Now, that’s rural.

Lydia married Emice Hein. They raised a family, and Lydia was working as a dietary aide at Prairie View at Newton. Then in 1990, she was diagnosed with spinal problems. Her doctor told her, "Your work will aggravate your back problems and you need to quit your job right now."

Lydia was already age 63 at that point, but she didn’t feel ready for that type of immediate, forced retirement. She says she was sitting at home feeling sorry for herself. But youngest son Eugene provided some encouragement. He reminded her of the delicious homemade mustard that she had made for 20 years. He said she should make some and sell it at the upcoming Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair.

Lydia wasn’t too excited about the idea, but she remembered the Bible story about the mustard seed. It says that the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree.

With that encouragement, Lydia made a batch of mustard from her family’s secret recipe, and guess what: It was a hit. People loved it. Orders started coming in from all over.

So she organized a business. Since Lydia really is a grandmother and looks the sweet, grandmotherly type, it was called Grannie’s Homemade Mustard. Grannie even wears her bonnet and granny glasses at trade shows. She is assisted by her husband Emice, also known as Gramps. Son Eugene is marketing manager and daughter-in-law Rita delivers to stores. They’ve hired a retired gentleman to help with the manufacturing, and the grandkids help out also.

This mustard is delicious. Her original mustard is called Sweet and Tangy. Now she also offers Jalapeno, Horseradish, Cajun, Ole Smokee, and Sugar Free. And you thought the only kind of mustard was yellow....

This mustard is handmade and home-made in the state-approved kitchen in their home near Hillsboro. You can buy it in a ten ounce Squeezable bear container or a 40 ounce Jug. Grannie also offers gift packs with three or four to a box, and an assortment in a cute wooden box with a rope handle which she calls Little Sweeties. Grannie’s mustard is available at grocery stores, including Dillon’s, craft shops, cafes, farmers markets, and gift shops across Kansas, or directly from Grannie.

She has shipped her mustard all over the country, from New York to California – even the Pentagon -- and to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and London. When Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited Kansas, he took home a plastic bear filled with Grannie’s Homemade Mustard. Wow.

Now Grannie has her own website at www.grannieshomemademustard.com, or call her at 620-947-3259. That’s 620-947-3259. Now she’s been accepted into the nationwide edition of Who’s Who in Executives and Businesses. I wonder if she’s listed under G for Grannie...

Yes, the mustard seed may be the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree.

So, an old family mustard recipe, coupled with the loss of Grannie’s job due to health, has turned into a successful business enterprise – as well as some great mustard.

Was your grandma sweet? Or did she get spicy when you misbehaved? Lydia Hein has produced a mustard that is sweet and tangy, tasty and delicious. We commend Grannie Lydia Hein, Emice, Eugene, Rita, and all those involved with Grannie’s Homemade Mustard for making a difference with her talent and entrepreneurship. Good things come out of your grandmother’s kitchen – and from rural Kansas too.

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

 

 

Cynthia Black

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 Las Vegas, to a One Stop convenience store. See the artwork on the border around the top of the store wall? Where do you suppose that comes from? Would you believe, rural Kansas? Today we’ll meet the innovative printer who created and produced that design. Not only is she a successful printer, she is contributing to the leadership of her county. We’ll get the story on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Cynthia Black of High Plains Printing in Colby, Kansas. Cindy grew up at Colby and was an elementary education major at Colby Community College. As a student, she started helping out in the college print shop. She found she really liked it, and went back to school to earn a certificate in printing.

After graduation, she went to work for High Plains Printing, which she eventually bought in 1986. Meanwhile, she met and married Jay and had a foster son Robert and then their daughter Jaylea.

High Plains Printing produces all types of products from business cards to birth announcements. Often customers simply have an idea or a situation, and Cindy’s crew takes it from there. Cindy says, "People come in with a problem and we help `em fix it. I never know what I’m going to be working on from one day to the next."

Much of their business is local, but they have also worked on projects as far away as Denver and Arizona. Through one contact, Cindy designed the artwork and borders for a chain of convenience stores in Las Vegas, as I mentioned at the beginning.

Cindy says she likes the flexibility of her job, so she can be involved in volunteer activities. In 1992-93, she participated in Leadership Thomas County and it would have a tremendous impact. She went on to be elected the very first chairman of the Leadership Thomas County alumni group.

Then Leadership Thomas County was selected as one of 17 communities by the Kansas Health Foundation to participate in the Kansas Community Leadership Initiative. Each community could send two representatives to this exclusive training. Thomas County sent its program coordinator, Leilani Thomas of the Colby Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. But there was also need for a volunteer from the community. The person who stepped up was Cynthia Black.

Now Cindy is using these leadership skills to help transform her home county. She was instrumental in the creation of the Thomas County Community Foundation which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit the region. The mission statement of the Foundation is simple: Forever Betterment. Its objective is to endow funds to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Thomas County.

Note that they are thinking county-wide, which is really important in rural areas.

For example, one project which the foundation has supported is called Kids Can Do. This was designed to help kids in the fourth and fifth grade classes select and implement some community service project. All schools in the county were invited to participate. That included the schools in Colby, the county seat, but also in the smaller communities such as Brewster, population 290, and Rexford, population 176 people. Now, that’s rural.

These kids did such projects as buying books for the library, reading to the head start children, sanding down an old school bus to be repainted and used, holding a Thanksgiving dinner for those who didn’t have a place to go during the holidays, and putting together packets for kids who had to go into the hospital. Wow. Doesn’t that touch your heart?

It did Cindy Black. She says, "My heart and my goal is with leadership training for youth, and making sure that every kid has a chance to participate."

It’s time to say goodbye to the convenience store in Las Vegas, which features artwork on a border from High Plains Printing in Kansas. How exciting to see that Cindy Black’s business in Kansas is reaching that market, but more importantly, that Cindy is making a difference in the lives of people around her. This is one printer who is having a positive imprint on her community.

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

 

 

 

Kent Kerschner - Foto Cowboy

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

What do you get when you cross a bull with a camera? Hmm, either a bull that requires film instead of feed or a camera that is really, really strong. Okay, maybe it’s not the funniest riddle you ever heard, but it does describe the twin interests of a young man from Kansas who has transformed those interests into a business niche that has reached across the nation. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Let’s say you’re watching a Professional Bull Riders event on TV. In the arena, you see a powerful bucking bull, a cowboy riding that bull for dear life, and probably a rodeo clown. But someone else is the arena too, that we may not even notice. It’s the rodeo photographer, who takes those dramatic photos of the riders in action.

Meet rodeo photographer Kent Kerschner of Hutchinson, Kansas. He combines his love for photography with his love for rodeo, and the result is a remarkable business that has sent his photos across the country and overseas.

Kent’s interest in photography can be traced back to his grandmother, who had truly rural roots. Before moving to Hutch, Kent’s grandmother lived near McPherson in a tiny settlement called Turkey Creek. In its day, Turkey Creek might have had 50 residents. Now, that’s rural.

While Kent was in grade school, his grandmother gave him a special gift: a Brownie Kodak camera. This was a type of box camera. You had to look down into it from above and it had the shutter on the side. The camera might have been a bit primitive, but Kent was immediately hooked on photography.

Kent also became hooked – this is a very painful pun – on bull-riding. Bull-riding is often considered to be the most exciting and dangerous event in the rodeo, but Kent became interested and competed in it for years.

Kent says, "I’d ride the bulls, and as soon as I got off, I’d grab a camera." His picture-taking at the rodeos earned him the nickname Foto cowboy.

After twenty years of bull-riding, his career came to a – shall we say – transition. It happened at a rodeo in Cassoday, Kansas, where Kent rode a bull named Catfish. The result was a broken leg -- Kent’s, not the bull’s -- and Kent decided to retire from bull-riding and do photography full-time.

Now Kent has been the photographer at big events by the North American Bull-riding Association and the International Professional Rodeo Association. His action photos were recently featured in the center spread of the international rodeo publication called Humps N’ Horns.

I asked if being the photographer was safer than being the bull-rider. He said no. Why? Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. In other words, the photographer is concentrating so hard as he adjusts the image that he may not realize how close the bull is getting.

However, Kent’s experience does make for great photos. He says, "Me being an old bull-rider, I know what’s gonna happen."

Kent has photographed events from Canada to Texas and Memphis to Colorado, and lots here in Kansas. Besides rodeo, he does photos of class reunions, Senior high students, Family, and Sports teams. He also produces photo business cards and autograph slicks. Speaking of photo business cards, he has one for himself. It features a full color picture of him taking a picture.

Remember that old Brownie camera? Technology has changed dramatically since then. Now Kent uses a digital camera and posts his photos on the Internet, where anyone world-wide can view them and order them on-line. Wow. Whenever he does a kids rodeo, for example, the grandparents want to buy those photos, wherever they are.

Kent has sent photos across the nation and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Kent’s website is www.fotocowboy.com. That’s www.f-o-t-o-c-o-w-b-o-y.com.

So what do you get when you cross a bull with a camera? Not a picture with horns. In this case, you get a young man who is making a difference by successfully combining these diverse interests to build a remarkable business that is reaching customers coast to coast.

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

 

 

Cowboys at Carnegie

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

In New York City, an out-of-town visitor asks a cab-driver, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The cabbie replies, "Practice, man, practice." It’s an old joke, but it reminds us that only the best musicians perform in Carnegie Hall. So I’m excited that an upcoming event at Carnegie Hall will feature some of Kansas’ best musicians, with an emphasis on our historic western heritage. It’s a historic event, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper near Wichita. Thomas and Cheryl have been featured on this program before, because Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper has turned into a huge tourism draw for rural Kansas. The Etheredges host these Suppers, complete with western music and entertainment, on their family ranch near Wichita. They feature a wonderful western music group called the Prairie Rose Wranglers.

One year, Thomas was contacted by the people at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Now if your mental picture of Carnegie Hall is of a symphony playing classical music, you’re right. But the Carnegie Hall people were working on some sort of celebration and asked if the Prairie Rose Wranglers could play some small part in it. The Prairie Rose folks said sure, but Thomas, who is quite a visionary, said: Why limit it to that? Why not have a complete concert honoring the music and heritage of the American West? So he made a proposal to Carnegie Hall to that effect.

Shortly after that came September 11, 2001. What a tremendous impact the events of that day had on our nation. I think it caused lots of people to rethink their basic values, and to regain appreciation for the simple but important things like family, faith, and courage.

I don’t know if September 11 changed their minds, but when Thomas again contacted the people at Carnegie Hall, not only did they agree to host a special concert, they cleared a Friday evening to make it possible. Carnegie Hall is booked for years in advance, yet they cleared a date for this event.

So listen to this: On May 30, 2003, Carnegie Hall will play host to an event called "The Great American Cowboy in Concert" – the largest cowboy gathering ever to perform on the world’s greatest stage.

Starring on the show will be Kansas’ own Prairie Rose Wranglers. They will be joined by such famous performers as the Sons of the San Joaquin, Roy Rogers Jr., and cowboy Waddie Mitchell. Also included is Joni Harms, winner of the Will Rogers Award for Entertainer of the Year; Johnny Western, the western film and music star from Wichita; Mickey Dawes, President of the Western Music Association in Nashville; and Kansas cowboy singer Barry Ward.

Barry is an example of genuine cowboy talent from rural Kansas. He is a working fourth generation cowboy who just released an album under the Prairie Rose Record label. He hails from near the western Kansas town of Copeland, Kansas, population 289 people. Now, that’s rural.

How exciting that genuine cowboy talent including rural Kansas will be featured on stage in New York. This landmark event would not have happened without the vision and drive of Thomas Etheredge and the people of Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper.

For more information or to make reservations for the chuckwagon Supper, or for that matter to order tickets for the performance at Carnegie Hall, contact the Prairie Rose at 316-778-2121 or go to www.prairierosechuckwagon.com. That number again is 316-778-2121 or www.prairierosechuckwagon.com.

So how do I get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice. Such practice, plus some vision and initiative on the part of the Prairie Rose, is bringing rural Kansas talent to New York City to celebrate the heritage of Kansas and the American West. We commend Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge, the Prairie Rose Wranglers, and all those who are making a difference by sharing their talents and honoring our heritage.

Speaking of vision, can you envision a western music event which would bring thousands of people to Kansas from across the country? Guess what – that’s happening too. We’ll hear about that on our next program.

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

 

 

Western Music Awards

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

Imagine an event which will bring thousands of people from across the country to Wichita, Kansas. It will be nationally televised and will have an economic impact of more than a million dollars. Isn’t that music to your ears? Sure enough, music is what it’s all about. It is the nationally-televised Western Music Association Awards Show which is coming to Kansas, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

On our last program, we heard about Thomas Etheredge of Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper near Wichita. He has built his Suppers into a premier event, featuring a musical group called the Prairie Rose Wranglers. His interest in western heritage and western music led Thomas to become active in the Western Music Association, headquartered in Nashville. In June 2002, Thomas became the Executive Vice President of that organization.

The WMA sponsors the Western Music Association Awards Show and Festival, which is the equivalent to the Grammy's in Western Music. It was held in Las Vegas in 2002 and for ten years before that, was held in Tucson, Arizona.

But in January 2003, it was announced that the Western Music Association Awards Show and Festival for 2003, 4, and 5 will be right here in Wichita, Kansas. Wichita won out to host this event over such places as Anaheim, California; Branson, Missouri; Casper, Wyoming; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

John Rolfe, President and CEO of the Greater Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, "We want to acknowledge the critical role that Thomas Etheredge played in working with our convention sales staff to secure this exciting new venue for Wichita."

It’s just another example of the remarkable vision and energy which Thomas provides. He and his wife Cheryl began the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper on their family ranch near Benton, Kansas. Benton is a town of 761 people. Now, that’s rural. Yet in only its fifth season, the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper served some 50,000 people. Wow.

The growth of this enterprise is phenomenal. Since we last featured the Prairie Rose on this program, their facility has been further developed to include an open air ampitheater and recreation grounds, the Wagons Ho RV park with capacity for 100 motor homes, and more.

In August 2003, yet another feature will be added: the only authorized national Hopalong Cassidy Museum. It will include one of the largest collections of Hopalong Cassidy memorabilia in the country, plus a theater which will feature all of the Hopalong Cassidy television shows and the 66 full length movies. Also to be included in the new complex is the Kansas Saddlery, a working saddle shop.

All this is in addition to the existing features of the Prairie Rose, such as the Opera House where the delicious meals are served and where the Prairie Rose Wranglers provide fun and great music. The Roy Rogers Theater is nearby, along with the OK Corral, a livery stable, native American Indian tepee, shady gazebo, pretty lake, and a horse-drawn wagon for wagon rides. The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper has turned into one of the midwest’s largest western tourist attractions.

On our last program, we told about how the Prairie Rose helped bring about the Great American Cowboy in Concert at Carnegie Hall. It is neat to be sending Kansas cowboys to New York. But think about the economic benefit of having people from all over the country come out to Kansas.

Thomas Etheredge has managed to do both. The Carnegie Hall concert will be May 30, and the Western Music Association Awards Show and Festival will be in Wichita on November 12 through the 16th, 2003.

Yes, that event which we imagined is coming true. We commend Thomas Etheredge and John Rolfe’s Convention and Visitors Bureau in Wichita for making a difference by making this reality. The five-day festival will consist of many events, with performers from around the country. The televised Western Music Awards Show will take place Saturday night, November 15, from Century II Convention Hall. Some 7 to 8,000 visitors are expected to come to Wichita, and the economic impact could be as much as 2 million dollars. That is sweet music to hear.

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

 

 

Enterprise Facilitation

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

Grow your own. That’s good advice for gardeners who want fresh tomatoes or other veggies. It’s also good advice for economic development. We can try to drag businesses into our rural communities from somewhere else, but we may be better off in the long run if we can build our businesses from within. Today we will learn about an innovative initiative from the state of Kansas to facilitate the creation of new business enterprises. It is helping to reach the most rural areas of our state. Stay tuned for today’s Kansas Profile.

Our story today really begins with a guy named Ernesto Sirolli. Sirolli, who is Italian by heritage, might seem an unlikely candidate to solve the issues facing rural Kansas. But Ernesto Sirolli pioneered a new approach to business development in the rural areas of Australia. It is called Enterprise Facilitation.

What is Enterprise Facilitation? It is a way of assisting entrepreneurial businesses that has been described as intense business development handholding. It has also been compared to a community barn-raising. Enterprise Facilitation uses local citizen leaders and sound business practices to assist small business people in succeeding.

It has two components: A large, locally formed Enterprise Facilitation Board and a hired, trained facilitator. An Enterprise Facilitation Board might include 50 people, for example. They help provide a link to community resources. They also introduce entrepreneurs or prospective business people to the trained facilitator.

There is a key concept that is the backbone of Enterprise Facilitation: It’s called the Trinity. No, not the Holy Trinity, but the three components of business management: production, finance, and marketing.

The concept is that a small business person often has a passion for one or more of the components, but rarely all three. In other words, an entrepreneur might love making the product and telling people about it (production and marketing), or making the product and keeping meticulous books on the costs of producing and selling (production and finance). The lack of passion in the third area can influence success and/or failure of the business. Enterprise Facilitation draws on the strength of community resources, including the Board members, to fill the gap for the small entrepreneur in the areas needed.

Enterprise Facilitation has proven so successful that it has been adopted in several countries around the world. The Sirolli Institute was created in Chicago, based on the idea. Now the state of Kansas is making it possible for Enterprise Facilitation to be used here.

In 2002, the Community Development Division of the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing launched an initiative in Enterprise Facilitation. Now five clusters of counties are involved in this initiative. They received state grants and federal CDBG funds to use with local funds to organize the boards and hire trained facilitators.

I’m especially pleased that this project is reaching the most rural areas of our state. The five clusters are in northeast Kansas, southeast Kansas, south central Kansas, mid-central Kansas, and far western Kansas.

The far western Kansas group includes Greeley County, which has only 1,754 residents in the entire county. And in the southeast Kansas Quad County group, the lead municipality is Greenwood County. The Greenwood County Economic Development coordinator comes from the town of Severy, population 374 people. Now, that’s rural.

Sometimes large businesses are reluctant to come to rural areas because there is not enough of a labor force. As a result, is rural Kansas going to attract a huge auto manufacturing plant, for example? Not likely. The more appropriate strategy for them is to build on their base, identify small businesses and entrepreneurs within their communities and build them from within.

Grow your own. Yes, it is good advice for gardeners and economic developers too. We commend Ernesto Sirolli, Marilyn Graham of the Community Development Division of the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing, who provided this information, and especially those local people involved with the enterprise facilitation project in these county clusters. They are making a difference by planting the seeds of new businesses and providing the care and management to produce a bountiful harvest. Now, please pass those home-grown tomatoes.

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

 

 

 

Sara Deighton - Leadership class

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

Let’s flip on the TV and see what’s on the six o’clock news. Look, it’s one of our local high school students, doing a broadcast about school activities. It was through her initiative that this local broadcast was created. Wow, it must have taken a lot of vision, creativity, and effort to bring this about. In short, it took a lot of leadership. Today, we will learn about a remarkable rural school leadership initiative on Kansas Profile.

Meet Sara Deighton, a teacher of English, as well as Leadership, at Macksville High School in central Kansas. Macksville is a town of 486 people. Now, that’s rural.

Sara explains that their principal Mike Harvey came to Macksville from Pratt, where he had been actively involved in leadership programs. When he came to Macksville, he said, "I want a leadership program in my high school."

In fall 2001, Mike taught a leadership class with help from Sara. She then took over the class, in addition to her other duties, in fall 2002.

The class is for high school juniors and seniors. It includes classroom instruction plus a community service project.

Stafford County Extension agent Glenn Newdigger is a key partner in the class. He teaches units on servant leadership, visioning, learning styles and other key principles taught by the Kansas Health Foundation’s Community Leadership Initiative.

In the first year, there were seven students in the class. In the second year, there were 15 students in Leadership I and three more enrolled in an advanced class called Leadership II.

The class uses Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens as its textbook. Students are graded on their papers and participation. When they are involved in their internship, they must write about it in a journal daily. And, Sara says, "There’s occasionally a test if they’re not paying attention."

One key is an internship, which each student must design and implement. For example: One girl is teaching organizational skills to middle school students. Another girl redesigned the girls’ locker room. Another one is teaching leadership skills to freshman boys and girls.

Several students are helping in the elementary and middle school. Two boys are building and refinishing benches at the school.

I challenged Sara on that one and asked what leadership skills were learned from building benches? She replied that, in addition to work ethic, they were working with a staff person who was a stickler for details, so the young student had to use a lot of leadership skills to get the job done successfully.

Other projects include peer tutoring and designing publicity and advertising for a local horse show. One girl picked four elderly ladies in the community which she would visit and help each day during the class period. Sara says, "These ladies couldn’t get out much, and their faces would just light up when they would see her coming."

Then there was a hispanic student in the leadership class. He tutored another hispanic student who had just come to the U.S. and spoke almost no English. Another student served as the first-ever student director for the school play. Sara says, "Both the faculty director and the students said she was very helpful."

Finally, one of the girls in Leadership II wanted to do some public outreach for their school. She devised a plan to do a local television broadcast about school activities. Unfortunately, there was no TV station in Macksville. However, they do have cable owned by a company based in nearby St. John. The company agreed to let her do this project. She videotapes the program at school, and then the tape is taken to a local transmitter each week.

Let’s flip on the TV and see what’s on the six o’clock news. Yes, it’s one of our local high school students, doing a broadcast about school activities. It takes a lot of leadership to bring about such a project, along with all the other service learning that these students are doing. We commend Sara Deighton, Mike Harvey, Glenn Newdigger, and especially those students who are making a difference by implementing leadership and service. That’s good news.

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

 

 

Bill Hawley

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

Hello to Hawleywood. No, this isn’t a tour of movie star homes, this Hawleywood is spelled a different way: H-a-w-l-e-y- wood. This play on words is an example of the creative marketing done by a remarkable Kansas business that is marketing recreational vehicles all over the country. Sit back and enjoy the ride on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Bill Hawley of Hawleywood RV Ranch in Dodge City, Kansas. He tells the story of how his company began, with many of the misadventures that often strike new businesses.

Bill Hawley’s father was in Chicago and then served in World War II. During the war, he was stationed in Dodge City, Kansas. At that time, Dodge City was a town of about 8,500 people. Now, that’s rural.

After the war, Mr. Hawley returned to Chicago, but it just didn’t look the same after living in the wide open spaces at Dodge City. Mr. Hawley and his brother wanted to go into business together, but they weren’t quite sure doing what. His brother knew someone who was in the venetian blind business in Chicago, so they decided to give that a try. Mr. Hawley came back to Dodge City to look for a location for their venetian blind production business, and he found one.

The next step was to visit this friend’s venetian blind business in Chicago – but there was a problem. It turns out there was no venetian blind business at all - that business was just a front for a gambling operation. Bill Hawley says, "It was the biggest bookie joint in Chicago."

The Hawleys couldn’t learn much about venetian blinds there, but they were still committed to the idea. So they opened their venetian blind business in Dodge.

Their first order was from a lady who ordered blinds for her dairy operation. The Hawleys dutifully ordered the supplies they needed, and they were delivered c.o.d. The Hawley brothers said, "What is c.o.d.?" Told they had to have the money to get the goods, that was a problem because they didn’t have the money. So they went back to the lady who had ordered the blinds, and she paid them in advance so they could get their supplies.

After this rocky start, the business began to grow. They diversified into a home improvement products company.

In 1966, their company began selling Winnebago pickup toppers. In 1967, Mr. Hawley saw the brand new Winnebago motor home. He thought that was great, so his company got in the business. Eventually, the home products company was sold and Hawley Brothers concentrated on the recreational vehicle business.

Bill Hawley eventually bought the business from his dad. He says, "I’ve worked here since I was two."

Today, the company’s retail sales and service facility at Dodge City is called the Hawleywood RV Ranch. They also offer their products over the Internet.

Now listen to this. The Hawley Brothers company draws customers from six states and is selling used units over the Internet from coast to coast. They have sent units from Washington state to Rhode Island. Wow.

One of their RVs is actually in Sweden. The wife’s family was from Kansas, and they contacted Hawleys to special order an RV to travel around the U.S. for a year and then take back to Sweden with them.

Times have changed since those early R Vs. An original Winnebago camper cost less than four thousand dollars. Now, new motor homes may cost from seventy to one-hundred-eighty thousand dollars or more, and they are loaded with amenities.

Bill Hawley says, "These are people’s homes. These units come with microwave ovens, built in TVs, satellite dishes, slide-out rooms, and computer-controlled engines. We call it wheel estate."

Today, the Hawley Brothers is the oldest Winnebago dealer in the nation, and therefore the world – and it’s found right here in Kansas.

It’s time to say goodbye to Hawleywood – no, not the movie stars, but to Hawleywood RV Ranch at Dodge City. We commend Bill Hawley and all those involved in making a difference with this remarkable business. In my book, they are Hawleywood stars.

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

 

 

Bob and Tracey DeBruyn

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

Remember your favorite teacher? Or a teacher who made a difference in your life? I'm picturing Mrs. Hansen, Mrs. Dodds, Mrs. Haas, and Mr. Bartel. Probably each of us can remember a special teacher. A really outstanding one will sometimes be called a Master Teacher. Today we will learn about a remarkable company which is helping build master teachers in schools all over the world. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Bob and Tracey DeBruyn. Bob is founder of the company known as The MASTER Teacher, based in Manhattan, Kansas. His wife Tracey is President of this phenomenal business.

Bob DeBruyn grew up on the south side of Chicago. His mom was a nurse. His dad had a fourth grade education and worked in the oil refineries. Times were tough. They wanted a better life for their son, and they knew the key was education.

Bob went to college in Indiana and worked for Standard Oil and Dunn and Bradstreet. Then he was drafted into the military and was stationed at Fort Riley, in the Finance Corp. He liked Manhattan, so he stayed after his discharge and received a graduate degree from K-State. He wrote ads and sold time for WIBW to help make ends meet.

He also wanted to be a teacher, and in 1963 began his teaching career. On his first day, he received a nice welcome from his principal who gave him a couple of books and a class roster and sent him into the classroom with 150 students.

That is a challenge. How can someone be expected to become a master teacher overnight?

Almost no one can. Bob saw many fine teachers around him who began the school year with great zeal, but by Thanksgiving, both their enthusiasm and their ideals were gone. Those teachers knew their subject matter, but they did not have the ongoing skills and training to be successful in dealing with people.

He wrote down some ideas and concepts that could help a teacher be more effective. In the fall of 1969, he published those in a publication called The MASTER Teacher, and started marketing it to schools.

As a former radio and TV ad salesman, he knew that time was valuable. He wrote short, pithy summaries which could be read in 5 to 8 minutes--the time it took for the teacher to walk from the office back to his or her classroom.

His ideas hit the target. In nine weeks, the MASTER Teacher was the eighth largest educational publishing company in the country. During the first year, he moved his business location seven times as it continued to grow.

In 1973, he built a company building in northwest Manhattan. It was constructed as a house, with the thought being that if the business didn't make it, he could sell it as a residence.

But the business did make it. That 2,500 square foot house has now become a 60,000 square foot facility, with elegant offices and state-of-the-art technology. The MASTER Teacher is a phenomenon. It employs 70 people, plus up to 18 developmentally disabled persons, and serves a world-wide clientele. It has spawned two additional businesses, including one which works on electronic, distance education.

The MASTER Teacher goes to 200,000 teachers nationwide. These cover methods, techniques, and skills that work in rural schools as well as urban and suburban. There are 11 other publications too. The MASTER Teacher serves hundreds of Kansas schools, from Albert, population 219, to Windom, population 135. Now, that's rural.

But their customers also include more than 70 percent of the schools in the nation: In every state, every province of Canada, and more than 30 foreign countries. Wow.

Remember I mentioned when Master Teacher became the 8th largest educational publishing house? Today, it is Number 1--the largest trainer of teachers, principals, and superintendents in the entire nation, and it's based right here in Manhattan, Kansas.

Remember your favorite teacher? Those teachers have a real impact on young people's lives. We commend Bob and Tracey DeBruyn for making a difference by helping build human capacity and creating master teachers. Now, why don't you thank a teacher today?

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

 

 

Beaumont Hotel

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

Where shall we go for dinner tonight? I’m tired of drive-ins and drive-throughs. How about a fly-in? Yes, there’s a place where you can drive for dinner, but you can also fly there and park your plane right across the street. It’s the Historic Beaumont Hotel in rural Kansas. Get ready for take-off on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Jenny Mcleod, Innkeeper for the Beaumont Hotel. It was established in 1879 and was first used as a stagecoach station.

In 1885, Beaumont became a railroad town. The original water tower near the hotel is one of the oldest ones still remaining in the U.S. The hotel, then known as the Summit Hotel, was the highest point on the Frisco Line from Ellsworth to St. Louis. Guests included cattle barons from Texas and Oklahoma and the elite of the Frisco Railroad.

With time, however, the hotel declined. In 1953, a local man named J. C. Squier bought the hotel and restored it to its previous high quality. He added running water and heat, removed the old rope ladders which had been used for fire escapes; and added outside decks, giving a beautiful view of the Flint Hills. For the convenience of cattle buyers, a grass airstrip was put in nearby.

That airstrip would become significant to the Beaumont Hotel. It made it possible for people to fly in, enjoy a meal at the hotel, and fly on.

Today, the hotel is owned by Steve Craig, who is a businessman in Lawrence and also a private pilot. It is fun for these pilots to fly in for a meal like this.

They don’t have to be shuttled to the hotel from some distant airport. In fact, they can land on the nearby grass strip, taxi a quarter-mile on the county road, and then park their airplanes just across the street.

Legend has it that one pilot even received a ticket for not stopping his plane at the stop sign, but this cannot be proven. It is known, however, that one recent pilot was taxiing down the street when he came upon a calf that had gotten out, and so that plane just herded the calf back down the road to where it was supposed to be.

This interaction of planes and people is just remarkable. Jenny Mcleod says, "We’re a member of the $100 hamburger club. That’s a real aviation term. People say that a pilot will spend $90 on fuel to eat a $10 meal." Sure enough, the menu at Beaumont features a $100 hamburger.

Today, the Beaumont is a bed and breakfast hotel. It was recently remodeled and has five guest suites and six guestrooms, each with private bath and modern amenities plus a down-home touch. Jenny Mcleod says, "We bake our own cookies and put `em on the bed."

People have come from all over the country to stay or dine at the Beaumont. The Beaumont Hotel Cafe’ is a 50’s style diner, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also the Prairie Fire Room, a large dining room with picture windows overlooking the prairie.

Each month there is a pancake breakfast buffet and fly-in and a motorcycle rally and breakfast buffet, plus live entertainment and many other special groups and events.

Innkeeper Jenny Mcleod came from a small town in Texas, so she enjoys this lifestyle. She says, "I was in a hotel in LA that had 1,300 rooms. There were more people on my staff than we have in this entire town. But my husband and I wanted to get out of the LA rat race, and this is wonderful."

Beaumont is nestled in the southern Flint Hills in eastern Butler County. It is a town of 84 people. Now, that’s rural.

For more information, go to their website at www.hotelbeaumontks.com. That’s www.hotelb-e-a-u-m-o-n-t-k-s.com.

Instead of a drive-through or drive-in, let’s fly-in for supper tonight at the Historic Beaumont Hotel. We commend Jenny Mcleod, Steve Craig, and all those at the Beaumont for making a difference by enhancing tourism in this remarkable way. Now, it’s time for this program to come in for a landing.

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

 

 

Bob and Tracey DeBruyn

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

Remember your favorite teacher? Or a teacher who made a difference in your life? I'm picturing Mrs. Hansen, Mrs. Dodds, Mrs. Haas, and Mr. Bartel. Probably each of us can remember a special teacher. A really outstanding one will sometimes be called a Master Teacher. Today we will learn about a remarkable company which is helping build master teachers in schools all over the world. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Bob and Tracey DeBruyn. Bob is founder of the company known as The MASTER Teacher, based in Manhattan, Kansas. His wife Tracey is President of this phenomenal business.

Bob DeBruyn grew up on the south side of Chicago. His mom was a nurse. His dad had a fourth grade education and worked in the oil refineries. Times were tough. They wanted a better life for their son, and they knew the key was education.

Bob went to college in Indiana and worked for Standard Oil and Dunn and Bradstreet. Then he was drafted into the military and was stationed at Fort Riley, in the Finance Corp. He liked Manhattan, so he stayed after his discharge and received a graduate degree from K-State. He wrote ads and sold time for WIBW to help make ends meet.

He also wanted to be a teacher, and in 1963 began his teaching career. On his first day, he received a nice welcome from his principal who gave him a couple of books and a class roster and sent him into the classroom with 150 students.

That is a challenge. How can someone be expected to become a master teacher overnight?

Almost no one can. Bob saw many fine teachers around him who began the school year with great zeal, but by Thanksgiving, both their enthusiasm and their ideals were gone. Those teachers knew their subject matter, but they did not have the ongoing skills and training to be successful in dealing with people.

He wrote down some ideas and concepts that could help a teacher be more effective. In the fall of 1969, he published those in a publication called The MASTER Teacher, and started marketing it to schools.

As a former radio and TV ad salesman, he knew that time was valuable. He wrote short, pithy summaries which could be read in 5 to 8 minutes--the time it took for the teacher to walk from the office back to his or her classroom.

His ideas hit the target. In nine weeks, the MASTER Teacher was the eighth largest educational publishing company in the country. During the first year, he moved his business location seven times as it continued to grow.

In 1973, he built a company building in northwest Manhattan. It was constructed as a house, with the thought being that if the business didn't make it, he could sell it as a residence.

But the business did make it. That 2,500 square foot house has now become a 60,000 square foot facility, with elegant offices and state-of-the-art technology. The MASTER Teacher is a phenomenon. It employs 70 people, plus up to 18 developmentally disabled persons, and serves a world-wide clientele. It has spawned two additional businesses, including one which works on electronic, distance education.

The MASTER Teacher goes to 200,000 teachers nationwide. These cover methods, techniques, and skills that work in rural schools as well as urban and suburban. There are 11 other publications too. The MASTER Teacher serves hundreds of Kansas schools, from Albert, population 219, to Windom, population 135. Now, that's rural.

But their customers also include more than 70 percent of the schools in the nation: In every state, every province of Canada, and more than 30 foreign countries. Wow.

Remember I mentioned when Master Teacher became the 8th largest educational publishing house? Today, it is Number 1--the largest trainer of teachers, principals, and superintendents in the entire nation, and it's based right here in Manhattan, Kansas.

Remember your favorite teacher? Those teachers have a real impact on young people's lives. We commend Bob and Tracey DeBruyn for making a difference by helping build human capacity and creating master teachers. Now, why don't you thank a teacher today?

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

 

 

Beaumont Hotel

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

Where shall we go for dinner tonight? I’m tired of drive-ins and drive-throughs. How about a fly-in? Yes, there’s a place where you can drive for dinner, but you can also fly there and park your plane right across the street. It’s the Historic Beaumont Hotel in rural Kansas. Get ready for take-off on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Jenny Mcleod, Innkeeper for the Beaumont Hotel. It was established in 1879 and was first used as a stagecoach station.

In 1885, Beaumont became a railroad town. The original water tower near the hotel is one of the oldest ones still remaining in the U.S. The hotel, then known as the Summit Hotel, was the highest point on the Frisco Line from Ellsworth to St. Louis. Guests included cattle barons from Texas and Oklahoma and the elite of the Frisco Railroad.

With time, however, the hotel declined. In 1953, a local man named J. C. Squier bought the hotel and restored it to its previous high quality. He added running water and heat, removed the old rope ladders which had been used for fire escapes; and added outside decks, giving a beautiful view of the Flint Hills. For the convenience of cattle buyers, a grass airstrip was put in nearby.

That airstrip would become significant to the Beaumont Hotel. It made it possible for people to fly in, enjoy a meal at the hotel, and fly on.

Today, the hotel is owned by Steve Craig, who is a businessman in Lawrence and also a private pilot. It is fun for these pilots to fly in for a meal like this.

They don’t have to be shuttled to the hotel from some distant airport. In fact, they can land on the nearby grass strip, taxi a quarter-mile on the county road, and then park their airplanes just across the street.

Legend has it that one pilot even received a ticket for not stopping his plane at the stop sign, but this cannot be proven. It is known, however, that one recent pilot was taxiing down the street when he came upon a calf that had gotten out, and so that plane just herded the calf back down the road to where it was supposed to be.

This interaction of planes and people is just remarkable. Jenny Mcleod says, "We’re a member of the $100 hamburger club. That’s a real aviation term. People say that a pilot will spend $90 on fuel to eat a $10 meal." Sure enough, the menu at Beaumont features a $100 hamburger.

Today, the Beaumont is a bed and breakfast hotel. It was recently remodeled and has five guest suites and six guestrooms, each with private bath and modern amenities plus a down-home touch. Jenny Mcleod says, "We bake our own cookies and put `em on the bed."

People have come from all over the country to stay or dine at the Beaumont. The Beaumont Hotel Cafe’ is a 50’s style diner, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also the Prairie Fire Room, a large dining room with picture windows overlooking the prairie.

Each month there is a pancake breakfast buffet and fly-in and a motorcycle rally and breakfast buffet, plus live entertainment and many other special groups and events.

Innkeeper Jenny Mcleod came from a small town in Texas, so she enjoys this lifestyle. She says, "I was in a hotel in LA that had 1,300 rooms. There were more people on my staff than we have in this entire town. But my husband and I wanted to get out of the LA rat race, and this is wonderful."

Beaumont is nestled in the southern Flint Hills in eastern Butler County. It is a town of 84 people. Now, that’s rural.

For more information, go to their website at www.hotelbeaumontks.com. That’s www.hotelb-e-a-u-m-o-n-t-k-s.com.

Instead of a drive-through or drive-in, let’s fly-in for supper tonight at the Historic Beaumont Hotel. We commend Jenny Mcleod, Steve Craig, and all those at the Beaumont for making a difference by enhancing tourism in this remarkable way. Now, it’s time for this program to come in for a landing.

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

 

 

 

Dale and Lynn Pelton - Cool Bones

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 subject you might want to bone up on. And when I say bone up, I really mean it. This is the remarkable story of a craftsman making beautiful creations from something you wouldn’t expect: Rattlesnake bones. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Dale and Lynn Pelton, owners and operators of a business called Cool Bones. It is a home-based business which consists of Dale and Lynn as artisans. But their artwork isn’t on a canvas, it is rattlesnake bones and more.

Dale Pelton’s family is originally from southwest Kansas. He and Lynn live near Hanston, but their mailing address is Kinsley.

Recently, Dale remembered that as a child, he had a dream in which he was making necklaces with bones. It must have been a foreshadowing of things to come.

Professionally, Dale is self-employed in the heating and cooling business. He has a hobby in necklace-making.

He also hunts rattlesnakes, which I know several outdoorsmen enjoy. Those snakeskins can make striking decorations - no pun intended.

Dale points out they don’t use chemicals or gas on these snakes, they just hunt them normally and legally. Dale says, "I help farmers thin `em out."

As I said, those skins can be quite eye-catching. One day Dale was showing the skins to his friend Norma Clare, who runs Prairie Wind Gallery in Dodge City. She asked, "What do you do with the bones?" Dale says, "I hadn’t thought about it." Basically, it was the skins that had value – the bones were discarded because there was no use for them.

But as he thought about it, he wondered if he could use those bones in a necklace. He carefully cleaned up some rattlesnake vertebra and strung them together. The result was an unusual and eye-catching necklace.

That lead to a new enterprise in producing and selling these unusual works of hand-crafted art. The necklaces and bracelets are strung on plastic coated fine wire and secured with crimp style beads. The clasps are either metal barrel or crab claw. Some have leather thong slide ties which are easily adjusted to the desired fit. All beads are made from minerals, glass, bones, metals, gold plated, silver plated, nickel coated and stainless steel.

Dale isn’t the only artisan in the family. His wife Lynn makes earrings, anklets, and tomahawks. They have coyote claw necklaces, leather items, and other products.

If all this sounds Native American, it might be, in part. Dale says he has a bit of Apache and Kickapoo blood in his heritage.

Mostly, he enjoys building and showing his remarkable works of art. Dale and Lynn take them to craft shows, gun shows, and other special events from South Dakota to Oklahoma. Norma Clare now has some for sale at her gallery.

This remarkable business is also high tech. Their sixteen year old son does computer work for them, and serves on the technology team at school. The Peltons even have a website at www.coolbones.com. That site again is www.coolbones.com.

Through the web, their products have been shipped from Maryland to Arizona and from South Africa to New Zealand – all this from their home near Hanston, Kansas, population 294 people. Now, that’s rural. How exciting to find these craftsmen using technology to market their products coast to coast.

But there’s more. On July 8, 2003 -- after this story was first written -- Dale and Lynn were out driving when a truck hit them at an intersection. Dale says, "We could have died." They were seriously injured and airlifted to Wichita, but now they are on the mend. Dale says, "The Lord must have plans for us. Making these necklaces is our therapy."

Here’s a subject you might want to bone up on: Rattlesnake bone necklaces, sold by this company called Cool Bones. My kids definitely think these are cool. We commend Dale and Lynn Pelton and family for making a difference through their artistic craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. Thank goodness the Peltons survived and are doing this in rural Kansas – I make no bones about that.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Sprout Software

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

How ya gonna keep `em down on the farm after they’ve seen the Internet? That may sound like a modern version of an old saying, but it takes on new meaning in light of the young men we will meet today: A couple of farm boys from rural Kansas who have begun their own software company which is serving agriculture and other customers who are providing information worldwide. It’s a remarkable story of rural entrepreneurship and technology, and it’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Ryan Mott and Steven Briggeman. They are the partners and co-founders of Sprout Software in Manhattan, Kansas.

Our story begins in south central Kansas. Steven Briggeman grew up on a farm near Pratt. He graduated from Pratt High, came to K-State and got a degree in Ag Technology Management, and started working on a second degree in computer science.

Ryan Mott also came from the Pratt area. Until the second grade, he lived on a farm near Iuka, which is six miles from Pratt. Iuka is a town of 209 people. Now, that’s rural.

Ryan graduated from Pratt a few years after Steve and also came to K-State. He worked on degrees in computer science and theater. So, both Ryan and Steve had interest in agriculture and training in computers.

These interests go back to their younger days. While in high school, Ryan had worked at a bank in Pratt to update their agricultural lending software which dated back to 1985 – in technology terms, that was the stone age. Steven worked on a project for K-State’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering called KanSched, which helped farmers schedule irrigation events. But though they shared interests in ag and technology, they did not particularly know each other.

Their mothers back in Pratt happened to visit, noted their sons’ common interests, and told them they should talk. Maybe the moral of this story is to always listen to your mother.

Anyway, Ryan says, "I was home in Pratt for Christmas break. Steven called and said he had some ideas for computer software that could do some organizational stuff for farmers." Sure enough, that did sound interesting. The two got together when they got back to K-State. One thing led to another, and in August 2002 they formed their own company: Sprout Software.

Today, Sprout Software is a computer solutions development company creating custom software applications to increase productivity and maximize return-on-investment in the agricultural industry and beyond.

Sprout Software’s very first website was for the K-State/John Deere Dealership Management program for K-State’s Department of Ag Technology Management. Sprout Software also designed the site for the Kansas AgrAbility project, which assists disabled farmers and their families.

Now they are doing websites for all kinds of clients, while developing software with agricultural applications. They have already developed a software program for a local cattle breeder to track his customer contacts. Other tasks with which software could assist could include commodity storage tracking, detailed bookkeeping report generation, and complete farming operation management.

Sprout Software has designed websites for local enterprises plus bigger companies such as an electronics testing company in Colorado Springs and a soy wax company in Chicago. Their sites have generated hits from such places as Japan, the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Chile. Wow.

All this has essentially been developed by a start-up business of these two college students in Manhattan. Ryan says with a smile, "We are basically operating out of an upstairs bedroom. This is a good kind of business to start, because it takes low overhead."

But they are putting their expertise to good use, on the cutting edge of computer technology in agriculture. Their website is www.sproutsoft.com. Again, that is www.sproutsoft.com.

How ya gonna keep `em down on the farm after they’ve seen the Internet? Today, that saying takes on new meaning. These two young men are making a difference by using the technology of the Internet for the benefit of agriculture and other industries in rural Kansas. They just might help keep things up on the farm.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

Deb and Bill Brown - Red Rock Guest Ranch

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

Let’s leaf through the want ads. Here’s an interesting one: It says Robbers Wanted. Gosh, what publication is this -- Gangsters Weekly? Are they planning a hold-up? No, it’s a local newspaper, and we find it isn’t so sinister. Under Robbers Wanted, the ad says, Cowboys and Characters: Guys and gals who want to dress up, act up, and have fun. This is an ad for people to work in cowboy costume at a new guest ranch in rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Deb and Bill Brown of the Red Rock Guest Ranch near Soldier, Kansas.

Deb comes from northeast Kansas originally. She had a career in financial services with Security Benefit in Topeka. Bill is from Detroit originally – not exactly rural. But as a kid, he watched cowboy shows and dreamed of being a cowboy. His career took him into the Army. His last duty station was in Topeka, where he met and married Deb.

They were living in Topeka when they bought some land with an old farmhouse west of Holton in 1995. One day Bill came home and announced that he had bought some cows, fulfilling his childhood dream of being a cowboy. Deb said, "Well, you always wanted to have cows. I always wanted to have a bed and breakfast." So they decided to remodel the old farmhouse and make it into a b and b.

This was a four-square farmhouse house built in 1887 that had been abandoned. Deb says with a laugh, "There were goats living in it when we bought it."

But the roof and the foundation were solid, so they set about remodeling it. That 700 square foot farmhouse was transformed into a beautiful 8,000 square foot structure, with six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, and lots of amenities, including a hot tub, fitness room, and a beautiful rambling porch – plus being surrounded by 300 scenic acres. It became the Soldier Inn Bed and Breakfast.

In 1999, Bill and Deb made a trip to the Calgary Stampede up in Canada. They attended a western-theme chuckwagon supper for fun one night, and Deb said, "Bill, we could do this."

So they did some research and planning, and the Red Rock Guest Ranch was born. The old barn on the place was remodeled into a climate controlled building where chuckwagon suppers and western entertainment are offered each Saturday night.

When guests arrive, they see a vintage chuckwagon and cowboys on horseback – plus fun things for the kids such as a hayrack ride and pygmy goats to pet and feed.

Then they enter air conditioned comfort for the meal. The menu includes smoked barbecue brisket and pulled pork, baked tater, Miss Judy’s fried apples, chuckwagon beans, corn bread and biscuits with honey butter, peach slump, and campfire coffee. Mm, those cowboys on the trail never had it so good. Top quality western music and entertainment finishes the evening.

When the Browns started this enterprise, they needed staff who would help provide their guests a top quality experience. They placed the ad I described at the beginning, and they are utilizing local talent. The Browns are assisted by an excellent crew, including manager and chef Judy Olson and wagonmaster Francis Turley. And you never know when some of those costumed characters might carry on a mock hold-up.

This is only the first season for the Red Rock Guest Ranch, but already they are drawing more than a hundred people each Saturday night. The ranch is located on the edge of the scenic Flint Hills, northwest of Topeka. It is actually a mile and a half from the town of Soldier, population 126 people. Now, that’s rural.

For more information, go to www.redrockguestranch.com or call toll-free 1-866 FUN-GRUB. Again, that’s www.redrockguestranch.com or 1-866 FUN-GRUB.

Let’s leaf through the want ads. Here’s one for Robbers Wanted. But don’t call the police. Instead, call the Red Rock Guest Ranch, where Deb and Bill Brown are making a difference through their entrepreneurship and creativity. Rather than a hold up, they are helping to uphold rural Kansas.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Food Industry Roundtable

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

There are three things most of us know about the food industry: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In other words, we probably take the food industry for granted. We enjoy our meals and don’t think twice about the many steps which our food goes through before it arrives on our plates. Because of those many steps, there are many segments within the food industry, from producers to handlers to processors to manufacturers to distributors to retailers – and even more. Today we will learn about an effort to create a dialogue among these many sectors. It’s an appetizing edition of Kansas Profile.

On July 30, 2003 in Manhattan, Kansas, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the K-State Alumni Center, K-State will host the state’s first-ever Food Industry Roundtable. Here’s how it came about.

A few years ago, dairy producers heard a K-State food science professor named Dr. Karen Schmidt talk about how certain feeding practices for dairy cows could enhance the quality of the milk. This began a thought process: Were there other things that ag producers could do to be beneficial for the food value chain? That led to an even larger question: Can we enhance communication among the sectors of the food industry in ways that will be mutually beneficial for everyone?

So, the Kansas Dairy Association successfully applied for a grant from the Kansas Health and Nutrition Fund to conduct a food industry roundtable. They brought together a diverse group of ag, food, and university organizations, including my office, for input on the event.

The goal is to bring together representatives from the many organizations and companies involved in the food industry, to think about ways to work together to improve the quality, safety, nutrition, and value of Kansas food products.

What does all this mean? Each sector of the food industry works hard and does a good job. For example, we get excellent food at our grocery stores and restaurants. At the other end of the chain, farmers work very hard to produce those products. But what might be possible with even more communication among those segments of the food chain?

The Food Industry Roundtable is designed to facilitate that communication. The program begins with welcoming comments from President Wefald of K-State and Adrian Polansky, the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture. Then there will be a panel of people speaking from various perspectives: a grain and seed producer, a grain processor, a baker, a livestock and dairy producer, a meat processor, a grocery store representative, and a representative from the restaurants.

As the theme says, it is intended to go from the farm gate to the food plate. After that will be breakout sessions to go into more detail by commodity: namely, beef, grains, and dairy. Those sessions have been titled From Steer to Steak, From Seed to Sandwich, and From Moo to Milkshake. Gotta love it.

Ideas and recommendations from these sessions will be compiled and summarized in a written report after the roundtable.

The dialogue really does bring together different regions and segments, from farm and city, urban and rural, producer to consumer. The program includes speakers ranging from the urban-based retail grocers representative at Shawnee Mission in Kansas City to a seed producer from Everest, Kansas, population 310 people. Now, that’s rural.

How exciting to see urban and rural interests convening to discuss how they can work together in the food industry.

Anyone with an interest in the food industry is invited to participate. More information, including registration, is available online at www.agresources.com/k-f-i-r-dot-h-t-m. Or call 785-456-9705. That number again is 785-456-9705.

There are three things most of us know about the food industry: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now there is a unique opportunity for the sectors of the food industry to have a dialogue, through the Food Industry Roundtable. We commend the Kansas Dairy Association and all those who are making a difference by assisting with this initiative. And now we know four things about the food industry: At the roundtable, they’re serving refreshments too.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Coopers - Pet Caskets

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

What do you do when Fido has to go? No, not that kind of go. I’m not talking about house-training your dog, I’m talking about when your dog has to go permanently. As in, to the big doghouse in the sky. When a beloved dog or other pet dies, it really is a traumatic event for people. Some people will want to bury those special pets in style. Today, we’ll meet an innovative family in rural Kansas which is using their family members’ skills in woodworking to create a very specialized item for such use – a pet casket. We’ll get the story on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet the Cooper family, which lives near Hoxie, Kansas. Kevin Cooper grew up on the family farm near Hoxie. Hoxie is the county seat of Sheridan County , in northwest Kansas. Hoxie is a town of 1,223 people. That’s rural – but stay tuned.

Kevin attended K-State before coming back to the farm. He married Melanie, who grew up at the nearby town of Studley, Kansas. Now Kevin and Melanie have two sons, Justin and Jesse. These young men represent the fifth generation on this family farm, which is a great accomplishment.

These young men are also very skilled craftsmen. Justin says that the woodworking teachers at their school are excellent teachers. In fact, their woodworking program at Hoxie High School has won awards from the Hays Industrial Trade Show for several years in a row. The Coopers enjoyed spending time in the wood shop, and are quite good at it.

The Cooper’s new enterprise really began with a friend in Hays, who started working in the lumber industry. He had an old gymnasium in a small town near Hays, which he converted into storage for his lumber.

This town has a German name, spelled S-c-h-o-e-n-c-h-e-n. But it is pronounced Sho-shun. Schoenchen has a population of 199 people. Now, that’s rural.

From this rural setting, the man worked with the Coopers to put together a wood shop and to develop some wood products which they could build. This would utilize his lumber supplies while putting to use the Coopers’ skills in carpentry.

The Coopers operate under the name Cooper Carpentry. They can make most any kind of wood product, from desks to dressers to chests of drawers.

But when Kevin Cooper did some research, he noted that some of the most valuable wood products included caskets, as in a coffin for a person’s final resting place. Now he and his sons have produced several caskets.

Further research showed an even more unusual type of product opportunity, and that is caskets for pets. Yes, this is a handmade, high quality wooden box in which your pet could be laid to rest. In April 2002, the Coopers organized a business making these caskets. If you want to go the extra mile for your deceased pet, you can order a pet casket from the Coopers.

And although I have been talking about dogs today, these are suitable for any type of beloved pet, of course.

These caskets are very nice and tastefully done. Only hardwood is used; namely, oak or walnut. The caskets come in two sizes. The large is 13" wide and 25" long. The Small casket is 11" wide and 22" long. They are lined with an alabaster-colored, velour fabric. The wood is finished with a hand rubbed tung oil finish.

It seems like a highly specialized niche, but today, these pet caskets are offered worldwide over the Internet. If you went to ABCPetSupplies.com, a company which is based in California, you would find a link for Pet Caskets in Hoxie, Kansas. Wow.

So what do you do when Fido has to go? I mean, really go? You can order a pet casket from Cooper Carpentry in Hoxie, Kansas. We commend Kevin and Melanie and Justin and Jesse Cooper for making a difference with their craftsmanship and innovation. Their type of product is something you would use for a very good dog.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Dorothy Keplinger - Grenola

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

Let’s talk about Grenola. No, not your breakfast cereal. I’m talking about a Kansas town named Grenola, which has an interesting history and a special museum. Fill up your cereal bowl, this is today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Dorothy Keplinger from Grenola, Kansas. Dorothy and her husband Dean live near Grenola in southeast Kansas. Grenola is spelled g-r-e-n-o-l-a. It is located in Elk County on the eastern edge of the Flint Hills.

Grenola has a fascinating history, which reminds me of two things. One is the phrase that is popular in business circles that refers to reinventing yourself. The other has to do with competition. We hear lots of talk about neighboring towns that are competitive and fight each other. The story of Grenola, on the other hand, is one of cooperation.

This history goes back to the late 1800s, during the big cattle drives from Texas to Kansas. Millions of head of cattle were driven up to Kansas to meet the railroads, to be shipped back east.

As always, the grasslands of the Flint Hills made a great place to raise beef, so the Texans liked to drive their cattle to this region. The key factor was the location of the railroad.

In this area, there were two neighboring towns just six miles apart. The names of the two towns were Canola, spelled like the cooking oil, and Greenfield. But when the Southern Kansas Railroad built its route, it came right between the two towns and bypassed both.

When these two towns saw what was happening with the railroad, they banded together. They decided to form a new town adjacent to the new railroad route. To name the town, they took the "Gre" from Greenfield and the "Nola" from Canola. They put them together and named the town Grenola. It was founded in 1879. Talk about reinventing yourself!

Not only was this new town convenient to the railroad, it was 75 miles closer to Texas than the previous shipping point. And what was the result?

From 1881 to 1884, Grenola, Kansas became the largest single cattle shipping point in the United States. Wow.

But the boom times would not last, due to changes in the cattle business and shipping methods. Then oil and gas sparked another boom in the early 1900s. After that, Grenola settled back into being a typical, rural community on the southeast edge of the flint hills.

Grenola has been featured on this program once before. An airplane parts manufacturing company named Kelly Manufacturing relocated from Wichita to Grenola and is housed in the old high school there.

One of the striking sights in Grenola is the old grain elevator. The Grenola Mill and Elevator was established in 1909 and served the community until 1986. In 1990, it was opened as a community museum. In 2002, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum complex includes the original elevator plus a mixing room, a warehouse, and two rural schoolhouses. One schoolhouse is furnished as a rural school in the thirties. The other contains pictures and trophies from the old high school, including yearbooks from 1913 on.

The mill and elevator have all working parts intact for viewing. Two large store rooms house the wagons, buggies, farm implements, blacksmith tools, saddles, and household items that have been donated or loaned.

There’s a covered wagon, giant safe, surrey, grocery wagon, horse harness, 1934 Chevy, hand-crank telephone, a fainting couch, and an Edison phonograph which plays music on cylinders, plus much more. These are the artifacts of early life in rural Kansas, very fitting in Grenola. Today, Grenola is a town of 231 people. Now, that’s rural.

It’s time to take our leave of Grenola. No, not the cereal, but a neat community which is preserving and promoting its history at the Grenola Elevator Museum. We salute Dorothy and Dean Keplinger and all those of the Grenola Historical Society who are making a difference by preserving this heritage. Just like a healthy breakfast, this Grenola is good for you.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

Jon Mollhagen - Moly Manufacturing

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 a convention in Hawaii. Sounds good, doesn’t it? There are lots of conventions in Hawaii. This particular convention involves the creator of what is considered by many to be the nation’s leader in its field. And where do you suppose this creator is coming from? Would you believe, the middle of Kansas? It’s a long way from rural Kansas to the islands of Hawaii, but we’ll make the journey for today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Jon Mollhagen from Lorraine, Kansas. Jon and his wife Pat are the owners and founders of Moly Manufacturing in Lorraine. It is a family-owned, home-grown, rural business. Talk about being home grown. The manufacturing facility is located a thousand feet from where Jon grew up.

Now Jon is attending this convention in Hawaii, for the cattlemen’s association there. His company produces a cattle handling chute which is considered to be the industry standard.

For the layperson who is listening, let me explain that these chutes are large metal frames with attachments which can temporarily hold a cow in place so that the rancher can vaccinate it against disease, for example.

Jon explains, "I’m a farmer and rancher out here. I had a need for portable cattle handling equipment."

Jon went to the 3I show, which is a big farm and industrial equipment show held each year in southwest Kansas. He saw lots of equipment, but not exactly what he needed.

Jon says, "I wanted something portable but heavy enough to work a lot of cattle, and it needed to be something I could set up quickly." So with Kansas farmer ingenuity, he designed and built something that would work.

It worked so well that others became interested. When he took it to a meeting of the Kansas Livestock Association in 1987, he sold one the very first night. So, he started taking it to more trade shows.

In 1988, the publication Farm Industry News named his creation the Top New Product of the Year. Wow.

Today, Moly Manufacturing Company produces a line of innovative hydraulic powered cattle squeeze chutes which are considered to set the industry standard. Their products are said to be recognized throughout the cattle industry as the most innovative and technologically advanced chute on the market. How did they get that way? By listening.

As Jon went to trade shows, he visited with lots of cattlemen, feedlot owners, veterinarians, and others about the type of cattle handling equipment which they would like. Their input helped shape the design of his new products.

The company’s current line of chutes is called the Silencer. That sounds rather sinister, like something James Bond puts on his gun. But it actually gets its name because it is specially built to cut down the metal clanging noise you typically get from a squeeze chute. Not only is that noise reduction good for the workers, it helps reduce stress in the cattle being treated.

Jon continues to innovate. His chutes are specially designed so that the pressure on the animal’s body is applied evenly in order to prevent costly and painful bruising or leg injuries to the animals. Today, Moly Manufacturing has nine different types of the squeeze chute, for specialized needs such as veterinarians or others doing embryo transfer and other procedures.

This company is shipping its products from coast to coast, New York to California, to at least 40 of the 50 states, and as far away as Australia and Argentina. Yet they remain based near Jon’s home in the central Kansas town of Lorraine, population 144 people. Now, that’s rural.

It’s great to find a homegrown, family-owned Kansas business serving markets around the world from rural Kansas.

It’s time to say farewell to this convention in Hawaii, where the program includes an entrepreneur from the middle of Kansas -- not exactly a beachfront. Congratulations to Jon and Pat Mollhagen and all the people of Moly Manufacturing for making a difference by responding to real market needs. And Aloha from rural Kansas.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Jim Richardson lecture

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 jungles of Africa, the mountains of Europe, the ancient cities of Asia. Sounds like quite an itinerary, doesn’t it? But you need to know that the itinerary for this particular traveler will always end in one place: The heartland of Kansas. This is the story of a world traveler and world class photographer who makes his home in rural Kansas. It’s a photographer’s edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Jim Richardson. Jim is the world traveler and esteemed photographer which I have been describing. Thanks to Gloria Freeland, director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, Kansans will be soon be able to hear from him first-hand. Gloria provided us the background information about Jim Richardson. Here is the story.

Jim is a native Kansan. He started experimenting with his father's box camera on his parents' farmstead in north central Kansas. Then he developed his photography skills while working for Student Publications at K-State in the late 1960s. He worked at the Topeka Capital-Journal from 1970 to 1981.

From 1981 to 1984, Jim worked at The Denver Post as a special assignment photographer roving the West. Then in 1984, he started working with the National Geographic Society, as he has ever since.

This entails traveling the globe to provide those striking first-hand photos of natural geographic landmarks and native tribes and cultures from around the world, as seen on the pages of National Geographic magazine.

His documentary photographs of Kansas people and places have been featured by Charles Kuralt on CBS News Sunday Morning; twice received a Special Recognition Award for World Understanding from Nikon; and traveled the world in Richardson's audio-visual show, "Reflections from a Wide Spot in the Road,." which received many international awards.

In 1979, Richardson published his first book, High School USA, a three-year study of adolescence in Rossville High School. Excerpted in LIFE Magazine, the book is now considered a photo essay classic.

Richardson has six other book titles to his credit. He also has been involved in the Day in the Life series of books that gathers some of the world's best photographers to document a place for 24 hours

In 2001, the ABC News' program Nightline followed Richardson through work in the field and at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., on one particular National Geographic piece on the Columbia River. This represented the first time the Society has allowed an outside journalist to document its behind-the scenes editorial process.

Jim Richardson has photographed people in small towns from China and the former Soviet Union to Italy and Ireland. Wow.

After living almost 20 years in Denver, Richardson returned to his home state of Kansas in 1997 to get closer to his rural roots. He and his wife Kathy and young son Tyler now live in Lindsborg, population 2,693 people. Now, that’s rural.

Soon we will have a chance to hear directly from this remarkable, world-acclaimed photographer, who is choosing to make rural Kansas his home. Gloria Freeland has arranged for him to give a lecture at K-State. Gloria is director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, which is a sister organization to my office but is located in K-State’s A.Q. Miller School of Journalism.

Through Gloria’s efforts, Jim will giving the fourth annual Huck Boyd Lecture in Community Media. The lecture will be September 18, 2003, at 1 p.m. in the K-State Union Forum Hall in Manhattan, Kansas. The public is invited to attend. For more information, call the Huck Boyd Center at 785-532-0721. That number again is 785-532-0721.

Let’s go to the jungles of Africa, the mountains of Europe, the ancient cities of Asia. Yes, it’s quite an itinerary, but for National Geographic photographer, his itinerary will eventually bring him home to rural Kansas. We commend Jim Richardson for making a difference by utilizing his talents, for making a commitment to rural Kansas, and for sharing his experience with us. It’s good to have him home.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

Pine Family Farms

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

Turf. It seems to be an obstacle when people or agencies collide: "Hey, get off my turf." Today, we’ll meet a family which has found a way to put that turf to good use -- literally. They are producing and marketing top quality turfgrass. This is an innovative Kansas farm family that is a national leader in the agricultural industry. Hop on a golf cart for a special turfgrass edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Roger and Sue Pine of Pine Family Farms near Lawrence, Kansas. Roger’s ancestors started farming here in 1868. Now Roger and Sue’s son Brian and daughter Shawn make the fifth generation of this family that is farming in the area.

Roger graduated from K-State in 1964, went to India on a farm youth exchange, served in the military, married Sue, and came back to the farm. Brian and Shawn graduated from K-State also. Both heeded their parents’ advice and worked off the farm before returning to the family business.

I mentioned this family was a national leader in agriculture. In 1998, Roger served as President of the National Corn Growers Association. But at the same time, the family was looking for innovations.

Roger says, "We’ve never been afraid to try new things." Over the years, in addition to the traditional crops of corn and soybeans and cows and hogs, the Pines have produced potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, chrysanthemums, and more.

In the mid-1990s, the Pines were looking for more diversification. They thought about turfgrass -- You know, the rolls of sod that landscapers and homeowners use to make a wonderful lawn.

Today, Pine Family Farms produces some 3,500 acres of crops, including the traditional corn and soybeans. But the turfgrass production is especially interesting. Roger says, "We are selling a product in a different market than agriculture."

Sod or turfgrass production is definitely a different type of market. Everything is intensive about grass production.

Roger says with a smile, "This isn’t minimum tillage or no-till like we talk about in corn production. This is intensive tillage."

For example, grass is planted at a rate of 350 to 450 pounds of seed per acre. It is carefully watered and fertilized. In fact, it is not just irrigated, it is fertigated. That means that fertilizer is added to the water while irrigating, so that the plants get the nutrients in an efficient manner while conserving resources.

Once the grass is established, it continues to receive careful tending. In order to keep the turfgrass just right, for example, the sod is mowed as many as three times a week. Okay, I’ll stop complaining about having to mow my lawn every week or two....

The sod is harvested using a special device with a blade that passes a couple of inches below the surface of the earth and produces those nice rolls of sod that landscapers can use. That sod, or turfgrass, can be sold as one yard to patch a lawn or in large loads for commercial use.

The Pines have provided turfgrass for several universities, the Kansas Speedway, several developments, and golf courses as far away as Colbert Hills and the Lake of the Ozarks. Wow.

The Pine’s farm is located on the northeast edge of Lawrence, just off I-70. In fact, you can see the fields of sod as you drive along the Turnpike between Lawrence and Kansas City.

This business serves customers both urban and rural across Kansas. For example, their sod is used in the soccer complex in the city of Leawood, and they’ve sold hay out at Goodland, population 4,834 people. Now, that’s rural.

How exciting to see this long-time family business innovate and grow.

Turf. Sometimes people argue about their territory or turf, figuratively speaking. But today we’ve learned about the real turf: That luscious green sod that makes golf courses and lawns look so wonderful. We commend Roger and Sue Pine and Brian and Shawn for making a difference through leadership and innovation. With a family farm that began back in 1868, you know they have deep roots.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Frederick Funston 2003 - Part 1

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

Let’s discuss some heroes from Kansas history. For example: The explorer who almost died in a blizzard, the war hero wounded in battle, the botanist who served hazardous duty for USDA, and the soldier who made a daring escape. Quite a collection of Kansas heroes, isn’t it? They are all one and the same man -- who came from rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Our story begins in the 1860s, when a Civil War soldier from Ohio came west to homestead in southeast Kansas. His name was Edward Funston. He later brought his family out to Kansas, including his petite wife and two year old son named Frederick.

The family homestead was north of Iola near the unincorporated settlement of Carlyle, which today has a population of about a hundred people. Now, that’s rural. This was the boyhood home of Frederick Funston.

Over the years, his father Edward Funston expanded the farm and became active in politics. He served in the Kansas Legislature and then the U.S. House of Representatives. Ed Funston was a big, imposing man – six feet two and more than 200 pounds – with a deep, booming voice. His enemies derisively called him "Foghorn Funston." That prompted his supporters to call him "Farmer Funston," because he was such an effective supporter of his state’s agricultural interests. In fact, he became Chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee.

Young Frederick Funston inherited his father’s intellect and competitive spirit, but he inherited his mother’s small size. Fred Funston grew to only five feet, four inches tall and barely 120 pounds. But his small size was packed with muscle and a fighting spirit. In a brief career as a teacher, he singlehandedly fought off the much larger school bully who came armed with a gun. It was a sign of things to come.

In 1890, Funston and a friend went hiking in Colorado. A sudden blizzard trapped him in the mountains and he fell down a steep ice field. He drove the muzzle of his rifle through the hard crust and came to a stop, having slid some twenty feet. Then he opened a pocketknife with his teeth and used the knife to cut footholds in the snowy crust, ultimately enabling him to escape. It was the first of many close escapes.

Funston then gained an assignment as a botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This was no boring assignment in a research library. His job was to retrieve plant samples from some of the most challenging habitats in the country, ranging from 147 degrees in Death Valley to 62 below zero in arctic Alaska. Wow.

Then Funston became interested in the fight for Cuban independence. The U.S. was officially neutral, so he had himself smuggled into Cuba. He joined the fight for independence, rose to lieutenant colonel, was in 22 major engagements, had 17 horses shot out from under him, and was wounded twice. At one point he was traveling in disguise when apprehended by the enemy. He managed to swallow what would have been an incriminating document and gain freedom from the enemy.

Funston served in the Spanish-American War and in the Phillipines. Funston and his troops repeatedly distinguished themselves in battle. He was awarded a Medal of Honor for his service, advanced rapidly in promotion, and came home a national hero.

In only three years time, he had become Brigadier General – one of the highest ranking officers in the Army. And there was more to come.

These are heroes from Kansas history: a brave explorer, a pioneering botanist, a courageous war hero – who are all the same person, namely, Frederick Funston. We are proud to claim General Funston as someone who came from rural Kansas and who made a difference in serving his country. But there’s more. For example, Funston is much better known in San Francisco than he is in Kansas. We’ll learn why, and about his community’s efforts to honor him, on our next program.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

 

Frederick Funston 2003 - Part 2 - 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 to California. Here is a statue of "the man who saved San Francisco." The way he earned that title is just another chapter in the fascinating life of General Frederick Funston, who came from rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

On our last program, we learned about the early life of Frederick Funston on the farm in Kansas. He worked briefly as a teacher and for some years as a botanist for USDA. But it was in the Army that the combative Mr. Funston found his niche.

After service in Cuba, and one close call after another, Funston served with distinction in the Phillipines and rose rapidly through the ranks. He returned to the U.S. where he was stationed in San Francisco.

Then came April 18, 1906. A powerful earthquake hit the city, and large sections were destroyed. A huge fire swept the city, and some 200,000 people were left homeless and hungry. Funston happened to be serving as acting commander while his boss was away. He sprang into action, organizing troops to maintain order, fight fires, and carry out relief efforts. Funston again became a national hero, and gained the title of "the man who saved San Francisco."

Adventure would follow Funston back to Kansas, when he became commandant at Fort Leavenworth. A court-martialed solder tried to take revenge on Funston while he slept, but Funston pulled a pistol from under his pillow and returned fire. Neither one was hurt.

Funston’s next assignment was in the Mexican border conflict of 1914. Funston again served with distinction and was promoted to Major General – the highest filled rank in the U.S. Army at the time.

Funston’s command of the troops was a model of organization and military administration for generations to come. In fact, listen to the names of some of those who served under him: John J. Pershing, Captain Douglas MacArthur, Lieutenant George Patton, and Lieutenant Dwight D. Eisenhower. Wow.

Funston’s star continued to shine – but then suddenly, it burned out. On February 19, 1917, Funston was having dinner in San Antonio when he died instantly of a heart attack at age 51. The nation mourned.

Fast forward to current times. Many years have passed since Funston was famous. In fact, it is said that more is known about Funston in San Francisco than in his home state of Kansas.

But that history is remembered and celebrated in Iola. The Allen County Historical Society reclaimed the Funston boyhood home and moved it four miles to the Iola town square. The house was restored to the Victorian era and a museum was constructed with displays about Funston’s fascinating life. Visitors can see an interesting video of his life, peruse the displays, and tour the house.

Iola is a town of 6,241 people. Now, that’s rural. But this rural community has developed a wonderful museum. Visitors can see such things as actual plant samples, on loan from the Smithsonian, which Funston brought back from his expeditions to Death Valley and Alaska. There are also such items as the actual snowshoes that Funston used to walk a thousand miles above the Arctic Circle.

The Allen County Historical Society raised more than $200,000 to move and restore the Funston home and to build this beautiful museum. A local attorney, Clyde Toland, helped raise those funds and was the person to tell me about the Funston museum. Michael Anderson is curator and director of the historical society. For more information, call 620-365-3051. That number again is 620-365-3051.

It’s time to say goodbye to California, where we learned about this general who was known as "the man who saved San Francisco." But you don’t have to go to California to learn about this fascinating man. You can learn about him first-hand by visiting his boyhood home and museum right here in rural Kansas. We salute Michael Anderson, Clyde Toland, and the people of Iola for making a difference by honoring and preserving this heritage for the future.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Vern Osborne - OCTA

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

OCTA. Sounds like an Indian word, doesn’t it? It’s actually an acronym: O-C-T-A. That stands for the Oregon - California Trails Association, or OCTA. OCTA is a national not-for-profit organization devoted to the preservation, appreciation and enjoyment of the historic western trails in U.S. history. Thanks to some rural Kansas leaders, OCTA is bringing national attention to historic tourism opportunities in rural Kansas. Let’s hit the trail for today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Vern Osborne of Saint George, Kansas. Vern is a member of the Kansas House of Representatives and is active in OCTA because of its role in promoting the historic trails. Such tourism can be a significant benefit to Kansas.

OCTA was founded in 1982. Its headquarters is in Independence, Missouri, which was really the beginning point for several western trails. The frontier began at Kansas City. Pioneers from the eastern states came to Independence and St. Joseph, Missouri, to get supplies and then start westward across the prairie. Westport, in what is now Kansas City, was another jumping off place.

OCTA’s headquarters is at the National Frontier Trails Center in Independence. This is the only museum in the United States exclusively devoted to the history of the overland trails.

OCTA promotes all of the historic trails from the Mississippi west, including the Oregon - California Trail. This trail began in Independence and cut north and west across Kansas to Nebraska. It was joined by a route that came straight west from St. Joe.

The trail went on up to Oregon, with several branches including those that went southwest to California. Thousands of covered wagons would work their way west along these historic trails.

This history is honored in rural Kansas today. At Westmoreland, the trail is marked by a striking wagon wheel sculpture and a statue of an ox team and covered wagon. Near Louisville is a historic cemetery where several Oregon Trail travelers were buried, after they fell victim to cholera. Close by is the Louis Vieux elm, named for a Pottawatomie Indian who operated a ferry at the Oregon Trail crossing of the Vermillion River. The Louis Vieux elm was once considered one of the largest in the nation, prior to damage from wind and vandalism. Now it is regrowing, and has a 50 foot canopy. Near Belvue is the Western Resources Oregon Trail Nature Park, featuring hiking trails and a giant mural of historic scenes on an old silo.

The OCTA organization promotes such history. OCTA holds its annual convention in such places as Casper, Wyoming; Reno, Nevada; and Vancouver, Washington. But in 2003, the national convention was held in Manhattan, Kansas. People came to Kansas from coast to coast. The chair of the convention was none other than Vern Osborne.

2003 was a great year to host the OCTA convention. It is the 150th anniversary of Fort Riley, the 160th anniversary of the Oregon Trail and Fremont’s first expedition into Kansas, the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, and 240th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris which ended the French and Indian War. Wow. The OCTA convention featured tours of historic locations in the outlying areas around Manhattan, as well as a special time at Fort Riley. It is said this convention established a new high for the organization.

OCTA is organized into several regional chapters across the country, of which the KANZA chapter is the newest. The KANZA chapter was host for the national convention.

I told you that rural leaders were making this possible. Members of the KANZA board of directors include Vern Osborne from St. George, Della White and Jim Bradley from Westmoreland, Molly Ledeboer from Belvue, Glenn Larson from Waterville, Don Cooper from Manhattan, and Ken Martin from Oketo. Oketo is a town of 115 people. Now, that’s rural.

OCTA. No, it’s not an Indian word. It’s the name of the Oregon - California Trails Association. We commend Vern Osborne and all those of the KANZA chapter of OCTA for making a difference through promoting and preserving this historic heritage. I think they’re on the right trail.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Landen Wilson - Civil War reenactment

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

Let’s tune in to the History Channel. It’s a Civil War program, showing men in Civil War uniforms engaged in battle. Here’s one particular soldier who in real life comes from rural Kansas. Now he is bringing that history home. I’ll explain on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Landen Wilson, who appeared on the History Channel as a Civil War reenactor. Reenactors are those who wear authentic Civil War uniforms and gear, to portray soldiers on both sides, Union and Confederate. Sometimes they even stage mock battles.

Landen, who is no relation to me, by the way, says, "I enjoy reenacting, and I’ve done dozens of reenactment events all over." Landen was born in California and grew up near Oakley, Kansas, where his father was managing a ranch. In 2002, he moved to the Westmoreland area, where he is now a senior at Rock Creek High School.

Landen says, "When I was in kindergarten or even pre-K, I watched the movie Undefeated starring John Wayne. In the first part of the movie, before they go west, he plays the commander of a Cavalry regiment. That made a big impression on me. I’ve always been interested in the Civil War."

When Landen got older, he joined a Civil War reenactment unit out of Wichita called the First Kansas Volunteers. They wear uniforms which are authentic reproductions, even hand-woven and hand-stitched. Landen has two complete Union uniforms, plus an 1861 Springfield .58 caliber rifle musket muzzleloader. The gun is fully functional. Landen says, "We load the powder but not the ball."

Landen’s mentor is Tony Mattia, a pastor in Wamego who does reenactments as a Confederate soldier.

Landen has participated in reenactments from Virginia to Wyoming. He appeared on the History Channel, as I mentioned at the beginning, and even appeared in the movie Gods and Generals. In one scene, he is shown standing in the ranks, and in another, he is shown lying down as a dead soldier. Well, I suppose every great actor has to start somewhere.

As I mentioned, Landen is now bringing that interest in history home. He is staging a reenactment of his own, with more than 40 reenactors in uniform.

On September 6 and 7, 2003, Landen is putting on what he calls the Battle of Blaine’s Bluff, on his own place. Other reenactors are welcome.

Landen lives on 160 acres northeast of Manhattan between Westmoreland and Blaine, which will make an excellent setting for this reenactment. Westmoreland has a population of only 612 people, and Blaine has less than a hundred. Now, that’s rural.

Landen says, "There are only two big reenactments in Kansas. One is called the Battle of Maysville, in the back of a cemetery in Wichita, and the other is held in the middle of Olathe." City congestion doesn’t make for a very authentic reenactment.

Landen says, "This will be the only reenactment in the state where we will be out in the country in the right setting." The reenactors will actually be camping on site, and will begin each day with reveille and officer’s call, for example. The public is invited to attend and visit the authentic Civil War camp and observe the drill demonstrations.

The camps will open to the public at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. Admission is only $3 for adults, $2 for children, and kids under 12 are free. The event is described as a great family outing activity and learning opportunity for all ages.

For more information and directions, call Landen Wilson at 785-556-0978. That number again is 785-556-0978.

It’s time to turn off the History Channel, where Landen Wilson appeared in his Civil War uniform. But you don’t have to view it on TV, you can see Landen in uniform with a bunch of others as part of a real live camp and reenactment in rural Kansas. We commend Landen Wilson, Tony Mattia, and all those who are making a difference by depicting this fascinating part of our heritage. They are helping make history come alive.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Penny Armstrong - PACO

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 Washington DC to the National League of Cities awards in cultural diversity. The first place winner in its category is Pittsburg – not Pennsylvania, but Pittsburg, Kansas. How did a small town earn a national award for diversity in rural Kansas? It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Dr. Penny Armstrong of Pittsburg, Kansas. Penny is a New Yorker who came to Kansas City with her father in the Air Force, married a Kansan and moved to Pittsburg years ago.

Penny has a Ph.D. in Language Acquisition from K-State, and was teaching Spanish at Pittsburg State when she noticed an influx of Spanish-speaking citizens into the area. She joined the local family resource center to work in literacy, and immediately had 38 Hispanic families in the program. Many of these immigrants were coming to work at the Sugar Creek Packing Company, a bacon processor in the nearby town of Frontenac. Frontenac has a population of 2,702 people. Now, that’s rural.

Some of these immigrants spoke little or no English. As their kids entered the schools, a language barrier was showing up.

Penny says, "I was walking out of the middle school after settling some issue, and I had a lightbulb moment: If we don’t do something to bridge the cultural gap with the new immigrants, we’re going to have them versus us, with all the problems of confrontations and gangs."

So Penny sought a proactive solution. Mike Hall, the Pittsburg Chief of Police, saw the same issues so he and Penny worked together. In 1998, they gathered people from social services, law, business, the ministry, and city government, in a coalition to work on immigration issues.

Some businesses were skeptical. When Penny went to meet with an executive at Sugar Creek Packing Company, she thought he might tell her to mind her own business -- but it turned into a wonderful two-hour conversation which ended with a hug, and Sugar Creek joined the coalition.

The coalition went to Garden City and studied that city’s experiences with immigration. Penny says, "We came back a unified group." The idea gained support in the community.

Penny says, "One day, out of the blue, a Vacation Bible School sent us $100 to support our work." She says with a smile, " Gee, we got this money, now we have to get organized."

In 1999, they formed PACO. That sounds like Spanish, but is actually an acronym for Pittsburg Area Community Outreach. The President of PACO, working for a steep salary of one dollar a year, is Penny Armstrong.

Today, PACO is working on 50 or 60 different projects to assist immigrants in various ways. These include free English classes, newspaper articles explaining other cultures, special events to build a positive relationship with immigrants and law enforcement, and more. Hospitals and clinics do flu shots and eye exams. Lawyers and social service agencies talk to them on immigration issues. A church donated land for a garden which the Hispanics maintain.

Penny says, "Our goal is two-way integration. We don’t want a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we want Hispanic members in the Chamber of Commerce. We educate Hispanics, but we also educate Anglos. We want all segments of the community to understand and accept each other." And it’s not just Hispanics. PACO works with all types of immigrants. For example, PACO now has a list of interpreters for 10 languages, from Thai to Arabic.

And what of Sugar Creek Packing Company? The company now pays its employees their hourly wage for every hour of English class they attend. Employees can earn up to 8 extra hours of wages each week by attending the classes. That’s fantastic support. The company says PACO has dramatically reduced their turnover rate and benefitted their corporate culture.

It’s time to leave Washington DC, where Pittsburg, Kansas won a national award for dealing with diversity. We commend Penny Armstrong, Mike Hall, and the people of PACO for making a difference by constructively building on immigration and diversity. Penny says, "Every day, I feel like I have helped someone."

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Ron Goodwin - Good One smokers

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

Out of thousands of Kansas City Barbecue Society members who cook in competition cookoffs all across the nation, let’s look at the team which ranked number one in 2002. The smoker oven which this team used to cook barbecue must be a good one. Sure enough, it is. In fact, this smoker is called The Good One – and it’s produced in rural Kansas. Fire up for a special barbecue edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Ron Goodwin of Burns, Kansas. He credits his high school ag teacher, Earl Wineinger, for much of his success.

After school, Ron farmed and worked in manufacturing before opening his own welding shop. In 1983, he started building a product of his own: A hydraulic truckbed for bale hauling.

At that point, they had not come up with a name for the company. A local rancher liked the product so much that he said he would come up with a name. He told them it should be called The Good One, which is a bit of a takeoff on Ron’s last name, Goodwin. Ron laughed and said they would never use that – but the name stuck.

Ron says, "If you are going to put a name like The Good One on something, you better make sure you build a quality product, and we are very quality conscious."

In 1991, the company took on a new product. Ron wanted to build a special smoker oven for himself, to use in cooking and smoking meats. He says, "I wanted a smoker as much like a pit barbecue as I could get, that could cook slow and keep the temperature constant."

So he came up with a design with the firebox in front and the smoke chamber in back, with an internal damper in between. This utilized the natural tendency of the heat to rise and enabled him to control how much. That way he could slow-cook meat and retain all the juicy, smoky flavor.

It worked so well that the company started to make and sell the smokers, using that same name The Good One. The smokers went so well that the company stopped manufacturing the bale beds.

Today, the smokers are manufactured by Ron’s son at Larry’s Welding in Burns, Kansas, population 216 people. Now, that’s rural. This is a family business. Now a third generation is involved.

The smokers are built for home and commercial use. They are popular for competitions as well.

For example, the number one team in the 2002 Kansas City Barbecue Society competition used a Good One smoker, as did two of the top five the year before. The number one barbecue team in California for two years in a row has used a Good One smoker.

Ron sells these all over the country, from coast to coast. In fact, on the day I spoke with Ron, he had just sold a smoker to someone in France. But their primary business is in home units. For more information, go to www.thegood-one.com.

During the winter of 2000, another opportunity arose. It was very cold, and the price of gas went sky high. Ron found an alternative way to heat his home and shop: A corn-burning stove. It burns either shelled corn or pellets, and creates a warm, cozy atmosphere.

Now Ron’s company is selling corn stoves also, with what he believes is the best corn stove on the market. A bushel of shelled corn will produce the same BTUs as five gallons of propane, which makes a bushel of corn worth five dollars a bushel. That’s better than you can get on the grain market, and provides an alternative energy source. He has sold these from Houston to Nebraska.

It’s time to leave the Kansas City Barbecue Society, whose number one team in 2002 uses The Good One smoker made in Burns, Kansas. We salute Ron Goodwin, son Larry, and all those involved with The Good One smokers for making a difference with their innovation and hard work. And I’m not just blowin’ smoke.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

John Heard - Beyond Engineering

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

Let’s visit San Jose, California to attend the Search Engines Strategies conference. This is one in a series of international conferences providing top-level technical advice to businesses about making their Internet presence more effective. Let’s focus on one of the speakers, who is nationally known as an expert in this field. Where is he based? You guessed it, in rural Kansas. Stay tuned for a remarkable, high-tech edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet John Heard, founder, owner, CEO and principal staff member of Beyond Engineering. Beyond Engineering is a computer software company in southeast Kansas.

John grew up at Iola, where his parents still live. He took computer programming at technical college in Wichita and then joined the computer programming department at Midland Brake in Iola. He worked his way up to become a manufacturing engineer at the company. He also married and moved to his wife’s hometown, the community of LaHarpe, east of Iola. They have a daughter attending K-State.

With the advent of commercial Internet activity in the early `90s, John put his computer knowledge to work. He started an electronic bulletin board from his home, which delivered some of the first email in southeast Kansas. He developed a program so one company’s customers could download auto-CAD drawings from the Internet.

Meanwhile, John’s wife was trying a different venture. She started a small business making those decorative carousel horses such as you find at Applebee’s restaurants. She tried advertising them on the Internet, but she wasn’t getting a lot of hits or sales.

This made John curious. He wondered, What makes some websites come up first on the Internet while others come up lower? So he did some research.

When a person does an Internet search, the computer utilizes something called a search engine. This is like a giant electronic index of all websites, which the search engine can scan virtually instantly to find the topic the person is interested in. But when I do a search on a given topic, why do the search engines feature some websites more prominently than others?

John studied how search engines work, and he found a company in Hawaii named Planet Ocean which had expertise in this area. As he worked with them, he gained expertise as well.

In 1997, he launched his own company to utilize this expertise. It was called Beyond Engineering, because he left his engineering job to do this full-time.

John developed a line of software called IP delivery, designed for high-end marketing companies. This software helps position websites so they get maximum exposure through the Internet search engines.

Today, Beyond Engineering has software customers in such places as Thailand, Russia, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, and Switzerland. John says, "I don’t have a single customer in Kansas. Most people around here probably think I repair computers."

Yet this remarkable business in rural Kansas is reaching customers around the world, utilizing this modern technology. John has written more than 75 articles about computer software and Internet search engines, and has been featured as a speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conference, as I said at the beginning. He has done projects for such companies as Samsung Semiconductor and Motorola Computer Group.

He knows the founders of Google and the guys who run E-Bay. Yet his business remains based in LaHarpe, Kansas, population 683 people. Now, that’s rural.

Using this amazing technology, he can market his products virtually all over the world from a rural setting. His retail storefront is a computer, and it is literally a click of a button away. John says, "I have a parking lot that is unlimited in size, and I’m a two-second drive from every customer."

How exciting to find this visionary use of technology at work in rural Kansas.

It’s time to say farewell to this international conference at San Jose, California, which included a computer expert from rural Kansas. We commend John Heard and his family for making a difference with his innovation and constructive use of technology. He is helping keep rural Kansas on-line.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Districts of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

Rees Fruit Farm

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

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But apple consumption isn’t just good for your health, it’s also good for the apple producers of Kansas. Today we’ll meet the oldest family-owned fruit farm in the state, which continues to respond to customer needs. It can make this Kansas business the apple of your eye. Stay tuned as we get a slice of information on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Rex Rees and his wife Shannon of Rees Fruit Farm. It is a family enterprise with rural roots, going back more than a century ago.

The Rees family came to Kansas in the early 1880s. They had a peach and apple orchard near Grantville, which today is a town of less than 100 people. Now, that’s rural. In 1901, J. G. Rees opened his family barn for retail market of his fruit.

J. G.’s sons started out working in the grocery business. In the mid-1940s, son Norris bought farmground northeast of Topeka and planted an orchard, while helping maintain the original place also. After J.G. died, Norris obtained part of the original family farm and orchard and incorporated them together, continually expanding the retail business. The deep soil of the Kansas River valley would prove to be an excellent place to raise apples.

Son Rex would join the business later. Rex graduated from K-State with a degree in Horticulture and Fruit and Vegetable production.

Now Rex Rees and his wife Shannon are operating the business. There is even another generation on the scene: Daughter Shaylene was born in 1996.

The apple business has changed through the years, but the Rees family remains committed to quality and customer service. Their retail fruit market northeast of Topeka is open year-round. It can be seen easily from Highway 24.

Rex says, "My dad’s goal was to raise something fresh from the first of April to Halloween, and we try to do the same." So depending on the season, the fresh produce there may range from asparagus in the spring to pumpkins in the fall. In season, the Rees’ offer strawberries, cherries, grapes, plums, gooseberries, pears, peaches, nuts, and more. Yum.

But their largest crop is apples. There are 27 different varieties of apples on Rees Fruit Farm, so there are apples that are suited for different uses and mature at different times.

The Rees farm can produce some 30,000 bushels of apples in a good year, and they are hand-picked. Wow.

This high quality care has its benefits. Rex says, "Because I sell direct to the consumer, we can provide a better product. Because we’re harvesting it fresh, we can let it become more flavorful."

Not only does the retail market offer fresh fruit, it has jams and jellies and horseradish and syrup and honey and cider. Oh, that cider.

Rex says, "They started making cider back in the `50s to use up the less-than-number one apples." Now there is big demand for the cider itself. I think the cider slush is delicious.

Another change is in the use of the apple wood, that is, the trees on which the apples grow. The wood becomes available when trees are taken out because they are old and unproductive. Rex says, "Ten years ago, we couldn’t give it away." Then someone found that apple wood was great for grilling or smoking meats. Now the demand for that product has boomed. Let that be a warning to all you apple trees out there: Be productive, or you too could end up in the bottom of a barbecue pit....

The Rees family is now offering all occasion fruit and gift baskets, historic tours and special events, fall bonfires, and more.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. That’s good for your health and good for apple producers too. We commend Rex and Shannon Rees and all those of Rees Fruit Farm for making a difference by maintaining family tradition while responding to customer needs. That’s a seed which should bear fruit for rural Kansas, which pleases me to the core.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Northwest Cotton Growers

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 Moscow, where times are challenging. The economy has been through lots of changes and challenges. There’s a need for entrepreneurs to strengthen the economy.

Does this sound like a description of Moscow in Russia? Maybe so, but it could also be a description of Moscow, Kansas. Rural Kansas has also been through lots of changes and challenges. But the good news is that in Kansas, entrepreneurs have been willing to invest in new innovations. It’s part of the basic fiber that makes rural Kansas great – and I mean that literally. We’ll get the story on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet the members of the Northwest Cotton Growers Cooperative. Yes, I said cotton growers. An increasing amount of cotton is being produced in Kansas, thanks to innovative producers like these.

Jerry Stuckey farms in Stevens County. In 2000, Jerry convinced one of his landlords, Bob Davis, to let him try producing some cotton. A neighbor, Tom Lahey, also tried cotton. They produced 80 acres. Other producers such as Randy Lucas and Jay Garetson joined in next. They formed a partnership and eventually organized a cooperative to handle and process the crop.

Of course, cotton is a crop that has historically been produced in the deep south. Jerry is in southwest Kansas, but that is basically the northwest corner of the cotton belt. So when the co-op was organized, it was named Northwest Cotton Growers. The first general manager was Jerry Stuckey.

Being an innovator is sometimes a challenge. Producing cotton in a wheat, corn, and beef state does make you stand out.

One producer says, "The first year we tried it, we played the role of the cotton clown. People around here were offering free one-way tickets to the mental hospital."

But despite the good-natured kidding about raising cotton, these producers found that raising cotton had its benefits, compared to the irrigated corn which many were producing.

Jay Garetson says, "There are two reasons we moved to cotton production. One is the Ogallala aquifer, which is being drawn down. The other is the increase in the price of natural gas, which is needed for our irrigation wells." He says, "Cotton uses half the irrigation water of corn."

So producing cotton conserves water and saves costs. They also found it useful to be raised in rotation with corn for weed control purposes. Furthermore, the cottonseed byproduct makes good feed for the dairy cows in the region.

To process the cotton, the co-op then invested in a state-of-the-art cotton gin. It is a 3.5 million dollar facility, built near Moscow, Kansas, population 266 people. Now, that’s rural.

The cotton gin opened in 2002, and production continues to grow. Co-op members produced more than 16.8 million pounds in 2002. Nearly half of all the cotton raised in Kansas was ginned at Moscow. That original 80 acres has grown to more than 43,000 acres in 2003. Wow. The cotton is marketed through the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association in Lubbock, Texas.

Not only does this enterprise offer new value-added market opportunities for producers, it creates 25 good, new jobs at the co-op itself.

It’s time to say goodbye to Moscow, where times are challenging. But this isn’t Moscow in Russia, this is the town named Moscow in rural southwest Kansas. Here entrepreneurs have taken the risk to try this innovative production and processing.

As with many entrepreneurial projects, it started with a core group of people who had a vision. Now, that vision is growing into reality.

When I talk about the basic fiber that makes rural Kansas great, it has a double meaning. In this case, cotton is literally a wonderful type of fiber. But I’m also talking about the fiber of Kansas people, meaning the character, hard work, risk-taking and cooperation which is rural Kansas at its best. We salute Jerry Stuckey, Bob Davis, Tom Lahey, Randy Lucas, Jay Garetson, and all those of the Northwest Cotton Growers Co-op for making a difference with their innovation and effort. It’s something you can really cotton to.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

KARL

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

In 1990, Jack Lindquist set up a booth at the state fair to promote KARL. It was a great idea – but there were some people who saw the name and thought it was there to sell a new, high-yielding variety of wheat called Karl. Jack would patiently explain that this was a different KARL. Yes, K-State research scientists had developed an excellent new wheat variety named Karl, but this was different. Jack was there to promote the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program, called KARL for short. Unlike that wheat, the KARL program is there to build leadership capacity for people in the agriculture industry and rural Kansas. Today, that program is achieving its goal in spades. We’ll get not one, not two, not three, but four examples on today’s Kansas Profile.

Jack Lindquist is President of the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program. He became President when the program began in 1989. Jack says, "Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership is a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to identifying and developing leadership for agriculture and rural communities in order to enhance the quality of life for all Kansans."

Every two years, a class of Kansans is selected to go through the KARL educational program. Class members receive 600 hours of training and experiences, in seminars around the state of Kansas and beyond. They receive communications training and visit state legislators in Topeka. Each class also takes a one-week trip to Washington, D.C., and a 10-day international study tour.

Over the years, KARL classes have visited 15 other countries to learn about agriculture and trade, including such places as China, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, and Costa Rica. Since 1990, some 180 Kansans have participated in the KARL program.

Sounds like fun, you may say, but does it really create leadership? To answer that, the proof is in the pudding.

Take a look at the ranks of those who are in leadership positions in agricultural organizations in Kansas. Currently, there are not one, not two, not three, but four of the top leadership positions of Kansas farm-related organizations which are filled by KARL graduates. Wow.

One of these is Steve Baccus, President of the 123,000-member Kansas Farm Bureau organization. Another is Larry Jones, President of the Kansas Livestock Association. John Thaemert is President of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers. And Dennis Metz is Chairman of the Kansas Dairy Commission.

These individuals are giving tremendous leadership to these Kansas organizations, and each one credits KARL for broadening their horizons and building a network of fellow producers around the state.

This is leadership that is definitely needed in rural Kansas. Steve Baccus farms near Minneapolis, population 2,013. Larry Jones has a cattle feedlot near Holcomb, population 1,916 people. Dennis Metz runs a dairy near Oxford, Kansas, population 1,221. And John Thaemert raises wheat near Sylvan Grove – population 283 people. Now, that’s rural.

And this doesn’t include the countless other state and local boards and commissions on which KARL graduates serve. This is a remarkable track record in such a short span of time.

Jack Lindquist says, "This is a goal that KARL has had since its creation in 1989. KARL is hitting its stride." Jack himself grew up on the family farm near Waterville – population 551. He and his wife Lindy now live in Manhattan.

How great that there is a program which encourages leadership for rural Kansas so effectively. If you are interested in participating or supporting the KARL program, contact Jack Lindquist at 785-532-6300 or go to www.ksre.ksu.edu/karl. Again, that’s 785-532-6300 or www.ksre.ksu.edu/karl.

KARL has come a long way since it was represented by a booth at the state fair that first year. We salute Jack Lindquist and the Board of the KARL program for making a difference with their vision in developing these leaders across Kansas – and we commend Steve Baccus, Larry Jones, John Thaemert, Dennis Metz, and other KARL participants for their outstanding service.

Maybe there is a parallel with Karl wheat after all, because this program is producing a strong stand and high yield.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Puffy’s Steakhouse

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

Hi, honey. Would you mind if I brought a few friends over for supper? Oh, just two or three thousand....

Wow, does the thought of feeding two or three thousand people sound as impossible to you as it does to me? Today, we’ll meet the owner of an incredible catering business based in rural Kansas, which feeds thousands of people. And just when you think a business like this is successful, the roof falls in -- literally. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Jim Puff, owner of Puffy’s Steak and Icehouse. Here is the story.

Jim Puff has roots in rural Kansas. His grandparents farmed in Wabaunsee County, near Alma and McFarland. McFarland is a town of 430 people. Now, that’s rural.

Jim grew up in Topeka, where he was a meatcutter for 17 years. In 1987, he saw a newspaper ad for a grocery store for sale out toward his mother’s home area. The store was in the town of Maple Hill.

Jim and his wife Patti thought they would give it a try. They put their house on the market – and it sold in two days. Jim says, "I believe things happen for a good reason."

So they figured it was meant to be. Jim and Patti took over the small grocery store. To augment their income, they put a deli in the back. It had five stools and two tables. That was the beginning.

Today, Puffy’s Steak and Icehouse seats 362 people and does catering all over northeast Kansas. The buildings have been expanded and remodeled in downtown Maple Hill.

Puffy’s experience as a meat cutter has served him well. He can identify good meat and knows how to prepare it. He says, "We cut all meat fresh on site. And we bake our own mini-loaves of bread, some 1,200 a week." Puffy’s has catered events from Kansas City to Wichita to Salina to Nebraska. They have served more than 5,000 people in a single day.

Jim says, "We can do any size group, small or large." Puffy’s has been at Cat Town before K-State football games, done Country Stampede and served thousands of people for major employers in Topeka.

Remember 9-11? None of us will ever forget it. But it had extra implications for Puffys. After those airplanes were hijacked by terrorists, higher security was implemented nationwide. Troops were mobilized across the country, including the National Guard armory in Topeka. Puffy got a call at 2:30 on 9/11 that the soldiers guarding the Armory in Topeka needed to be fed. He had food there by 5 p.m., and for the next six months, provided three meals a day for those soldiers.

As I said at the beginning, just when things are going well, the roof falls in. On January 31, 2001, Puffy was working in the back of his place when he heard a rumble. The old American Legion building next door was in the process of being remodeled. Snow and ice had accumulated on the roof. At 4:55 p.m., the old building collapsed and fell partially onto Puffy’s building. It would cost Puffy some half a million dollars to rebuild.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, the kitchen was spared and the catering operation continued while Puffy’s was rebuilt. It reopened on July 16, 2002.

Puffys has repeatedly been voted the best steak in northeast Kansas. Jim Puff has received recognition such as the Governors Merit Award, the National Register of Who’s Who in Executives and Professionals, and the Grand Champion Pig Kisser from the Wabaunsee County 4-H. Jim Puff says, "You’ve gotta give back. We invest in the future of our community."

Hi, honey. Would you mind if I brought a couple thousand friends home for supper? Yes, the thought of feeding thousands is amazing to me, but it is also amazing to see how Puffy’s catering business can feed thousands of people on a regular basis. We commend Jim and Patti Puff and all the people of Puffy’s Steak and Icehouse in Maple Hill for making a difference through hard work and great food. They have a stake in rural Kansas.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

Print and Finishing Equipment

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

Have you ever gotten in a bind? I have, but that’s different from the professional binderies which we’ll learn about today. A bindery is a type of business which binds books or puts on some kind of cover or strip to hold the pages together. Today, we’ll meet a remarkable business which is selling printing equipment to binderies and printers around the world, and it’s based in rural Kansas. We’ll get the story on today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Mike Miller. Mike is co-owner of a company named Print and Finishing Equipment. It serves a particular niche in the printing business, that is, the equipment to do bookbinding. Here is the story.

Steve and Mike Miller are brothers who grew up in Chanute. They were working for the Brackett Company in Topeka. Brackett sells new binding equipment. Steve was in sales and Mike was in production. Steve thought there might be a market for used pieces of this equipment, but the company leaders said they were only interested in selling new equipment.

So Steve said to his brother Mike, "If you want to rebuild some of these pieces of equipment on your own time, I think I could sell it."

They decided to give it a try, so Steve and Mike went out on their own. In 1992, they formed a new business called Print and Finishing Equipment. Mike started rebuilding equipment in his garage in Topeka. As the business grew, they used leased space in Lawrence and later at Forbes Field in Topeka.

Print and Finishing Equipment specializes in used and rebuilt printing and bindery equipment for resale worldwide. In other words, they buy, rebuild, and sell used equipment, which makes them very price-competitive. They also remained on good terms with Brackett, their former employer. In fact, they are the only Brackett authorized remanufacturer in this part of the country.

Besides regular books, one specialized item which utilizes this equipment is your checkbook. In other words, there is a binding on the top of your checkblanks which holds them together. Print and Finishing Equipment sells equipment which can do this binding. They have developed a specialty in serving the checkbook manufacturing market.

Mike Miller says, "Anybody who produces checkbooks knows about us."

As the business continued to grow, they needed more space. In April 2001, they found a building in Maple Hill which they renovated and expanded.

Today, Print and Finishing Equipment employs some 10 people and has 40,000 square feet of space in their headquarters at Maple Hill. They sell printing equipment to binderies and printers from coast to coast and even overseas. In fact, 40 percent of their business is in the export market. They sell to such places as Singapore, China, and South America. Wow.

Yet their business is based in Maple Hill, Kansas, population 220 people. Now, that’s rural.

How can such a global business function in a town this size? Mike Miller says, "We didn’t have walk-in customers anyway. Now we are dealing with corporate customers and others on-line, sight unseen."

Using such technology, it really doesn’t matter where the business is located, as long as there is good Internet access. The Millers brought a high capacity T-1 line into Maple Hill to assure top quality telecommunications. They have an excellent website with lots of information on their new and used equipment.

Maple Hill is located just off Interstate 70 west of Topeka. Thus, the Millers can enjoy the lack of congestion and small town life, while being just 15 minutes from Wanamaker Road in west Topeka.

Mike says, "We love it, and our customers love it."

Have you ever gotten in a bind? Yes, but that’s different from the binderies and finishing equipment which this remarkable company serves. We salute Steve and Mike Miller and all the staff of Print and Finishing Equipment company in Maple Hill for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and use of technology in rural Kansas. Such technology can help rural and urban customers to bind together.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Harmony Sweets

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 New York Philharmonic in New York City. We'll enter the VIP donors lounge, which offers free drinks and elegant treats. Here, for example, are some luscious chocolates. And where do you suppose is the company which provided these fancy treats? Well, they're in Manhattan. No, not the Big Apple, the Little Apple. The company which provided these fancy chocolates for the New York Philharmonic is based in Manhattan, Kansas. It's a sweet story - and it's a special holiday edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet John Curtis. John has been featured on our program before, as the founder of AgTech, a veterinary supply company based in Manhattan. AgTech sells veterinary supplies all over the nation through catalog and on-line sales. But John and his wife Laurie had been talking about diversifying, into some totally different line such as a consumer good like chocolates. Here is what happened.

One Sunday, John was sitting with the choir, where he sings at his church. Don't tell his minister, but it sounds to me like John's mind was wandering during the service. He looked out over the congregation and reflected on his livestock supply business. He thought, "How many people in this congregation would be a likely customer for my livestock supplies? Maybe one or two. But how many people out here like chocolate? Almost everyone."

So John and Laurie decided to launch a new business selling specialty chocolates on-line. We'll have to forgive John for thinking about other things in church. Maybe his idea had divine

inspiration!

Anyway, they decided to launch this new business, using the skills, personnel, and infrastructure from their existing business. AgTech had experience in importing and exporting, as well as in fulfilling catalog and on-line orders. After going to an international confectionery show in Cologne, Germany, John had great ideas for products. So John and Laurie became importers and distributors of upscale, elegantly packaged confections from around the world.

The business is named Harmony Sweets. John says, "We were in Boston and we attended a performance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. They had a Russian conductor and international musicians. As we thought about it, we realized that different languages are spoken, but their music was in harmony." So Harmony Sweets became the name of their business, bringing in the finest chocolates and candies from around the world.

Of course, this includes Belgian and Swiss chocolates. But there is an amazing variety and selection of additional candies from all over. Harmony Sweets uses some 27 vendors from around the world. Products range from truffles to crystal fruit drops, and even books and music from overseas.

Their website is www.harmonysweets.com. On this site, you can find full-color photos and information on all their products, plus a link that offers a world tour. This ingenious link provides information on 12 different countries around the globe, plus candy products or specialties from that region.

As part of their marketing, Harmony Sweets is providing products to the Baltimore Symphony and New York Philharmonic, as I said at the beginning. They have shipped products all over, but they also serve local customers from places like Riley, Kansas, population 753 people. Now, that's rural.

This is a remarkable, e-commerce business, where people from anywhere in the world can shop on-line. To manage their inventory, the company uses MOM. No, not your mother. It's a type of software called Mail Order Manager, or M-O-M.

How exciting to find a company in Kansas which is using modern technology and world-wide products. The holidays are here, and Harmony Sweets' products would make great gifts. Of course, other holidays such as Valentines Day are huge too. Harmony Sweets conveniently lists 55 different holidays celebrated around the world. Again, that website is www.harmonysweets.com.

It's time to say goodbye to the New York Philharmonic, and the fabulous chocolates which came from Harmony Sweets in Manhattan, Kansas. We salute John and Laurie Curtis and the Harmony Sweets staff for making a difference with technology, entrepreneurship - and a sweet tooth.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. Wishing you happy holidays for the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

Don McNeal - Council Grove Republican

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

Past, Present, and Future. I found that combination at the Council Grove Republican newspaper, in Council Grove. I saw a computer sitting next to a fax machine which is on top of a 100 year old safe. Wow, what a combination of history and modern technology, in a community newspaper. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Don McNeal, the semi-retired editor and publisher of the Council Grove Republican. Council Grove is believed to be the smallest community in Kansas to have a daily newspaper. That’s right, not a weekly — a daily.

In my view, the thanks for maintaining a daily newspaper in the community go to one man: Don McNeal, a community journalist with rural roots.

Don’s father had a country store over in Jefferson County, in an unincorporated neighborhood named Boyle, Kansas. Don chuckles that within their unofficial city limits, they could count 21 people living in Boyle. Now, that’s rural.

Don went to K-State and graduated in journalism in 1936. While Don was a senior at K-State, the publisher at Council Grove needed someone to come in and put out the paper for two weeks while he was gone. Don came in to help.

When Don graduated, the publisher hired him into the newspaper for 15 dollars a week. Don says, "I came here and fell in love with the community and the people."

After Don got married, he got a raise to 18 dollars a week. There goes that runaway inflation again... In June 2003, Don and his wife celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary.

After a news position in Oklahoma and service in World War II, Don came back to Council Grove and became a partner.

Don’s son Craig would go to K-State also. After graduate work in journalism, Craig returned to the business and bought his father’s interest in 1985.

Don says with a smile, "Now I’m working for him." The two make a good team as they produce the daily newspaper.

How wonderful to have a daily newspaper in Council Grove. Don talks about the old days when they printed the paper with hot type. Now they produce camera-ready copy with the computers and take it out for printing. The deadline is 10 a.m. and the papers are usually out by 3:30 that day.

What does it mean to a community to have its own newspaper? On the day I visited, the headlines included news about the war in Iraq and some state pension funds. But we also learned about the loan for a new city water treatment plant, the antique sale downtown, the White City boys and girls basketball teams, the Frost 4-H club meeting, the covered dish dinner at the country club, and the Thanksgiving guests at the home of Marion Shubert. That’s a feel of the community that you just won’t get from CNN or the New York Times. It is basic to the fabric of community.

When a visiting student wrote an article about the McNeals, she got glowing comments from the mayor, school principal, and the business community about Don and Craig and the importance of a community newspaper. The owner of the Cottage House said, "It’s a gift that the McNeals have given to the community because without the family’s dedication to the paper, the community wouldn’t be what it is today." Don McNeal says, "We believe in our communities, and we have a lot of good, loyal people."

Past, Present, and future. Yes, a community newspaper like the Council Grove Republican reflects all three. There is the old historic safe on which the fax machine rests next to the computer. It’s modern technology mixed with the history of Kansas. But what about the future? I believe the future holds a special place for community journalism. In this fast-paced, high tech world, the personal touch of the local, daily newspaper plays a special, valuable role. We salute Don and Craig McNeal for making a difference through community journalism. It is the past’s present to the future.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

 

 

 

Becky Wolfe - Leadership Butler

 

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

The Butler did it. No, this isn’t the last page of a murder mystery. It is my phrase to describe the achievements of one outstanding community leadership program. Leadership Butler has been helping to develop community leadership in Butler County for 15 years. Then when the Kansas Health Foundation offered special training to community leadership programs, not every community signed up. But, the Butler did it. Yes, the directors of Leadership Butler not only signed up for this opportunity, they have taken their program to a whole new level. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Becky Wolfe, director of Leadership Butler. Leadership Butler is one of the outstanding community leadership programs across Kansas.

Let me explain how community leadership programs typically work. Each year, a class of individuals is selected to go through a local leadership program. Class members attend several sessions, where they learn about their community and local economy. They gain a better understanding of various issues, such as health care, economic development, social services, agriculture, education, and more. Class members typically have the opportunity to interact with county leaders as well as making a visit to Topeka, where they tour the state Capitol and contact state agencies.

Many of these programs are based in cities such as Topeka and Lawrence. Leadership Butler was one of the first to be county-wide. In other words, rather than representing a single community, it was open to residents anywhere in the county. This is exciting to me because it involves rural residents as well as urban.

For example, many of the Leadership Butler participants have come from the county's larger towns, such as El Dorado and Augusta. But now, every town in the county has been represented in the program. This includes such communities as Atlanta, population 246, and Latham, population 203 people. Now, that's rural.

The Leadership Butler County program began in 1988 under the county economic development organization. In 1993, the program became independent, under its own Board of Directors. The person who was hired to manage the program was Becky Wolfe.

Becky and her husband Mitch come from Nebraska. They came to Kansas when Mitch had the opportunity to run an automobile dealership in El Dorado.

Becky and her board members, volunteers, and alumni of the program have done a great job of operating this program through the years. Some 330 people have graduated from the program, plus another 200 from their pioneering youth program.

In 1999, a whole new opportunity came about. The Kansas Health Foundation, which is based in Wichita, has a goal of making Kansas the best place in the nation to raise a child. The Foundation recognized that local leadership will be important in bringing this about. So they

launched a Kansas Community Leadership Initiative to transform local community leadership programs to make them even more effective. Not only did the Foundation offer those programs outstanding training by two leadership facilitators from Indiana, it offered the Kansas communities significant funding to start or to grow their community foundations.

The results have been outstanding. Seventeen communities participated in the first round of training, and now another 26 communities are going through the second round. They have refocused their community leadership programs on 21st century servant leadership. These programs are not just panels and tours, they include genuine capacity-building with a commitment to community. Participants learn about visioning, learning styles, consensus, effective facilitation, and the steps to becoming a performing community. For many, it is a life-changing experience.

Leadership Butler is one of those which participated in this initiative. Becky Wolfe says, "It has transformed our program."

 

The Butler did it. No, this isn't some novel, it is the story of revitalized community leadership programs which have been infused with a new spirit of service to communities, youth, and families. We salute Becky Wolfe, Leadership Butler, the Kansas Health Foundation, and all

those community leadership programs who are making a difference through this new initiative.

The mystery is solved. The Butler did it. Maybe you can too.

Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource Conservation and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.