Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
2003 Leaders of the Year

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.