1. K-State home
  2. »Huck Boyd Institute
  3. »Kansas Profiles
  4. »Profiles
  5. »2004 Profiles

Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development

2004 Profiles

Larry Kepley

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 a meeting of the national Farm Credit Council. Council members are meeting to discuss ag credit policy issues. Among these leaders is someone who knows about these issues first hand: A farmer from rural Kansas. Not only is he a borrower, he still serves on his local lending association board and is a leader of other ag organizations as well. We'll learn about this remarkable individual on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Larry Kepley. Larry is the remarkable producer who served on the Farm Credit Council. He has given leadership to many groups throughout the years. Here is his story.
Larry was born at Ulysses in southwest Kansas. Ulysses is about 35 miles from Colorado and 35 miles from Oklahoma – truly southwest Kansas.
After growing up on the family farm, Larry graduated from K-State. He taught agriculture for three years, was a county agent for three years, and worked for the Farm Management Association for six years before coming back to the farm.
Larry says, "My dad decided he wanted some sort of value-added activity, so he started raising certified seed." This is seed that brings a premium price, because it is certified to reach certain quality standards. Larry's dad paid him to do the extra work on the certified seed, and it helped make it possible for him to go to college. Perhaps this was a sign of things to come.
While Larry was still in college, a neighbor stopped him on the sidewalk one time while he was home. The neighbor said, "You ought to go talk to those Farm Credit people."
Larry did indeed meet with some of the people from the Farm Credit System. In later years, he became a borrower and then a board member. He has served on the local board of directors ever since.
When the national Farm Credit Council decided to expand its membership, there was an opportunity for directors from local associations to be elected. The one who was elected from the district serving Kansas was Larry Kepley.
This group met in Washington, as I said at the beginning, and also in other locations around the country, working on national ag credit issues. This is only one example of the leadership and service which Larry provides to agriculture. He is an active member of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Southwest Kansas Irrigation district, 21st Century Alliance, and is currently serving on the Kansas Wheat Commission.
Just as certified seed was instrumental in Larry's early career, he has continued that enterprise and taken it to new heights. He sells several varieties of certified white wheat seed to farmers all over the region. He also raises corn, grain sorghum, and a small cowherd.
Larry's farmstead is 12 and a half miles southwest of the town of Ulysses, not far from historic Wagon Bed Springs. Ulysses is a town of 5,947 people. Now, that's rural.
From this rural setting, Larry has given outstanding leadership to these ag organizations through the years. As a wheat commission member, he was recently invited to attend a wheat millers conference in Uruguay and visited Argentina while they were there. The mission of the Kansas Wheat Commission is to market and promote Kansas wheat, so it's definitely the right place for Larry.
It's time to say goodbye to Washington DC, where a Kansas farmer named Larry Kepley is participating in the national Farm Credit Council. We commend Larry and his wife Virginia for making a difference with their service to agriculture.
And there's more to this story. Several years ago, Larry was attending a Farm Credit Council meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota when he heard a speaker talking about the new generation farmer cooperatives. That idea stayed with Larry. Ultimately, in concert with many other Kansas producers, this idea would take root in Kansas in the form of a white wheat cooperative, of which Larry Kepley is the chairman of the board. We'll learn more about this remarkable enterprise on our next program.
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.

Farmer Direct Foods

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Are there certain things that make you see red? Well, relax. Today we'll meet an entrepreneurial farmer organization which is, to coin a phrase, helping to get the red out. I'm not speaking of your eyes or your temper or of football team colors either. I'm talking about an organization which is promoting market opportunities for white wheat, in addition to the traditional red wheat which has been produced in Kansas. We'll get the colorful story on today's Kansas Profile.
On our last program, we met a farm leader named Larry Kepley. He is Chairman of the Board of a group now called Farmer Direct Foods, which primarily is promoting white wheat. Here's the story.
Our tale really begins in the mid-1970s, when a K-State grain science professor by the name of Dr. Elmer Heyne took a sabbatical to travel the world to study the wheat industry. One of his conclusions was rather startling at the time: He suggested that Kansas farmers should raise white wheat. This was startling because Kansans have raised red wheat for generations.
In fact, Kansas was the nation's leader in red wheat production. Changing to white wheat sounded almost like heresy.
But Dr. Heyne was correct in his assessment that there were benefits in producing white wheat. Still, change came slowly.
In 1989, several ag organizations got together to form a new group to work on white wheat marketing issues. It was a cooperative called the American White Wheat Producers Association.
One of the leaders of the organization was an innovative producer named Larry Kepley. He helped the organization get started by serving as volunteer secretary-treasurer. Among the others involved was a man from northeast Kansas named Kent Symns, who would ultimately be selected as CEO of the enterprise after a national search.
Kent was willing to serve, but he didn't want to move from his home area of Atchison, Kansas. So the headquarters of the fledgling organization was established at Atchison, where it remains today.
The white wheat organization would evolve with time. In 2003, the organization adopted a new name: Farmer Direct Foods.
I like this name because it conveys that this is a farmer-owned organization which is seeking to market its food products to the consumer. The organization's primary products are based on white wheat, primarily white wheat flour.
So what are the advantages of white wheat? Larry Kepley says, "The bottom line attribute is flavor." White wheat flour is naturally sweeter than red wheat flour. This means processors can save money since they need fewer additives or flavorings.
More flour itself can be produced from the grain, since it doesn't have the red coloring. But why would a farmer produce it? Larry Kepley says, "I've grown white wheat for 14 years, and in only one year has my red wheat outyielded it." New varieties of white wheat developed by K-State and others have improved yields and sprout resistance.
Kent Symns and the board have worked hard to promote the product. Kansas is now the leading state in the nation in white wheat production. White wheat acreage tripled in 2003, having grown to more than 200,000 acres.
Farmer Direct Foods is selling its white wheat products from coast to coast. These products include a line of wheat flour products, wheat berries, bran, gluten, and more. Yet it remains a rural-based, farmer-owned business, with directors who come from places like Palmer, population 117 people, and Wallace, population 75. Now, that's rural.
How exciting to see rural Kansas in the lead, developing markets for this innovative white wheat product.
Are there certain things that make you see red? No, not your temper or football team. Now you can see more white in our foods, as white wheat develops its niche in the marketplace. We salute Larry Kepley, Kent Symns, and all those of Farmer Direct Foods who are making a difference by developing this product. It's not that red is dead, but white is just right.
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.

Partners of the Prairie

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 program in Illesheim, Germany. Yes, we'll travel halfway around the globe to go to a program near a U.S. military base. It is a special program at the Apache Fighting Helicopter base there in Germany. And who do you suppose is providing the entertainment? No, not Bob Hope. This entertainment is provided by a bunch of cowboy poets from western Kansas. Cowboy poets in Germany?? I'll explain on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Leonard Hitz of Garden City, Kansas. Leonard told me about this remarkable group of cowboy poets and balladeers who made the trek to Germany. They are called the Partners of the Prairie, and they perform cowboy poetry and songs.
You may ask, what is cowboy poetry? It almost sounds like an oxymoron. But this refers to a type of poetry that celebrates the cowboy way of life in verse. I believe there is growing interest in this unique specialty of cowboy poetry.
Partners of the Prairie includes five genuine western Kansas characters with rural roots. Leonard Hitz grew up on a cow/calf and wheat operation southeast of Dodge City. He went to school at Ford, Kansas, population 274 people. Now, that's rural. He went on to K-State and served in the Marines before joining the banking business in Garden City. He writes and performs cowboy poetry with a humor that is infectious.
Allen Bailey is not only a radio personality on High Plains Public Radio in western Kansas, he is a talented guitar player and performer. He is also frequently seen in old-time cowboy costume as the gun-totin,' mustachioed Dodge City Marshall.
Don Eves came from Lakin and now farms near Sublette. He has a wonderful smooth, baritone singing voice. Keith Downer is a long-time cattle feeder and cattle trader in the Garden City area. One of his main inspirations was his own father, who was reciting poems when Keith was a little boy. His father lived to be 99 years old. Randy Fisher is a K-State grad who grew up at Meade, Kansas. He is now in the commodity brokerage and commercial feedyard business.
Each one has experience in the livestock industry and deep roots in the heartland. Some write cowboy poetry, others write and perform songs. All reflect the values of rural Kansas.
In 1991, a cowboy poetry gathering was held during Beef Empire Days, the big festival in Garden City. Leonard Hitz and others were there, and several of them decided to work together.
Since then, Partners of the Prairie has performed all over the region and as far away as Nevada and Ontario. Wow. Then one day Leonard Hitz received an email from a lady in Germany whose husband was an Apache helicopter captain over there. She was trying to put together a program for a Wild West Weekend near the military base.
The members of Partners of the Prairie believe strongly in the importance of honoring our military men and women who bravely serve their country. They decided to make the trip and perform for the community in Germany. Leonard Hitz says,"We had a blast, and were treated with so much hospitality, that we were overwhelmed by it all. It was a real highlight of my life."
Partners of the Prairie continues to perform around the region. They especially enjoy doing cowboy church services, where their special talents are used to share their faith. They strongly believe in honoring God and Country. Their performances reflect patriotism, family values, and of course, the cowboy way.
To contact Partners of the Prairie, call 620-275-1650 or 620-846-2968. Those numbers again are 620-275-1650 or 620-846-2968.
It's time to say goodbye to Illesheim, Germany, where the entertainment is being provided by a group of cowboy performers from Kansas. We salute Leonard Hitz, Allen Bailey, Don Eves, Keith Downer, and Randy Fisher for making a difference by sharing their wonderful talents – all the way to Germany, and then back Home on the Range.
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.

Aaron Fisher - Fisher Carriage Works

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 Seattle, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest. How about a romantic ride on an old-time, horsedrawn carriage downtown? It's a beautiful carriage. Where do you suppose it came from? You guessed right if you guessed rural Kansas. So hitch yourself up for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Aaron Fisher, proprietor of the Fisher Carriage Works in rural Kansas. Fisher Carriage Works custom-builds old-time horse-drawn carriages, such as the one we found in Seattle, as well as historic model windmills. Here is the story.
Aaron Fisher comes from a truly rural area of southwest Kansas. He lives outside of Copeland, Kansas. Copeland is a town of 289 people. Now, that's rural. It is located in Gray County, situated between Garden City, Dodge City, and Liberal.
What's more, Aaron's home is out in the country. It is not in inner city Copeland, so to speak.
Many of the entrepreneurs that we have met on this program develop a business in response to a need. In today's example, we might say that it was developed in response to a knee. I'll explain what I mean.
The knee of which I speak is the one on Aaron Fisher's leg. Aaron grew up at Copeland and went to school there. While in high school, he injured his knee.
The messed up knee prevented him from doing several things, including the horseback riding which many people in that region enjoy. But Aaron had an idea of a way to continue to stay involved with the horses. In fact, he had already decided to build a horse-drawn carriage as a project during shop class of his senior year.
His project went so well that he decided to do more. Senior citizens are interested in these carriages as a tie to their history and as fun for the grandkids, as well as a way to enjoy horses when it is not practical for them to ride horseback.
Today, Aaron Fisher builds and sells carriages under the business name of Fisher Carriage Works. His carriages have gone coast to coast, to such places as Seattle; Tempe, Arizona; Florida, New York, and Canada.
Aaron says, "We will custom make any vehicle to order." For example, I saw a beautiful white carriage that was just gorgeous. It would be a natural for weddings.
An artisan like this needs specialized, custom made parts - many of which he makes himself. As a result, he is now able to offer preassembled kits with the parts necessary to build such carriages. Examples of these vehicles include doctors' buggies and farmers' surreys. And just like in the musical Oklahoma, I saw a surrey with the fringe on top.
In fact, there are several different styles of surreys such as formal surreys, cut under surreys, and those with extension tops. Aaron also builds buckboards, pony wagons, and something called a vis-a-vis, which has two facing seats – kind of like a topless stagecoach.
Aaron has further diversified his business to include old-time wooden windmills. These are not the metal frame windmills which I remember from our pastures. These are the authentic old-time windmills made of wood, with heads that look like a giant fan. They have such brand names as Monitor and Dempster.
Talk about a specialized business. Is there a market for such products? Indeed there is. Aaron ships his windmills from coast to coast from Copeland, Kansas. Wow.
How exciting to find someone in rural Kansas who is building on our history to serve this marketplace. In a sense, he is giving new life to these classic buggy and windmill designs. For more information, contact Aaron at 620-668-5626. That number again is 620-668-5626.
It's time to say farewell to Seattle, Washington, where we've enjoyed a romantic ride in a horse-drawn carriage built in Copeland, Kansas. Thanks to Aaron Fisher of Fisher Carriage Works for making a difference with his skills and entrepreneurship. His bad knee has meant good news for this remarkable enterprise, and helped to create a terrific ride.
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.

Kevin Gray - Custom Wood Products

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 go on a home tour. Come into this kitchen and admire the beautiful custom-built cabinets. They look great. And take a look at this inhouse security cabinet. It contains a flipscreen which we can activate by touching it. It has a built-in CD and DVD player, and can also show the video from security cameras at the front door and in the baby's room. Wow. Imagine that modern technology combined with beautiful cabinetry. We learned about this advancement from a company which is the source of those beautiful and innovative cabinets. They are custom-made. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Kevin Gray and John Mitchell, co-owners of Custom Wood Products in St. Marys, Kansas. This company not only produces beautiful cabinets, they keep on top of the latest developments in technology such as I was describing.
This company's remarkable story goes back to 1980. Don Lake was a farmer and building contractor who lived in the St. Marys area of northeast Kansas. He was interested in cabinetry and wanting to diversify, so he and another fellow started building cabinets in a converted meat locker plant in downtown St. Marys.
Kevin says, "Don was a good country guy who believed in taking good care of people." His emphasis on taking care of customers would pay off in the long run. John Mitchell soon joined the company to help with production, and Kevin Gray joined the company in sales in 1987. In 1996, Don retired and Kevin and John eventually moved into ownership.
As I said, this company is named Custom Wood Products. As the name suggests, this company custom-builds all types of cabinets for its customers.
Kevin says, "The custom part is standard." Uh, what was that again? He is saying that their standard way of operating is to individually custom-build cabinets to fit the home.
Kevin says, "We design and build the cabinets to within an eighth of an inch of your home design." And, he says, "We go beyond selling cabinets. We help design the living space. We design to fit the home, and you end up with a better product."
Custom Wood Products designers actually go and meet with a client in their home and professionally guide them through their selections. The company sells both to homeowners and to contractors. They also offer a lifetime warranty on their products.
Kevin says, "We buy the best hardwood available. We pay a premium, but we consider it a savings in the long run because of less waste and better color. And since our customers are buying direct from the manufacturer, that makes us price-competitive."
And what are the results? Today, that company which started with two guys in an old meat locker plant has grown to 160 employees, sending products from the front range of the Rockies up to Detroit. Wow.
Yet this company remains based in St. Marys, Kansas, population 1,932 people. Now, that's rural. And maybe being rural is one of their assets.
Kevin says, "I can't imagine having this kind of workforce in a city. Our people are great, with a quality consciousness and strong work ethic."
He says, "We have to maintain product development, because the cabinet industry has changed a lot. Now we can offer many more accessories, designs, and finishes. And the complexity of homes has grown too. We used to just work in the bathroom and kitchen. Now we're doing bookcases, wet bars, entertainment centers, and home offices."
It is exciting to see that a home-grown company based in small-town Kansas can thrive in the competitive environment of today.
It's time to end our home tour. Yes, we can admire those beautiful custom-built cabinets with pride, knowing they are produced by a Kansas company. We commend Kevin Gray, John Mitchell, Don Lake, and all the people of Custom Wood Products in St. Marys for making a difference with their commitment to quality and service. We can truly say that this company's custom is to custom-make products to serve the customer.
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.

Norm Jennings - Smoky Hill Vineyard

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Let's look in on the Eastern International wine exhibition in New York. It is a wine competition, and it is time to present the Top Honor Gold awards. And the winner is: A white wine from Smoky Hill Vineyard and Winery, out in the middle of Kansas. What?! A Kansas wine winning gold?? That's right, and it's not even made of wheat. Was this a fluke or a once in a lifetime Vintage? No, actually Smoky Hill has had many different awards including Best of Show against wines from around the world. So uncork the bottle, this is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Norm Jennings, the general manager of Smoky Hill Vineyard and Winery near Salina, Kansas. Our story really begins with his father Steve Jennings, who was an engineer in Salina. Back in 1978, Steve's family gave him a kit on "How to make wine at home" as a practical joke.
Steve decided to give that kit a try. He experimented with winemaking, and his interest expanded. Another engineer in that same firm, Kay Bloom, had an interest in wine as well. The two got together and decided to open a small winery as a retirement project. Norm Jennings says with a smile, "Now we might say this is a retirement hobby gone mad."
Yes, the winery has blossomed, so to speak, into a remarkable business. Steve Jennings and Kay Bloom bought land north of Salina where the vineyard is today, and planted the first grapes there in 1991. In 1995, they produced their first vintage, but only a few gallons.
Norm Jennings came into the business in 2001. He had grown up in Salina and then attended K-State and become an engineer like his father. He worked in corporate life for 11 years, serving as a plant and project manager with large companies. In 2001, he came back into the family wine business. He has led an expansion, while remaining true to the family's values.
Norm says, "Our mission is to honor God, produce world class wine suited to Kansas, and offer products and services that exceed all expectations."
Today, Smoky Hill Vineyard and Winery has three locations in Kansas, the maximum allowed by law. These are at the original facility in Salina, in northwest Wichita, and the best location: Exit 206 on I-70, at Wilson, Kansas, population 744 people. Now, that's rural.
How can such a rural location be so successful? Norm Jennings says, "You will see 95 percent out-of-state tags there. This location has high visibility for travelers or tourists. People in the wine industry are becoming familiar with our product. It is not uncommon to have someone from California stop and pick up two or three cases of wine."
Smoky Hill's wines did win the best of show, as well as Top Honor Gold in New York, as I described at the beginning, and have won many other awards. Under Norm's leadership, the winery recently bought a new press to replace their manual one. The new one is much bigger and more efficient, and is computer controlled to slow press the grapes just right.
The winery continues to work at improving its product. There are ten varieties of grapes, both red and white, at the original vineyard near Salina. Contract growers provide the remainder. Norm says, "We try to utilize all the in-state production we can, and we supplement from out of state as needed."
Vintage production in 2003 was more than 14,000 gallons or more than 72,000 bottles. Smoky Hill Vineyard and Winery customers have taken its wine as far away as Italy and Israel. Wow.
More information, including a complete description of the varieties of grapes plus a wine list, is available on-line at www.kansaswine.com. Or call 785-825-2515. Again, that's www.kansaswine.com, or 785-825-2515.
It's time to say farewell to the Eastern International wine exhibition in New York, where gold has been awarded to a wine from Smoky Hill Vineyard and Winery at Salina, Kansas. We commend Steve Jennings, Norm Jennings, Kay Bloom, and all those of the Smoky Hill Vineyard for making a difference with their vineyard and winery. In terms of rural development, this is a vintage story.
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.

Cheyenne Bottoms

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Today's program is for the birds... No, that's not a criticism. Today's program is about a place in rural Kansas which is indeed for the birds. It is a place which not only provides a migratory stop for thousands of birds, it also can be an attraction for human visitors from all over. So spread your wings for today's Kansas Profile.
Our story today takes us to Great Bend, Kansas, where Gary Gore and Janet Siebert are with the Chamber of Commerce. They told me about the Great Bend's area's remarkable wildlife resources, which are rapidly growing as a visitor attraction in rural Kansas.
Let's start with Cheyenne Bottoms. Cheyenne Bottoms is located northeast of Great Bend, roughly between Great Bend and the town of Claflin, population 629 people. Now, that's rural.
Cheyenne Bottoms has been called the Jewel of the Prairie. It is a 41,000 acre lowland basin which is the largest system of wetlands in Kansas. During the time that birds are migrating north or south, thousands of birds will stop and eat at Cheyenne Bottoms.
The north-south route through the central plains is sometimes called the Central Flyway, which is kind of like an interstate highway for birds. Cheyenne Bottoms may be like the roadside motel and restaurant. I wonder if a baby bird says: Are we there yet?
Anyway, I was amazed to learn the international significance of this ecosystem. Cheyenne Bottoms has been called the most important ecosystem in Kansas and the most important migration point for shorebirds in North America. More than 100 species nest in the area and 63 species are permanent residents. Cheyenne Bottoms is considered the largest marsh in the interior of the U.S. and has been designated a Wetland of International Importance.
Cheyenne Bottoms is the top shorebird spring migration staging area in the contiguous United States. Nearly one-third of all North American shorebirds migrating east of the Rocky Mountains visit the Bottoms each year, along with up to one-quarter million waterfowl. Wow.
Some 320 species of birds frequent the bottoms, such as the bald eagle, whooping crane, and peregrine falcon. Besides birds, the Bottoms is also home to 23 species of mammals, 19 species of reptiles, and 9 species of amphibians.
Nearly 20,000 acres of the Bottoms is operated by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks as a wildlife management area. This is visited by nature enthusiasts, hikers, birdwatchers, and photographers. The Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms preserve has another 7,200 acres.
South of Great Bend is the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which is another 21,820 acres of prairie grasses, salt marshes, sand dunes, canals, dikes, and timber. This includes a system of 15 miles of canals, 25 miles of dikes, and 15 acres of century-old cottonwoods. Quivira is a great place for hiking. It also has a visitors center, auto tour routes, and interpretive nature trails.
Of course, all this adds up to a growing attraction for human visitors. Each spring the chamber hosts a Wings and Wetlands Weekend, to showcase the amazing birding and wildlife watching there. One group of visitors from Colorado described it as the "best birding weekend we've ever had!"
There are also great opportunities for hunting in the area. Some 58,000 acres of public hunting area can be found within an hour's drive of Great Bend, and another 40,000 acres of private land allow walk-in hunting through a program of Kansas Wildlife and Parks.
How impressive to find this tremendous natural resource right here in our own backyard – and how great it is that entrepreneurial community leaders are building on these resources, while respecting and preserving them for the future.
Our program today is for the birds – the thousands of birds which migrate through Kansas each year to Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira. We salute Gary Gore, Janet Siebert, and all the people of the Great Bend region for making a difference by utilizing these wonderful natural treasures.
And how did I learn about all this? Well, a little bird told me.
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.

Dave Brenn - Kansas Water Congress

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Let's visit the halls of Congress. Don't worry, this doesn't require a long airplane flight. This is a Congress of people, not of fancy buildings in Washington, DC. Just as in our federal Congress, the members of this Congress come from different places and different perspectives. But these are united by an interest in one common, vital topic: Water. What could be more fundamental to our longterm life and livelihood than water? Fortunately, a group of leading Kansans have come together to discuss water issues through a new organization: The Kansas Water Congress. So tap the gavel to convene this session of Congress – that is, the Kansas Water Congress – on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Dave Brenn, who is currently serving as the first Executive Director of the Kansas Water Congress.
Dave himself has been very active in water issues. After a career in Extension and land management around Garden City, he founded his own company called Western Kansas Resource Management which does consulting on water and oil and gas issues. He was appointed by Governor Bill Graves and reappointed by Kathleen Sebelius to the Kansas Water Authority.
Dave and others have been talking about the future of water policy for some time. They were aware of the success of a Water Congress in the state of Colorado, which brought together diverse interests for a dialogue on water issues.
In February 2003, the Kansas Water Congress was incorporated. Unlike our national congress, it does not receive a taxpayer appropriation.
The Kansas Water Congress is a non-profit, fee-funded entity, separate from existing state agencies, associations, other organizations or direct political affiliations. Its mission is to promote the wise management and stewardship of the State's water resources and to protect, conserve, and develop Kansas water resources for the benefit of Kansas' present and future generations.
To accomplish that mission, the Kansas Water Congress provides a forum where water users strive to reach consensus on water issues; facilitates cooperation and efficiency between water related state agencies and water districts; provides education and information on water issues affecting Kansas; promotes a broad base of membership representing a diversified base of water interests and users, and ultimately will advocate positions on water policy.
Dave Brenn says, "We want to enhance and support the existing planning process which goes on at the basin and sub-basin level, and create a forum for enlightenment and stakeholder participation in forming water policy."
So just like our federal Congress, the Kansas Water Congress is a place where people from different places and perspectives can come together to hammer out issues. The Water Congress is made up of 29 different divisions, so as to be representative.
For example, the Congress includes representatives of all 12 of the main water basins in Kansas, plus 19 other diverse interests. These come from as far east as Kansas City and as far west as the Mountain Time Zone. They represent law, engineering, agriculture, parks and recreation, research and extension, government, municipalities, industry, energy, each of the groundwater management districts, the Geological Survey, and more.
Of course, this includes both urban and rural interests. There are representatives from Wichita, Lawrence, and Olathe, as well as such places as Rolla, population 384 people; Bern, population 189; and Liberty, population 136 people. Now, that's rural.
It's good that rural and urban interests can come together for a dialogue and understanding of all dimensions of our water issues. Their first general membership meeting will be March 11, 2004 in Lawrence. Contact 785-290-0003 for more information. That number again is 785-290-0003.
It's time to say goodbye to the halls of Congress. No, not in some fancy marble building, but rather in the efforts of these leaders from diverse interests who have come together to form the Kansas Water Congress. We commend Dave Brenn and the other visionary leaders who are making a difference by bringing this water congress together. With that, we'll declare this session of the Kansas Water Congress adjourned.
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.

Kerry Kuhn

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Let's go visit one of the top young teachers in the nation at his classroom. Don't look for chalk dust, blackboards, or even a computer. This particular classroom consists of a set of livestock panels, and his students are a set of horses. That's right, the four-legged kind. Today we'll meet one of the nation's leading young teachers of horses, who is based in rural Kansas. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Kerry Kuhn, the young horseman who works with horses and their owners. Kerry says, "I don't like the term horse trainer. That makes it sound like I know everything and I'm trying to convince the horse. I hope I'm gonna be learnin' something every day." Kerry prefers the term "horse teacher."
In a broad sense, he works to create a positive relationship between the horse and the owner. It's a life that Kerry loves, having grown up with it.
Kerry says, "I got started with my granddad, who raised and showed horses all the time." Kerry began to raise and show horses of his own. He says, "I started my first colt when I was 12 years old." Then he started riding and training horses for people locally, and the business started to grow.
Kerry's family has been featured on Kansas Profile before. His mother Kay is secretary for the Peace Treaty Pageant in Medicine Lodge, as featured on a previous program, and father Earl is a noted western artist.
Kerry learned practical horsemanship as part of everyday life on the ranch. Today, he manages a 3,000 acre ranch in southwest Kansas, where he uses a new style of managing and teaching horses.
In the old days, horses were broke to ride. Kerry teaches a new style, which is based on communicating with the horse, not dictating to it. Kerry says, "I'm asking the horse, not telling it what to do." The result is a more positive interaction between the horse and rider.
Kerry says, "Horses are gonna learn, whether it's something good or something bad. I want people to learn with the horse and get it right in the first place."
All too often, after horses have learned some bad habits, they end up going to someone like Kerry to fix the problem. He will work with around a hundred head of horses in a year.
But what he really wants is for owners to learn the best way to work with their horses from the start. It's a relationship with the horse that is built on understanding, not giving orders.
Kerry says, "You can't ever fault a horse for what he does. He was just being a horse. We're out there to learn his language."
The results can be remarkable. I witnessed Kerry work with a young colt who had barely been ridden. Within an hour and a half, Kerry had him saddled and riding at a lope. Kerry now does clinics and demonstrations all over the country, where he displays this style of teaching. He is the author of an ongoing video series and is part of a select group which has been added to the national team of horse clinicians sponsored by Purina Mills.
Kerry does all this while managing the ranch, living near Coats, Kansas, population 130 people. Now, that's rural.
Kerry lives there with his wife Misti and their young son. He says, "Working with a horse is simply building a relationship." Kerry is doing a great job of that.
For more information, go to www.kerrykuhn.com. That's www.k-e-r-r-y-k-u-h-n.com.
It's time to say goodbye to this outstanding young teacher. His classroom is a set of horse panels out in the wide open spaces, where he helps horses and riders build a new partnership together, and now he is making his mark nationally. We salute Kerry Kuhn and his family for making a difference with their love of horses and this new style of teaching. For his outstanding work, I'll give Kerry and his students a grade of A+ – or is that a grade of Hay-plus???
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.

Edgar Jacobs

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
What is a wetland? Well, it is land that is wet. My five year old could have told you that. According to the dictionary, a wetland is a lowland area that is saturated with moisture, especially as the natural habitat of wildlife. So a wetland might be a marsh or swamp or duckpond. Today, we'll meet a wetland in yet another sense. There's a small community which is using a constructed wetland to solve a water problem. Stay tuned and we'll wade into today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Edgar Jacobs, owner of the Odin Store in Odin in central Kansas. Odin is a truly rural community. Since it is unincorporated, there is no exact population count, but Edgar Jacobs says the community has about 115 residents. Now, that's rural.
When you have a problem with septic systems in a town that size, spending gazillions of dollars on a new water treatment system is not likely.
That was the problem facing the residents of Odin. They had a sewer problem, but didn't have a big budget to fix it.
Edgar says, "The ground is so saturated around here that the sewer water begins to pollute the underground water."
This was a problem for the Odin Store too. The Odin Store is the convenience store in Odin – in fact, the only store in Odin. They are fortunate to have a convenience store.
This store handles the usual products: gas and snacks and more. Edgar has owned this store since 1972 and has seen the water problem firsthand. When the store and its restrooms were extra busy, Edgar says, "We really had to watch it. We were always having to pump out the sewer system."
Large cities might be able to afford a new sewer system, but as I mentioned, that is sometimes not an option in smaller towns. Instead, they have to use their ingenuity.
Dan Curtis, director of the Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development Council based in Great Bend, became aware of Odin's water problems. He knew of communities in southern states which had overcome them.
Those communities utilized a wetland. No, not a marshy wildlife refuge out in the wilderness, but rather a constructed wetland in the town. They built a wetland with the same attributes for cleaning and filtering water as a natural wetland has in the wild.
A town meeting was held in Odin where this idea was explained. Edgar Jacobs volunteered to try the constructed wetland project at his store.
The new constructed wetland is in effect an onsite wastewater treatment system. Edgar says, "It is a pit lined with a 50 millimeter thick plastic liner and filled with 15 inches of pea size gravel." Cattails were then transplanted into the pit. Edgar says, "The gray water from the store's sewer system goes into this lined pit and then into a second small pit which contains sand. By the time it goes through these cells, the water is clean enough to go into the ground."
The cattails pick up the organic nutrients from the waste water so they naturally cleanse and filter the water in the process. Edgar Jacobs says, "It works really good."
So instead of spending gazillions of dollars, they found this innovative way to utilize nature to save and clean the water. The Central Prairie RC&D and Barton County Natural Resources Conservation District contributed funds to help with this test project. If it continues to work, it is hoped that four or five cells could take care of the sewer problems for an entire community this size. This modern design constructed wetland is the first of its kind in Kansas.
What is a wetland? Yes, it is land that is wet. It usually means a natural marsh or wildlife habitat, but this wetland is more. We salute Edgar Jacobs and Dan Curtis and all those involved with this project for making a difference by using the forces of nature through a constructed wetland to address this problem. What is a wetland? In this case, it is part of a solution.
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.

Warren Finder - Midwest Wool

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Remember that nice woolen suit? Nothing looks and feels quite like a genuine wool suit. Today, we'll meet one of the nation's leading businesses serving the producers of that wool. This business gathers wool from some 14 states and ships livestock supply products all over the country – from a facility in the middle of Kansas. Flock over to your radio and we'll meet this remarkable business on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Warren Finder, supply manager for Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association in South Hutchinson, Kansas.
Mid-States Wool Growers has a long history of serving sheep and wool producers. This history goes back to 1918, when a number of wool producers in Ohio banded together to market their wool during World War I. In 1931, a similar group was organized in Kansas City. This organization was called the Midwest Wool Marketing Cooperative. Over time, both organizations grew and diversified, adding a livestock supply business to their operations.
In 1974, the two organizations combined to form Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association. Today it still has offices in Ohio and Kansas and is owned by 6,000 sheep producers in 20 states.
The Kansas staff of Mid-States Wool Growers has rural roots and deep experience in the sheep industry. Warren Finder grew up in the sheep business with his father. Warren has some 35 years experience in sheep shearing, but he says he began when he was two. I'm not sure I'd want to be the sheep that was shorn by a two-year-old...
Anyway, that experience has paid off. Warren has a wealth of knowledge, and owns some 200 ewes and 60 Boer goats himself. He and his wife live near Kingman, where she trains border collies.
Warren succeeded Hank Ruckert as supply manager, and Hank continues to work part-time. He has more than 40 years experience and also has a sheep flock of his own. Rounding out the administrative staff is Alex McClure, manager of the wool department. Alex is a 10-time Kansas State shearing champion. Wow. He lives near Harper, Kansas, population 1,584 people. Now, that's rural.
These gentlemen give leadership to this remarkable niche business. Wool comes in to their facility in South Hutchinson from all over the midwest and from places as far away as Minnesota, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Louisiana. The wool is quality inspected and marketed on behalf of the growers. Mid-States markets more than six million pounds of wool annually.
They also operate a livestock supply business. Mid-States Livestock Supplies offers one of the most complete lines of products needed by sheep and goat producers, from antibiotics to wound spray and everything in between. Their catalog includes all kinds of medicines and the equipment to apply them, plus lambing supplies, hoof care, clippers, ear tags, grooming supplies, gates, books, spinning wheels, gifts, and more.
In the miscellaneous category is a bottle of coyote urine for 4.95. Apparently this is used for luring coyotes into traps. I wonder how in the world that gets collected?
The cutest item in the catalog is called Kid Jammies. These are soft one piece cloth outfits that can be pulled onto newborn kids to protect them from cold weather. As you may recall, baby goats are called kids. The jammies for these kids have four leg holes and are sized to fit a baby goat. And yes, they come in pink for girls and blue for boys. Now I've seen everything....
Mid-States ships livestock supplies all over the country, and as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. They've even sent sheep shearing equipment down to Chile.
How exciting to find this remarkable business in the middle of Kansas.
Remember that nice woolen suit? I like wool, and it is good to find that one of the leading businesses serving the wool industry is found here in Kansas. We salute Warren Finder, Hank Ruckert, Alex McClure, and all the people of Mid-States Wool Growers for making a difference by serving this remarkable industry. This wonderful wool business suits Kansas just right.
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.

Master of Agribusiness

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
It's midnight, and Rich Porter is on his way to class. Wow, you might ask, what kind of class is that? The answer is, it's a very advanced one. So let's accompany Rich Porter on his trip to class. Look fast – Rich can get to class in the time it takes him to walk over to his computer, and if he chooses to attend his class at midnight, that is up to him. This is the story of an innovative program in distance education, which has real benefits for both urban and rural people. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Dr. Dan Bernardo, who is head of K-State's Department of Agricultural Economics. He and his faculty noted that people would frequently call in who were looking for more education, but couldn't take several years out from their careers to complete a graduate degree. Being good economists, they responded to this market demand. They recognized that emerging technology would make it possible to offer such education to those people.
So in 1997, the K-State Agricultural Economics Department developed a proposal for a Master of Agribusiness degree program which could be offered through distance education technology. This means that the student would remain in his or her home or office, and participate in almost all the classes electronically. Students would come to K-State for a couple of on-campus sessions each year. Otherwise, the course lectures would be sent to the student on CD-ROM, which the student could view at the time of his or her choosing. Class discussions would take place through organized chat rooms. Homework and exams would also be done over the computer, using chat rooms and email. Dr. Allen Featherstone became program director.
It was an innovative proposal. Dan Bernardo says, "That program went from conception to delivery in nine months, which is warp speed by academic standards." K-State became the first university in the nation to offer a Master of Agribusiness program through distance learning.
This program would be followed by another distance education offering called MAST. That stands for Management, Analysis, and Strategic Thinking, and is targeted to farm managers.
Rich Porter was intrigued when he saw that a Master of Agribusiness program was being offered through distance learning. Rich has degrees from K-State in chemical engineering and from SMU in law. He worked for Bethlehem Steel Company for four years before coming back to the farm with his father, Walter Porter. Rich had been interested in further education, but he didn't have time to go to classes in Manhattan or somewhere else.
So in January 1998, Rich and eleven others enrolled as the first cohort to take the Master of Agribusiness program. The result? Rich Porter says, "I thought the program was fantastic. It provides you the tools you need for analysis and decision-making."
Rich was a producer, but most of his fellow students were employed in agribusiness. Rich says, "I appreciated the interaction with other experienced students with different backgrounds. And the quality of the faculty was tremendous. They are technically brilliant with a tremendous ability to convey information, and beyond that they are darn fine human beings."
Today, the Master of Agribusiness program consists of students in more than 30 states across the country and ten countries abroad. It includes students from Gove to Beijing. Of course, it is great for rural residents who would otherwise have to travel long distances to get to classes.
Rich Porter farms and has a feedlot. His address is Reading, population 272. But he's actually closer to Miller, Kansas, population 35 people. Now, that's rural. Rich says, "This program exceeded my best projections." And in 2000, the University Continuing Education Association presented a national award to this program for its quality and innovation.
It's time for Rich Porter to leave his class, which he can do in seconds by closing down his computer. We salute Dan Bernardo, Allen Featherstone, Rich Porter, and all those involved who are making a difference with these innovative educational programs. Among other things, they have a lot of class.
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.

Nicole Ohlde

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Two years ago, this program featured the story of three young sharpshooters who rode in to help the town, just like an old western movie. Now one of those sharpshooters is preparing for the end of the trail – at least at this level. For the sharpshooters of which I speak aren't shooting bullets, they're shooting basketballs. It's not the Wild West, it's March Madness. I'm speaking of three young women from rural Kansas who have led the K-State's women basketball team to stardom. Now one of these is wrapping up her collegiate career. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Nicole Ohlde, senior center for the K-State women's basketball team. She has led this team to unparalleled success. This success means a lot to Nicole, having grown up at nearby Clay Center.
During Nicole's freshman year, the team showed great promise but hit a buzzsaw in conference play. In the Big 12, the team went only 2 and 14. Nicole herself had one of the finest freshman seasons in K-State history, but she dreamed of team success.
That dream came true. In the next year, she was joined by a set of tremendous team-mates. Together, they would lift the team to a whole new level. Kendra Wecker and Laurie Koehn would join sparkplug Megan Mahoney as the leaders of the charge. They would achieve a Top Ten ranking and the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. Nicole became an All-American, Big 12 player of the year, and K-State's all-time leading scorer.
Now Nicole Ohlde is focused on the final games of her collegiate career. Looking back, she says one of the high points for her was the tremendous boom in fan support. Fueled by Kansas players and on-court success, attendance at K-State women's games has increased by 1,200 percent in 8 years! K-State attendance ranked in the top six in the nation. Wow.
Nicole says she will never forget the sight of the doors opening before game time at Bramlage with fans scrambling in at a wild rush to get the best seats. She and her teammates describe playing before a packed house at Bramlage as "electric."
Part of the mutual love affair between these fans and these players and their coaches is the fact that the players and coaches are such quality people. These girls are remarkably gifted and athletic, but still down to earth college kids with good values from rural Kansas. After all, Nicole comes from Clay Center, population 4,692, Kendra Wecker from Marysville, population 3,128, and Laurie Koehn played at Moundridge, population 1,541 people. Now, that's rural.
Nicole Ohlde says, "Growing up in a small town is great. I'd like to raise a family in that kind of atmosphere. Manhattan's plenty big enough for me."
Before that time comes, though, I believe there will be lots of opportunities for Nicole to go a long way, even in professional women's basketball. For now, however, she is focused on the team doing its best toward its goals.
What has Nicole Ohlde meant to this team? Laurie Koehn says, "She means so much that it's hard to put into words. She is an unbelievable player, an amazing athlete and person. And she's touched so many lives."
Laurie also lauds the fan support. She says, "K-State fans have always been loyal. Probably it helps having homegrown kids. We appreciate the fan support. They've been a huge part of our success."
Now our old western movie is reaching its final scenes. The bad guys are being conquered, and soon these young sharpshooters can celebrate their achievements. Kendra Wecker and Laurie Koehn will return next season, but Nicole Ohlde is a senior. Yet she's not riding into the sunset. She looks forward to more basketball at the next level. We commend Nicole Ohlde, Kendra Wecker, and Laurie Koehn for making a difference by using their athletic talents close to home and inspiring a lot of Kansans in the process. It's nice to see the good guys – and girls – win in the end.
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.

Riggs Arboretum

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 some international immigrants to Kansas. They're from far away places, such as Siberia, the upper Orient, and the middle east. But now they've lived in Kansas for a long time, and they stand tall and strong – and 100 feet high. Wow, what kind of immigrants are these? No, not imported basketball players. These immigrants are trees. That's right, real trees in a forest. Thanks to the farsighted vision and effort of a pioneering Kansan, these international trees were brought to rural Kansas a century ago. So please don't leaf – it's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet John Riggs of Riggs Arboretum. Our story begins with John's grandfather and namesake, John W. Riggs. Mr. Riggs and his wife migrated to Kansas from Indiana in 1885. They became teachers at the small Kingman county town of Waterloo.
The Riggs family missed the trees they had grown up with back east, so Mr. Riggs had some fruit-bearing trees shipped out to Kansas. These provided fruit for his family and others, and he began a nursery business.
Being an educator, he applied scientific curiosity and organization to the process. He collected various botanical specimens from other states to test at Waterloo. In 1899, he asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for various varieties of trees from overseas to try in his arboretum. USDA scientists replied that such varieties could not grow in Kansas, but Mr. Riggs persisted.
Finally, USDA agreed to send such trees but they also sent along an investigator. He must have been mightily impressed. Not only did Mr. Riggs get more trees, the USDA agreed to establish Mr. Riggs' arboretum as a federal experiment station and appointed Mr. Riggs as superintendent.
Many of his plantings still stand today. He is credited with introducing several varieties of evergreens as well as bald cypress to the plains of Kansas. An estimated 10,000 varieties of plants were at the station in 1924. Mr. Riggs corresponded with Luther Burbank and others.
Mr. Riggs supervised the arboretum even after federal funding for the station ran out in the 1920's, and he passed away in 1930. His son Cecil ran a commercial nursery business and preserved the arboretum. Cecil passed away in 1962.
Cecil's oldest son John and his wife Janie are the current owners of Riggs Arboretum. John, a K-State graduate, is a city planning consultant in Lindsborg. He and many volunteers have done a lot of work to make the Riggs Arboretum more visitor-friendly. John says, "Several years ago Roger Masethin from the Sunflower RC&D, representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Department of Kansas Foresters came to us and asked to help enhance the arboretum for public viewing. I told them I didn't think the public would have any interest. Well, I was totally wrong."
Since 1997, more than 5000 hours have been donated by some 210 volunteers to establish, tend and maintain more than 6,000 feet of walking trails, install 48 native wood benches and tables, and open up over 70 different specimen trees for viewing. Each year the arboretum hosts a Walk in the Woods field day for area fifth graders. Some 230 students and educators participated in 2003.
Today the town of Waterloo has dwindled down to a population of about 20 people. Now, that's rural. Yet this community is home to one of the most unique and little-known historic botanical features in our state. It is perhaps the oldest arboretum west of the Mississippi River. The arboretum has more than 60 mature varieties of trees from many parts of the world and is home to several Kansas Champion trees.
John says that visitors are welcome. However, since it is privately owned, permission is required to tour the arboretum. Call 785-227-3858. That number again is 785-227-3858.
It's time to say goodbye to these international immigrants – trees from all over the world, brought to Kansas by this remarkable pioneer. We salute John Riggs and family, the Sunflower RC&D and others who are making a difference by sharing this treasure of trees.
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.

Sunflowers - 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 visit the medical hospital at Harvard University. It's all about health - even in the cooking oil used in the hospital food service. This hospital exclusively uses a special sunflower cooking oil that has several health-friendly properties. Some of that oil may come from Kansas. It's a long way from rural Kansas to Harvard, but we'll trace the path on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Lynn Hoelting, General Manager of Mueller Grain in Goodland, Kansas, who tells the history of the sunflower.
Lynn explains that the sunflower is one of the few plants that is native to North America. He says with a smile, "We've been choppin' em and cussin' em for a hundred years." Anyone who's chopped sunflowers by hand out of a cornfield can relate to that. In a field of corn, a sunflower is a weed. However, it has deep roots - get it? - in our country's history.
Indian tribes are said to have been growing and using sunflowers in North America 3,000 years before Christ. Cortez found sunflowers while exploring here and brought them back to Spain. They were primarily used as ornamentals there until Europeans found that cooking oil could be squeezed from the seeds. Sunflower production then grew in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church had forbidden the consumption of oil foods during Lent, but sunflowers were not on the prohibited list so they grew rapidly in popularity there.
In the late 19th century, Russian immigrants came to North America, and they brought with them their red wheat and sunflowers. Major production of the crop first took place in Canada and then moved back down to the U.S. where it all began. That is one big circle.
Kansas became known as the sunflower state because it is a native wildflower here. In the 1980s, western Kansas producers found many benefits from raising commercial sunflowers in a crop rotation with wheat. They generated more profit, conserved moisture, controlled weeds, and broke crop disease cycles.
This new crop would receive a boost from Mueller Grain, a company founded by Iron and Ruby Mueller of Bird City, Kansas, population 464 people. Now, that's rural.
Mueller Grain's General Manager at the time was R. A. True. He saw an opportunity in this industry, and Mueller Grain provided storage to assist. Today, there are three sunflower processing plants operating near Goodland. Mueller Grain continues to give leadership to the industry, and now Goodland is considered the sunflower capital of the sunflower state.
In 1990, the National Sunflower Association organized a High Plains Committee. Its chair was R. A. True, and when he retired, Lynn Hoelting became General Manager of Mueller Grain as well as carrying on this national leadership as chair of the High Plains Committee.
Lynn explains that there are two main types of sunflowers: Oilseeds, which are processed into sunflower oil and meal and used as birdseed, and confectionery sunflowers. No, not sunflowers made of sugar. These are the edible sunflowers used for such things as baking, cookies, bread, and toppings. This also includes sunflowers for snacking. Those are roasted in the shell. You just pop 'em in your mouth and spit out the shell before eating, just like those baseball players.
Now there is a new variety of sunflower cooking oil called NuSun. It has a clean and light taste, is easily flavored, lasts 20 percent longer in frying, has less smell and smoke, and is even good for you. It promotes good cholesterol while inhibiting bad cholesterol, does not produce transfatty acids in cooking, and is as good or better than olive oil for heart-healthiness.
It's time to say goodbye to the medical hospital at Harvard, where NuSun sunflower oil is used exclusively due to its heart-healthy properties. Some of those sunflowers may have come from Goodland, Kansas. We salute Lynn Hoelting, R. A. True, and the Muellers for making a difference with their vision and hard work in assisting the sunflower industry.
And there's more. How about a sunflower painting that is 80 feet tall? We'll explain on our next program.
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.

Sunflowers - Part 2

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Sometimes we have to keep in mind the big picture. When I say the big picture, I mean it. For example, here is a reproduction of one of Van Gogh's most famous paintings, his Three Sunflowers in a Vase. This reproduction of Van Gogh's painting covers more than 700 square feet, is 80 feet high, and is the only one in the United States – and it's found in rural Kansas. We'll explain on today's Kansas Profile.
On our last program, we met Lynn Hoelting of Mueller Grain in Goodland. He also serves on the Board of the Sunflowers USA Association there.
Lynn explains that a Canadian artist first completed an enlarged hand painted reproduction of Van Gogh's famous sunflower paintings in 1997. It inspired an idea: Since Van Gogh painted seven different famous paintings of sunflowers, the Canadian artist thought he would create seven huge versions of these paintings to locate in seven countries around the world, in sites that have a connection to sunflowers or Van Gogh himself. One of those places would turn out to be Goodland, Kansas.
Our previous program chronicled how sunflowers became part of western Kansas crop production in the 1980s. Mueller Grain was an independent grain elevator company in Goodland. The manager at the time saw an opportunity in the sunflower industry, and helped growers get the industry started.
Today, Lynn Hoelting is General Manager of Mueller Grain. He explains that the Mueller Grain Company basically built an export terminal inland. They have a facility which can handle different types of products, which is what is happening in the sunflower industry today.
More types of sunflowers are being grown to respond to more types of niche markets. For example, we're familiar with the black and white striped sunflower seeds that we buy as a snack at the convenience store. A different variety of those is bred for use in birdseed. There are black shelled sunflower seeds, white shell seeds, and now gray shell. The important thing is not the color of the shell, but the properties of the seeds.
Some are high in oleic oils, which makes them great for cooking. They have longer shelf life and can be used in high end salad dressings. These are even being used in hydraulic lines in food processing plants. That way if a line breaks, it's not a petroleum product that is sprayed on the food, it is food that is sprayed on the food.
Of course, the sunflower seeds are great for eating. Breeders are continually developing larger and longer seeds in response to consumer demand.
Targeting these markets requires separating and preserving the identity of each variety. Mueller Grain is a leader in this regard. They make the most separations of varieties of any company in the country, and are the largest independent sunflower dealer in the country.
Sunflower acreage in Kansas doubled in less than 10 years. USDA has two recognized market centers for sunflowers in the whole country: Fargo, North Dakota and Goodland, Kansas. So thanks to Mueller Grain and others, Goodland has become the sunflower capital of the high plains.
When that Canadian artist wanted to place his huge reproduction of a Van Gogh sunflower painting in the U.S., Goodland was a logical place to put it.
Local citizens organized a non-profit organization to promote the concept, and today this huge painting stands in Goodland. The canvas consists of 24 plyboard sheets covered with marine fiberglass and bolted to a steel frame, which is mounted on an 80 foot tall steel easel made of 12 inch steel tubing. The artist's painting consists of 10 layers of ultraviolet urethane enamel. It is a sight to see.
We have to keep in mind the big picture. This is a big picture, alright. It is an international art project in Goodland, Kansas, population 4,834 people. Now, that's rural. We commend Lynn Hoelting and all those who have made a difference by constructing this striking work of art and by building the sunflower industry in rural Kansas. What a picture!
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.

Bobbi Miles

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Every pilot knows that each flight includes one vitally important element: The landing. Yes, the landing is crucial. Today, we'll learn how one family came to land in rural Kansas – literally. Now they are contributing to the education and development of their adopted community. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Bobbi Miles, economic development director of Smith Center in northwest Kansas. Her story begins in Ohio, where Bobbi grew up in Springfield near Dayton. She moved to Denver and later pursued higher education, finishing with a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry. Bobbi was a research scientist at the University of Colorado when she met Bruce Miles. Bruce is from Illinois originally. One thing that Bruce and Bobbi have in common is flying.
Bruce is a pilot. Bobbi was studying atmospheric chemistry, including airborne studies, so she too was spending a lot of time in airplanes. They met and married and lived in Denver, and got a two-seater airplane.
In the early summer of 1999, Bruce and Bobbi were flying back from St. Louis when they ran into a thunderstorm over northwest Kansas. Those storms can be risky.
I'm reminded of the saying that there are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. Well, Bruce and Bobbi were not bold or foolhardy enough to fly into that thunderstorm, so they knew they needed to land. The first landing strip which they spotted happened to be at Smith Center, Kansas.
They landed safely at Smith Center and found a local bed and breakfast to spend the night. However, the weather did not clear. In fact, thunderstorms continued to roll through the atmosphere for the next three days.
But instead of feeling stranded, something else happened during their impromptu stay in Smith Center: They fell in love with it.
Eventually they made their way home to Denver, but somehow things kept bringing them back. On one occasion when their plane needed fuel, Smith Center happened to be the closest place to get it. Another time they were flying when it got dark, and once again ended up in Smith Center. Now I wonder: Was all this an act of God, or were they subconsciously being drawn to the community?
In any event, Bobbi and Bruce had talked for some time about restoring an old victorian home. Such houses in Denver had an astronomical price tag. But Bobbi and Bruce found an old victorian house in Smith Center that was affordable, and so they bought it. They gutted the house with the thought of restoring it and retiring to it several years down the road.
Again, however, they felt drawn to Smith Center. Bruce applied for a nearby teaching job and they decided that if he got the job, they would move from Denver. He did get the job. Only one problem: They had gutted the old house that they had purchased. That meant no place to stay.
Bobbie and Bruce approached the owner of the original bed and breakfast where they stayed when they first landed there. They ended up buying that bed and breakfast as well, and moving to Smith Center. Now Bruce is teaching at Kensington and Bobbi is Economic Development Director for Smith Center while running the b and b and restoring both buildings.
Their bed and breakfast is called Ingleboro Mansion. This beautiful building was built in 1899 by a local banker. It became a hospital, then a nursing home, and then a restaurant. Now Bruce and Bobbi have restored it to past grandeur, featuring converted carbide and kerosene lights, rich imported stained glass windows, cherry, oak and maple woodwork, and bay windows. More information can be found at www.ingleboromansion.com. That's www.i-n-g-l-e-b-o-r-o-mansion.com
Bobbi says, "We love it here in small town America."
Every pilot knows that the landing is all-important. Today we met a couple who had the good fortune to land in rural Kansas. We commend Bruce and Bobbi Miles for making a difference by making this their home. I'm glad Smith Center landed this wonderful couple.
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.

Knute Rockne

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
This is hallowed ground - a place where sports, international attention and tragedy intersected in rural Kansas. Today we remember a moment when the entire nation caught its breath, upon hearing the news that one of the great sports figures of all time had died in a tragic plane crash. Now this tragic event is being newly commemorated, near the crash site where it happened in rural Kansas. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Our story today surrounds the life and death of one of the greatest football coaches of all time: Knute Rockne. Rockne grew up in Chicago and went to Notre Dame, where he became a star receiver for the Fighting Irish.
He stayed on at the university as a chemist, assistant track coach and assistant football coach and in 1918, was promoted to head football coach. What a career would follow!
Rockne was the most innovative and charismatic coach of his era. He coached the Four Horsemen and George Gipp, whom he immortalized with the phrase, Win One for the Gipper. He set the record for the greatest all-time winning percentage. In thirteen years, he won six national championships.
Then came March 31, 1931. That is 3-31-31, by the way. I'm not superstitious, but there is a 13 in there. Anyway, on that date, Rockne and seven others departed Kansas City on a small plane headed for Los Angeles. They had not traveled far when a wing ripped off the airplane and the plane crashed in the grasslands of eastern Kansas. Everyone aboard was killed instantly.
Easter Heathman was 13 years old when it happened. He was working on the family ranch and heard the sound of engines. He thought someone was racing cars – but there was sudden silence. Then they got word that a plane had crashed. They rushed to the crash scene to help, and found the gruesome scene. They helped pick up the bodies. Now Easter is 87, one of two persons still living who was there at that time. He still remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of that fateful day. On a sunny day, fragments of glass from the long-ago airplane crash can still be seen, glittering in the bright light.
This is hallowed ground. A monument was erected at the crash site, but it is on private property and is available for viewing by appointment only.
In later years, the Kansas Turnpike would be built not far from the crash site. In 1965, the Turnpike Authority and the Knute Rockne Clubs of America dedicated a memorial to Rockne at the nearby Matfield Green service area on the turnpike.
In 2004, a new memorial to Knute Rockne has been built in the Matfield Green service area. The service area has been renovated and rebuilt, and the new memorial is incorporated in the new building. It consists of five, eight-foot-tall panels depicting the life and times of Knute Rockne. There is the text of his famous Gipper speech and memorabilia from his life and death. The inside of the exterior windows are etched with diagrams of his famous plays.
It's great that the Kansas Turnpike Authority is taking this step to preserve and honor this piece of history in rural Kansas.
Matfield Green is a town of 32 people. Now, that's rural. But an estimated 4.7 million cars a year will travel along that highway. Wow.
Mary Turkington is the Board Chair of the turnpike authority and Mike Johnston is President. A local volunteer from Cottonwood Falls named Elaine Adkins told me about this new memorial.
Yes, this crash site is hallowed ground. But it's time to leave this place where Knute Rockne's plane crashed more than 70 years ago. At the Kansas Turnpike nearby, there is a new memorial to honor this icon of college football history, and to remember both his achievements in life and his death in rural Kansas. We salute Mary Turkington, Mike Johnston, Easter Heathman, Elaine Adkins and all those who are making a difference by honoring this history and sharing it with the world.
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.

Rural Kansas

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Where is rural Kansas? Well, you might say, it's the space between our cities. No, no, I mean: Where is Rural, Kansas? There was a town in Kansas named Rural - with a capital R. Since May 2004 marks the twelfth anniversary of the Kansas Profile program, we're going to celebrate by visiting Rural, Kansas – the townsite, that is. It's today's Kansas Profile.
We'll find rural Kansas in Chase County. With 2,886 residents, Chase is in the smallest 10 percent of Kansas county populations and is the lightest populated county east of Highway 81. It is nestled in the heart of the scenic Flint Hills.
Eighty percent of Chase County is grassland, which makes for a great ranching economy and panoramic views but not a lot of jobs or industrial base. What's more, an estimated 80 percent of the grass is owned by people who don't live in the county. This isn't due to some new foreign takeover, but rather the historical pattern of those who owned the large ranches in the region.
The population of Chase County peaked in 1885 at 8,700 people. Today, it has less than 3,000 people.
Whitt Laughridge has a realty and insurance agency in Chase County, in downtown Cottonwood Falls. Whitt is a mere 88 years old. On his wall is a plaque from 1997, recognizing him for 50 years of continuous membership in the American Legion. Wow.
According to a 1901 plat book in Whitt Laughridge's office, there had been 60 post offices in the county. Today, there are four.
The two largest towns in the county are Cottonwood Falls, population 846, and Strong City, population 592, a mere two miles away. Cottonwood Falls is the county seat, with its beautiful courthouse which is the oldest continuously operated courthouse in Kansas. Strong City is known for its wonderful rodeo each spring.
A century ago, the two towns were competing to see which one would get the railroad. At that point, the two towns were named Cottonwood Falls and Cottonwood Station. The people of Cottonwood Station made a strategic decision to rename themselves Strong City, in honor of W.B. Strong, who was president of the railroad company. Sure enough, the railroad came to Strong City.
Chase County was featured in William Least-Heat Moon's book Praryerth, which generated international attention on the county. The economy is based in agriculture, but many residents commute to Emporia to work.
Mike Holder says that when he came here as Extension agent, he studied up on the towns in the county. The town of Bazaar reported that it had been the largest cattle shipping point on the Santa Fe Trail. That was impressive. Then he read about the town of Matfield Green. It reported that it had been the largest cattle shipping point on the Santa Fe Trail. Hmm. Then he read about the town of Cassoday, which claimed the same thing. Mike was wondering which one was accurate, when he studied some more and came to this conclusion: They were all right. As the railroad worked its way west, each one in the progression had been the largest cattle shipping point. Such is the rich history of Chase County.
And there in Whitt Laughridge's office, we find the official record: There was a town named Rural which had a post office from 1896 to 1902, when it closed. Mike Holder drove me to the site. There is nothing there but a peaceful open field, surrounded by beautiful scenic hills of grass. Now, that's rural.
So where is rural Kansas? It's not on a map, it's in your heart. It's not a place, it is a mindset. Yes, rural Kansas has had population loss. But in a larger sense, it is a place where one can still find wide open spaces, scenic vistas, western heritage, and people like Mike Holder and Whitt Laughridge who treat you like a friend and neighbor. On this 12th anniversary of Kansas Profile, we salute all those who are making a difference by making Kansas the wonderful place it is today.
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.

Laurie Schmelzle - chinchillas.com

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 go to Oslo, Norway. Here we find a chinchilla fancier who is looking for chinchillas. A chinchilla is one of those cute, soft furry animals which some people just love. In fact, this particular breeder in Norway was looking for 10 chinchillas. So this person sent an email inquiry to a leading chinchilla breeder. That inquiry provided a spark to create a truly remarkable business, because the inquiry went halfway around the globe to rural Kansas. You'll get the explanation on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Laurie Schmelzle from Seneca, Kansas. It was Laurie who received that email inquiry. Here is the background on how it happened.
Laurie comes from Miami, Florida originally. She went to UCLA where she met a recording engineer named Martin Schmelzle who was working in Hollywood. They married and started a family, but as they were preparing for their first child, they decided they would prefer a less urban setting for their kids. So they decided to move back to where Martin had grown up, near Seneca, Kansas where they live today.
Laurie has had a lifelong interest in genetics and animal breeding. She loves Egyptian Arabian horses, for example. While in college, she wanted a small pet so she went shopping and found a chinchilla. Laurie says, "I didn't even know what it was, and I'm not sure the people who sold it to me knew either."
But Laurie became very interested in the chinchillas and found there were lots of other people interested in them around the world. In fact, there are shows and competitions for judging and selecting the top chinchillas. Laurie established her own show herd. It had to be easier and more affordable than those horses.
Laurie says, "For what it would take to buy a million dollar horse, I could get a chinchilla of comparable quality for $500." I might add, it doesn't hurt as much when the chinchilla steps on your foot.
Anyway, this chinchilla enterprise turned into a business for Laurie. By this time, however, she had moved to Kansas and in 1999, sold her chinchilla herd to concentrate on the horses and family. But, she says, "The business kept coming. Customers kept looking for good animals."
In 2000, Laurie received the Internet inquiry from Oslo, Norway which I referenced at the beginning. This was a new one for Laurie. She had customers all over the country, but never from Norway. So she contacted a friend in Ohio who was one of the best chinchilla breeders in the country and who had done some exporting.
This would develop into a business relationship. Today, Laurie and her partner in Ohio operate chinchillas.com. This is a web-based business which sells topflight chinchillas and all the supplies which go with them. Laurie provides her knowledge of chinchillas, husband Martin assists with the technology, and their friend in Ohio actually provides the breeding animals.
This is an amazing example of modern technology at work. Chinchillas.com includes a e-store where a person can buy feed, cages, treats, toys and accessories for chinchillas, plus a live on-line animal auction and a sales gallery. It is worldwide over the Internet.
Laurie says, "Our business is 100 percent virtual. We can operate at any dataport in the world."
Seventy percent of their business comes from overseas. Laurie says, "In the last three years we have exported to 15 countries, to such places as Singapore, Norway, Chile, and France." Yet they operate from their home near Seneca, population 1,995 people. Now, that's rural.
Laurie says, "It's allowed us to communicate with people from all over, but I can still look out my window and see my horses." She says, "Kansas should pursue other virtual businesses. We have the rural climate which other entrepreneurs might want to try."
It's time to say goodbye to Oslo, Norway. We're thankful for the inquiry from here which launched Chinchillas.com. We salute Laurie and Martin Schmelzle for making a difference with entrepreneurship and technology and making the world a smaller place - even for chinchillas.
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.

Solomon Valley Regional Learning Center

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Let's connect to a city in Japan. We're seeing it from 10 stories up. But you won't need an airplane to make this connection, because we are connected electronically. This view is being transmitted from that city in Japan to the computers and technical equipment at the Solomon Valley Regional Learning Center in northwest Kansas. Today we'll learn about a remarkable new initiative aimed at promoting entrepreneurship in rural Kansas, using technology which can connect them around the world. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Jeff Hofaker, Director of Phillips County Economic Development or PCED Inc. in Phillipsburg, Kansas. Jeff lives in the Phillips County town of Logan, population 589 people. Now, that's rural.
Jeff is director of PCED, director of the Phillips County Development and Community Foundation, interim director of the Solomon Valley Regional Learning Center, and manager of the Fischer Building.
What is this regional learning center? Jeff Hofaker says, "It began with a dream and a vision of creating more startup entrenpreneurial businesses in the area. People like Cy Moyer on our economic development board had a vision that we need to develop and support entrepreneurs in our community."
Jeff worked on ideas for supporting entrepreneurs, including a learning center to help train and provide them skills to build businesses. The Fischer Building in downtown Phillipsburg became home for this new initiative along with other offices, and the Solomon Valley Regional Learning Center was created.
It has six aspects: One is offering distance learning through video conferencing; a second is having two base curriculums and incorporation of other smaller classes; third is a business mentor program; fourth is a full-time director for the learning center; fifth is a business incubator building to assist with start-ups; and finally, the county development and community foundation would be used to create a future regional and local venture fund for business development and expansion in a rural setting. Conrad Corman is the assistant director.
The learning center has teamed up with Wichita State University's Center of Entrepreneurship to bring courses to Phillipsburg through distance learning. They have offered two courses: Developing a Business Plan and Growing and Managing an Entrepreneurial Firm.
These cover such topics as preparing income statements, cash flow statements, discussing stages of growth, strategic planning, time management, succession issues, and other issues. The courses can be taken as a workshop or continuing education credit.
I might note that the Kansas Legislature and Governor have enacted legislation for a new Center for Entrepreneurship which will help rural business development. This new initiative is to be commended. But the people in Phillips County weren't waiting for the government to do something. They created their regional learning center through grass-roots vision and private sector initiative, with support from business and a grant from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation.
Classes began at the learning center in October 2003, and already nearly 30 people have participated in such classes. The training center is wonderful. It is like a high-tech classroom, with computers at each station and a videoconference camera and projector.
Jeff says, "Long term, our hope is to incorporate this learning into the schools and encourage our youth to understand the opportunities of creating businesses in a rural setting. Our goal is making western Kansas the new frontier for creating entrepreneurs."
Conrad Corman points out that one of the test sites for the equipment is in Japan. That means they can connect to the videoconference equipment and get a view of this city in Japan through their system.
It's time to disconnect from this city in Japan, but it reminds us of the power of technology to connect entrepreneurs and others to resources around the world, even from rural Kansas. We salute Cy Moyer, Jeff Hofaker, Conrad Corman, the PDEC Inc. Board, and all those who have initiated this visionary project. They are not just making a difference, they are making a connection.
And there's more. We'll meet an example of a new business created through this center on our next program.
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.

Sally & Jay Brandon - Shepherds Mill

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
What did you bring back from your trip? My kids ask that question when they're hoping for presents from my journeys. Today, we'll meet someone who came back from a trip with something that would become a life skill. I'll weave this story together on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Sally Brandon of Phillipsburg, Kansas. As a youth, Sally went on the International 4-H Youth Exchange program to Finland, meaning that she spent six months living with families there. She brought home souvenirs and memories, but more than that, she brought home a love of weaving.
Weaving is popular all over Scandinavia, where lamb's wool is woven into various kinds of fabrics. Sally says, "I learned to weave while I was there, and I came home in love with it."
She was also in love with a Kansan. Sally came back and married Jay Brandon at Phillipsburg. She remained interested in weaving and even built a loom from a kit and did a lot of research. Meanwhile, her sister had learned to spin.
Sally says, "She taught me to spin and I taught her to weave." The love of natural fibers must run in the family. Sally has been weaving for some 15 years now, and has created her own line of hand woven clothing. In the hands of a skilled craftswoman like Sally, weaving is more than a hobby or pastime, it becomes a form of art.
In 1998, Sally and her mother, Virginia Hopson, and sister Kay McCoy set up an organization called Great Plains Artisans or G-P-A. The mission of GPA is to support fiber artists by selling quality items and supplies, helping with marketing, and providing learning opportunities. In three years, GPA sales rose to $28,000. GPA helps weavers and wool producers by providing supplies such as looms, dyes, yarn, bobbins and ribbons. GPA also offers a line of classes on spinning and weaving.
You've heard about football players taking basketweaving class? Sure enough, GPA offers a class on basketweaving – but it's harder than it looks. There is even a class on spinning designer yarn. I know some oldtimers who spin yarns, but that's another story.
GPA's retail outlet is a store known as Past Times, which offers handmade woolens, linens and other products from producers and consignors around Kansas and Nebraska.
In 2003, GPA had a booth at an alpaca show in Denver, next door to a booth that was promoting a weaving business. As they drove home from this show, Jay observed to Sally that they could do such a business. He said, "I think that's what we're supposed to be doing." So they did.
As mentioned on our last program, the Solomon Valley Regional Learning Center opened in the fall of 2003. Sally was one of the entrepreneurs who took a class there, developed a plan, and launched her own business called The Shepherd's Mill. This business takes wool from producers and processes it into yarn or even finished goods. This involves washing, separating, dyeing, carding, spinning, weaving, felting, and even retail packaging and labeling. They also sponsor an annual fiber festival including seminars, fashion shows, contests, and sales.
Sally has served customers as far away as Minnesota and Texas, and from Kansas City to a yarn shop in Gove - population 113 people. Now, that's rural.
The name Shepherd's Mill has dual meaning here. They are handling wool just like a shepherd, but there is more. Jay says, "We thought and thought and couldn't come up with a name, but the Lord is our Shepherd and we think this is where He wants us to be."
What did you bring back from your trip? In Sally's case, she came back from Finland with a love for weaving which she has translated into a new enterprise. We salute Sally and Jay Brandon, Virginia Hopson, Kay McCoy, and others involved with GPA, Past Time, and the Shepherd's Mill for making a difference through creativity and entrepreneurship. That makes for a good trip, whatever spin you put on it.
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.

Midland Hotel

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Imagine a big, strong wooden staircase. Such a staircase can be a model of development, because we need to build our communities one step at a time. Today we'll find such a staircase at the historic Midland Hotel in Wilson, Kansas. This hotel has been restored to its previous glory, thanks to the initiative and leadership of local citizens. So book your room for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Ally Britton, the General Manager and Executive Chef of the Midland Hotel. Like that staircase, the Midland's history was built one step at a time.
The first step was in 1899. A man named Wilke Power moved to the midwest from Philadelphia. He envisioned a magnificent hotel, so he built the Power Hotel in Wilson. The hotel was built of limestone from quarries in the area.
Of course, this was the railroad era. Many guests at the hotel came from the Union Pacific railroad station across the street.
In 1902, the hotel was destroyed by fire. Fortunately, the townspeople rebuilt the hotel, which was renamed the Midland.
This was another step, because the Midland Hotel was built to be state-of-the-art. It had the region's first kerosene lighting and later converted to acetylene lighting before going to electricity. It even had an apparatus for heating water - a true luxury at the time. There were 27 elegantly decorated rooms and a large dining room with fine cuisine. A sweeping wooden staircase was featured in the lobby, with attractive wood and stained glass windows in the decor.
By 1915, the Midland was considered the classiest hotel in Kansas and was doing a booming business. It was a popular stop for the vendors and businessmen who traveled the railroad. These vendors were called Drummers. They would bring their trunks of items to the hotel basement and sell them to buyers from surrounding towns.
Then came the Great Depression. Travel and commerce nearly ground to a halt, and the Midland struggled along with everybody else. At that point, the third floor of the hotel was converted to a chicken coop. Those chickens were raised and housed to be served in the dining room, and I don't mean as a customer.
The Midland survived and made a comeback in the 1960s, offering Czech food reflecting the local ethnic roots. Then along came the next step: Hollywood.
A movie company was filming the movie Paper Moon, starring Ryan O'Neal and his daughter Tatum O'Neal. The film was to be set in the Depression-era rural midwest. The film company ended up coming to the Midland Hotel and shooting several scenes there. So the Midland made the silver screen, all the way from Wilson, Kansas, population 744 people. Now, that's rural.
I stayed at the Midland in 1973. Since my name is Wilson, I wanted to stay in Wilson, Kansas and made a stop there that spring. I particularly remember that big wooden staircase and the shared bathroom down the hall.
But apparently there weren't enough people named Wilson, because the hotel finally had to close in 1988. Fortunately, some local citizens had a vision and commitment to save the old hotel. It was a big step. As the Wilson Foundation, they implemented a 2.4 million dollar renovation which brought modern convenience while preserving the historical features.
The Midland with its classic limestone structure reopened in July 2003. Now each room has a private bath and dataport. There are spacious dining areas plus the lounge in the basement, which has appropriately been named the Drummer's Tavern. The stained glass windows and much of the woodwork is original, along with that big beautiful staircase. The Midland even received the Kansas Preservation Alliance award in 2004.
It's time to say goodbye to that big wooden staircase, which is a central feature of the Midland Hotel. It's great to see this hotel restored to its former glory. We salute Ally Britton and the members of the Wilson Foundation who are making a difference by preserving and building on this heritage. Their efforts will help them climb to the top.
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.

Roy Crenshaw

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 around the globe to Israel, where we find a new worker coming into a kibbutz. A kibbutz is a type of community farm which is operated in that country. When the kibbutz workers find that the new man comes from rural Kansas, they are soon asking "How far are you from Dodge City?" and "How are the cowboys out there?" Those questions would trigger a thought which this man would bring back to Kansas. The result is a special event to benefit at-risk kids that draws on this interest in the cowboy. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Roy Crenshaw, the Kansan who had this experience at the kibbutz.
Roy grew up on a farm outside Manhattan and attended a one-room school in the tiny community of Wabaunsee. Wabaunsee has an estimated population of about 30 people. Now, that's rural.
Roy graduated from K-State and went on for a masters degree in political science and international relations. Then he joined Kansas Farm Bureau, where he worked his way up to become state executive director. But after nearly 20 years in the corporate world, he wanted to do something different with his life.
He wanted to go overseas – not as a tourist, but to live as part of a community. He chose to go to Israel and work in a kibbutz. Roy says, "They needed somebody who could drive a tractor, and so I went. It became a real highlight of my life."
So it was a meaningful experience for Roy, and as I mentioned earlier, it didn't take long for his co-workers to ask about those Kansas cowboys.
After several months in Israel, Roy came back to Manhattan where he helped out on his parent's farm. Then in 2003, he had the chance to serve in another way: He became executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Manhattan and now serves Junction City and Pottawatomie and Geary Counties as well.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a very worthwhile organization. Roy explains, "We work with at-risk youth, ages 6 to 17, and pair them up with someone who can provide some positive adult companionship. Maybe it's a kid who needs a male mentor who can help with homework or just hang out together or answer the questions that kids have. It doesn't replace the parents but it sure helps." Research shows that kids who are involved in this program are much less likely to be involved in drugs, alcohol, or violence.
So it's a worthy cause, but of course, it needs financial support from lots of donors and volunteers. Fundraising is among Roy's responsibilities, and as he looked for new ideas, he thought about those days in the kibbutz when his coworkers asked about the Kansas cattle drives. Maybe that type of farflung interest could translate into a fundraising opportunity.
The result is a genuine Flint Hills cattle drive that is being held on May 29, 2004 as a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. There are really two parts to this event. The first is the cattle drive, in which 300 cow-calf pairs will be driven 16 miles across the scenic Flint Hills. Riders will pay a fee and bring a horse to ride. The Downey Ranch and the Crenshaw's own Shamrock Angus Farms will host the event, and commercial sponsorships are also available. The second part of the event is youth activities which will be held during the day. These include hiking, horses, fishing, hay rack ride and a campfire meal.
Roy says, "This is a chance for these kids to have fun and experience some positive adult interaction." For more information, all 785-776-9575.
It's time to leave this kibbutz in Israel, where their questions about cowboys would plant a seed which would become an idea to raise funds for kids in Kansas. We commend Roy Crenshaw and Big Brothers Big Sisters for making a difference in kids' lives. As the writer Jim Suber says, it can help kids find a greener pasture.
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.

Tom Mahoney - Pro Bound

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Rebounding. It's one of the important fundamental skills of basketball. Today, we'll discuss rebounding in two different ways: One, we'll meet a rural-based company which provides products to help basketball players improve their skills; and secondly, we'll find that this company is on the rebound itself. So lace up your sneakers for a home-grown basketball edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Tom Mahoney of Dorrance in west central Kansas. His roots go deep in Kansas basketball. Tom's father Ken and uncle Elmo were standout high school basketball players at Dorrance. Ken went on to play for K-State on the 1951 team that went to the national championship game. The assistant coach on that team was Tex Winter. Tex, of course, went on to coach K-State to eight conference championships and is still in the NBA.
Tex stayed in touch with his former players. In the 1960s, he told Ken Mahoney that he needed a device to bounce the ball back to his players when the player was working on individual skills. Ken set out to build such a device on his farm.
Ken took some metal tubing and an old volleyball net and cut up some inner tubes for rubber strips. Then he built a stand with a metal frame and net on it which could bounce the ball back to the player.
Tom Mahoney says of that first prototype, "It was a failure. Us kids used it for a trampoline."
But Ken refined the product until it worked perfectly. Tex Winter really liked the product, so Ken built some more. The Mahoneys formed a business to produce and sell these devices, which were called tossbacks.
They set up shop in an old car dealership in Dorrance. They expanded their business to produce breakaway rims so that backboards wouldn't shatter when players dunked the ball. Then they made ball returns for baseball and soccer, plus women's volleyball equipment.
Tom Mahoney grew up in this business and also went to K-State. He went to every one of the 23 NBA sites to install their basketball rims and backboards. The Mahoneys were in regular contact with people like Phog Allen, Bill Walton, and Pete Maravich. Wow.
By the mid-1980s, this had become a million dollar business, selling thousands of pieces of equipment around the country. Unfortunately, the '80s were also a time when lots of banks failed. One of those was holding the note which financed the Mahoney's business.
When the FDIC intervened, Ken Mahoney sold the business to settle the debt. The new owner in St. Louis eventually closed the business and took the assets, although Ken retained title to the building.
But Tom Mahoney still had ideas from his father's business in the back of his mind. It was time for a rebound. In 1993, Tom and his wife Heddy reopened such a business in the same facility. It was named Pro-Bound Sports.
Tom had also become a pilot. He flew for UPS and TWA while re-growing the business. Now Pro-Bound Sports sells a line of sports equipment all over the world. They are selling the modern version of the tossback and breakaway rims, plus more.
Tom Mahoney says, "What they did with hammer and anvil, we're doing with a plasma torch and powder oven." Tom's new and improved breakaway rim is impressive. Most such rims last 15 to 20,000 cycles. Tom's has been tested to 100,000 cycles.
Pro-Bound has expanded their line to include scorer's tables, roll-in baskets, bleachers, ball storage carts, and other equipment. These products are going to such places as Spokane and Saudi Arabia, but the company is still based in Dorrance, Kansas, population 183 people. Now, that's rural.
For more information, their website is www.proboundsports.com.
Rebounding. It is a fundamental skill in basketball, but also in life. We commend Ken and Tom and Heddy Mahoney for making a difference through innovation, hard work, and the resiliency to overcome challenges and rebuild a business. It's a great example of learning how to bounce back.
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.

OZ Museum

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 take a trip over the rainbow to the fanciful world of Oz. Fortunately, no tornado is required. A wonderful new museum about the land of Oz has been created in rural Kansas. So click your heels together - this is an Oz-some edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Jim Ginavan, curator of the OZ Museum in Wamego, Kansas. Jim tells about a Wamego native named Tod Machin, who - like many of us - became fascinated with the Wizard of Oz as a child. Tod's family and friends bought him souvenirs and gifts with an Oz theme, and he began to collect them. This would grow into one of the largest private collections of Oz memorabilia in the world.
In 1995, the Columbian Theatre in Wamego featured Tod's collection as a temporary exhibit in the art gallery. Thousands of people came to the display, and it made Wamego leaders think that this could be a permanent attraction. After a lot of work on design and fundraising, the OZ Museum opened in downtown Wamego in April 2004.
The museum features many of Tod Machin's collectibles, including more than 2,000 pieces. This includes everything from toys to dolls to games to books to records, all related to Oz.
Of course, this is based on the classic book The Wizard of Oz, which L. Frank Baum published in 1900. In fact, an original 1900 first edition is on display. Much of the museum's contents revolve around the 1939 movie version, which generations have come to love.
The museum is great fun to visit. You enter at Dorothy's farmhouse. The family name is on the mailbox and old workboots are on the porch - and the tornado is to your right. Everything is painted in the sepia colors of the movie.
But upon entering the farmhouse, one is suddenly transported to a colorful Munchkinland. You are greeted by a lifesize Dorothy - complete with Toto. Successive displays portray the scarecrow, tin man, cowardly lion, wicked witch, and Glinda the good witch in remarkably realistic characters, complete with a section of yellow brick road in front of each. You go by a depiction of a 1939-vintage art deco theatre entrance, make a brief trip through the haunted forest, and ultimately pass through the entrance gates to the Emerald City.
Interspersed throughout are many components of Tod Machin's collection, including an original sequin from Dorothy's ruby slippers and one of only three remaining models of the flying monkeys which flew over the Wicked Witch's castle.
By the way, did you know that Dorothy wore silver slippers in the book? The producers of the 1939 movie wanted to create more visual contrast with the yellow brick road and show off Technicolor, so they made her slippers ruby red.
Later galleries feature more recent elements of the Oz story, such as the 1970s movie and musical The Wiz, featuring an all African-American cast including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, Nipsey Russell, and Richard Pryor. Wow. Diana Ross' dress is on display, along with Oz books in languages such as Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Bavarian, and more.
Our trip through the museum ends where we began, at Auntie Em's gift shop.
An estimated one billion people have seen this movie, making it the most popular film ever made. Little wonder that Jim Ginivan will occasionally hear people skipping through the museum, or singing those familiar songs.
On the day I visited, there were people in the lobby from Pennsylvania, Colorado, and New York, there in Wamego, Kansas, population 4,197 people. Now, that's rural. What a fabulous attraction in small town Kansas.
For more information, go to www.Ozmuseum.com or call 1-866-458-TOTO.
It's time to say farewell to Oz. We commend Jim Ginivan, Tod Machin, and the leaders of Wamego who have made a difference by creating this wonderful museum. It reminds us that if we use our brains, follow our hearts, and show some courage, we can find happiness in our own backyard – and there's no place like home.
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.

Rick Heiniger

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Sometimes we all need a little guidance from above. In addition to heavenly guidance, I'm talking about new, high-tech systems which literally provide precise direction by satellite for farmers who are operating equipment in their fields. It sounds like science fiction, but today we will meet a pioneering, homegrown company which is an international leader in the field of farm equipment guidance systems. So stay on the beam for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Rick Heiniger of Hiawatha, Kansas. Rick was featured on this program several years ago as the founder of RHS. It's fascinating to see how this company has changed. Rick graduated from K-State with a degree in Agricultural Mechanization and sold farm spray equipment. In 1979, he moved back to Brown County and founded his own company called RHS.
Rick says, "In 1993 our number one product was the Eagle pickup sprayer, but I knew it wouldn't last. By 1994, it was extinct." In the fast moving and competitive business of farm spray equipment, things can change quickly. Fortunately, RHS had changed as well. The company purchased a company which produced sprayers in Iowa and moved it to Hiawatha.
RHS marketed a system of foam markers with their sprayers. These applied a strip of foam on the field so that the applicator could tell where he had sprayed. The business grew - but again, times were changing.
Rick was monitoring the development of Global Positioning Satellite technology, or G-P-S. These satellites were originally launched for military use but have now been opened to the public domain. They enable someone with the right equipment to pinpoint his or her exact
location on earth. GPS is now being used in cars, planes, boats, and other applications.
In 1997, Rich Heiniger thought, "If someone makes a good GPS unit to guide sprayer units, our foam marker system would be obsolete." In those situations, a person can find a problem or they can find an opportunity. Rick found the opportunity. He decided to try to build
a GPS unit themselves. So the company set out to design a highly reliable GPS system which could provide precision guidance to farm equipment operators. A new division of the company was created called Outback Guidance. The first unit sold in December 2000.
How does this work? The system uses advanced digital technology and GPS information to provide a steering guide for a tractor operator, for example. A unit is mounted in the cab which follows a heading and guides the operator. The unit can either go in exact straight rows or can follow a contour, and once the tractor makes a pass, the unit will remember and follow it.
Now Outback has unveiled a product called E-Drive, which delivers the steering instructions directly to the tractor. The machine can make a driving correction five times per second. As a farm boy who spent hours on a Farmall pulling a two-bottom plow, this sounds like
This is easier on the operator and also has a big bottom line benefit in avoiding overlap. If spraying to control weeds, for example, a traditional operator would make overlapping passes to make sure he has covered all his ground. This causes a lot of waste which a GPS system can dramatically reduce. Thus the Outback system saves significant time, inputs, and expense.
Now listen to this. Today Outback Guidance sells more guidance units than all its competitors combined. In 2003, RHS did business in 45 countries and had revenues of more than 32 million dollars. Wow. Yet it remains based in Hiawatha, population 3,529 people.
Now, that's rural.
Rick Heiniger says, "I'm high on Hiawatha and the area around us. We like being in a rural area."
Sometimes we all need a little guidance from above. In this case, it comes from the GPS system which farmers can use to guide their field operations. We salute Rick Heiniger and the people of RHS and Outback for making a difference through innovation and homegrown
entrepreneurship. Rural Kansas can let that be our guide.
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.


This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Would you like to spend a wacky day with a bunch of kids? Hmm, just how wacky is it? In this case, it is literally a WACKY day because that is the name of the event. Today we'll learn about a fun and creative event which is providing agricultural and natural resource education for our youth in a rural setting. Yes, it's a wacky edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Jean Stapel, District Manager for the Phillips County Conservation District in Phillipsburg, Kansas. Part of the mission of the conservation districts is to educate youth and families about good soil and water conservation. To accomplish this mission, Jean has been doing educational programs in the grade schools for several years.
Several neighboring county conservation districts decided they might partner together to put on an educational program on a larger scale. During this same time, the new Solomon Valley Resource Conservation and Development District was formed. There are several of these organizations, called RC&Ds for short, which are doing great work across Kansas.
The RC&D program is a unique program which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and is locally governed by volunteer councils. Local councils and their staff coordinator provide technical and financial assistance to help people in their area care for their natural resources, culture, and communities in a way that improves the local economy, environment, and standard of living. Darla Juhl is the coordinator of the Solomon Valley RC&D.
Anyway, the Solomon Valley RC&D partnered with Jean Stapel and several counties of northwest Kansas in putting together an educational event for youth. It was held in September 2002. County Farm Bureau organizations helped in providing volunteers, donations, and arranging presenters.
The event was called WACKY Day. In this case, WACKY is an acronym which stands for Wildlife, Agriculture, Conservation Knowledge for Youth. Some 199 students from area grade schools participated.
It was so successful that in September 2003, some 325 students participated in the event, along with a hundred volunteers. Sixth grade students and their teachers from Rooks, Phillips, Smith, Graham, and Norton counties took part.
They came to the Dane G. Hansen Boy Scout Camp near Kirwin in Phillips County. Kirwin is a town of 329 people. Now, that's rural. At the camp, students rotated through a series of educational stations which informed them on conservation-related topics. There were three stations each dealing with wildlife, agriculture, and natural resources.
Jean Stapel says, "The key was getting great presenters who would do hands-on activities with the kids. For example, one presenter might sing or have them do a skit. People brought in soil samples for the kids to see. There was a session called furs and footprints, where the kids got to touch things like furs and deer antlers."
This type of experiential education makes these concepts come alive for kids, and older people too. It was also fun - or should I say, wacky.
For example, there were some educational games that could be played during the lunch hour to win small prizes. These games included such things as Agricultural Wheel of Fortune, Recycled pop bottle bowling, and Natural Resource Conservation Plinko. This involved dropping plexiglass discs down a column into several possible alternatives. If the disc hit windbreaks or terraces, for example, you won - but if it hit soil erosion, you lose.
This was another fun way to engage students in learning about conservation. At the end of the day, all those participating were given T-shirts listing sponsors of the day and water bottles courtesy of Kansas Wildscape.
Would you like to spend a wacky day with a bunch of kids? In this case, yes. We salute Jean Stapel, the county conservation districts in Phillips, Rooks, Smith, Graham, and Norton counties, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Solomon Valley RC&D for making a difference by providing this quality education for our youth. I can describe this effort with some other words which spell wacky: Wonderful, Active, Cooperation in Kansas - so, um, Yay!
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.

Gloria Davis

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 meet a pioneering Kansas woman. No, it's not some lady in a sunbonnet out gathering buffalo chips. This is a modern day woman who is a pioneer in her own right. She is the one and only African-American female school superintendent in the state – and she is serving in rural Kansas. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Gloria Davis, Superintendent of Schools in Dodge City, Kansas. How did an African-American woman come to be a school superintendent in western Kansas? It's a remarkable pilgrimage.
Gloria grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. She was inspired by a wonderful second grade teacher by the name of Mrs. Limon. Gloria says, "Since I was in second grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher." True to her word, she went to college and became a schoolteacher in the St. Louis area.
Gloria says, "I have a love for education, and I have a love for children." She says with a laugh, "I was always playing school with my younger brothers, until they would complain to my mother."
Gloria worked her way up the ranks of St. Louis schools from teacher to principal to assistant superintendent when out of the blue, she got a call from an executive search firm. They were looking for candidates for the school superintendent position in Dodge City, Kansas. Gloria said, "Where?" She didn't even know where Dodge City was, and had never been to Kansas in her life.
She interviewed for the position and even received the job offer, but wasn't about to leave St. Louis for western Kansas. She says with a laugh, "I like Starbucks and trees too much!" Then she got a call from the board vice-chair, who talked to her about the great needs of the children and the community. Ultimately, Gloria Davis took the job.
Dodge City is incredibly diverse and fast-growing, compared to the rest of the state. Each year enrollment is going up by 150 to 200 students, many of those from diverse backgrounds. Sixty-two percent of the student population is Hispanic. Another three percent are Asian and three percent are African-American. There are even Russian immigrants. All told, 72 percent of the student population is diverse.
Most of these families are in Dodge City. The district also provides the preschool program in the nearby town of Bucklin, population 716 people. Now, that's rural.
Such diversity and growth makes for lots of challenges, but Gloria took it on. Academic achievement and the needs of the children were her top priorities.
She implemented an academic enhancement plan to enhance skills in reading, math, writing, diversity, and technology. A major emphasis was placed on staff development for teaching reading and math. Master teachers were selected as instructional specialists to coach other teachers and work with them in the classroom. Dr. Gonzales from the University of Texas spent a year consulting with them on the needs of Hispanic students. Early childhood education was expanded. Summer school and after-school programs were created. Special classrooms were set up for non-English speaking newcomers. More parental involvement was encouraged.
So what are the results? Every school in the Dodge City district has shown significant gains in state assessment test scores – some as high as 70 percent. Wow.
These are great achievements. It's remarkable to find an African-American woman as a school superintendent in rural Kansas. But Gloria Davis doesn't seem concerned about her role as a pioneer. She simply wants her students and her schools to succeed.
Gloria says, "I get miffed when I read about ballplayer's big salaries. Someone taught them to read. Public education is the foundation of our country and we should value it."
It's time to say goodbye to this pioneer Kansas woman. No, she didn't come by covered wagon, she came in modern times with a lot of heart and a vision to transform the Dodge City schools. We salute Gloria Davis and her school board for making a difference in a diverse school district, and we give thanks for caring teachers everywhere. Thank you, Mrs. Limon.
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.

Sonya Wedel - Free Land

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. We all know that description of our country, but it may have taken on new meaning. In response to the challenges of population loss, there are several rural communities which are giving away land to new residents. Yes, rural Kansas may become the land that is free. We'll get the story on today's Kansas Profile.
This new trend of giving away land has been studied by Sonya Wedel, a K-State Ag Communications student from Moundridge. Much of this report is taken from an article she wrote.
Sonya says that part of the impetus for this strategy goes back to a piece of legislation which passed the Kansas Legislature in 1994. That bill awarded tax rebates for new construction and the rehabilitation of existing structures. Even so, how does a really small town encourage that new construction to happen in the first place?
In a situation like this, a person or a community has to analyze its assets. For rural Kansas, one of our assets is that we have lots of land, and the value of that land is often cheaper than in urban or suburban settings.
So some community leaders decided to stimulate new construction by offering home sites for free. The town of Minneapolis was one of the first.
Lowell Parish is the City Administrator of Minneapolis. He says, "There was skepticism at first," but as the lots began to disappear the community began to accept the idea.
So far 14 to 15 new homes have been built on the first 17 available free lots. Minneapolis also opened another section containing 15 more lots for distribution. Those that have taken advantage of the free land have been mostly young families from around the area, Parish said, although inquiries have come in from all over the country.
The Minneapolis website cites several benefits from this program: Offering incentives for development where it may not have occurred, creating jobs, reversing outward migration, strengthening fiscal capacity for city schools and county governments, as well as encouraging housing, commercial, and industrial development within the city.
The town of Marquette is also giving away land. Mayor Steve Piper says, "We developed lots because there were none for sale and instead of sell them decided to give them away."
Of course, the land was not given away willy-nilly. An application and screening process is being followed.
Ten new homes have been built on the first 21 lots given away. Of these, Piper estimates that 75 percent of the applicants were local.
Marquette gave away another 27 lots that consisted of mostly out-of-state applicants. Currently 110 applicants are on a waiting list and phases four and five are on the drawing board. Of the applicants on the waiting list, 95 percent are out-of-state, and Piper says inquiries have come from as far away as France. Wow.
Mayor Piper says that it has been nice seeing some new faces in town. He says, "It has been a blessing for all of us."
Other rural Kansas towns are giving away land as well. In Ellsworth County, free land is being offered by the towns of Ellsworth, Kanopolis, Holyrood, and Wilson. In Rawlins County, Atwood and McDonald are offering free land. McDonald is a town of 172 people. Now, that's rural.
As Sonya Wedel says, many rural Kansas towns will not allow themselves to be taken off the map. For them, this is a strategy to use their assets to stimulate growth again. In fact, it bears a resemblance to the federal Homestead Act of 1862, which helped to settle the west by offering a free 160 acres to settlers who would establish a home and improve the land.
So maybe this is a homestead act all over again. We salute Sonya Wedel for researching this topic and we appreciate those leaders who are making a difference with this creative way to market their communities, in the home of the brave and the Land that is Free.
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.

Rick Trouslot

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
I've been framed! It sounds like a line from an old cops-and-robbers show, doesn't it? Today we'll talk about framing in a different sense, and I don't mean framing a house either. We'll meet someone who has developed a custom art framing business that is operating in truly rural Kansas. So don't run me in, this is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Rick Trouslot. Rick is the founder and principal operator of Rafter T Custom Framing near Walton, Kansas. Walton is located in central Kansas, just northeast of Newton. Walton has a population of 230 people. Now, that's rural.
In fact, Rick and his wife Bev don't live right in Walton. He farms and ranches in the area. He also does some hauling by truck and operates a bulldozer.
Given the type of hard work which he does, one might be surprised to find that he has an eye for art, but indeed he does. Rick particularly likes western art.
The way his custom art business came about is rather interesting. Like many of us, Rick would receive several calendars around the beginning of each year. Often these feature pretty pictures of some landscape or natural outdoor scene.
Anyway, Rick would admire those pictures. They were too nice to throw away, so he would clip them to save them when the year or month was over. Then, of course, he would want to display them.
Every artist knows that the appropriate mat can enhance the appearance of any artwork. So, Rick started playing around with matting. He would cut out a particular type and color of mat that would look good with his artwork.
When other people spotted his work, they became interested in his handframed artworks. All this would ultimately develop into a business. He found that he could design and sell works of art mounted in his mats and framed by him.
Today, Rick operates what he calls Bunkhouse Art, from Rafter T custom framing. Rick will buy various pieces of art, typically with a western theme, and then custom mat and custom frame each piece.
At first, Rick handcut all his pieces. Rick says with a smile, "I spoiled about two ton of mat before I broke down and got a quality cutter."
Now he uses that quality cutter to provide a precision cut. He searches for just the right color and design of mat to complement the piece. Then he will build a custom frame to suit it. Essentially these are designer frames. Each one is literally one of a kind.
These are all shapes, sizes, and colors, depending on the artwork. He displays these at trade shows and festivals around the midwest.
This enterprise is a family affair. Rick's wife Bev helps with the books and goes to the shows, and their daughter helps out as well.
Rick's pieces of art have gone as far away as Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. They seem to be especially popular in the Kansas City area.
It is clear that he has an eye for color and design, because he is able to do an excellent job of matching the mats with the colors and structure in the sketches and other works.
I was particularly struck by one showing a pack of wolves attacking a wild horse. The scene depicts a peak in the action, with hooves and fur flying. You can almost feel the tension. The color of the mat and frame complements the design and color in the artwork.
This is just one example of the type of work he does.
I've been framed! No, it's not a line from an old gangster movie. This refers to the beautiful custom frames and mats developed by Rick Trouslot, who is marketing them around the midwest. We commend Rick and his family for making a difference with their creativity and initiative. For rural Kansas, it makes a nice frame-work.
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.

Steve Strawder

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
On this program, we always look for a growing business. Today, we've found one, all right. This is about a business which is growing plants and trees, and growing itself in the process. So stay tuned for a green and growing edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Steve and Terrie Strawder and their two daughters, owners of a tree farm, nursery and landscape business in southeast Kansas. Here is how it came about.
Steve and Terrie are both from Coffey County. They married and bought a place in the country near Highway 75, north of Burlington. They wanted a windbreak so they planted a bunch of trees. Unfortunately, the rabbits came along and ate them.
So, they had to replace those trees. Since the trees were cheaper if you bought them in bulk, the Strawders bought a whole bunch of trees. After they planted their windbreak, they had extra Christmas trees leftover.
Since these were nice Christmas trees, the Strawders decided to plant and sell them. Their place turned into a Christmas tree farm as a hobby.
This was a family affair. Steve remembers that their oldest daughter was only four years old when they were planting their first trees. But the question arose, what would they call this enterprise?
Steve says, "You see lots of businesses with a title like Something and Sons. Well, we don't have sons, we have daughters, and it rhymed to call it Strawders and Daughters."
So Strawders and Daughters became the name of this Christmas tree farm. It also turned into a growing business. Some of the people who wanted Christmas trees wanted other types of trees as well.
So, since Steve enjoys growing trees and other things, he put out some new seedlings. It was home grown and small scale. In fact, their first containers were styrofoam cups with the bottoms cut out. But the business went so well that he expanded and diversified. Eventually, what had started as a hobby became a new business. Steve and Terrie eventually left their full-time jobs to run this enterprise.
Today, Strawders and Daughters has a tree farm, nursery, gift shop, and commercial and residential landscaping business based in a rural setting. It is midway between Lebo, population 911 people, and Waverley, population 592. Now, that's rural.
The Strawders started selling trees in 1991. They expanded their plantings over the years, and diversified in response to customer demand. For example, they started selling pottery to go with the plants. In 1999, they built a modern barn complete with spiral staircase to serve as a retail shop. It is packed with gardening and landscape items of all kinds, including water garden supplies and accessories. Their gift shop opened in Burlington in fall 2002.
Customer service is important to them. Steve says, "People can go out in our fields and tag the trees they want. Then we dig 'em and plant 'em for them."
One of the factors which makes their business unique is their home grown products. He says, "Most nurseries sell trees from out of state. The majority of the trees that we have balled and burlapped are grown here."
Terrie Strawder says, "Everyone wants a faster growing tree that is really hardy." Steve was experimenting with various trees, including a silver maple hybrid, when he noticed something very interesting.
Steve says, "Most hybrids don't put on seed, but one that we planted did have seed. It also had beautiful fall colors, and was a real pretty, hardy tree." Now that hybrid has become one of their biggest sellers.
Yes, this is truly a growing business. The business is growing and so are its products. In fact, so are the daughters. That little four year old girl who was helping her dad plant Christmas trees is now a beautiful young woman with a family of her own. We commend Steve and Terrie Strawder and their daughters for the entrepreneurship and hard work to make a difference. Like your Grandma's garden, it's better when it's home grown.
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.

Black Jack Hills - Ron and Joni Noe

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Remember the three R's from old-time school days? They were readin,' writin', and 'rithmetic. Today we'll meet another set of three R's: Rustic, recreation, and rib-ticklin.' We'll visit a recreation site in a beautiful rustic setting which serves rib-ticklin' food. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Joni Noe. Joni and her husband Ron are co-owners of the Black Jack Hills Recreation Area near St. George, east of Manhattan. Ron has lived in the Wamego area for some 30 years, and Joni came from Phillipsburg originally.
The history of the Black Jack Hills facility goes back to Jim Fair, who located the first licensed winery in Kansas here back in the 1980s. The vineyard and winery was on top of the hill, and in a nearby valley he built an open pole shed with a dirt floor as a facility to use for winetasting.
That facility would later be sold and developed for use as a recreation center. Owner Bill Dean enclosed the sides of the building, put in a concrete floor, and installed heating and air conditioning. It became Black Jack Hills, named for the setting in which it was located. Its motto was the Best little party place in Kansas.
Ron and Joni Noe were among the local people who enjoyed this facility. In fact, Ron's old 1970s band had a reunion concert at Black Jack Hills two years in a row, and another one was scheduled in 2003.
As Ron was working plans for that concert, he got disturbing news: Bill Dean was going to retire and sell Black Jack Hills. He told Joni that losing Black Jack Hills would be a loss, and that somebody new should run it. Joni said, "Well, maybe that's what I should do."
Joni's words were prophetic. She was then Wamego Chamber of Commerce director, and managing Black Jack Hills would be a natural for her skills and contacts.
Ultimately, Ron and Joni brought the property and have taken it up to a new level. They designed a new logo and remodeled the facility, expanding the kitchen and adding a dance floor and stage. Today, Black Jack Hills offers a banquet facility seating 250 people plus complete bar service. This is not some stuffy banquet hall. Instead, it is a rustic building complete with a set of amazing cottonwood benches and tables built by a local artisan.
They also offer catering both on and off-site. Their specialty is smoked meats, such as brisket, pork, chicken, or turkey. A new covered patio is nearing completion. The outdoor recreation area features a playground, tetherball, two sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, half-court basketball, a softball diamond, and a nature trail.
Black Jack Hills is available for use for all types of events, such as company picnics, sorority and fraternity parties, reunions, receptions, tailgate parties, holiday parties, and weddings.
Now the public can enjoy this facility as well. Black Jack Hills is offering restaurant night every Thursday night, when the public can come in and enjoy a meal. Live entertainment is offered featuring recording artist Rob Hildreth.People have come to Black Jack Hills from as far away as California and Texas.
The Noes are hosting other events, such as bus tours and music festivals. They also had a teen night, which was an alcohol-free event featuring local high school bands.
Joni's chamber background really comes in handy. She is flexible in planning and working with groups to help them make their event a success.
Black Jack Hills is in a scenic rural setting, nestled in the trees of the Kansas River valley. It is near St. George, population 422 people. Now, that's rural. But it is only a mile from a four-laned Highway 24, so it has great access.
Remember the three R's? No, not the ones from school days. Black Jack Hills offers a different three Rs: rustic recreation and rib-ticklin' good food. We salute Ron and Joni Noe for making a difference in enhancing this facility and making those three R's a revived rural reality.
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.

Kansas Leadership Forum

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Leadership is defined by Webster as having the capacity or ability to lead. But in rural Kansas, there simply aren't enough people to step into the leadership roles of our community. How can we expand the scope and capacity of the leaders in our communities? The good news is that there is an organized group of leadership programs across the state which is working to build that capacity. Today we celebrate the tenth anniversary of that leadership organization on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Jon Hotaling. Jon wears several hats. He is Director of Coffey County Economic Development which, among other things, runs the Leadership Coffey County program. And in 2004, Jon is President of the Kansas Leadership Forum, or K-L-F.
KLF represents an effort to network various leadership development endeavors together. Some leadership programs are longstanding. Leadership Kansas was begun by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry back in 1978. That led to the creation of leadership programs at the community level in Topeka and other cities across the state. It became clear that these organizations could benefit from working together. After all, there was no need to reinvent the wheel.
In 1991, Leadership Kansas sponsored a local community leadership workshop to help network Kansas leadership educators. People agreed that sharing ideas would be of mutual benefit.
In 1992, Fort Hays State University began researching and inventorying Kansas leadership programs. This led to a series of meetings bringing together key leadership educators from all areas of the state and stimulated the creation of a new organization. It would be called the Kansas Leadership Forum, K-L-F.
In October 2003, an Executive Committee was formed which adopted the Kansas Leadership Forum Constitution and Bylaws. The first state conference was held in 1994.
Today, the Kansas Leadership Forum is preparing for its 10th annual conference, to be held in September 2004 in El Dorado.
KLF is a professional association designed to serve and assist those Kansas professionals and volunteers involved in providing youth and adult leadership development and education. By linking people working in the field of leadership, KLF serves as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas, resources, information and knowledge about leadership education.
To accomplish its mission, KLF conducts the annual conference and regional meetings around the state. It sends newsletters to its members and supports collegiate leadership programs. It produces an annual membership directory and presents annual distinguished leadership awards.
Topics addressed at KLF meetings include the Leadership Continuum, Ideas for the 21st Century, Seeking New Directions, Putting the Pieces Together, Community Asset-Mapping, and many more. The theme of the very first annual conference was Building Leadership Capacity.
KLF has had officers across the state, from both rural and urban settings, from Colby to Kansas City. Jon Hotaling, the current president, is from Burlington, population 2,719 people. Now, that's rural.
Interestingly, the founding father of KLF is a mother. Terrie McCants, who now lives in Manhattan, was the first KLF President. But if Terrie was KLF's George Washington, the organization's Thomas Jefferson might be Curt Brungardt of Fort Hays State. It was Curt who primarily wrote the constitution and bylaws.
Curt says, "It is great to see how the organization has grown and progressed."
Jon Hotaling says, "The excitement continues to build for the 10th annual KLF conference."
The tenth anniversary will be celebrated with outstanding speakers, a Leadership Showcase featuring excellence in leadership programs across the state, and a special commemorative gift for each participant. More importantly, it will be a chance to reconnect and strengthen those leadership programs so their graduates can enhance and transform our communities across Kansas for the better.
For more information, visit the KLF website at www.kansasleadershipforum.com. That's www.kansasleadershipforum.com.
Webster defines Leadership as having the capacity or ability to lead. Such leadership is a crucial need across all types of communities. We commend Jon Hotaling, Terrie McCants, Curt Brungardt, Leadership Kansas, and all those involved with KLF through the years for making a difference by building leadership capacity. I think all of us need to follow their lead.
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.

Manuel Gonzales

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 Joe Montana Celebrity Golf Tournament at Lake Tahoe. It's time to present the awards. First place receives a beautifully engraved silver belt buckle. Wow, it must take quite a craftsman to create such great work. Would you believe that the craftsman who made that very buckle is teaching classes on silver engraving, right here in Kansas? It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Manuel Gonzales, also known as Manny. Manny is the artist who created that buckle and is teaching in Kansas. Here is his story.
Manny lives in northern California. He has strong Spanish roots. In fact, both sets of his grandparents come from Spain. One set came to California and established the ranch where Manny grew up. On the ranch, they used spurs and bits for the horses, so Manny began to learn the metalworking to create those items. He was more than a blacksmith, because he liked to add decorative touches to make these items stylish and attractive.
Manny went on to a professional career as an engineer for Hewlett-Packard, making sophisticated test equipment. But his personal creative pursuit continues to be the western-style silver engraving which goes back to his roots on the ranch.
Manny says, "At first customers came to me as a mechanic. The silver part of the decoration was incidental."
Over time, his work shifted away from equipment to works of art. Now he makes fabulous trophy buckles, bits, spurs, and custom tack parts, and also repairs and restores antique bits and spurs. Manny has produced trophy buckles for everything from the afore-mentioned Joe Montana celebrity golf tournament to the U.S. Team Roping Championships to Ducks Unlimited. Each one is truly a work of art.
In the mid-1990s, Manny got a call out of the blue from a company out in Kansas. This company makes specialized power engraving equipment and was looking for someone to teach people how to engrave using this equipment.
Manny seems to enjoy people and enjoy sharing these skills, so he agreed to come to Kansas to teach. He teaches in Emporia, population 24,866 people. Now, that's rural.
The process of teaching was a challenge, however, because Manny has a passion to do things right.
Manny says, "One night I was awake at 2 a.m. and couldn't sleep, thinking about my classes. The engraving that I do now is second nature to me, but I wanted to convey this to my students. So in the middle of the night I thought about what I went through step by step to engrave a scroll pattern. I wrote down every step and made copies for my students. One of them said to me, Now I have exactly what I need."
This step-by-step, hands-on approach has worked well for Manny. The company in Kansas where he is teaching has great things to say about his work.
Manny enjoys being in Kansas as well. One day he went to a local farm store in Emporia for some wire to use in a design. A young man came up and asked if he needed help finding something. Manny explained what he was after and the young man showed him where it was. Manny assumed that this young man worked for the store, but in visiting with him, found that was not the case. Manny said, "I assumed you worked here." The young man said, "No, I just noticed that you were looking for something and thought I might be able to help." Manny says, "The folks in Kansas are great."
In July 2004, I attended a gathering of the Academy of Western Artists in Fort Worth, Texas. There they named the Engraver of the Year: Manny Gonzales.
It's time to say goodbye to the Joe Montana Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe, where the winners receive a buckle made by this remarkable artist. We commend Manny Gonzales for making a difference by using his talents and sharing them with others.
And what about that company which brought Manny to Kansas? We'll learn about them on our next program.
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.

Glendo Corporation

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 go to New York City, to the jewelry district on 47th street. This is an internationally renowned area, populated by lots of jewelry shops. Here we find a set of pneumatically powered engraving tools from a company out in the middle of Kansas. I'll explain on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet D.J. Glaser, owner of the Glendo Corporation in Emporia, Kansas. Glendo makes these fine engraving tools.
This company goes back to D.J.'s father. He was a farm boy in Nebraska who joined the Navy in World War II. After his time in the service, he was discharged in Florida. On his way home, he stopped to see a Navy buddy in Emporia, Kansas. His buddy's brother convinced him to stay and use his GI Bill® benefits there, while working in the man's print shop.
After working in the print shop for a time, Mr. Glaser saw a need for some equipment which he designed and built and patented. He became co-owner of a printing equipment business. His hobby, however, was gunmetal engraving, and he designed a power machine to do that as well. It was called the Gravermeister, a power-assisted, pneumatically operated engraving tool. It worked so well that he started selling them while having them built by a shop in Wichita. He set up a company called G-R-S. Those letters are the initials of Mr. Glaser, his brother-in-law, and a neighbor.
Mr. Glaser's son D.J. graduated from K-State in Mechanical Engineering and got a masters from Purdue. D.J. was working for Procter and Gamble in Cinncinatti when he got a call from his father. The news was that the shop in Wichita had been sold and would no longer build their engravers. What would happen to GRS?
Ultimately, D.J. came back to Kansas and join his father in a business where they would produce those engravers themselves. They formed a parent company called Glendo which continues to use the GRS trade name to sell products, including the Gravermeister.
D.J. says, "We still sell a modern version of the Gravermeister today." The company has expanded and diversified over time, and also has job shop capabilities. Mr. Glaser retired in 1986 but remains active.
Today, Glendo sells a line of high quality equipment for use by jewelers, stone setters, sculptors, engravers, wood carvers and other artists. In fact, Glendo sells equipment in 60 countries. They were Kansas Governor's exporters of the year in 1998. Wow.
One of the keys to Glendo's success was the realization that people needed to be trained to use the Glendo equipment. The company started bringing in experts to teach engraving and other skills, as mentioned on an earlier program. This training has proved quite popular. D.J. says, "We have taught people from every one of the 50 states." Anyone who is interested in this training should contact Glendo at www.glendo.com.
The Glendo people found that their equipment needed to maintain a razor-sharp edge for maximum effectiveness, so they developed a sharpening system of their own. Then they realized that this could be commercialized and sold as well. It developed into another line of products called Accu-Finish. Glendo also offers HandWorker, a device which turns hand tools into power tools.
Glendo has grown over time to more than 40 full-time equivalent employees. Besides Emporia, they come from nearby towns such as Hartford, population 557 people; Olpe, population 447; and Neosho Rapids, population 249 people. Now, that's rural.
In July 2004, I attended a gathering in Texas where they recognized the Engraver of the Year. Only after the winner was recognized did I learn that he teaches for the Glendo Corporation in Kansas. Why do I have to go to Texas to learn about an amazing company back here in Kansas? Anyway, I'm proud of them.
It's time to say goodbye to the jewelry district in New York, which uses these products from rural Kansas. We salute D.J. Glaser and his father and all those involved with GRS and the Glendo Corporation for making a difference with their craftsmanship and entrepreneurship.
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.

Mike Nebel - Quick Draw

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 go west to see a quick draw. Oh good, I love a western. But you won't need to ride your horse to see this one. This quick draw isn't an old west gunfight, it's an innovative manufacturing company that is based in western Kansas. So holster your pistol, this is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Mike Nebel of LTM Manufacturing in Smith Center, Kansas. Smith Center is in Smith County in northwest Kansas. It's a county seat town of 1,895 people. That's rural - but stay tuned.
Mike is originally from the nearby town of Esbon in Jewell County. Esbon is a town of 160 people. Now, that's rural.
From these rural roots has come an innovative company. Mike worked many years for a company in Smith Center that manufactures recreational vehicles, or RVs. In 1996, he went out on his own. He formed LTM Manufacturing, which started out as a steel fabrication shop. The business is located on Mike's home place south of Smith Center.
Business has really grown. This enterprise started with just two people. Now they employ more than 30. In 2000, they expanded into a new 24,000 square foot building to house the business. As of July 2003, they partnered with an out-of-state company called Lippert Components and they expect to do more research and development work in the future.
Mike's company produces products under the name Quick Draw. Quick Draw products are pieces of equipment for recreational vehicles.
For example, the Quick Draw stabilizer jack is an improved version of the built-in jacks used to stabilize a recreational vehicle when it is parked. In other words, when you park your RV to camp for the night, you use the jacks as a strong and reliable support to keep the vehicle safe and level.
The Quick Draw jack uses only one motor to activate both legs of the jack independently. The legs of the jack are built to slide along a track so that the jack automatically finds its own center after each leg touches the ground. Both legs always have equal pressure applied. This assures that the RV is absolutely stable, which is an important benefit to RV owners.
Another excellent product from Mike's company involves slide-out rooms in RVs. For example, a whole room of the RV is built on a sliding track so that it slides in while the vehicle is on the road, and when the vehicle stops, it slides out. That way your vehicle is narrow enough to drive down the road, but when you stop you can suddenly add 30 percent more to the living space you have inside. These have been designed and engineered so well that when it is in place, the new room is flush with the floor of the old one.
Wow, I wonder if I could add on to my house this way...
As you can see, this would be a wonderful thing for an RV. Mike's company builds the channel frames for the slide-out rooms. The company also produces rollout storage compartments, battery and LP gas trays, manual slides, and fold-up tailgate tables.
Mike's customers are companies which produce R Vs. He has customers as far east as Indiana and as far west as Oregon.
Sales have gone from only $5,500 in year one to four and a half million dollars in recent years. How exciting to see this progress in rural Kansas.
Today we've gone west to see a quick draw. No, it's not an old western shoot-out. It's the brand name of products built by this innovative Kansas company in rural western Kansas. And it is indeed a draw, in the sense that the product is a draw for potential customers as well as a draw for employment in the community.
We commend Mike Nebel and the people of LTM Manufacturing for making a difference through hard work and innovation. Sounds to me like this quick draw is right on target.
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.

Dusty Grothusen - Outlaw Trail

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
From Kansas to Kuwait. Just as many of our brave soldiers have made that journey, now, so has something else: A board game. Yes, a board game developed in rural Kansas has gone to Kuwait and elsewhere around the world. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Dusty Grothusen, creator of this remarkable board game. She says her husband David has helped tons. Here is their story.
Dusty is from Utah originally. She is a chapmaker and leather artisan by trade, who also builds other period cowboy gear. She has always been fascinated by the old west.
Dusty was at a show in New Mexico when a young man named David Grothusen happened to stop into her company's booth. Ultimately, they married and moved back to David's home near Scott City, Kansas, where they are today.
Dusty continued her leather work but also pursued another concept: A historically based board game about the Old West outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch. Dusty says the concept literally came to her in a dream.
In 1992, Dusty had a dream in which she was traveling across a lifesize game board, encountering characters from the life and times of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Now, I could imagine her having dreams about Robert Redford, but my first thought on this was that she should lay off the liverwurst before bedtime.
But Dusty could remember and visualize the board game and the fun and feelings it brought her. So she put the ideas down on paper and began to design it. It became a passion.
Dusty says, "I would work in the leather shop all day and then after supper, start working on designing the game. Sometimes I couldn't stop until two or three in the morning," until the game was done.
The game is called Ride the Outlaw Trail. Players travel down three different trails, through various obstacles and opportunities. To be an outlaw, they land on various spaces to gather their gear, guns, and gang. There are horse races, saloons, banks to rob, a jailhouse and the pen. The luck of the roll and the draw of a card decide the fate of each player.
One hundred and ninety two Outlaw Fate cards tell the actual stories and the game move associated with it. Then there are thirty-two Outlaw cards, each packed with historical tidbits. For example, when Butch Cassidy had dinner at a ranch woman's house, she would often find a twenty dollar gold piece when she took away the plate .
Speaking of money, the currency used in this game is no Monopoly play money. The artwork on the money comes from genuine Wyoming bank notes, complete with actual batch numbers. Each game is complete, but you may purchase Collectors Edition Cowboys which are tiny cowboys made of leather and wood, with miniature batwing chaps. These little cowboys have proven so popular that Dusty has hired three women just to make them.
Dusty says, "This is a game for all ages. Grandpa can play this with the kids and grandkids, have fun, and share some history in the process."
Ride the Outlaw Trail was offered to the public in December 2003. In less than a month, sales were made to all 50 states and five foreign countries. Wow. Yet it comes from Scott City, Kansas, population 3,619 people. Now, that's rural.
For more information, go to www.ridetheoutlawtrail.com or call 620-872-2221.
Now we've reached the end of the trail. We've learned the fascinating history of this board game which is going around the world, including Kuwait. In that case, a sargent with the Texas National Guard was serving in Kuwait. He asked for a copy of the game and Dusty donated some. It became so popular that soldiers are playing it in marathons and have painted the name on the side of their trucks. So we commend Dusty and Dave Grothusen for making a difference with their creativity and entrepreneurship in developing and marketing this game. It's even built a connection from Kuwait to 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.

Darrel Schultz - Melvern

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
It was a sign. Have you ever felt that way, when something seemed to signal something that was meant to be? Today, we'll learn about a wonderful community project which involved a major reconstruction effort in a truly rural community, and even a special sign. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Darrel Schultze of Melvern, Kansas, population 440 people. Now, that's rural. It's near Lake Melven, which figures into our story as well.
Darrel Schultze grew up on a farm near Melvern. He went off to Kansas City and built a company. What did the company make? Well, it was a sign - literally. Yes, Darrel developed a successful sign company.
In 1998, Darrel moved back to Melvern and got involved with the PRIDE program. PRIDE is a community betterment program sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The local PRIDE committee in Melvern identified a need for a community building. But should they build one from scratch or try to renovate some existing structure? At just the right time, a downtown building became available. It was a sign, or at least the timing was right.
It was called the Old Warner Building. It had been the site of an Allis Chalmers dealership and GMC truck dealership as well as a former bus barn back in the 1970s. The location was great and the owners agreed to sell.
A lot of planning and fund-raising was done, and then the renovation began. The roof was braced up and the roof sheeting replaced. The inside was completely renovated. The shop area was converted to a large dance floor and dining area for large community dinners. A modern kitchen, restrooms, and weight room were added. The old parts department was redesigned and turned into a room for smaller group meetings. The outer brick was cleaned and repaired, and a new heating and air conditioning system was added. Wow.
Darrel says this was a five-hundred-thousand dollar project, and with the help of a Kan-Step grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce and some 180 volunteers who donated thousands of hours of volunteer time, it was a great success for the community.
On July 16, 2003, the new community center in Melvern was dedicated. Since then it has been used for weddings, candidate forums, youth nights, and many more activities.
Darrel Schultze appreciates the new community center not just for the meeting space, but for what it means to the people of the community in a larger sense.
Darrel says, "We're way down here in the corner of Osage County, and we sort of get forgotten. But now we have a lot more to offer with this new building. We're recognized as part of the county now."
Especially important to Darrel is the way that this project became a unifying effort for the community. He says, "The lake was built back in 1969 and that brought a lot of new people in. It wasn't like before, where everybody knew everybody. This project helped us get to know lots of people again. It was rewarding, and I think it brought us together."
During the fund-raising phase, a farmer came to them and said, "I have something you might be interested in." It was an old stage backdrop or movie curtain of some sort, which he had picked up at a grange auction years ago and stored ever since. It was painted back in the early 1950s and lists advertisers from all around Melvern, such as Correl's Feed and Produce and Melvern Grain and Hardware. What is amazing is that it is so well-preserved. Darrel says, "It is so bright and brilliant you would think it was painted yesterday."
It was a sign. Yes, this curtain had lots of historic signs, and now it hangs on display in the new Melvern community building. We salute Darrel Shultze and all the volunteers organized by the Melvern PRIDE committee for making a difference by joining together to do this project. For rural Kansas, that's a very good sign.
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.

Dylan Meier - K-State football

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
The stadium is roaring as the home team takes the field. It's the first play by the offense of the first game of the season at KSU stadium. The excitement builds, just as it has for every home game. But one minor factor happens to be different: For the first time in the Bill Snyder era, a native Kansan is entering the season starting at quarterback. He is one of the many Kansans who provide the bulk of the K-State football team. Stay tuned for a special fall football edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Dylan Meier. Dylan is the native Kansan who begins the season as starting quarterback. In fact, he is joined in the backfield by another Kansan, one Darren Sproles from Olathe.
Now please understand that I am not hung up on where these football players come from. Frankly, I want the best team on the field, wherever these players find their roots. But it is interesting to note that, according to the media guide, the Sunflower State is home to 62 of the 132 players on the K-State preseason roster.
Dylan Meier is a native of Pittsburg, in southeast Kansas. He comes from a strong football family. Of course, he was preceded at K-State by his older brother Shad, who played tight end for the Cats and went on to the NFL.
Dylan's credentials are impressive. He was a three-year starter at quarterback in high school and directed his team to two consecutive appearances in the class 5-A state title game. He was the first thousand-yard passer and thousand-yard rusher in the history of the SEK conference. He also lettered three times in baseball, twice in basketball, and once in track.
But sometimes in-state talent is taken for granted. He was categorized as an "athlete" when recruited to K-State, but quarterback is what he really wants to play.
After coming to K-State, he earned the Overachiever award as the top offensive scout-squad player as a redshirt freshman. Then in 2003, he played in all fifteen of the Wildcat's games as a holder on kicks. As a backup quarterback, he played in only four games but was K-State's third leading rusher.
Now in 2004, he enters the season as the heir apparent - the starting quarterback. As noted before, he is one of many Kansans on the team.
For example, according to the media guide, the Wildcat roster includes football players from Agra to Wichita. Of course, there are players from Manhattan and other large and mid-size Kansas cities. But there are also players from such towns as Jetmore, population 894; Riley, population 753; Claflin, 629; Hanover, 592; Delphos, 491; Gypsum, 358; the aforementioned Agra, 292; Preston, 186; and finally, the town of Narka, population 113 people. Now, that's rural.
When I say that Kansas provides the bulk of the team, that is literally true, in some cases. Logan Robinson from the infamous Agra stands six-feet-nine inches tall and weighs 320 pounds. Matt Boss from Cherryvale stands 6-4 and weighs 310. Gerard Spexarth from Colwich stands 6-7 and weighs 290. Sounds like rural Kansas has definitely found the beef.
In rural Kansas, athletics has a special value. On Friday nights, rural communities find themselves gathered at their local schools stadiums to support their hometown boys. Athletics is also where we learn some valuable lessons of life, such as the value of teamwork, commitment, effort, and high goals. So we dedicate today's program to all those small town athletes, their families, coaches, and fans who do their best for their teams and communities.
The stadium is roaring as the team takes the field. It's the first play by the offense of the first game of the season at KSU stadium. But this season is different, because the starting quarterback is a native of Kansas. We salute Dylan Meier and all those who are athletes in Kansas, for making a difference by giving their all for their team and community. They are helping to make rural Kansas people feel like champions.
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.

Central National Bank

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Do you think you could blow out 120 candles on your birthday cake? No, I don't think I could either. Nowadays, people don't live that long, and neither do most businesses and organizations. But today we'll meet a banking organization which is celebrating 120 years of service. It began with small town roots and has now expanded across central Kansas. Stay tuned for today's Kansas Profile.
Our story begins back in 1884. A group of men in Junction City, Kansas filed for a charter as Central Kansas Bank. The bank offered a fireproof vault, a burglar-proof safe, and a time lock to secure deposits. Somehow, I don't think they were offering Internet banking at that time...
The bank opened on October 1, 1884, and an interesting journey began. In 1890, the bank changed its name to become a more prestigious national bank. The new name was Central National Bank, and that name continues today.
Think about what has happened in banking and the economy during the 120 years since, including two world wars and the Great Depression. During 1930, for example, more than 1,300 banks closed their doors, and by 1933 an additional 7,000 banks had failed. More banks closed during the farm crisis of the 1980s. Central National Bank would weather these storms and go on to flourish.
This bank is truly family-oriented. For example, in 1915 a man named Edward W. Rolfs came to the bank. He would become cashier and advance to part owner and President of the bank years later. His family is still engaged in the leadership of this bank.
In fact, ever since 1959 the bank president has been an Ed Rolfs, although not the same one. Edward W. Rolfs was succeeded by his son Edward J. Rolfs who has now been succeeded by his son, Edward C. Rolfs. Other family members are involved. Ed J.'s son Tom is director of credit administration for the bank, and Robert Munson, Ed J.'s son-in-law, is president of the Junction City bank. Among the directors are Ed J.'s nephews, Jim and Clarence Waters. Beyond all that, the family has sought to bring in top talent with an emphasis on quality service. And consider all the changes that this family has seen.
A key step was taken in 1983, when the bank created a holding company called Central of Kansas, Inc. That holding company would make it possible for a remarkable period of growth for this banking institution.
Fast forward to today. This bank which began with fifty thousand dollars in capital now has more than 73 million in capital and half a billion in banking assets. It is the sixth largest national bank in Kansas. The business services more than 786 million in home mortgages and 200 million in trusts. Central employs more than 300 associates who provide banking and financial services to more than 30,000 customers. Wow.
Central National Bank has deep Kansas roots. For example, Edward J. Rolfs' wife is the daughter of Senator Frank Carlson. And Central has banks in 20 communities around Kansas, plus one in Nebraska. These include both urban and rural settings. For example, the bank has locations in such bigger cities as Topeka, Lawrence, Manhattan, Salina, and Wichita, but also towns like White City, population 527; Glen Elder, population 439; Gypsum, population 358; Tipton, population 258; Durham, population 125; and Formoso, population 121 people. Now, that's rural.
How exciting to see a Kansas bank succeed and prosper, through 120 years. That's twelve decades and more than a century of growth.
Do you think you could blow out 120 candles on your birthday cake? I don't either – but I'd be glad to try! We salute the Rolfs and Munson and Waters families and all those who have made a difference by being a part of this growth and success through 120 years. It is good to see a homegrown Kansas business survive and flourish, with the type of Kansas values you can take to the bank.
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.

Kay Emrich - Emrich Family Creamery

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Got milk? That's a question we ask frequently at our house, with four growing kids. It's also a great marketing slogan for the dairy industry. Today, we'll meet an innovative family which can truly answer that question affirmatively. Not only do they have milk, they are bottling and marketing that milk in the old-fashioned way - and in doing so, have built new markets. So grab your milk and cookies for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Kay Emrich. Kay and her family are the innovators who founded Emrich Family Creamery. Here is the story.
Kay and her husband Hugh live near Randolph, north of Manhattan. Years ago, their daughter started raising Jerseys as a hobby. Funny thing about hobbies that involve live animals - they tend to grow. Sure enough, this hobby grew and multiplied until the Emrichs had a whole herd of Jersey dairy cows.
So when asked the question, Got Milk?, they could definitely answer that question with a big Yes. Then the question becomes, what are you going to do with it? Rather than selling the milk in bulk, the Emrichs decided to try packaging and marketing their milk directly.
Kay spent a couple of years in researching and planning this project. They found a building where they could process milk in the nearby town of Wheaton, population 121 people. Now, that's rural. Kay and her family expanded and remodeled the old grocery store there to become the family creamery. Kay says, "Our menfolk are really capable and my daughters are great help." One son is an electrician and another did the plumbing.
Instead of packaging milk in plastic, Kay decided to use the classic glass bottles. The type of processing equipment she needed was found back east, so her husband and son drove a semi to Pennsylvania, New York state, and Massachusetts to pick up the equipment. When they returned with a big truck full of stainless steel equipment to be assembled, Kay thought, "This is impossible."
But with the help of their consultant and the Kansas Department of Agriculture inspectors, the equipment was put in working order. The creamery opened on June 18, 2003. Kay says, "I was concerned when I took that first bottle off the line, so I was relieved when it tasted good."
Not only did it taste good, it tasted great. The Emrichs started marketing and delivering their milk. In fact, they became the first business in Kansas to do home delivery. The homeowner doesn't even need to be home. Customers can put out a small cooler and ice by their door with their milk order, and the Emrichs will deliver to their doorstep. The Emrich's milk can also be purchased at Eastside Market and People's grocery in Manhattan.
The milk has proven to be very popular. In fact, several people told me that the Emrich chocolate milk is to die for. Kay says, "We have two pasteurizers. One is a high temp, short speed pasteurizer, but we have never even hooked it up. We prefer to vat pasteurize our milk, and it produces lots of flavor." Many people have chased the Emrich delivery truck down the street to ask about getting on the delivery route.
Their refrigerated delivery truck is decorated with a picture of Babe, one of the family's top Jerseys, as painted by Kay's daughter Natasha. Natasha also does herd management and AI. Amber, another of Kay's daughters, does the bottling and delivery.
Kay says this project has been a lot of work, but she is proud of their milk. She says, "When you're the smallest and last guy on the block, you've got to have the best product. We felt it was good milk, and it is good to have a local, fresh source."

Got milk? The Emrichs do, and now you can too. To contact the Emrich Family Creamery, call 785-396-4347. We salute Kay and Amber and all the Emrich family for making a difference by coming up with a good idea and then milking it for all its worth.
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.

John Gisselbeck - Twin Valley Telephone

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Phone home. That's a line from an old movie, but it's also good advice for anyone. It seems especially fitting for the story we are going to learn today, about a home-grown telephone company which is doing great things. So dial on in for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet John Gisselbeck of Twin Valley Telephone in Miltonvale, Kansas. Twin Valley is one of those independent, family-owned telephone companies one can still find in rural Kansas. It has deep Kansas roots.
In 1900, a man in Miltonvale established a telephone service to connect his house in town with his three ranches. Eventually, a telephone company was organized. It started with 20 requests for telephone service.
In 1947, the company was purchased by the Joe Foster family. It would grow and change through the years, but family remains one constant.
In 1957, the Miltonvale and Greenleaf telephone companies were combined to make Twin Valley Telephone. Joe Foster was succeeded as President by his son, who went by Jack.
Jack Foster also served as President of the school board. One year this board helped hire a new young teacher who would also be basketball coach for the junior high. His name was John Gisselbeck. Not only did that coach have success on the court, he also had success in courting. That is, he courted and married Mr. Foster's daughter.
I mentioned that John Gisselbeck had success in basketball. He coached a team of 13 and 14-year-olds to a 37 and 3 record and the national championship of North American Youth Basketball. Wow.
After coaching nine years, John Gisselbeck joined his inlaw's family business, Twin Valley Telephone. Michael J. Foster is the current president and John is vice-president.
Talk about a family affair. This company is being managed by the third generation of the family and the fourth generation is working in the business.
Over time, the telephone business has changed dramatically. Remember party lines, the local operator, and rings like two longs and a short? Today there are cell phones, the Internet, and much more.
This company truly serves rural Kansas. Besides Miltonvale, its exchanges include Bennington, population 584; Greenleaf, population 346; Tescott, 333; Beverly, 122; and Barnard, population 121 people. Now, that's rural. Yet this company is bringing technology to rural Kansas.
Twin Valley Telephone offers local and long distance voice and data services. The company serves a 900 square mile area of North Central Kansas. Those 20 requests for service have grown into more than 2,500 customers. Digital loop carriers were installed to utilize fiberoptics to make possible high speed Internet and video over telephone lines, even to rural customers.
This was exciting to John Gisselbeck. Then one day his perspective all changed. It was Sunday, March 3, 2002. John was sitting in church when he suddenly had a seizure. Diagnosis found that he had tumors in his brain, and his family sought medical treatment.
On the very same day as his seizure, John's daughter heard the Methodist minister in Manhattan preach about the popular book the Prayer of Jabez. She got that book for her father, and he read it on the trip to the M. D. Anderson cancer center in Houston. He adopted one of those prayers throughout his successful treatment, and now is back at work at Twin Valley.
John Gisselbeck says, "I have been blessed. My family is closer than ever, and I place all my trust in the Lord."
Phone home. Yes, that old movie line applies to this remarkable phone company, but also to the life of this key individual within that company. He has found a new relationship with his maker. We salute John Gisselbeck and all the people of Twin Valley Telephone for making a difference by bringing modern telecommunications to rural Kansas. So please - don't forget to phone home.
And that's not all. John also helped to create something else - a special place, a magical town named Tootleville. We'll learn about that on our next program.
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.

John Gisselbeck - Tootleville

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 the magical town of Tootleville. Don't look for that name on your state highway map. You won't see it on a city limits sign, but it is a very real place. It's a place where kids and adults can relax and enjoy, and it's found in rural Kansas. So climb on board the Tootleville Express – this is today's Kansas Profile.
Meet John Gisselbeck. On a previous program, we learned that John is an executive with Twin Valley Telephone Company in Miltonvale, Kansas. He is also a concerned citizen of Miltonvale.
He noticed the city park had some rundown playground equipment which his wife had played on when she was a child. He and the local Lions club decided to do some research to see how the playground could be updated.
They came across a family-owned company from New York State called Leathers and Associates. That all began when the people in Ithaca, New York decided they needed a park, and a Mr. Leathers helped design and build a new playground for it. The playground was so successful that other towns wanted new playgrounds too. Now Leathers and Associates is a national playground design company.
Leathers and Associates had helped design playgrounds in some Kansas towns, but never a town as small and rural as Miltonvale, population 433 people. Now, that's rural. Still, John Gisselbeck and the Lions club decided to pursue it.
There are a couple of distinctions about parks designed by the Leathers company. First, the playground is individually custom-designed for that community. Secondly, it utilizes natural wood products wherever possible. That means it is not all made up of pre-fab plastic.
So how do they come up with the design? John Gisselbeck says, "It all starts with the children." A professional consultant came to Miltonvale and spent a day in the schools, talking with kids and asking them what they would like to play on.
The very day this took place was September 11, 2001. John Gisselbeck told the consultant what was going on with the terrorist attacks, but he kept working with the kids. He knew his family was fine, and he was going to make sure those kids in Kansas had their say about the playground, in spite of the horror that was occurring on television.
So the consultant gathered ideas for those kids, and it was great fun. They suggested such things as a train and a boat and a tractor and a castle, which he incorporated into the final design.
Oh, one other distinctive thing about this company's projects: The community does the construction. Supplies were ordered, community citizens brought tools and food. John says, "We set poles on a late Tuesday afternoon, and then worked from daybreak to dark on Wednesday through Saturday. On Sunday morning we had a church service, served lunch, and opened the park at 1 p.m."
The playground is located in the city park. Now, here you need to know that the town of Miltonvale was founded by a man named Milton Tootle. Isn't that a great name? Miltonvale was named for his first name, and his last name was given to the park - Tootle Park. So the name of this new playground became Tootleville.
Tootleville is a fun place for kids to visit. It has swings and slides, castles and trains, and all those features which the kids suggested. But the park wasn't just for the kids.
John says, "We wanted the park to bring the people together. In terms of a shared effort in this community, it was the most meaningful experience of my life."
It's time to say goodbye to Tootleville, but we thank John Gisselbeck and the citizens of Miltonvale for making a difference by creating this special park for kids and adults to enjoy. No, the name of Tootleville won't be found on a state highway map. There's no city limits sign to Tootleville. And maybe that's appropriate, because John Gisselbeck and the citizens of Miltonvale refused to let themselves be limited - and the results are good for Kansas kids.
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.

Dennis Katzenmeier

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Cows or Corvette? Doesn't that sound like an interesting choice? Today we'll meet a fascinating Kansan who faced such a decision. Now he has pursued his interests in ways which are truly benefitting rural Kansas. We'll get the story on today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Dennis Katzenmeier. Dennis grew up on a farm and ranch near Ellsworth. He went on to Pittsburg State, where he saw a beautiful car which caused him to face that choice: Cows or Corvette?
You see, Dennis had built up a cowherd of his own on the home place, but while off at college he spotted this car for sale: A 1963 Corvette Stingray, silver with black interior, with a 300 horse 327 engine. Of course, he wanted that car. But how to pay for it? Dennis figured he would need to sell his cows, but to a rancher, that might not seem like a very productive choice. So it was with some trepidation that Dennis called his dad and told him what he wanted to do. To Dennis' surprise, his father did not hit the ceiling. He calmly asked if that was what Dennis really wanted to do, and then agreed to buy the cows so Dennis could buy the car.
Dennis says, "That Corvette was a good car. It took me back and forth to school a lot of times."
Dennis went on to a career in engineering and sales in Kansas and Nebraska before coming back to Salina. Being close to home enabled him to get back into the cattle business. Dennis says, "You can't take the country out of the boy." So again, Dennis bought a few cows of his own.
Dennis' wife was looking for a historic home where she could have a bed and breakfast. Lo and behold, she found one near his old hometown of Ellsworth. They bought and now operate the Ira E. Lloyd House Bed and Breakfast.
Ira E. Lloyd was a young lawyer in 1873, when the cattle drives from Texas to Ellsworth were in their heyday. A friend told Lloyd to go to Ellsworth because "murders are a daily occurrence and the streets are filled with Texas cattlemen, their pockets bulging with money." Lloyd followed this advice and built not only a successful law practice and political career, he built a beautiful historic home.
Today the Katzenmeiers operate this B and B and celebrate the related western heritage and tourism. Dennis is very involved in tourism, serving as the north central representative on the Travel Industry Association of Kansas. He is also chair of the Kansas Cattle Towns Coalition and President of the International Chisholm Trail Association. Wow.
Their home is in Ellsworth, population 2,654 people. Now, that's rural. Dennis and his dad are still in the cattle business, operating a purebred and commercial cowherd.
Professionally, Dennis is an account representative for Consolidated Printing in Salina. Consolidated Printing is a remarkable company, founded back in 1914. It serves many clients in Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas, plus people as far away as Alaska and Boston.
For Dennis, this is a nice convergence of his interests. Consolidated Printing can meet all kinds of printing needs for the tourism industry and others. He works for Consolidated while living in Ellsworth, where he is a fourth generation rancher. And of course, he gives leadership for the tourism industry in the community and state and beyond.
Cows or Corvette? In the 1960s, Dennis chose the Corvette. And what ever happened to that car? Dennis says with a smile, "I bought that car for $2,400 and eventually sold it for $1,500. Now a vintage Corvette like that is worth $30,000!" But at least Dennis came back to the cows. We commend Dennis Katzenmeier for making a difference by helping meet the printing needs of Kansas communities, by preserving and promoting Kansas history through the bed and breakfast, and by serving as a leader of the tourism industry. Now the Corvette is gone, but Dennis remains committed to cows and community.
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.

Career Fairs

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Homecoming. That's a fun time at the local school, when they have special ceremonies and past graduates can see a ball game, and renew friendships. But today we'll think about homecoming in a larger and more permanent sense.
This relates to a phenomenon that demographers call the brain drain. This is when our educated young people leave the state of Kansas for their careers. For example, it is said that the most valuable export from rural Kansas isn't wheat, it is our educated youth. This is a serious concern for rural communities. Now some Kansas communities are doing something about this trend among youth. The strategy is simple: Ask them. Yes, some Kansas community representatives are now recruiting prospective college graduates to come to their communities for home and work. It's today's Kansas Profile.
For years, college and universities have sponsored career fairs. These are organized exhibitions for businesses who will be hiring graduates. College students can browse through these exhibits, learn about various career paths, and visit with prospective employers.
This is a win-win situation. It is sort of a matchmaking service for employers and possible employees.
But what if this concept could be extended beyond the business world? What if it could involve communities?
Carol Gould is director of the Kansas Center for Rural Initiatives at Kansas State University. That group organizes an annual conference each spring. In recent years, participants in that conference expressed concern about the brain drain, including a loss of population.
One idea in followup to that conference involved the K-State Career Fair. Carol Gould's group decided to get a booth to give rural employers a chance to have direct contact with K-State students looking for careers. She invited community reps to share a booth and recruit prospective graduates to come to their communities.
This is a different approach. Instead of each company recruiting, a community rep can recruit for several companies in their region. The important thing is that students realize there are opportunities in rural communities as well as the cities.
This is a great idea. For Kansas students, this is an opportunity to work in a positive small town atmosphere like that they grew up in. Others will go far away after graduating but the seed will have been planted that there are opportunities back home as well as in faraway cities.
So when Carol invited communities to participate in the career fair, several responded. Jeff Hofaker of Phillips County Economic Development also represented employers in Rooks and Osborne counties. An engineer in Great Bend came to recruit for that area. Ellsworth sent some job descriptions. Dennis Pruitt of Montgomery County Economic Development came to recruit for several types of positions including mental health, engineers, and management information systems for a major company.
Students know there are jobs in Kansas City and Dallas and Atlanta. This serves to remind them that there are also jobs in rural places like Independence and Osborne and Stockton, population 1,438 people. Now, that's rural.
Homecoming. It's not just Friday night football festivities. In a larger sense, it can be a strategy for fighting the brain drain and attracting our best and brightest back to rural Kansas, if not their own hometowns. But such a return may not happen without an intentional effort to let prospective graduates know that they are welcome in small town America. So we commend Carol Gould and those community representatives who are making a difference by participating in the career fair. This kind of homecoming can turn a brain drain into a brain gain.
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.

Cowboys for Christ

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
How about going to a new church today? Come in and sit down. If your pew feels a little rough, that's because it's a bale of straw. And you may notice that the minister isn't wearing a fancy robe, he's wearing cowboy boots and wrangler jeans. What kind of church is this? This is cowboy church. It's Christian outreach to those who appreciate the western lifestyle. An organization has been formed to do such a ministry in northeast Kansas. It's a new chapter of a group called Cowboys for Christ. So saddle up for a spiritual edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Billie Evans. Billie is definitely one who appreciates the cowboy lifestyle. She had her first horse when she was eight! Billie grew up at St. George, Kansas and was active in the Rodeo Club while at K-State. Now she is manager of Lee's Western Wear in Manhattan.
But in the fall of 1998, Billie was going through some tough times in her life. It was during that time that she attended EquiFest of Kansas, an annual exposition, clinic, and trade show held in Wichita for horse lovers and the equine industry. EquiFest has lots of features, including cowboy church on Sunday morning.
Cowboy church usually doesn't take place in a fancy church sanctuary. Such services are often held in informal settings such as a cowbarn, rodeo arena, or even an open pasture. But the fellowship and worship are strong and real.
Billie attended cowboy church at EquiFest that day, and she felt the spirit at work. The preacher was Ted Pressley, who she learned was the founder of an international organization called Cowboys for Christ.
Billie was touched. That very day a seed was planted that she might help to advance the work of this ministry. She found others who were interested. In fall 2003, through the guidance of Ted Pressley and Regional Director Steve Stafford, a new Cowboys for Christ chapter was created in northeast Kansas. Its first president? Billie Evans.
Cowboys for Christ is an international, non-denominational Christian ministry headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. It is open to everyone, but it is especially dedicated to those in the livestock industry and related fields. It includes local chapters around the country, including this new one in Kansas.
The new chapter headed up by Billie is called the Bibles and Boots Chapter. The chapter meets regularly and does outreach at rodeos, horse and livestock shows, horse training clinics, trail rides, county fairs, and related events in at least a 75 mile radius around the chapter's home base at Wamego. In 2004, members traveled to places such as Strong City, Abilene, Salina, Council Grove, Westmoreland, and Longford. Billie says, "We're creating a God-centered network of rural folks enabling each other to share Christ's good news with fellow livestock enthusiasts." Cowboy church is just one example.
The members of the chapter come from larger towns such as Topeka and Manhattan as well as Osage City, population 2,940 people; Alma, population 842 people; Westmoreland, population 612; and Paxico, population 182 people. Now, that's rural.
Last spring the fledgling chapter assisted with the first ever Horsemen's Priority Clinic at K-State-Manhattan. This clinic featured excellent horse trainers and cowboy church, complete with a baptism by immersion. This was not your typical baptismal font, however. This baptism happened in a stock tank. Now plans are being made for next year's symposium, which will be held on February 4 through 6, 2005.
For more information, contact Billie Evans by calling 785-494-2619 after 8 p.m. That number again is 785-494-2619. Or go on-line to www.cowboysforchrist.net.
It's time for us to leave this church today. You might need to brush off a little straw as you go, because it isn't a regular church building, it is cowboy church – just one example of the ministry of this organization. We salute Billie Evans, Ted Pressley, and all those involved with Cowboys for Christ for making a difference with their outreach. Because the church is over, but the service is just beginning.
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.


This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Critical mass. That's the concept from nuclear science that a certain minimum amount of material must be brought together for a sustained reaction to occur. That definition might make my old high school science teacher cringe, but I think that is the essence of it.
Today we'll think about critical mass in another sense. How do we achieve a critical mass of people in rural western Kansas? In other words, in western Kansas where the population is sparse and spread over lots of territory, how can we bring together enough people to have an impact? On this program we will learn about an initiative which has been working for 10 years to bring rural western Kansas folks together for maximum impact. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Gary Gore, President of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce. He tells us of this initiative which began a decade ago, in response to the great challenges facing rural western Kansas.
A group of visionary leaders in western Kansas was very concerned about the future of their communities and the region. Steve Miller of Sunflower Electric Power Cooperative in Hays, Carol Meyer of the Chamber of Commerce in Garden City, and Lavern Squier who was then at the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development were among those who saw a need to work together for mutual benefit.
This group of leaders found a way to rise above the natural competition between communities. They recognized that a successful region could help make their individual communities successful as well, and they considered ways to pool their strengths to do so. This followed a model of voluntary cooperation which the Huck Boyd Institute had outlined in 1992.
In May 1994, some 85 people attended a meeting to discuss the economic problems of the region and to consider how a regional organization might help. The meeting included a presentation of very disturbing demographic trends. For example, it was pointed out that, since 1930, Kansas' 41 smallest counties had lost an estimated 100,000 people.
This presentation was followed by a call to action, and everyone present agreed to participate in a planning process for a regional organization. Then committees met to advance the planning process. One observer wrote, "The enthusiasm in the meeting rooms that first day was exhilarating. One could really tell that something great was happening and that it would last for a long time."
Among the attendees, by the way, was an enthusiastic supporter of rural development by the name of Jerry Moran. He would go on to be elected to Congress from the Big First District of Kansas.
The planning process resulted in an organization called the western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance, or wKREDA for short. wKREDA has now been representing western Kansas for 10 years. The President of wKREDA is Gary Gore.
WKREDA provides a unifying force for all of western Kansas. Among its projects are recruiting dairy farms and other businesses to move to Kansas, providing economic and community development education for its members, building relationships with various agencies and partners, and providing political representation to policymakers in Topeka and Washington.
Through wKREDA, rural communities can share costs and get more bang for their buck. For example, they can send one big display to a trade show rather than several small, ineffective ones.
Today wKREDA represents 53 counties which have chosen to pool their resources for mutual benefit. That covers 40,000 square miles of rural territory. It goes from Elkhart and St. Francis east to Medicine Lodge and up to Narka, population 113 people. Now, that's rural. In December 2004, wKREDA members celebrate 10 years of working together.
Critical mass. It's the concept of bringing together the amount of resources needed to have an impact, and it is demonstrated in wKREDA. We salute Gary Gore, Steve Miller, Carol Meyer, Lavern Squier, and all those of the wKREDA organization for making a difference by unifying their efforts. To have brought this vision to reality for 10 years is what we might call a critical masterpiece.
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.

Alma Cheese - part 1

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
How about some cheese for the holidays? Today, we'll meet a company which is producing gift boxes of cheese for the holidays. They make very nice gifts – and in fact, this company has been making wonderful cheese in rural Kansas since 1946. Stay tuned for a special holiday edition of Kansas Profile.
Meet Linda Craghead, general manager of the Alma Creamery in Alma, Kansas. She also serves part-time as Wabaunsee County economic development director.
Alma Creamery has an interesting history. The company was founded back in 1946 and expanded through the years, but then closed in 2000. The plant closure was a blow to the community. For years, Alma has been famous for its Alma Cheese. Fortunately, local entrepreneur Bernie Hansen repurchased the plant and reopened it with new energy and investment in 2004.
Linda Craghead showed me how the wonderful Alma cheese is produced in their facility. Milk is collected by tanker truck from dairy farms between Frankfort and Alma. That milk is delivered at 7 p.m. or 4 a.m, depending on the driver, to the plant in Alma. Each load of milk is tested for antibiotics before it ever leaves the truck. Once the milk is approved and unloaded, the truck is sanitized and certified for its next load.
The milk is stored in big tanks and then run through a new pasteurizer which heats it to 164 degrees. It is then cooled and run into huge stainless steel vats which can hold 25 thousand pounds of milk. Paddles stir the milk while cultures and rennet are added, and color if necessary. The result of course, just as in the nursery rhyme, is curds and whey.
The whey is separated and pumped out to be used as a high protein livestock feed additive. The curds will be milled, cut, and turned, and then formed and pressed into blocks and horns of cheese. These are pressed overnight, vacuum packed and sealed. The cheeses are aged at least 10 days and up to 18 months. The longer the aging, the sharper the flavor. Linda Craghead says with a smile, "We will sell no cheese before its time."
The Alma Creamery produces and sells a variety of delicious natural cheeses, including cheese curds. There is cheddar, pepper jack, colby, longhorn, co-jack, and more. A new feature at Alma Cheese is a smokehouse, where natural hickory is used to produce delicious smoked cheeses. For the holidays, Alma Creamery is producing two gift boxes and is assembling another gift box with other locally produced foods in Wabaunsee County.
Part of the secret of Alma Creamery's success is that these cheeses are literally hand-made. There is no giant, automated assembly line here. These are craftsmen at work. For example, they hand-wash the equipment and hand-turn the cheese which allows great attention to detail. The staff here are just like family.
So where can a person buy Alma Cheese? These products are available from the retail store adjoining the plant, as well as Dillons, Food 4 Less, and Associated Grocers stores plus several Kansas-theme stores around the state. Their mail order business is expanding as well. Call toll-free at 866-765-3522 or go to www.almacreamery.com. Again, that's 866-765-3522 or www.almacreamery.com
Demand for this excellent product is growing. The retail shop at the plant will soon be expanded in size. Linda expects the work force at Alma Cheese to double after the first of the year too. What a blessing that this historic Kansas company is being restored, and that wonderful Alma cheese is again being produced in this rural community. After all, Alma is a town of 842 people. Now, that's rural.
How about some cheese for the holidays? Alma Creamery can take care of your needs. We salute Linda Craghead, Bernie Hansen, and all those involved with Alma Creamery for making a difference by rebuilding this remarkable business. As Linda says, "To bring this plant alive again is like a Christmas present to the community."
We'll learn more about Alma Creamery on our next program.
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.

Alma Cheese - part 2

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
The comeback kid. That's a term which is sometimes used to describe a sports figure or a politician. Today we'll meet another comeback kid of sorts. He is a rural entrepreneur who has brought back to life a historic Kansas business. It's today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Bernie Hansen, the rural entrepreneur of which I speak. Bernie has developed several successful food-oriented businesses in northeast Kansas. He lives near Wamego, population 4,260 people. Now, that's rural.
On a previous program, we learned about Alma Cheese in Alma, Kansas. Bernie bought this company in 1986. Alma cheese is a famous name in these parts. The original Alma Cheese plant opened in 1946.
Alvin Kahle was one of the early employees at the plant. He started washing milk bottles at the plant in 1949 and worked his way up to foreman in later years. Jim Ferguson is another longtime employee. He started working here in 1968.
The Alma Cheese plant went through a couple of owners before Bernie Hansen bought it. Bernie developed the company and sold it during the late 1990s. The new owners had problems and in 2000, the plant shut down. This was a sad time for the Alma community and the company's customers. I remember stopping by the plant during that time, and finding to my surprise that it was closed and I couldn't get any cheese.
Of course, it was especially sad for people like Alvin Kahle and Jim Ferguson who had been an integral part of the company for so long. And so these two men did something extraordinary: On their own time, they would come into the plant every other week, clean it up, and maintain it.
By fall 2003, the old Alma Cheese plant was going on the auction block. Local investors wanted to keep the plant in town, and what they really hoped is that someone like Bernie Hansen would buy it again. Bernie was approached and he was reluctant but agreed to consider it.
In October 2003, the auction was held for the Alma Cheese plant. Prospective buyers came from as far away as Wisconsin and South America. Alvin Kahle was there, and when he saw Bernie, Bernie said, "I'll tell you what: I'll buy this plant if you'll come work for me." Alvin agreed and Bernie made the purchase. People said, "You should have seen the smile on Alvin's face." Bernie also brought in Linda Craghead as general manager.
Even with the maintenance the plant had received, it had been more than three years since it operated and the facility needed to be upgraded. Linda Craghead brought the state dairy inspector to look over the facility and asked him for two things: First, if the plant was to be operated tomorrow, what was necessary to bring it up to the standard; and secondly, what would be on his wish list to improve the facility? Linda says, "To Bernie's great credit, he did it all. He did everything on the wish list and more." In fact, all things considered, Bernie invested around a million dollars in upgrading and improving the facilities, equipment, and personnel. Wow.
On April 28, 2004, the first batch of cheese was produced in the newly remodeled plant. Production continues to grow from there. The company is now known as Alma Creamery L.L.C., and it continues to produce the wonderful Alma Cheese. Alma Creamery employs 12 people, including Alvin Kahle and Jim Ferguson – who between them have 80 years of service in the company. Wow.
The comeback kid. That's a term for politicians and sports figures, and maybe it describes Bernie Hansen, Alvin Kahle, and Jim Ferguson too. They've been involved in the return of Alma Cheese. Now, in Alvin's case, it may be a comeback but he's no kid: He's now 75 years old, and is a master cheesemaker. We salute Bernie and Alvin, Jim Ferguson, Linda Craghead, and all the Alma Creamery crew for making a difference in restoring this wonderful business 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.

Prairie Dog Press

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Open today's edition of the newspaper, and let's take a look at the letters to the editor. There are three: One from Indiana, one from California, and one from Colorado. Wow, that's impressive. What is this, the New York Times or the Washington Post? No, these are the letters to the editor of the Prairie Dog Press in Almena, Kansas -- a truly unique newspaper in rural Kansas. So stop the presses for today's Kansas Profile.
Meet Laura Craig, editor of the Prairie Dog Press. She tells us of the remarkable history of this newspaper. Almena is a northwest Kansas town of 418 people. Now, that's rural. For years, the Moody family published The Almena Plaindealer here. But after Mr. Moody passed away, it became too much for Mrs. Moody to do by herself, and the newspaper closed in 1987.
Shortly after that, Almena became part of a study conducted by the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, which is a counterpart to my office. That center is located in the K-State School of Journalism. The center was doing a study of communities which had lost their community newspaper, as had happened in Almena.
But what the center found in Almena was a strong interest in having a community newspaper again. In fact, a group of volunteers through the PRIDE committee expressed interest in producing such a newspaper themselves. The K-State journalism school decided to help. K-State provided a computer and printer and some journalism students to help get started.
They set up shop in free space at the local irrigation district office. Later on they were donated space from the Moody family, in the very same building which had housed the old Plaindealer.
On Memorial Day weekend of 1993, the inaugural edition of the Prairie Dog Press was produced, and it has come out biweekly ever since. It takes its name from Prairie Dog creek, which runs through the county. Unlike the New York Times, this is a newspaper which doesn't take itself too seriously. For example, the logo of the paper is a giant prairie dog running a hand printing press.
This is truly a community newspaper. It covers community news which is not available anywhere else. For example, the Prairie Dog Press carries minutes from the school board and city building, plus reports from the 4-H club, quilters group, and senior center. It tells who had dinner with whom, and who had guests in from out of town. Public service announcements include such things as the festival at the Congregational Church and the PRIDE committee's sausage and pancake supper. There are obituaries and local sports stories, plus announcements like a surprise card shower for Winona Amen's 80th birthday and more. Then there are regular columns such as Hazy Thoughts by Gale Hays and Marble's Mentions by Esther Marble. You don't get that from the New York Times.
This remarkable newspaper is entirely volunteer. It doesn't pay its writers and doesn't solicit ads. And unbelievably, it has attracted subscribers from 40 states and even foreign countries. Of course, most of these subscribers have family in the area.
Editor Laura Craig works full-time as deputy clerk in the district court at Norton. She notes that she is almost 63, but is one of the youngest people in the newspaper's office. She says, "Some writers are younger, but some of the ladies typing things for the paper are in their 80s."
Laura says, "We try to be a feel good paper. This is a labor of love. Everyone who works with that paper considers it a blessing to them."
It's time to close today's edition of the newspaper, complete with letters to the editor from Indiana, California and Colorado. Wow. I think it is attracting such interest because of the community spirit it represents. We salute Laura Craig and all the volunteers of the Prairie Dog Press for making a difference with volunteerism, hard work, and community spirit. With that kind of effort, they won't stop the presses.
Kansas Profile is produced with assistance from the Resource and Development Councils of Kansas. For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.