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Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development

2007 Profiles

Al Brensing - Stafford County Flour Mill

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

How long have you been with the company? Twenty years, thirty years, forty? Those types of careers win the records for longevity in many businesses. Today, we'll meet a man whose career with his company has been longer than many people's entire lifespan. He's played a key role in the success of this remarkable rural business. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Al Brensing, President of the Stafford County Flour Mills Company. On May 21, 2007, Al Brensing reached a milestone in working for his company. Not thirty or forty years, or even fifty or sixty. Al Brensing has worked for this company for seventy years. Wow.

And no, he didn't violate the child labor laws by starting work at age five. He began with the company at the usual age of twenty. So if you've done the math, you know he is ninety years old. But he is still president of the company and he still comes in every day.

Reuel Foote, General Manager of the company, says, "He is remarkable." But just as remarkable is the story of the Stafford County Flour Mills Company itself.

In 1882, a man named Gustav Krug came to Kansas from Germany, where his father had been in the flour milling business. In 1905, Gustav built a wooden mill at Hudson, Kansas, but the mill burned down in 1913. At that time, Gustav Krug was 64 years old and walking with a crutch. Some people would think it would be time to quit.

Not Gustav Krug. He raised $20,000 locally and built a new mill. By the time he died in 1920, all that money had been paid back.

The business continued to grow, and in 1937, the company took on a young bookkeeper by the name of Al Brensing. Al rose through the ranks and became the company's fourth president in 1986. He's seen many changes through the years.

Today, the Stafford County Flour Mills Company state-of-the-art milling facility produces a flour that is recognized nation-wide for its high quality. Its brand name product is magic to bakers: Hudson Cream Flour.

Hudson Cream Flour is one of the top flours in the nation. Darrell Brensing, who happen's to be Al's nephew, recently retired from the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan. Darrell says, "The quality of Hudson Cream Flour is different from any other on the market. It's a higher protein, premium product."

Hudson Cream Flour is made using a "short patent" milling process, more common a century ago than today, in which the wheat is ground and sifted more times than in standard milling. The result is a flour that is smoother in texture and produces baked goods that are consistently light and fluffy.

Hudson Cream Flour is available in self-rising as well as whole wheat form, plus bread flour with added gluten which makes it great for bread machines. The company sells corn meal, corn bread, and biscuit mix, plus a country gravy mix to go with the biscuits. The company even sells old-time flour tins, towels, tote bags and flour recipe books, but the heart of the business is still the classic white flour that true bakers love to use.

Hudson Cream Flour is available in Dillons stores across Kansas and Price Chopper and Hen House markets in Kansas City, plus online at www.hudsoncream.com. It's consistently used by the top award-winning bakers in competitions. Hudson Cream Flour is a top seller in the Appalachian region of the U.S. and is in stores from Texas to South Carolina to Maryland. Yet it continues to be made in Hudson, Kansas, population 132 people. Now, that's rural. How wonderful to find this rural business serving home bakers across the country.

So how long have you been with the company? In Al Brensing's case, it has been seventy years. He has seen this remarkable company grow and succeed in changing times. We commend Al Brensing, Reuel Foote, and all those involved with the Stafford County Flour Mills Company and Hudson Cream Flour for making a difference with their craftsmanship in flour milling. And we salute Al Brensing for being 90 years young.

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

Annie Dunavin - Annie's Country Jubilee

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

The stage lights go down and the spotlight comes up. And into the spotlight steps a lovely lady, singing the high, haunting sound of the classic Patsy Cline song, Crazy. Is this the country music star reborn? No, it's another night of classic country entertainment at one of our state's best country music venues, and it's found in rural Kansas. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Annie Dunavin, owner of Annie's Country Jubilee. She grew up on a farm in Missouri, where she was a big fan of Patsy Cline, the tremendously talented country singer whose career was tragically cut short when she died in a plane crash in 1963. Annie would sing along to Patsy Cline songs for her own entertainment while driving a tractor or baling hay.

Annie got married and started a family, but when her children were still young, the family split. Annie says, "I found myself divorced with two kids, three and seven, and I moved to Kansas to get a job."

This was just at the time when karaoke was becoming popular. Annie remembers taking her kids to the mall and seeing one of those booths where a person could make a cassette recording of yourself singing. So she asked the kids to wait, went into the booth and sang the old Patsy Cline song, Crazy. Annie says, "I still remember that moment, singing that song with my two little kids watching me and cheering me on." That song has meant even more to Annie ever since.

A lady friend from work invited Annie to a club where they had karaoke singing so Annie gave it a try. After she sang the song Crazy, Annie came back to the table and found her friend in tears, saying, "That was beautiful."

This encouraged Annie to sing more in public. Then she met and married a guy named Terry Dunavin who encouraged her as well. Annie began doing more singing, including an audition at a place called Glenn's Opry, a Saturday night local country music show in Tonganoxie.

Terry had always wanted to have a business of his own. In 2003, he and Annie bought Glenn's Opry and renamed it Annie's Country Jubilee. It still features many of the talented band members from when Glenn's Opry began back in 1992.

Annie and Terry moved to Tonganoxie, remodeled the facility and are in the process of expanding it to nearly 500 seats. Not bad for a rural town like Tonganoxie, population 3,030 people. Now, that's rural.

Annie's Country Jubilee Band is playing to sellout crowds. The band includes sound engineer Jim Ellis, David George on lead guitar, Ted Ward on bass, Ronni Ward on guitar, Marvin Bredemeier on fiddle, Fred Uzzell on steel guitar, Steve Straub on drums, and Jim Winters as emcee and male vocalist.

Many weeks there are guest performers. Each month, Jim Winters will do a tribute to some classic country music performer such as Conway Twitty or Jim Reeves. Another huge crowd favorite is when Annie Dunavin does her tribute to Patsy Cline.

Annie says, "It's a lot of fun. I dress the way she did and sing her songs in the classic way." She says, "She's my hero." After all, for the past 10 years, Annie has had a license tag on her car that says P. Cline.

The high quality, classic country sound and family atmosphere has had people coming from as far away as Tennessee, and more importantly, they come back each Saturday night. Annie says, "People are blown away by the great band and music we have. Our motto is Keep it country, and we've been called the best kept secret for old-time country music in Kansas."

The lights go down and the spotlight comes up. No, it's not Patsy Cline reborn, it's Annie Dunavin who is keeping the great sound of Patsy Cline alive. We commend Annie and Terry Dunavin and all those involved with Annie's Country Jubilee for making a difference by sharing their talents in music. Either this is one of the best places for old-time country music anywhere in Kansas, or I'm crazy.

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

Brian Kuntz - Brian's Woodworks

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 national competition for artists in Branson. Two things are remarkable about this competition: One is that the first place winner in the adult division and the grand champion of the junior division both came from the same family. The second remarkable fact is that this artwork isn't done with a painter's brush or sculptor's chisel, it is done in wood with a scroll saw. This is a national scroll saw contest, and the winners come from a rural Kansas family with remarkable woodcrafting skills. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Brian Kuntz, who comes from a truly rural family. Brian is a teacher by trade, as is his wife Trina. He is an industrial arts teacher and she is a reading specialist. Trina is originally from the southwest Kansas town of Spearville, population 817 people. That's rural – but stay tuned.

Brian and Trina studied education at Fort Hays State University. After graduation, they accepted positions with the school system in the south central Kansas town of Dexter, population 358 people. That's rural too – but stay tuned.

Brian grew up in northwest Kansas. He is originally from the Gove County town of Park, Kansas, population 148 people. Now, that's rural.

Coming from such small towns gave Brian and Trina an appreciation for the benefits of small town life. They sought a school system in a small town setting for them to raise a family. They were also attracted to the flexible schedule of the school system in Dexter, which is one of those communities which offers a four day school week. In other words, they put in four extra-long days of work each week and then have the fifth weekday off.

That flexibility worked well for Brian's interests in woodworking. At his school, Brian teaches a variety of industrial arts subjects, including wood shop, welding, construction, and computer drafting. His practical experience comes from work in construction and roofing.

Brian is very capable with his hands and tools, and he enjoys carving attractive designs with his scroll saw. Since 1996, Brian has been doing carvings for fun and for stress relief after school, and then he started making them as Christmas gifts for family and friends. The response was so great that he decided to sell them.

In 2005, he started marketing his original, detailed, handmade artwork in wood, specializing in wildlife designs. Using his scroll saw, Brian creates remarkably intricate designs of fish, deer, pheasant, elk, wolves and many more. Some are done from natural cross sections of a tree and include clocks or different color backgrounds.

Brian did a design of a hummingbird at a rose which is fantastic. It uses intarsia, which is a special type of wood inlay using the natural colors of the wood.

Brian also does country and western designs, along with artwork using religious themes. He sells at craft shows and festivals and does a lot of custom work. His motto is, "Scrolled to your desire. If you can think it, I can probably cut it." His work is a great fit for the outdoorsman. One of his items is a hat and coat rack with the hooks made from shotgun shells.

So what about sales? Brian's sales are primarily in the four state region, but his creations have also gone as far away as Albuquerque and New Jersey. Wow.

In the summer of 2006, the Kuntz family traveled to Branson to participate in this national scroll saw contest. That included Brian and Trina and their children, Courtney and Kyle. Daughter Courtney, who is only 9, won the junior division and Brian won the adult division.

For more information, contact Brian at 620-876-5845.

It's time to leave Branson, where this remarkable family from rural Kansas claimed first place in both the adult and junior divisions of this national competition. We commend Brian Kuntz for making a difference with his creative skills and for Trina, Courtney and Kyle for being part of this wonderful rural family. Their artistry with a wood saw is a wonder to behold. In fact, it's some of the best artwork in wood that I ever saw.

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

Bruce Fouts

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

Where do you go for help? Well, that depends. Today we'll meet a man who suffered a horse accident in a remote rural setting where going for help was not easy. But his family and community are striving to get him help. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Bruce Fouts. Bruce and his family live in a rural area in the hills north of Westmoreland which has a population of 628 people. Now, that's rural.

Bruce grew up near Dover. He loves the outdoor farm life. Bruce says, "I grew up riding horses and taught my kids to not be scared of them." That would help later on. Bruce served as a state FFA officer, graduated from K-State, and went into banking in Kansas City.

In 2000, Bruce joined Commerce Bank in Manhattan. He and his wife Bobbie looked for a rural place to raise their family and settled north of Westmoreland. Bruce is now working in the operations department for Westar Energy.

On July 24, 2007, Bruce took his son and daughter out to do some practicing prior to an upcoming horse show, locking the house and leaving his cell phone behind. As they rode, Bruce's 10 year old son Wyatt made a comment about being careful. Bruce talked to him about what he should do in the event of an emergency. Then they went ahead with practice, but Wyatt's horse started acting odd. (They later speculated that the horse had a mini-stroke.)

Bruce got on Wyatt's horse and it went crazy. It jumped up and over backwards, landed with full force on Bruce, and rolled across his lower body. Wyatt realized he would have to go for help so he got back on his horse – the same one that had injured Bruce – and rode away as his father had taught him.

Bruce's daughter Hannah, who is six, stayed behind. To protect her daddy, she moved her horse between the other horses and where he was lying on the ground.

Meanwhile, Wyatt rode nearly two miles to the neighbors, who happened to be at home and called 911. Ultimately, a helicopter airlifted Bruce to St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, where Bruce's sister Kim works as a nurse. Bruce had a broken pelvis and numerous other injuries. The doctors repaired the damage in a seven hour surgery.

After 21 days in the hospital, Bruce was moved to his parent's place near Westmoreland. His attitude remains upbeat and positive, although he is expected to be in a wheelchair for up to five months and in rehab for a year.

Bruce's friends are planning a special benefit to help the Fouts family. On September 30 at 5 p.m., a hog roast and evening of western entertainment will be held at the Westmoreland Grade School where Bobbie works. For more information, contact Glenn Brunkow at 785-457-3319.

For the record, let me say that I am not an unbiased observer. Bruce is an old friend, and I plan to provide entertainment at the benefit too.

As for Bruce's family, they are heroes. Wyatt and Hannah were very brave and helped their father in a time of need. Back in school, Wyatt told his music teacher that he was looking forward to Christmas this year, but it wasn't for the usual reasons. Wyatt said, "The doctors say my daddy will be standing by then."

Bobbie and Bruce's sister Kim are providing Bruce good care, along with his parents. Bobbie says, "The hand of God was in this. It's unusual for the neighbors to even be home at that hour, and the hospital provided wonderful care. The kids were great, and we can't count all the blessings and kindnesses we've received."

Where do you go for help? I believe help is found in faith and family, and in the response from friends and neighbors in rural America. We salute Bruce Fouts for his commitment to his family and rural life, and we commend the Fouts family and their community for making a difference with their support. In the words of an ancient prophet, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help."

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

Buck Rowland

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 courtroom in Wichita. One of the attorneys is wearing a sharp-looking, custom-made, hand-designed pair of leather suspenders. And where would you think that these leather suspenders came from? Would you believe, a cowboy craftsman in the corner of Kansas? It's a long way from cowboy crafts to the courthouse, but this rural business has made the trip. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Buck Rowland, the owner of Buckaroos Saddle and Tack in Arma, Kansas. Arma is a town of 1,504 people. That's rural - but there's more.

Buck Rowland was born in Pittsburg and raised in southeast Kansas. He spent lots of time on his grandparents farm and found that he loved the outdoors. Buck learned to ride horses, work cattle, hunt and fish and trap. He worked as a cowboy and also learned to cut hair. After high school in Arma, he became a licensed barber at a school in Wichita before going to the U.S. Army in 1969.

When he got out of the Army, Buck went back to his work of cowboying and barbering in a rural setting. Buck says, "I got out of the Army on a Friday and on Tuesday, I was looking for a horse trailer and I met a man who had a colt for sale. I bought that colt, trained him, and rode him for the next 20 years."

Buck set up a barber shop and tack store in the southern Flint Hills town of Edna, population 418 people. Now, that's rural. From this location, he was able to work as both a cowboy and a barber, and also do some fur trapping. He ran a 50 mile trap line, getting up at 4 a.m. to check traps, working all day till dark, and then staying up half the night skinning and scraping hides. Buck says with a smile, "That's young man's work."

Next door to his business was a hardware store with some old sewing machines and shoe repair equipment. Buck says, "The lady who owned the hardware store would let me go in there and work with those old machines." He started doing repair work on his own leather goods and tack, and then repairing things for other people. An older man came to help him and taught him about working with leather.

Because of his interest in trapping, Buck went to a trapper's convention in Kentucky one year. He says, "There was a big mountain man camp there, with people throwin' tomahawks and doing all kinds of outdoor things." It looked like fun, so Buck got involved in mountain man reenactments. He traveled to black powder rendezvous in Colorado, New Mexico, and Missouri and participated in mountain man events that were so authentic that only clothing and equipment of early 1800s design was allowed. Buck says, "You couldn't bring a match." He also got involved in trapshooting. One year he won third place at the amateur trapshooting association national meet.

Back in Arma, Buck acquired better equipment and grew his leather products business. He had the advantage of knowing first hand what cowboys and outdoorsmen needed and he knew about working with hides and skins. Buck started to design leather goods of his own. Today, Buckaroo's Saddle and Tack does leather repair and offers a full line of western tack, plus old west reproductions of clothing and equipment.

Buck designs and creates custom made leather goods of all kinds, from jackets to chaps to quivers to holsters to headstalls. He sells his products plus an extensive inventory of related goods at some 20 trade shows each year, in Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. Buck says, "If it's made out of leather, we've probably made it." He says, "For me, a highlight is when you make something that looks good and people really appreciate it when they buy it." Buck can be contacted at 620-347-4602.

It's time to leave this courtroom in Wichita, where an attorney sports a beautiful set of leather suspenders, handmade at Buckaroo's Saddle and Tack. We commend Buck Rowland for making a difference with his hard work and craftsmanship in a lifetime of leather.

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

Chuck Banks - Community Development Academy

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

Change. It's all around us. In Kansas, rural communities have seen changes due to outmigration and brain drain. Fort Riley has seen dramatic growth and Greensburg has seen dramatic devastation. Each one of these is going through change - in strikingly different forms - and each one is also part of a special training program for rural citizens being lead by USDA Rural Development. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Chuck Banks, State Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Kansas. Several years ago, Chuck initiated a special training program, now called the Community Development Academy.

This all began with Chuck's deep concern with the future of rural Kansas. He grew up on a farm near Wamego, attended K-State and went into banking. He then became a Congressional staff member in Kansas for Senator Pat Roberts and dealt with people in aging and depopulating rural towns.

Chuck says, "I would have people calling me all the time to say they wanted to do something for their communities but they didn't know where to start." When he was appointed by President Bush as State Director for Rural Development, he sought to provide training to help those people.

Chuck says, "Enhancing community and economic development is essential for the revitalization and continued sustainable growth of our rural areas. The need to provide more training to a new generation of rural leaders is essential." So Chuck's staff organized a training program in 2003 for community leaders and USDA staff and partners. They brought together the best elements of the University of Missouri's Community Development Academy, Cornell's advanced community development training course, and K-State Research and Extension. The training focused on truly rural communities, many of which are struggling with outmigration.

The program was titled Grassroots Community Development, because it was targeted to local leaders and their USDA partners. As Chuck says, "Our agency offers excellent tools, but the initiative must come from the grassroots level."

Grassroots leaders came to the training from all corners of the state and communities large and small, including such rural places as Quinter, population 937 people, and Pretty Prairie, population 610. Now, that's rural.

The training was so successful that it was repeated the two following years. Chuck says, "Then we were hearing from communities that were dealing with growth opportunities, such as in the Fort Riley region."

So in 2006, the training was adjusted to fit these needs. USDA Rural Development partnered with K-State Research and Extension and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka to put on a Community Development Academy for communities in the Fort Riley region. Again, it was very successful.

Now, these same partners plus the Kansas Department of Commerce are offering another round of the Community Development Academy for south central Kansas. This academy will be offered for the 18 counties of the south central Kansas region, plus Greensburg because of the devastation that community has suffered. The academy, offered in three one-day sessions in July 2007, is an excellent learning opportunity.

I am not an unbiased observer on this topic, having helped plan or present some parts of these programs. By Chuck's estimate, including three rounds of grassroots training plus Fort Riley, some 450 community leaders and USDA staff have participated in the training. He says, "Our goal is to provide program participants the training to recognize the many assets and opportunities within their communities and local regions, to achieve the goal of enhanced quality of life and improved prosperity for rural America."

For information on the 2007 session, contact the Federal Home Loan Bank at 866-571-8155.

Change. It is all around us, affecting everyone from rural communities to Fort Riley to Greensburg. Each of these is experiencing change and each can benefit from this training. We commend Chuck Banks, USDA Rural Development, Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, Kansas Department of Commerce, and K-State Research and Extension for making a difference by conducting this Community Development Academy. Managing change is vital, whether it is outmigration of residents or inmigration of troops, and we're thankful that these communities have tools to help. After all, the only constant is change.

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

Cindy Hiesterman - Our Daily Bread

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

"Get real." That sounds like something my teenage daughter would say, but in this case, it means to find something genuine and authentic. Today we'll learn about a real family baking enterprise in rural Kansas with genuine great cooking and small town hospitality. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Cindy Hiesterman, co-owner of Our Daily Bread Bake Shoppe and Bistro in Barnes, Kansas. Cindy explains that her folks, the Drebes family, lived on the dh Ranch south of Barnes. She says, "My sisters loved to bake. I loved coming in to the house and finding that the whole counter was full of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls."

Those baking skills would come in handy. In 2001, Cindy's sisters opened a bake shop in their mother's converted two-car garage. It was a family enterprise, consisting of their mother and four daughters and a husband and son. The five ladies called themselves the five loaves and the men the two fish, as in the Biblical story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with two fish and five loaves of bread. The business was called Our Daily Bread Bake Shoppe and they did feed the multitudes.

In fact, Cindy says, "Within a year, there were tour busses stopping outside the bake shop and they were putting people around my mother's table." So the family moved the bake shop to a large historic building in downtown Barnes.

Today, that historic 1906 vintage building is the home of Our Daily Bread Bake Shoppe and Bistro. It has the original ornate pressed tin ceiling and 13 foot windows.

One day a customer came in and said that all he wanted was a soup and sandwich. This lead the family to open the bistro for lunch adjacent to the bake shop. Now lunch is served there every day of the week except Sunday. The bistro is open in the evenings by appointment or for special event dinners. They also offer fabulous desserts.

Baked goods are prepared by order in advance. They are sold locally but thanks to technology and word of mouth, their baked goods are also being shipped from coast to coast. Cindy says, "I felt the best way to expand our market would be through the Internet, so I set up a website and produce the newsletter." She says with a laugh, "That's my skill. They don't let me cook."

In truth, Cindy is an excellent cook, but the family members do bring complementary skills to the enterprise. For example, Connie loves to bake while Cindy does the books. The business website is www.our-dailybread.com.

All this is being done from the rural community of Barnes, Kansas, population 148 people. Now, that's rural.

In the bistro, there isn't just a lunch special. There are usually four or five lunch specials, such as chicken cordon bleu, turkey tetrazinni, beef stroganoff (with black Angus beef from the dh Ranch), hot chicken salad, delicious side choices and more. All the food at Our Daily Bread is handmade from scratch with no preservatives.

Such authenticity is all too rare in our modern fast-food world. One day in 2005, a couple named Anna and Nicholas stopped into the bake shoppe. Cindy asked where they were from, and they answered with a heavy accent that they were from Sweden. She thought it was a joke but they told her it was not. "Oh," she said, "You're originally from Sweden and now living in the U.S." No again.

Cindy asked, "So how did you get here?" They said, "Well, we got on the plane in Sweden..." It turns out they had flown from Sweden to Omaha, rented a car, and started driving. Cindy said, "What were you looking for?" They spread their hands open wide and replied, "What you have here."

"Get real." Yes, here in Barnes, people can come all the way from Sweden to find a genuine small town experience with the finest in handmade foods. We commend Cindy and all the members of the Drebes family for having the culinary skills and family togetherness to make a difference in their community. When it comes to rural Kansas, it's the real thing.

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

Connie Miller - Cimarron River Company

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

The store next door. It could be any kind of retail establishment, but you know it is handy and convenient if it's right next door. Today we'll meet a remarkable Kansas company which is using the technology of the Internet to be the store next door for almost anyone. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Connie Miller, owner of Cimarron River Company which sells beautiful Native American Indian jewelry, clothing and accessories.

Connie Miller and her husband are ranchers in New Mexico and southwest Kansas. In 2003, their daughter-in-law Kim was selling palm leaf cowboy hats - said to be the greatest working cowboy's hats - at a rodeo. Connie decided to give Kim a hand, so she found a small line of jewelry which she could sell as well. The response was so excellent that Connie and Kim eventually launched their own business. It is called the Cimarron River Company, named for their area of southwest Kansas.

Connie is originally from Texas, but she married a lifelong Kansan. She and her husband love turquoise, that beautiful stone which is typically made into southwestern jewelry. Handmade turquoise jewelry quickly became the company's focal point. In 2005, Connie became sole owner of Cimarron River Company.

Connie says, "I am an admirer and collector of turquoise, and we enjoy selling turquoise jewelry made by Native American Indians." The jewelry is purchased from Arizona and New Mexico. Connie has expanded the product line over time to include many one of a kind jewelry pieces. She says, "The business blossomed."

Today, Cimarron River Company offers a wonderful collection of top quality Native American Indian jewelry and accessories. The company offers concho belts, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, purses, fashions, furs, specialty gifts, baby gifts, home decor, cowboy gear, and hand-crafted Zuni fetishes. Wow.

Connie explains that the Zuni fetishes are tiny animal carvings hand-carved out of stone, primarily, and signed by the Zuni Indian craftsmen who make them. She says the Indians carry them for good luck and these little figures are really cute. Connie says, "A lot of our things are one-of-a-kind." That applies to the jewelry as well as the fetishes.

The Cimarron River Company advertises in the national magazine Cowboys and Indians and a brand new online magazine Contemporary Western Design. In spring 2007, its products were highlighted in the spring fashion feature of American Cowboy magazine.

Connie says, "We try to find unusual items that people will enjoy. We love what we do." It seems to me that Connie has an awful lot of fun, shopping for attractive items and helping customers. Connie offers her products through a hometown retail outlet in partnership with a local artist, along with online sales. Kim designed the business website, which has been fundamental to their success. Connie says, "It makes us the store next door. A lot of people find us on the Internet and then call."

Of course, I worry about the impact of Internet sales on local retail businesses which really are next door. In Connie's case, there's no problem because the products she sells are virtually unique and certainly not available in her hometown, other than through her business.

Connie has sent items from coast to coast. She has literally sent furs to Florida and shirts from California and Canada to New Hampshire, with inquiries from as far away as Belgium. Not bad for a company based outside of Satanta, Kansas, population 1,222 people. Now, that's

Connie says with a smile, "We get lots of calls from husbands around Christmas and their wife's birthday time, and we help them get out of the doghouse with a nice gift." She says, "We care about whether it fits or if the necklace is right. We get to meet a lot of wonderful people and we guarantee every item we sell." For more information, go to www.cimarronrivercompany.com.

The store next door - or at least, as close as your computer. We commend Connie Miller and the Cimarron River Company for making a difference with their creativity, good taste, and innovation in bringing their products to customers across the country. With such entrepreneurs, rural Kansas has even better things in store.

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

Dave Breiner family - Mill Creek Ranch

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

Black...White. It's that simple. Well, most things aren't that simple these days, but it is true that in the cattle breeding business, there are traits associated with the colors of cattle breeds. Black Angus, for example, are known for good meat quality, and white-faced Herefords are known for being hardy and efficient. Today we'll meet a cattleman and his family who are looking to combine the best of both breeds in producing high quality, high performance seedstock for beef producers. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Dave and Diane Breiner of Mill Creek Ranch near Alma, Kansas. Dave grew up on an Angus farm near Norton in northwest Kansas. After graduating from K-State, he became manager of the Mill Creek Ranch in Wabaunsee County. Over time, he bought into the ownership of the ranch.

The Breiners raise white-faced Herefords at Mill Creek Ranch. In the early 1990s they brought the Angus herd from Dave's parents place at Norton. But even before that, they had been working on creating an excellent crossbreeding program. In 1985, they added some selected Gelbvieh cows. They continue to maintain herds of Herefords, Angus, and Gelbvieh.

Dave says, "It's our main goal to provide our customers with cattle that excel in many areas, including performance, eye appeal, maternal ability, udder quality, and carcass merit."

The fundamental building block which Mill Creek Ranch has used is the cross between their black Angus and white-faced Herefords. The result of this cross is a black, white-faced cow.

Dave says, "The black white-faced female is the best crossbred cow in the country. It's been proven through the years." This is an example of hybrid vigor, or heterosis as it is called.

The Breiners tell customers, "We believe that the Angus and Hereford breeds are the answer to your cross-breeding needs. By combining the two largest English breeds in the world, you will be able to use their large genetic databases to make the most informed decisions possible."

Raising the best beef cattle is a high-tech business these days. The Breiners maintain meticulous herd records with EPDs, which is short for expected progeny differences. EPDs are a scientific way of predicting the desired traits which are likely to be passed down from a given bull or cow.

In addition to breeding stock, Mill Creek Ranch also offers bull semen and fertilized embryos for embryo transfer programs. In late February they have a production sale of their top bulls and heifers. Dave says, "Our program is designed to supply the industry with progressive genetics that meet the needs of both the purebred and commercial cattleman."

Mill Creek Ranch is truly a family operation in a rural setting. Son Chad lives at the ranch, where he is the Mill Creek cow herd manager and his wife works with an orthopedics company. Son Clay is a veterinarian and embryo transfer technician in Wamego, where he is married to an equine veterinarian. Son Ryan is the manager of the Purebred Beef Barn at K-State and married to a graduate student. Daughter Ashley is a loan officer in Ellsworth and is married to a young rancher there.

Mill Creek Ranch is located in southern Wabaunsee County. In fact, Mill Creek township has a population of 296 people. Now, that's rural.

This rural Flint Hills setting is a wonderful place for producing topflight cattle, noted for producing increased efficiency in the cowherd and feedlot as well as value in the meat case and champions in the showring. Mill Creek Ranch has sold cattle into most states in the Union, from Washington to West Virginia. For more information, go to www.millcreekranch.com.

Black...White. It's that simple. This phrase is one of the slogans of Mill Creek Ranch, reflecting the plain truth that a black Angus - white-faced Hereford cross is one of the best crossbreeding patterns for beef producers. We commend Dave and Diane Breiner and all their family for making a difference with their hard work and commitment to quality. Their goal is to offer the best cattle for their customers. That goal is as simple as black and white.

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

Dave Mugler

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

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." That statement makes me think of Dr. David Mugler, a longtime higher education leader from rural Kansas whose caring attitude had a sweeping impact on thousands of students – including me. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Dr. David Mugler, who retired in 1998 as Associate Dean of Agriculture and Director of Academic Programs for the K-State College of Agriculture. Dr. Mugler was always known for caring about students.

Dave Mugler grew up on farm in Clay County near Oak Hill, Kansas, population 35 people. Now, that's rural.

He earned a bachelors degree in agricultural education from K-State and a masters at Wisconsin. He taught agriculture in Salina and then came back to K-State as a faculty member, earned his Ph.D. and worked his way up to become Associate Dean in 1981. He served as President of Faculty Senate, was Blue Key advisor for 20 years, and won numerous teaching awards.

For example, in 1972 he was honored by the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture. His letters of recommendation spoke of his "genuine concern to not only teach knowledge from a text, but to incorporate a personal interest in challenging each student." Another wrote, "It is his out-of-class interest in his students that further sets him apart."

When Dr. Mugler retired, he began a Bible study for student leaders in his home. He was already very active in his church, the Gideons organization, and the Fellowship of Christian Farmers. Dave and his wonderful wife Lois were enjoying their family time with grandchildren.

Then came September 23, 2006. Dave was watching the K-State football game on television when he felt a shock in his chest. He called for Lois and she said, "We're calling 911." Dave says he doesn't remember this, but he walked to the ambulance.

At the hospital they ran a battery of tests and found nothing wrong. Their son Mark, who had come to the hospital by this time, is a medical first responder himself. Mark said, "Run one more test on his heart." When the technician ran the dye test, he turned white. He saw what had been undetected in the earlier tests: Dr. Mugler had a torn aorta, which could break at any time and he could bleed to death in 30 seconds.

The technician said, "This man needs surgery immediately." He located a heart surgeon in Wichita and arranged for a helicopter life flight there. Dr. Mugler says with a smile, "They put me in the helicopter but they wouldn't even fly over the stadium so I could see the game."

Thirty minutes later they were in Wichita where Dr. Mugler was prepared for surgery. The surgeon opened his chest cavity and then it happened: The aorta broke. One man told me that if it had happened one minute sooner, Dr. Mugler wouldn't have made it. But the surgeon acted quickly and saved his life. Eight hours of surgery ensued.

Still, the damage to the aorta took its toll. Dave suffered three strokes and the doctors worried that he might have suffered irreparable brain damage. He did not regain consciousness properly after the surgery, and for two long weeks he was in a coma and on life support.

But Lois and the family kept a vigil and people all over the country were praying for him. After 14 days he started to awaken. He eventually regained his breathing and brain function. Now he is back in his home in Manhattan with Lois, where he is undergoing physical therapy and is happy and healthy like his old self. In my opinion, it is a modern miracle.

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." How fitting that this phrase had been on display in Dr. Mugler's office. We're thankful Dr. David Mugler made a difference in the lives of a whole generation of students with his knowledge and caring, and we're grateful for his new lease on life. On behalf of all his former students, we want him to know how much we care.

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

David Coltrain - Rush County First Impressions

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

"That's not the way we've always done it." This familiar phrase might be known as the Bureaucrat's Lament. It is a common reaction among many of us when we are faced with change in the way we do things. Today we'll learn about a rural county which has been a pioneer in implementing a new version of a community betterment program. No, it's not the way we've always done it, but it has enabled this program to break new ground. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet David Coltrain, the ag extension agent in the Walnut Creek District of K-State Research and Extension. That district includes Rush, Ness, and Lane Counties.

In fall 2006, David Coltrain approached me with a question: Would it be possible to have the First Impressions program done for the entire county of Rush County?

As background, let me explain that First Impressions is a community betterment program sponsored by the Huck Boyd Institute for Rural Development and K-State Research and Extension. It originated in Wisconsin in 1992 and is now offered through extension all across the country. In Kansas, the program is coordinated by the Huck Boyd Institute at K-State.

The purpose of First Impressions is to provide an outsider's perspective on a community. After a community signs up to participate, we organize teams of out-of-town visitors to go into that community unannounced at different times over a period of a few weeks. There are three teams of two people each.

Each team of visitors will interact with the community as if they are tourists, passersby, or prospective residents or business owners. They will sight-see, buy gas, ask for directions, eat lunch, window shop, ask about the community, and generally look over the town and visit with people informally.

Each team then fills out a questionnaire which records their first impressions of the town in several dimensions: Cleanliness, hospitality, appearance, infrastructure, signage, recreation opportunities, housing, and more. It is not a statistical measurement of those factors, but rather their first blush reaction of how these appeared to them as visitors. These written impressions are compiled into a single report which is presented at a public meeting, along with slide photos of various elements around the community.

Such an outsider's perspective can be quite useful for a community. A fresh set of eyes can notice things which the locals take for granted. The outsiders can call attention to things which need improving. That is part of why this program has been in demand through the years, but it has always been done one town at a time.

So when extension agent David Coltrain contacted us about First Impressions for an entire county, our first reaction was the classic: That's not the way we've always done it. Besides, there are logistical challenges in trying to cover a whole county.

But David made the case that Rush County is trying to work county-wide. He said, "The residents of Rush County emphasize that they want to include all the communities." After all, in the small rural counties it takes all the people pulling together to reach a critical mass. And Rush County is truly rural. Its largest town is La Crosse with 1,346 people and the smallest is Alexander, population 73 people. Now, that's rural.

So we gave it a try. A First Impressions New Generations work group was organized to help with the project, and in December 2006, the results were presented in Rush County. David Coltrain says, "We had a good turnout at the public meeting, including two county commissioners and two city commissioners. The residents are enthusiastic about making community improvements." He says, "We have to work together as a county if we're going to accomplish anything."

"But that's not the way we've always done it." Fortunately, Rush County was able to overcome that bureaucratic reaction and implement a new version of this program. We commend David Coltrain and the people of Rush County for making a difference by pioneering this new approach. That's not the way we've always done it, but in Rush County, they found a way to do it even better.

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

Don Walsh - Marcon Pies

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Two travelers from Alaska are making their annual pilgrimage, so let´s join them. This pilgrimage is not going to Mecca, it´s going to Marcon. What is Marcon? Some might call it a little slice of heaven on earth. Marcon is the name of a wonderful specialty pie company that is located in rural Kansas. The pies from this company are so terrific that visitors come to Marcon Pies from all over, including one set of visitors which visits each year, all the way from Alaska. It´s today´s Kansas Profile.

Meet Don Walsh, owner of Marcon Pies. He told us the story of this remarkable rural business.

It all started with two ladies named Marilyn Hanshaw and Connie Allen at Washington, Kansas. Washington is the county seat of Washington County, located north of Manhattan along Highway 36.

One day back in 1982, a local auctioneer asked Marilyn and Connie to serve lunch at one of his auctions. It went so well that the women did it again. The demand grew so much that they went into a catering business together. From their first names, Marilyn and Connie, they named the company Marcon.

As their catering business grew, they found they were dissatisfied with the storebought pies that they could find, so they started making pies themselves. The homemade pies they served became so popular that making them turned into a business in itself.

Marilyn says, "When our houses became filled with wall-to-wall pies, we opened a bakery in town." They started making and distributing a variety of wonderful fresh and frozen pies. Don Walsh bought the business from the two ladies in 2002, and they still come in to help.

Marcon Pies now employs around 20 people. The highest demand for pies, as one might expect, is around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

MarCon sells their pies fresh, baked frozen, and unbaked frozen. Most fruit pies are available with no sugar added and any fruit pie may be made into a 'crunch´ pie except pumpkin, sweet potato and mince. MarCon also sells pies for fundraisers for schools, churches, and other organizations.

The company slogan is A Little Slice of Heaven. Currently, Marcon Pies offers more than sixty flavors of pies, including all kinds of fruit pies, crunch pies, specialty pies, creme pies, cheesecakes, and nut pies. These include the classics such as apple and pecan, plus interesting types like cherry chocolate cheesecake and chocolate crème peanut butter. Specialty pie flavors, for example, include Boston Crème, Chocolate Mousse, Custard, French Apple, French Silk, Key Lime, Mincemeat, and Millionaire. Mmmm. Pardon me while I wipe the drool off my chin... A slice of those does indeed sound heavenly.

Today, Marcon Pies produces more than 60 types of fresh pies, sells them in their local retail outlet, and distributes them within a 150 mile radius. The pies are distributed along 11 routes in Nebraska and Kansas, including Kansas City. They also ship pies and these have gone all over America, from coast to coast. Don Walsh says, "We´ve shipped pies to almost every state."

There are also the visitors who have come to visit Marcon Pies. These have come from New York to California and as far away as Germany. As mentioned at the beginning, one visitor comes through each year from Alaska and always stops to buy some pies. Not bad for a company based in Washington, Kansas, population 1,197 people. Now, that´s rural.

How exciting to find these cooks and entrepreneurs having success in a rural setting. For more information, go to www.marconpies.com.

It´s time for the annual pilgrimage to end. No, it's not a pilgrimage to Mecca, but rather to Marcon. We´ve been joining these folks from Alaska who are making their annual trip to stop in at Marcon Pies in Washington, Kansas, for a little slice of heaven. We salute Don Walsh, Marilyn Hanshaw, Connie Allen and all the people of Marcon Pies for helping this rural-based business to grow. Now my pilgrimage is over. I´m very glad to find this business in rural Kansas, any way you slice it.

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

Ed McKechnie - Watco

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

What do Idaho potatoes, Alabama paper, Kansas wheat, Pennsylvania steel, Montana timber, and Oklahoma oil have in common? The answer is, they and many more types of commodities are all transported on short-line railroads. Specifically, they are all transported on railroads that are part of a business known as Watco Companies. And would you believe that this far-flung transportation company is headquartered in Pittsburg, Kansas? The story of this remarkable company is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Ed McKechnie, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Watco. Ed told us the story of this amazing business.

Watco Companies began in 1983. The company's founder, Dick Webb, was based in Pittsburg, Kansas but had an opportunity to run a railroad switching operation in Louisiana. Ed McKechnie says, "He mortgaged his house, bought a locomotive, and ran the business from his kitchen table." Five men joined him to get the business started. Two years later, the six men opened a railroad car repair facility in Coffeyville which led to the purchase of a shortline railroad in 1987, and the company has continued to grow.

Ed McKechnie says, "It's not like we have a specific growth strategy, but we are very committed to focusing on our customers. When we focus on the customers' needs, the company's growth has taken care of itself."

Watco Companies now operates sixteen railroads serving fifteen states. Watco also has 12 mechanical shops, 19 mobile repair shops, four locomotive repair locations, an intermodal operation, three warehouses, and 19 switching locations.

The scope of this business is remarkable. Its shortline railroads can be found in Idaho, Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Montana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, North Dakota, and - oh yes - Kansas. In addition to eight other railcar shop locations in other states, Watco has shops in Coffeyville, Junction City, Neodesha and Pittsburg. Watco even has an industrial park in the Houston shipping channel.

Of course, this transportation service is very important to the urban and rural communities which it serves. For example, the Kaw River Railroad serves urban industries in Kansas City and Wyandotte County. On the other end of the spectrum, the hub for the South Kansas and Oklahoma railroad is based in the rural community of Cherryvale, Kansas, population 2,339 people. Now, that's rural.

What's more, the short-line railroads owned by Watco have come to play a crucial role in the transport of certain commodities. For example, Ed McKechnie says, "We carry half the potato crop out of Idaho. In Montana, we're the largest originator of wood to the BNSF."

Not bad for a company based down in the corner of Kansas. Founder Dick Webb is Chairman of the Board and his son Rick is CEO. More information about the company can be found online at www.watcocompanies.com.

So what are the keys to the success of this remarkable company? Ed says, "We value simplicity, focusing on quality and meeting the customer's needs every day." He says, "Like Sam Walton, we want repeat customers so we want to offer a good value daily, and we'll earn more over time." As the Watco website states, the company's goal is to provide their customers with the right car at the right time, in the right condition and at the right price.

Ed says, "This company really started with six guys and a vision to focus on the customer." Today, that business which began with six men now employs more than 1,800 people. Wow.

K-State President Jon Wefald has had the opportunity to work with Ed McKechnie. He observes, "This is a rags to riches story. It is an impressive example of how people in small towns can work hard and make their dreams come true."

So what do Idaho potatoes, Alabama paper, Kansas wheat, Pennsylvania steel, Montana timber, and Oklahoma oil have in common? The answer is, they ride on the railroad – specifically, the short-line railroads operated by Watco Companies. We salute founder Dick Webb, Ed McKechnie, and all those who are part of Watco Companies today, for making a difference with a focus on the customer. Such a focus will definitely keep this Kansas company on track.

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

Emily Hunter - Symphony in the Flint Hills

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

The song of a meadowlark. The cry of a hawk. The distant lowing of a cow and the gentle swish of the Kansas breeze rustling through the tall prairie grass, with scenic hills rolling into the distance. Taken together, it is a sort of symphony of nature in the Flint Hills. Now these Flint Hills are serving as the stage for another type of symphony – an actual Symphony, complete with world-class musicians, instruments, and conductor, yet still with those pastoral hills as a backdrop. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Emily Hunter, coordinator for the 2007 Symphony in the Flint Hills. She explains that the inspiration for this event is a special birthday party put on by rancher Jane Koger back in the 1990s. Jane wanted to do something unique for her 40th birthday, so she had on an orchestra performance in her ranch pasture and invited the neighbors. It was quite a happening.

In the following years a group of volunteer leaders came together to put on a similar event for the entire region: A Symphony in the Flint Hills. They organized committees and a volunteer board of directors. They brought Emily Hunter on board to serve as event coordinator. She set up her office in the rural, Flint Hills community of Strong City, population 585 people. Now, that's rural.

After years of planning and work, the First Annual Symphony in the Flint Hills was held in 2006. It featured a performance by the Kansas City Symphony in a natural ampitheatre nestled in the hills of Chase County. The audience response was tremendous.

The board committed to move the event around the region each year. As Emily says, "The Flint Hills have many faces." In 2007, the second annual Symphony in the Flint Hills will be held in Wabaunsee County. It promises to be even bigger.

Emily says, "This is a three-fold event: The landscape, the music, and education. We want to educate people about the natural and cultural heritage of the Flint Hills region."

Emily and the Board care deeply about the Flint Hills and its history. Emily says, "People talk about the ancient redwoods in California. They've been there for 3,500 years. But the grass has been here for 8,000 years. And this remaining tallgrass prairie is unique on this continent."

Emily says, "There's wonderful wisdom in the Flint Hills. Long time ranchers have a saying, 'If you take care of the grass, it will take care of you.'"

She says, "Experienced people in the Flint Hills say there are three essential elements for the prairie ecosystem to survive. One is the grass itself. The second is grazing animals, which originally were buffalo and now are cattle. People truck in 100,000 head of cattle each summer to graze on these hills. The third element is fire, which must happen to burn off the hills or invasive species (read "cedar trees") will take over."

Educational and experiential opportunities will be provided prior to the symphony, which takes place on Saturday, June 16, 2007. At 6:30 p.m., the concert begins, with comments from the Governor and then the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra performing works by Aaron Copland and others.

Interest in this event is so high that the general admission tickets for this year's performance sold out in an incredible 24 hours. Wow. VIP patron tickets and sponsorship opportunities are still available.

Emily says, "This is a highly collaborative event." Last year, there were more than 400 volunteers from 53 towns in seven states. Reservations to attend this year's event have come in from coast to coast and from Florida to Alaska. For more information, go to www.symphonyintheflinthills.org.

The song of the meadowlark, the cry of the hawk, and the distant rolling hills will be joined with an actual symphony of music and 5,000 visitors in this incredible event in June 2007. We salute Emily Hunter and the Board of Symphony in the Flint Hills for making a difference with their creativity and initiative.

And there's more. We'll learn how Wabaunsee County is making the most of this opportunity on our next program.

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

Esther and Daniel Avila - Offerle

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

"It's time to move." That simple sentiment has caused lots of people to migrate. Throughout history, it has caused pioneers to engage in long and dangerous quests, driven by the desire to find something better for their children. Today we'll meet some modern-day pioneers who chose to make such a move, driven by that same motivation. They didn't have to cross a wilderness, but they did have to cross cultures. The story of how they are making their new home in rural Kansas is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Esther and Daniel Avila. They are natives of Mexico who have found their way to rural Kansas. Esther is a native of Mazatlan and Daniel is originally from Guadalajara. They married and moved to California, where Daniel became a locksmith and Esther found work in an international manufacturing business.

Esther and Daniel were living in LA. After their two daughters were born, they became interested in a better living environment for their girls. It was that classic sentiment: It's time to move.

Daniel had a cousin in Dodge City, so they decided to try living in Kansas. It was a culture shock, but they made the move. They settled in the southwest Kansas town of Offerle, which is between Dodge City and Great Bend.

Daniel established his own locksmith business, called Avila Locksmith. His shop is in the town of Kinsley, but his business is largely mobile.

Esther ended up buying and operating the café in Offerle. The café is now known as Offerle Tacos. As you might guess, and as is evident from the name, Mexican food is a specialty. But Esther says, "We try to have something for everyone. Each day we have a special, such as meat loaf, chicken alfredo, or fried chicken. And we serve breakfast all day." It's a wonderful example of a friendly small town café. Esther's helper, Melissa Butler, greets many customers by first name.

So what are Esther's impressions after coming halfway across the country to rural Kansas? Esther notes the kindliness and friendliness of the people. For example, Esther and her family were out driving in a van, looking for a house after they first arrived. She says, "In LA if you see a bunch of people crammed into a van, you think something bad is going on. But here people were waving at us."

They went to look at a house in Kinsley but couldn't find the address. After driving around town, Esther finally stopped at a store and went in to ask for help. The proprietor, a woman, looked at the address and said, "Oh, I know this lady. Let me close up the shop and I'll take you there." That probably wouldn't happen in LA.

The traffic is another difference between Kansas and California. In Offerle, Esther was taking her daughter to school and then driving 30 miles to another school where she could take an English as a second language class. When someone commented that she was spending a lot of time driving, Esther said, "Well, it's not like California where you might be stuck in traffic for two to three hours."

Another marked difference between California and Kansas is in housing values. Esther says that a house which cost $14,000 in Kansas might go for $400,000, depending on the location, in California.

Esther's two daughters and her seven year old niece who lives with them have adjusted to Kansas well. Esther says, "We are really, really happy with the schools here. There are smaller classes and more personal attention. There is more respect for elders, and the people here really take care of the kids." She says, "We have so nice people here. Everybody helps one to another."

"It's time to move." Through the centuries, that sentiment has driven people to seek a new life in a new place. We commend Esther and Daniel Avila for making a difference for their family by bringing them to a new home in rural Kansas. Let's make sure that our communities continue to be clean, safe, welcoming places for people to live. It's a move we need to make.

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

Jan Jantzen – Grandview Ranch – Flint Hills Adventures

This is Kansas Profile. I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
"Feel the burn." It's what the exercise leaders say as they put us through a vigorous round of exercises, burning the calories away. Today we'll meet someone who"feels the burn" in a different sense. He is an entrepreneur who is helping visitors literally feel the burn of the pasture burning season in the Kansas Flint Hills. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jan Jantzen, a Flint Hills entrepreneur and prairie naturalist. Jan grew up near Hill City where his family was in the cattle business. His career took him to higher education via the football field. He went to KU on a football scholarship where he played with Gale Sayers and then on to Southern Cal where there was a player named O.J. Simpson. Wow.

Jan embarked on a career in college administration. He was an administrator at Emporia State, among other places, and retired from Xavier University in Ohio. He came back to the Emporia area where he bought a local ranch.

After having friends over to the ranch, he realized people would pay for the opportunity to visit such a place. Today, Jan Jantzen's Grandview Ranch is home to Kansas Flint Hills Adventures which offers agritourism experiences in the scenic Flint Hills.

Kansas Flint Hills Adventures offers trail rides, range burning in season, interpretive tours of the prairie wildflowers and tallgrass prairie, and custom designed packages for families, companies, birdwatchers, hikers, painters, star gazers, and more.

Jan's ranch is located between Emporia and Strong City, not far from the town of Saffordville, population 14 people. Now, that's rural. The nearest town is ten miles by road and six miles by horseback.

Part of his tour includes a fantastic scenic view from a hilltop which Jan calls Oh-my-God-this-is-what-I-came-for Hill, because of the reaction which the vista evokes from his visitors. Jan has hosted people from Connecticut to Seattle and more than 10 foreign countries. Wow.

Recently he was hosting two guests from New York. Jan said, "What brings you out this way? Are you just passing through? Visiting family? Here for a conference in Kansas City?" His New York visitors said, "No, we're here to see you and the tallgrass prairie. We've read about the tallgrass prairie but we've never seen it. We read about you on your website and now we've come to experience it for ourselves."

So people are traveling halfway across the continent to Kansas to see the tallgrass prairie, yet it's an asset that people here in Kansas tend to take for granted.

Jan says, "I like to teach people about the Flint Hills. The emphasis is on fun and educational experiences which grow out of a deep respect for the land, plants, animals, and the rural traditions and people of the Flint Hills."

In mid-April, an annual Flames in the Flint Hills event is conducted so that visitors can experience this rangeburning first-hand. Participants are encouraged to bring cameras and rugged all-weather clothes and join in the burn. I thought this was a pretty slick way to get your pasture burned, but Jan says it is a true agritourism attraction.

This event offers several alternatives for great entertainment. Participants can stay at the Prairie Fire Inn and Spa in Strong City, have dinner at the Emma Chase café, tour the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, enjoy a covered wagon ride and campfire breakfast, watch vintage western movies and cartoons in the evening, and observe the mating dance of the prairie chicken, which Jan's brochure describes as an outdoor singles club for birds. Primarily, they can participate in both an afternoon and after dark burn, and can torch the prairie grass themselves under experienced supervision. For more information, go to www.kansasflinthillsadventures.com

Feel the burn, says the exercise leader. In this case, we can feel the burn of the prairie fire, as visitors experience the annual rite of rangeburning. We salute Jan Jantzen and all those involved with Flames in the Flint Hills for making a difference with this unique agritourism opportunity. Just as those flames help with the renewal of the tallgrass, so these events can help bring renewal to rural Kansas.

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

Jeffrey Thompson - Patent Attorney

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 hospital in Atlanta where a doctor is using an innovative medical device. The device is patented, of course, but where do you suppose the legal work was done to acquire that patent? Would you believe, a law firm out in the middle of rural Kansas? It's true - and we'll meet the young rural lawyer whose specialty is patent work on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jeffrey Thompson, a young patent attorney based in rural Kansas. He grew up near the north central Kansas town of Scandia in Republic County. After graduating from K-State in agricultural engineering, he joined the U.S. Patent Office in Washington D.C. as a patent examiner.

Jeffrey explains that, in simple terms, a patent is a legal document that defines an invention and its related property rights. His role as a patent examiner was to examine, evaluate and verify the legal claims on devices proposed by various inventors. Jeffrey's technical background in the engineering discipline made him well-suited for this position.

He worked four and a half years at the patent office, and in the meantime, decided to go to law school at night. I worked in Washington many years ago, and it seemed that lots of my coworkers were also going to law school at night. I don't think I could make it through law school in the day.

Anyway, Jeffrey happened to meet a young lady from Utah named Regine. Romance flourished and the two were married. Jeffrey attended George Washington University law school at night and, after graduation, joined a private law firm in D.C. as a registered patent attorney. Regine graduated from law school as well.

In 1997, as Jeffrey and Regine's young family was growing, they decided to move back to his hometown of Scandia, Kansas where the two set up the law firm of Thompson and Thompson. Regine now maintains a general law practice, dealing with estates and family disputes. Jeffrey specializes in patent, trademark, and copyright law.

Specifically, Jeffrey specializes in patent prosecution, which means getting patents for inventors, and - to a lesser degree - patent litigation, which means protecting patents from infringement. He has worked with all types of mechanical and electrical inventions as well as chemistry and business methods.

Because of his specialty, he is outside counsel with law firms in Washington D.C., New York, and California. Wow. Yet he remains based in the rural community of Scandia, Kansas, population 419 people. Now, that's rural.

How can an attorney in the middle of Kansas serve clients from coast to coast? Jeffrey says, "The only drawback is the inconvenience of not having an airport nearby. It's at least a three hour drive to the airport, but that is only needed occasionally." Jeffrey is using technology which enables him to be instantly linked with clients and the U.S. Patent Office.

He says, "We have high speed Internet, fax, and next day fed ex. It's as convenient as a law firm in downtown DC – no, it's more convenient, because our commute is seven minutes instead of the thirty minutes it would take them to go five miles."

Then he talks about the many plusses of having his practice where it is. He says, "There are many benefits, such as cost of living, less expensive real estate, low overhead, the advantage of working with your wife, and the comfort of knowing the people around you." This is important to their young family. Jeffrey and Regine have two sons, Jack who is nine and Dane who is five.

There are only a handful of registered patent attorneys in Kansas and most of those are clustered around Wichita and Kansas City. Jeffrey says with a smile, "We're the largest law firm in Republic County. That means we have two lawyers and everybody else has one."

It's time to leave Atlanta where we found an innovative device whose patent work was done by an attorney in Kansas. We salute Jeffrey Thompson for making a difference by finding a way to practice his specialty in his rural hometown. I believe the benefits of locating such enterprises in rural communities is patently obvious.

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

George Washington Carver

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

People may know that George Washington Carver was the famous African-American scientist who developed new uses for the peanut. People may not know that this brilliant scientist spent his formative years in Kansas. George Washington Carver had some of his best experiences in early education as well as his worst encounters with racism here in our state. Today, one of the top three museums of Carver memorabilia in the entire country is found right here in rural Kansas. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jettie Condray, curator of the Ottawa County Historical Museum in Minneapolis, Kansas. Jettie told us the remarkable story of George Washington Carver's life.

George Washington Carver's earliest life was filled with tragedy. He was born to a slave named Mary in southwest Missouri. His father, a slave on a neighboring farm, was killed in a log-hauling accident when George was a few months old.

Then marauders came through and captured Mary and the infant George and carried them to Arkansas. Moses Carver, the slaveowner, sent a man to recapture them. The man found George and brought him back. Mr. Carver gave the man a racehorse valued at $300, but Mary was never seen again.

The slaveowner and his wife raised George themselves. George was a sickly child, so instead of doing farm work, he did household chores and had the opportunity to explore the outdoors which he found fascinating.

George attended a local school for black children but found it limited, so he crossed the border to go to school in Fort Scott. After witnessing a brutal lynching of a black man, Carver fled to Olathe. He visited Paola and then traveled to the central Kansas town of Minneapolis, population 2,061 people. That's rural - but stay tuned.

Carver put down roots in Minneapolis. He joined the church and became a devout Christian and daily Bible reader. He worked his way through school and was reported to have "perfect deportment." A teacher named Miss Helen Eacker, who would later become the county's first female superintendent of schools, saw that Carver was very bright and encouraged him. He finished his high school requirements and applied to Highland College, where he was accepted by mail.

Then came another heart-wrenching moment. When Carver showed up at Highland in the fall, he was told, "Why didn't you tell us you are a Negro? We don't accept Negroes here." It has to be one of the worst losses for Kansas education in our history. In 1996, Highland issued an official apology and conferred an honorary associates degree upon Carver.

After being rejected by the college, Carver was devastated. Eventually he went west to homestead near the Ness County town of Beeler, an unincorporated town of perhaps 200 people. Now, that's rural. Again Carver did well, settling into the community and experimenting with plants. He went on to attend Simpson College in Iowa and then studied Botany at Iowa State, earned advanced degrees and joined the faculty.

Booker T. Washington recruited Carver to come to Tuskegee Institute where Carver spent the rest of his career. What a career it was. Carver developed some 500 uses of peanuts and sweet potatoes, testified before Congress, and pioneered educational methods for agricultural producers. He was honored by the Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Service, the Springarn Medal, British Royal Society for the Arts, and more. He was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans and had a nuclear submarine as well as college science buildings named in his honor. His epitaph reads, in part, "He found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world."

Because of his roots in Minneapolis, the Ottawa County Historical Museum has an extensive collection and display of Carver memorabilia - probably one of the top three in the entire country. It is an interesting depiction of a fascinating life.

So now you know. George Washington Carver, perhaps the most famous African-American scientist of all time, had roots in rural Kansas. We commend Jettie Condray and the Ottawa County Historical Museum for making a difference by preserving and presenting the history of this amazing American.

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

Jim Ferguson - Great American Outdoors Trails

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

As we drive along the interstate in Moab, Utah, an outdoors program comes on the radio, talking about hunting and fishing. The host of this program is deeply knowledgeable. He presents these topics in an especially entertaining way. He's based three states away, in rural Kansas. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jim Ferguson, founder and host of the Great American Outdoors Trails Radio Magazine. Jim is this Kansas-based outdoorsman and writer who has built a remarkable following for his broadcasts on hunting and fishing in the great outdoors.

Jim grew up enjoying outdoor activities in Michigan. He worked as an outdoor writer for 30 years and in 1999, moved to Colby, Kansas. Many outdoor magazines had published Jim's articles through the years, but by 2001, Jim thought there would be an opportunity to extend that information into radio.

He approached the manager of a radio station in a nearby town, but the manager was skeptical. Finally the manager said, "If you can get me 10 sponsors, then I'll put it on." Jim went to work and by the time of his first broadcast, he had 24 sponsors.

Jim's first broadcast aired on October 6, 2001. A year later a radio station in another nearby town decided to carry his program also. Jim says, "I figured I had just doubled the size of my network."

But that was only the beginning. Phillipsburg, Kansas became his next station and the network grew from there. Today, Jim Ferguson's Great American Outdoors Trails Radio Magazine is carried on 57 stations from Missouri to Utah. He estimates those stations reach some four million listeners. Wow.

In fact, a person could get on Interstate 70 at Lawrence and drive all the way to Moab, Utah, and listen to his program on stations all along the way.

Three things strike me about his award-winning programs. One is that they are very well done, as he writes from great depth and experience. Jim was a professional tournament fisherman fishing for several years, and has harvested 19 North American big game animals himself. Second, the program is humorous and family-oriented. Jim's son does the announcing in a light-hearted way and Jim's daughter-in-law does illustrations. Third, Jim is promoting the great outdoors which we have enjoyed throughout our history, yet he is also using the most modern tools of electronic communications.

For example, he found that his radio program could be made into a podcast. I thought a podcast was what someone throws away after shelling peas in their garden, but it is actually a digital sound file which can be played on a personal computer or a portable media player such as an Ipod.

So in addition to his regularly syndicated radio broadcast, Jim is doing customized podcasts. As of November, these will be distributed over the Internet to the members of the North American Hunting Club, North American Fishing Club, Ducks Unlimited, Gander Mountain, and Family Fish and Game Magazine. Those podcasts will reach nearly three million members across the country. Meanwhile, Jim remains based out in the country near Colby, Kansas, population 5,369 people. Now, that's rural.

Jim's stories include his harrowing tale of shooting a wounded brown bear which charged him in Alaska. Jim got the bear with the last shot in his gun, when the bear was within 20 steps of him. I hope not all his adventures are that exciting.

Whether Jim's technology is high tech or low, he continues to inform listeners of hunting and fishing techniques along with the latest in outdoor news, products, events, and attractions. His program is sponsored by Gander Mountain stores. Jim's company produces an annual fall hunting guide, and he works hard to promote outdoor recreation in Kansas. For more information, go to www.gaot - as in Great American Outdoors Trails - .net.

It's time to leave Moab, Utah, but we know that we can continue to enjoy Jim Ferguson's outdoor broadcasts all across central America. We commend Jim and his family for making a difference by celebrating the great outdoors while using the newest in technology. It's a high-tech way to enjoy huntin' and fishin.'

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

Jim Martino - Mall Deli

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

What is the secret ingredient of your recipe? Today we'll meet a restaurant manager who has a special secret ingredient that he is using to successfully manage his food business. But it's not something like 11 secret herbs and spices, this secret ingredient has to do with people. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Jim Martino, owner of the Mall Deli in Pittsburg, Kansas. Here is the story.

Jim's grandfather came from Italy. He worked in the coal mines of southeast Kansas and then moved to Chicago and started a family.

The Martino family had two sons who were auto mechanics. One of them happened to be working on a car for a special customer: Ray Kroc. Yes, the same Ray Kroc who built the McDonalds franchise system into a worldwide company. Ray Kroc got the Martino brothers started in the McDonalds hamburger business.

Jim Martino was just a kid when his family moved to Iowa to take over a McDonalds franchise. Jim says, "At age 12, I started making milkshakes." That was also when burgers and fries were 15 cents each. Jim learned the food service business first-hand, from the bottom up. He says, "I grew up flippin' burgers." But he also learned from his father's management and work ethic.
After college, Jim came to southeast Kansas where the family still had roots and worked with his brother's restaurant. Jim's goal was to have his own restaurant, but he was newly married without many resources.

Jim says, "I was looking for owner financing because I figured I couldn't get any bank to finance me." One day Jim saw an ad in the Pittsburg Morning Sun which said that a restaurant at the mall was for sale with possible owner financing. Those were the magic words. His Uncle Al helped with a downpayment and Jim and Diane Martino became the new owners of the Mall Deli.

The Mall Deli is a delicatessen located in the shopping mall at Pittsburg. It has the classic look of a diner, with red vinyl booths. Jim went to work to start building the business.

Jim says, "Our first day was December 1, 1979. What we did on that day, we now do in an hour. And what we did that first year, we now do in less than a month."

The restaurant is very popular, and Jim has turned down several offers to franchise his business. The Mall Deli menu offers regular and overstuffed sandwiches with five meats, eight cheeses, and eight breads. The bagels come from a bakery in Kansas City which has been making bagels for 102 years. Jim says, "Our bread costs a little more, but it's worth it."

So what is the secret ingredient of Jim's success? Jim says, "The secret ingredient is sincerity." He says, "Our mission is to provide consistently great food and consistently great service in a clean, inviting atmosphere. And we sincerely want to do that. I tell our staff, let's make sure these people have a great experience."

Folks say of the Mall Deli, "It's more than just a restaurant. It's a gathering place for all types of people." Jim says, "We have seniors, little kids, blue collar and white collar all eating together here. On the days after Christmas, we'll have lots of group hugs with people who are back for the holidays and remember this was where they used to go." He says, "It's not just about the food, it's about making people feel good."

Now Jim Martino has come full circle. Just as his grandfather had done, Jim and his wife are living in what had been an old, rural mining town. Jim and Diane live near Pittsburg in the unincorporated community of Chickopee, population 200 people. Now, that's rural. How wonderful to find this rural Kansas resident making his mark in the food business.

So what is your secret ingredient? No, not some old family recipe. I'm talking about the ingredients of caring and customer service which Jim Martino has used to make a difference at the Mall Deli. That emphasis on a great customer experience is a true recipe for success.

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

John Quinley - Land Pride

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

Let's go to Kentucky, to a thoroughbred horse farm owned by the King of Dubai, the third richest man in the world. As you might guess, this horse farm has hundreds of horses and thousands of acres of bluegrass. It is a constant task to keep that bluegrass mowed, and what do you suppose they use to do the mowing? Would you believe, a mower built out in the middle of Kansas? The mower is called Land Pride, and it's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet John Quinley, marketing director for Land Pride. Land Pride is a division of Great Plains Manufacturing, which we featured back in 1996. Great Plains Manufacturing was founded by Roy Applequist in 1976 to produce farm equipment. Roy Applequist is also a strong believer in the importance of developing new products.

In 1986, the company diversified its product offerings in an effort to balance the ebb and flow of the ag economy. The company started offering smaller implements and tractors suitable for lawn and landscape work. This new division of Great Plains Manufacturing was and is known as Land Pride.

Land Pride and Great Plains Manufacturing are based in and around Salina. That is, the company headquarters is in Salina, but production facilities are found in nearby rural towns. For example, Land Pride now has factories in the towns of Abilene, population 6,468; Enterprise, population 825; Lucas, population 427; and Kipp, population 75 people. Now, that's rural.

Kipp, in fact, was where Land Pride products were first produced. The factory in Kipp was in the old high school which had been converted to a grain drill factory before Land Pride products were produced there.

Today, Land Pride offers an extensive line of products for the homeowner, landscape contractor, or country resident. This equipment literally covers the alphabet from A to Z, from All-flex to Zero turn mowers. Other types of mowers offered by the company are flail mowers and grooming mowers. The equipment line also includes backhoes, box scrapers, core aerators, disc harrows, ditchers, hitches, landscape rakes, post hole diggers, power rakes, rear blades, single deck and folding rotary cutters, rotary tillers, scarifiers, seeders of various kinds, soil pulverizers, spreaders, straw crimpers, and more. In 2002, the company introduced a utility vehicle called the Treker.

Land Pride sells products from coast to coast - literally, in every state. There are even Land Pride dealers in Alaska. The company also exports equipment. John Quinley told me, "We loaded a container for Ireland yesterday." Land Pride products have gone as far away as Australia, Israel, and New Zealand.

John estimated that the first Land Pride factory in Kipp operated with about 25 people. Today, Land Pride employs some 350 people. In 2005, the Abilene facility had an addition built on to it which is valued at 5 million dollars. Wow.

John says, "We're a small town company in terms of the way we serve customers and treat our people, but we're state-of-the-art in terms of production." For example, the Abilene facility uses lasers and robotics in the production line. For more information, go to www.landpride.com.

The parent company, Great Plains Manufacturing, continues to do well also. Thanks to the company's innovation in constructing minimum tillage planters, by the early 1990s an estimated 40 percent of all no-till drills for planting cereal grains, soybeans, cotton and rice were Great Plains drills. The company has exported to nearly 40 countries since 1983 and currently has distributor/dealer representation in more 20 countries world-wide.

It's time to leave the bluegrass state of Kentucky. We've been visiting a thoroughbred horse farm, where Land Pride mowers from Kansas are utilized every day. The King of Dubai owns this beautiful horse farm, and Land Pride mowers help keep it beautiful. How exciting to find that this internationally known company is based in the heart of Kansas. We commend Roy Applequist, John Quinley, and all the people of Land Pride and Great Plains Manufacturing for making a difference with vision, hard work, and entrepreneurship. The fact that this is a local company which has grown up from the Kansas land gives me a lot of pride.

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

John Taylor - Deines Manufacturing

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

Let's go to Saskatoon, Sasketchewan, where the local joke is that they have 10 months of winter and two months of poor sledding. But during those fleeting months of summertime, the grass will grow and lawns need mowing. Here, for example, is a lawnmower at work. And where do you suppose that lawnmower was built? Would you believe, clear down in rural Kansas? It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet John Taylor, President and Owner of Deines Manufacturing Corporation in Ransom, Kansas. Deines Manufacturing produced that mower which went to Canada, yet the company is located in the rural community of Ransom.

Ransom is located in Ness County, in west central Kansas. It's a town of 326 people. It's also the hometown of NFL football star Nolan Cromwell.

Just like his company, John Taylor has rural roots. He grew up on a farm in Rooks County near the town of Woodston, population 114 people. Now, that's rural.

After graduation from Fort Hays State, John served in the Army and worked in financial services. In January 1976, he joined Deines Manufacturing in Ransom as a purchasing agent. Deines Manufacturing had been founded in 1970 by John Deines, who developed a new type of lawnmower. Mr. Deines' wife was named Martha Jean, so he called his lawnmower Marty J. That brand name continues to this day.

John Taylor rose to become general manager of the company and in 1990, he and three other stockholders bought it outright.

Innovation has been key to the success of the Marty J mower. Deines Manufacturing introduced a tilting front deck on its lawnmower which allows the deck to tilt 90 degrees for easier maintenance. Other innovations on various models include an electric deck lift; dependable, self-cooling, self-contained hydrostatic transmissions; an easily removable vacuum blower; eight bushel bag and 11 bushel dump box grass collection systems, snowblower, and snow blade.

Marty J mowers are sold through a network of dealers across the country. John Taylor says, "We have lots of repeat business." They particularly sell well in the High Plains, from Texas up into Canada and east. John says, "We sell our mowers primarily west of the Rocky Mountains, and we do a tremendous amount in Canada."

Asked why these mowers sell so well in Canada, John says, "Probably the people. And we have a good product." In fact, the company website describes their goal as striving to produce the finest commercial lawnmowers on the market. The website also explains that many of the company's employees have been with Deines for years, enabling the company to build the best value with high standards of workmanship.

John Taylor notes that the business has gotten increasingly competitive. In the past, there might have been a handful of companies making lawnmowers. Today, there are more than 60 companies in the business. John says, "It's a little like the automakers in Detroit. In the old days, all you had were the big three, but that's not the case any more." In fact, John attributes his company's staying power to tenacity. He says, "We keep at it every day."

In spite of all these challenges, Deines Manufacturing generates sales of 2.5 million dollars. Wow. How exciting to find a multimillion dollar company in rural Ransom, Kansas.

In fact, Ness County has a total population of 3,454 people or 3.2 persons per square mile, ranking 91st among Kansas counties.

What is John Taylor's perspective on life in rural Kansas? John says, "We're the best kept secret in the nation. I love it here. We have an extensive road system and a high quality of life."

For more information about Deines Manufacturing, go to www.marty-j.com.

It's time to say goodbye to Saskatoon, Sasketchewan. Yes, it can be cold and snowy in Canada, but when the summer comes and the grass grows, you can find Marty J riding lawnmowers at work and know that those lawnmowers came all the way from rural Kansas. We commend John Taylor and all the people of Deines Manufacturing in Ransom, Kansas for making a difference with entrepreneurship, innovation, and tenacity.

I think that snowblower will come in handy...

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

J. R. Dodson - Dodson International

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 down to the salvage yard and pick up some spare parts. No, not for a '67 Chevy, a Cessna 310 – as in an airplane. Hmm, you don't find those all over. Today, we'll meet a company with a specialty in aircraft parts. This is a truly international company in a truly rural setting. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet J. R. Dodson, owner and CEO of Dodson International. J. R. explains that his company is a high tech version of an auto salvage yard for airplanes.

In the early 1960s, J. R.'s father was a flight instructor in Kansas City. Mr. Dodson was trying to help his students so he started looking for new or used planes that his students could buy. In 1967, he started a business which still continues in buying and selling aircraft.

J. R. says, "I grew up at the airport." It became clear that there was a demand for parts for these aircraft as well. So in 1980 came the launch, so to speak, of a new company now known as Dodson International Parts Inc.

Dodson International acquires used aircraft or inventory and sells the parts. The process of going through used aircraft and harvesting and sorting out the good, useable parts for sale is called "parting out."

J. R. says, "I was the only person the company had back then, so I had to do everything. It was me that drove out and got the old airplanes, hauled them back, and parted them out myself." He says, "We began by parting out single engine Cessnas in an old hay barn at Ottawa."

The business grew. Then one year 120 acres came up for sale east of Ottawa, near where a retired pilot had built a grass airstrip. That airstrip made it a natural location to fly planes in and out, so the company bought the property and established their new headquarters there.

A few weeks ago, I was driving across Franklin County and took a shortcut down a county road. I came by a sign that said Dodson International and I thought someone was joking – kind of like the World Headquarters of my five acre farm. But I took a second look and saw that it really was a business location for an amazing company.

Today, Dodson International is a leading supplier of personal, corporate and commercial flying aircraft, in addition to aircraft and helicopter parts, all the way up to Boeing 747s. The company's Aircraft and Rotor Wing Part Division possesses one of the largest inventories of new and used name brand parts available anywhere in the world with more than 300,000 line items and five million parts. Inventory is searchable online. The company has more than 160,000 square feet of inside storage in large buildings and hangars. Beyond that, a visitor can see a large field packed with old airplane fuselages and other equipment.

It is a truly international business. Dodson International has brought in planes from Russia, Nepal, India, Turkey, China, and many more – literally every continent, including Antarctica. The guest book in the company headquarters shows recent visitors from Florida, Washington, Argentina, England and Brazil. Wow. Yet the company remains based in the field across from the old grass air strip in rural Franklin County, near the town of Rantoul, population 242 people. Now, that's rural. For more information, go to www.dodson.com.

What are the pros and cons of being here? J. R. says, "There's no restaurants within eight miles of our location and we don't have the option of making late night shipments, but we do have an outstanding environment in a beautiful quiet setting with lots of very good people with work ethic and high integrity."

So let's slip down to the salvage yard and pick up some spare parts. No, not for that '67 Chevy, for a Cessna or some other type of aircraft. We salute J. R. Dodson and all the people of Dodson International for making a difference through innovation and entrepreneurship to fill this need. Who would have guessed that such an aviation parts business in a rural setting would ever fly?

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

Kara Beyer - Countertop Trends

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

Countertops. They're all around us, in our kitchens and on our cabinets. They add a useful as well as an attractive element to our daily lives. Today we'll learn about a company in a rural setting which has achieved new heights of success, one countertop at a time. So polish up your countertop - it's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Kara Beyer, President of Countertop Trends in Gridley, which is in Coffey County in southeast Kansas. Kara told us about this remarkable company.

In 1963, people in Gridley had the idea of creating a business to build countertops for kitchens. The company had some ups and downs, and by 1972 was at risk of closing. Local business leaders wanted the company to succeed so they stepped in to help. One of those was Harold Mudge, who now co-owns the company with his daughter, Kara Beyer. Kara says, "This is a business where the community has really invested in its success."

The company continued to grow. In 1991, the company bought some equipment from a manufacturing business in St. Louis. In 1993, that business was hit by the big Mississippi River flood. Kara called them to express her sympathies and offer help.

Life went on, and then came September 1995. At about 10 a.m. one day, fire broke out in a corner of the main plant in Gridley. Before it could be stopped, the entire inventory and office were destroyed.

The company was faced with a crucial decision: To stay and rebuild or to move elsewhere. The company chose to stay and rebuild. Coffey County Economic Development helped with a bond issue to assist them.

Meanwhile, Kara got a call from the company they had worked with in St. Louis. Just as Kara had done for them earlier, they were calling to express their sympathies and offer help. They compared their common experiences and their future desires for growth, and the eventual result was a new alliance. The companies went together to create Countertop Trends LLC.

Today, Countertop Trends LLC is a manufacturer of laminated countertops. The company manufactures and delivers several styles of laminated kitchen and bath countertops throughout the midwest. Post-formed countertops are produced on a high-speed line serving the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas. Custom manufacturing and fabrication services are also available

These countertops are sold to three market segments: Multi-unit production, distributors, and some 70 home centers. Countertop Trends delivers products from Dallas to Des Moines. One of their customers builds cabinets and adds countertops from Countertop Trends and ships them coast to coast.

If you were to go into a Lowe's or Home Depot in Kansas or Missouri or Oklahoma, the countertop you select to be custom-installed was probably made by Countertop Trends in Gridley, Kansas, population 367 people. Now, that's rural.

Kara Beyer says, "The largest challenge for our business is finding enough qualified employees to support our growth. However, the rural areas still provide some of the best talent."

Kara says, "We have several people who are extremely talented and could work anywhere." She says, "Some people work hard to get to the big city. Our people have worked hard to stay right here, in our small town."

They've accomplished a lot. At the time of the big fire, the company had about 30 employees. Today, this family-oriented company employs 65 people and sales have tripled to 6.5 million dollars annually. Wow.

Kara Beyer says, "It has been a real blessing to have grown up in Gridley and to have been able to raise my family here." For more information on this company, go to www.countertoptrends.com.

Countertops. They are all around us, in our kitchens and baths, where they add beauty and utility to our homes and offices. We commend Kara Beyer, Harold Mudge, and all those involved with Countertop Trends for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and commitment. Their growth runs counter to some rural trends, but I believe their values, hard work and initiative will keep them on top.

And there's more. We'll learn about the company which ships cabinets coast to coast on our next program.

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

Katie Carlgren - Wabaunsee County

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

"Small Towns, Big Opportunities." That's a slogan for Wabaunsee County, Kansas, which is mobilizing its small communities to take advantage of an upcoming opportunity which is going to bring thousands of visitors into its borders. We'll get the story on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Katie Carlgren, Economic Development Director for Wabaunsee County. She is originally from Courtland, Kansas, graduated from K-State, and became the county's first full-time economic development director in February 2006. Katie tells us about the many activities which Wabaunsee County communities have planned for the weekend of the Symphony in the Flint Hills.

As we learned last week, the second annual Symphony in the Flint Hills will be held in Wabaunsee County on June 16, 2007. At 6:30 p.m., the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra will be performing on a massive temporary stage on a Flint Hills site there.

Wabaunsee County citizens are wanting to make the most of this opportunity to host this remarkable event, so they are planning many activities that weekend. Katie says, "We're doing all kinds of things to help people experience the Flint Hills and experience Wabaunsee County."

A full list of opportunities in each of the county's small towns has been compiled under the theme, Weekend in Wabaunsee. For example, Alma is offering plant tours at Alma Creamery, free cowboy entertainment in the park, and guided bird and wildflower walks. Eskridge is hosting Art in the Park, which is a showing of renowned artists including Jim Richardson's National Geographic Flint Hills Photo Exhibit. Paxico is showcasing its historic antique district with 12 wonderful antique stores. Lake Wabaunsee offers fishing, water sports, golfing, and more.
McFarland showcases its rich railroad history through the restored Rock Island Railroad Depot. Harveyville is home to The Harveyville Project, which is an old schoolhouse that is being renovated into an artists's colony and retreat. Maple Hill honors its ranching heritage and also features Puffy's Steak and Ice House, Walking Turtle art studio, and the old stone church west of town. Alta Vista is home to the Ag Heritage Museum, an old-time soda fountain, and more. Many restaurants, cafes, ethnic foods, or special meals are being offered by church or community groups on that weekend. This will be fun, even for visitors who are not going to the concert.
These are truly rural communities. After all, McFarland has a population of 266, Harveyville has 262, and Paxico has 210. Now, that's rural.
Winding its way through ths rural county is the Native Stone Scenic Byway, which features numerous views of houses, barns, bridges, fences and walls made from the county's abundant native stone. The byway will be officially opened at 7 p.m. on June 15, the night before the Symphony in the Flint Hills.
This is impressive, considering the county has a total population of just over 6,800 people. Katie says, "They have sold 5,000 tickets for the symphony and will have hundreds of volunteers and patrons, so we will essentially have as many people coming into the county as live here."
She says, "It's very exciting. It shows what can be done when you think outside the box and work to be really good at who you are." She says, "I think tourists are tired of the same old stuff. They want to experience something real, and the Flint Hills are one of those special places that is wholesome and real."
Katie is highly complimentary of the leaders of the Symphony in the Flint Hills project. She says, "I'm amazed at the amount of thought that has gone into the planning of all this. They have taken great care in their decisions so that we can truly showcase our county and that means a lot, as well as saying a lot about the character of this event."
For more information, go to www.wabaunsee.com. That's w-a-b-a-u-n-s-e-e.com.

"Small Towns, Big Opportunities." It's a fitting slogan for Wabaunsee County, as it prepares to host the Symphony in the Flint Hills. We commend Katie Carlgren and the people in Wabaunsee County for making a difference by showcasing their local attractions and genuine Flint Hills heritage. It's creating an opportunity for these small towns to think big.
For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

Ken Scroggs - Hope Ranch

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

Let's visit a ranch where a horse and rider are trotting across the arena. The onlookers smile, because this is the first time in this rider's life that she has been able to trot her horse all by herself. The rider is Jane Phillips who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She will never walk unaided, but she is laughing with joy as she trots on this horse by herself for the first time. Today we'll learn about a therapeutic riding center which is providing new confidence and encouragement for Jane and others with special challenges. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Ken Scroggs, the founder of a therapeutic equine riding center called Hope Ranch near Manhattan. Ken was born in Topeka and grew up in North Carolina where he showed horses and dairy cattle. He found he loved horses and youth activities. He earned college degrees in education and psychology.

For a time he showed horses in the southwestern U.S., was a coach, and then went into business in Las Vegas. He was in real estate property management, managing some 4,000 units, and working like crazy but saying to himself, "There's got to be more to life than this." So in 1998, he moved back to Kansas and came to Manhattan where he was director of Big Brothers Big Sisters for three years.

By 2003, he was doing some in-depth Bible study and thinking about combining his interest in horses and his heart for kids. He describes taking a trip to Iola where he felt God was calling him to operate a therapeutic riding center.

Ken says, "I was saying, 'I'm too old for this, I don't have the resources.'" But he continued to feel the calling and so he decided to give it a try. He found some like-minded people in the Manhattan area and went to work to organize an equine riding center for the handicapped and disabled.

A board of directors was organized, a location was identified, and the papers were filed for this new organization to have non-profit status with the IRS. And just as they were about to begin came this news: The owner of the horse facility which they had identified had changed his mind. The group would not be able to operate therapeutic riding there after all.

Some people would have panicked. After all, the group was about ready to begin riding but suddenly had no facility. Ken said, "Look, God got us into this. He will see us through it." Within a month, a new horse facility had been identified and the project was back on track.

In September 2006, riding began at Hope Ranch. Hope Ranch operates at a leased facility in a rural setting between Manhattan and Riley. Riley is a town of 838 people. Now, that's rural.

Hope Ranch offers therapeutic horseback riding for people with handicaps and disabilities. It is an amazing way to offer mobility and exercise to people who are mentally or physically challenged. It also takes a lot of volunteers, who help these individuals mount the horses and walk alongside of them. For more information, go to www.hoperanchks.org.

Mary Alice Phillips is the mother of Jane Phillips, the wheelchair bound girl I described at the beginning. Mary Alice says, "When Jane was able to trot that horse all by herself, she laughed out loud as she rode around that arena. Riding has improved her muscle tone and abdominal control, and built her self-esteem and self-confidence." She says, "Ken is unfailingly encouraging to all the kids." And she says, "We are amazingly thankful for Hope Ranch and so grateful for everyone involved. It is such a blessing to these kids."

It's time to leave this ranch, where we saw a very special rider trotting her horse for the first time in her life. We salute Ken Scroggs and all the volunteers and directors of Hope Ranch for making a difference in the lives of some very special people. For this isn't your typical Kansas ranch. It doesn't just raise horses or cattle or hay, this ranch produces something even more important: Hope.

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

Kevin Kaster - Kaster Masonry

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 meeting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. At this meeting, a group of sponsors are recognizing the winners of a national contest for people who have preserved and restored historic barns across the country. One of the top winning barns was rebuilt and restored by a masonry craftsman who is based in rural Kansas. His business is building - and I mean that literally. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Kevin Kaster, owner of Kaster Masonry. Kevin grew up on a dairy farm in northeast Kansas. When he was a kid, his father and grandfather wanted to build a new dairy barn so they built it themselves out of concrete blocks. Kevin remembers being intrigued as he watched them laying the blocks. He says, "When I was a kid, I was out there playing with the cement."

He says with a smile, "I guess I didn't have enough building blocks when I was a kid, cause I still can't get enough of 'em." That interest led him to take the building trades course at the technical school in Atchison, with a specialty in masonry.

He worked in Topeka and then moved to Seneca where he worked with an experienced mason for 10 years before going out on his own. Primarily he did bricklaying, which is still his specialty today. But one time they were building a house for a man who wanted to integrate native stone in with the brick, so Kevin learned to work with rock. Then one winter he fixed someone's stone basement, and the business grew.

Kevin got married and moved to Onaga, and then bought a farm near Havensville where he and his wife live today. In 1988, Kevin started his own business called Kaster Masonry. He began doing commercial work but now focuses on home construction, using both brick and stone.

Kevin's work takes him from Hiawatha to Junction City and from Osage City to Marysville. He does a lot of residential brick work plus stone projects. For example, a professor at Washburn went to Onaga and bought an old stone house which Kevin restored and which she now uses as a studio. Kevin has also worked on the historic Kimble Castle, owned by the Gillum family in Manhattan.

Kevin's work is a family affair. He typically employs five people and in the summertime, gets help from his three sons. The sons are 13, 16, and 19 years old, and the oldest is majoring in - what else? - Construction Science at K-State.

One day Kevin was contacted by Milton Henneberg who farms near Wheaton. Milton's great-grandfather homesteaded on this farm and built an old stone barn in 1886. Milton was aware of Kevin's work so he asked him to restore the barn and Kevin went to work.

The barn has interesting archways and an aisle down the center. Kevin says it could have been a buggy barn. Milton says it has enough stalls to house up to twelve workhorses.

Some years ago, a national contest was held to recognize people who restored and preserved historic barns. The contest was sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Successful Farming and Toy Farmer magazines, and an organization called Barn Again. In 2002, second place in that national contest was presented to Milton Henneberg for the family barn which had been rebuilt by Kevin Kaster.

Not bad for a craftsman based near Havensville, Kansas, population 145 people. Now, that's rural. How exciting to find this rural-based craftsman who is not only building a successful business, but is using his skill to promote and preserve the historic heritage of Kansas.

It's time to leave this meeting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where a Kansas family is being recognized for preserving this historic barn. We salute Milton Henneberg for having his barn redone and we commend Kevin Kaster for having the skills to do it. These Kansans are making a difference by preserving the native stonework which is a hallmark of northeast Kansas. For Kevin Kaster, it is all a part of building a successful business in rural America, one block at a time.

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

KSU Football

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

Big men play football in the Big 12. There are 300-pound players out there on the football field, moving and blocking and tackling. Some of those big-time players come from small-town roots, and they are making huge contributions to major college football. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Today we celebrate small town players and big time football. Rural Kansas has been home to lots of successful football players through the years. Each Friday night those players and their teams create a rallying point for the people of the community to come together.

Some small town Kansas players have gone on to fame and fortune in the NFL. Nolan Cromwell, John Riggins, Mark Simoneau and Jonathan McGraw come to mind.

Today, the Big 12 showcases some of rural Kansas' finest on its front lines. For example, consider the starting lineup for the K-State Wildcats.

When the 2007 football season began, the starting offensive guard was Gerard Spexarth, who is originally from Colwich, Kansas. Colwich is a town of 1,256 people. He would be joined on the front line later in the season by Logan Robinson, who is originally from Agra, Kansas. Agra is a town of 302 people.

The starting center when the season began was Jordan Bedore who comes from Goodland, Kansas. Goodland is a town of 4,775 people. However, the starting lineup would soon get more rural than that.

When Jordan Bedore was injured in the KU game, he was replaced by the backup center. The backup center is Trevor Viers, who comes from Windom, Kansas, population 137 people. Now, that's rural.

By my calculations, these three offensive linemen average six feet six inches in height, 289 pounds in weight, and 565 in hometown population. As a football fan in the state of Kansas, I'm pleased to see these homegrown players succeed at the highest levels.

It reminds me of the story from the movie Hoosiers, when an opposing player tries to rattle the home team's shooter by saying, "I didn't know they grew 'em so small down on the farm." Of course, that shooter ended up making the basket and winning the big game.

It appears they are growing mighty big down on the farm in Kansas. Logan Robinson, for example, is the biggest player on the K-State roster at six feet eight inches tall and weighing 317 pounds.

Of course, size is not the most important thing. From a community development perspective, I appreciate how these players provide a positive focal point for their communities. Their performance provides something for the community to rally around each week. Sports are especially important to our rural small towns, and these players come from some of the most rural. After all, two of those three starting linemen actually played eight-man football and now are having success at the Big 12 level.

Speaking of homegrown players now having success, we shouldn't overlook that wide receiver – what's his name? Oh yeah, Jordy Nelson whose family farms near Riley. Jordy has already been named an All-American by one publication and is rewriting the K-State record books with his receiving and kick-returning. How exciting to find small town players having big time success.

Of course, the challenge in modern football is the constant drive to win. The challenge for a coaching staff is to identify homegrown talent and mesh that talent successfully with the best players they can recruit from all across the country. Most fans want success, regardless of where the players come from, but it is especially sweet when ,many of those players can claim their roots in their home state. These are also players who give back to their communities and don't forget where they come from.

Big men play football in the Big 12. Along the K-State starting lineup, we find three big offensive linemen who have their roots in rural Kansas. I commend Gerard Spexarth, Logan Robinson, Jordan Bedore, Trevor Viers, Jordy Nelson, and all those Kansas athletes who are making a difference by building the school spirit for their home schools and communities. Big men play Big 12 football, and they also have a big heart.

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

Leon Atwell

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

Electrical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, nuclear engineering, and more. There are several types of engineering professions. Today we´ll meet an engineer of a different sort: He is an entrepreneurial young man who could be described
as an "organizational engineer." You probably won´t find that in the engineering curriculum, but it is a good term to describe his work in helping communities and organizations build
a better future for themselves. This is today´s Kansas Profile.

Meet Leon Atwell. Leon is a young man from rural Kansas who studied engineering and then found that his career took a different turn. Here is the story of this engineer who is using his skills in special ways.

First of all, what exactly is an engineer? According to my dictionary, it is "One who operates an engine." Well, thanks a lot. But another definition says, "One who manages an enterprise in a skillful way." And in verb form, it says, "To plan, manage and accomplish by skillful acts." Those definitions are very appropriate to describe this rural "engineer".

Leon grew up at the northwest Kansas town of Norton, population 2,943 people. That´s rural - but stay tuned.

Leon went on to K-State where he studied engineering. He then immersed himself in the technical things that engineers do so well....designing, building things and managing projects. He also found time to marry a Kansas farm girl along the way. After college he went into the corporate world in Texas, but after several years in the engineering profession he came to a life-changing conclusion. Leon says, "The secret to business success isn´t usually found on the technical side, it´s through the people side."

So Leon took the well-honed technical skills which had been developed through his engineering work and sought to build on them to apply them to the people side of businesses and
organizations. At Sam Houston State, he earned a Master´s degree with an emphasis on psychology, education, and organizational development.

Near Houston, Texas he helped grow and improve a number of organizations doing leadership and organizational development work. He then worked internally for a very large global engineering company helping with large organizational change projects, and then in 2000, went out on his own.

Leon says, "After 9-11, the nation had a shift in priorities as did our family." For the Atwell's, those priorities involved their roots back in Kansas. Leon says, "Our families and hearts were here in rural Kansas. Each year we would come home to Kansas for vacation and wheat harvest." He and his family truly care for rural Kansas and rural communities.

In 2002, they made the move to north central Kansas. Leon continues to help organizations and his wife is a personal trainer with a wellness center. But for years, Leon traveled to where the work was anyway. While in Houston he had commuted weekly to LA for many months to work on a project. After coming back to Kansas, he facilitated a three-day session for executives of an international technical services company in New Jersey to align their global business priorities. Wow.

While continuing to help rural organizations in the Midwest grow and improve, he also works with the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship as the Kansas lead for the HomeTown Competitiveness initiative. HomeTown Competitiveness is an approach to rural community building that provides for long-term rural community sustainability. This program originated in Nebraska, where it has had excellent results. Leon is involved with assisting communities with HomeTown Competitiveness in Kansas. For more information, go to www.htcnebraska.org

This rural Kansas advocate makes his office near the north central town of Beloit, population 3,925 people and actually lives in Glen Elder, population 428. Now, that´s rural. How exciting it is to find this young "organizational engineer" benefiting rural Kansas communities and organizations.

There are electrical engineers, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, and several other types of engineers, but now we´ve met an "organizational engineer". He has merged his technical skills with people skills to help communities and organizations succeed. We salute Leon Atwell for making a difference with this unique mix of technical expertise and caring for rural communities. I believe he has the skills to engineer his way through anything.

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

Marc Anderson - Hemslojd glass decorators

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

It's time for Julia Child's 90th birthday party. As one might guess, it is quite a festive event for this esteemed chef. There are all kinds of features and decorations, including something truly unique: A special design created specifically for this occasion, etched into lovely pieces of glassware. And where do you suppose these hand-etched glasses with this unique design came from? Would you believe, the middle of rural Kansas? This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Marc Anderson with the Hemslojd store in Lindsborg, Kansas. Lindsborg is a community with a rich Swedish heritage and a charming downtown with an Old World appearance. Each year Lindsborg hosts events such as the Midsummer's Day Festival, Lucia Fest, Svensk Hyllningsfest and the Messiah Festival of Music and Art.

Hemslojd is a Swedish specialty store in Lindsborg. Hemslojd is the Swedish word for handicraft. Throughout Sweden, back in the Old Country, there are hemslojd shops where crafts of wood, textile and other materials are made and sold. That tradition is carried on by Hemslojd Inc. in Lindsborg today.

Hemslojd - the American version - was founded by Ken Sjogren and Ken Swisher who were next door neighbors in Lindsborg. They saw an opportunity to build on Lindsborg's Swedish heritage and began this gift shop in 1984. Since that time the company has produced some 33,000 of the famous Dala horse personalized signs. These are wood symbols of a horse that are brightly painted and decorated in Swedish style for homes and businesses.

Hemslojd offers a remarkable variety of gifts, which can be bought in person at the Lindsborg store, by catalog, or on-line. The store also includes a shop where visitors can see craftsmen and women at work. But the fastest-growing element of the business in recent years has been the glass-etching business.

Marc explains that Hemslojd had been doing glass etching since 1985, but the market had flattened. Marc was a private consultant working on the Hemslojd website when Ken Sjogren asked if Marc could help with the glass business. Marc got involved and it went so well that Marc is now director of Glass Operations for Hemslojd Inc. He is the primary person doing the hand etching of the glassware.

Marc explains how this works. Customers send a custom logo design by email, fax or mail and select a glassware style. Hemslojd offers a variety of coffee mugs, stemware, beverage glasses, beer mugs or tankards, pitchers or carafes. Once the artwork is approved and the glassware is selected, the etching is hand-done. The design is permanently deep etched - not printed - and will never rub or wear off.

This makes it possible for businesses, families or individuals to have a logo and name permanently displayed on the glassware of their choice, or to create something custom-made for a special occasion. It makes a great gift, keepsake, or customer or employee appreciation present. There is a setup charge but no minimum number required to order.

This business has boomed. Hemslojd has sent etched glassware from Maine to Hawaii. In fact, they have sent glassware beyond Hawaii. One order went to a remote U.S. post on the Johnston Atoll, which is as far out in the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii as Hawaii is from the continental U.S. They've sent wedding glasses to Canada and products as far away as Israel and Austria. One set of hand-etched glass awards went to Stockholm, Sweden. Wow.

Not bad for a company based in Lindsborg, Kansas, population 3,334 people. Now, that's rural.

How exciting to find this rural business reaching out with its products around the world, thanks to the tools of modern telecommunications. For more information, go to hemslojd.com. That's h-e-m-s-l-o-j-d.com - truly a Swedish spelling. The glass decorating division of Hemslojd can be found at www.glass-decorators.com.

It's time to say goodbye to Chef Julia Child's 90th birthday party, which even included 600 customized glasses hand-etched by this company in rural Kansas. We commend Ken Swisher, Marc Anderson and all those involved with Hemslojd. By building on their Swedish heritage and serving this niche market, they are making a difference for their customers and community by design.

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

Matt Jonas - Balls Food Stores

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

Where does your food come from? The urban consumer might answer that question with the name of their local grocery store. But this question goes beyond that: Where does the food in that grocery store come from originally? Where is it produced? Today we'll meet an innovative company which is helping answer that question. This company is reaching out to food producers as well as consumers and helping to connect them constructively. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Fred and David Ball of Balls Food Stores in Kansas City, Kansas. Balls Foods vice-president Matt Jonas shared with me the story of this remarkable family-owned chain of local grocery stores.

It all began with Sidney and Mollie Ball, who opened a small neighborhood grocery store in Kansas City back in 1923. Fred Ball says, "My father came off the farm in Missouri and was looking for an opportunity in the hardware or grocery business. He borrowed a thousand dollars and went in with some others to buy a grocery store."

They later built a small supermarket and called it Ball's Market. The business grew and they opened more locations. Over time, Sidney and Mollie passed the business along to their son Fred, who in turn brought in his son David who is now President and COO.

Balls Food Stores now operate under the brand names of Hen House Markets and Price Chopper. There are 13 Hen House Markets and 16 Price Choppers in the Kansas City area.

As Matt Jonas says, "We've been selling local goods since we started 85 years ago." In recent years, one of the company's food suppliers in southeast Kansas was an all natural beef producer named Diana Endicott. Fred Ball said, "Why don't we do a story about Diana and promote her and her products?" The reaction from their store customers was quite positive and the idea grew from there.

Today, Balls Food Stores is a member of the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign which seeks to promote the quality of food produced by farmers in the greater Kansas City area. In fact, Balls Food Stores is the first independently owned food store to be a member of Buy Fresh, Buy Local.

Under this program, some one hundred local farmers and ranchers supply a wide variety of fresh produce and other foods to these Kansas City stores. The growers even have the opportunity to visit the stores and see customers first-hand. Biographical sketches of many producers are listed on-line at www.henhouse.com.

Of course, these producers come from rural locations all around Kansas and Missouri. That includes Kansas towns such as Fairview, population 269; Goff, population 177; and Carlton, population 38 people. Now, that's rural. These rural towns benefit when their producers can access an urban market, and urban consumers benefit from receiving fresh, nutritious, locally produced foods.

Balls Food Stores is also involved with what is called Community Supported Agriculture, or C-S-A. Through CSA, a customer commits to a certain level of weekly food purchases for a period of weeks. Each week, that customer receives a large grocery bag with a variety of the finest and freshest foods of the season, plus cooking information and promotional pricing.

These products include bread, eggs, cheese, honey, and natural beef and chicken plus seasonal produce. Oh, that wonderful produce, everything in the food alphabet from apples to zuchinni.

Matt Jonas says, "It's a win-win for everybody. It brings us closer to our customer and brings them closer to their food." He indicates local food sales have tripled in four years. Wow.

Matt says, "The food safety scares of today make it all the more important to know where your food comes from." For more information, go to www.henhouse.com.

So where does your food come from? Yes, it might come from Hen House Market, but beyond that it came from a hard-working, conscientious farmer in the fields of rural America. We salute the Ball Family and all those involved with the Buy Fresh, Buy Local initiative for making a difference by helping us put a face with our food.

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

Richard Standrich - Derby

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

One day I was standing in our kitchen, idly leafing through the day's mail, when a headline on one of my wife's magazines caught my eye. Now, let me say that I don't make it a practice to read women's magazines, but hey - I'm secure in my manhood. So at risk of getting caught reading Family Circle, I opened the magazine to the main cover story. The headline said, "America's Best Towns for Families." Sure enough, one of those top communities was a small town in the middle of Kansas. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Richard Standrich, former mayor of Derby, Kansas. Richard is a homebuilder. He has been working in this community since 1956. He says he has worked hard to help it grow every chance he gets. Apparently others have as well, because this community has grown remarkably.

In the early 1950s, Derby was a rural Sedgwick County town with an estimated population of merely 350 people. Now, that's rural.

Today, Derby is a bustling, modern community of more than 20,000. Three financial institutions are building new facilities and several national retailers have located there. Derby's proximity to Wichita provides a major job alternative for the town's residents. Richard Standrich says, "Our former city manager used to say, 'Derby is one of the best-kept secrets of our region, and one of these days it's going to boom.'"

Apparently the editors of Family Circle noticed. They initiated a nationwide search to identify the top towns for families all across the country. They focused on mid-size cities, namely towns between 15,000 and 150,000 in population that met certain income criteria. A New York City based research firm assembled a list of 1,850 places which fit this profile.

From that list, 800 localities were selected based on the magazine's family-friendly criteria, including cost of living, jobs, schools, health care, air quality, green space and crime rate. The magazine editors assessed which towns best met those standards and ranked them according to state. Then Family Circle selected the winners from the highest-rated towns in the top 10 states nationwide. Those winners were described in the August 2007 edition of Family Circle.

Thus, this is an honor for Kansas as well as for Derby. It demonstrates that Kansas is one of the top 10 states in the nation for families.

So what catapulted Derby into the top 10? Richard Standrich says, "The schools have always been good here, and there's lots of recreation for families." He mentioned the new water park, which was also highlighted in the magazine. Rock River Rapids, completed in 2004, includes a 600 foot "lazy river" and a 50 meter lap pool. In summer, this water park attracts some 2,000 kids a day. Wow.

Derby has relatively high median income and relatively low student-teacher ratio. Housing is affordable and alternatives are available. Richard estimates that 500 apartments have been built in the last five years.

Richard served as Mayor for four years. Unlike many Kansas towns where the mayor's position rotates among city council members, in Derby the mayor's position is a stand-alone elective office. Richard says, "I served on the city council in the early 1990s. By the late 1990s, several of us got together because we were concerned about excise taxes, and I won the four year term as mayor in 1999. I believe the growth we are seeing now is a result of the tax relief we brought about back then." He says, "The schools are excellent and Derby is a great place to live."

As the article says, there's no rat race around here, and rooting for the kids brings the whole community together.

It's time for me to put down my wife's copy of Family Circle magazine, which noted that the community of Derby and the state of Kansas are among the best places in the nation for families. We salute Richard Standrich and the people of Derby for making a difference with their family-friendly attitudes, and I'm glad I was man enough to open this magazine.

By the way, did you see that wonderful recipe for lemon tea cakes on page 89?

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

Rob Phillips - Great Santa Fe Horse Race

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

An Olympic athlete can run a mile in four minutes. A horse can run the Kentucky Derby in two minutes. So what would it take for a horse to go 800 miles? Endurance. It would take lots of stamina and endurance to go 800 miles. In the days of the old Santa Fe Trail, many riders made that 800 mile trip horseback. Now some visionary community leaders are partnering across state lines to plan a modern day version of an equine endurance ride along the Santa Fe Trail. In other words, horses and riders will once again be retracing the steps of the pioneers on this historic trail in September 2007. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Rob Phillips, owner of the Victorian Veranda Country Inn and Free State Farm near Lawrence. Rob is one of the event coordinators.

Rob explains that the original idea came from Jim Gray, co-owner of the Drovers Mercantile store in Ellsworth, as mentioned on our previous program. Jim, a great cowboy and western historian, has long been fascinated by the tale of pioneer and trader Francis X. Aubry. In 1848, Aubry made a $1,000 wager that he could do what no man had done before: Ride the 800 miles of the trail from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Independence, Missouri in six days.

Aubry was called a crazy fool. People took up his bet, so Aubry took off from Santa Fe. When Aubry rode into Independence, he was said to be exhausted, filthy, and so bloody from saddle sores that he had to be peeled off his horse – but he was also $1,000 richer, for he had made the trip in just five days and fifteen hours.

This history always interested Jim Gray. Jim proposed a modern day version of the 800 mile ride. Thanks to a multi-state group of organizers, the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race and Endurance Ride will be September 3-15, 2007. Unlike Francis Aubry's ride, this one will be conducted by teams under strict veterinary supervision.

Rob Phillips says, "The safety of the horses is paramount. We will follow the rules of the American Endurance Ride Conference, with daily vet checks of the horses. The teams must also be experienced. Each rider must have completed at least one 50 mile ride in a recognized event."

The race is done in Tour de France style, in that the horses and riders go on a 50 mile route each day and then are transported to the next leg. Winners will be announced for the daily legs as well as the overall event, but there are no cash prizes.

This is really an endurance ride, not a reenactment. Horses and riders will be using modern equipment and following the approximate route of the trail.

Rob says, "Our goal is to bring maximum attention to the Santa Fe Trail and to celebrate the communities along the way." There will be race villages to house and serve teams and attract visitors at each nightly stop, including a horse carnival with various vendors. Race village sites include Elkhart, Dodge City, Larned, Lyons, Council Grove, Burlingame, and Gardner.

The route goes through much of Kansas, including by such rural landmarks as Pawnee Rock, which provided a vantage point for scouts and Indians. Today, the town of Pawnee Rock has 351 people. Now, that's rural.

This endeavor has already gained national attention from ESPN the magazine and garnered inquiries from 26 states. Rob says, "Plans are building for this to be an event which should attract thousands."

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

An Olympic athlete can go a mile in four minutes. A horse can run the Kentucky Derby in two minutes. But in fall 2007, teams of horses and riders will be making an 800 mile trek across the historic route of the Santa Fe Trail in 12 days. We commend Rob Phillips, Jim Gray, and all those involved with the Great Santa Fe Trail Horse Race and Endurance Ride for making a difference through multistate partnerships, an appreciation of history, and creative ideas. It will be an exciting trail to follow.

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

Ron Kester - Ron's Restoration

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

Look at this beautiful restored 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible. It has earned the highest honor which can be awarded by the Classic Thunderbird Club International. And where do you suppose that this car was restored? Would you believe, a tiny town in northwest Kansas? Grab your car keys, it's a special automotive edition of Kansas Profile.

Meet Ron Kester, owner of Ron's Restoration. Ron's Restoration is the business which restored this beautiful 1957 Thunderbird and many more classic cars.

Ron Kester grew up in Phillips County in northwest Kansas. He was always fascinated by cars and started working on them when he was just 13. The first car he ever bought was a 1930 Model A coupe, which he bought for $35 and modified and rebuilt. He later sold that car, but his lifelong interest in cars was firmly established.

Since 1959, Ron has worked in the automobile business as a vehicle salesman, mechanic, and body shop technician. He ran his inlaw's car dealership for 22 years in Kirwin, where he was on the city council for 7 years and was mayor for 15 years.

Over time, Ron became increasingly interested in the classic cars of his youth. He started rebuilding cars while living in Phillipsburg and in 1989, set up an auto restoration business in the nearby town of Glade. The company is called Ron's Restoration.

Ron's Restoration builds and restores antique cars, including classics, street rods, customs, and pickups. The business employs around ten people full-time, including two daughters and a son-in-law. Since the business began, Ron's Restoration has restored more than 165 cars, including the 1957 Thunderbird I described at the beginning.

Cars restored by Ron's Restoration have been featured coast to coast in magazines such as Classic Truck, Northern Rodder, Rod and Custom, Super Rod, Car Craft, Street Rod Builder, and the GoodGuys Goodtime Gazette. What a great name.

Ron's restored cars have a remarkable list of honors. For example, in 1992, the company restored a 1960 Chrysler F convertible that won two National Chrysler 300 awards. That car was sold at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Auto Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona to none other than Tim Allen, star of the TV show Home Improvement.

A 1933 Ford Roadster on which they worked won Boyd Coddington's Pro's Pick at the GoodGuys Mid-Western Nationals. Their 1935 Chevy Master Deluxe Coupe won Nebraska Street Rod of the Year and best in its class at the ISCA World of Wheels show in Omaha.

In 2002, the company rebuilt a custom 1971 Ford Mustang with a 502 Chevrolet ram jet fuel injection engine and Vortech super charger with an estimated 725 horsepower. Wow. That car won a Comp "D" Gold Elegance Award at a Darryl Starbird show in Wichita and was featured in the Rod and Custom Hall of Fame. The list of awards and top rankings goes on and on.

Vehicles restored by Ron's Restoration have found their homes in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Yet all these cars were rebuilt in the rural town of Glade, Kansas, population 112 people. Now, that's rural. For more information, go to www.ronsrestoration.com. It's great to see rural Kansas produce such a national business.

One other story. In the mid-'90s, Ron bought a bunch of old cars at an estate auction. When he went to pick them up, someone said, "Don't forget that old car over in the plum thicket." When Ron went to get it, he found it was his very first car - the original 1930 Model A which he had worked on decades ago. Now Ron is redoing the power train and brakes so he can drive that car once again.

It's time to leave the Classic Thunderbird Club International where another car restored by Ron's Restoration is winning top honors. We salute Ron Kester and all the people of Ron's Restoration for making a difference with their remarkable skills and abilities. For I believe he's not just restoring cars, he's restoring rural pride and automotive craftsmanship as well. Now, how about a spin in that 725 horsepower Mustang?

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

Ron Rhodes - Ron's Supermarket

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

Who's minding the store? That old saying takes on new meaning when we go to Ron's Supermarket in Pittsburg, Kansas, where we find an innovative store owner with a commitment to quality. He is definitely minding the store, having brought together the personal touch of an old-time neighborhood store with the convenience and technology of modern times. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Ron Rhodes, owner of Ron's Supermarket in Pittsburg, Kansas. Ron has rural roots, having grown up on a farm near the northeast Kansas community of Hillsdale, population 300 people. Now, that's rural.

Ron went to Pittsburg State where he met his wife Barbara, whose father had a small grocery store there. Ron served in the Army and then moved back to Pittsburg. He was interviewing for jobs when Barbara's father suggested that he work in the store carrying out groceries until he landed a permanent job. But Ron found he enjoyed the grocery business.

Ron says, "There was a lot of customer interaction. I enjoyed working around customers and employees."

In 1975, a small, old grocery store on the north side of Pittsburg came up for sale, and Ron and Barbara bought it. Ron says, "It was a great experience." This was truly a community store, in which people in the neighborhood felt very much at home. Ron says, "We had as many people come in through the back door as through the front door."

From that humble beginning, Ron built the business and expanded through the years at various locations. He now has stores in Branson, Missouri and in Wichita. The current store in Pittsburg opened in 1996, adjacent to the mall. The name of the stores is Ron's Supermarket.

The first thing I noticed when entering Ron's Supermarket in Pittsburg is how clean the store is. Ron says with pride, "One emphasis of our store is cleanliness." He says, "We added a lot of features to brighten and whiten up the store." These included color selections and effective lighting.

Another emphasis is food safety. Ron says, "We are proud of our perishables." He is also an innovator. His store was one of the first in Kansas to have TV monitors above the checkout stands showing amber alerts, school announcements, weather, and advertisements.

Ron says, "If you don't move forward, you're going to be passed by."

One interesting store feature is the free sanitary wipes by the shopping carts. Ron explains that when his grandchildren were born, he noticed that the new moms were wiping things around them in order to fight germs. Now when shoppers come into Ron's store, they can help themselves to free sanitary wipes to wipe off the shopping carts. Ron says, "It's a little thing, but some people really appreciate it."

Ron's Supermarket uses a rewards card to track customer's purchases. When customers exceed a certain level or frequency of purchases, the company will reward them with free products. These promotions are tailored to the customer. For example, if a person purchases enough baby products, Ron's Supermarket will send them coupons for free diapers. Other promotions are seasonal, such as free steaks around Father's Day or free candy at Halloween.

A branch bank is located in the store, complete with drive-up window and ATM. Customers at his store can get money orders and pay utility bills too.

His latest innovation is video cameras at his Wichita stores which transmit images in realtime to their computers in Pittsburg. Ron says, "We want customers to be sure they are in a safe environment."

Ron's company now has some 200 employees, and he is proud that many of those have stayed with him for years. He says, "We're committed to good management practices and good people. And we want to be a friend and a good neighbor to the community."

So who's minding the store? In this case, Ron Rhodes and his family are minding the store and making a difference with their innovation and commitment to service. Going the extra mile for his customers may take more time and effort, but it is clear to me that, for his store, he doesn't mind.

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

Sherry Perdreauville - The Button Hole

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

Grandmother's quilt. It can be a family treasure. It is soft yet strong, decorative yet useful, and it literally brings us warmth and connects us to our legacy. But what if that quilt needs to be repaired? Or what if you want to make a new quilt of your own? Today we'll meet a store which not only serves quilters' needs all over the region, it has brought national attention to Kansas. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Sherry Perdreauville, manager of the Button Hole, a remarkable quilting store in McPherson, Kansas.

Our story begins with Evelyn Birkhead, who came to McPherson with her family in 1978. Evelyn was an avid quilter. She gathered cloth and supplies, and in 1996 opened a small craft and quilt shop of her own in a basement in downtown McPherson. She called it the Button Hole.

The Button Hole's business grew with time, and so did the facility. In 2000, Evelyn and her husband Keith bought 40,000 square feet of vacant space in the historical downtown and remodeled it into a set of stores, including the Button Hole. Tragically, Evelyn passed away in 2004, but the stores remain in the Birkhead family.

Inside this downtown shopping complex, it is possible to walk from one store to the next. The stores include the Hearth Room, which is a coffee house; Body and Soul, which is a Christian book and lifestyle store; and a health food market. A beautiful upstairs meeting space called The Upper Room is also available for rent, but the anchor store in this complex is the Button Hole.

The Button Hole specializes in quilting supplies, fabrics, notions and gifts. While the main focus is on quilting fabric, the store offers sewing machines, quilting classes, and all types of sewing and quilting supplies. One person described their selection of buttons as "buttons beyond belief."

The store itself is a gem, remodeled by local craftsmen into beautiful decor. White picket fences line the upper walls, the foyer has a bubbling fountain and Italian tile, and a white gazebo in the center of the store serves as a customer service counter.

Today, the Button Hole is one of the largest independently owned quilt stores in the entire nation. It was featured by the editors of American Patchwork and Quilting magazine as one of the top ten quilt shops in the country. Visitors have come to the store from England to Australia and from Alaska to New York. Tour buses even visit. Distant shoppers can order quilting kits online at www.thebuttonhole.net.

When Evelyn began this business, she had 200 bolts of fabric, which seems like a lot. Today, the Button Hole has more than 12,000 bolts of fabric. Wow.

The company also has an outlet store in the rural community of Yoder, which has a township population of 738 people. Now, that's rural.

The Button Hole is involved with special events, such as the Central Kansas quilt shop hop, under which 700 avid quilters visit 10 quilt stores in 2 ½ days. On a more serious note, one of the young women who works in these stores had a severe health problem and received a liver transplant. In her honor, the Button Hole is having a special quilt show and auction in September 2007. On September 29, several quilts will be sold at auction with the proceeds being donated to the Donate Life America Foundation in honor of this young woman.

The Button Hole employs 13 people with a combined quilting experience of nearly 100 years. Sherry says, "We have a fabulous staff that are avid quilters themselves, so they can pass along tips and give excellent personal service. Someone will say, "I received grandma's quilt and I don't know how to repair or clean it," and we're always told how helpful our people are."

Grandmother's quilt. It's a tangible and comfortable reminder of how we connect to our past. We commend the Birkhead family, Sherry Perdreauville, and all the people of the Button Hole for making a difference with their passion for preserving the heritage of quilting. I think Grandmother would be proud.

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

Sonny Zetmeir - Grandview Products

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

Let's check in to a Residence Inn in San Francisco. Look at the pretty cabinetry we find in our room. Where do you suppose those cabinets came from? Would you believe, halfway across the continent in rural Kansas? Today we'll meet the remarkable company which produces those cabinets and ships them coast to coast. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Sonny Zetmeir, President of Grandview Products Company, an outstanding cabinet-making business.

This company's roots parallel our nation's history. For starters, Sonny's dad was working on the railroad during the Depression. Sonny was born in Wellsville as his mother accompanied his father who was working on a bridge and building crew. When World War II hit, Sonny's dad couldn't get into the Army due to a heart murmur, so he built engines in Kansas City to support the war effort. After the war, Sonny's father went into woodworking.

One day when Sonny was five years old, the child went running into the street in front of their house. A neighbor driving down the street ran into Sonny. Fortunately, the child had no serious injuries. After the neighbor and everyone else calmed down, the families got to talking and comparing interests. This neighbor had inherited a thousand dollars from an aunt, and Sonny's father had some woodworking equipment but needed working capital. They decided to go into business together. It sounds to me like Sonny nearly gave his all for the business.

In 1946, they opened a cabinet-building business in the back of a garage in Grandview, Missouri. From the town name, they called it Grandview Products Company.

As the business grew, they moved to an industrial park in Kansas City. However, the city did not run a large water line to their site as had been expected. This compounded any fire hazard created by their wood and paint products, and fire insurance became very costly.

In 1965, the company moved to southeast Kansas. Sonny's father found a location in Parsons at the Army ammunition plant which had a full-time fire department. That fire protection was important to him, and so the company relocated there. But in three years, the ammunition plant expanded due to the Vietnam war and they were forced off the base.

Sonny says, "There was no time for a bond issue or anything like that, but five financial institutions in the area went together to fund the relocation of the plant." Grandview Products Company then built a new cabinet manufacturing facility at Parsons.

Sonny grew up in Kansas City, attended K-State, served in the U.S. Navy, and then came back into the family business in 1964. By 1982, his parents were ready to retire and he bought Grandview Products Company from them. Sonny says, "Interest was at 19 percent, the market was dead, and I walked in after signing the papers and said to myself, 'What did I just do?'"

But he and his 24 employees went to work. Today, Grandview Products Company is a 50 million dollar business with 430 employees shipping cabinets from coast to coast. The company is the largest employer in Parsons and also owns a facility in Cherryvale, population 2,339 people. Now, that's rural.

Why such success? Sonny says with a smile, "Brilliant management from the president of the company." No, he says it's the people. "We have excellent managers and very little turnover."

Sonny says, "We're a built-to-order company, which means we don't build anything unless we have an order in hand." He says, "We do a lot of business with builders of extended stay hotels, large condominiums, and even student housing. Our number one shipping state is North Carolina, but we go all over. Last year we put 3.5 million miles on our truck delivery fleet." Wow. For more information, go to www.grandviewcabinets.com.

It's time to check out of the San Francisco Residence Inn, with beautiful cabinets from clear out in Kansas. We commend Sonny Zetmeir and the people of Grandview Products Company for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and business growth. Even so, we don't recommend finding capital by running into the street in front of oncoming cars.

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

Stan Engdahl – motorcycle museum

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

The race is on. With a roar, the motorcycles take off from the starting line. It's a spectacle to behold, as they vie for position and make the turns. Today, we'll meet the man who has won more of those races than any Kansan in history. We'll also meet the new museum which he operates that honors the sport of motorcycle racing. Strap on your helmet, it's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Stan Engdahl, the retired motorcycle racer who with his wife LaVona are curators of the new Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette, Kansas. Stan grew up at Marquette. He says that after World War II was over, he was looking for some excitement. He went to a motorcycle
race and thought it looked like fun. He said, "I could do that. They're not going all that fast." Then he raced in the next one, and he says, "I found out they were going really fast!"

But he loved racing motorcycles - or motor-sickles, as he pronounces the word - and it got into his blood. That was the beginning of what might be the most dominant record over the longest time period of any sports figure other than a coach in Kansas. He has won more than 600 trophies, including numerous state and national titles, in races spanning every decade from the 1940s to the 1990s. Wow. That makes for more sequels than Rocky.

Stan operated a combination TV repair and motorcycle shop in downtown Marquette. When he retired, he sold the building to the city for a dollar. Some city leaders had the idea to turn the building into a museum to display vintage motorcycles.

Stan says, "I told 'em they were nuts. We wouldn't get one row of motorcycles in here in a year." Wrong. Stan says, "Within 45 days after opening, we had this big room full of donated motorcycles."

Labor Day weekend of 2003 marked the opening of the Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette. Stan and LaVona agreed to be curators. He has all 600 of his trophies on display plus two championship motorcycles, the steel shoe he wore to make the turns, and countless items of history and memorabilia.

For example, there's a black and white photo of Stan racing on his motorcycle with some funny looking thing attached to his leg. Stan explains, "I had broken my leg in a race and showed up at the next one on crutches. They weren't about to let me race. But I told 'em I was the two-time defending champion and deserved a chance to defend my title. Besides, this was a benefit for the Institute of Logopedics and they showed up with two busloads of crippled children, so I had to race for them."

Finally the race organizers had Stan sign a long legal release form and let him enter the race. The picture shows a piece of wood which Stan duct taped to his cast. He not only made it through the race, he won first place.

There are countless other stories to go with magazine covers, uniforms, historical displays, and more. But most of all, there are motorcycles: Lots and lots of motorcyces. Stan says, "We've had motorcycles donated from all over the country." There are more than 100 bikes and 46 different brands, including rare, vintage, and one-of-a-kind bikes.

One recent donor brought $200,000 worth of motorcycles in a single load. Stan says, "The people have been wonderful."

The people have also come to visit. I was the 16,154th person to sign the guest register. This museum has had visitors from coast to coast and 24 foreign countries. All this in the rural town of Marquette, Kansas, population 537 people. Now, that's rural. In May 2007, an annual motorcycle rally will be held in Marquette. For more information, go to www.ksmm.us.

The race is on. One can understand why people are racing to Marquette to see the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. We commend Stan and LaVona Engdahl and all those who are making a difference by supporting this remarkable jewel of racing history in rural Kansas. It's definitely
worth a trip to the finish line.

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

Terry Dishon - Lazy T Foundry and Woodworks

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

Finding a horseshoe means good luck. That folk wisdom came from my grandfather back when I was a kid. Recently I found a horseshoe and it did bring me good luck. Only it wasn't some rusty horseshoe along the trail, it was a horseshoe that had been shaped into a work of art. I also found the remarkable Old West-style craftsman who shaped it. He uses horseshoes, wood and similar items to create wonderful works of art with a western theme. He's located in rural Kansas, and he's remained true to the cowboy way in both good times and bad. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Terry Dishon, the proprietor of the Lazy T Buckaroo Foundry and Woodworks in Alta Vista, Kansas. Here is his story.

Terry and his wife Rita were originally raised on farms near Troy, Kansas. Terry was always mechanically skilled and also a fan of the old west – really a cowboy at heart.

In 1986, Terry went to work with the National Guard at Fort Riley. He did metal work, body work and repair, and general metal fabrication. Terry and Rita like the rural lifestyle and they wanted to live in a rural area. They eventually settled in Alta Vista, population 434 people. Now, that's rural.

In 1997, Terry went into business on his own. He started his own auto body shop in his garage in Alta Vista and called it Auto Spa. He did repair work, but his specialty was restoring International Harvester vehicles. That included not just tractors but also the International Scout, such as the vintage vehicle which Terry drives.

Terry's handiwork was excellent. One of his restored vehicles has gone as far away as Belleville, Illinois. Wow.

But then life threw Terry a curve. A goiter on his neck suddenly started to grow and expand. The doctors checked it out and they had bad news: Terry was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Surgery took his voicebox and part of his airway, but Terry is not the kind of guy who will quit. He says, "I've got too much livin' to do."

Since he could no longer work in an environment with paint fumes, he retired from his body shop but his other skills came into play. Terry says, "I'd always enjoyed western art and history, so I took up wood and metalwork." Terry started designing and building western-theme items. He had been making these as gifts for friends, but the response was so positive he started marketing them.

Using his first initial, Terry named the business Lazy T Buckaroo Foundry and Woodworks. Terry says, "I thought I'd just laze around and play cowboy the rest of my life."

But Terry's not being lazy. He creates wonderful handmade works of art with western themes as well as household items such as hat racks, coat racks, tissue holders and boot scrapers. He makes picturesque barn wood picture frames. His handmade boot scraper feature hames from a horse collar, mounted on an old disk. No, not some computer disk, an iron disk blade from a farm implement.

Perhaps his most striking piece of work was a giant model of a Saguaro cactus which he built for a customer's ranch home near Alta Vista. The saguaro cactus is 9 ½ feet tall and is made out of 236 horseshoes. It even has spines made out of welding wire.

Smaller examples of his handiwork can be found at Lee's Western Wear in Manhattan and Drover's Mercantile in Ellsworth. He sells them at western shows and community festivals from Lawrence to Colorado.

I was shopping at Lee's Western Wear when I spotted a creative, decorative item made from horseshoes. The craftsmanship and creativity caught my eye, and it lead me to find this wonderful cowboy craftsman.

So Grandpa was right. Finding a horseshoe did bring me good luck. For in finding this horseshoe, I found Terry Dishon the craftsman who did wonders with it. And in doing so, I found someone who is making a difference by using his skills and creativity, in spite of life's adversities. That's a find we should never forget.

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

Wild West World

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

Wild West. It's been a fundamental part of our American culture for more than a century. But today we're going beyond the old Wild West to a new creation: Wild West World. That's the name of a new theme park that is being built in our state. It is the first ever cowboy–themed park in the world, and it's found in rural Kansas. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge. We've learned about them before as owners of the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper, which is a wonderful tourism attraction they created on their home farm near Wichita. The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper built its success by offering hearty food, great cowboy music, and family entertainment.

Now Thomas and Cheryl are taking this concept up to a whole new level. A few years ago, Thomas conceived the idea of a theme park based around the American cowboy. It was an incredible vision: Creating a modern theme park based on the values and persona of the cowboy and the old west. It sounds like Disneyland in cowboy boots, and what better place to put it than along the Chisholm Trail in the heart of Kansas. After a lot of hard work and effort, this dream is about to become a reality.

In May 2007, Wild West World will open to the public. Thomas says, "Wild West World is all about family entertainment."

The 30 million dollar park will feature approximately 24 rides, including two roller coasters, a 50' high water log ride, numerous thrill rides and family rides. It will also include skill games, food concession areas, gift shops, craft and artesan shops and music throughout the park.

The first part of Wild West World, which opened in summer 2006, was the Johnny Western Theatre, named for the award winning country singer and Wichita radio personality, Johnny Western. Appropriately enough, this theatre is a great venue for live performances. In fact, it is designed for perfect acoustics. The ductwork is made from cloth rather than metal so that the listener doesn't hear the metal creaking with heat, for example. It is decorated in a classic, patriotic design and includes exhibit space or seating for more than 1,100 people.

In May, the theme park itself will open adjacent to the theatre. Visitors will enter a spacious parking lot and then cross a footbridge to enter the park. Then they will walk along what looks like a historic street in an old western town, with old-time storefronts containing dining and shopping alternatives.

The street connects to a circular drive which goes around a manmade lake. The lake is circled by an old-time train which will continuously circulate and carry passengers. The various thrill rides, family rides and gazebos for free, live entertainment are located in easy walking distance around the circle.

Wild West World will also include a catering area and pavilion seating for corporate or family retreats and meetings with room for some 3,000 people.

This is an incredible development. Kansas has had amusement parks before, but this is the first true theme park to be built in this state – and the only cowboy theme park in the entire world. How fitting that it should be located where it is, along the route of the historic Chisholm Trail in Kansas.

In fact, it is located in the rural town of Park City, population 5,944 people. Now, that's rural. But it has the advantage of being located next to I-35 just north of Wichita, with a regional population of some 1.2 million people. It is estimated that Wild West World could attract 500,000 visitors in its first year. Wow. For more information or tickets, go to www.wildwestworld.net.

Wild West. It's been a basic part of the culture of Kansas from its earliest years, and now it is being brought into the modern era and placed in a context of family entertainment which will attract visitors from around the globe. We commend Thomas and Cheryl Etheredge for making a difference with their vision and entrepreneurship. It is exciting to see the Wild West now being brought to the entire world.

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

Virginia Toedman

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

Did you ever wonder where the riding lawnmower was invented? Me neither. But I certainly was intrigued to learn that one of the first riding lawnmowers was invented in rural Kansas. This is the story of how a wonderful labor-saving device was created by a rural Kansas entrepreneur. It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Virginia Toedman, the daughter of the man who is credited by at least one website with creating the first riding lawnmower. To paraphrase a well-known saying, I've had push mowers and I've had riding mowers, and riding mowers are better.

Virginia Toedman explains that she grew up on a farm near Ransom, Kansas, population 326 people. Now, that's rural.

Her father was Virgil Cofer. Virginia says, "Mom was worried I would wander out in the tall grass and get bitten by a snake. She was always telling Dad to mow that lawn. But instead of using the push mower, he would go out and tinker in his shop."

Then one day in about 1950, he came out of his shop driving a lawnmower while riding on the top of it. He had built it with three wheels and mounted a tractor seat above the engine and blade. It made an easy, time-saving way to mow the lawn.

Boy, I wish I had something as productive to show my wife from my tinkering in the shop when I'm supposed to be mowing the lawn. In Virgil's case, his new device was a great success. In fact, Mr. Cofer eventually set up a company to manufacture his riding lawnmower. But what to call it?

Mr. Cofer named his lawnmower for his daughter, Virginia. It was called the Virginia Wonder Mower. Virginia Toedman says with a smile, "Yes, I have the dubious honor of having a lawnmower named after me."

She has a 1950s vintage advertising brochure with a picture of little Virginia atop the mower. The ad says, "A child can operate the Virginia Wonder Mower. It is the safest mower on the market today." Virginia is posed in her little dress, complete with black patent leather shoes. At least she isn't wearing pearls.

So that explains the Virginia in the name, but what about the word Wonder? Apparently Mr. Cofer thought he would market it as a modern wonder, although Virginia says with tongue-in-cheek, "Mom said it was a wonder that he ever got it done."

Not only did he get it done, he sold Virginia Wonder Mowers all over the country from coast to coast. In fact, to promote the endurance and durability of his product, he rode the Virginia Wonder Mower from Whittier, California to Washington DC, traveling 3,181 miles in 15 days. Virginia says, "Dad changed the pulleys so it was geared faster to cover more miles. He and a neighbor took turns driving the mower and following it with a truck. When they got to Washington, he showed it to Senator Andy Schoeppel on the lawn of the Capitol building."

The mower was quite a success in its time. By the early 1970s, Mr. Cofer was ready to sell his patents and get out of the business. Virginia says, "There were so many rules and regulations which came down from OSHA and the state that it wasn't worth it to continue." So the Virginia Wonder Mower is no longer built, although a man who had worked for Mr. Cofer went into a lawnmower building business for himself.

Virginia married and became a teacher. She has taught elementary school in Ransom for 30 years. Her brother Dale Cofer has refurbished several of the old lawnmowers and has ridden them in parades.

Have you ever wondered where the riding lawnmower was invented? Well, now you know at least one version of the origin. On behalf of lawn owners everywhere, I thank Virgil Cofer and his family for making a difference, with the innovation to create this labor-saving device and the entrepreneurship to market it nationwide.

And there's more. Remember the man who left Mr. Cofer to start his own lawnmower company? That company is still operating in Ransom. We'll learn about that on our next program.

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

LueAnn Roepke - Waterville Victorian Days

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 attend a Victorian high tea? You don't have to go across the ocean or back in time to experience such elegance, you can revisit this Victorian elegance right here in Kansas. So pour a steaming cup full of tea, this is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet LueAnn Roepke of Waterville, Kansas. She told me about the special events this community holds to showcase its charming homes and heritage.
Waterville is located in Marshall County, about 40 miles north of Manhattan. The history of the community is quite interesting.
Waterville began as a railroad town - literally. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad was wanting to extend west from Atchison exactly 100 miles. When the railroad engineers marked 100 miles on the map, that spot became the location of the new town site. It was named by a railroad superintendent who gave the new community the name of his old hometown back east: Waterville, New York. And so Waterville, Kansas was born.
Waterville became a major shipping center and trade center, thanks to the railroad. It was a rowdy cow town for a time, but settled down as homes and churches came to the community. A saloon across the street from the railroad depot was replaced by an opera house in 1904. A grand hotel was built west of the opera house in 1905.
Beautiful Victorian homes were built along the tree-lined streets of Waterville as well. One is on the National Register of Historic Places. Another very nice series of homes is affectionately called "Banker's Row."
The women of Waterville found a way to build on this heritage in a way to benefit the community. LueAnn Roepke says, "It was a bunch of ladies around a dining room table." They were talking about how they could do something fun and raise funds for the local museum and other needed projects around the community. They had the idea of having an English high tea and showcasing the Victorian homes in Waterville. It was such a success that it became an annual event. LueAnn says with a smile, "It's still a bunch of ladies around a dining room table."
Victorian Days is what they call this gathering, held the last weekend in April. It includes the Victorian Tea, with a menu of homemade locally baked foods such as lemon tea cake, dainty sandwiches, a trifle, shortbread cookies, fruit tart, and scones, hosted in one of the historic Victorian homes.
It sounds like something my wife would enjoy. As for me, I'll go for one of the buffalo burgers which the Lions Club is serving uptown that day.
Entertainment is another part of the festivities. Molly Ryan will be singing at the Waterville Opera House and a group of schoolchildren in period costumes will be performing at the Game Fork School, a genuine one-room schoolhouse located in the City Park. There is a hat display and tours of several turn-of-the-century homes plus driving and walking tours of the community. Several women will be wearing period dress.
The proceeds of the Victorian tea are donated to needy causes. LueAnn Roepke says, "Our goal has always been to give the money away. One year we had 700 people attend, and we raised ten thousand dollars that year." This event has attracted people from as far away as St. Louis.
LueAnn Roepke says, "We have an incredible town. Waterville High School closed in 1966, but we still have a school alumni banquet each Memorial Day weekend and some 200 people will attend." Not bad for a rural community of 664 people. Now, that's rural.
For tea reservations or more information, go to watervillekansas.com.

Would you like to attend a Victorian high tea? No, you don't have to go back a century in time, just come to Waterville, Kansas on the last Saturday of April. We salute LueAnn Roepke and all the volunteers who are making a difference by honoring their heritage and raising funds for good causes in their community.
And there's more. We'll learn about the aforementioned opera house and hotel on our next program.
For the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development, this is Ron Wilson with Kansas Profile.

Bevy Roepke - Waterville

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

"There goes the neighborhood," says the old saying. Today, we'll learn about a neighborhood in a small Kansas town which includes a hotel and community opera house which were built more than a century ago. We'll learn about this historic neighborhood and the people behind it on today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Bevy Roepke, who showed me the Waterville Opera House and the Weaver Hotel in Waterville.

On our last program, we learned about the Victorian high tea held each spring in Waterville, usually at the Weaver Hotel.

The Weaver Hotel was built by the Weaver family in 1905 near the railroad depot downtown. Vendors would ride in on the railroad and set up their wares for sale. The hotel was famous around Kansas and hosted visitors for several decades. Over time, the ownership changed hands and the name changed also.

Bevy's mother Ina Roeth grew up here at Waterville. Ina married and moved away, but when her husband passed away years later, she moved back to Waterville. In 1970, Ina bought the old building and gave it back its original name: The Weaver Hotel. She operated it for eight years before the hotel closed and then reopened briefly in the 1990s.

In October 1999, an out of town buyer expressed interest in the land. Local folks realized that the building was at risk. The Waterville Preservation Society mobilized to purchase the building. Now the community has raised nearly half a million dollars for this project, and the building has been donated to the city. The community is working hard to restore the building.

The building is to reopen in summer 2008 as a bed and breakfast and visitors center.

The hotel is a three story building with a wonderful balcony. The upstairs suites have remarkable curved glass windows which follow the curve of the wall. The building is constructed of cement blocks which were made on site. In fact, the grandson of the mason who built the blocks visited here during the 100th anniversary celebration.

Inside a visitor will find original cabinetry and wonderful wood staircases, sliding doors and clawfoot tubs. The basement has a furnace and coal bin which was used as a wine cellar. Outside there is a bullet hole which dates back to a 1910 bank robbery. Wow.

Across the street from the Weaver Hotel is the Waterville Opera House, which has been in continuous use since it was built back in 1904. Traveling theatrical performances as well as summer theater and school plays are held here. A professional theater company was based here in the 1970s. The opera house has hosted performances of such great shows as On Golden Pond, Bus Stop, Showboat, and The King and I by the local theater group.

A separate large room below the theater serves as a supervised youth center for the teenagers. It has videos, study room, and game area with pool table and air hockey.

The Waterville Opera House and the Weaver Hotel make quite a neighborhood. This is especially significant for Bevy Roepke, whose mother Ina knew the Weaver Hotel while growing up and then operated it decades later. In February 2007, Ina turned 95 years old. Bevy says, "A lot of people are working hard to see this building restored for the benefit of our community."

It is also important to benefit the region. Another community worker, LueAnn Roepke, says, "We need to partner with other rural towns in our region like Barnes, Blue Rapids and Marysville which have other assets." That type of cooperation is important in rural Kansas. After all, Blue Rapids has 1,073 people and Barnes has 148 people. Now, that's rural. Working together can benefit all these communities.

"There goes the neighborhood," says the old saying. Today we've learned about a historic neighborhood in Waterville which includes the opera house and hotel, both built more than 100 years ago. We commend Bevy Roepke, Ina, and all those who are making a difference by raising funds to save this historic hotel. As they work together with nearby communities to benefit the entire region, we can see they make good neighbors. Watch them go!

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

Wayne McClelland - ABZ Valve

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

Let's go halfway around the globe to the Fiji Islands, to a company which is receiving a key component for its manufacturing process from a U.S. supplier. The key component is a valve: An industrial valve to be used in the manufacturing plant's piping system. It is crucial that this valve works properly, for it is this valve which enables the workers to open and shut the passageway and effectively control the flow of products or inputs. The success of this family-owned valve company is no open and shut case, but it is a remarkable example of global growth in rural Kansas. This is today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Wayne McClelland, President of ABZ Valves and Controls. Wayne grew up in the town of Madison, south of Emporia. After college at Emporia State and Wichita State, he became an accountant in Wichita. But Wayne preferred small town life, so he came back to his hometown of Madison and bought a hardware store. He later bought a local company named ABZ Manufacturing.

ABZ was founded in Madison in 1977. The name ABZ came from the names of the original incorporators: Al, Bill, and a Mr. Zorn. The company worked in oilfield storage equipment and then diversified into industrial valve production, which is now the company's prime business.

Wayne bought ABZ and it remains a family business today. Wayne's father Bus is retired but still involved with the company, and Wayne's son Jason is Sales Manager. The company is known as ABZ Valves and Controls, or ABZ Valve for short.

The company's key product is a butterfly valve, which in its simplest form is a fitting with a disk and stem mounted inside which can be turned to control the flow of product through a pipe. A quarter turn of the stem can turn the disk inside from zero to 90 degrees.

This is a crucial element to control the flow within any piping system. ABZ produces both a rubber seated valve and a high performance valve which can withstand high pressures and temperatures.

Wayne McClelland says, "Many types of things are transported through piping systems, such as water, chemicals, beverages, cement, steam, food, and paint. We can trim or coat our valves with compatible materials for any of those applications."

ABZ offers valves for all types of industrial uses, in sizes ranging from 2 inches to 48 inches. Wow, that's a biggie. They also sell the related controls or actuators, ranging from gears to pneumatic to electrical controls. But what is really exciting is how this company's business has grown.

In 1987, the company occupied about 5,000 square feet. Today, it occupies more than 45,000 square feet with a 17,000 square foot expansion in the works. The company inventory is valued at more than $4 million. Recent sales growth has been especially strong, due to new products and an expanded sales effort. During the past 2 ½ years, sales have grown from 8 million to nearly 20 million dollars. Wow.

This company literally sells valves and actuators from coast to coast and around the world. ABZ has distribution in all 50 states as well as Canada, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, China, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and many more.

Yet this global company remains based in its original rural town of Madison, Kansas, population 862 people. Now, that's rural. How wonderful to find this international presence in small town Kansas.

Wayne McClelland says, "The Kansas Department of Commerce and the International Business Department at Emporia State have been instrumental in helping us with our international work." He says, "We like the simple life and the good work ethic in small town Kansas." More information can be found at www.abzvalve.com.

It's time to say farewell to the Fiji Islands, where we found a manufacturing company using a valve from a business far away in rural Kansas. We commend Wayne McClelland and all the people of ABZ Valves and Controls for making a difference with their hard work and international entrepreneurship. So I say, turn it on and open it up. With their continued success, the benefits will flow to rural Kansas.

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

Zelia Wiley - MANRRS

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

"Mind your manners." That's what my mother used to say when we went off to someone else's house and she wanted us to be on our best behavior. Today we're going to think about a different kind of manners. It is pronounced the same, but it is spelled M-A-N-R-R-S. MANRRS is an acronym which stands for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. It is a national organization that promotes academic and professional advancement of minorities in agriculture and related fields. Would you believe that the new National President of that organization is found right here in Kansas? It's today's Kansas Profile.

Met Dr. Zelia Wiley, the new National President of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences, or MANRRS. Zelia is serving a one-year term as the elected, volunteer president of the national organization. Professionally, she is the Assistant Dean for Diversity in the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension at Kansas State University.

MANRRS was created in response to the many challenges facing minority students with an interest in agriculture. In 1982, a support group for minority agriculture students was created at Michigan State. Interest in similar organizations was expressed at other land-grant universities, and in 1986 the first annual national conference was conducted for minority students in agriculture and natural resources. The new organization was born. In 1988, delegates to a subsequent conference adopted the name MANRRS.

Today, MANRRS membership includes more than 1,200 undergraduate students, grad students, and professionals in more than 70 chapters at colleges from coast to coast, with men and women from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Zelia Wiley is proud of the accomplishments of the MANRRS organization. She can claim a special distinction: She is the first National President of MANRRS to have been a member of the organization as an undergraduate. She was a student member of MANRRS while studying at Penn State.

Zelia is from Fort Worth, Texas originally. She graduated from Prairie View A&M before going to Penn State. She also served as the first minority intern in southeast Asia for the US Agency for International Development, when she served an internship in Sri Lanka. So Zelia is used to being a pioneer.

In October 2003, Zelia was hired as the Assistant Dean for Diversity in the K-State College of Agriculture. Zelia says, "The Diversity Programs Office provides support, motivation and direction as we continuously strive to prepare students to serve in a multiculturally diverse workforce." She is involved in promoting the recruitment of minority students as well as helping all agriculture students expand their appreciation of different cultures.

In this role, she works with the MANRRS chapter at K-State. It was also a natural for her to be involved with the national organization, and in March 2007, was elected National President.

One might assume that many of the minority students at K-State come from an urban background, but there are rural students as well. In fact, one of the students who accompanied Dr. Wiley to the national MANRRS conference this spring comes from the rural southeast Kansas town of Thayer, population 496 people. Now, that's rural.

Zelia seeks to work with students from all types of backgrounds and cultures to promote and implement initiatives which foster inclusion and advancement of various ethnic and cultural groups. She strives to provide and promote leadership opportunities, understanding, goodwill diversity and friendship among students and faculty in the College of Agriculture, and now, nationwide. We congratulate Dr. Zelia Wiley on her election as President of MANRRS and commend her for making a difference in the lives of students in Kansas and all across the country.

"Mind your manners." Yes, that's what my mother would say when she wanted me to be at my best behavior. Today, we've thought about manners in a different sense - as an acronym for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. But in a way, perhaps there is a similarity. Just as moms want their kids to be on their best behavior, Zelia and the other leaders of the MANRRS organization are working to help their students to always be their best.

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