Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development
2009 Kansas Profiles

Amy Lund – Swimming Hole

Garth Gardiner - Superhorse

Kim Ellenz – Old School Seals

Becky and Carroll Walters - Pumpkin Patch

Doug and Brenda Renyer - Renyer's Pumpkin Farm

Carolyn Dunn

Carolyn Dunn - Atwood

Cathedral of the Plains

Chris Day

Christopher Miller – Rocking M Radio

Chuck Otte

Dan Abitz – GBA Builders

Dan Abitz - ViroCon

Dan Hubert – H and H Hunting Supplies

Dan Thalmann – Washington County News

David Littrell

Doug Chanay

Ed Harold - Mt. Sunflower

Ed Scheele - Greyhounds

Ed Scheele - Museums

Enrique Franz – La Mexicana radio

Ernie Poe – Barbed Wire

Arnold’s Greenhouse

George Grant

Greg Unruh – Community HealthCare System

Helen Judd - Hays House

Schaakes Pumpkin Patch

Jayne Pearce - Fort Wallace Museum

Jean Meyer – First Trust Company of Onaga

Jerry Vandervort – part 2

Jerry Vandervort – part 1

Silver Screen Cowboy Museum

Ken and Sue Schwindt

Kristin Chambers – Equine Rescue

Onaga

Marci Penner – We Kan Bank - Whiting

Marita Elliott

Ed Harold - Mt. Sunflower

 

Am

y Lund – Swimming Hole

 

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 old swimming hole.  If this calls to mind a rope swing over a muddy creek, think again.  This is not your grandfather’s swimming hole.  In fact, The Swimming Hole is the name of an innovative business in rural Kansas which is using hydrotherapy for treatment of horses.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

           

Meet Amy Lund.  Last week, we learned that the 2007 Superhorse at the American Quarter Horse Association World Show was trained by Brad Lund.  His wife Amy is also involved in horse training.  Now she has her own business known as The Swimming Hole.

 

 Amy is originally from southern California.  As a kid, she loved horses.  She went to work with horses in Oklahoma where she met and married Brad Lund.  He took a job in the horse business at Scott City, Kansas, and then he and Amy got their own place where they now live near La Cygne in eastern Kansas.

           

Brad is a professional horse trainer who specializes in breeding, training and showing horses.  Amy is especially interested in the soundness of the horses.

           

Amy says, “I had trained horses and traveled around, but I have always been interested in keeping horses sound and rehabbing them effectively.”  On one dark day, that interest came to a head.

 

One of Amy’s horses had a bad accident and tore a suspensory ligament, which is a key leg muscle.  The muscle was 80 percent torn through.  Amy sent the horse down to Texas where they had a facility to rehab the horse through aquatic therapy.  Essentially, the horse was placed in a piece of equipment where he was allowed to walk in water in a carefully controlled environment.  The horse recovered so well that he eventually won the AQHA youth world show in heeling.  Wow.

 

Amy was intrigued by the benefits of equine aqua therapy.  She researched the various types of equipment, found there was no such facility in Kansas, and decided to pursue such a business herself.  In December 2006, she opened a horse aquatic therapy facility called The Swimming Hole.

 

Amy says with a smile, “I was going to call it the Kansas Equine Rehabilitation Center or something like that, but Brad said that was too boring.  He said, `Call it something fun like The Swimming Hole,’ and so I did.”

 

The Swimming Hole features an underwater treadmill in heated water complete with whirlpool jets.  There are three sand filters to sanitize the water.  The apparatus is 45 feet long.  The horse walks down a ramp into the water which is five feet deep at its deepest point.  The treadmill itself is about 15 feet long, consisting of a continuous belt and stainless steel hardware attached to a hydraulic pump. The operator controls the speed of the treadmill, from a walk up to a trot.

 

The horse walks at a controlled pace on the treadmill in water heated to 83 degrees and circulating like a whirlpool.  There are four water jets per leg.  The result is soothing warmth and pressure.  Aquatred therapy has been shown to be a highly effective means of reconditioning injured legs, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.  It is also an excellent way to exercise or condition a healthy horse.

           

Amy says, “Aquatred takes about 60 percent of the weight off the joints of the horse.”  This enables the horse to get healthy exercise without putting undue pressure on the joints.  For example, one customer brought a German warmblood horse from Germany, took it to surgery at the K-State veterinary school, and then to Amy’s for rehabilitation.  Wow.  It’s exciting to find this resource in rural Kansas, near the community of La Cygne, population 1,128 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

For more information, call 913-757-2444.

 

It’s time to leave the swimming hole.  No, this isn’t your grandfather’s muddy swimming spot.  This is a modern, sanitary system for helping rehabilitate and condition horses using water and motion.  We commend Amy Lund for making a difference by offering this innovative system to help horses work their way back to health.  With more businesses like these, rural Kansas can make some waves.

 

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

 

 

Garth Gardiner - Superhorse

 

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

           

You’ve heard of superheroes – but have you ever heard of Superhorses?  Superheroes are found in comic books, but the Superhorse is a genuine title that is earned in the showring.  Superhorse is the name of an award presented annually by the American Quarter Horse Association to the top overall point winner in the annual world Quarter Horse competition.  It’s like an equine version of a gold medal in the decathlon.  This Superhorse is found in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

           

Meet Garth and Amanda Gardiner from Ashland, Kansas.  The Gardiners own the animal which was named the AQHA World Champion Superhorse in 2007.

           

Garth and Amanda grew up around horses.  Garth came from the Gardiner Ranch, which started when his grandfather homesteaded 160 acres more than a century ago.  The ranch expanded through the years. Today it is operated by Garth’s parents Henry and Nan Gardiner plus Garth and his brothers Greg and Mark and their wives.

           

Garth went to Nashville for five years to try his hand at a country music career.  I suspect he became a little homesick, but in any event, he made some friends who were in the horse business.  His wife Amanda, who is from Colby, had rodeoed and roped, so they began doing this together.  After returning to the ranch in Kansas, Garth and Amanda continued and expanded his quarter horse operation.

Today, Gardiner Quarter Horses is a premier equine breeder.  Specifically, the Gardiners raise and market world-class horses for cowhorse and roping events.  They carefully select mares and breed them to top stallions.  Using embryo transfer, they can expand their herd more quickly.  Meanwhile, they have those horses trained to compete at a top level in the cowhorse and roping competitions.

           

The horses are shown in competitive ranch-type events such as heading, heeling, working cowhorse, and performance halter.  In each of these events, the horse is a vital partner to the cowboy in performing a task successfully, such as catching and roping a calf.

           

Garth Gardiner says, “We’ve tried to establish a solid show record.  Then we take yearling colts to sales all over the country.”

           

 The American Quarter Horse Association sponsors a World Show each year with competitive events.  It’s a kind of equine Olympics.  Winners are named in each category, and then the horse who achieves the highest point total overall is named Superhorse.

 

In 2007, the Gardiners brought to the competition a horse named Shiners Diamond Jill.  She was trained and shown by Brad Lund from LaCygne, Kansas.  This horse won high point honors in senior heading and heeling.  When the point totals were calculated at the AQHA World Show, Shiners Diamond Jill from Ashland, Kansas was named Superhorse.

 

In 2008, another Gardiner-owned horse named Sue B Shiner was reserve world champion in the heading competition of the AQHA team roping.  In February 2009, she was shown by Amanda in the novice, non-pro bridle class of the National Reined Cow Horse Association and was named reserve world champion.  Wow.

 

These horses are beautiful, but this isn’t about appearance.  These are horses which can be utilized.

 

Garth says, “The versatility of the Quarter Horse is terrific.  They can cut, jump, drive, or pull.  They have cow sense, athleticism, and beauty.  That’s why they’re such an outstanding breed of equine.”  The Gardiners have sold their high quality colts to customers all over the west, from Iowa to California.  Meanwhile, the Gardiners remain based in rural Kansas, on their ranch near the town of Ashland, population 962 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

For more information, go to gardinerquarterhorses.com.

 

You’ve heard of superheroes, now you know about superhorses.  We salute Garth and Amanda Gardiner and all the Gardiner family for making a difference with their equine enterprise.  Their achievements have brought international recognition to rural Kansas.  Their success is not some superhero fantasy.  It is reality.  In other words, this is no comic book tale, but I guess it is a horse tale.

 

And there’s more.  Remember the trainers of this Superhorse?  They offer another innovative service which helps horses stay afloat – and I mean that literally.  We’ll learn about that next week.

 

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

 

Kim Ellenz – Old School Seals

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

           

“The envelope, please.”  A hush falls over the audience at the People’s Choice Awards as the emcee breaks the wax seal on the envelope containing the names of the winners.  Where do you suppose that wax seal came from?  Would you believe, from a small town in the middle of Kansas?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

           

Meet Kim Ellenz, co-owner of Old School Seals, the company which produced the wax seals which would have gone on the award envelopes.  Kim and her husband Daron grew up at Tipton, Kansas.  She worked in banking and insurance, while Daron is an electrician and teaches electricity at the technical college in Beloit.

 

Kim and Daron are friends with John and Dena Stultz in Ellsworth.  When it was time for Dena’s birthday, John came up with a creative idea for a gift.  Using his father-in-law’s computer-controlled milling machine, John milled a personalized wax stamp for her.

Dena loved the gift.  When they ordered sealing wax for it, the wax supplier asked where he got the stamp.  When he explained that he made it himself, the supplier was astounded and said, “There’s a real need for people who have the ability to do these designs.”

           

So John and Dena started designing and marketing these stamps and seals.  They set up shop in an old school building.  Friends Kim and Daron Ellenz came to visit.  They were so impressed that Kim told her husband, “I would love to do that.”  A few years later when John and Dena had a baby and were ready to share the business, Kim’s wish came true.

 

Kim and Daron moved the business to their hometown of Tipton.  It is called Old School Seals, based on both the old building where the business began and the “old school” practice of sealing envelopes with a wax seal.

Wax seals and the related metal stamps are the primary products of Old School Seals.  The company makes seals in traditional wax as well as a peel-and-stick form, and offers sealing wax and other accessories.  Customers can custom order seals with a particular initial, monogram, or other design, or a metal stamp to make their own.

 

The metal stamps are produced using a computer-controlled milling machine, while the wax stamps are produced by machine and by hand.  In a year, they produce well over 100,000 wax seals.

           

So what does a person do with wax seals?  After all, didn’t the custom of sealing envelopes with wax seals go out of fashion a couple of hundred years ago?  Yes, wax seals are unusual, but perhaps that is what makes them so distinctive.

           

Many people are using them as special accents on wedding invitations or gifts.  They have appeared on Ralph Lauren products, Disney promotions, Ivana Trump’s wedding invitations, and as labels on Buccella wines from the Napa Valley of California.  Wow.  On Kim’s first day at work, she produced seals to go on the award envelopes at the People’s Choice awards – which unfortunately were cancelled due to the Hollywood writer’s strike.  For President Obama’s inauguration, a company created a commemorative box of chocolates and had Old School Seals custom design and produce a wax seal to go on the gift box.  The market for these products is primarily on the east and west coast, but they have gone as far away as Thailand.

 

Notably, this is entirely an Internet-based business.  There is no storefront retail trade.  On the Old School Seals website, customers can place and track orders.  Products are shipped daily on UPS.  From the customer’s standpoint, this business could be virtually anywhere.  Remarkably, it is located in the rural community of Tipton, Kansas, population 240 people.  Now, that’s rural.  For more information, go to www.oldschoolseals.com.

           

“The envelope, please.”  As the emcee prepares to announce the award winner, he breaks the wax seal that was produced all the way out in Kansas.  We salute Kim and Daron Ellenz, John and Dena Stultz, and all those involved with Old School Seals for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and innovation.  This type of spirit can help make rural Kansas the winner.

 

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

 

 

 

Becky and Carroll Walters - Pumpkin Patch

 

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

 

Where would we find the only pumpkin-shaped canning jar in the world?  How about at an innovative pumpkin patch in rural Kansas?  This is the remarkable story of the Walters’ Pumpkin Patch.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

 

Meet Becky and Carroll Walters of Walters’ Pumpkin Patch near Burns, Kansas.  Carroll grew up here while Becky is from El Dorado.  They met and married, and are living on Carroll’s home farm.

 

Becky was working at a greenhouse when the owner showed her some miniature pumpkins.  Becky thought they were cute.  She realized she could raise those on the Walters farm, so she planted a couple of rows across a five acre field.  When the season was all done, they realized that the pumpkins had made twice as much as if the field had been in milo.  It was a sign that they should pursue the pumpkins, and they did.

 

Then they discovered something else:  Along with the pumpkins came people.  Many people wanted to come to the farm to pick out their pumpkin, so Becky and Carroll started opening up the farm.  That was the beginning of what would become an incredible agritourism success story.

 

Today, Walters’ Pumpkin Patch is a major attraction with all kinds of fall activities for kids and others.  Families can come and pick out pumpkins, along with many other fun activities.  For example, there is a swinging bridge, mining sluice to find gems and minerals, treehouse play area, giant jumping pillow, pumpkin golf, underground slides, hayride, specialty pumpkins, butterfly house, bag swings, pedal boats, pedal cars, corn maze, barrel train, rope climb, corn bin to play in, tricycle track, wildflower trail, and much, much more.

 

Guys like the air-powered pumpkin cannon which can shoot an eight-inch pumpkin half a mile at scarecrows across a field.  The Pumpkin Pantry features gifts and food, such as pumpkin donuts, breads, chili, juice and salsa.  Becky makes creative craft items from pumpkins, scarecrows, and gourds.

 

The corn maze is offered during the day, with a flashlight maze and haunted cannery on Friday and Saturday nights.

 

Becky said, “We try to add activities which you won’t find at the city park or the zoo or at Disneyland.  And we want to stay close to authentic farm activities.”  Carroll said, “The things we take for granted, like finding frogs in the creek, are fun for these kids.”

 

These activities are fun for big people too.  One little old lady with a walker was reticent when she arrived, but when she left she said, “I haven’t had this much fun since I was 16 years old.”

 

Becky developed a pumpkin salsa and she wanted pumpkin-shaped canning jars to put it in, but she couldn’t find them anywhere.  She talked to a big company which told her that just developing the mold would cost $30,000, which seemed prohibitive.  As Becky thought about this, she thought of a local farm kid she knew who had gone to K-State and become a fashion designer.  When Becky contacted her, she found that not only was the woman willing to design the jars, she owned a glass manufacturing company.  When the project was all done, Becky had the only pumpkin-shaped canning jar in the world.

 

All these attractions are bringing more than 20,000 people per year to the Walters’ farm near the rural community of Burns, population 271 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

In addition, the Walters are branching out to host weddings, reunions, and corporate picnics throughout the year.  For more information, go to www.walterspumpkinpatch.com or www.thewaltersfarm.com.

 

It’s time to leave Walters’ Pumpkin Patch.  We commend Becky and Carroll Walters for making a difference with their innovation and expansion of this fall agritourism activity.  Becky shares one other example:  One day she noticed a mother tending a child who was seeming to have trouble at the pumpkin patch.  The following day, the mother explained to Becky that her son is autistic.  She said, “He never puts sentences together, he just says words.  But last night at dinner, he said, ‘I love my pumpkin.’”  Becky said, “The mother was so happy.  It made it all worthwhile.

 

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

 

Doug and Brenda Renyer - Renyer's Pumpkin Farm

 

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

What are your favorite colors?  Today we'll meet a young Kansas family which says their favorite colors are orange and green--at least in the fall.  That's not because they are the colors of their favorite football team or their favorite school, but because orange and green are the colors of pumpkins.  This family is using pumpkins as the basis for a successful agritourism enterprise in rural Kansas.  It's today's Kansas Profile.

Meet Brenda and Doug Renyer.  They operate Renyer's Pumpkin Farm near Wetmore, Kansas.

Doug Renyer grew up on a dairy farm in the region.  He now works for the Wenger company in Sabetha.  Brenda is originally from Wellsville.  After graduating from Emporia State, she got her first teaching job at Sabetha where she met and married Doug.  They now have a son, Clay.

In 1990, Doug had purchased a farm near Wetmore.  The farm is located in a neighborhood known locally as Granada.  Granada is not an incorporated town, but at one point it was a Pony Express stop and had a mercantile, blacksmith shop, and even a hotel.  Doug says, "When the railroad came to Wetmore, Granada became a ghost town."  Some old buildings remain, plus the Renyer's home, a rental house, and an old schoolhouse which was converted into a residence.

The Renyers thought about how they could utilize this rural setting and decided to establish Renyer's Pumpkin Farm.  Brenda says, "We threw some pumpkin seeds in the ground, but we were just playing at it.  We thought that someone might come by and buy some."

Then the Renyers met another Kansas farm family named the Walters.  The Walters encouraged Doug and Brenda to attend the convention of the North American Farmers' Direct Marketing Association.  It was a turning point.  Brenda says, "For three days, you are traveling with at least 50 other agritourism people, and going to all sorts of successful farms.  Everyone is talking about what works and what doesn't, and you get to see how it can really be done."

The Renyers came home and put those ideas to work.  Today, the Renyer's Pumpkin Farm attracts more than 4,000 people during five weekends in the fall.

Brenda says, "We encourage families to come spend a day at the farm."  The farm offers not only a six-acre pick your own pumpkin field, but a remarkable variety of other attractions for families.  These include a corn cannon, hayrides, two-acre corn maze, pumpkin train, grain bin play area, pumpkin slingshot, animal area, duck races, playground, tube slide, straw bale maze, scarecrows, John Deere trike track, family photo area, picnic space, food, and more.

Brenda has always enjoyed crafts.  In fact, her Christmas ornament design won second place in a Country Marketplace magazine contest.  So Brenda produces and markets unique craft items plus potted mums and fresh and dried gourds in an old garage that has been converted to a gift shop.

Sure enough, this was a great way to utilize their rural setting.  After all, Wetmore is a rural town of 355 people.  Then the Renyers point out that they actually live at Granada.  Counting three members of the Renyer family, three residents in the rental house, and the gentleman who lives in the schoolhouse, that gives Granada a population of 7.  Now, that's rural.

She says, "This has been great for our family, because it has allowed me to be home with my son.  And it has taught him about the importance of a work ethic and responsibility."

Thanks to Brenda's creative eye, the farm is well decorated using those pumpkin colors of orange and green.  For more information, go to www.renyerspumpkinfarm.com

What are your favorite colors?  For the Renyers, they are those pumpkin colors of orange and green, which one finds all around the Renyer's Pumpkin Farm.  We salute Doug and Brenda Renyer for making a difference with the agritourism innovation.  As Doug says, "You have to make it orange to get the green."

And there's more.  Remember the Walters family who encouraged the Renyers along the way?  We'll visit their agritourism enterprise next week.

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

           

Carolyn Dunn

 

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

 

If you had five minutes before a national audience to express what is most important to you, what would you say?  Many people might be scared to death of such a large audience.  Others might welcome the opportunity to speak on what they care about most.  Today we’ll meet someone who had exactly that opportunity, and what she spoke about was the value of rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

 

Meet Carolyn Dunn, who farms with her husband Brian in Stafford County.  In fall 2008, Carolyn had a remarkable opportunity in a national setting before the mass media to express her views, which strongly support rural America.

 

Carolyn grew up on a farm near Ottawa, Kansas.  After graduating from K-State in ag economics, she worked for the USDA Foreign Ag Service, House Agriculture Committee, and then Senator Sam Brownback in Washington DC.

 

Working for the Senator, she was back in Kansas frequently.  She stayed with her parents during one trip, and they went to the Kansas City farm show on their way to take her to the airport.  At the farm show she ran into Brian Dunn, whom she had known casually at K-State, and they exchanged contact information.

 

A few months later when Brian was in Washington DC with the Kansas Ag and Rural Leadership program, he contacted Carolyn and they had dinner together.  It sparked a relationship.  Ultimately they married and moved back to his family farm near the rural community of St. John, Kansas, population 1,301 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

Carolyn is a self-described farm partner and community volunteer, plus mom for their three sons.  She is involved with farm and community organizations, serving on the Board of the Golden Belt Community Foundation and facilitating a four-county leadership development program.

 

One day while driving, Carolyn got a call from Washington DC.  It was a friend and former coworker of hers, asking if she would want to speak to the Republican National Convention.  Well, one doesn’t get a call like that every day.

 

It turned out that her friend had been visiting with a buddy on the John McCain campaign staff as they were looking for a non-traditional voice on ag and rural issues to add to the convention speakers lineup.  Her friend suggested Carolyn.  A few weeks later, Carolyn found herself at the convention addressing a national television audience.

 

Modern political conventions are said to be carefully scripted affairs.  Carolyn says, “I thought they would give me a script.”  Instead, she was assigned a speechwriter and asked to develop a draft speech.  She submitted her draft to the campaign and, she says, “They didn’t change a comma.”

 

On September 3, 2008, Carolyn found herself at the lectern of the Republican National Convention facing a huge arena and a national television audience.  What she chose to do with her five minute opportunity was to speak from the heart.

 

First of all, she explained that she and Brian had chosen to build their lives in rural Kansas, despite the lure of professional opportunities elsewhere.  She spoke with pride of farmers’ contributions to society, but expressed her concern about the depopulation of rural communities and the future of moral values.  She said, “I want to raise my children in an environment that cultivates a strong work ethic and a sense of personal responsibility.”  She said passionately, “Small-town America…is a culture worth preserving.”  Before giving the call for voters to support her candidate, she outlined five key strategies for rural America:  Retaining youth, maintaining basic services, supporting entrepreneurship, investing in local worthy causes, and developing leadership.  Wow.  If she was on the ballot, she would get my vote.

 

I appreciate Carolyn’s advocacy for rural values in this unique setting, but more than that, I appreciate her ongoing work to enhance her community locally through her volunteerism and leadership.

 

If you had five minutes before a national audience to express what is most important to you, what would you say?  We salute Carolyn Dunn for making a difference by speaking up for rural America.  Now, my five minutes are up.  Next week we’ll learn about one of Carolyn’s projects which is transforming communities.

 

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

 

 

 

Carolyn Dunn - Atwood

 

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

 

“Goodbye and good luck.”  Whenever there is a high school graduation, that phrase seems to be the message:  Farewell and best wishes wherever you go.  Of course, that reflects our sentiment, because those graduates are leaving the school and we wish them well.  But have you ever stopped to think what message that conveys to our graduates in a larger sense?  Is it telling them to go away and have success elsewhere, rather than here?  That thought crossed the mind of a young Kansas farm wife recently as she attended a high school graduation.  She is working with a program that, among other things, encourages youth to find opportunities in their own hometown, and she’s seeing the beneficial results to the community.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

 

Meet Carolyn Dunn.  Last week we learned that Carolyn is a Kansas farm wife and community volunteer.  One of her projects is working with a program called Hometown Prosperity, or HTP, sponsored by Kansas Farm Bureau.  As has been described in Kansas Profile before, HTP is based on the successful Hometown Competitiveness model of the Nebraska Community Foundation.

 

Carolyn Dunn is assisting with implementation of HTP in Kansas in three pilot communities, one of which is Atwood.  Thanks to Carolyn for her report which provided the information for this profile.

 

For years, the mantra had been simple:  If you want to be successful, move away and get a good job in the city.  But in Atwood, the attitude changed, and the message to young people became:  “Go, get an education, but please consider coming back.”  The results are significant.

 

Carolyn describes the recent turnaround in Atwood.  During the last four years, 50 businesses in the Atwood area have successfully transitioned to a new owner – instead of simply closing when one businessperson decided to retire.  This includes 30 farms and 20 non-farm businesses including a pharmacist, an attorney, an accounting firm, a chiropractor, a bowling alley, and an electrician.  Several of the new business owners have spouses who also have decided to begin a business.

 

For the first time in over 20 years, school enrollment increased.  A bond was passed to build a new swimming pool- thanks in large part to a group of young moms – and it will be financed with no increase in the mill levy.  The high school is expanding its music room, and the hospital is remodeling and adding a wing.  Young adults are gradually assuming leadership roles in the community.

 

The change has been gradual, but significant.  Chris Sramek, former Rawlins County Economic Development Director, attributes it to the focus on communicating with young people in the community.  It starts when they are in high school, but it continues by keeping in contact with young alumni after they have left to continue their education or go to work elsewhere.

 

Sramek credits high school activities like the entrepreneur fair and speakers that reinforce the message of commitment to the community, as well as a very strong high school alumni association that helps people stay connected to the community.

 

Recent economic development efforts in Atwood have focused on the four areas of the Kansas Hometown Prosperity Initiative:  Youth retention, entrepreneurship, wealth retention, and leadership.  Mary Holle of Atwood, who participated in the HTP training four years ago, says the community’s efforts focused first on the element of youth, and as a result there have been positive developments that followed in the areas of entrepreneurship and leadership as well.

 

“Goodbye and good luck.”  That seems to be the message of our high school graduations.  But what if the message to our young people included a clear statement of our wish that those young people would find opportunities right here in their hometowns, and bring their education and resources back to their community?  It’s a change in mindset which Carolyn Dunn thinks can benefit the community and state, as well as young people and their families.  We commend Carolyn and the citizens of Atwood for making a difference by making the community more welcoming for youth.  Instead of Goodbye and good luck, our new message can be, “Welcome Home.”

 

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

 

 

 

Cathedral of the Plains

 

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

 

Have you ever seen the cathedrals of Europe?  Today we’ll visit a cathedral which is closer to home – in fact, right here in Kansas.   Its beauty and workmanship must rival that of the finest cathedrals anywhere.  It stands as a testament to the commitment and faith of our early pioneers.  This is today’s Kansas Profile.

           

Welcome to St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas.  Last week we learned that the town of Victoria was founded by a group of Englishmen, but they left and the town benefited from an influx of Volga German immigrants from southern Russia.  Those immigrants were seeking to get away from the persecution of the Czar and threats to their Catholic faith.

           

Here in Ellis County, those immigrants found a home.  They raised the turkey red wheat they brought with them from Russia, and found that it flourished in western Kansas.

           

Their Catholic faith also flourished.  In 1876, the first church was built.  It was a simple frame lean-to.  Here a missionary would periodically come to say Mass.

           

As the town and the number of worshipers grew, improved church buildings were constructed and resident pastors were added.  The church became named St. Fidelis, in honor of a martyred European priest.

 

Around 1900, the members of St. Fidelis Church decided to build a new, spacious church building that would be a worthy house of God.  That building would become not only a wonderful place of worship, but an internationally known, artistic landmark.

           

In 1908, construction began on the present church.  It was completed in 1911 and renovated through the years, most recently in 2005 when a marble floor was installed in the sanctuary and in May 2008 when air conditioning was installed.  St. Fidelis Catholic Church is still actively used for worship, with Mass conducted every day.

           

The building is a striking structure of Romanesque architecture.  It is shaped like a cross, 220 feet long.  The west end features a beautiful rose window and two majestic towers standing more than 140 feet tall.  It has a seating capacity of more than a thousand people, making it, at its time of dedication, the largest church west of the Mississippi.

 

The church exterior is native limestone, quarried from nearby.  This structure was built nearly a century ago, without modern tools or equipment.  Engineers estimate that people hauled and dressed more than 125,000 cubic feet of rock by wagon and by hand.  Wow.

           

Bedford stone was imported from Indiana for trim.  Fourteen granite pillars were brought to the site from Vermont by railroad, but they proved too heavy to be transported to the construction site by wagon.  A threshing machine had to be outfitted with special beams to carry the pillars.  It took eight horses and 40 men to pull the 4 to 5 ton pillars to the church.

 

The interior of the church is stunning.  The artistry and workmanship is simply awesome.  All this led to the church being voted one of the eight wonders of Kansas.

 

But frankly, I had never heard of St. Fidelis Church.  I knew it by another name, which goes back nearly a century.

 

In 1912, William Jennings Bryan visited Victoria during his presidential campaign.  He was so impressed with this church that he described it as the “Cathedral of the Plains.”  The nickname stuck, and that’s the name I knew for this amazing building.

 

Others know of this amazing building also.  In fact, some 18,000 visitors a year come to the Cathedral on the Plains.  Within a couple pages in the guest register, I found names of visitors from New York to Alaska, Austria and Spain – plus one person who listed their address as Heaven.  Hmm, maybe an angel just visited.

 

It is remarkable that this majestic structure is found in the rural community of Victoria, Kansas, population 1,201 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

Have you seen the cathedrals of Europe?  Maybe you should see the Cathedral of the Plains in rural Kansas.  We commend the people of St. Fidelis Church for making a difference by honoring their faith in this way.  This magnificent structure may be a cathedral, but it certainly isn’t plain.

 

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

 

 

 

Chris Day

 

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

 

How big was your sixth grade classroom?  About 30 feet long?  Today we’ll visit a classroom which is a little bigger than that – let’s say, about 700 miles long.  This is an innovative effort to teach students about a fascinating period of American history along the Santa Fe Trail.  The trail itself is the classroom.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

 

Meet Chris Day, co-director of the Santa Fe Trail trip.  This trip is an 11-day camping trip along the Santa Fe Trail for 5th and 6th grade students, with the goal of developing an appreciation of the historical events of the Santa Fe Trail era.

 

The trip originated in 1983, when Chris was teaching music at West Elementary School in Wamego.  Marcia Fox was teaching sixth grade there.  Marcia told the principal she wanted to take the students on a special trip for them to experience some history in the region.  The principal had taken kids on an Oregon Trail trip, so they gave that a try.  Then they decided the Santa Fe Trail would be more practical and would include more of Kansas.

 In 1985, students from the Wamego area made their first trip along the Santa Fe Trail.  It was such a success that students have made that trip every other year since.  Chris Day says, “I caught the fever.”

She accompanied that first trip as a cook and chaperone, and later became co-director.  Marcia Fox was co-director till 2001, when teacher Janet Armstead succeeded her.

Chris says, “I’ve always loved history.”  She remembers her 8th grade history teacher, whose classroom had lots of closets in the back.  Chris later learned that those closets held all kinds of period clothing.  Chris says, “Every day we came to class, she would be dressed as a different historical character.”

Chris now teaches music at Eisenhower Elementary School in Junction City, where she helps students appreciate the culture and history of the music as well.  Chris and her husband Tom enjoy the rich history of the Santa Fe Trail.  She and Marcia Fox are co-chairs of the Santa Fe Trail Association Education Committee and Janet Armstead is also a committee member.

The bi-annual trip is targeted to 5th and 6th graders and is now sponsored by K-State Research and Extension - Pottawatomie County as a 4-H trip.  It attracts students from all over northeast Kansas.  An informational meeting is held at the beginning of the school year.  Students are required to do readings and educational classes to prepare for the trip. The cost for the 2009 trip is $675 per kid.  Two fund-raisers are held to help defray the costs.

 In June 2009, the students and chaperones will depart for the 11 day camping trip across the region.  They travel on busses and sleep in tents at night, although alternate lodging locations are arranged in case of rain.  Students rotate through various work groups to do the cooking, wash dishes, set up tents, and so forth.  During the days, the students tour museums, visit historic sites, and participate in other educational activities.

About two-thirds of the Santa Fe Trail is located in Kansas.  The itinerary begins at Wamego. The route goes to Council Grove and then southwest through McPherson, Lyons, Great Bend, Pawnee Rock, Larned, Dodge City, Ulysses, Elkhart, and beyond.  It includes rural towns such as Lost Springs, population 68 people.  Now, that’s rural.  The route ends at – duh – Santa Fe, where the kids spend a few days touring and shopping.  They come back on the mountain route through Colorado

Chris Day says, “Parents have told us their child has come home more mature and responsible from this trip.  When those kids are standing in the actual swale of the Santa Fe Trail and their eyes light up, that’s very rewarding to me.”

How big was your classroom?  Probably not 700 miles.  Today we’ve learned about this innovative project to help students experience history along the Santa Fe Trail.  We commend Chris Day, Marcia Fox, Janet Armstead and all those involved for making a difference by helping history come alive.  The only thing is:  A classroom like that would have one long chalkboard.

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

 

 

Christopher Miller – Rocking M Radio

 

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

 

“Radio is dead.”  I remember someone making that statement a few years ago.  As a person who is a lifelong fan of radio, it felt like someone was insulting your mother.  His point was that with all the changes in technology, Internet, and consolidation, radio faced serious challenges.  Today we’ll learn about a leading media family in Kansas which sees new opportunities back in radio.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile

 

Meet Christopher Miller of Rocking M Radio.  He shared with me his family’s experience in various media.

 

The Miller family has deep roots in rural Kansas journalism.  A.Q. Miller Sr. owned or worked in newspapers in Kansas and Colorado, in such rural communities as Belleville and Clifton, population 542 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Three generations of the Miller family worked on the Belleville newspaper, including Merle and his sons Monte and Mark and their sister Margo.  Today the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at K-State proudly bears the name of this pioneering journalist.

 

Monte Miller, A.Q.’s grandson, is a modern-day media entrepreneur.  Monte and his wife Doris developed papers in northeast Kansas as well as a television station in the Kansas City market and sold those in the late 1990s.  Their sons Christopher and Quinn also studied journalism at K-State, graduating with degrees in Radio/Television.

 

For ten years, Christopher traveled the country with a Washington DC-based firm which specialized in media transactions.  It was a challenging time.  That was when I remember someone commenting that “radio is dead.”

 

But by the early 2000s, some interesting trends were beginning to surface.  Christopher Miller commented to his family that radio was becoming a good investment again, and they started looking for radio stations to buy.  They looked in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma and ultimately bought 14 stations in Kansas.  They subsequently added three more in northwest Kansas plus three construction permits for new stations.

 

Christopher said, “Now we manage more radio stations than anybody else in Kansas.”  Under the name Rocking M Radio, the Millers own stations from Salina to Liberal.  They have revised and improved formats for these stations.  The area served by these stations reaches more than a million people in five states.

 

Yet if radio is dead due to new technology and other factors, why would these entrepreneurs invest in radio?  Christopher believes radio can actually support the new media and vice versa.

 

Christopher said, “Radio can direct people to a website better than any other medium.”  He points to a research study which shows that radio and Internet are complementary media.  He said, “People get distracted by the visual images on television, and with newspapers, people don’t pay attention to a website because they figure they can come back to that.”

 

He said, “Businesses can use radio to direct people to their website or their store.  There’s no better value, pricewise or otherwise.”  He said, “Radio creates more touches.  It’s on in the car, in the workplace, or playing on the speakers in the retail store.”

 

So is radio dead?  Christopher said, “There was a period of consolidation, but now we’re in a period of de-consolidation.  Large radio groups are selling some of their properties, and that creates opportunity.”

 

The Millers are practicing what they preach by creating websites and directing customers to them through their stations.  Christopher said, “Rather than creating competing websites in southwest Kansas, for example, we use U.S. Route 50 as a unifying web portal for all our stations along that route.”  Now, the website usroute50.com serves all those stations, including a marketplace section highlighting local businesses. He said, “We have to get creative on how we do local.”

 

Is radio dead?  No, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I think the reports of radio’s demise are greatly exaggerated.  However, creativity will be needed to help radio move forward.  We commend Monte and Doris Miller and Christopher and Quinn for making a difference with their entrepreneurship in finding opportunities in these new media.  These efforts can help radio stay alive.

 

And there’s more.  We’ll learn about innovative efforts to serve the growing Hispanic population through radio next week.

 

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

 

 

Chuck Otte

 

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 into the laboratory and see a scientist.  He=s a plant breeder, researching better varieties of crops.  That was to be the career path of the young man who we=ll meet today, but along the way, his career path took a detour.  Instead of becoming a plant breeder, he is now an extension agent B and he even became the President of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.  It=s today=s Kansas Profile.

Meet Chuck Otte, the agriculture, horticulture, and natural resources agent in Geary County, Kansas.  In July 2006 to 2007, Chuck served as President of his professional organization, namely the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Chuck joins the ranks of several Kansans who recently served as Presidents of national agriculture organizations.  Several were featured in Kansas Profile during 2008, but now we have learned that there are even more than we realized at the time B including Chuck Otte.

Chuck grew up at York, Nebraska.  He studied crop production, plant breeding and genetics.  His career path was to become a plant breeder, and he had even accepted a plant genetics position at North Dakota State where he was to complete a Ph.D.  But Chuck says, AI realized I had been in school my entire life, so I decided I would take a break.@

Chuck worked in business for a time and then started applying for Extension jobs.  In December 1981, he took the position as agriculture agent in Geary County.       

The tenure of ag agents in Geary County has been remarkable.  There have only been four ag agents there in more than three-quarters of a century.  When the Geary County Extension office opened in 1925, the Board hired Paul Gwin, but he wanted to finish the 4-H year in another county.  So the Board hired a D.Z. McCormick to be the interim ag agent until Mr. Gwin arrived.  Mr. Gwin then served until 1956.  He was succeeded by Mike Stroud who served until 1981, when Mr. Stroud was succeeded by Chuck Otte.

To make this story even more interesting, only one other Kansan in history besides Chuck has ever served as President of NACAA:  The very same D.Z. McCormick who had been the interim agent in Geary County generations ago.

Chuck Otte explains that the purpose of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents is professional improvement.  He says, AWe want to help our members do a better job every day.@  He notes that NACAA is the oldest of the extension organizations, having been organized back in 1915 by county agents attending the Chicago Stock Show.

As President of NACAA, Chuck helped lead the organization to develop an online journal, assist county agents with the university tenure process, develop a professional improvement committee for sustainable agriculture, and more.

But what seems to be most rewarding to Chuck are the things he does daily to help the people in his county.  Chuck says, AGeary County is a neat county with a lot of special people.  Thanks to Fort Riley, we probably have more diversity than a lot of counties.@           

He lives by the model of Extension, taking university research and extending and applying it to benefit people in various ways.  That might include working on tomato plants in Junction City in the morning, and in the afternoon, doing a range evaluation with a rancher in a rural setting near Milford, population 483 people.  Now, that=s rural.

Chuck enjoys the diversity of his work, but more than that, he values the sense of helping people.  He says, AI am so lucky to have the reward of helping people improve their lives on a daily basis.@

 

Dan Abitz – GBA Builders

 

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

 

Grandma is in the hospital, so let’s go for a visit.  She’s doing great.  There’s the intravenous saline bag which the hospital administered to her when she was first admitted.  That bag just might have been made in rural Kansas.  Today we’ll meet a Kansas company which specializes in the construction of facilities for manufacturing such pharmaceutical and health care products.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Dan Abitz of GBA, which we learned last week is a consulting, engineering, and architecture firm in Lenexa.

 

Dan said, “About five years ago we had a client in the life sciences industry that we were working with to design pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.  They asked if we would go ahead and do the construction too.  We hired a former employee of one of the pharmaceutical companies who managed construction for them, and it has grown from there.”

 

This new enterprise is called GBA Builders.  GBA Builders specializes in construction of life sciences-type buildings and similar critical facilities, as GBA has already been designing across the country.  GBA has done design work from New York to California and as far away as the Dominican Republic.  Wow.

 

Design and cleanliness standards are very high for medical manufacturing facilities.  Dan said, “FDA has a series of regulations for the manufacture of products for humans and USDA has a set of regulations for the animal side.  If the products are to be sold in Europe they must meet the European Union standards, and if they’re going to Japan they must meet the Japanese standards.”

 

Dan said, “It is essential that we create sterile environments for the production of medicines.   This requires that our facilities minimize particulate and not allow for biological growth such as molds and fungus in the manufacturing area.”

 

He said, “We make facilities which are designed to meet the class 100 standard.  That means that there can be no more than 100 undesired particles the size of .3 of a micron in a single cubic foot.”  In layman’s terms, Dan said, “If you had a particle that was the size of a basketball, you could have only one of those in the entire state of Missouri.”

 

Such high standards demand specialized expertise in construction, which is what GBA Builders seeks to provide.  GBA Builders recently completed a project for a large drug company in Massachusetts.  This company was building a billion dollar biotech manufacturing facility for a new drug.  That’s billion with a B, as in Boy, that’s a lot of money.  GBA Builders was working on the manufacturing facility at the core of the campus.

Another project of GBA Builders was for a company which manufactures the intravenous saline solution bags found in hospitals.  Dan said, “Anybody that’s been in the hospital probably used a saline bag made in one of our client's facilities.   GBA is constantly working in those facilities to make them even better.”  The company for which GBA Builders did this work has a plant in McPherson, Kansas, population 13,762 people.  Now, that’s rural.   The staff of GBA and GBA Builders continue to work at the McPherson site to increase its production capacity.   Dan said, “The company is very proud of this facility and the strong work ethic of their employees.”

 

The key employees of GBA Builders have helpful experience as owners.  Dan said, “Our guys have the mindset of the owner, not just a contractor who is there and gone.  Our key guys ran construction for one of the big pharmaceutical companies in Chicago, and they know the importance of looking after the details.”

 

How exciting to find a Kansas company leading these highly specialized construction projects across the country.

 

Grandma is doing great, and it’s time for her to leave the hospital.  We’re thankful for her good care, including all the details – even down to her intravenous saline bags.  We commend Dan Abitz and the people of GBA Builders for making a difference by helping build high quality facilities to produce such pharmaceutical and health care products.  It’s important that these products meet the highest standards of safety, security, and reliability.  After all, Grandma is depending on it.

 

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

 

 

 

Dan Abitz - ViroCon

 

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

 

Let’s go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, to a high-tech laboratory facility which was commissioned by a company out in Kansas.  What does “commissioned” mean?  It’s not like paying for a painting.  In this case, it is a process of testing and preparing the critical operating systems in a building to make sure they work properly.  This remarkable Kansas company has made commissioning of key facilities one of its specialties.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

 

Meet Dan Abitz of GBA, which includes a business that works on commissioning critical facilities.

 

Dan Abitz is an engineer with rural Kansas roots.  He grew up on a farm near the rural community of Wheaton, Kansas, population 91 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from K-State, Dan worked for an engineering firm and a contractor for a few years before joining George Butler Associates.  George Butler Associates or GBA is a consulting, engineering, and architecture firm which was formed in 1969 in Lenexa, Kansas.  Today, Dan Abitz is a principal at GBA.

 

GBA worked with various kinds of building design through the years, and in recent years set up a company called ViroCon to specialize in commissioning critical facilities.  Critical facilities refers to highly specialized buildings and systems which have ultra-high standards for safety, cleanliness, and reliability.  These might include research labs, manufacturing facilities or corporate data centers, for example.

 

But what is commissioning?  Dan says it’s a little like the Navy commissioning a ship:  They test it thoroughly to make sure it works before they christen it and send it out to sea.  But, Dan says, “We don’t get to break a bottle of champagne over it when it’s done.”  In Dan’s case, the company tests the systems within the building to make sure that they work properly.  In other words, it’s not just building the facility, but making sure that the facility works just right.

 

Dan said, “Our bywords are:  Safe, secure, and reliable.  That’s our goal for these facilities.  In the event of an equipment failure, for example, we work to make sure there are safeguards so that our people, lab animals, and equipment are safe.”

 

Dan said, “Sometimes we’re dealing with research laboratories that house live viruses, and we make sure there is no cross-contamination and that the building is safe for the people and animals involved.  And sometimes we are dealing with the manufacture of vaccines, and we make sure the drugs are not contaminated."  All consumers of medicine should be thankful for these high standards.

Another example would be a telephone company’s data center.  If somebody accidentally tripped over the computer’s proverbial power cord and unplugged it, for example, it would be a shame to lose millions of electronic records of phone calls and billings.  That’s a little bit worse than having the air conditioning off for an hour or two, or having a power surge bleep off the memo I was working on before lunch.

 

Dan said, “We were one of the first companies to focus on critical buildings that must work.”  He added, “If it was easy, we wouldn’t be interested.”

 

ViroCon gets involved in what it calls “mission critical” facilities such as health care laboratories, research facilities, and telecom data centers.

 

This specialty in commissioning these unique types of buildings has put ViroCon in high demand.  ViroCon has worked in some 41 states, from coast to coast.  This includes places like the University of Alabama, Indiana University, and the public health lab in Washington DC.  Wow.

 

How exciting to find that high-tech facilities nationwide are calling on a Kansas company for this specialized expertise, and that a rural Kansas farmboy is helping make this possible.

 

It’s time to leave the Centers for Disease Control, where researchers are working in facilities commissioned by a firm out in Kansas.  We commend Dan Abitz and all those involved with GBA and ViroCon for making a difference with high-tech expertise.  Their work in commissioning helps these companies successfully accomplish their mission.

 

And there’s more.  GBA has another company which builds high-tech facilities.  We’ll learn about that next week.

 

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

 

 

 

Dan Hubert – H and H Hunting Supplies

 

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

 

Beijing, China.  It is the 2008 Olympics, and the field archery competition is underway.  The archers are using high quality, composite bows.  Would you believe that a person could buy one of that exact type of high quality bows at a hunting shop right here in rural Kansas?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

 

Dan and Paulia Hubert are co-owners of H and H Hunting Supplies in Sedan, Kansas.  H and H carries the very same type of bows used by those Olympic archers.  It represents one of Dan’s lifelong interests, which he has turned into his own business.

 

Dan enjoyed hunting and fishing as a kid.  He grew up in a rural area on a place between Berryton and Overbrook.  Berryton is unincorporated and Overbrook is a town of 974 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

Dan’s dad was a taxidermist and had his own shop.  Dan learned to hunt and fish with his father, including bowhunting.  Dan came to southeast Kansas to work in the oilfields and then worked for Cessna.  He met and married Paulia, and they settled in her hometown of Sedan.

 

Dan continued to hunt.  In fact, he and Paulia competed in a lot of 3-D archery competitions, where archers shoot at lifesize models of elk or deer or bear.  Dan said, “I did pretty good, won some first place trophies, but my wife did really good – she stood out in the women’s competition.”

 

Dan ran an archery shop at home out of his garage as a hobby.  Meanwhile, a sporting goods store in Sedan came up for sale.  With support from the Quad enterprise facilitation group, a multi-county organization which supports entrepreneurs in southeast Kansas, the Huberts bought the store’s inventory and eventually the building.

 

In July 2005, Dan and Paulia opened H and H Hunting Supplies.  It is a full service hunting and fishing supply store, and much more.

 

H and H offers guns, ammunition, black powder, scopes, binoculars, trail cameras, safes, knives, bows, arrows, rods, reels, lures, licenses, and all kinds of supplies for reloading, trapping, and fishing.  Dan says, “Our fishing gear has been real well received by the customers.”  Perhaps a third of the shop is dedicated to archery.

 

Dan said, “I thought long and hard about the type of bows which I would sell.  When I was in competitions I would watch all the equipment to see which was the best, and I chose the Hoyt line.  That company has been building bows for 79 years.  Then when I saw the field archery event in the Olympics, I recognized several of the bows they were using.  You could buy one of those here.”

 

Dan sells Easton arrows, which he fletches (adds the feathers) by hand.  H and H sold 90 dozen of those arrows in 2008.  H and H also sells Palmer Cap-Chur, which is a modified shotgun that shoots medicated darts at sick livestock.

 

Then there are their special writing pens made by hand from deer antlers.  Paulia selects the antlers, turns them on a lathe by hand, drills out a hole length-wise, adds a brass cylinder and an ink refill and creates a wonderful keepsake pen.  She also makes centerpieces and candleholders.  Many people are using these as one-of-a-kind gifts, perfect for an outdoorsman.

 

H and H Hunting Supplies offers a product line that adjusts with the season.  For example, fishing and turkey hunting products are busy in the spring.  Dan says, “When deer season winds down, then trapping comes on strong.”

 

H and H serves local needs as well as many non-resident deer hunters.  Their products have gone as far away as Dallas, Arkansas, and even New York.  Wow.

 

It is time to leave Beijing, China, where Hoyt bows are being used by the Olympic contestants in the field archery competition.  That same line of bows is being offered by H and H Hunting Supplies halfway around the globe in Sedan, Kansas.  We salute Dan and Paulia Hubert, Quad county enterprise facilitation, and all those involved with H and H Hunting Supplies for making a difference with entrepreneurship, which is helping rural Kansas stay on target.

 

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

 

 

Dan Thalmann – Washington County News

 

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

            “Now let’s go to an exclusive on-the-scene report from President Obama’s inauguration in Washington DC…”  That could have been any news report in January 2009, but in this case, it was made possible by the publisher of the Washington County News in Washington, Kansas.  This is another example of the creative initiative demonstrated by a remarkable rural newspaper publisher.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Dan Thalmann, editor and publisher of the Washington County News.  Not only has this newspaper demonstrated high quality work, it has shown remarkable creativity in the emerging world of online journalism.

            Dan Thalmann comes from rural roots.  He was born at Greenleaf and graduated from Linn High School, as did his wife Jennifer.  Dan earned a degree in history from KU.  By the late `90s, they were married with two young daughters in Lawrence and had a desire to raise their daughters in a small town atmosphere.

            They moved to Waterville where Dan was expecting to take a job to work on a grant-funded project – when unexpectedly, the grant fell through.  Dan said of his situation, “No job, no prospects.”  His mother spotted an ad seeking a reporter at the Washington County News, so Dan applied.  He said, “I had never taken a journalism class in my life.”

            Not only did he get the job, he found he really enjoyed it.  As of November 2006, he purchased the Washington County News.  His family now lives less than three miles from where he was born near Greenleaf, population 349 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            What is the role of a weekly rural newspaper?  Dan said, “We’re all about local.  If some big story happens, a TV station or out-of-town paper will try to come in, but you just can’t get the pulse of the community without being here.”

            Dan said, “If there’s a school activity, people’s kids get their name in the paper.  That doesn’t happen in the big city.”  He said, “What makes all this happen is a sense of community.”

            Publishing only once a week can be limiting.  Dan’s solution was to start a blog on which news reports and comments can be posted 24-7.

            Dan said, “I’d heard about blogging quite a bit and was playing around with it.  In January 2008, I initiated a blogsite called backroadsnewsroom.com.  When a new candidate announced for local sheriff, I posted it online and it took off.  It seemed everyone was talking about it.”

            Suddenly the weekly newspaper could be a constant source of news, and readers responded.  Around election day, the blog peaked at nearly 7,000 page loads on a single day.  Wow.  Dan said, “It’s probably the most active blog of a weekly in the state.”

            Dan said, “The Internet is a threat to newspapers in some ways, but it’s an opportunity in others.”  Now he is using Twitter and Facebook, and has even tweeted from city council meetings.  There is no quicker way to get out the news.

            Of course, good writing is still essential.  The Washington County News has won numerous Kansas Press Association awards, essentially making them the top ranked rural newspaper in the state last year.

            When a local school class raised money to go to President Obama’s inauguration, Dan saw another opportunity.  He set up Twitter accounts for them to feed into his blog and loaned them handheld camcorders to send video back home.  Imagine students from rural Kansas using these emerging technologies to capture and report on these events.

            Gloria Freeland, director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at K-State, said, “Dan Thalmann does an excellent job of engaging young readers by blogging and using Twitter and Facebook. Such innovations and others will ensure that Dan's newspaper and blog are well-read throughout his community.”

 

            “This concludes our on-the-scene report from the President’s inauguration.”  No, it’s not from the major television networks, it describes an innovative project of the Washington County News out in Kansas.  We commend DanThalmann and all those involved with the newspaper for making a difference with high quality writing and creative use of technology.

By the way:  Are there funnies on Twitter?

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

 

 

David Littrell

 

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

            What do a 65 piece orchestra, three horses, and a one room schoolhouse have in common?  The answer is, they represent the intersection of interests of the remarkable couple we will meet today.  This couple’s project, called Cedar Vista, will combine equestrian and music education in a beautiful, rural setting.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet David and Laurel Littrell, the owners of Cedar Vista.  David says he is a city boy, having grown up as a professor’s son in Manhattan, Kansas.  His career in music and higher education took him to such big cities as Austin, Evansville, and Denver, where he played cello in the symphony.

            In 1987, he returned to K-State to join the music faculty.  Today, he is University Distinguished Professor of Music and conductor of the K-State Orchestra.

            His wife Laurel is from rural Kansas.  She grew up north of Clifton, a town of 542 people.  Now, that’s rural.  She was active in 4-H and always had horses as a child.

            She and David were living in Manhattan but Laurel was thinking about how nice it would be to have a place in the country.  Laurel was riding at a stable northeast of town in Pottawatomie County.  One day the horse she was to ride had thrown a shoe, so with extra time on her hands, she took a backroad back to town.  She passed a for sale sign and sure enough, she and David ended up buying that place.  They now live there with three horses.

            Just a half-mile from their new home stood an abandoned one-room schoolhouse near a former riding arena that had been operated by the Manhattan Round-Up Club.  David and Laurel became intrigued by that property.  They saw how it could be used to enhance their interests in both horses and music.

            David says, “I had the audacity to ask if they would donate the property for this purpose, and eventually they agreed.”  The Round-Up Club reconstituted itself and donated the property for equestrian and music education uses.

            The site includes the historic Cedar Creek Schoolhouse, a native stone building which was built in 1885 and used as a school until 1937.  David says, “Fortunately the Round-Up Club had put on a tin roof and a neighbor, Jerry Dixon, covered the windows with wood.  Otherwise, the building probably wouldn’t have survived.”  Pack rats and vandals had seriously damaged the building, although it remains structurally sound.

David has spent more than fifteen-hundred hours clearing brush, cleaning the arena, and repairing and repainting the schoolhouse.  He sees the opportunity to benefit another project called the Gold Orchestra.

            The Gold Orchestra is a youth string orchestra which originated in 1989.  David says, “Some parents twisted my arm into starting a youth orchestra.  It began with seven kids.  I thought I might do it for five weekends in one year.”  Instead, it proved so successful that it continues today, with some 65 youthful performers.  The Gold Orchestra has become nationally acclaimed.  They have performed as far away as England and Carnegie Hall.

            David’s vision is to use the schoolhouse for his orchestra camp and music classroom.  Members of the Gold Orchestra helped David clean the schoolhouse and pasture.  By July 2008, about 30 Gold Orchestra members were able to use the newly cleaned and painted schoolhouse for orchestra rehearsals.  The Littrells have installed a new pump for the well and are bringing in electricity.

Laurel is planning equine educational events which will utilize the arena.  David has built a small barn and tackroom.  Their long-term vision includes a facility for outdoor concerts.  And what does the one-time city boy say about all this?  David says, “As soon as we moved out here, I loved it.  I would never go back to a big city.”

 

So what do a 65 piece orchestra, three horses, and a one room schoolhouse have in common?  They have come together to create an opportunity for kids to learn.  We salute David and Laurel Littrell and the former Manhattan Round-Up Club for making a difference by supporting this opportunity.  Cedar Vista is becoming a place where classic music can have a great ride.

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

 

 

Doug Chanay

 

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

            An aptitude for altitude.  That’s one way to describe the career path – or should I say flight path? – of the man we’ll meet today.  He is an ag pilot.  In other words, he is an aviator who uses his flying skills for various agricultural applications, and now he is President of his national professional association.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Doug Chanay from Garden City, Kansas.  Doug is owner of Chanay Aircraft Service Inc. and President of the National Agricultural Aviation Association.  His story is yet another in our series of national ag organization presidents who come from Kansas.

            Doug is originally from the rural community of Vinland, between Lawrence and Baldwin in Douglas County.  Vinland is an unincorporated town of maybe 25 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Doug says, “Most of those are my cousins and aunts and uncles.”

            Doug’s father was an ag pilot in eastern Kansas.  Doug says, “I started flying with my father at age nine.”  By age 13, he was helping his father by flagging fields, which meant he would mark the places where his father was supposed to fly.  Shortly after that an automatic flagging device was created to do this work.  So Doug moved out of the field and into the office – and eventually, into the cockpit.

            Doug says, “I got my private license and soloed in 1969.”  He and his brother became ag pilots and helped their father with his business – until one tragic day in 1974.  Doug’s father perished in a plane crash in a cornfield near their home.

            Doug says, “I guess that would have been the time I would have quit, if I was ever going to.  But my mother told me that later that Dad said to her I would make a better ag pilot than he would ever be, and I held on to that.”

            He and his brother continued the business till 1979, when he went to be an ag pilot in Arkansas.  He later joined a flying service in Garden City and in 1995, created his own company.

            Today Chanay Aircraft Service Inc. serves customers in southwest Kansas and beyond.  Besides serving his own customers, the company helps out other operators in the region and out of state when they need help.  Doug is also an airframe and powerplant mechanic, plus an authorized inspector, so he works on other airplanes as well as his own.  His son Jeff has now joined the business.

            Doug says with a smile, “He does most of the business flying.  I just take up the slack.”  He adds, “It has been great having him in the business, as a third generation pilot.”

            So what are ag pilots?  These are professional aviators who use their planes for pest control, fertilizing, or seeding farmers’ fields.  Doug says, “In the old days, they were called cropdusters because they literally spread dust or powder from the air to kill pests.”  Now these pilots use advanced technology, scientific applicators, and Global Positioning Satellites to help do their work.

            Doug has been active in his professional association, having served as President of the Kansas Agricultural Aviation Association.  In December 2009, Doug was elected President of the National Agricultural Aviation Association.  Doug will travel coast to coast as President of NAAA.

            The NAAA has an office in Washington DC and works with legislative and regulatory issues such as safety around windmill towers.  Doug points with pride to educational initiatives such as PAASS, the Professional Aerial Applicators Support System, and Operation SAFE which have helped to reduce ag flying accidents by 21 percent and reduce drift incidents by 26 percent.

            Doug says of being an ag pilot, “I can make a living doing something that I love.  Working with farmers and helping provide food for the world is a very rewarding aspect of what I do.”

 

            An aptitude for altitude.  That’s demonstrated by this agricultural entrepreneur who is President of his national organization.  We salute Doug Chanay for making a difference through his industry leadership.  He has a positive attitude which supports his aptitude for altitude – and helped the ag aviation industry rise up to a whole new level.

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

 

 

Ed Harold - Mt. Sunflower

 

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

            What are the high points of Kansas?  Today we’ll learn about the very highest point in our state, topographically speaking.  This is a spot which has been dubbed (with tongue in cheek) Mount Sunflower, because it has the highest elevation in Kansas.  So put on your mountain climbing gear, this is today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Ed Harold of the Harold Ranch, which includes the private property where Mount Sunflower is found in western Wallace County.   During the last two weeks, we’ve learned about other attractions in Wallace County, but today we ascend to the summit.

            Ed Harold explains that his grandfather homesteaded here in 1906, north of the town of Weskan.  Ed’s father served as the postmaster of Weskan for 28 years, and Ed’s mother served for 12 years after that.  Ed is now a teacher in the Weskan school.  He and his wife moved out to the ranch in 1975.

            Ed says, “When I was a kid, several places in Wallace and Sherman county claimed to be the highest point in the state.  So in 1961, the state geological survey set out to finalize it once and for all.”  A couple of surveyors studied the topographic maps, evaluated all the competing sites, went to the locations and ascertained the spot with the highest elevation.  They put in a pipe to mark the spot.

            It happened to be the Kansas centennial year, and someone dubbed this location Mount Sunflower in honor of the state.  The site is 4,039 feet above sea level.

            Ed’s grandfather and uncle built a fence around the pipe to protect it from grazing cattle and improved the site through the years.  A gravel access road was built.  Local organizations built a shelter, the Wallace County PRIDE group helped with signs, and people donated cattle guards so visitors wouldn’t have to pass through gates to reach the site.

            Ed and his family have a lot of fun with the Mount Sunflower theme, because this is not exactly part of the Himalayan mountain range.  As one writer put it, “Some people would describe Mount Sunflower as a barely noticeable rise in the middle of a field….but they would lack vision.”

            In other words, one doesn’t exactly need an oxygen pack to ascend to this particular summit, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is still the highest point in the state.  Ed and his family handle all this with good humor.  His answering machine message says, “Sorry we can’t take your call right now.  We’re out climbing Mount Sunflower.”  A notice at the site invites visitors to stop by the ranch house to share "about your trials and tribulations to the lofty summit. Local guides are also available at the homestead for an outrageous fee.”

            In 1998, a group of hikers (including a three-year-old grandson) visited this site and wrote a parody of a popular book about climbing Mount Everest called “Into Thin Air.”  These hikers called their account of climbing Mount Sunflower “Into Thick Air.”  Their tongue-in-cheek account describes the harrowing trek up the North Face of the mountainside, the dangerous Fencepost Traverse, and the exhilaration of reaching the top.  Somehow, the background in the pictures looks rather flat.

            This is all part of the fun of Mount Sunflower.  Recent guest books from the site list visitors from all over, including such places as Sweden, Slovokia, England, and Australia.  Wow.  CBS Newsman Charles Kuralt even visited here.  Another recent visitor was from a television station in London.

            Ed Harold says, “My uncle, especially, took care of this place.  We’re carrying on the family tradition.”  The site is certainly in a rural location.  It’s about 14 miles by gravel road north of the town of Weskan, which has a population of approximately 200 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

            What are the high points of Kansas?  There are many, but the highest point of all is found in Wallace County.  We commend Ed Harold and his family and all those involved with Mount Sunflower for making a difference by preserving and promoting this unique part of our history and topography.  It’s great having friends in high places.

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

 

 

Ed Scheele - Greyhounds

 

            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 hall of fame.  As we enter, we are greeted by one of those who was inducted into the hall of fame several years ago.  Our greeter is one of the greats of the sport, who won more than a quarter of a million dollars during his illustrious career.  But this isn’t exactly Tiger Woods.  No, it’s not a tiger, but it is an animal:  A greyhound.  Today we’ll learn about the Greyhound Hall of Fame, which is found right here in Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Ed Scheele, director of the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene.  The Greyhound Hall of Fame is a tribute to these great canines and their achievements in racing.

            The greyhound breed of dog has a rich history, tracing its ancestry back for thousands of years.  Ancient paintings show greyhounds with Egyptian kings.  The greyhounds were animals of nobility.

            Today the greyhound is noted for a key attribute:  Speed.  The greyhound is one of the fastest animals on the face of the earth.  A greyhound race is an exciting spectacle.

            The first type of greyhound races was called coursing.  Kansas was the site of the first official organized greyhound race in this country.  The first coursing meet was held near Great Bend in 1886.  Wow.

            In later years, racing on special greyhound tracks developed as we know it today.  In the early days, dogs chased after a live rabbit.  In the 1920s an artificial lure was developed for the dogs to chase, as is used for races today.

            The history of greyhound racing and leaders of the industry are honored at the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene.  Abilene seems to be a center for the greyhound business.  Some 20 greyhound farms can be found in the area.  The breed registry is maintained by the National Greyhound Association, whose offices are located nearby.

            In 1973, the Greyhound Hall of Fame opened its doors in Abilene, across the street from the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  Ed Scheele was a designer who helped create the initial displays for the museum.  About a year later, Ed heard that the museum director was leaving and the museum was at risk of closing.  So he contacted the board and offered to run the museum on one condition:  He would still be allowed to work on free-lance projects when outside design projects came along.  The board took him up on the offer and the rest is history.

            Today the Greyhound Hall of Fame has gained national attention for its unique subject matter and quality of experience.  Visitors are greeted by one of the hall of fame inductees, a retired racing greyhound named Talented Mr. Ripley.  The dog lived up to his name, earning more than a quarter of a million dollars during his racing career.

            After his retirement, he came to live at the Greyhound Hall of Fame where he calmly greets visitors today.  Ed points out that greyhounds are very docile dogs, because they have been around people so much.

Museum guests can watch an informational video and enjoy the exhibits.  One gallery features greyhounds as depicted in art and literature through the years.  Another display evokes the sound and excitement of a greyhound race at the track.  Colorful, interactive displays tell the history and nature of greyhound racing. Among the displays are elaborate trophies and beautiful Waterford crystal prizes awarded to the winners.  The hall of fame itself includes the great dogs and great breeders who have been inducted through the years.

All this attracts some 30,000 visitors a year from all over the globe to come to the rural community of Abilene, Kansas, population 6,468 people.  Now, that’s rural.  For more information, go to www.greyhoundhalloffame.com.

 

            It’s time to leave this hall of fame, where we’ve been greeted by one of the great figures in the sport:  Not Tiger Woods, but a greyhound dog.  We commend Ed Scheele and all those associated with the hall of fame for making a difference by building this international attraction.

            And there’s more.  We’ll learn about Ed Scheele’s remarkable free-lance museum design work on our next program.

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

 

 

Ed Scheele - Museums

 

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

            What if you could open the covers of a history book and walk through it?  In the view of one Kansan, that is what a museum should be.  Visiting a museum should be like walking through a book of history on the topic of the museum.  This Kansan uses that approach in creating and designing museum displays all across the nation.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Ed Scheele.  Last week we learned that Ed is the director of the Greyhound Hall of Fame in Abilene, Kansas.  He is also a designer of museum displays through his own business, ESA Design.

            Ed grew up near Detroit, Michigan.  He got his BA from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and returned to Detroit where he worked to design trucks for Dodge and develop trade show exhibits.

Then he and two partners decided to go into business on their own.  One of the partners was from Kansas, so they moved their business to an abandoned airstrip near the rural community of Herington, Kansas, population 2,517 people.  Now, that’s rural.

One of their first jobs was to design museum displays for a startup museum, the Greyhound Hall of Fame in nearby Abilene.  The displays turned out well, but in about a year the museum director chose to leave.  Ed Scheele contacted the board and offered to serve as director but with one caveat:  He would also be able to continue to work as a free-lance exhibit designer on other outside projects.  The board took him up on his offer, and the results have been excellent.

            Today, some 30,000 visitors a year come to the Greyhound Hall of Fame.  Ed Scheele has served on the Kansas tourism council, Travel Industry Association of Kansas, led the Tourism committee for the city of Abilene for 30 years, and founded the Interstate 70 Tourism Association.  He also served as President of the International Sports Heritage Association.

            Meanwhile, ESA Design has flourished also.  It specializes in interpretive planning and exhibit design.  Ed is the principal designer.  He credits his wife Lynda as a key partner.  She does much of the research and writing.

They work with a team of design assistants and production specialists.  These include Martha Slater, a Kansas video producer who has been featured in Kansas Profile before, plus a company in Colorado that does interactive computer elements and a business in Atlanta that does video electronics.  His designs include videos, high and low tech audience interactions, and more.

            Ed says, “Most everything I design is modular.  That saves time and guarantees that everything is square and in the right place when we put it together.”  He says, “We can take a project from conceptual design all the way to the ribbon cutting, or any piece in between.”

Kansas magazine recently wrote a list of three must-see museums in Kansas. ESA Design was involved with all three.

            Here are some of ESA Design’s other projects:  Legacy Square for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Sprint Corporate History exhibit at Sprint world headquarters.  Marra Museum in the Deaf Cultural Center in Olathe.  Enterprise Square in Oklahoma City.  Johnson County Museum of History in Shawnee.  Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.  Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in Wilmington, Delaware.  Sportswriters and Sportscasters Museum in Salisbury, North Carolina.  This business has come about not through advertising, but through word of mouth.  Wow.

            ESA Design is doing these projects all over the country, while based in Abilene, Kansas.  It is exciting to find a national museum design expert right here in the heart of our state.

 

            What if you could open the covers of a history book and walk through it?  Ed Scheele says, “If the museum deals with history, the exhibits should be designed like a walk through a history book.”  That approach to design has led to his work being featured far across the nation.  We commend Ed and Lynda Scheele and all those involved with ESA Design for making a difference by helping others depict history.  Now, it’s time to close the covers of this book.

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

 

Enrique Franz – La Mexicana radio

 

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

            How many people are in your family?  One?  Two?  Six?  How about 20 thousand?  Wow, that would make quite a Thanksgiving dinner.  Today we will learn about an innovative radio enterprise which is reaching out to the growing Hispanic community in southwest Kansas.  Part of their success has been making the listeners feel like part of their family.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Enrique Franz, manager of the Spanish-language Rocking M Radio stations serving Liberal, Garden City, and Dodge City.  Last week we learned about the Rocking M Radio network of stations across Kansas.  One of their initiatives has been in response to the growth of the Hispanic market.

            Enrique has seen the growth of the Hispanic market first-hand.  He is from Liberal originally.  After a tour of duty with the Marines, he came back to Liberal and saw how the Hispanic population had grown significantly.  Enrique said, “Seward County is 60 to 70 percent Hispanic now.  It is also more diverse with people coming from central America and Cuba as well as Mexico.”

            Enrique went to work for the small, local AM radio station which was doing regional Mexican music.  When the Miller family bought this and other stations, they asked Enrique and others what should be done.  Enrique told them, “We have a good product but it is so limited.  There is more that we can do for the community.”

            So, the Millers changed the format.  The AM station now does oldies, while the Mexican music was moved to two strong FM stations serving Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City.  The format features Mexican regional music and is called La Mexicana.

            Enrique said, “We are now a full service radio station with high quality local production.”  The mainstay of the programming is regional Mexican music.  Enrique said, “Regional Mexican music is traditional.  It’s like country music to Mexicans.”

            Besides Liberal, Garden City and Dodge, these stations serve the rural communities around them.  Enrique says they even have listeners in towns like Montezuma, population 968; and Moscow, population 243 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            The stations work hard at local programming.  Enrique said, “When we do a live remote (broadcast), it isn’t some drop-in deal.  We’ll pull in a trailer, put up a tent, have contests, and make a big splash.  People show up like it’s a media event.”  I guess it literally is a media event.  Enrique said, “We want to make sure we are getting results for our advertisers.”

            These stations are also expanding local sports coverage.  Enrique said, “We started doing play-by-play for the Liberal Redskins soccer team.  They ended up winning third in state.  We also did an adult baseball league with some 13 teams.”

            Such high energy, local programming targeted to the Hispanic community has had an impact.  Enrique said, “I really like the feedback we get from our listeners.”

            He is also pleased with the changes he is seeing in the communities.  Enrique said, “In ten years, we have seen so much growth in the Hispanic community, and we have a good school system.  If you’re coming from California, then Liberal, Kansas is a great place to be.”

            He said, “More Hispanic families are buying homes.  More of our kids are going to college.  People are believing in the American dream and getting their children a better way of life.  Every day we are working, not just for what’s better for Hispanic families, but for what’s good for everybody.”

Enrique said, “For Hispanics, trust and personal relationships are very important.  We want our listeners to feel like part of the family.”

 

So how many people are in your family?  Two?  Four?  How about 20 thousand?  It is exciting that these radio stations are reaching out to the Hispanic community and making them feel part of their extended family.  We salute Enrique Franz and all those involved with La Mexicana for making a difference with their focus on local and cultural programming.  Ultimately, what is so important is la familia.

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

 

 

           

 

Ernie Poe – Barbed Wire

 

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

            “Look, there’s a buffalo, a coyote, horses, and a roadrunner.”  It sounds like a zoo, but this is a museum.  The animals I described are all made of barbed wire.  These are barbed wire sculptures of animals, part of a remarkable museum in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Ernie Poe, a volunteer with the Fort Wallace Museum in Wallace, Kansas, which we learned about last week.  Ernie is the artist who created these barbed wire sculptures.

            Ernie ran cattle and a construction company.  Back in the 1960s, he started collecting samples of various kinds of barbed wire.

            When the museum built a new display building, Ernie’s company helped put it up.  He agreed to display his barbed wire in the building, and it now displays samples of 800 different kinds of patented barbed wire.

            But after putting up the display, Ernie called his wife and said, “This won’t work.  It’s just too monotonous.”  So they had the idea of asking a Girl Scout to paint a desert mural as background to enliven the display, which she did.

            Then his wife was leafing through an Arizona Traveler magazine and she saw a lifesize roadrunner built of antique barbed wire.  She suggested to Ernie that he build one of those to go with the mural.  Ernie said, “I’ve fought that darn wire all my life, I don’t want to play with it anymore.”  But, he said with a smile, “I lost that argument.”

So Ernie fashioned a roadrunner out of barbed wire, and people liked it so much that they wanted more.  He sold his construction business in 2000 and now builds barbed wire sculptures in his spare time.

When a woman donated harness to the museum, she wanted Ernie to hang it for her.  When he said it wouldn’t look good just hanging on the wall, she said, “Well, if you can build a roadrunner, you can build a horse.”  So Ernie made two lifesize barbed wire horses to display the harness.

Now the museum displays a barbed wire coyote, lizards, pig, birds, and a pair of oxen.  The blacksmith shop shows a barbed wire horse getting shod by a barbed wire farrier.  Ernie made a barbed wire jayhawk, which he balanced by making a barbed wire wildcat

            In front of the museum on a three foot tall platform is a barbed wire buffalo, which required two miles of barbed wire to create.  Wow.

            Ernie has built some 200 barbed wire sculptures and has more on order.  He started doing this sculpting at age 73, which makes him the Grandma Moses of barbed wire.

Ernie has long been civically active, serving as Mayor of the Wallace county seat, the rural community of Sharon Springs, population 811 people.  Now, that’s rural.

The museum features many other interesting stories, such as Duane Frasier who owns a ranch of which it is said that the first five owners died with their boots on.

Another person with a Wallace County connection was Fred Harvey.  Harvey migrated from England at age 15 and worked in New York restaurants before coming west on the railroad during the 1870s.  As a freight agent, he found the railroad food was lousy, so he opened a café in Wallace.  He then sold the café to help finance a chain of restaurants along the Santa Fe railroad line so travelers could disembark for a good quality meal.  His restaurants were called Harvey Houses, and were the first chain restaurants ever.  His waitresses were called Harvey Girls.  They were selected by Mrs. Harvey for attractiveness and wholesomeness.  The chain had great success for many years.

Fred Harvey’s story, and many others, are chronicled in this beautiful museum.

 

“Look, there’s a buffalo, a coyote, horses, and a roadrunner.” This is no zoo, it’s part of the interesting heritage of Wallace County, displayed at the Fort Wallace Museum.  We salute Ernie Poe for making a difference by sharing his handicraft while honoring the history and heritage of the county.

And there’s more.  Wallace County includes the highest point in the entire state of Kansas, and we’ll learn about that next week.

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

 

 

 

 

Arnold’s Greenhouse

 

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

            As the days get longer and winter starts to fade, the mind of a gardener starts to dream.  He or she begins dreaming of tilling the garden and planting the seeds – and enjoying the benefits and beauty of a home-grown garden.  Today we’ll visit an amazing greenhouse complex in rural Kansas which has been called a “gardener’s dream.”  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet George and Rita Arnold, owners of Arnold’s Greenhouse near LeRoy, Kansas.  LeRoy is in Coffey County, about 1 1/4 hours south of Topeka.  George grew up on a farm here, where his family has farmed for generations.  In fact, their greenhouses are located on land which the family has owned since 1905.

            When George married Rita, a registered nurse, they came back to the farm.  Like many young farm families in those days, they grew a garden for vegetables and a few flowers.  In 1977, they decided to build a greenhouse as a hobby.  Their original greenhouse was 10 x 16 feet.

            They enjoyed working in the greenhouse.  Soon some neighbors wanted to buy some tomatoes and peppers and a few bedding plants.

            George says, “We started adding a little bit at a time and paid for things as we went along.”  He kept farming into the 1990s before choosing to concentrate fully on the greenhouse business.  George says with a smile, “Now I farm under plastic.”

            Today, Arnold’s Greenhouse is an amazing enterprise.  From that original 10 x 16 greenhouse, it has grown to more than 80,000 square feet of greenhouses and additional growing area outside, for both retail and wholesale production.  Arnold’s employs some 45 people.  And instead of a half dozen types of garden plants, they are now producing - get this - more than 3,200 varieties of plants - the largest selection of any garden center in the midwest.  Wow.

            No wonder that the Kansas City Star called Arnold’s Greenhouse a “gardener’s dream” and Kansas Magazine called it a “gardener’s paradise.”

            Arnold’s Greenhouse now offers perennials, annuals, herbs, vegetables, vines, ornamental grasses, roses, trees, shrubs and aquatic plants.  Their garden store includes all kinds of gardening accessories, from fertilizers, soils, mulches, and tools to brightly colored containers, birdbaths, gazing balls, and more.  A full slate of seminars and hands-on gardening classes are offered each year, and Rita gives numerous slide presentations to gardening enthusiasts.  The display garden lets visitors see new and recent varieties first-hand.

            The garden center is attached to a greenhouse with a state-of-the-art retractable roof where plants are arranged by category on benches.  Visitors can walk through the growing greenhouses to hand-pick the plants for their garden.  And visitors do come.  In fact, thousands of gardeners each year make the trek to shop at Arnold’s extensive selection of plants.

            George says, “A gardener from Kansas City told us it was more economical to drive here and make one stop than to make a bunch of stops in the city.”  Another said that a pilgrimage to LeRoy was part of their annual spring events.

            Pilgrimage might be the right word, because this amazing greenhouse is truly out in the country.  It is located four miles west of the rural town of LeRoy, population 588 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Rita says, “It’s been a good environment to raise our daughters.”  They have three daughters, of which one, Darlita Jelinek, is the garden center manager.  They also have four granddaughters.

            The Arnolds continue to add attractions with fun in mind.  A children’s garden and relaxation garden are being installed, to include a gazebo, shelter house, grass maze, tricycle track, and a chicken coop with a living green roof.  With tongue in cheek, a large grassy mound there has been dubbed Mount Arnold, elevation 12,360 inches.

            More information, including a plant wishbook, garden guide and upcoming open house at Arnold’s, is available online at www.arnoldsgreenhouse.com.

 

            As the days lengthen and the winter fades, the mind of a gardener starts to daydream.  We commend George and Rita Arnold for making a difference by helping make gardeners’ dreams come true.  In the process, they have created a rural success story.  George Arnold says, “We have lived the American dream.”

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

 

 

George Grant

 

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

            “There’s a new kid in town.”  That may have been the feeling when an entirely new breed of beef cattle from around the globe showed up on the plains of Kansas.  Clearly, something new had come into the mix.  Today we’ll learn about a pioneer settler who imported these cattle into rural Kansas and ultimately transformed the cattle industry.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Mary Pfeifer, City Clerk of Victoria, Kansas.  She helped us learn about this pioneering cattle breeder, who made his home near Mary’s hometown of Victoria.

            Our story begins in London, England, where there was a wealthy silk merchant named George Grant.  Mr. Grant sought an English countryside estate to which he could retire, but when nothing was found to his liking, he came to America in 1872 to explore the central plains.

            The plains of Kansas excited him, and in October 1872, he bought 70,000 acres from the Union Pacific Railroad.  His goal was to populate the region with a colony of British and Scotch noblemen whom he enlisted to help with his plans.

            On April 1, 1873, his delegation of 38 men, women, and children left the harbor of Glasgow, England.  They came to New Orleans, sailed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, and then took the train to western Kansas.  On May 17, 1873, they arrived at their destination.

            Here they formed a town which George Grant named Victoria, in honor of his queen.  South of town he constructed a beautiful villa of native limestone.  But hard times and severe weather created serious challenges for the English colony.  Grant died in 1878 and most of the colonists dispersed.  Volga German immigrants settled in the area, introduced hard winter wheat, and helped the community to grow.

            Mary Pfeifer’s great-grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Moritz Baier, bought George Grant’s villa from his descendants.  The villa is still owned by the Baier family today.  It is located between Victoria and the rural community of Pfeifer, an unincorporated town of perhaps 50 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            But among those first immigrants which George Grant brought to Victoria in 1873 was a special breed of cattle.  These were four black Aberdeen Angus bulls from Scotland.

            When these bulls were exhibited at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition, they were considered freaks.  In stark contrast to the red and roan cattle which were predominant in that day, these new bulls were solid black and hornless.

            Think about the sight of these Angus bulls on the Kansas plains, where only buffalo and longhorn cattle had ranged before.  To the onlookers, it must have appeared like a creature from the moon had landed in their backyard.

            But George Grant crossed his bulls with native longhorns, and the result was a set of beefy, hornless calves.  When spring came, the calves were weighed, and it was found that the Angus-cross cattle had produced more high quality beef than the rangy longhorns or the old shorthorns.  Soon Kansans came to realize that these cattle had significant benefits, and a new beef industry would take root in rural Kansas.

The American Angus Association was formed to keep a register of Angus-bred cattle.  Today that association includes more than 30,000 members.  It is the largest beef breed registry association in the entire world.  Wow.

            On the occasion of the centennial of the American Angus Association, a special memorial was placed at the grave of George Grant in Victoria to commemorate this remarkable pioneer, the first to bring Angus cattle to America.

 

            “There’s a new kid in town.”  Many of us know that sentiment, when a new person has come into a group.  That may have been the feeling when this new and strange breed of cattle made its way onto the Kansas plains, but those cattle would have an impact which would transform American beef.  We commend George Grant and the American Angus Association plus the Baier and Pfeifer families in Victoria for making a difference by sustaining this legacy.  The new kid has transformed an old industry.

            And there’s more.  Victoria is a place of spiritual achievement as well.  We’ll learn about that next week.

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

 

 

Greg Unruh – Community HealthCare System

 

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

            “The doctor is in.”  One doesn’t expect to hear that statement at 10 o’clock at night, other than at the emergency room.  But today we’ll meet a regional health care organization that is working at keeping patients first – even to the point of scheduling medical appointments for the patients’ convenience early and late in the day.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Greg Unruh, CEO of Community HealthCare System in Onaga, Kansas.  He and Marcia Walsh, chief operating officer, give leadership to this remarkable regional health care system.  Greg ran a hospital in western Kansas before coming to Onaga in 2005.  He says, “The system wasn’t built by me so I don’t deserve credit for building it, but I’m a strong believer in what it has accomplished.”

            Onaga has had a hospital for many years.  By the mid 1980s, many rural hospitals were closing.  Greg Unruh says that hospital leaders in Onaga analyzed where their patients were coming from, located clinics in those towns, and used the clinics as bases to offer a gradually expanding array of services.

            Greg describes it as a culture of servantship. He says, “The physicians are patient-focused, and the organization in turn supports the physicians in fostering strong patient relationships.”  For example, the conclusion was that it made more sense for one doctor to travel rather than having 30 patients make the same trip.

            So the system developed into an organization that had medical providers at locations in several communities in the region.  This enables them to share the cost of modern equipment and physicians.  Greg says, “There’s no way a hospital like Onaga as a free-standing facility could afford the cost of modern radiology and imaging equipment by itself.”

            Today, Community HealthCare System has clinics in St. Marys and Holton besides Onaga itself, plus such rural towns as Frankfort, population 839, and Centralia, population 518.  Now, that’s rural.

            Not only does this service help rural residents, it has also helped stimulate growth.  Hospital COO Marcia Walsh points out that total admissions have gone from 429 in 1989 to 1,332 in 2006.  Outpatient visits have grown from 14,000 to more than 43,000.  Wow.

            While many rural communities struggle to retain just one physician, Community HealthCare System employs 12 physicians, 16 mid-level practitioners, and a total of 450 employees system-wide.  Other rural communities fight to maintain the basic health care safety net, but Community HealthCare System provides an expanding range of services, including obstetrics, pediatrics, family care, surgery, over a dozen specialty services, home health, assisted care and long term care.

            Greg Unruh says, “Here we offer services, literally, from the cradle to the grave.”  That ranges from the birthing center to end-of-life care.  And to help make sure that the end-of-life care comes a little later, Onaga also offers a state-of-the-art fitness center and a weight-loss and health program called LEAN – Lifestyle Exercise and Nutrition.

            One example of patient-focused care is found in Holton, where many residents commute to work in Topeka.  For them, it is a challenge to schedule routine medical appointments during the business day.  So the Community HealthCare System clinic in Holton is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.  That means I could schedule a routine checkup at 10 o’clock at night, for example, and not have to miss work or take vacation.  In fact, I could still make my kid’s ballgame.

            Greg says, “The desire of the organization is to create opportunities for people to receive health care in a way that’s appropriate for them.”

            For more information, go to www.chcs-ks.org.

 

            “The doctor is in.”  No, I don’t expect to hear that statement at 10 o’clock at night, but the Community HealthCare System is making it possible for more people in more communities to have more access to a health care provider.  We commend Greg Unruh, Marcia Walsh, and all those involved with Community HealthCare System of Onaga for making a difference with their innovative way of serving patients and reaching out to other communities.  Working together regionally benefits the communities and ultimately helps the doctors out.

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

 

 

 

Helen Judd - Hays House

 

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

            “What would you like to order for dinner today?”  “I’ll take the ribeye steak with baked potato and a large helping of history on the side.”  If you want history with your food, there is only one restaurant which can claim to be the oldest continuously-operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Helen Judd of the Hays House in Council Grove, Kansas.  The Hays House is named for its founder, Seth Hays, a great-grandson of Daniel Boone and cousin of Kit Carson.  Hays came to Council Grove in 1847 to trade with the Kaw Indians and serve travelers along the Santa Fe Trail.  In 1857, he built the current building in which he served food and traded goods.

            During its early years, the building also served as a district court, post office, theater, and tavern.  In 1886 when a fire hit downtown, the first building which the town’s menfolk turned out to save was the tavern.  One has to have priorities, after all.  Their bucket brigade saved everything but the building’s gabled roof.

            On Sundays, a sheet was used in the tavern to cover the liquor bottles so that church services could be held there.  Among those who visited the bar were Jesse James and General Custer.

            After the 1886 fire, the damaged roof was replaced with a flat roof, and 10 hotel rooms used till the 1940s were constructed on the second floor. There was only one bathroom for all the hotel guests to share.  The claw foot bathtub which they used is still there.

            The original burnt hardwood beams from the 1886 fire can be observed in the Seth Room, adjacent to the modern day Tavern. Also in the Seth Room, one wall shows the hand-split Cottonwood lath without its plaster covering.

            The cellar of the Hays House was originally a native stone root cellar with a dirt floor. Perishable foods were kept as cold as possible here with meat hung on hooks from the hand-hewn beams. Native stone and an early type of mortar make up the walls. The floor bricks were relocated from Main Street. Above the bar is a round wood wire spool end showing hand-made square nails used in the original construction of the building. The Cellar is now a popular gathering place for banquets and meetings.

            In 1911, the building was purchased by the Whiting family, which leased the restaurant to various operators through the years.  Helen Judd is a granddaughter of the Whitings. In 1974, Helen and her husband Charlie Judd moved back to Council Grove after retiring from teaching school in California.  They restored the building and contributed many items to its décor.

            Dan Doerge, Hays House manager, credits the Judds for their interest in historic preservation and education, plus Helen’s love of cooking.  He says, “Their gifts have benefited Council Grove ever since.”

The second floor Crystal Room contains many of the family's personal collection of amazing crystal, an antique dining table, and turn-of-the-century ladies accessories. Helen remarks that her grandmother was a very proper woman, so Helen continues to exchange the display of her grandmother's hats, handbags, shoes, and scarves with those her grandmother would have deemed appropriate for each season.

            The first floor features a fireplace built of native stone from the building’s foundation.  The Kaw Room displays an arrowhead collection, copies of a Santa Fe Trail map, and Indian treaties. The current Hays House owners, who are maintaining its historic traditions, are Galen and Lori Fink and Bill and Debbie Miller.

            The rich history of the Hays House reflects our heritage, as found in historic rural Kansas.  Council Grove is a town of 2,328 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Yet visitors have come to the Hays House from all over the world.  For more information, go to www.hayshouse.com.

 

            So I’ll take the ribeye steak and a large order of history with my dinner.  We commend Helen Judd, Dan Doerge, the Finks, Millers, and all those involved with the Hays House for making a difference by sharing this legacy and wonderful food.  When it comes to history, it’s worth a second helping.

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

 

 

 

Schaakes Pumpkin Patch

 

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

            What did you grow for 4-H?  4-H members grow and create all kinds of things as projects these days.  Today, we’ll meet a 4-H family which started out growing pumpkins, and ended up growing a remarkable family business.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Janet and Larry Schaake.  They own and operate Schaakes Pumpkin Patch on the family farm in Douglas County.  Larry grew up on this farm, and Janet grew up on a place west of Lawrence.

            Larry and Janet have three daughters -- Sheila, Sharla, and Shari -- and a son named Scott.  Scott is a professor in the K-State animal science department and coach of the K-State livestock judging team, and the daughters live in the Lawrence area.

            When the Schaake kids were young, they all took 4-H.  One year they grew pumpkins as a horticulture project.  When they had extra pumpkins, they weren’t quite sure what to do with them.

            Janet said, “We parked a pickup truck up by the road and put the extra pumpkins on there, along with a cigar box for people to leave money if they wanted to buy them.”  A marketing expert might call that a rather passive strategy, but it worked for a couple of years.

After seeing that there was market demand for pumpkins, the Schaake kids set up a stand at the farmer’s co-op parking lot in following years.  Janet said, “Then the U-picks were becoming popular about that time, so rather than picking and moving all those pumpkins, we decided to open up the farm so people could come get pumpkins themselves.”

            This was the beginning of Schaakes Pumpkin Patch, which has become a remarkable autumn attraction.  Now the Schaake kids are grown, but they still come back to help with the pumpkin patch every fall.  Janet said, “We’re up to 25 acres of pumpkins.”  She said with a smile, “After 34 years, we don’t know how to stop it.”

            Schaakes Pumpkin Patch is open daily from the last weekend of September through October 31.  Admission and hay rack rides to the field are free.  People can pick their own pumpkins, which are sold by the pound.  Visitors from all over come on the weekends, and school tours come during the weekdays.

Activities for kids include a hay bale maze, straw romp, farm animals for viewing, and a photo area.  The Schaakes have 35 varieties of pumpkins, ranging in size from a half-pound to more than 200 pounds, plus gourds, squash, Indian corn, corn shocks, straw, fall crafts and decorations, and more.  Craft items include painted birdhouse gourds, Indian corn wreaths and painted pictures of pumpkins and gourds.

            This is truly a family affair.  Every fall, Larry and Janet’s daughters and husbands pitch in to help, along with Scott and his wife Kandi.  Janet said, “The girls do a lot of the crafts.”   The 10 grandkids and local high school youth help out on the busy weekends.

            Janet said, “It’s surprising how many people have never seen a pumpkin picked right off the vine.  This is an opportunity to promote agriculture.  One satisfaction we get is seeing the education which happens.”

She said, “We all enjoy the kids.   We’ve watched kids who came here, grew up, and now they’re bringing their own kids.  It always makes you feel good that you’re offering positive family entertainment.”

The Schaake farm is located just a half-mile from Highway 10, so it offers good access for city folks who want to have a rural experience.  About two-thirds of their customers come from Johnson County.  Tens of thousands of people come to visit, including urban and suburban school groups.  The Schaake’s place is located about halfway between Lawrence and the rural community of Eudora, population 4,411 people.  Now, that’s rural.

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

 

What did you grow for 4-H?  Today we’ve learned about an entrepreneurial 4-H family which grew pumpkins and a rural family business as well.  We commend Larry and Janet Schaake and all the family for making a difference with their horticultural entrepreneurship.  Perhaps their example will encourage other rural attractions to flourish on the vine.

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

 

 

Jayne Pearce - Fort Wallace Museum

 

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

            Division.  That’s what kids learn in math class.  It was also an important term for railroads.  In earlier days, a railroad’s division point was the location which marked the end of one crew’s shift and the beginning of the next, so it was a kind of hub.  Today we’ll learn about a community which celebrates its history as a railroad division point and military fort.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Jayne Pearce, President of the Fort Wallace Memorial Association in Wallace, Kansas.  She is proud of the deep history in this region, especially with the military and the railroad.

            The military was brought in to protect travelers.  In 1865, a new route was opened between Atchison and Denver, called the Butterfield Overland Despatch (sic), including the Pond Creek Way Station in Wallace County.

            Wagon trains and stagecoaches brought immigrants and goldseekers along this trail, but Indian attacks became frequent.  Soldiers were dispatched to protect the travelers.

            A military post named Camp Pond Creek was established.  In 1866, it was relocated and renamed Fort Wallace in honor of a Civil War general.  The town of Wallace was established in 1869.   

            A second growth factor was the railroad.  When the rail line came through, the Union Pacific established the town of Wallace as a division point.  That meant that it was the dividing point between the crews traveling east or west bound, so the crews would stop at Wallace for the night.

All this caused Wallace to be a boomtown.  Visitors included Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, General Custer, and Calamity Jane.  Two colorful characters became rival businessmen here:  A French Canadian named Pete Robidoux and an Irish immigrant named Thomas Madigan,  They each opened general stores which were said to be the largest stores between Kansas City and Denver – and to charge prices twice that of the larger cities.

But then the bubble burst.  The railroad division point moved, the soldiers left, and the population declined.  Madigan cut his prices, but Robidoux refused.  One day in 1893, not a single person crossed his store’s threshold. In disgust, Robidoux boarded up his store with $20,000 worth of goods inside and never went in again.

Today, one can still find a Madigan Street and a Robidoux Street in Wallace.  The beautiful Robidoux home is being restored.

Fort Wallace was decommissioned in 1883.  Nothing remains of it except a nearby cemetery.  By the 1930s, that cemetery was in bad shape, and a group of local citizens created the Fort Wallace Memorial Association to protect and maintain it.  Then the association had the vision to open a museum in the town of Wallace. In 1960, the museum was relocated to a new building along Highway 40.  The museum has been expanded and enhanced through the years.

Inside the entrance of the museum are two similar black safes:  One belonged to Thomas Madigan, and the other to Pete Robidoux.  These symbols of the two old rivals still stand, on opposite sides of the doors.

Jayne Pearce says, “A bunch of very dedicated volunteers have taken care of the museum and expanded it through the years.”  Three additional buildings have been added to the museum complex, including a railroad depot.  Another building is the original Pond Creek Station, complete with bullet holes from old Indian raids.

The museum expanded again in 2006, when the Joe Smith family donated funds for an addition.  The addition houses a remarkable collection of Indian and cavalry relics gathered through the years.  Like these artifacts, this museum is a hidden treasure, found in the rural community of Wallace, Kansas, population 66 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

            Division.  It’s what kids learn in school, but division point is also the name for a key railroad hub.  Wallace, Kansas was a key division point in its day, and that history and more is captured in the Fort Wallace Museum.  We commend Jayne Pearce and all the volunteers who make a difference by honoring this history.  This museum is a place of a division point, and also of vision.

            And there’s more.  We’ll learn about this museum’s special sculptures next week.

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

 

 

 

Jean Meyer – First Trust Company of Onaga

 

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

            Dollars and cents.  Managing our money is very important, both now and for the future.  Today we’ll go to a rural community with an innovative company which enables individuals all across the country to manage their own retirement funds.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Jean Meyer, President of First Trust Company of Onaga, Kansas.  First Trust Company is a limited purpose trust company with a specialty in serving as custodian for self-directed individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.

            Jean Meyer explains that this innovative business began back in 1978 on a golf course. She says, “The owner of a local bank and another guy were talking about IRAs, which were relatively new at the time, and the possibilities of using non-traditional investments as part of those.”  In other words, it would be possible to purchase in the IRA, special assets such as an investment in a private business, loan, or something else, rather than a money market account or public stocks and bonds.

            The bank set up a service to serve as a custodian for such accounts.  A key factor was that these accounts were self-directed by the customer.  Jean says, “The customer is the decision maker on these accounts.  We don’t sell investments.  We don’t offer investment advice, and we don’t guarantee the investments.  We do the back office work to support the customer.”

            This service began with one or two people working at the bank, and the account records were kept in a drawer.  As the business grew, the trust company was organized into a separate entity.    In 2006, First Trust Company moved into its own building – fittingly, it is located near the community’s nine-hole golf course.  In 2008, First Trust Company of Onaga moved under new ownership.

            Today, First Trust Company of Onaga employs 34 full time and three part-time employees.  It provides custodial services for some 27,000 accounts with two billion dollars under custody.  Wow.  Yes, I said two billion – with a B as in “Boy, that’s a lot of money.”

            This business has successfully found its niche.  There are only a handful of businesses across the nation which specialize in custodial services for self-directed IRAs using non-traditional investments.  The business is regulated by the state Banking Commissioner.

            Jean Meyer is especially proud of the company’s customer service.  In contrast to the days when those records were stuck in a drawer, the company is now imaging its documents and customers have access to their accounts through a secure website.

In addition, the company operates a call center to serve customers.  Jean says, “Depending on what’s happening in the markets, we may get 250 to 600 phone calls in a day.”  While the company uses modern technology, Jean emphasizes the importance of customer service.  In other words, you don’t have to press one or press two twenty times to reach a real person.

Modern technology has made it possible to serve customers virtually anywhere in the nation.  Jean says, “It’s very rare that a customer would walk in our front door.”  In effect, if I can access my account information online and by phone, it doesn’t matter whether I am physically located across the street or across the country.

Sure enough, customers from all across the country are using this service.  First Trust Company of Onaga has customers in every state in the nation, serving them from the rural community of Onaga, Kansas, population 697 people.  Now, that’s rural.

First Trust Company also emphasizes giving back to the community of Onaga.  The employees are involved in community activities and donate funds to support local worthy causes.

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

 

Dollars and cents.  Today we’ve learned about a company which is providing custodial services for customers to manage their self-directed investments in an innovative way.  We salute all the people of First Trust Company of Onaga for making a difference by finding this niche in financial services.  For helping customers keep track of those dollars, this business makes a lot of sense.

And there’s more.  Next week we’ll learn about the remarkable health care system in Onaga.

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

 

Jerry Vandervort – part 2

 

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

            “What a drag.”  That sounds like an old expression from the 1960s, but in a different sense, it could describe the product we are going to learn about today.  A drag is a device which is pulled across a dirt surface to loosen and condition it.  These drags are typically used in arenas for equestrian or rodeo events.  Today, we’ll learn about an entrepreneur who is building a business using a new and improved version of an arena drag.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Jerry Vandervort is the owner of this company known as Arena Dragon.  Last week we learned that Jerry, an ag teacher, developed the Rocking V Ranch Equine Center near Topeka.  The Rocking V boards and trains horses and includes a large indoor and a large outdoor arena.  The soil surface in those arenas needs to be loosened and conditioned daily.

            Good footing is very important for horses and riders.  Most arenas use a drag or a small cultivator to smooth and level the soil surface.

            Jerry says with a smile, “I needed something to really clean our arenas but I was too cheap to buy one.”

He says, “We tried a number of other arena drags that just couldn’t do the job.  They either did not break up the packed footing, needed constant maintenance, were cheaply built or were way overpriced.”  Finally he said to himself, “Hey, I’m a welding instructor.  I should be able to build one of those myself.”

            So he set out to design his own arena drag.  He had three goals for his arena conditioner:  One, it had to be durable and handle daily use; second, it had to be easy to use; and third, it had to be affordable.

            Jerry says, “We discovered early on that moving parts required too much maintenance.  Bearings do not mix well with dirt and sand.  We could not afford down time replacing costly parts.”  So, Jerry designed his arena drag with no moving parts and no complicated adjustments or extra hydraulics.  He put it to use on his own place, which is in a rural setting south of Topeka near the town of Auburn, population 1,111 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            The drag worked so well that other people started asking if he would build one for them.  In response to this market opportunity, he worked on improving his design and arranged for the drags to be manufactured in nearby Topeka.  In 2004, he launched the Arena Dragon company.

            Today, Arena Dragon is one of the top makers of arena conditioners on the market.  The Arena Dragon is made of 11 gauge to ¼ inch steel with virtually all joints welded.  The front teeth on the drag are made of hardened cast steel for extra long life, with a set screw for easy replacement.  Instead of wheels, the Dragon goes on runners to decrease maintenance.  The runners consist of ½ inch thick hardened cast steel which was designed for road graders.

            Jerry says, “The Arena Dragon is designed to be user friendly.   Once you set your desired working depth, you just leave it there and you can just hook up and go in less than 30 seconds.”

            The Arena Dragon comes in six, eight, and 10 foot models.  The company also offers a smaller size Arena Dragon Junior model which is designed for smaller tractors or as a pull behind for ATVs or other utility equipment.

            These products have been sold from California to New York.  Customers include saddle clubs, event facilities, and the home of the K-State equestrian team.  Arena Dragons have been used at such events as the Kansas High School rodeo finals and the World Paint Congress.  Wow.  For more information, go to www.arenadragon.com.

 

            In our current challenging times, the rural economy all too often finds itself dragging behind, so it is good to see this rural entrepreneur succeed.  We commend Jerry Vandervort and all those involved with Arena Dragon for making a difference by using his skills and life experience to develop a better product for the marketplace.  Thanks to his work, customers from coast to coast can say, “What a drag!”

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

 

 

Jerry Vandervort – part 1

 

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

            Kids and families benefit from a stable environment.  Today, we’ll meet an entrepreneur who is helping build an environment that is very positive and stable, in more ways than one.  A stable for horses is a key part of this modern equine facility which is rapidly becoming a Kansas landmark.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Jerry and Ingrid Vandervort, owners of the Topeka-area equine center known as Rocking V Ranch.  Jerry grew up in the Kansas City area working with horses.  As a kid, he was a stable hand at Benjamin Stables in Kansas City and later rodeoed as a calf roper.  After graduation from K-State, he became the ag teacher at Washburn Rural High School. He met and married Ingrid who is from Topeka.

            Meanwhile, he was looking for a place for horses.  After three years, he and Ingrid bought land southwest of Topeka.  They set out to build a high quality equine facility.

            In 1996, they built a 24 stall horse barn with outdoor runs and a 1,000 square foot apartment.  Jerry and Ingrid lived in that apartment for six years while they were building.  In 1998, they built a 23,000 square foot indoor arena which is the largest indoor arena in the area, and they added a tack store in 2000.  The name of the facility is Rocking V Ranch.

            Today, Rocking V Ranch includes 32 horse stalls, tack lockers, outdoor pastures with shelters, horse wash racks with hot and cold water, spacious trailer parking, paddocks and turn out pens, fully lighted indoor and outdoor arenas, a park with barbecue grills, and more than 100 acres of trails.  Wow.  In addition to a full line of tack, the Vandervorts offer horse training and English and Western riding lessons.  For an annual fee, non-boarders can bring in their horses to use the facilities as well.  Ingrid’s mother, Carol McCartney, manages the equine supply store.

            Rocking V Ranch’s primary business is boarding horses.  The Vandervort’s goal is to offer premium horse care with the finest facilities around, and offer training by the area’s top instructors.  The ranch also hosts various equine events and brings in top clinicians.

            Jerry says, “I believe we have increased the quality of horse care and horse facilities in the area.”

            Rocking V is located in a rural area southwest of Topeka.  Its mailing address is Wakarusa, which is an incorporated community of perhaps 100 people.  Now, that’s rural.  But the Rocking V is only about eight miles south of Topeka, so it has access to a large population base.

            Jerry says, “We have a great bunch of boarders here and there is such a variety.  We have people who show, people who trail ride, English riders, Western riders, racers and ropers and everyone gets along.”

            The Rocking V hosts some 15 to 20 equine events each year.  These include horse shows, clinics, and riding camps for kids.  Rocking V also plays host to birthday parties, corporate parties, weddings, receptions, and other special events.

            For example, Rocking V hosts barbecues, Christmas and Halloween parties for the boarders.  Jerry and Ingrid have a daughter, age 8 and a son, age 5.  For the Halloween party, their daughter dressed up like a princess and Jerry stuck a plastic cone on the head of her white Welsh pony so it looked like a unicorn.  I’m sure that made a photo album moment.

            Jerry says, “We try to be a real family-friendly, kid-friendly place.”  For more information, go to www.rockingvequinecenter.com.

            Kids and families benefit from a stable environment.  In this case, the Rocking V Ranch Equine Center is providing an environment that is positive and stable.  In fact, a stable is a key part of the facility.  We commend Jerry and Ingrid Vandervort, Carol McCartney, and all those involved with the Rocking V Ranch for making a difference with their concern for families and their emphasis on quality care for the horse.

 

            And there’s more.  Jerry hasn’t just built a business, he is also building a piece of equipment that has become another business.  Now that product is being shipped coast to coast.  We’ll learn about that next week.

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

 

 

 

Silver Screen Cowboy Museum

 

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

Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Rex Allen, Tex Ritter, Hoot Gibson.  That’s quite a roster of western movie heroes from yesteryear.  A person could make a museum about those characters – and now, someone has.  Today we’ll learn about a brand new museum to honor these good guys of the silver screen.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet John Birdeno, a longtime collector of western movie memorabilia.  His collection is the centerpiece of the new Silver Screen Cowboy Museum, housed at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper near Benton, Kansas, outside of Wichita.

The Prairie Rose offers all you can eat barbecue dinners and great western entertainment.  Greg and JW Johnson bought the Prairie Rose in August 2007.  In 2009, they expanded the Prairie Rose by adding the Silver Screen Cowboy Museum, featuring John Birdeno’s collection.

John grew up in Oregon, watching shows with stars like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  His parents said, “Yes, those tv cowboys are neat, but we had the greatest cowboy of them all, Tom Mix.”  John’s dad rented a 16 millimeter projector and showed John one of Tom Mix’ old westerns.  It sparked an interest.

John started casually collecting old time western memorabilia as he started a family of his own.  One day John was talking to his son’s third grade teacher and he mentioned that he had articles and items about Tom Mix and others.  The teacher asked him to bring his display to the class and give a talk about it.

The talk went so well that another teacher asked for it, and then the principal across town did the same.  John began going to film festivals and actively collecting movie memorabilia.  In 1990, John moved to Kansas to be closer to grandchildren.  He would later settle in Buhler, Kansas.

Meanwhile, he was having lots of fun collecting these movie items of legendary cowboy movie pioneers like Lash Larue and Tom Mix.  He became friends with Paul Mix, Tom Mix’s cousin.  At one festival he was meeting a friend to whom he commented, “That old guy in the corner has a great collection of Lash Larue.”  His friend replied, “That old guy in the corner IS Lash Larue.”

John gathered autographed pictures and other souvenirs from far and wide.  A friend suggested he turn all this into a museum.  A board was formed and several attempts were made to establish a museum, but they didn’t work out.

            John approached the new owners of the Prairie Rose and explained that he wanted to find a home to display his collection, and they agreed to host it.  Wichita radio personality Orin Friesen had recently rejoined the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and took on this project.  Orin and John worked together to catalog and display John’s collection at the Prairie Rose.  John says, “Orin got more done in four days than I and others got done in four years.”  In May 2009, the Prairie Rose hosted a grand opening for the Silver Screen Cowboy Museum.

            The museum displays posters, autographed photos, costumes, fancy guns and saddles, rare treasures, and much more.  John Birdeno says, “I have enough movie posters, lobby cards, publicity stills and arcade cards to wallpaper an airplane hangar.”  Displays feature everything from little known artists to John Wayne himself.  John says the collection will continue to grow, as people in Hollywood are working on gathering additional movie artifacts for the museum.

            It’s a fitting addition to the Prairie Rose, the midwest’s largest chuckwagon supper.  I’m pleased that it’s located near the rural community of Benton, population 821 people.  Now, that’s rural.  For more information, go to www.prairierosechuckwagon.com.

 

            Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Rex Allen, Tex Ritter, Hoot Gibson.  It’s a who’s who of legendary western stars, now portrayed right here in Kansas.  We salute John Birdeno, Greg and JW Johnson, Orin Friesen, and all those involved with the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper and the Silver Screen Cowboy Museum.  They are making a difference by preserving and promoting this element of our culture.  In the end, I know that the good guy wins.

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

 

 

Ken and Sue Schwindt

 

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

            The home church.  That’s a phrase we use when describing the church where we belong, where we have our membership, where we come home to.  But today we’ll meet a couple who not only worshipped in a particular church, that church is now their home - literally.  They have purchased a former church, converted it to their residence, and are now opening their home to overnight guests.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Ken and Sue Schwindt of Wichita County in far western Kansas.  Ken has deep family roots here.  His great-grandfather Nicholas Schwindt immigrated from Russia and homesteaded here in 1902.  In 1903, Nicholas and his bride donated 80 acres for a church and school.  The original Pleasant Valley Church building was constructed here in 1929.  It was truly a country church, being located about 20 minutes from the county seat of Leoti.  In 1963, a new sanctuary was built on to the old church.

            The first couple to be married in the new sanctuary were none other than Ken and Sue Schwindt.  Ken says, “There were about 120 people attending the church when Sue and I were married.”

            But country churches and other rural institutions have found it difficult to sustain themselves in changing times.  By 1998, there were only five members left in the Pleasant Valley Church.  The church closed its doors and merged with the First United Methodist Church of Leoti.

            In 2000, the church and grounds were put up for silent auction.  The successful bidder was the very same Ken Schwindt.  Ken and Sue set out to convert the church building into not only their home, but to a bed and breakfast as well.

            Ken farms with a neighbor and runs his own trenching and backhoe business, while Sue works at a local bank.  They remodeled the church building to become a B and B and are continuing to refine it.

            I think the design is ingenious.  The former sanctuary is now a great room which can serve as a big meeting room, recreational area, and/or large breakfast area for guests.  The kitchen has been remodeled and the former fellowship hall makes a spacious living room.  The Sunday school classrooms are now sleeping rooms.  Come to think of it, for some of us that may not be as much of a change as I thought it was...

            The church pews are gone, although one can still find Methodist hymnals among the many books and keepsakes in the home.

            In keeping with history, the name of the place is Pleasant Valley Bed and Breakfast.  It’s a wonderful rural getaway for people who want to get out into the country.  Pleasant Valley’s mailing address is Marienthal, which is a nearby unincorporated town with a population of maybe 60 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            The building has been furnished with wonderful antiques and family heirlooms.  For example, a dining table was bought by Ken’s grandfather in 1912.  Many other family items have been refinished and reupholstered by Ken and Sue.

            The Schwindt family cemetery is located just north of the former church building.  Ken says with a smile, “They are our closest neighbors, and I give them anything they ask for.”

 

            The bed and breakfast opened in 2005.  It offers three private guest rooms and shared baths, all decorated in victorian, lodge, or country antique.  A common living room doubles as an additional sleeping area with two pull out couches.  The B and B hosts local events and area visitors, and has hosted guests from as far away as Oregon.

            Ken says, “I tell visitors that this is my home, but it’s yours when you’re away from home.”  For reservations or additional information, call 620-375-2874.

 

            The home church.  That’s the church where we belong, to which we go home.  In this case, we found a family whose home and church are the same.  Their home really was a church, and vice versa.  We commend Ken and Sue Schwindt for making a difference by valuing their family history and sharing their home with others.  We might say that their home can provide other people with a quiet place to find sanctuary.

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

 

 

 

Kristin Chambers – Equine Rescue

 

            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 Lexington, Kentucky.  Here’s the Christmas edition of the local newspaper.  On the front page is the remarkable story of a racehorse who had been a Kentucky Derby contender but was headed to slaughter in his old age – and was rescued at the last minute by a woman in rural Kansas.  She’s founded a nationally recognized rescue and retirement program for horses.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Kristin Chambers, executive director of Winding Road Equine Rescue and Retirement near Waverly, Kansas.

Kristin says, “I’m an extreme animal lover.”  In 2005, Kristin was looking for goats and visited some people who also had a small, underweight mare.  Kristin took pity on the old mare and bought her.  Then, Kristin says, “Word got around that I had a soft spot for old horses.”  Other people started bringing her unused or unwanted horses.

            Kristin went to a horse sale to buy a horse for her son, but when she saw the high quality horses that were being auctioned for slaughter, she bought 10 of them.  At the time she was trying to work on a teaching degree plus helping these horses.  A professor told her that she should choose one or the other.  Kristin says, “I was so mad at him for telling me what to do – but I was mad because he was right.”

            She chose horses, because her long-term goal is to incorporate youth involvement into the rescue.  Kristin organized an effort called Winding Road Equine Rescue and Retirement, which is now a 501c3 charitable organization.

            The purpose of Winding Road Equine Rescue and Retirement is the rescue, rehabilitation and what is called re-homing of abused, neglected and unwanted horses.  It also provides a safe sanctuary for horses who are too old, infirm or injured to be re-homed.

Today, Winding Road cares for more than 50 horses, plus more have been adopted or placed in carefully screened foster or adoptive homes.  The horses range from little miniature horses 34 inches tall to a giant Belgian 17 hands high.

In December 2008, Kristin was called to look at a horse in a broker's lot in Emporia where some horses are at risk of being sent to slaughter. The broker asked if she could do anything for another horse, an aged thoroughbred stallion with a bad eye and depressed look.

Kristin found that the horse was named Clever Allemont.  As a young racehorse, he won his first six consecutive starts and earned more than a quarter million dollars.  He had been trained by D. Wayne Lukas, raced at Churchill Downs, and ridden by jockeys such as Pat Day and Angel Cordero.  As a stud, he sired 72 winners out of 125 starters.  But by the time he was 26, no one wanted him.

Kristin was determined to save this horse.  She posted information about the horse on-line, and within 30 minutes someone donated the funds to save him.  Then within 24 hours, an exclusive thoroughbred retirement home in Kentucky agreed to take him in.  Kristin says, “It was just such a chain of miracles.”  His story made the front page of the Lexington newspaper on Christmas Day and the USA Today website.

Winding Road is situated on 40 acres near the rural community of Waverly, population 581 people.  Now, that’s rural.  The facility includes a barn and stables and an arena under construction.  Winding Road is supported by charitable donations and lots of volunteers.

            Kristin says, “We have wonderful volunteers who help with construction, clean stalls and brush horses.  These people range from eclectic artists to girl scouts to old-time cowboys. We are always in need of more donations and volunteer help.”  She says, “I don’t run on faith alone, but I have a lot of faith.  God didn’t get me this far to turn his back on us.”

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

 

            It’s time to close this newspaper from Kentucky, which featured the amazing story of a racehorse rescued from slaughter by a woman in rural Kansas.  Kristin Chambers has made a difference by saving horses in need, and helping many of them to beat the odds.

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

 

 

 

Onaga

 

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

            Stumbling blocks or building blocks?  Sometimes the stumbling blocks we face in life can be converted into building blocks.  Today we’ll learn about a rural community which is building a better future, one block at a time.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Lois Loucks, development director for Tri-Cities Economic Development.  Lois grew up in Wichita and graduated from K-State.  She met and married Jim.  They established a landscape business in southeast Kansas.  She later served as Director of the Main Street program in Winfield.

            In 2004, Lois and Jim retired to Onaga to be closer to their daughters and grandchildren.  Lois says, “Onaga was the smallest community I’d ever lived in, and now I wouldn’t ever want to go back to a big city.”  But, she says, “I’ve been a people person too long, I found I just couldn’t retire.”

            She became an active volunteer with the PRIDE program and the city of Onaga.  Lois says, “I saw opportunities here, and I asked permission to write a grant.”  The grant was successful.  Lois found herself working increasingly with Pottawatomie County Economic Development Director Bob Cole.

            Bob and Lois point out that many volunteer leaders in Onaga were already taking steps to revitalize the community.  Bob helped the towns in northern Pottawatomie County organize themselves into Tri-Cities Economic Development. Lois became the part-time development director. The organization’s first project was downtown beautification, including new flower baskets downtown.

            A lack of city budget money can be a stumbling block in many small towns, but the hands-on skills of many small town residents can be a building block.  Onaga identified a new playground as a need, and found a way to build it without any tax dollars.  Through Leathers and Associates, schoolchildren were asked to draw pictures of what they would like to play on.  This playground architectural firm finalized the design and helped the community conduct all phases of building a playground, including supplies, fundraising, tools and volunteer worker recruitment.

            On April 18, 2007, a team of area volunteers set out to build the new playground.  Five days later at 6 p.m., the grand opening of the playground was conducted.  This is a one-of-a-kind, 8,500 square foot composite lumber playground.  Lois says, “I heard people say, `If we can pull this off, we can do anything.’”  The volunteer workers numbered 826 people -- more than the population of Onaga itself.  Wow.

            Lois says, “Folks were surprised to see people from the neighboring communities come in to help.  More and more, you have to be regional.”

            Tri-Cities Economic Development is a rural regional organization, including Onaga, population 697; Havensville, population 145; and Wheaton, population 91 people.  Now, that’s rural.  These communities collaborate in what they call an annual Junk Funeral, which is like a regional clean-up program and giant garage sale.  The three cities and rural areas advertise it together, including a map of all sale locations.

            Onaga also adopted a neighborhood revitalization program offering tax incentives to stimulate building renovation and new construction.  Taxing entities had to forego some revenue, but the long-term results were dramatic.  Lois says, “When we began the program, the valuation within our city was $2.4 million.  Now, it has grown to around $7 million.”  Under the leadership of Mayor Gary Holthaus and a supportive City Council, the city is doing a major streetscape improvement project, city-wide water improvements, and new water tower, after recently doing city wide sewer improvements.

Onaga is now offering free lots for building homes, across the street from the grass airstrip and near the nine-hole golf course.  The historic fair pavilion is being renovated.  Fiberoptic cable has been installed to every home and business to upgrade telecommunications capacity.  A new senior center was constructed, also using volunteer labor.  And, Onaga is a pilot community for Farm Bureau’s Hometown Prosperity program.

Lois says, “We have extremely good leaders and extremely good workers.  What has and is happening in Onaga is a community effort.  These successful projects build enthusiasm, and then it snowballs.”

            Stumbling blocks or building blocks?  This community has found a way to utilize its assets as building blocks for a better future.  We commend the many people in Onaga who are making a difference with their commitment to community.

            We’ll learn more about Onaga next week.

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

 

 

Marci Penner – We Kan Bank - Whiting

 

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

            Let’s stop by the bank today.  Unlike your local financial institution, there’s no teller windows or ATM at this bank, but there is a tremendous resource.  This is what Marci Penner calls the We Kan! Bank, a new initiative of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.  The We Kan! Bank is not a financial institution, but rather a virtual, social capital bank where people can match needs with resources.  The bank’s first project was recently implemented in Whiting, Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Marci Penner, Director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.  One of Marci’s transformational ideas for rural Kansas is the We Kan! Bank, designed to match rural community needs with those who can help.  Marci says, “This is a social capital bank, where volunteer-led communities can open accounts of need and other people can open accounts of support.”  The “banker” helps match them together.

            Another transformational idea is I Kan Help, which is a means of empowering individuals to donate time and/or money to rural communities which need them.  Marci says, “Let’s say there was a family that wanted to make a difference.  If there was a website which they could click on to find needed volunteer projects in their area, they could see where they could help.”

            Marci was thinking about this when she received a call from Rosa Thomas, owner of the Whiting Café in Whiting, Kansas.  Rosa invited Marci to her café’s 25th anniversary celebration in August.  Marci says, “I had something else going on that day, but it hit me that her cafe would be the perfect opportunity to try this idea.  We could give Rosa an early anniversary present.”

            Marci says, “I know Rosa is a person who gives to the community.”  So Marci convinced Rosa to let volunteers give her café a makeover.

            Marci says, “Rosa didn’t ask for this help, we convinced her we wanted to do it.  Anyone who can keep a café open for 25 years in a town this size deserves recognition and support.”  Whiting is a truly rural community, with a population of 206 people.  Now, that’s rural.  The Kansas Sampler Foundation called for volunteers and organized this effort.

On the last weekend of June 2009, more than a hundred people donated time and effort to make repairs, clean, replace equipment, paint, and generally fix up the Whiting Café.  Rosa prepared meals at the community center to serve to the workers and paid the cost of the major repairs.  Donors contributed more than $5,000 to underwrite other costs.  Volunteers received t-shirts saying I Kan Help!

            Local folks helped serve meals.  One artist designed and painted a mural saying, “Food so great you’ll scrape your plate.”  The preacher came over after church on Sunday to fix the pilot light in the grill.  A country music band played for the group on Saturday night.

            Marci says, “People worked late each night.  Finally we had to get out of there on Sunday so Rosa and crew could prepare the café for 6 a.m. opening on Monday.”

            In the end, the rural community of Whiting had a beautiful new look to their locally owned café, and volunteers had donated more than 1,300 hours to the cause.  Marci says, “This was a pilot project.  We can only do one of these major statewide projects a year, but maybe we could organize lots of smaller local projects which people could get involved in.”  For more information, go to www.kansassampler.org.  Remember, it was no government agency or federal grant that made this possible, but rather the spirit of volunteerism which is rural America at its best.

 

            It’s time to leave this bank.  But this bank has no vault or bars on the windows, for this is a virtual bank of social capital where people can identify needs and then match them with dollars or volunteer hours.  As an example, the bank’s initial project was completed here in Whiting, Kansas.  We commend Marci Penner, Rosa Thomas, and all the volunteers who made a difference by giving of themselves to benefit this community.  As a rewarding experience, this was an investment which produced a high return.

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

 

 

Marita Elliott

 

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

            “Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote the poet Robert Frost.  Good stone fences in the Flint Hills of Kansas make something else:  They make an attractive element along the roadside, an appealing type of scenery for visitors, and a connection with the history and legacy of the Flint Hills.  In addition to all that, they might even keep your cattle in.  Today we’ll meet an innovative group which is utilizing the region’s native stone architecture by building on it – and I mean that literally, one rock at a time.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Marita Elliott, Chair of the Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway.  The Native Stone Scenic Byway is a way to showcase a part of the northern Flint Hills region which is well known for its native limestone.

In 2001, a number of communities from Dover to Alma got together to develop a scenic byway proposal for the region.  Community representatives worked with the Kansas Department of Transportation, researched historic sites, developed a corridor management plan, and ultimately had their site designated one of the nine scenic byways in Kansas.

            The Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway is located just west of Topeka in Wabaunsee County.  The designated route begins at the intersection of Highway K-4 and Glick Road, goes west along Highway K-4 through Dover, Keene, Eskridge, and Lake Wabaunsee to K-99.  Then it follows K-99 up to Alma and ends at Interstate 70.

 The Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway was publicly launched in June 2007.  Marita Elliott, Chair of the Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway, says, “Part of our mission is to preserve the native stone architecture and structures along the byway.”  With that in mind, in October 2007, the byway committee held its’ first-ever Stone Fence Renovation Workshop.
            There are a number of native stone fences – essentially hand-built, waist-high rock walls -- which line the roads in this region.  Many of these fences were built by early settlers using the plentiful rocks which help give the Flint Hills their name.  Marita explains that in 1867, the Kansas Legislature passed a law paying citizens 40 cents per rod for building stone fence.  Of course, over time many of those fences have deteriorated.

Marita Elliott says, “Building a stone fence is really an art, but it’s becoming a lost art.”  This workshop teaches participants the essential elements for successful stone fence building and repair.

As a child, Marita visited her grandparent’s farm which had stone fences in northeast Kansas.  Marita says, “I always admired those fences.  I wondered, where did those rocks come from and how did they do that?”

Others were fascinated by those old stone fences also.  The first workshop went so well that subsequent sessions were scheduled.  Now some 160 feet of stone fences along the scenic byway have been rebuilt by volunteers during the renovation workshops.

Another workshop is scheduled for the first weekend of May 2009.  Participants pay a $100 fee and must bring safety equipment such as goggles and steel toed shoes.  They receive a safety check and orientation prior to going to work rebuilding fence.

The instructor for the workshop is a professionally trained, nationally certified dry stone conservancy mason who lives in the Flint Hills.  Note that I said dry stone.  This is a type of stone building which does not use mortar.  The rocks in the fence are chiseled to fit and pieced together one at a time.

Workshop space is limited.  Scholarships are available for high school and college youth.

The scenic byways are a way to celebrate and share the scenery and history around us in rural Kansas.  Marita’s community of Lake Wabaunsee, for example, has a population of perhaps 200 people.  Now, that’s rural.  The Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway helps promote, preserve and utilize the natural assets of this rural region.  For more information, go to www.wabaunsee.com.

 

            Good fences make good neighbors, and this type of fence may also make an opportunity to build on our rural heritage.  We commend Marita Elliott and all those involved in the Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway for making a difference by preserving and honoring this legacy.  Now, would somebody help me lift this rock?

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

 

Terwilliger Home

 

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

            What is at your doorstep?  Sometimes remarkable history can be found right outside our front door.  Today we’ll visit a location which was the site of one of the greatest western migrations in American history.  The entire traffic of the Santa Fe Trail passed right outside what would become their doorstep.  Now a couple is working to preserve and promote a historic house and other buildings at that site.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Shirley and Ken McClintock of Council Grove, Kansas.  They are leading an effort to honor this legacy.

            Ken has deep roots in Morris County, since his ancestors came here in the late 1800s.  Shirley is from Iowa and was visiting her brother in Council Grove when she met Ken at a Sunday School class.  She says, “He gave me a tour of Council Grove history and I fell in love with him and the town.”  Ken became an attorney in Council Grove and Shirley became a teacher.

            They both love history.  In the 1990s, they became interested in a local historic structure known as the Terwilliger Home.  It was a limestone house with walnut woodwork.  The foundation of this house was laid in 1860 when Kansas was still a territory.  It was completed in 1861.

            The home was purchased and expanded by the Terwilliger family in 1870.  They lived there for two decades.  The house was modified in 1907.

            In 1927, the property underwent major changes.  The main floor of the front of the house was converted to a filling station.  It was surrounded by maple trees, and as visitors started to camp there, the site became known as Maple Camp.  Other structures were added to the property through the years.

By 1994, the Terwilliger Home was dilapidated and faced demolition.  Shirley McClintock tried to encourage someone else to buy and preserve it, but when no one did, she created the non-profit Historic Preservation Corporation (with help from her attorney husband) to purchase the property.

Shirley says, “God’s hand is in this thing.  When we’ve gotten to the end of our rope, miracles have happened.”  For example, one local woman left her estate to the project, and a foundation came through with an unexpected donation just when the property taxes were due.

Today the Terwilliger Home has been restored to absolute splendor.  Gorgeous woodwork and Victorian décor decorate the house, along with period furniture and vignettes about local citizens and history.

In November 2001, the Historic Preservation Corporation opened the Trail Days Bakery Café in the building to provide revenue for its operation.  Ken and Shirley McClintock operate the café, wearing period clothing.  The café offers American Indian, old world, early American and 20th century foods made from scratch.

It also offers a view of a remarkable Indian pictograph.  In 1996 during the renovation, Shirley was scratching paint off an original door casing when she found an unusual design apparently carved into the walnut with a hunting knife.  It includes Konza Indian symbols and is believed to be the nation’s only Indian pictograph on a white man’s building to honor a white man.

Around the Terwilliger Home are other historic structures reflecting the rural history of the region.  These include a tourist cabin from the Maple Camp days, a one-room schoolhouse, and an 1858 log house built along Clarks Creek, west of the rural community of Latimer, population 21 people.  Now, that’s rural.

All these structures are now located along what was the Santa Fe Trail.  As late as 1863, the stone home was the last house freighters saw when going west when leaving Council Grove.  Thousands of soldiers, teamsters, and covered wagons would pass right outside the doorstep of what would become the Terwilliger Home.  This house is one of the two oldest remaining homes along the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas.  For more information, call 620-767-7986.

 

What is at your doorstep?  Sometimes remarkable history can be found right outside our doors, and many Kansans are working hard to honor and preserve that history.  We salute Shirley and Ken McClintock for making a difference with their dedication to this history.  Such commitment can put rural Kansas on the doorstep to success.

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

 

 

Mel Waite – National Billing

 

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

            It’s the end of the month – a time that this small businessman in Ohio dreads.  He enjoys his distributorship business most of the time, but the part he dreads is mailing out the billing statements and trying to collect at the end of the month.  Yet things are looking up.  He has found a company which will not only do his billings, they will advance him money on the payments which are due.  And where did he find this company?  Would you believe, in the middle of rural Kansas?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Mel Waite, manager of a company called National Billing LLC.  Mel is a finance guy.  After growing up at Scandia, Mel got degrees in ag education from K-State with an emphasis in finance and management.  He taught and then worked for the Farm Credit System before going into public administration, serving as a city and county administrator in central Kansas.

            In March 2005, he became General Manager of National Billing LLC.  National Billing’s specialty is in accounts receivable processing and management.  The company is owned by a nationally chartered bank in Hays and is covered by federal regulatory rules.

            To explain how this works, Mel gave me a lesson in bookkeeping for dummies.  When a product is sold on terms or, in other words, with the payment yet to be received, the obligation to pay is considered a receivable for the seller.  It is an asset for the seller, even though the cash is not yet in hand.

            National Billing helps manage those receivable assets.  It makes sure that the bills are sent to customers, and that reminder calls are made to the customers who have not yet sent payments. Mel said, “We are not a formal collection agency, but we can and do make courtesy calls on behalf of the business to customers who have not yet paid.”

            National Billing offers another key feature:  Financing of the receivable.  National Billing will provide its customer businesses with cash for its receivables on a discount basis within three business days.  In other words, Mel said, “Within 72 hours of the time that we receive the company’s invoices, the company gets their cash.”

            This is a key benefit.  If the business uses that cash wisely to garner discounts from its suppliers, for example, this service can pay for itself.  It will not only relieve the business of the burden of doing the billing, it can save the business money.

            Essentially, this is a way of out-sourcing this part of a business’s back-office operations in a way that is virtually transparent to the business’s customers.  Billings are made using the original company’s account numbers and company name on the invoice, and customers continue to make payments payable to that company.

            National Billings’ service enables the business owner to do those things that the owner values most, such as marketing or customer relations.  Mel said, “It’s a form of value-added.  We want to help that business succeed.”

            Mel cited the example of a veterinarian in Virginia who is out all month doctoring people’s animals.  By month end, the vet has bills to pay and needs to collect from clients, and National Billing takes care of that for him.  The cash flow provided by National Billing can be used to reinvest and expand the business, utilize supplier discounts, increase sales, pay off debt, increase inventory, purchase equipment, and more.

                        This service is now being utilized by customers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia.  Wow.  Yet National Billing LLC is based in the rural community of Ellinwood, Kansas, population 2,035 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            How exciting to find a national financial service in the middle of rural Kansas.

 

            It’s the end of the month – that time which this Ohio businessman used to dread.  But thanks to National Billing LLC in Ellinwood, Kansas, he doesn’t have to worry about it any more.  We commend Mel Waite and all those involved with National Billing for making a difference by providing this service nationwide.  As to that businessman in Ohio, he says, “Hooray!  It’s the end of the month!”

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

 

 

Wheelchairs of Kansas

 

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

            Let’s travel to New York, where an extremely large woman needs to go from her home to the hospital.  She is so big that she can’t go under her own power.  The fire department is called to get her out of the house, and they remove the picture window to get her out.  Then a rental company comes in with a special lift which is used to lift up the poor woman and get her to the care she needs.  Where do you suppose that special lift was located?  Would you believe, through a company in rural Kansas?  Today we’ll learn about a business which produces medical equipment for those with such special needs.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Michele Eberle who told me of the woman in New York.  Michelle works for the rural Kansas company which was distributing them at the time.  The company is called Wheelchairs of Kansas.

            Willard Frickey is the owner and founder of Wheelchairs of Kansas.  He was a grocery store owner in northwest Kansas when he attended an economic development meeting.  The ED group was looking for ideas for possible businesses.  One of the ideas was a specialized wheelchair company that would build extra large wheelchairs for larger people. Willard thought this was a good idea, but it didn’t catch on with the other people at the meeting.

            Willard thought that if he truly believed in the idea, he should try it himself.  In 1988, he organized a company to manufacture such wheelchairs and began it with four employees.  In 1996, the company came to its current home in Ellis, Kansas, just west of Hays.

            Wheelchairs of Kansas has a very specific specialty.  It targets the market for bariatric products.  No, not geriatric, I said bariatric products.  Bariatric is a medical term for the extremely obese.

            Of course, this is a real need.  If a large person needs a wheelchair, he or she needs the wheelchair to fit, just as it should for a small person.  So the company started manufacturing and selling extra large wheelchairs and related products.

            Of course, some places would only need such a wheelchair temporarily.  In 1996, the Sizewise company was created to rent bariatric equipment.  In 1998, another company was formed called Sunflower Medical LLC.  Sunflower’s specialty is in high quality air therapy products, such as a type of advanced air mattress for medical use.  Willard Frickey’s sons and daughter are involved with the management of each of these companies today.

            So what are bariatric products?  These are items like those large wheelchairs which the company began building.  For example, a typical wheelchair has a seat that is 16 to 18 inches wide.  Wheelchairs of Kansas makes wheelchairs for people who are bigger than that.

            In fact, I saw one wheelchair that was 54 inches wide.  A person would have to be big to fill that seat.  It looks like a love seat on wheels.  For those who need something that size, and for their caregivers, such a wheelchair would be a godsend.

            Other bariatric products include such things as large size power wheelchairs, beds, walkers, mattresses, lifts, bath products, and more.  These are sold to durable medical equipment dealers, pharmacies and others.

            Today, Wheelchairs of Kansas, which began with four people, is employing more than 100.  The company is sending products coast to coast and to such places as Denmark, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  Wow.  They are the only manufacturer of solely bariatric equipment in the nation, and probably the world.  All this is happening in Ellis, Kansas, population 1,852 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            How amazing to find this remarkable business in rural Kansas.  For more information, go to www.wheelchairsofkansas.com.

 

            It’s time to say goodbye to New York, where a special lift distributed by a company in Kansas was put to use to help bring a very large woman to her medical care.  We commend Willard Frickey, Michele Eberle, and all those involved with Wheelchairs of Kansas for making a difference through entrepreneurship targeted to a unique niche.  We need more such entrepreneurs to help give rural Kansas a big lift.

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

 

 

Nicole Godek – Love Small Town America

 

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

            The call came from Illinois.  The caller said, “I’m tired of the big city, tired of the rat race.  Would you send me some information about the small towns you have on your web site?”  It made Nicole Godek’s day, for this was the first call she had in response to her brand new site on the world wide web which promotes small town America.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Nicole Godek, the founder and creator of a new website, www.lovesmalltownAmerica.com.

            Nicole is a native of Grainfield, Kansas.  She studied graphic design at K-State and embarked on a career that took her to Nebraska, California, and Colorado.  After working in the print field, she started working in website design and then founded her own web design business in 2002.  She called it StirStick Studio because it mixes design and communication.  More information can be found at www.stirstick.com.

            By 2007, she and her husband had a young family and they moved back to her hometown of Grainfield.  They now own the grocery store in Grainfield, and Nicole continues to operate stirstick.com.  Then something happened which sparked a whole new line of thought.

            Nicole said, “We wanted to redo a room in our house, so I did a google search for a contractor just like I would have done in the city.  But hardly any of our local contractors came up, and I realized they weren’t online.”  Not only did the local businesses not come up on the Internet, the rural communities in her region were not well-represented either.

            Nicole said, “I thought to myself, how can I get my small town back on the map and give back to a community that has been so gracious to us?  The people here in Grainfield are excited about the school and the town.  I figured we could use the web to share this excitement with others.”

            That was the beginning of Nicole’s initiative to promote rural communities and businesses online.  She created a website, www.lovesmalltownAmerica.com.

            This was a natural extension of Nicole’s existing business in print and web design and new media.  She already has clients as far away as California and Florida.  Wow.

            Nicole said the goals of lovesmalltownAmerica.com are two-fold:  One, to provide a site where small town businesses and organizations can expand and reach an online market affordably, and second, to provide families and businesses looking to relocate with a comprehensive resource to find the right fit for them.

            Nicole said, “We offer the website as a service for the communities and businesses.  Because many of them are unfamiliar with the web, we do the writing and updating so it is as easy for them as possible.  We also do search engine optimization.”

            First, Nicole approached the city council in her home town of Grainfield.  After they signed on to the service, Nicole starting expanding the scope of communities and businesses.  Her website features truly rural communities such as the town of Park, Kansas, population 148 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Nicole is passionate about small town America.  She hopes others will come to small communities and bring their businesses with them.  Her feelings were brought home, so to speak, when she and her husband moved back to her hometown.  Nicole said, “We have more house here than we had in Colorado for much less than half the price.”

But beyond the economic factors, Nicole said, “The atmosphere was different than the big city we had moved from. People welcomed us with open arms, there was real one-on-one interaction at the schools for my kids, real estate was inexpensive and there was an authentic community spirit that lived among everyone.”

 

            The call came from Illinois.  Someone had visited Nicole’s website, www.lovesmalltownAmerica.com, and was calling to get more information because they were tired of the big city rat race.  It was an example of utilizing the power of technology to promote rural communities.  We commend Nicole Godek for making a difference with her community spirit, and for using the tools of technology to help rural communities reach out to the world through the world wide web.

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

 

 

Reuben Eckels

 

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

            “Look, up in the sky.  It’s a bird.  It’s a plane.  No, it’s Wichita Man!”  Hmm, sounds like there is a new superhero in town.  But this is not your grandfather’s Superman.  This character fights the bad guys and saves the town, but he also conveys positive messages to troubled youth.  It is part of an innovative effort to use new media to reach target audiences in the inner city and beyond.  This is today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Reuben Eckels, the young man who initiated this creative idea to reach troubled young people.  Reuben is a native of Wichita, the youngest of nine children.  Maybe having that many siblings meant you had to be fast, and Reuben certainly was.  He played football for Wichita State and as a wide receiver, set the all-time school record for pass catching yards.  After graduation, he played in the Canadian Football League and was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes with players like J.C. Watts.

            His faith really grew during this time, and when he returned to Wichita he and his wife became very active in their church.  He felt a call and wanted to serve others, so he eventually joined the ministry.  His first church was an AME church in Salina, and in 2000 he came back to Wichita and founded his own church.  It met on the WSU campus and began with 11 people.

            Today, the New Day Christian Church has some 200 members and meets in its own building.  Reuben and his wife of 25 years have two children, Samuel and Lauren.

            But Reuben was deeply concerned about the trends he saw in his community, especially among his fellow African-Americans.  Reuben says, “I went to meetings on AIDS and gang violence and domestic abuse, but I saw the same faces from the same organizations at all these meetings.  I realized we’re not reaching the target audience we need.”

            Meanwhile, his son Sam, then 9, was looking through Reuben’s old comic book collection in his garage.  He said, “Dad, why don’t you write a comic book?”

            Reuben thought about that idea and noticed that superhero movies were hot again, with shows about Batman and Iron Man gaining popularity.  He conceived the idea of a locally-produced comic book which would convey positive messages to counteract gang violence, domestic abuse, and other problems.

            The Kansas Health Foundation provided a grant to support the effort, and in January 2009, a new comic book reached the streets.  It is called Wichita Man.  The comic book features a colorful cover and a story of a good guy fighting corruption.  The bad guys assault him and he falls into a toxic waste dump, where he is transformed into a new and powerful character.  It is the first in a series.

            Reuben says, “We want to make it fun enough for kids but adult enough to maintain interest.”  Wichita Man has to fight the odds, and he also has a love interest.

            Throughout the stories are lessons against domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and so forth.  Contact information is listed for the regional prevention center, getting out of gangs, and more.

            These comic books are being distributed free of charge to locations with high walk-in traffic for the target age.  Those locations include youth centers, recreation facilities, health clinics, barbershops, beauty salons, car stores, detailing shops, and so on.  The goal is to reach 1,500 youth ages 12 to 45 during 2009.

            Reuben says, “We want to teach responsible behavior and model good principles and integrity.”  Interest in the project is growing, even in rural parts of the state.  Reuben had a request for these comic books from the rural community of Hoisington, population 2,918 people.  Now, that’s rural.  Reuben says, “We want to lift up good people in our community.”

 

            No, this isn’t your grandfather’s Superman.  Today’s problems aren’t Kryptonite, they are the real, daunting social issues of our society.  We commend Reuben and Sam Eckels and all those involved in this innovative effort for making a difference.  They are using creative approaches to reach those most in need with positive messages.  To that I say, “Man, that is super.”

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

 

 

Robert Cugno - Walker Art Collection

 

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

            Reconnecting with our history:  That can be an important strategy for communities.  Today we’ll learn about a rural community which made an effort to reconnect with some of its favorite sons.  That effort would not only help this community connect with its history, it enabled the community to connect with a treasure of art that is incredible to find in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Robert Cugno.  Robert is the art collector and dealer who told me about the Walker Art Collection in Garnett, Kansas.

            This story begins way back in 1896 when Maynard Walker was born in Garnett.  Walker and his family later moved to Topeka, where he studied art in high school.  After serving in the Army during World War I, he went into the newspaper business in New York City.  He returned to Kansas City for a stint as art editor of the newspaper there, and then back to New York to become director of the painting department in an art gallery.

            In 1935, he started his own art gallery which he successfully operated for the rest of his career.  Essentially, Maynard Walker was a prominent art dealer with facilities in New York and briefly in Hollywood.  The primary artists in his gallery were three leading artists of the time, known as the Midwestern Triumvirate:  John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood, and Thomas Hart Benton.  Mr. Walker had an impressive list of clients, such as Edward G. Robinson, Katherine Hepburn, and Clare Booth Luce.

            Fast forward to 1951.  Two women in Garnett were trying to reconnect with the history of the Garnett community, including Mr. Walker.  One of the women was the  long-time librarian in Garnett.  Another was Margeurite Jackman, who was compiling letters from famous people who originated in the Garnett area.

            She wrote to Maynard Walker in New York and he replied, “Would you like some pictures?”  Interestingly, he called them pictures, rather than paintings.  In April 1951, Maynard Walker sent the Garnett Library seven paintings, including one by John Steuart Curry.  These were sent as a loan at first, and then he donated a number of additional pieces of artwork.

            It became a collection of art which Mr. Walker named for his mother:  The Mary Bridget McAullife Walker Art Collection at the Garnett Public Library.

            Fast forward again to 1988.  Robert Logan and Robert Cugno were art dealers in California.  They were looking for a facility and came across a historic building in Garnett known as the Kirk House, which they ultimately purchased.  The Kirk House is located in downtown Garnett, next door to the public library.  When they got to Garnett, the first thing the two art dealers looked at was the library, where they found the Walker Art Collection.

            Robert Cugno said, “I still get chills thinking about when we found the collection.  It was amazing, but it needed some attention.”  The two art dealers led a campaign to restore and house the artwork appropriately.  In 2001, a new addition was added on the library to display the Mary Bridget McAullife Walker Art Collection.  The library also houses the Garnett City Art Collection, featuring 95 works of prominent California artists donated by a collector.

            This is an incredible treasure to find in small town Kansas.  Robert Cugno said, “It’s a remarkable thing to find in a rural community.”  He said, “I think it’s the most important little collection west of the Mississippi River.”

            Apparently others agree.  The most recent couple of pages in the art gallery’s guest book list visitors from Kansas; Missouri; Oklahoma; Texas; Brooklyn, New York and Pretoria, South Africa.  Wow.  They’ve all made their way to the Walker Art Collection in the rural community of Garnett, Kansas, population 3,391 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

            Reconnecting with our history:  That can be an important strategy for rural communities, and in this case, that reconnection brought about the gift of highly valuable works of art.  We commend the Garnett library, Maynard Walker, Robert Cugno and Robert Logan, and all those involved for making a difference by reconnecting and sharing this art collection.  Sometimes reconnecting just might make history.

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

 

 

Sharla Krenzel – Prairie Flower Quilt Co.

 

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

            Blogspot.  That sounds to me like a stain you would try to wash out of your shirt, but instead it refers to a way of having a kind of virtual conversation online.  A blogspot is a website where a person can post his or her comments in a web log, or blog for short.  Now imagine combining the high-tech blogging process with something as classic as your great-grandmother’s quilt.  It combines high tech and soft touch.  That’s a formula for the success of this quilt shop in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Sharla Krenzel, co-owner of Prairie Flower Quilt Company in Leoti, Kansas.  As a kid, Sharla grew up learning to sew in 4-H.  In 2008, Sharla took her mother to a quilting class in Colby, and she noticed that half the women in the class were from her hometown of Leoti.  She thought, “Hmm, there might be an opportunity here.”

            So Sharla, who is also the Wichita County Economic Development Director, started exploring the possibility of creating a community-owned quilt shop in Leoti.  It turned out that Belinda Oldham, the Family And Consumer Sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension–Wichita County, had been successfully offering quilting classes in the county since the late 1980s.

            Building on this local interest, Sharla worked on establishing a quilt shop in Leoti so that people could get their supplies locally.  Eventually a core group of five women decided to set up the shop themselves.  These women included Sharla Krenzel, Deb Case, Belinda Oldham, Marilyn Wilbur and Krenzel's mom, Janet Droste.

            The women identified a store site in Leoti and went to work.  Along with Sharla's husband Alan who handled most of the carpentry work, the women remodeled the space by painting, building displays and counters and processing inventory for the new business. They covered the windows with brown paper to create some curiosity.

            Sharla says, “Everybody fell into the niches that fit them.”  For example, Sharla was good at marketing and Marilyn was good at keeping the books.  Belinda was an expert at quilting, Deb enjoyed ordering the supplies and Janet enjoyed getting craft-related items.

            One of Sharla’s ideas was to start a blog.  She says, “At the economic development meetings, all they talked about was online stuff like blogging and social networking.”  So for the quilt shop, Sharla set up a website with a blogspot on which they could post their accounts of what was happening with the store.  Every few days they would post a report on how the store was progressing.  It read kind of like an online version of a daily diary.

            On January 1, 2009, the store opened for business.  “Opening day was packed.  You couldn’t even move in here,” Sharla says, so the store was launched successfully.

            Then came January 20, 2009.  Marilyn Wilbur, one of the founders, passed away suddenly in her sleep.  It was a huge shock, but the other women kept on working.

            Prairie Flower Quilt Company offers a full-line of quilting supplies, including fabric, sewing notions, sewing machines, patterns, and books.  The store also has a machine which can make custom quilts.

            The store is drawing customers from all over southwest Kansas, but one of the especially interesting factors is the visibility that their blogspot has received.  Their blogs are posted on the web at www.prairieflowerquilts.com.  Visitors have come to their website from more than 30 states coast to coast, and from such countries as France, Norway, Turkey, Spain, Australia, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic.  Wow.

Using the tools of technology, those with an interest in quilting can be connected world wide – all the way to the rural community of Leoti, Kansas, population 1,613 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

            Blogspot.  No, it’s not that coffee stain on your shirt, it’s a modern way of communicating online.  We salute Sharla Krenzel, Deb Case, Belinda Oldham, Janet Droste, and the late Marilyn Wilbur for making a difference with their entrepreneurial interest.  If more rural communities can establish such businesses and extend their reach using technology, we can be like a gifted quilter who creates a beautiful pattern.

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

 

 

 

Mills Feed and Supply

 

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

            “Support your local economy.”  I saw that bumper sticker on a car recently.  The principle of supporting the local economy is embodied in the business we will learn about today.  It is a family business with a deep commitment to supporting their customers and community.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Stephanie Mills Bogdahn.  She and her family operate Mills Feed and Supply in Moline, Kansas.  Stephanie, her brother and sister are the fifth generation of the Mills family to live in Moline.

            Nearly 100 years ago, a building was constructed in Moline which served as a lumberyard and then a feed store through the years.  Tom Mills worked in this feedstore as a teenager.  Years later, in 1987, he and his wife Wanda bought the feedstore and operated it as Mills Feed and Supply.

            In 2004, Tom Mills passed away.  Now the business is owned by Wanda and operated by their three children.

            Stephanie says, “When we took over, our customers could have gone elsewhere to someone with more experience, but they stuck with us.  We are very blessed that our customers are super loyal.”

            Of course, such loyalty is a two-way street.  Stephanie says, “Our number one priority every day is to make our customers happy.  And we really want to support the local economy.”

            This desire to support the local community has helped the business to expand.  That nearly century-old building had only 800 square feet, which limited their growth.  Stephanie says, “We wanted to be proactive and we wanted to grow the business.”

            She says, "Before we decided to expand we met with Jack Newcomb of QUAD Facilitation.”  Jack is one of the regional specialists in enterprise facilitation which is supported by the state to encourage new business.  Stephanie says, "Jack looked at the numbers in our business plan and provided feedback.  We looked to Jack as a general source of direction and guidance."

            With encouragement from Jack and others, the Mills went forward with their plans.  In November 2008, they had a grand opening for the new building they constructed which includes some 6,000 square feet of space.

            Mills Feed and Supply provides traditional feed needs including bulk delivery, liquid feed and dry fertilizer application.  The company expanded their animal health line with cattle vaccines and small animal products.  But the big addition has come in the form of people products:  men's jeans, work shirts, muck and work boots, small gift items, purses, horse tack and other leather products.  Many of the jewelry and leather products are made by local craftsmen.

            Supporting those local businesses and the community is very important to the Mills family.  Stephanie says, “I’m proud to say that ninety-five percent of our construction work was done by local contractors.”  She says, “We are 50 miles from a major city, so we want to be able to supply local needs and serve local people.”  She also supports organizations like 4-H to support and encourage local youth.

            Meanwhile, QUAD Facilitation continues to support local businesses.  Jack Newcomb will host a Showcase of Success in Howard in April 2009.

            Mills Feed and Supply doesn’t fit the stereotype of a business in a dying rural community.  In the first place, the business is expanding. In the second place, it is being led by the younger generation.  The average age of Stephanie and her brother Shawn and sister Chelise is 29.  Each of them has a young son – Stephanie’s was just born in February 2009.  She says with a smile, “We hope they are the free labor of the future.”  Those children are the sixth generation of the Mills family in Moline, a community of 447 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            Stephanie says, “We’re super glad to be in a closeknit community, where everybody helps everybody else out.”

 

            Support your local economy.  That could be a slogan for Mills Feed and Supply, where the younger generation is expanding their business in a rural setting.  We commend Wanda, Shawn, Chelise, and Stephanie for making a difference with their entrepreneurship and commitment to community.  For them, supporting the local economy isn’t just a bumper sticker, it’s a way of life.

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

 

 

Steve Tipton - Honey

 

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

            Busy as a bee.  If you have observed a hive of bees at work, you know that saying is accurate.  It seems bees are always working, going after nectar for the hive.  Today we’ll meet a family in rural Kansas which started raising bees and found that the enterprise is keeping them quite busy as well.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Steve and Becky Tipton, owners of Country Creek Honey near Meriden, Kansas.

            Steve is from north Topeka originally.  His parents bought a farm near Meriden in 1967.  Steve went to Washburn, married Becky, went to work at Goodyear and moved back to the farm.  Becky is a teacher at Seaman High School.  She has always been interested in bees and had read lots of bee journals, but hadn’t tried raising bees.

            One day in late 1988, Steve went to a farm store in Emporia to pick up a part for a tractor.  Steve said, “It was three days before Christmas, and the store had a sign that said, ‘Beginning beekeeper kits – everything you need to get started.’”  Steve said to himself, “Yes!  My Christmas shopping is done.”

            Now isn’t that a guy’s dream – to Christmas shop for his wife at the farm store?  Anyway, Steve bought that beekeeper kit and gave it to Becky.  They soon bought two hives of bees and have raised bees ever since.

            When Steve retired from Goodyear, he took over the beekeeping.  Today, their business is known as Country Creek Honey.

Steve says with a smile, “This has grown into a hobby well out of control.”  The Tiptons own 100 hives.  At 60 to 80,000 bees per hive, that means that the Tiptons could have some 8 million bees.  Wow.  As amazing as that sounds, Steve says it pales in comparison to some commercial operations in California.  He said, “There are some California operators with a thousand hives, where they use the bees to pollinate fruit and almond orchards.”

Steve and Becky are self-taught beekeepers, and now they share their expertise with others.  They teach in the master beekeeper program at the University of Nebraska (directed by Dr. Marion Ellis), do seminars for the Kansas Honey Producers, and teach beginning beekeeping classes locally.  Becky has represented Kansas on committees of the National Honey Board.

Steve says, “One of the things we learned was to promote anything that comes out of the hive.”  In other words, the honey has value, but other related products such as beeswax can have value as well.

The Tiptons took this advice to heart.  They market an amazing variety of products and flavors.  For example, they offer lip balm, soap leaves, beeswax lotion, liquid soap, natural insect repellent, and – oh yeah – honey.

All these products are made by the Tiptons themselves from honey or beeswax from their hives, with added flavors like raspberry cream, cinnamon, blackberry, wildflower, and jalapeno.  The soaps come in flavors like honey lemon sunshine scrub, bee clean shampoo and body bar, drone scrub, bees in the garden, buzzy face, honey herb, cranberry bumble, pollen pleasure, honey rose, and many more.  There is even a baby bee extremely mild soap.

In addition to the soap and lotion bars, there are soap leaves, flavored honey stix,  and a natural insect repellent called Buzz Off.  All these products are sold at farmers’ markets, festivals, and craft fairs.  One passerby at the Topeka farmers market described Steve as “the best bee person alive.”

Becky teaches soapmaking and Steve gives talks to schools and garden clubs.  They have gone to honey group meetings in locations from Texas to Delaware, but after those meetings, they return to their rural community of Meriden, Kansas, population 701 people.  Now, that’s rural.  How exciting to find these entrepreneurs of bees in rural Kansas.

 

Busy as a bee.  Just as bees stay busy in the field and in the hive, so Steve and Becky stay busy at promoting honey and related products.  We commend the Tiptons for making a difference with their honey production and marketing.  This type of agricultural entrepreneurship can help rural communities bee all that they can bee.

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

 

 

Hammond Alpacas

 

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

            Fiber.  It’s not just something that is healthy in your breakfast cereal.  Natural fibers grown on alpacas have many benefits when used in fabrics.  Today we’ll learn about an innovative alpaca breeder located in rural Kansas.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Teresa and Phil Hammond, owners of Jornada Alpaca Ranch in southwest Kansas.  They became alpaca owners relatively recently, but are strong believers in the benefits of these animals.

            Both Teresa and Phil have roots in rural southwest Kansas.  Teresa grew up at Hugoton and Ulysses and Phil grew up on a farm between those communities.  Phil now has his own construction company called Hammond Remodeling.  Teresa works at the farmer’s cooperative at nearby Johnson City, a town of 1,524 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            After living in town for a number of years, the Hammonds found a place in the country outside of Ulysses.  On their acreage there’s not room for a lot of big livestock, so they considered raising various kinds of alternative animals.  After a year of research, they made their choice:  Alpacas.

            Alpacas are members of the camelid family, along with llamas which are typically slightly bigger than alpacas.  The specialty of the alpaca is fiber.  For centuries, alpacas were bred in South America for fiber production, and their fiber is highly valued.

            Unlike sheep wool, for example, alpaca fiber comes in various colors – as many as 22 different hues.  The alpaca fiber is highly prized.  Clean, high-quality alpaca fleece might range in value from $3 to $5 an ounce.

            One enthusiastic alpaca owner says that a 100 percent alpaca garment is “stronger than mohair, finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, and warmer than goose down.”  Wow.  Alpaca fiber is made into woven and knitted garments like sheep wool, but it is lanolin-free and therefore hypoallergenic.

            Teresa and Phil Hammond learned about these benefits while researching alpaca production.  In June 2005, they bought their first alpacas.  These included one bred female with a cria, or baby, at side.  That first female has had an incredibly favorable history for someone wanting to raise more females to naturally increase their herd.  Teresa says, “Every single baby she had has been a female.”

            Today, the Hammonds own Jornada Alpaca Ranch which includes some 20 alpacas.  They named their place Jornada, which is the Spanish word for journey.  Teresa says, “It is a journey for us.”  Phil has learned how to shear alpacas, and Teresa has learned to spin and weave alpaca fiber.

            Teresa says, “I learned to weave on a simple lap loom.”  After purchasing the yarn, she said, “I ought to be able to do the spinning part of that.”  Not only did she take a class and learn to spin, she talked Phil into building her a spinning wheel.  It must be nice having a carpenter in the family.  Now she can use her own harvested fleece and clean, spin, and weave it into a scarf.

            Today the Hammonds are marketing their breeding stock as well as the fiber itself.  One of their females won reserve color champion at an alpaca show in Shawnee, Oklahoma, which is evidence that their breeding program is on the right track.

            Teresa is making scarves, which have sold as far away as Wichita and Colorado Springs.  She is also a strong believer in education and is cosponsoring a seminar called the Fabulous Fiber Fest.  That event will be April 18, 2009 in Haven, Kansas.  It will begin with shearing an alpaca, followed by skirting, cleaning, washing, carding, spinning, skein winding, and ball winding.  For more information about their alpacas or the fiber fest, contact Teresa at 620-356-4019 or email her at jornada@pld.com.  That’s j-o-r-n-a-d-a @ pld.com.

 

            Fiber.  It’s not just something that is healthy in your breakfast cereal, it can also be healthy for the rural economy as rural entrepreneurs start to breed, produce, and market excellent natural fiber from alpacas.  We commend Teresa and Phil Hammond for making a difference with their innovation and development of this specialty enterprise.  Such innovation can help strengthen the fabric of the rural economy.

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

 

 

Tim Steffensmeier

 

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

            “Help Wanted:  Bridge Builders.”  No, this isn’t a want ad in response to the stimulus funding for rebuilding highways.  This is the creative way which Dr. Tim Steffensmeier used to describe a grassroots process of collaborating to solve complex problems in rural Kansas.  The process was initiated by Terry Woodbury in 2004.  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

            Dr. Tim Steffensmeier is a professor of communications studies at K-State.  The following is adapted from an article by Tim which is reproduced with permission from the Spring 2009 issue of The Journal of Kansas Civic Leadership Development, published by the Kansas Leadership Center.

Tim’s research led him to a private firm called Public Square Communities, LLC created by community consultant Terry Woodbury.  They recognize that Kansas needs what Tim calls “bridge builders:” People who can talk and work across distinct parts of the community.

            Public Square Communities, LLC is working to “build and rebuild the public square” in numerous communities across Kansas.  The fundamental parts of the square are government, business, education and human services.  The approach is based on a belief that framing, prioritizing, and solving problems must involve all parts of the public square. Such collaborative efforts are a shift from public policy that arises from experts working in a sole pillar of the square.

            Tim points to bridge builders in Sheridan County, Kansas.  Sheridan County has been working with Public Square Communities, LLC for nearly a year. Through a process of interviews and community conversations, a steering committee named their community development process “Working Together Sheridan County” or WTSC. The name reflects a desired collaborative relationship between communities (Hoxie and Selden) and residents (town and farm).  Hoxie is a town of 1,207 people.  Selden is a town of 194 people.  Now, that’s rural.

            In October 2008, the WTSC steering committee was brainstorming how to attract investors to fund phase two of their community development process. An idea surfaced to auction off decorated Christmas trees in conjunction with a town lighting celebration that had struggled in recent years to generate enthusiastic participation. The idea had promise but was met with skepticism because it revolved primarily around business, which is only one part of a healthy public square.

Instead of dismissing the idea, the steering committee decided to create an event that would exemplify the ideals of “working together” as a community. They settled on hosting a county wide “WinterFest” celebration.

Tim says he left the meeting in October unconvinced that such an event could be coordinated in seven weeks, but when he came back in November, his reservations began to change. WinterFest not only was scheduled, it had grown exponentially.

In addition to Santa Claus, carriage rides, town lighting, after hours business shopping, raffled prizes, hayrack rides, live music, movies, and many free refreshments, both Hoxie and Selden simultaneously were to have celebrations with transportation provided between towns. Wow.  Of course, no one could be certain how many people would show up.

On a balmy Saturday following Thanksgiving, an estimated 500 people turned out on the streets of Hoxie and Selden for the WinterFest Celebration. That is more than 20 percent of the total population. Residents filled main street. One resident said, “The streets were full of cars, the sidewalks were full of people... it seemed like Saturday night when I was growing up!" Another participant notes that the scene was like a Norman Rockwell painting. Tim says, “The collaborative energy was palpable.”  Within three months, dozens of investors had contributed to WTSC and five community-based action teams were working on complex issues that would have seemed out of reach a year ago.

For more information about the public square process, go to www.publicsquarecommunities.com.

“Help Wanted:  Bridge Builders.”  No, this isn’t an ad for a highway construction crew, it is a way of describing the need for people with skills which can bring about collaboration in our communities.  We commend Tim Steffensmeier, Terry Woodbury, the Kansas Leadership Center, and most of all, the people of Sheridan County for making a difference with their collaborative efforts.  For rural Kansas, the process of building bridges among our people is still under construction.

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

 

 

Waldo McBurney

 

This is Kansas Profile.  I'm Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd

National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

Running for your life.  That sounds like something a fugitive would do, but it might also describe the remarkable man we will meet today.  He is no fugitive – quite the opposite – but his running has helped contribute to a long and healthy life in rural Kansas.  How long?  Would you believe, 106 years?  It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Meet Waldo McBurney from Quinter, Kansas.  Mr. McBurney, a long-time

runner, is still living well past the century mark.

Mr. McBurney was born on October 3, 1902, near Quinter, shortly after his parents moved out of a sod house.   He attended Sterling College and then transferred to what was then Kansas State Agricultural College, graduating in 1927.  He spent three years as an agriculture teacher at Beloit and 17 years as an Extension agriculture agent at Beloit and Hill City.  Mr. McBurney says his years in Extension helped keep him in touch with expert researchers in animal and human nutrition, which influenced his thinking.

After working three years for Midwest Cooperative in Quinter, he went

into self-employment, combining various seasonal tasks such as seed cleaning, disk sharpening, beekeeping, and tax preparation.  Amazingly, he did seed cleaning until age 91 and beekeeping until he was over 100!  Wow.

Mr. McBurney was married to his wife Irene for 30 years before she succumbed to leukemia.  Two years later he married Vernice, and they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 2002.  He recently moved into assisted living in Quinter, because Mrs. McBurney needs a little more help.

At age 65, Mr. McBurney took up running.  Actually, he says he always enjoyed running, but at 65 he began running competitively.  He became a dedicated distance runner and won numerous medals and set several world records in his age class.  For example, at age 80 he set the Kansas record for the 10 mile run.  He competed at the World Masters through the years in such locations as Buffalo, New York; Gateshead, England; and Carolina, Puerto Rico.  In the process he set five world records for his age class in various track events.  Those records were set when he was age 96 and 100.

With typical modesty, he says, “It is easy to earn gold medals when one has no competition in one's age group.”  Apparently the key is to outlive everybody else.

He says he is often asked if he is still running.  His answers include, “Yes,”  “Not since this morning,” and “Yes, but in my old age, I’m walking instead of running.”

To what does Mr. McBurney attribute his long life?  He has written a book in which he cites some 21 possible factors. “To start with,” he says, “I must have picked my parents with great care.”  Hmm, I didn’t think it worked that way.

Beyond good genetics, he credits regular exercise, good nutrition, hard work, good habits, Christian faith, modern medicine, marriage, honey, and a positive attitude, among other things.  Mr. McBurney is a long-time elder in his church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.  As a child, he took a church pledge to abstain from alcohol and tobacco, and he has kept that pledge his entire life.

In 2006, while still keeping bees, Mr. McBurney was recognized by the Experience Works organization as America’s Oldest Worker.  He flew to Washington DC to receive the award and was featured on Katie Courics’ CBS Nightly News and in newspapers coast to coast.  Not bad for a guy from the rural community of Quinter, population 937 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Mr. McBurney optimistically titled his book “My First 100 Years.”  The book recounts his remarkable experiences through the years and is peppered with Bible verses and wise sayings.  The book is available for sale in CD and print form through his nephew, Sam Chestnut.  Sam and Norma Chestnut can be reached at 785-754-2315 or schest@ruraltel.net.

 

Running for your life.  It sounds like a fugitive, but in this case, it refers to a remarkable man who made running part of a healthy lifestyle.  We commend Waldo McBurney for making a difference with his commitment to health and fitness.  His lifestyle has made for a very long run.

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

 

 

 

Wayne Alexander – Electric Cars

 

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

            We are visiting the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean, where we are greeted by an official in an electric car.  Where do you suppose that electric car was built?  Would you believe, in a small town in the middle of Kansas?  Hold on to your electrodes, this is today’s Kansas Profile.

            Meet Wayne Alexander, owner of a company called Electric Blue Auto Conversions in Walton, Kansas.  Wayne is from Chicago originally.

When the Arab oil embargo hit in the early 1970s, Wayne was driving a big car that got about four miles per gallon.  (I was driving one of those too.)  Gas prices skyrocketed to the unheard of level of – get this – 60 cents per gallon!  How terrible.

Wayne’s response was to try to develop an electric vehicle so he wouldn’t have to buy gas.  Wayne got an old electric forklift and used the parts to convert a 1959 Morris Minor to electric power.  He moved to Florida to work as a mechanic and built electric cars again.  Soon others became interested in electric vehicles.  One man in a retirement community wanted an electric car to drive around town because it was quiet and non-polluting. Wayne went on to build some 200 electric cars.  He also did auto and military airplane restorations.

In 2000, Wayne and his wife moved to Kansas.  In 2005, Wayne went full-time into the electric auto conversion business.  He named his business Electric Blue Auto Conversions, because blue is the color of an electric spark.

Wayne explains that the idea of electric cars is not new.  In 1836, people first used an electric motor with dry cell batteries to power a buggy.  Wayne says there were more electric cars than gas-powered cars prior to 1914, but the mass production of gasoline engines and automobiles changed all that.

He points to a 1904 article in Scientific American which compared four sources of power:  Electric, horse, gas, and steam.  After concluding that electric power is the best and most efficient type of energy, the article predicted that gasoline would double in price due to supply and demand.  If only they knew...

Today, Wayne’s primary business is converting vehicles from gas-powered to electrical.  On a typical car or truck, he will remove the gas engine and install an electric motor plus a vacuum pump to run power brakes, power steering and air conditioning.  The electric power comes from 24 auto batteries which are installed in a rack in the trunk or under the truckbed. The gas gauge is replaced by a couple of meters which monitor available amperage and voltage.

These vehicles are good for about 50 to 55 miles of daily driving, or less at higher speeds, before they need to be recharged.  Since the national average of daily driving is 18 miles per day, such a distance would be enough for the typical driver.

Wayne says there are several features which attract people to his electric car conversions.  First, of course, is that the buyer no longer has to purchase gas.  Secondly, the electric car makes virtually no noise.  Third, the electric cars are essentially maintenance free.  Fourth, they are non-polluting and beneficial to the environment.

Wayne points out that the only moving part of the engine is the armature.  There’s no oil to change or other expensive parts to replace, so maintenance costs are almost nil.

In recent years, Wayne has built more than a hundred electric cars.  These have gone from coast to coast and to several Caribbean islands and Canada.  Wayne says, “They’re great on the islands,” because they keep the environment clean and driving distances are not great.  Today, Electric Blue is doing more auto conversions than anyone in North America.  Wow.

            Not bad for a business based in a rural community like Walton, population 287 people.  Now, that’s rural.

 

            It’s time to leave the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, where we found an electric car that was rebuilt in the middle of rural Kansas.  We commend Wayne Alexander for making a difference by using this technology to benefit our transportation system.  Finding these alternative vehicles in small-town Kansas gets me charged up.

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