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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb, Part 1 – travelers

PART ONE OF A THREE-PART SERIES

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

“Let’s go one lap around.” That sounds easy. But what if that one lap didn’t refer to the local walking track? What if it referred to one lap – around the entire globe? This week, we’ll meet a young Kansas couple who took on the amazing goal of circumnavigating the globe by themselves.

Heidi Plumb and Kale Dankenbring
Heidi Plumb and Kale Dankenbring

Heidi Plumb and Kale Dankenbring are the remarkable young couple who made this amazing journey. Heidi grew up near Dallas. Kale grew up at St. Francis, Kansas. He studied information technology at Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, a rural community of 4,489 people. Now, that’s rural.

After graduation, Kale’s IT career took him to Phoenix where he met Heidi. The two shared lots of interests, including nutrition, coffee and travel. They had an incredible idea: What if they could travel around the world on a shoestring budget?

They made it happen. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb, Part 1 – travelers”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Gabe Spurgeon, South Baldwin Farms

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

 

What grows in the apple orchard? Well, one would think a safe guess would be “apples.” Today we’ll meet a grower who indeed produces lots of apples and other tree fruit, but he is also developing innovative ideas about his production processes.

Gabe Spurgeon
Gabe Spurgeon

Gabe Spurgeon is manager of South Baldwin Farms near Baldwin City. A Missourian, he met his wife in honors college while they were attending Pittsburg State. He earned degrees in math and physics and worked for engineering firms in Joplin and Pittsburg before they moved to Baldwin City so as to be close to her family.

As a kid, Gabe worked in peach orchards during the summertime. After graduating from college, he found he didn’t enjoy working inside at a desk.

His father-in-law had purchased a farm south of Baldwin City in 2000 and was haying it but had always been interested in having a commercial orchard. They decided to devote part of the farm to the orchard with Gabe doing the day-to-day management. The first apple trees were planted in 2015, with peach and apple trees and other products following. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Gabe Spurgeon, South Baldwin Farms”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lacey Noterman, virtual livestock show

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

“Never underestimate the power of youth.” That is the phrase used by an extension agent whose 4-H youth helped conduct an innovative livestock show entirely using technology.

Dalton Winfrey, Bailey Briggs, Kara Kunselman, Ashley Kennedy, and Sean Wagner
Dalton Winfrey, Bailey Briggs, Kara Kunselman, Ashley Kennedy, and Sean Wagner

Lacey Noterman is a livestock and youth extension agent for the K-State Research and Extension Wild West District, serving Haskell, Seward and Stevens counties in southwest Kansas. A native of Dighton, she was on the livestock judging team at Fort Hays State before joining the extension service in Haskell County.

In 2016, Lacey helped launch a 4-H livestock ambassador program in Haskell County. This was intended to give youth a bigger voice in livestock-related 4-H activities and help prepare them as advocates for animal agriculture. Ambassadors are selected annually by the livestock show and sale committee. “(To avoid favoritism,) I remove the names from the applications and then the committee makes the selection,” Lacey said. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lacey Noterman, virtual livestock show”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Julie Riggins, Goat Milk Soap Store

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

“Get steamed!” No, I don’t mean get mad. I mean this might be a time to try steam aromatherapy with natural products made from goat milk. Today we’ll learn about an innovative Kansas business that has created an entire line of goat milk products, including shower steamers, and is marketing those products across America and beyond.

Goat Milk Soap Store
Goat Milk Soap Store

Julie Riggins and her family are owners and creators of the Goat Milk Soap Store. Julie was living in Texas with her husband when his business transferred him to Kansas City. She left her corporate job to follow his career and became a stay-at-home mom. They chose to adopt additional children, and ultimately decided to move out of the city so the kids could grow up in a small-town environment.

They found a farm in Franklin County, Kansas, and decided they should try to grow their own food. They bought some chickens and made a big garden.

“Two of our kids are (cow milk) lactose intolerant, so I figured I should get dairy goats,” Julie said. The Riggins family bought a herd of LaMancha dairy goats from a man in Missouri. They loved the goats. They also found themselves in a constant cycle of feeding and watering. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Julie Riggins, Goat Milk Soap Store”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Scott Andersen, Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

The aroma of new-mown hay. The smell of baking bread. The sweet scent of lavender.  These fragrances can connect with our senses in compelling ways. Today we’ll learn about a remarkable Kansas company which is infusing these fragrances into their soy-based candles and connecting with customers nationwide.

Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company
Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company

Scott and Jennie Andersen are the founders and co-owners of the Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company. Jennie grew up at Ellinwood and went to the University of Kansas, where she met and married Scott. Due to his father’s business career, Scott and his family had lived in several cities around the nation before coming to Kansas City. “I was a kid from the suburbs,” Scott said.

Scott earned a graphic design degree at KU and went to work for a company in the Kansas City area. He also did design work on the side through his own business, Forcefield Design.

Then Jennie’s parents asked if they would consider moving to Ellinwood to live in their large farmhouse. Ultimately, Scott and Jennie made the move. They now have two children, ages seven and five. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Scott Andersen, Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shanna Lindberg, Soul Sister Ceramics

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

“Soul sister.” The term implies a kinship, a virtual sisterhood, a deep connection. Today we’ll learn about two young women who have formed a creative business together and are now connecting with customers across the nation.

Shanna Lindberg, Michelle Lindberg
From left, Shanna Lindberg and Michelle Lindberg

Shanna Lindberg and Michelle Lindberg are co-founders of this remarkable business known as Soul Sister Ceramics. Shanna grew up in Scandia in north-central Kansas.  She earned a degree in broadcast journalism at the University of Kansas and married a farmer from Courtland. She worked for the local radio station for a time and then stayed home when her children were born.

Among her friends in Courtland was Michelle Lindberg, a local nurse. “Our husbands are first cousins,” Shanna said. The two young women hit it off.

“We were talking about finding a hobby that we could do together,” Shanna said.  “Michelle had a mug that I really loved.” That inspired them to try making ceramic pottery.

“We bought a kiln on Craigslist and made some pieces of jewelry,” Shanna said. Not only was it fun, other people wanted to buy their products. This became a business. At first, they listed their products for sale on an Etsy page. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shanna Lindberg, Soul Sister Ceramics”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Dan Murphy, Mid-America Piano

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

Let’s sit down at a piano keyboard. As fingers start to move across the keys, a beautiful sound is generated from the heart of the piano. Where does this piano come from? Today we’ll learn about a remarkable Kansas business which is selling pianos across the nation and beyond.

Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy is the founder and owner of Mid-America Piano in Manhattan, Kansas. He grew up near the rural community of Keats, in Wildcat Township which has a population of 834 people. Now, that’s rural. Dan’s grandparents were dairy farmers and apparently that work ethic stayed with him.

Dan grew up in a musical home. “I played piano since I was a little kid,” Dan said. “My grandmothers and my mom played piano, my dad played guitar, and my sister played the saxophone. Sometimes we’d go play music at the nursing homes in the area.”

After graduating from Riley County High School, he attended Cloud County Community College where he played trumpet in the jazz band. His plan was to attend Kansas State University, but he also wanted a part-time job. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Dan Murphy, Mid-America Piano”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shelly Decker, Ranchin’ Misfits

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

“Looks like we’re nothin’ but a bunch of ranchin’ misfits,” the mother light-heartedly kidded her little girls as they laughed while doing chores on the ranch. That memorable phrase would become the name of a remarkable, award-winning business in rural Kansas.

Shelly Decker is the owner and operator of this business known as Ranchin’ Misfits. She was raised on a Flint Hills ranch. After graduating from Pratt Community College, she came to Kansas State University where she joined the rodeo team and competed in rodeo events. “I loved it there,” Shelly said.

Ranchin’ Misfits
Ranchin’ Misfits

After graduating with a degree in animal sciences and a business minor, Shelly managed a western wear store in Pratt before managing a similar store in Cottonwood Falls. She got married in 2013. Her husband is ranch manager for the Matador Cattle Company. They now have three little children.

In October 2014, bad news hit. Shelly’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. “I wanted to help, so I started selling some jewelry and purses,” Shelly said. She used the proceeds to help with her mom’s care. “I went to a couple little events, and people seemed to like what I had,” she said. Shelly’s mom passed away in 2017. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shelly Decker, Ranchin’ Misfits”

Story Headline: Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jason Wright, Nike designer

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

 

The Los Angeles Rams are unveiling their new uniforms, as designed and produced by Nike, Inc. There is lots of excitement about seeing the new uniforms. This unveiling is an especially exciting moment for Nike’s lead project designer, who happens to come from rural Kansas.

Jason Wright is a lead product designer with Nike, Inc., in Oregon. That’s halfway across the continent from where Jason grew up near Garnett in Anderson County, Kansas.

Jason Wright
Jason Wright

“My dad was an engineer at Wolf Creek, but he also had a metal and wood shop at home,” Jason said. “Dad (also) restored an old ’72 Chevy pickup.

“I grew up with the expectation that, if you’re not doing something else, you’re out there doing something creative,” Jason said. “I owe a big debt to my dad.”

Jason helped his dad in the shop and worked on designing things of his own. He found he especially enjoyed drawing. “I loved basketball, and Kobe Bryant was my guy,” Jason said. Kobe was the most famous player in the NBA, and kids around the world were admiring Kobe Bryant’s shoes as made by Nike. “I tried drawing what my own ‘Kobes’ would look like,” Jason said. He drew sketches of logos and wheels and shoes. Continue reading “Story Headline: Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jason Wright, Nike designer”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Rick McNary, Shop Kansas Farms

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.

A Kansas man was almost overwhelmed by a flood. But it wasn’t a flood of water, it was a flood of interest – specifically, an interest in finding local foods. Now that interest is helping build connections that are benefitting farmers and consumers across the state.

Rick McNary is a writer, photographer, global hunger expert and founder of a remarkable new Facebook group known as Shop Kansas Farms. For 20 years, he served as a pastor of a church in Potwin, Kansas. After going on a mission trip and interacting with starving people in Nicaragua, he organized a humanitarian food relief organization.  Today, he is still involved in such efforts through The Outreach Program, a non-profit that organizes food packaging events across the country.

Rick has published three books.  Many of his articles have been published in Kansas Farm Bureau’s Kansas Living magazine. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Rick McNary, Shop Kansas Farms”