“Our fitness center – is getting nearer – use it often – you’ll love your mirror.” That’s a message on a series of roadside signs in sequence – Burma Shave style – that one sees on the way to the fitness center in Netawaka, Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Roy and Bobbi Reiman are major donors who helped build this wonderful family fitness center in Netawaka. Bobbi is from Netawaka and graduated from high school there. In fact, she was valedictorian – of a class of 9. Her parents ran the Snappy Inn Café in Netawaka.
Bobbi went to work in Topeka. She became executive secretary to the editor of Capper’s Farmer newspaper. There she met a young man named Roy Reiman. Roy had grown up on a farm in Iowa and graduated from Iowa State before taking the job in Topeka. The two married and began a long life and career together.
March 6, 2017. Members of the Gardiner family were working cattle on their ranch in southwest Kansas when they started to smell smoke. Little did they know that almost their entire ranch was about to be consumed by the largest wildfire in the history of Kansas.
In the last two weeks, we’ve learned about Mark, Greg and Garth Gardiner who operate Gardiner Angus Ranch. They were at the epicenter of this disastrous fire in 2017.
In February 2017, an ice storm loosened overhead power lines in Oklahoma. When high winds arose in March, the lines banged together, arced and started to melt, causing sparks which set fire to the dry grass below.
How can beef be better? How can producers be compensated for improved quality? Those vexing questions were facing the cattle industry in the 1990s when an innovative group of producers tackled those issues head on. Their work became a success story in building demand by responding to customer needs.
Last week we learned about Mark Gardiner of Gardiner Angus Ranch. He told us about changes in beef marketing through the years.
As mentioned, the 1990s were a challenging time for the beef industry. Beef demand had fallen, compared to other proteins. Industry leaders commissioned a national beef quality audit, and the results were not good. “The audit said that one in four beef eaters was not getting a good steak,” Mark Gardiner said. “We were losing beef demand left and right.” The cattlemen felt they were being taken advantage of in the marketplace by the beef packers and wanted to capture more of the processing value.
From a dugout to data. From cowboying to customer service. From grassland to global food. Those terms describe the progression of a remarkable family ranching enterprise located in rural southwest Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Mark, Greg and Garth Gardiner and their families operate Gardiner Angus Ranch in Clark County, Kansas. They have deep roots and rich heritage in the Kansas cattle business.
In 1885, the Gardiners were among the families who came to southwest Kansas by covered wagon. They lived in a dugout for nine years on their homesteaded 160 acres where their son Ralph was born in 1889. In the 1920s, Ralph put together the Gardiner ranch which was passed on to his son Henry and wife Nan after Henry graduated from Kansas State.
“Go East, young man, and grow up with the country.” Actually, that is the opposite of the original saying made famous by editor Horace Greeley, who told his readers to go west in 1865. But in 1994, one entrepreneur found that his path to growth was to go east, and that led him to rural Kansas.
Dan Senestraro is the owner of Eastside Dairy in Stanton County, Kansas. Dan is the westernmost Kansan on the Board of Directors of the Dairy Farmers of America.
Dan grew up on a dairy farm in California. He went to veterinary school at the University of California at Davis. “I was determined not to be in the dairy business,” he said with a smile. He graduated in 1986. By 1989, he found himself in the dairy business again.
“I was in a partnership on 800 dairy cows in rented space in southern California,” Dan said. As California became more crowded and urbanized, he looked to relocate and grow.
“Young cooperator.” That is a nice combination of positive terms. In this case, it literally refers to a young adult who is active in his or her dairy cooperative. Those young cooperators tend to continue to be involved in their cooperative’s leadership. Today we’ll meet a dairy farm family which began as young cooperators and are continuing that legacy into another generation.
Last week we learned about dairyman Steve Strickler, a member of the board of directors of the dairy cooperative known as Dairy Farmers of America. Byron Lehman from Newton also serves on that board.
Byron’s family came from a dairy farm in upstate New York and moved to Kansas in 1953. His family farmed and Byron’s dad started dairying with Byron and his brother. “I think he dairied to keep his boys out of trouble,” Byron said with a smile.
Byron went to Hesston College and then finished a degree in dairy science from K-State. He joined the family farming partnership that continues to this day. Byron’s wife DeDee is from Denver. They have a daughter named MeLissa who is married to Steven. Steven is a police officer and also helps them farm.
“Be a good neighbor.” That advice and other words of wisdom from his father have helped this Kansas dairyman be a positive force in his community and the dairy industry. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
Steve Strickler is owner of Strickler Holstein Farm near Iola. He follows in the footsteps of his father, a longtime leader in the dairy industry.
Steve grew up on the farm which milked 120 cows at the time. Steve studied dairy science and technical journalism at K-State. After graduation, he worked for a dairy cooperative in Wisconsin and then for a national magazine, Hoard’s Dairyman, which took him coast to coast in the U.S. and beyond. He enjoyed the work but the thought of the family dairy farm drew him back home.
“The calling of the farm was too much,” Steve said. In 1979, he returned to the farm and eventually took over the operation from his father. Now Steve has three kids and four grandchildren of his own.
Got milk? If so, it is because some dairy farmer milked a cow, and a bunch of other people worked hard to get it to you. In the 1990s, dairy farmers in Kansas brought themselves together to promote the dairy industry more effectively than ever before. Today we begin a series about the dairy industry in Kansas.
Stephanie Eckroat is executive director of the Kansas Dairy Association and Kansas Dairy Commission. She is a self-described Army brat, but her father retired in eastern Kansas after leaving the Army. Stephanie went to high school at the rural community of Colony, Kansas, population 408 people. Now, that’s rural.
Stephanie enjoyed her agricultural education classes and participated in FFA judging contests for various types of livestock, including dairy cattle. She was on the livestock judging team at Allen County Community College and at Fort Hays State University where she got a job working at the university dairy. Eventually she became the manager of the dairy. She and her husband and family now live near Hays.
The Sunflower State. That is a fitting nickname for Kansas, especially when we learn about innovative farm family members in the northwest region of the state who are adding value to their sunflower production.
Dennis Wright and his father Don are the founders of Wright Enterprises and the makers of Wright Farms Sunflower Oil near Bird City. “We are fourth generation farmers here,” Dennis said. “My great-grandfather first homesteaded the place.”
Dennis grew up on the farm with his parents Don and Donna and went to Fort Hays State where he met Dana. They married and lived in Hays for a few years. “When we had our first child, we decided Bird City would be a good place to raise a kid,” Dennis said. They now have three children.
I looked into a human brain. Don’t worry, I wasn’t doing brain surgery. I was witnessing a demonstration of an incredible new, high-tech three-dimensional imaging system. This process is being pioneered by a team of entrepreneurs in the heart of Kansas.
Anjan Ghosh Hajra is the CEO of Immersion 3D Plus, the innovative company which developed this technology. Anjan’s father, Ashish Ghosh Hajra, came to the U.S. from India in 1971. After working back east, Ashish was transferred to a job in Salina where he enjoyed a long career with what is now Philips Lighting. He also worked on advanced degrees in chemical engineering at K-State.
“I fell in love with Kansas,” Ashish said. He also connected with Dr. Swapan Chakrabarti, a University of Kansas electrical engineering and computer science professor, who shared innovative ideas about 3D imaging.
Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University writes Kansas Profile. The weekly posts highlight individuals or companies in rural Kansas who are making a difference to their community and state.
The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is a public / private partnership between Kansas State University and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The mission of the institute is to help rural people help themselves. Learn more at www.huckboydinstitute.org.