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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Nancy Daniels and Nadine Sigle – First Impressions

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Did your mother tell you that? If so, she was right. First impressions are important, for communities as well as people. Today we’ll learn about a program which can help Kansas towns create their community’s best possible first impression for visitors and prospective residents, while setting the stage for community action.

Nancy Daniels and Nadine Sigle are community vitality specialists with K-State Research and Extension. They use a program called First Impressions to provide helpful feedback for community improvement initiatives across the state.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Nilus Orth – Atom Pop

Remember the sound of popcorn popping on a stovetop? Today we’ll meet a Kansas manufacturing company that is continuing the tradition of stovetop popcorn poppers and bringing it into the modern era.

Nilus Orth and his brothers are owners of Bushton Manufacturing and QuinCraft Products which produce the Atom Pop popcorn popper today. This product goes back to the 1950s, when a man named Edwin Lewis started a business in the rural community of Quincy, Kansas. Quincy township today has a population of 136 people. Now, that’s rural.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Nate & Stacey Freitag – Free Day Popcorn

Sarasota, Florida. Here in a gourmet food shop is a video showing the planting of popcorn in a field half a continent away. This results from the outreach by an innovative young Kansas family that is producing popcorn and shipping it around the nation and beyond.

Nate and Stacey Freitag are the founders of Free Day Popcorn Company in Belleville, Kansas. Nate grew up on the family farm northwest of Belleville near the Nebraska line.  He went to college in Pennsylvania where he met his wife Stacey. They married and started a family. Nate taught high school and Stacey worked in marketing. In 2013, they moved to the Midwest and settled in Belleville. Nate is now an online instructor with Insight School of Kansas and helps his dad on the farm.

“Dad’s grown popcorn for over 20 years for various processors,” Nate said. When he and Stacey tried popping the popcorn themselves, they realized it was delicious. “As someone who grew up on microwave popcorn, I thought this fresh popcorn was amazing,” Stacey said.

In 2015, they launched their own company to market this popcorn directly. They called it Free Day Popcorn Company. This comes from the roots of the family name. Nate’s ancestors came from Germany five generations ago and homesteaded here. The family name is now pronounced Freitag, which comes from the German Frei-tag meaning free day. Free Day Popcorn was born.

Today, Free Day Popcorn has two parts to the business. One is retailing gift containers and unpopped ears through its online store or in local grocery stores, and the second is selling wholesale in bulk to independent movie theatres, gourmet popcorn shops, schools, and others. For direct purchases, customers can buy yellow or white corn in mason jars, clamp jars, bags or more. A big seller is popcorn on the ear.

“People can stick the whole ear in the microwave and let it pop,” Stacey said. “It’s fun to watch. That’s how a lot of people first hear about us.” Of course, buyers can get popcorn kernels and pop them in the microwave or on the stovetop also. Bulk products are shipped in 35 or 50 pound bags.

“We’re really proud of selling a high quality product,” Nate said. Free Day Popcorn emphasizes freshness. Some commercial vendors may store popcorn for 18 months before selling. The Freitags try to sell only popcorn from the current season.

“Fresher popcorn tastes better,” Nate said. “Because we are not blending with previous years, it pops more consistently and there’s less waste.”

This business also provides a personal connection with the grower. “People seem to care more these days about where their food comes from,” Nate said.

Nate has done Facebook Live sessions where he interacts with people while demonstrating how corn is planted or harvested. “There are people who don’t even know that corn grows on an ear,” Stacey said.

Nate recalls loading a pallet of popcorn in wintry conditions in January. Three days later, they got a picture of it being unloaded in Florida amid palm trees and sunshine! That same Florida customer was so interested in a video of Nate planting corn that she ran the video on a continuous loop inside her store. “Nate’s teaching background comes in handy so he’s really good at explaining what’s going on,” Stacey said.

This is a multigenerational family effort. “We couldn’t do this without my dad and his knowledge and support,” Nate said. Nate and Stacey also have three young girls. The popcorn is grown on the family farm near Byron, Nebraska, north of the rural town of Republic, Kansas, population 116 people. Now, that’s rural.

Free Day Popcorn has sold online from coast to coast and border to border, to 48 of the 50 states and four foreign countries as far away as Spain. For more information, see www.freedaypopcorn.com.

It’s time to leave Sarasota, Florida where we found a video of Nate planting popcorn.  We salute Nate and Stacey Freitag for making a difference with entrepreneurship in agriculture. I’m glad to see this business pop up.

Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Marci Penner – Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers

Let’s go exploring – not in some far-away land, but right here in Kansas. We now have a new guidebook which can tell us about wonderful communities, sights to see, and great places to eat, within our own state.

The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers is now available.

Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe are director and assistant director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and co-authors of The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers.

As we have previously profiled, Marci grew up on her family’s farm near Inman. She went to Kansas University and the University of Wisconsin and was a guidance counselor back east before returning to Kansas.

Marci’s father, Mil was a farmer, conservationist, entrepreneur, writer and self-taught photographer. In the 1980s, he published a coffee table photo essay book. Readers admired the pictures and asked, “How do you get to those places?”

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Matt Crubel – Silver Creek Creative

“Cherish your memories through film.” Many of us have happy memories which we might be able to picture in our minds, but what if those happy times were recorded in an actual video which we could play and share?  Today we’ll meet a young entrepreneur who is capturing and preserving those happy memories for others.

Matt Crubel is the founder and owner of Silver Creek Creative, a video production company near Manhattan. Matt grew up at Manhattan and attended Riley County High School where he was an outstanding basketball player.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Scott Grover, Rodeo Announcer

It’s the Ram National Circuit Finals of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The rodeo announcer is on horseback, in the arena. This nationally-recognized rodeo announcer hails from rural Kansas.

Scott Grover

Scott Grover is this well-known rodeo announcer who does his announcing while on horseback in the arena. Scott grew up in north central Kansas near the Washington County town of Morrowville.

“When I was little, my folks took me to a rodeo,” Scott said. “I fell in love with the idea of the cowboy.”

The pastor of his dad’s Methodist church was also interested in rodeo and subscribed to the Pro Rodeo Sports News. When the pastor was done reading each issue, he would pass it along to Scott. Scott was just a kid but he read it with great interest.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Kathy Youngquist – Farmers Markets

“Shop. Eat. Repeat.” That is a nice, simple set of instructions, and so easy that even I could follow them. Those words have become the slogan of a new coalition of farmers markets which is marketing local goods in northeast Kansas.


Kathy Youngquist is a volunteer with the Perry-Lecompton Farmers Market, part of a new coalition called Farmers Markets of Kaw Valley. Kathy is from Prairie Village originally. She went to the University of Kansas, did graduate work and met and married Eric Youngquist. They moved to Perry, where she took a position with First State Bank & Trust and became interested in farmers markets.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Al Harris – Fowl Territo

Let’s go into fowl territory. No, I’m not chasing a baseball out of bounds. Fowl Territory is the creative name for a store which sells duck decoys and other collectibles, including many other keepsakes relating to waterfowl and various wildlife. It

Fowl Territory is a shop in Paxico, Kansas.

all started with ducks. This store has so many ducks that it is definitely waterfowl territory. The store is connected to an antique store in a rural Kansas community which specializes in vintage collectibles.

Al Harris is the owner and founder of the shop named Fowl Territory. He is an outdoorsman. “I used to hunt a lot when I was younger,” Al said. “Now I’m just a big fan of nature.” As a young man, he started collecting deer antlers. Then someone gave him a duck decoy. He noticed each decoy was different, so he started collecting various wildlife keepsakes. Someone referred to them as “nature’s knick-knacks.”

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jay Clark – Buffalo Soldier

Fort Union, New Mexico. At this historic fort, a group of African-Americans are re-enacting the role of the historic U.S. Cavalrymen known as buffalo soldiers. One of their leaders is a man from rural Kansas.

Jay Clark is founder and organizer of the Wichita Buffalo Soldiers. The name “buffalo soldier” came from the native American Indians in the 1860s, because the strength, courage and curly hair of the African-Americans reminded them of the Great Plains buffalo.

One of Jay Clark’s ancestors was a buffalo soldier. Jay’s father served in the military as well. Jay grew up at Nicodemus, which had been originally settled as an all-black colony in northwest Kansas in 1877. Nicodemus is located near Bogue, a rural community of 143 people. Now, that’s rural.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Matt Barten – Embruon

How can a beef producer improve his or her herd more quickly? Since beef cows have a nine-month gestation period – longer than other livestock – generational improvement takes time. In recent years, a number of producers have used the process of embryo transfer, in which a superior cow is fertilized and then her embryos are transferred to recipient cows that carry the calves to natural birth. This multiplies the offspring of high quality cows, but it still takes nine months or more to see the results. Today we meet an entrepreneur who has devised a process to get an advance look at how those embryos will perform when they become a full-grown beef animal.

Matt Barten is the owner and founder of a new company called Embruon. He grew up near Carlton in southwest Dickinson County and earned an animal science degree at Fort Hays State.

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