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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Teresa Arnold, Kansas’s Biggest Barn Quilt

Think big! That can be a challenge, but today we’ll meet a woman whose thoughts turned into a big community project which is encouraging tourism in southwest Kansas.  Thanks to Connie Larson of Manhattan for this story idea.

Teresa Arnold is the person who helped inspire this project. She grew up on a farm, married and settled in Ashland, the county seat of Clark County.

A few years ago, Teresa took an interest in barn quilts. Barn quilts are those colored designs of quilt squares, painted on panels that are attached to barns or sheds. These colorful works of art have become quite popular. There is a barn quilt trail one can follow in the Flint Hills, for example.

After attending a barn quilt class, Teresa called her sister-in-law Beth DeMont who had retired as an art teacher at Herington. “You ought to give painting these barn quilts a try, it’s fun,” Teresa told Beth. Her sister-in-law did try it and found she enjoyed it. She painted several of them, as did Teresa and her other friends.

“The local PRIDE committee put barn quilts on the lampposts in Ashland,” Teresa said.  As the barn quilts multiplied, Teresa and her friends needed more places to display them.

“I was driving with a friend and we were brainstorming about barn quilts,” Teresa said.  “We knew we wanted to promote Ashland. I finally said, `If Cawker City can have the largest ball of twine, why can’t we have the largest barn quilt?’” Teresa said. The idea took hold.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Mike and Amy Jensen, Jensen Farms, Professor’s Classic Sandwich Shop & More

“Kansas: The Mushroom State.” No, mushrooms have not surpassed wheat or sunflowers as a leading product in Kansas. In fact, today we’ll meet the only certified and inspected mushroom grower in the state. He and his family are growing and marketing mushrooms and honey as healthy, tasty foods. Thanks to Doug and Linda Beech for this story idea.

Mike and Amy Jensen are the owners of Jensen Farms and Professor’s Classic Sandwich Shop & More in Hays. Mike grew up on a farm northwest of Hays near the site of Yocemento. Amy grew up at Hays, came to K-State on a golf scholarship, and finished her degree at Fort Hays State. They met and married.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Buddy Williams, Custom Rope

Let’s go to the ore mines in Nevada. Huge trucks are carrying heavy loads of minerals from the mines. When those trucks get stuck, they use a high capacity tow rope made by a company in rural Kansas. Today we’ll learn about the remarkable ruralpreneur whose company is producing and marketing these products coast to coast. Thanks to Justin Goodno of K-State Research and Extension – Barber County for this story idea.

Buddy Williams is the founder of this remarkable company known as Custom Rope. He was born in 1942 and has had a fascinating life.

Buddy was born in Elgin, Kansas. “I never made it past the third grade,” Buddy said. He met and married Donnamae and served in the Marines.

Buddy found work as a jockey. “I rode racehorses across the country,” Buddy said. “I was licensed to ride in 31 states.”

He remembers an occasion where he was in a bad horse accident at a racetrack in Enid.  He was taken to the hospital, not breathing and without a detectable heartbeat, but survived. After two and a half days unconscious, he recovered – and rode the following weekend. “If you don’t ride, you don’t get paid – and I had mouths to feed,” Buddy said.

Working with horses meant he also worked with rope. “Ropemaking goes back nine generations in my family,” he said. His family also had an eye for finding a better way to do things. “My granddad patented the first corn picker that John Deere manufactured,” he said. Buddy himself invented several items such as a cattle waterer, post puller, and hay knife.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Mike and Donna Uhl, Allen Meat Processing

What do you get when you combine a cattleman and a chef? In this case, you get a couple who can operate a meat processing business that produces high quality, tasty cuts of meat. Today we’ll learn about an entrepreneurial couple who are expanding their meat processing business while serving their community.

Mike and Donna Uhl are the owners of Allen Meat Processing in Allen, Kansas. Mike grew up working on ranches and feedyards around Coldwater. He got a position managing a feedyard in north Lyon County.

Donna grew up at Emporia. She went to culinary arts school in Kansas City and later got her bachelor’s degree. Donna worked as catering director at Emporia State and executive dining director at Moorhead State in Kentucky. She came back to Kansas and was a chef at a hotel in Emporia when she met and married Mike. Donna is now working at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in Topeka.

The Uhls settled near the town of Admire. Mike managed the feedyard and raised cows of his own. They occasionally took a steer in to the local butcher shop in Allen. A few years ago, Mike noticed that the owners were getting close to retirement. He and a friend approached them about buying the shop, but the owners were not interested at the time.

In 2019, the owner contacted Mike and said he was interested in retiring. Mike and Donna looked into it and on July 1, they became the new owners of Allen Meat Processing.

“With my background in culinary arts, I felt totally at home here,” Donna said. Her knowledge of food safety and handling standards made it a great fit.

Titi, the butcher who worked for the previous owner, is staying on with the Uhls. “He is absolutely wonderful and talented,” Mike said.

Allen Meat Processing is currently licensed for custom processing only but is planning to expand. “We are working toward becoming a federally-inspected facility,” Donna said. “I want it to be possible for our local ranchers to have their own meat processed and marketed with their ranch name.” The company already markets retail cuts from boxed beef which they purchase.

“We age those steaks 30 days before we cut them,” Mike said.

The Uhls have lots of business ideas and have already made significant improvements, such as building a wall to separate and enhance their retail space. “I’m like the president, I’m building a wall,” Donna said with a smile. The wall’s front side has rustic tin and barn wood from a barn on her father’s farm, while the back side toward the processing space has a hard, sanitary finish for cleaning and food safety.

Beef cattle and hogs are the primary livestock they process, but they can handle sheep and goats as well as deer. “Lots of people are asking if they can bring their deer in here this fall,” Mike said.

Other than the nearby café which is only open between 11 and 2, there are no businesses in Allen. “It’s 20 miles one way to get a bottle of water or a pop,” Mike said.  In response to this need, the Uhls offer snacks and drinks. Longer term plans for their retail space include a bar and a pizza place that would be open in the evenings so as not to compete with the local café.

Rural business succession is a big issue in rural Kansas. In this case, it is good to see a younger generation assuming ownership. Allen is a rural community of 177 people.  Now, that’s rural.

Allen is located directly on the Flint Hills Trail State Park which has drawn lots of people. “We’ve had people bicycle in here who are from Chicago, Minnesota and New York,” Mike said.

For more information on the plant, see www.allenmeatprocessing.com.

What do you get when you combine a cattleman and a chef? The answer is, good meat.  We commend Mike and Donna Uhl for making a difference with entrepreneurship in local meat processing. I’m glad they had a chance to meet.

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: Pathways to a Healthy Kansas

When on the move, it is always important to find the right pathway. Today we’ll learn about an organization which is helping local communities find the right pathways – in this case, toward healthier living.

During the past two weeks, we’ve learned about K-State Research and Extension’s Culture of Health initiative and local examples of initiatives to support healthy living.

Last week we learned about a food basket program in Leoti. That program was supported by a larger initiative which goes back more than 10 years.

In 2007, Wichita County launched a coalition with a great purpose and a great acronym.  The name was Wichita County AIM Coalition. The AIM stands for Add more fruits and vegetables, Increase physical activity, and Minimize screen time. Those are excellent goals toward which to, um, take aim.

The AIM Coalition, including K-State Research and Extension Wichita County, has been very active. They helped start the Healthy Check Challenge, began a 5K fun walk and run, purchased equipment at the fitness center, provided healthy snacks for events, supported walking trail kiosks and exercise stations, provided swimming lesson scholarships, encouraged participation in Walk Kansas, and more.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jerad Gooch, Leoti Foods

Shopping in the produce aisle can take time, if one stops to look and study all the fruits and vegetables on display. If only those fruits and vegetables could be packaged together – maybe even with a recipe to help my family use them. Today we’ll learn about an innovative program which is simplifying healthy food access, using a local food store and community support. Thanks to JoEllyn Argabright of K-State Research and Extension for this story idea.

Last week we learned about K-State Research and Extension’s Culture of Health initiative. Here is an example of a local initiative to support healthy eating.

Jerad Gooch is the owner of Leoti Foods in Leoti, Kansas. His family has deep roots in the grocery business. His grandfather Harold Gooch opened the store in Tribune in 1948. Harold’s son Dwight joined the business in 1972. Now the family owns three stores and Dwight’s three sons manage one each. Jerad has the store in Leoti.

(left to right) Nikki Bjurstrom, Aimee Baker, Lauren Gooch, and Jerad Gooch

In 2015, some people in Leoti started to participate in a produce basket purchasing program which utilized out-of-state goods. “I noticed these baskets coming into town and I wondered why we couldn’t do that with a local store,” Jerad said. That program ended after a few months, but Jerad met with people who were interested to see if his store could provide such produce baskets. 

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Paula Peters, Culture of Health

Could the extension service do for health what it has done for agriculture through the years? During the past century, American agriculture – with assistance from agricultural research and extension – has been transformed from subsistence farming to an agricultural system that is the envy of the world. Could similar progress occur in the health arena? To do so would require a deep cultural change that would value health as a priority. In short, we might say it requires a culture of health.

Dr. Paula Peters is associate director of extension programs for K-State Research and Extension. The term “extension” refers to the state- and county-based educational outreach programs which extend helpful research results from the nation’s land-grant universities to the public.

“For years, (extension) has done work on nutrition, foods, and physical activity,” Paula said. In a larger sense, extension has worked to support the health of families, farms and communities since the extension service was founded in 1914.

In 2014, the national Extension Committee on Policy supported the development of a national framework for extension work in public and community health. That report included the aspirational statement that extension could do for health what it has done for agriculture.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Don Whitten, Beecher Bible and Rifle Church

Where do bibles and rifles connect? That unlikely combination can be found in the history of Kansas, and particularly in one historic rural community church. This church is continuing to serve its members and its historic legacy.

Don Whitten is a member of the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church in Wabaunsee. He told me this remarkable history. It all began in the 1850s era of Bleeding Kansas, when the people of the territory were involved in a vicious debate over whether Kansas would become a slave state or a free state. Advocates for both sides flooded Kansas territory. For example, abolitionists in Connecticut raised money to send a group of free-state colonists west.

A famous New York preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, raised money for the cause and sent crates of rifles and bibles to the colonists. According to legend, the rifles were covered with bibles so as to get through the pro-slavery state of Missouri.

Don Whitten

In 1856, the Connecticut colonists came to Wabaunsee. In the following year, they organized the First Church of Christ there. A new stone church was dedicated in 1862. This became the site of one of the most influential Congregational churches in Kansas.

By the 1930s, population had fallen, church membership dwindled and the church closed. In 1950, it re-opened. Today, the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church is an independent, non-denominational church which still meets in the original but remodeled stone building. Services are held each Sunday at 9:45 a.m. with Pastor Lynn Roth officiating.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lynn Smith, Pioneer Bluffs

“Meanwhile, back at the ranch….” That line from an old western movie might also describe the work of a non-profit organization which is celebrating the ranching heritage of the Flint Hills region.

Lynn Smith is executive director of Pioneer Bluffs, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the ranching heritage of

the Flint Hills. She grew up in northeast Kansas, married a young man from the Flint Hills, and now directs this non-profit organization.  The office is located on a homestead which was once part of the historic Rogler Ranch.

In 1859, a young Austrian immigrant named Charles Rogler walked from Iowa to Kansas in search of a new life. He found an attractive homesite in Chase County, with rich bottomland surrounded by boundless prairie near a substantial limestone bluff.

Here Charles Rogler made his home. He got married and expanded the ranch over time, but died suddenly of pneumonia at age 52 after being caught in a severe March storm.

One son, Henry, graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College in 1898. Henry met and fell in love with a Flint Hills girl named Maud Sauble. Maud agreed to marry Henry, but did so only after she graduated from K-State in 1901.

Henry and Maud started their life together on his family homestead. In honor of their pioneer ancestors and the limestone bluffs nearby, they named it Pioneer Bluffs. Here they built a beautiful home, including what was at that time an innovation: Running water. In 1915, they built a huge wooden barn, followed by a combined granary and carriage house in 1916.

This hard-working family believed in education. “All of Maud’s children went to K-State on her egg money,” Lynn Smith said. Son Wayne Rogler returned to the ranch and built it into one of the most well-respected farm and ranch operations in the region. The Rogler library in the K-State Animal Sciences Department student lounge is named in his honor.

After Wayne and his wife passed away, the ranch was sold. The 12-acre parcel containing part of Charles Rogler’s original homestead and the iconic barn and buildings was purchased by a group interested in preserving this legacy. It is now a National Register Historic District. Pioneer Bluffs Foundation operates this property as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

Today, Pioneer Bluffs strives to honor the region’s ranching heritage with education and events. For example, Pioneer Bluffs hosts a ranching heritage prairie talk series, school and youth field trips, and other cultural and educational community events with music, history, and art. It also serves as a wedding or other event rental venue.

K-State’s Chapman Center for Rural Studies has archived historical documents about the Rogler family and Pioneer Bluffs. Pioneer Bluffs also sponsored videos and recorded interviews of ranchers’ recollections.

“No other non-profit organization has a place like this that is telling this story,” Lynn said.  The building that was originally the granary and carriage house has been converted into a library and classroom. The big barn has been restored and preserved.

Two large high-tech touch screen kiosks display information about ranching history and contemporary practices in the Flint Hills. “People will stand there for an hour,” Lynn said.  This also allows content to be easily updated so that there is fresh new information for repeat visitors.

The house, barn and buildings are open some weekends and by appointment.

“We want locals to be proud of their heritage and visitors to appreciate what goes into bringing beef to their table,” Lynn said. “We want to educate and tell the human side of Flint Hills ranching. We’re supported by a fabulous team of volunteers who are passionate about what they do.”

Pioneer Bluffs is located one mile north of the rural community of Matfield Green, population 47 people. Now, that’s rural.

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

“Meanwhile, back at the ranch….” It’s not just a line from an old western movie, it’s a description of the work of Pioneer Bluffs. We salute Lynn Smith and all those who are making a difference by preserving and promoting this history. Just like in an old western, these are good guys.

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: John and Jina Kugler, Bug Hounds LLC

Let’s go to a retirement home in Illinois where a contractor is using a highly sensitive bed bug detection system. This system is self-propelled, 100% natural, highly accurate in detecting bed bugs, and when it’s done, it just might climb up on your lap and lick your face. This detection system is a dog. Today we’ll learn about an innovative Kansas couple that is building a business using canines for locating bed bugs.

John and Jina Kugler are the founders of this business known as Bug Hounds LLC.  John grew up at Lebanon, Kansas, where

Left to right: John, Jina and Jayson Kugler, with Finndy, Beddy, and Cocoa

he enjoyed hunting dogs. He met Jina in school and they later married. K-State drew John and Jina to Manhattan. She studied education and became a teacher and is now a school counselor in Wamego. John is a manager of a public facility in Topeka.

One day a bed bug surfaced in his facility, so he arranged for a pest control company to come clean out the problem. The company brought in a dog as a locator.

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