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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lana McPherson, President, International Institute of Municipal Clerks

Let’s go to London, England. It’s a meeting of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, led by the president of this international organization. This year’s international president comes from a small town in Kansas.

Lana McPherson is president of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and the long-time city clerk of De Soto, Kansas.

Lana grew up at De Soto, attended Johnson County Community College and Rockhurst University. She worked as a paralegal in several law offices and then for a multi-state insurance company.

She also met and married Ian McPherson, a soldier who had served at Fort Riley and then moved to Olathe to be close to family. They made their home in De Soto.

In 1998, the town council was looking for a new city clerk. Lana accepted the position in June. “I reached out to several experienced city clerks in surrounding communities and they took me under their wing,” Lana said.

In November of that year, she attended a week-long training program developed by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, or IIMC. The training institute is conducted annually by the Hugo Wall Center for Public Affairs at Wichita State.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Steve Radley, NetWork Kansas

What can we grow across Kansas? Wheat? Industrial hemp? Wind turbines?  How about jobs and businesses? Today we’ll meet an organization which is devoted to the growth of entrepreneurship and small businesses across our state. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Last week we met Steve Radley. As a personal project, he produced a film about rural Kansas. His ideas for that film sprang from his work as president and CEO of this organization known as NetWork Kansas.

Steve Radley

In 2004, the Kansas Legislature passed the Kansas Economic Growth Act. That law, among other things, established the Kansas Center for Entrepreneurship which now does business as NetWork Kansas.

Steve Radley and his friend Erik Pederson had previously been in business together in Wichita. They experienced the ups and downs of launching and growing successful businesses.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Steve Radley, Rural Road

Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, population 4 million. Yates Center, Kansas, population 1,417. These two contrasting towns do have something in common: They are each a site for film-making. Today we’ll meet a Kansas entrepreneur who recently produced a film highlighting rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Last week we met Jessica Busteed of Yates Center’s Cornerstone Bakery, site of a recent video shoot.

Steve Radley is the writer, producer and director of this new film. He is president and CEO of NetWork Kansas.

From the film, ‘The Rural Road.’

Steve was born in Wichita, grew up in Oklahoma, and went to college at OU. His grandparents had a farm near Yates Center. That farm is still in the family. It’s where Steve and his siblings gather on holidays. “I’ve been bird-hunting on that place since I was five,” Steve said.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jessica Busteed, Cornerstone Bakery

Donuts. Muffins. Scones. Hope. Wait a minute, what was that last one? Today we’ll meet a young entrepreneur who has started a bakery in her rural community. In addition to baked goods, coffee, and lunches, the ultimate item which she intends to provide to her community is hope for the future.

Jessica Busteed and her mother-in-law, Linda Busteed, are the owners and founders of Cornerstone Bakery in Yates Center. Jessica grew up in the area, near the rural community of Toronto, population 281 people. Now, that’s rural.

Jessica Busteed and Linda Busteed

After living in Texas for a time, she and her husband came back to Kansas. He is now the elementary and middle school principal at Yates Center. For several years, Jessica telecommuted to her job in Houston.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Farmer Bob Ralph, Princeton Popcorn

100 to 1 return. Wow, that sounds like a remarkable return on investment. In this case, it doesn’t refer to a financial investment as much as it describes the process of growing a crop and multiplying the grain. Today we’ll learn about an innovative first-generation farmer who is finding his reward in multiplying his crop of popcorn. Thanks to Marlin Bates of K-State Research and Extension – Douglas County for this story idea.

“Farmer Bob” Ralph

Robert Ralph, also known as Farmer Bob, is the founder of Princeton Popcorn. Bob grew up in Overland Park when farm ground was still intermingled with the suburbs. “I was three or four years old and I remember petting cows through a barbed wire fence,” Bob said. That experience encouraged a lifelong interest in agriculture. He bought a small herd of cows and kept them with a friend outside of town.

After a few years, Bob bought some farmland of his own near Princeton, Kansas in Franklin County. The acreage had some timber, but no fences. “A friend of mine bulldozed a 30-foot path through the trees so I could build fence,” Bob said. “When I burned the brush pile and spread the ashes, I found that it enriched the soil.”

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Chris Broeckelman, Natoma woodworking

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” That inspirational slogan might describe the work of Chris Broeckelman and his industrial technology students at Natoma High School. They are using their classes to develop skills, not just in the shop, but in life. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.

Chris Broeckelman

Chris Broeckelman is the industrial technology instructor at Natoma High School in northwest Kansas. Chris grew up on a farm near Selden, one of eight children of Joe and Cathy Broeckelman.

“I always had an interest in carpentry,” Chris said. During high school, he worked at the local lumberyard. “I had a high school woodworking teacher that I thought very highly of.”

Chris studied Technology Studies and Secondary Education at Fort Hays State with a minor in business. He also worked at a cabinet shop. After graduation, he took the teaching position at Natoma. He married Megan. They now have six children.

“When I was five or six years old, I said I wanted to be a carpenter or a vegetable farmer when I grew up,” Chris said. “Now I’m teaching woodworking and have a big garden, so I’m about there.”

His industrial technology program begins with basic mechanical drafting, autocad, and woodworking classes during junior high. At the high school level, the elective classes in computer aided design and woodworking become progressively more challenging each year.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Charles Curtis

Who is the only native Kansan ever to be elected President or Vice President? (If you guessed Dwight D. Eisenhower, you would be wrong. Although Eisenhower claimed Abilene, Kansas as his home, he was born during his family’s brief stay in Texas.) Who is the first Native American Indian ever to be elected President or Vice President? The answer to that question is the same as the correct answer to the first one: Charles Curtis is the first native Kansan and first Native American Indian to be elected to the nation’s second-highest office. His life is an amazing example of how education and hard work created a rags-to-riches success story. Thanks to the Kansas Historical Society and the U.S. Senate website for this information.

Charles Curtis

Charles Curtis was born in north Topeka. His father was Orren Curtis and his mother was Ellen Pappan who was one-quarter Kaw Indian. Charles was the great-grandson of White Plume, a Kansa-Kaw chief who had offered assistance to the Lewis and Clark expedition. White Plume’s daughter married a French-Canadian trader, so Charles grew up speaking French and Kansa before he learned English.

His mother died in 1863 at about the time his father left to fight in the Civil War. Charles was raised by his grandparents at the Kaw Reservation near the rural community of Council Grove, population 2,051 people. Now, that’s rural.

Young Charley learned to ride Indian ponies bareback. He became a successful jockey.  He was also the hero of a cross-country run to warn Topeka about upcoming Cheyenne Indian raids.

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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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