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Category: Community vitality

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Keri Harris, volunteer mask-maker

When my family would go on a car trip, we usually would begin by asking, “Kids, have you gone to the bathroom?”

Now we ask, “Kids, have you gotten your masks?”

Mask-wearing has become important due to the pandemic and the requirements of many stores and municipalities. One Kansas woman has helped respond to the need for masks in her community and beyond, earning her recognition as an Ag Hero from the Kansas Department of Agriculture during the 2020 Ag Growth Summit.

Keri comes from the town of Reserve in Brown County originally. Her family moved to Derby, where she grew up and went to college. A job opportunity took her to Lawrence where she met her husband, and they now live on his family farm east of Overbrook and have two children.

Keri Harris has been the district manager for the Franklin County Conservation District since 2001. On her own time, she has become a prolific mask-maker.

Keri Harris

“Our nine-year-old daughter is in the sewing project in 4-H,” Keri said. “When the pandemic first hit, our local extension office sent out an email that the local care home was needing masks. I thought it might be a good, simple sewing project for my daughter.”

Keri and her daughter picked out a design, used some leftover fabric that they had on hand, and sewed several masks which for the care home.

“I posted a picture of her helping me sew on Facebook,” Keri said.  “People said, `Oh, if you have any extra, we could sure use them.’” So, Keri and her daughter sewed some more and gave them away.

“She helped me with about the first 50 before she lost interest,” Keri said. However, people were still asking for masks so Keri continued sewing them. “I had done quilting before the kids were born. It was fun to do this. We were using miscellaneous leftover fabric that we had on hand, so we would sew them and give them away.”

After she started buying fabric, people volunteered to pay for the masks. She told them they could donate money to buy more fabric. K-State, Chiefs, and Royals prints have been popular. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Keri Harris, volunteer mask-maker”

Joni Albers, Hungry Gardens

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

A blue ribbon. For millions of 4-H youth through the years, blue ribbons have been awarded in recognition of a high-quality project.

For Joni Albers, the founder of the Hungry Gardens in California, her first blue ribbon helped launch a lifelong interest in horticulture. She is now using those skills to produce healthy food for urban neighbors.

Joni Albers
Joni Albers

Originally from Hoxie, Joni’s roots go deep in rural Kansas. Her grandparents were dairy farmers, and her family always had a large garden. “My mother got me started in gardening,” Joni said. “I had my first garden at six years old.”

She was also a member of the Solomon Valley 4-H Club. In her first year, she took her homegrown green beans to the Sheridan County Fair and won a blue ribbon. “That started it all,” she said. Joni was active in 4-H, taking on projects such as sewing, art, bucket calf, and woodworking, but horticulture was her favorite. Continue reading “Joni Albers, Hungry Gardens”

Tonya Martisko, Gaeddert Farms Sweet Corn

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

Sweet corn. It’s one of the joys of summer. Freshly picked sweet corn, cooked and served with some butter and salt, can be a summertime treat. When there happens to be extra sweet corn, it also can be a benefit when it is donated for families facing food insecurity.

Gaeddert Farms Sweet Corn stand
Gaeddert Farms Sweet Corn stand

Tonya Martisko and Julie Ball are sisters and owners and operators of Gaeddert Farms Sweet Corn, based on the third-generation family farm near Buhler.

Gaeddert Farms, one of the state’s leading vendors of sweet corn, has been generous to many families in need. This generosity caused the company to be recognized as an Ag Hero by the Kansas Department of Agriculture during the 2020 Ag Growth Summit. Continue reading “Tonya Martisko, Gaeddert Farms Sweet Corn”

Matt Case, Cherokee County Food Fight

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

“Food fight!” Don’t worry, I’m not referring to a riot in the school cafeteria. This food fight is a friendly challenge to generate more food for local families who need a hand. This worthwhile competition went so well that it won recognition as an Ag Hero.

Matt Case
Matt Case

Matt Case is the manager of the Farmers Co-op in Columbus, Kansas. He grew up working on farms around Columbus and married his high school sweetheart. After being trained in precision machining, he worked in industry and then had the opportunity to come back and work for the Farmers Co-op in his hometown. In 2016, he became general manager.

The Farmers Co-op generates around $80 million in annual sales with seven locations in Cherokee County. It is also community spirited, hosting an annual food drive, for example. Continue reading “Matt Case, Cherokee County Food Fight”

Kristine Larson Davis, space engineer

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

“Shoot for the stars.” That can be inspiring advice. Today we’ll meet a young woman from rural Kansas who followed that advice – not just as a dream, but as a career. Thanks to the K-Stater magazine, the K-State Alumni Association, and writer Ashley Pauls for this story.

Kristine Larson Davis
Kristine Larson Davis

Kristine Larson Davis is a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She grew up at Galva in McPherson County. As a kid, she looked up at the stars and dreamed about exploring the universe.

Her parents would often take her to the Cosmosphere space museum in Hutchinson.  That museum helped make the wonders of the universe feel just a little bit closer. In middle school, she had the opportunity to attend space camp and heard that one of the best ways to work at NASA was to become an engineer. Continue reading “Kristine Larson Davis, space engineer”

Kelly and Thaddeus Perry, Perry’s Pork Rinds

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

The thank-you note came from the office of former President George W. Bush, expressing appreciation for the wonderful pork rinds provided by this remarkable business.

Thaddeus and Kelly Perry

Thaddeus and Kelly Perry are owners and founders of Perry’s Pork Rinds in Bronson.  They grew up in southeast Kansas, married and moved to Bronson to be near family.

Thaddeus, a butcher, would occasionally fry pork rinds in the backyard as a hobby. Kelly remembered delicious pork rinds from the Ozarks.

When Kelly and Thaddeus wanted to earn some extra money for a cruise, they decided to sell pork rinds and funnel cakes at an upcoming fair in Missouri. Continue reading “Kelly and Thaddeus Perry, Perry’s Pork Rinds”

Now That’s Rural: Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb, Part 3 – High Plains Moto

PART THREE OF A THREE-PART SERIES

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

High speed on the High Plains. That is what one can find when we see the product of the work done by an innovative entrepreneur in rural northwest Kansas.

High Plains Moto
High Plains Moto

During the last two weeks we have learned about Heidi Plumb and Kale Dankenbring, who traveled around the globe as newlyweds. They came back to Kale’s hometown of St. Francis to become the founders and co-owners of Fresh Seven Coffee, plus a business next door named High Plains Moto. This business services and sells products for motorcycles and other, smaller motorized vehicles such as ATVs.

When Kale was 10 years old, his cousin was involved in a bad motorcycle accident. Some years later, Kale was riding on a motorcycle with his father’s friend when they crashed on a muddy road. Continue reading “Now That’s Rural: Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb, Part 3 – High Plains Moto”

Now That’s Rural: Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb, Part 2 – Fresh Seven Coffee

PART TWO OF A THREE-PART SERIES

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

Davenport, Florida: A specialty package of Fresh Seven Coffee arrives to a customer. This coffee was carefully selected and roasted by a family halfway across the continent in rural Kansas.

Fresh Seven Coffee
Fresh Seven Coffee

Last week we met Heidi Plumb and Kale Dankenbring, who made a trip around the globe as newlyweds. They had met in Arizona. Kale worked in information technology and ran a motorcycle shop on the side.

Heidi worked at a roastery in Phoenix and learned the science of coffee production and roasting. “We just love coffee,” she said.

While traveling, Kale and Heidi were at a community coffee shop in India and got to talking about having a coffee shop of their own back in the United States. Kale suggested his hometown of St. Francis where there was an abandoned building for sale. Through Kale’s dad, they bought the building sight unseen, thinking this could serve as a place for their coffee roastery and motorcycle shop. Continue reading “Now That’s Rural: Kale Dankenbring and Heidi Plumb, Part 2 – Fresh Seven Coffee”

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”