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Tag: From the Land of Kansas

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”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Julie Riggins, Goat Milk Soap Store

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

“Get steamed!” No, I don’t mean get mad. I mean this might be a time to try steam aromatherapy with natural products made from goat milk. Today we’ll learn about an innovative Kansas business that has created an entire line of goat milk products, including shower steamers, and is marketing those products across America and beyond.

Goat Milk Soap Store
Goat Milk Soap Store

Julie Riggins and her family are owners and creators of the Goat Milk Soap Store. Julie was living in Texas with her husband when his business transferred him to Kansas City. She left her corporate job to follow his career and became a stay-at-home mom. They chose to adopt additional children, and ultimately decided to move out of the city so the kids could grow up in a small-town environment.

They found a farm in Franklin County, Kansas, and decided they should try to grow their own food. They bought some chickens and made a big garden.

“Two of our kids are (cow milk) lactose intolerant, so I figured I should get dairy goats,” Julie said. The Riggins family bought a herd of LaMancha dairy goats from a man in Missouri. They loved the goats. They also found themselves in a constant cycle of feeding and watering. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Julie Riggins, Goat Milk Soap Store”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shanna Lindberg, Soul Sister Ceramics

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

“Soul sister.” The term implies a kinship, a virtual sisterhood, a deep connection. Today we’ll learn about two young women who have formed a creative business together and are now connecting with customers across the nation.

Shanna Lindberg, Michelle Lindberg
From left, Shanna Lindberg and Michelle Lindberg

Shanna Lindberg and Michelle Lindberg are co-founders of this remarkable business known as Soul Sister Ceramics. Shanna grew up in Scandia in north-central Kansas.  She earned a degree in broadcast journalism at the University of Kansas and married a farmer from Courtland. She worked for the local radio station for a time and then stayed home when her children were born.

Among her friends in Courtland was Michelle Lindberg, a local nurse. “Our husbands are first cousins,” Shanna said. The two young women hit it off.

“We were talking about finding a hobby that we could do together,” Shanna said.  “Michelle had a mug that I really loved.” That inspired them to try making ceramic pottery.

“We bought a kiln on Craigslist and made some pieces of jewelry,” Shanna said. Not only was it fun, other people wanted to buy their products. This became a business. At first, they listed their products for sale on an Etsy page. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shanna Lindberg, Soul Sister Ceramics”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Haley Stratmeier, Tonja’s Toffee

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

“That tastes so good, you should sell it!” Perhaps you’ve heard that phrase when someone shares a delicious treat. Today we’ll learn about a family which took that statement seriously, and their product became the basis of a remarkable business. Last week we met Phyllis Cheney, whose flower shop in Chapman sells various products including Tonja’s Toffee. The toffee is delicious, but the backstory is bittersweet. It involves a remarkable product made by a remarkable woman who battled cancer for many years. Now her family is continuing her legacy.

Tonja’s Toffee
Tonja’s Toffee

Tonja, the founder of this business, grew up in Scott County. She met Alan Williams at a church barbecue and the two married. She became a farm wife and teacher, raising four children.

As a little girl, Tonja had enjoyed making toffee with her mother Carrie Marion. Tonja continued making toffee as she grew older and tweaked the family recipe to make it her own.

After Tonja married and became a teacher, she would bring her homemade toffee in to school during the holidays. Her friends raved about it. “That tastes so good, you should sell it,” they would say. Tonja would modestly decline. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Haley Stratmeier, Tonja’s Toffee”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Dennis Wright, Wright Farms Sunflower Oil

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.

Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Dennis Wright, Wright Farms Sunflower Oil”