Here we are at a winery in Massachusetts. Between the samples of wine, we are offered some wine-tasting crackers which help cleanse the palate between wine tastings. Where did they come from? They came from halfway across the country in rural Kansas. It’s one of the healthy products offered by this innovative store in the heartland of the nation.
Last week we met Joel Gaeddert who founded Flint Hills Design in North Newton. His younger brother Aaron also operates a small business.
Aaron came to Newton to attend Bethel College, as had his parents and his older brother Joel. When Joel founded Flint Hills Design, Aaron worked for him during college and after graduation. In 2014, he had the opportunity to pursue a business of his own.
Newton had a local food cooperative that closed in 2000. After it closed, a couple of women bought some of the supplies and equipment and opened a bulk health food store of their own. It was called Prairie Harvest. They later relocated into a historic 1892 building in downtown Newton.
Let’s go to Boston, where an exhibit is being installed at the Museum of Russian Icons. Where do you suppose that this exhibit was created? Would you believe, halfway across the continent in rural Kansas? Today we’ll meet an innovative Kansas company which is designing exhibits that are going across the nation.
Joel Gaeddert is founder and CEO of Flint Hills Design, the company which is installing this exhibit. Joel grew up in Kansas and went to Bethel College in North Newton, as had his parents. As a tech-savvy college student, Joel worked on a couple of websites while attending college.
His roommate’s father was the curator of the nearby Kauffman Museum and was needing help to finish a museum exhibit. Joel pitched in to help and found that he enjoyed the work. Soon people from other museums were asking for his help on their exhibits as well. Joel continued to work on websites also.
After graduation, Joel founded his own business based in North Newton. He called it Flint Hills Design.
“We like the understated beauty of the Flint Hills,” Joel said. “All of us like living in small Kansas towns.”
“Young cooperator.” That is a nice combination of positive terms. In this case, it literally refers to a young adult who is active in his or her dairy cooperative. Those young cooperators tend to continue to be involved in their cooperative’s leadership. Today we’ll meet a dairy farm family which began as young cooperators and are continuing that legacy into another generation.
Last week we learned about dairyman Steve Strickler, a member of the board of directors of the dairy cooperative known as Dairy Farmers of America. Byron Lehman from Newton also serves on that board.
Byron’s family came from a dairy farm in upstate New York and moved to Kansas in 1953. His family farmed and Byron’s dad started dairying with Byron and his brother. “I think he dairied to keep his boys out of trouble,” Byron said with a smile.
Byron went to Hesston College and then finished a degree in dairy science from K-State. He joined the family farming partnership that continues to this day. Byron’s wife DeDee is from Denver. They have a daughter named MeLissa who is married to Steven. Steven is a police officer and also helps them farm.
Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University writes Kansas Profile. The weekly posts highlight individuals or companies in rural Kansas who are making a difference to their community and state.
The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is a public / private partnership between Kansas State University and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The mission of the institute is to help rural people help themselves. Learn more at www.huckboydinstitute.org.