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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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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Patterson Health Center

One plus one equals ten. Well, it’s obvious that I flunked new math. But today we’ll learn about one community which got together with another to co-create an exceptional new model of health care delivery in rural America.

Martha Hadsall is chair of the board of directors of the Patterson Health Center, a new health care facility in Harper County. Martha, a long-time teacher in Harper, was also involved with the local hospital.

Martha Hadsall and Pat Patton

Anthony, population 2,269, and Harper, population 1,473, are Harper County’s two largest communities, located 9 miles apart. Both had small, financially struggling hospitals. In 2012, a community health needs assessment identified integration between the two hospitals as the top concern. However, the two towns were longtime rivals.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Madonna of the Trail

The woman stands 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Wow, that would be quite a basketball player. But this is no basketball player, it is a statue.  Specifically, it is a monument to the pioneer women of America. It is one of only 12 such statues which are located across the nation. This one is found in rural Kansas.

This statue is located in Council Grove, county seat of Morris County. Diane Wolfe is the director of the Council Grove/Morris County Chamber of Commerce. I was referred to Diane by Kay Hutchinson, who recently retired after 22 years as executive director of the Greater Morris County Development Corporation.

Kay and Diane are strong advocates for Morris County. “There are more historic sites on a per capita basis in Morris County than Washington, D.C.,” Kay said. As a key community along the Santa Fe Trail, Council Grove is the location of the Custer Elm, Post Office Oak, and 20 or more other historic locations.

One prominent site in Council Grove is the Madonna of the Trail statue. The history of this statue goes back more than a century.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Tom Circle, Pecans

Pecan groves in Kansas? The idea might seem rather far-fetched. In fact, some would say it sounds nuts. But today we’ll learn about a family-owned business in southeast Kansas which is raising and marketing pecans and more.

During the last two weeks, we have learned about local foods in southeast Kansas. A USDA Rural Development grant is supporting K-State’s Technology Development Institute in building markets for local foods.

Tom Circle and his family represent another example of a value-added, local foods producer. In this case, the food is pecans.

“We are on the northern edge of the pecan belt,” Tom said. He grew up on the family farm here where his parents and grandparents raised traditional row crops. During the farm downturn of the 1980s, his family wanted to diversify.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Heather Horton, Toast

“Toast of the town.” That would be quite a title. Today we’ll learn about a culinary entrepreneur who is helping her town in the food business. She operates a cake decorating enterprise and, soon, will open a new restaurant with the name of Toast.

Heather and Roger Horton

Last week we met Heather Horton and learned about her involvement in the revitalization of the historic downtown in Pittsburg, Kansas. She is also the owner of these growing small businesses.

In 2017, USDA Rural Development awarded a grant to help build markets for local foods in southeast Kansas. That project is led by Heather Morgan, director of engagement and community development for K-State’s Technology Development Institute. She identified Heather Horton as an example of excellence in local foods entrepreneurship.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Heather Horton, Block22

Block22. That sounds like part of a play call in football. In this case, Block22 is the name of a redevelopment project which is helping transform a historic downtown in a key southeast Kansas community.

Block22 in Pittsburg, Kansas

Heather Horton is an entrepreneur and owner of a small business located near the district known as Block22 in Pittsburg, Kansas. Heather grew up in the nearby rural community of Girard, population 2,789 people. Now, that’s rural.

In Girard, her high school sweetheart was Roger Horton whom she would later marry.  Heather earned a bachelor’s degree in commercial art and a master’s degree in communications from Pittsburg State, while Roger studied at Fort Scott Community College.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: One Million Cups

One million cups of coffee. That’s a lot of caffeine. It’s also much more than that, since this is the term for a movement which is supporting entrepreneurs across the nation. This program is building a peer support network to help those who are starting and growing their businesses.

(left to right) Jonny Heath, organizer Joe Gerken, and Tim Gregory visit between presenters at a One Million Cups event. Networking is encouraged during the program. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Naughton Photography

Amber Starling and Joe Gerken are among the organizers of the Manhattan, Kansas chapter of this group called One Million Cups. Last week we learned about another of the organizers, Darin Miller. He operates Iron Clad Coworking Space with facilities in Manhattan and in the rural community of Wamego, population 4,272 people. Now, that’s rural.

The One Million Cups concept was begun by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in 2012. The idea was simple: Great ideas are discussed over a million cups of coffee.  The Kauffman Foundation wanted to create a time and place where entrepreneurs could share with each other. Coffee was provided and entrepreneurs were brought together in Kansas City. The results were remarkable.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Darin Miller, Iron Clad Coworking

Iron clad. The term suggests something that is certain and stable. It is also the name of an innovative place which is now providing shared space for Kansas entrepreneurs to work and grow.

Darin Miller is the founder and owner of Iron Clad Coworking in Wamego and Manhattan. Darin grew up near Newton. He went to school at Berean Academy in the rural community of Elbing, population 229 people. Now, that’s rural.

Darin Miller

As a student, he competed at the state cross country meet at Wamego. “I could see that Wamego was a community with a winning attitude,” Darin said. He studied mechanical engineering, worked at Cessna in Wichita, and then happened to come to Wamego for a project at Caterpillar. He and his wife decided to stay.

Darin noticed a change in the way corporate life operated. “Managers said they didn’t have enough room (for employees’ offices) but at any given time, a third of the people were out working on projects elsewhere,” he said. Technology was making it possible for people to work without being confined to a particular office. “Entrepreneurs were using coffee shops and libraries, but those didn’t work for some business purposes,” he said.

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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Rosslyn Schultz, Post Rock Limestone Coalition

Is it a post or is it a rock? In central Kansas, it might be both. A unique limestone formation in central Kansas has given rise to the name Post Rock country. Now a dedicated group of community advocates is launching a new coalition to attract visitors to the Post Rock region.

Limestone art in Lucas, Kansas.

Last week we learned about the Russell County Area Community Foundation which is supporting the new Post Rock Limestone Coalition. The coalition is co-chaired by Rosslyn Schultz of the Grassroots Arts Center in Lucas.

As we have shared before, Rosslyn went to K-State and met and married a Lucas-area wheat farmer. Her interest in wheat weaving led her to become involved in folk art. She eventually became director of the Grassroots Arts Center which specializes in outsider, self-taught art environments across Kansas and the Midwest.

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