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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: Scott Andersen, Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company

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

The aroma of new-mown hay. The smell of baking bread. The sweet scent of lavender.  These fragrances can connect with our senses in compelling ways. Today we’ll learn about a remarkable Kansas company which is infusing these fragrances into their soy-based candles and connecting with customers nationwide.

Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company
Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company

Scott and Jennie Andersen are the founders and co-owners of the Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company. Jennie grew up at Ellinwood and went to the University of Kansas, where she met and married Scott. Due to his father’s business career, Scott and his family had lived in several cities around the nation before coming to Kansas City. “I was a kid from the suburbs,” Scott said.

Scott earned a graphic design degree at KU and went to work for a company in the Kansas City area. He also did design work on the side through his own business, Forcefield Design.

Then Jennie’s parents asked if they would consider moving to Ellinwood to live in their large farmhouse. Ultimately, Scott and Jennie made the move. They now have two children, ages seven and five. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Scott Andersen, Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Company”

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: Dan Murphy, Mid-America Piano

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

Let’s sit down at a piano keyboard. As fingers start to move across the keys, a beautiful sound is generated from the heart of the piano. Where does this piano come from? Today we’ll learn about a remarkable Kansas business which is selling pianos across the nation and beyond.

Dan Murphy
Dan Murphy

Dan Murphy is the founder and owner of Mid-America Piano in Manhattan, Kansas. He grew up near the rural community of Keats, in Wildcat Township which has a population of 834 people. Now, that’s rural. Dan’s grandparents were dairy farmers and apparently that work ethic stayed with him.

Dan grew up in a musical home. “I played piano since I was a little kid,” Dan said. “My grandmothers and my mom played piano, my dad played guitar, and my sister played the saxophone. Sometimes we’d go play music at the nursing homes in the area.”

After graduating from Riley County High School, he attended Cloud County Community College where he played trumpet in the jazz band. His plan was to attend Kansas State University, but he also wanted a part-time job. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Dan Murphy, Mid-America Piano”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shelly Decker, Ranchin’ Misfits

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

“Looks like we’re nothin’ but a bunch of ranchin’ misfits,” the mother light-heartedly kidded her little girls as they laughed while doing chores on the ranch. That memorable phrase would become the name of a remarkable, award-winning business in rural Kansas.

Shelly Decker is the owner and operator of this business known as Ranchin’ Misfits. She was raised on a Flint Hills ranch. After graduating from Pratt Community College, she came to Kansas State University where she joined the rodeo team and competed in rodeo events. “I loved it there,” Shelly said.

Ranchin’ Misfits
Ranchin’ Misfits

After graduating with a degree in animal sciences and a business minor, Shelly managed a western wear store in Pratt before managing a similar store in Cottonwood Falls. She got married in 2013. Her husband is ranch manager for the Matador Cattle Company. They now have three little children.

In October 2014, bad news hit. Shelly’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. “I wanted to help, so I started selling some jewelry and purses,” Shelly said. She used the proceeds to help with her mom’s care. “I went to a couple little events, and people seemed to like what I had,” she said. Shelly’s mom passed away in 2017. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Shelly Decker, Ranchin’ Misfits”

Story Headline: Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jason Wright, Nike designer

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

 

The Los Angeles Rams are unveiling their new uniforms, as designed and produced by Nike, Inc. There is lots of excitement about seeing the new uniforms. This unveiling is an especially exciting moment for Nike’s lead project designer, who happens to come from rural Kansas.

Jason Wright is a lead product designer with Nike, Inc., in Oregon. That’s halfway across the continent from where Jason grew up near Garnett in Anderson County, Kansas.

Jason Wright
Jason Wright

“My dad was an engineer at Wolf Creek, but he also had a metal and wood shop at home,” Jason said. “Dad (also) restored an old ’72 Chevy pickup.

“I grew up with the expectation that, if you’re not doing something else, you’re out there doing something creative,” Jason said. “I owe a big debt to my dad.”

Jason helped his dad in the shop and worked on designing things of his own. He found he especially enjoyed drawing. “I loved basketball, and Kobe Bryant was my guy,” Jason said. Kobe was the most famous player in the NBA, and kids around the world were admiring Kobe Bryant’s shoes as made by Nike. “I tried drawing what my own ‘Kobes’ would look like,” Jason said. He drew sketches of logos and wheels and shoes. Continue reading “Story Headline: Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Jason Wright, Nike designer”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: LeAnn Clark/Laurie Curtis, Ethiopia Reads

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

“I cannot see, but I have a vision.” That statement from a blind educator in Ethiopia might introduce a visionary program through which rural Kansans are helping encourage literacy halfway around the globe.

Mobile Ethiopian library supported by Ethiopia Reads
Mobile Ethiopian library supported by Ethiopia Reads

LeAnn and Stan Clark and Laurie Curtis shared the story of this innovative nonprofit organization known as Ethiopia Reads. They told about Jane Kurtz, the co-founder of Ethiopia Reads, who had grown up in Ethiopia where her father was a missionary pilot.  Jane moved back to the United States, married a Presbyterian minister, and became a children’s book writer. Several of her books drew on her years growing up in Ethiopia.

An Ethiopian refugee in the U.S. came across her books and was touched. He contacted Jane and encouraged her to develop literacy in Ethiopia and send children’s books there. That was the beginning of Ethiopia Reads.

Jane Kurtz received a grant from North Dakota Presbyterian churches to gather books and send them to Ethiopia. She and her husband later moved to be near his parents at Moundridge, where they met LeAnn Clark. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: LeAnn Clark/Laurie Curtis, Ethiopia Reads”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lyndsi Oestman, Loma Vista Nursery

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

From pitches to plants. From hardballs to hibiscus. From the strike zone to the root zone. Those phrases are a way of describing the transition made by a Major League Baseball player who, with his daughter, has developed one of the leading plant nurseries in the nation.

Lyndsi Oestman is vice president of Loma Vista Nursery in Ottawa, Kansas. She shared this remarkable story.

Lyndsi’s dad, Mark Clear, grew up in California where he worked at his best friend’s family’s avocado ranch. Mark enjoyed tree pruning and avocado picking. He also enjoyed baseball. In fact, he was such a good player that he was drafted into Major League Baseball as a pitcher.

While being developed in the minor leagues, he was playing in Des Moines when he met the young woman who would become his wife. He went on to a 17-year major-league career, serving as a two-time all-star relief pitcher for the California Angels, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers.

Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lyndsi Oestman, Loma Vista Nursery”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lea Ann Seiler, Hodgeman County makerspace

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

Here comes a package of nasal swabs, important tools in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. These aren’t from some government stockpile or overseas supplier. They were manufactured on a 3D printer, as part of a project inspired by an economic development specialist in rural, southwest Kansas.

Lea Ann Seiler
Lea Ann Seiler

Lea Ann Seiler is the economic development director in Hodgeman County. She grew up near Manhattan, attended Riley County High School and then K-State, where she met and married her husband Gary. They moved to Hodgeman County where Gary became the ag teacher and they started their family. In 2008, Lea Ann became economic development director.

Among many other projects, Hodgeman County participated in the NetWork Kansas Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. “I saw that our kids, and even our local businesses, needed access to tools and supplies which they could use for projects,” Lea Ann said. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Lea Ann Seiler, Hodgeman County makerspace”

Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Alicia Boor, Great Bend virtual farm show

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

Let’s go to a farm show. We’ll see lots of vendors, hear speakers with the latest information, and learn about various products. But wait, we can’t do that. There’s a pandemic and a stay-at-home order in place.

What if we could participate in a farm show and do so virtually and safely, from the comfort of our homes? Today we’ll learn about a community which accomplished exactly that.

Great Bend virtual farm show exhibit
Great Bend virtual farm show exhibit

Alicia Boor is one of the agriculture and natural resources agents for the K-State Research and Extension Cottonwood District, serving Barton and Ellis counties. She grew up in Dodge City, earned an animal science degree, and got a job as a zookeeper for rare breeds of livestock at the Sedgwick County Zoo before joining extension. Her extension position enabled Alicia and her husband to move to her husband’s hometown of Hoisington in Barton County. Hoisington is a rural community of 2,706 people. Now, that’s rural. Continue reading “Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Alicia Boor, Great Bend virtual farm show”