“That shows a lot of pride.” This statement applies when we see a community that is clean and neat, with active businesses and busy downtown buildings. Today, we will visit a group of community volunteers who are utilizing their pride – and the Kansas PRIDE program – to benefit their rural town.
Kay Haffner is the co-chair of the Grainfield Community Development Committee, active members of the Kansas PRIDE program. In 2020, Kansas PRIDE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, so we will be highlighting Kansas PRIDE communities during the year ahead.
Kansas PRIDE is a partnership of K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Masons, and Kansas PRIDE, Inc. Through the program, local volunteers identify their community’s priorities and then work with the resources of these partners to create their ideal community future.
The Grainfield Community Development Committee or GCDC formed and joined the PRIDE program in 2009. Kay Haffner and her husband own a trucking company here. She volunteers with the GCDC.
“We were a town that was dying,” Kay said. “Nothing was being done.” GCDC members decided to refurbish the community’s old, faded Christmas decorations. They got tinsel and lights and redid the decorations. It went so well that they decided to take on more projects.
“Old iron.” That’s an affectionate term that farmers have for the old tractors and farm equipment of yesteryear. Those durable old pieces of equipment can serve as reminders of our agricultural heritage and how agriculture still serves our food supply. Today we’ll meet a group of volunteers who are working to share this agricultural heritage with others.
Byron Githens is a founder of the Wilson County Old Iron Club in Fredonia. He grew up in Fredonia, hauling hay and working with farmers. One of the farmers for whom he worked was Rollin Vandever, known as “Red.” Byron appreciated working on the farm, especially with old John Deere tractors.
Byron became a rural mail carrier. He met and married Leanne and bought some used farm equipment of his own.
In 1994, a vacant lot became available next to the city hall in downtown Fredonia. Byron and some friends decided to put on a tractor show so kids could see the old time equipment. It went so well that they decided to do it again the next year. In the following year, they added a threshing machine and a rock crushing demonstration. The annual event continued to grow.
Recognizing the need for more volunteers, Byron and others decided to form a club. In 1999, the Wilson County Old Iron Club formally organized with 25 charter members. Through the years, the annual equipment show was held in several locations around Fredonia.
“I’d like a non-smoking room for one night, please – with plenty of prairie hay in it.” That probably doesn’t sound like a typical request at your local lodging establishment. It demonstrates the unique needs of someone traveling with horses.
When going across country with a horse in a trailer, that equine can’t just check into the room next to you at the motel. Today we’ll meet a rural Kansas woman who has built a business by hosting equestrian travelers.
Terri Anderson is the founder and owner of the SlideonInn Horse Hotel near Goodland. Terri grew up at Oberlin. Her parents had been involved with horses, but her dad was killed in a tractor accident when she was little.
“I begged my mom for a horse every single day,” Terri said. “She finally gave in. I think she figured I would get tired of doing chores pretty quickly, but it didn’t work.”
“School days, school days, dear old golden rule days.” That nostalgic song describes good memories which many people have from their school times of yesteryear. One author has captured the history of many schools from the past across the state of Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile.
James Kenyon is the author of a recently published book which describes the history of 109 closed Kansas schools, including one in each county. James is himself a product of rural schools. He grew up on a farm in Graham County and graduated from Bogue Rural High School in 1966, one of a class of six people. James went on to Kansas State and became a veterinarian, eventually practicing in the state of Iowa. He was named state veterinarian of the year and served as president of the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association before retiring.
James came back to Kansas for a 50-year reunion of his graduating class at Bogue. As he traveled through western Kansas, he thought about the various other schools where he had played ball. He looked into it and found that, of the 32 communities where he had played ball, all but one had lost its high school. That led him on a quest to capture the history of these rural schools. His goal was to cover the entire state.
Drop seed. That’s what I do to plant my garden, right? When we put those words together, that is also the name of a beautiful grassy plant called prairie dropseed. Now it is the name of an innovative Kansas business. Today we’ll learn about a Kansas technology company which is designing software to help organizations work more effectively.
During the last two weeks we’ve learned about two entrepreneurial brothers, Joel and Aaron Gaeddert. There is one more brother – the youngest brother, Dave. This is the third and final profile in our series about the Gaeddert family.
Like his brothers, Dave came to Bethel College in North Newton. He worked part-time with his older brothers at Flint Hills Design while in college. After graduation, he joined the business full-time and now works as lead developer for websites and apps.
Dave was always interested in computers. He built computers of his own in middle school. By the time he got to Flint Hills Design, Dave was crafting the code which kept that company’s websites and apps operating effectively.
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.
Okeechobee, Florida. A package is arriving. Inside is a beautiful metal nativity set, designed and cut by a craftsman at a business halfway across the continent in rural Kansas. It’s especially interesting to find that this craftsman is a woman. This is a special holiday edition of Kansas Profile.
Sara Dawson is the owner and founder of Prairie Oaks Designs in Florence, Kansas. Sara grew up near Florence and went to K-State. After working in the animal health business for a time, she came back and joined the family ranch. She married Troy Dawson who is farming and ranching and is trained as a master welder. Sara was thinking about how to add value to the family business.
One day in 2014, Sara was flipping through a catalog and spotted a picture of a rusty old metal item nailed to a piece of wood. It caught her eye and she wondered if she could produce similar products.
“How do those people cut that metal?” she asked her husband. “And what would it take to get that equipment?” When he told her the price of a plasma metal cutter, she thought, “Oh, there’s no way we could get that.” But her husband encouraged her to get it and try it out.
Sara decided to try designing and marketing these metal designs as home décor. They ordered the plasma cutter and signed up to exhibit products at an upcoming craft show.
Unfortunately, the plasma cutter was late in coming. When it finally arrived, a major component was missing. Sara’s stress level went up as the date of the show got closer and closer. Once the plasma cutter was ready, she spent lots of late nights self-training on how to use it. She managed to make enough products to take to the show – and the response was excellent.
“The belle of the ball.” That phrase may call to mind a pretty girl dancing in a fancy ballroom, but in this case, it refers to a different kind of ball. This belle is the woman who serves as the volunteer caretaker of the world’s largest ball of twine. She’s helping people from around the world enjoy this unique rural attraction.
Linda Clover explained that Frank Stoeber was farming near Cawker City in Mitchell County in 1953. As he fed small bales of hay to his cows, he began to accumulate the loose balestrings made of sisal twine.
“He was a child of the Depression, so he didn’t throw anything away,” Linda said. Rather than burning or discarding the twine, he started winding it into a ball. By the time he was done cleaning up his barn, he had a ball as big as his barn door.
Over time, he continued to add to the ball. Friends and neighbors started donating their twine to the project and the ball became massive. In 1956, when the Salina Journal wrote an article about it, the ball measured seven feet five inches and weighed 4,035 pounds.
Donuts. Muffins. Scones. Hope. Wait a minute, what was that last one? Today we’ll meet a young entrepreneur who has started a bakery in her rural community. In addition to baked goods, coffee, and lunches, the ultimate item which she intends to provide to her community is hope for the future.
Jessica Busteed and her mother-in-law, Linda Busteed, are the owners and founders of Cornerstone Bakery in Yates Center. Jessica grew up in the area, near the rural community of Toronto, population 281 people. Now, that’s rural.
After living in Texas for a time, she and her husband came back to Kansas. He is now the elementary and middle school principal at Yates Center. For several years, Jessica telecommuted to her job in Houston.
100 to 1 return. Wow, that sounds like a remarkable return on investment. In this case, it doesn’t refer to a financial investment as much as it describes the process of growing a crop and multiplying the grain. Today we’ll learn about an innovative first-generation farmer who is finding his reward in multiplying his crop of popcorn. Thanks to Marlin Bates of K-State Research and Extension – Douglas County for this story idea.
Robert Ralph, also known as Farmer Bob, is the founder of Princeton Popcorn. Bob grew up in Overland Park when farm ground was still intermingled with the suburbs. “I was three or four years old and I remember petting cows through a barbed wire fence,” Bob said. That experience encouraged a lifelong interest in agriculture. He bought a small herd of cows and kept them with a friend outside of town.
After a few years, Bob bought some farmland of his own near Princeton, Kansas in Franklin County. The acreage had some timber, but no fences. “A friend of mine bulldozed a 30-foot path through the trees so I could build fence,” Bob said. “When I burned the brush pile and spread the ashes, I found that it enriched the soil.”
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.