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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Here we are, at the End.

"Study hard, okay?"--Keith Chesney

Well everyone.  I hate to say, but we have reached the end of summer.  I know, I'm pretty bummed out myself.  Becky and I have made it back to Kansas State University, and I'm currently writing from my little cubicle in Leasure Hall.  As we prepare to start putting our summer research together, I felt it important to give some shout-outs to the awesome people out there who have been the foundation of this project.

First, I would like to thank all of the co-op general managers, presidents, and communication departments for all of their hard work.  They went through files and photos for us, and sat through interviews with Rebecca and I.  You all are CHAMPS!  We hope others will see just how important you all are to, not only ag producers, but to the world.  Thank you!

Second,  I would personally like to thank Anita Davis and Teresa Reimer for allowing me to stay at their houses.  You both are amazingly gracious individuals, and your families are very hospitable.  I'm glad to know both of you.  Thank You!

Third, I would like to thank Dr. M.J. Morgan for being our guiding light, mentor and friend.  Dr. Morgan could make us laugh when we had rough days, and gave us advice when we were stuck in a rut.  We really appreciate your support.  Thank you!

Fourth,  Billie would like to thank Rebecca for being not only an awesome friend and partner, but like a big sister this summer.  This project would not have been the same without you!  Thanks, Becks!

Last, I would like to thank my parents, Keith and Patty Chesney.  They provided a "home base" for Becky and I, fed us, and even helped us with our research.  Having parents who farm was probably the biggest boost!  Dr. Morgan has asked me to extend her thanks to you as well, Mom and Dad.  It's wonderful to have such supportive parents who not only took care of me, but Becky and Ivan-dog, too.  I love you both!  Thank you!

I would also like to thank our readers for following us all summer.  Hope you enjoyed our trips, and will check out our work online when we have completed it!  If you have any questions for Rebecca or I, feel free to email us at

With that, I would like to wish everyone a fantastic semester!  Good luck with school, and "study hard, okay?'  

--Go State!

Billie Chesney
Rebecca Hall

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Need a Pick-Me-Up? Here's ours!


Billie and I have not been alone on our trips to Kansas Co-ops.  When we know that we will be staying with family we add a researcher who has a nose for sniffing out stuff.   Ivan Hall is a corgi/beagle mix that was rescued from a bad situation by Corgi Connection of Kansas and subsequently adopted by my husband and I.  Since the day of adoption (November 10, 2010) I have found that our four legged child loves car rides and I have tried to incorporate that love by bringing him along on some of the trips.  While Billie and I are involved in interviews, going through dusty boxes and making phone calls, Ivan is left at the residences that were staying at and is in charge of squirrel and rabbit patrol and cat surveillance.  When in the truck he watches out for ice cream shops; every researcher needs ice cream.

Ivan also plays the role of chief comforter when the day's research has not gone well, and trust me there have been a few of those.  For me, and I will say for Billie as well, Ivan is a reminder that even if things don't go well on one day you keep your head up, keep smiling and charge on.

--Go State!

One Week-850 Miles!

Hello again! Hope everyone has been staying cool!  I also hope everyone received as good as a rain as we did out here in Rooks County this past week!  My folks reported 2 inches!  Whoopa!  Last week, Rebecca and I had the pleasure of visiting 5 co-ops.  That was quite a trip for both of us, but we certainly enjoyed it.

Rebecca let me fly solo in Southwest Kansas, and she was to meet me in Wichita later that week.  On Monday the 15th, I took off for the Meade Co-op in Meade, Kansas.   I met with Mr. Randy Ackerman, the General Manager, and we had a fantastic talk!  Meade is a Century Cooperative, having been chartered in 1913.  Randy really brought to my attention the challenges concerning regulations through the EPA, OSHA and DOT.  It is a struggle sometimes to put for the money to keep up to date with the regulations, but it's an absolute must.  Randy, though, mentioned that their concrete elevator was built in 1930, which is quite old, considering most concrete elevators that I have seen were built in the late 1940s to the 1950s.  We wonder how co-ops with older elevators will be able to meet regulations in the future.  Will they have to tear down the elevator and start over, or will re-lining them with concrete be sufficient?  It's a time we hate to see, but certainly something that must be kept in the back of our minds.  Randy and I had a great chat after the interview before I moved on to my next locations.  Thank you for the goodies Randy!  Thank you to Derek Smith as well for providing me with a slick Powerpoint presentation!

After leaving Meade, I drove to Garden City where I met with Caroline Duvall who graciously allowed me to go through mounds of photographs, some of which were absolutely breath-taking.  In their conference room hangs a few portraits of prominent figures from their history.  One portrait is of Robert J. Ackley, who was a member of the group that formed the Garden City Co-op, and a past President in the 1920s.  Another portrait was VERY familiar to me, and I didn't have to ask who the couple on the wall was.  It was Otis and Mary Lee Molz.  Dr. Briggeman had the pleasure of interviewing Otis back in April, and Rebecca and I got to sit and chat with Mary Lee.  Otis is a former Garden City Co-op board member, and had a very large part in the creation of CoBank, which is a national bank that serves rural power, agribusiness, and other such programs.  Talk about big business!!  Mr. Molz also had a large part in creating cooperatives in overseas countries such as South America, China, and Russia.  How. Awesome. Is. That!?  Garden City Co-op is one of those places that will seriously satisfy your thirst for knowledge, and I can't wait to go back!

That night I stayed with one of my best friends, Teresa Chrisler Reimer.  I received a tour of their new house and had an awesome dinner.  I was even more excited to be there when Teresa found out she got a new job!  T is moving on up in the world!  I don't get to see her very often, and it made my week to stay at the ranch with her and Jim.  Thank you both so much for letting me crash.  I miss you!

The next morning, I took off to Wichita to meet up with Becky.  After a shopping spree, an awesome dinner and a good nights sleep, Becky and I shot over to Nickerson where we met with Mr. Joe Schuaf.  We had a spectacular interview, and watched a bit of a slide show with photographs of this 100 year old co-op.  Shortly after finishing our time in Nickerson, we hit the road for Great Bend, Kansas, where we stayed the night.  The next morning, we met with Mr. Frank Riedl, the general manager of the Great Bend Co-op.  It was somewhat of a quick trip, as we were to also go to the Southern Plains Co-op that afternoon.

Now, once we arrived in Lewis (which is on our 100 year list!), we met with Mr. Bobby Martin, the general manager.  But before we really got deep into conversation, Bobby called the old general manager to come and visit with us.  Ron Gruber was a blast to speak with about the co-op's history, as well as the Greensburg tornado.  It's was a great pleasure!!

After we had our visit at Lewis, Rebecca headed East, and I headed back north on Highway 183, back to the farm.  We are now officially down to two co-ops on our research list.  Where has the summer gone?!!

Anyway, I want to send a HUGE thank you to all of the general managers, as well as Ron and Caroline, for all of your help!  We couldn't do it without you!  And thank you, Teresa, for allowing me to spend the night, and to her son, Doran, for letting me use his bed while he was at band camp!  I appreciate the hospitality, and miss you guys very much!

Hope you'll join us for the summer finale, and prepare yourselves for the Fall semester!!  Until next time....

--Go State!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From Mrs. Rebecca Hall :)

Short on History, but long on help. "We serve a purpose."

Hello again!  I have a report from Becky's Wakefield, Kansas trip!  It is always SO AWESOME to see co-ops involve the next generation.  That is part of how we can cultivate future farmers, ranchers, extension agents and so forth.  Great work, Becky!!  I sure appreciate all that you do to help me through this internship.  You're a pretty awesome friend, too :)  I hope you all enjoy her bit! -Billie

Throughout our travels this summer we have hit Farming Co-ops of various sizes from Moundridge with forty facilities to Piqua consisting of only one site.  But each Co-op regardless of size has a story to tell as well as a unique purpose for the farming community in its area.  So that being said this week I was out on my own for one day taking on the Wakefield Co-op.  Though not on the original list that Billie and I had came up, the Co-op is close to my house and it wouldn't seem right to leave it out with it being so close.  Wakefield is just a hop, skip and jump from Fort Riley and the town is home to many military families who make the commute to post.  But even though the town hosts many military families it is also in the middle of farm country.  John Boley, the General Manager of the Wakefield Co-op was kind enough to sit down with me during an extremely busy part of the season and talk about the co-op, its location and also to offer some much needed assistance.  Wakefield sits in a unique area; with Clay Center less than twenty miles to its north and Lake Milford and Fort Riley to its east; its area of service is obviously not large at all.  But what the little Co-op lacks in area makes up in service.  While In addition to providing a style of service that keeps the loyalty of customers returning, every fall the Co-op hosts the Wakefield Elementary Second graders.  The kiddos are given a tour of the facilities and information on the in's and outs of farming.  In the last few minutes of our interview, John began to question me about the other Co-ops we would be visiting.  As I told him of our plans, the General Manager handed me the 2013 Directory of all the Co-ops in Kansas regardless of size.  I could never thank John enough for that book; it has made the life of two Kansas State interns much easier.
-Rebecca S. Hall

-Go State!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

The North Western Adventure!

"We have a great excuse to get excited about our collection again and again!"
-Karen Anderson

So, our trip to South West and South Central Kansas was postponed for a few weeks.  We rearranged our schedules so we could finish the Northern sections of the state, and I believe it worked swimmingly!  I hope you'll enjoy this blog post as much as we enjoyed our trips!!

The week before Rebecca and I went out by the Colorado border together, I went to Colby solo.  Why, I'm not sure, but I'm sure it's because I was itching for a mini road trip.  Oh!  And because Becky went out to Wakefield solo.  Had to even the score, right Becky?  :)
Once in Colby, I met with Mr. John Strecker, General Manager.  We had a great, yet not so great conversation about this years wheat harvest.  I told him that almost every co-op we've been to has had about only half the crop that they had the year before, and the year before wasn't even what you would consider a normal crop.  Darn drought!  It's really taken a toll on farmers and the co-ops.  What I found to be different about Colby, is that they have been out of the crop production business for 10+ years.  They found that it wasn't worth the dollar to keep it as part of their services.  Co-ops have to make certain sacrifices in order to be successful.  I had just never been to a co-op that didn't offer crop production services.  Kind of cool to see these differences!

A week later,  Becky and I met up in the big city of Hays, Kansas to begin our trip out to Goodland, Kansas.  After what felt like a long drive, a few cups of coffee, and lots of crazy tunes from my iPhone, we made it to the Frontier Ag Administrative Office in Goodland.  We spoke with Mr. Brad Cowan, the General Manager.  He gave us a great interview and let us in on some of the happenings around the co-op.  After leaving the co-op, we found a little museum in town and thought we'd stop in.  We love museums and historical landmarks in Kansas!  Turns out, we met the wonderful Karen Anderson, who is the museum director.  We explained what we were after, and she provided us with more photos than we could ever ask for, as well as a mini history!  We had a blast looking around the museum as well!

That night we camped out at a Comfort Inn in Goodland, where we enjoyed a pool and a hot tub, and Becky used the ironing board for her desk.  After working on write-ups and enjoying a swim, we fell asleep with the Golden Girls playing on the television.  That's why Becky and I are friends!  :)

The next morning, we left for St. Francis, Kansas.  We were literally about 10 minutes from the Colorado border, which absolutely fascinated me, since I haven't been out-of-state in years!  Once we walked into the St. Francis Mercantile Equity Exchange, we were greeted by Mrs. Karol Lohman.  I tell you what.  She was the kindest soul, and was very helpful.  She even gave us a driven tour around not only the co-op, but parts of the town!  She showed us many of the changes they had to make to be up to code with the government.  As pricey as it all was, it was pretty fancy, and gave the 100-year-old co-op a great look!  After an officer worker loaded Becky and I down with Twizzlers from the old office, we drove back to the new office with Karol where she sent us off with big hugs.  I was just overwhelmed with the awesome hospitality and cooperation the staff offered us.  It made the trip absolutely amazing.  Thank you all.  :)

Becky and I both made it back to our respective homesteads that same evening.  It's been about a week, and here I am now, sitting in the home of my second mom, Teresa Reimer.  I AM on my next trip, and Becky is waiting for me in Wichita at her sister's home so we can go to our next stops, but you'll have to wait until a later date for that post!  PS-  Teresa makes GREAT goulash!  Thanks for dinner, T!

Thank you, also, to John, Brad, Karen, Karol, and the Comfort Inn for putting up with us, and providing us with everything thing we needed!  It was a great trip and we hope to return again!  More photographs to come!  Until next time...

-Go State!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hello, Eastern/Southeastern Kansas!

"One can always ask, does a legacy breed success or does success, over time, create a legacy?"--Dave Christiansen

It feels like it's been AGES since I've updated everyone on the internship.  There have been a few personal days logged in the books as it has been super hot, and Becky and I both have had some family events.  We still managed to have some fantastic days driving to a few small towns the past 2 weeks :)

First, though, we needed to finish Delphos, Kansas.  We met up at the co-op to visit with Mr. Zeb Larson.  He is fairly new to the co-op, but was so helpful.  He let us look through many, MANY photographs, and gave a very moving interview.  It is very rare to see a young person move to a hole-in-the-wall town to be a general manager of a co-op.  He is very passionate about what he does, and has a very solid understanding of the industries his co-op supports.  Needless to say, it was a great way to start off the trip out to Eastern Kansas!

I drove out to Becky's house to stay with her and Ivan, the dog so we could visit the co-op outside of Manhattan, Kansas.  We met with Darin Marti, the General Manager.  Fun Fact:  Many people my age may not know that the original co-op once stood where the mall in Manhattan is now!  Kind of strange to think, huh?  It was a VERY big deal moving the co-op, as they were able to utilize the urban business, and sold pet food, bird seed and yard supplies while standing IN the town.  Since they were such a diverse operation, it would be impossible to relocate to a single site.  This led to the City of Manhattan v. Farmers Co-op.  I'll leave this little hanger for you.  Look it up.  It was an interesting case!

After visiting Manhattan, I had the chance to spend some time at my NEW HOUSE in Manhattan!  Talk about excited! I also used the rest of the day to visit with a few long lost friends (actually, I hadn't seen them since May, but it felt way longer!).  Shout out to Theresa Jardine, My favorite Ag Ed student and plant guru, and Nicole Armbrister, my second favorite Animal Science student (next to me!)!  Becky and I also met with Dr. MJ Morgan, who is our supervisor during our trips.  We had lunch at Houlihans (yum), discussed our work, and told some stories about past experiences.  We alway seem to have a great time with Dr. Morgan.  I then spent the weekend at my sister's to get out of Becky's hair for a while!  The next Monday, we took off for Wichita to stay with her sister, Anita and her boys Brandon and Tucker so we could visit a few co-ops in the SE region of the state.

We woke up bright and early to visit Moundridge and and their co-op, Mid Kansas Cooperative Association, otherwise known as MKC.  Mr. Dave Christiansen, President and CEO, and Ms. Kerry Watson, Communications Director, met with us to discuss the co-ops history.  Moundridge encompasses 40 locations, which makes it the largest, most wide-spread co-op we've covered!  We had a blast looking through photographs, and newsletters, as well as getting a wonderful interview from 2 very helpful people!

The next day, we got up early (again! Ugh!) to head to Fredonia and Piqua (pronounced Pick-way), Kansas.  Driving in the SE region of Kansas, we were saddened to see wheat damage in multiple fields.  Regardless, when we arrived in Fredonia, harvest was in full swing.  We were able to speak with Ken Manson, general manager, for a while, but like most managers during harvest, he had a job to do, so we didn't keep him long.  He did allow us to take photographs and video footage of the elevator and storage units.  This is the part where Billie was put into the back of Becky's pickup while Becky drove around the property.  It was HOT, but I survived the heat and got some GREAT footage!

After Fredonia, we made our way to Piqua to meet with Kenneth Smail, the general manager.  He is only the THIRD general manager, as the co-op was started in 1957.  Kind of cool to think about, huh?  Like Mr. Manson, Mr. Smail had a business to run, so we asked our few questions, I jumped in the back of the truck, and I took some photos and video footage!  We went to lunch at Silverado's, where the cook told us we could find some more information at the chamber's office in Iola.  So we loaded up and went to Iola where met with Ms. Sheila, who turned us on to looking for town Facebook pages.  Who would've thunk it, huh? :)

Piqua Feed Mill!

Becky and I have both made it back to our homesteads.  We've taken some time due to the 4th of July being this Thursday.  It's nice to stay home after driving for what seemed like FOREVER.  Becky will soon be visiting Hiawatha, and I will be visiting Colby.  SOLO! :)  We would like to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to Dr. Morgan, Dave, Kerry, Ken, and Kenneth for all of their help while visiting with them.  Another BIG BIG Thank you to Anita, Brandon, and Tucker for putting Rebecca and I up for a few nights, as well as my sister, Robyn, for allowing me to stay at her house with my niece Halle for a few days!  So many thank you's!  We are so grateful for the cooperation and hospitality!

Join us next time for our travels deep into Western Kansas!

--Go State!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gorham, Delphos and...Rock City!

"Just off of the black top..."

Oh hi!  So glad you could join us again after an absolutely EXCITING week of traveling!  Not only we were able to take in the history of two co-ops, we were also able to visit one of the 8 wonders of Kansas, Rock City.  But I should probably tell this story in chronological order! :)

First stop:  Gorham, Kansas.  Rebecca and I met in this small town and met up with Mr. John Lapka, the general manager of United Ag Service.  We did get a wonderful interview with Mr. Lapka, but other than that we were slightly unsuccessful in our search.  They will be celebrating their 100th year this October and are in the process of doing exactly what Rebecca and I are doing.  They are shuffling through past minutes and photographs in order to create a picture of their co-op from the past.  So, plans have been made to return at a later date to retrieve a centennial booklet and some photos!  Mr. Lapka was a very good sport, helping us understand things about a co-op that we're struggling to wrap our minds around.  So, Thank you, John!  We really appreciate your help and we will see you later this year!  Happy 100th!

After staying the night at the Chesney farm (my house) we woke up early, looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (not so much on this end) to drive to Delphos, Kansas for a visit at the historical society.  Once there, we were greeted by Billye Yowell, Roger Yeager, and C.J. Ballou.  Roger and C.J. took Becky and I out to the Lord/Cain Elevator that was donated the the historical society.  They explained to us how it was used as a grain company.  As we continued to chit-chat, C.J. informed us that his father was on the board of directors for many years, and that he remembered when the concrete elevator was built.  This lead to a vault of information that you can only find if you chose to listen to the stories of those who came before us.  It was an absolute pleasure to listen to C.J. and Roger tell stories from their pasts.  After looking around and catching some video footage, we returned to the historical society where we scanned some photographs and spoke more about the history of Delphos in relation to the co-op.  Delphos Co-op is over 100 years old, having been chartered in 1901.  This is the oldest co-op we have been to, and frankly, it was pretty cool.  After we were through getting what information we could, we took a mini tour through the museum.  We peeked at ration books from the 1940s, a respirator from 1912 (scary business!!)  and a dentist chair, probably from the 1950s.  We knew it was from before our time because it really gave Becky that "horror show" feeling!  Billye was just as tickled to have us so interested in the museum as we were to be in it!  One cool little piece I'd like to share, is that Delphos was home to Grace Billings (Bedell).  She was 11 when she wrote a letter to President Lincoln telling him why he should grow a beard.  Would ya know it, I think he actually took her advice!

After leaving Delphos, Becky and I decided we wanted to visit one of the 8 wonders of Kansas-Rock City.  It has some seriously unusual-looking rocks that geologists have to theorize about how they were created.  We were allowed to climb on, jump on, and have a mini photo shoot with the rocks.  Becky and I really needed that brain break!

Not only is is fun to do our required research, it's also fun to learn more about our great state and the people who live here.  It's an absolute blessing.  We hope you're enjoying our trips thus far, and will continue to follow us as we head east for the next week and a half.  I will be leaving for the Manhattan area in a few short days, and am excited to get out of MY comfort zone.  The west is my home, where I know the people and the way they conduct their day to day lives.  The bigger cities are new territory for me, so this will be an adventure!  

Thank you to John, Billye, C.J., and Roger for all of your help this past week.  It was a pleasure to learn SO MUCH and have fun doing it!  God Bless!

--Go State!