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Thursday, May 30, 2013

First Stop: Stockton, Kansas!

They say, as agriculture grows, so does Stockton.

Welcome back!  Hope everyone is having a fantastic summer so far!  Rebecca found her way out to my little hometown of Stockton, Kansas to begin research.  We felt Stockton would be a great place to begin since "You know everyone", as Rebecca says!  Unfortunately, the first week of my summer consisted of sickness, so Rebecca found me to still be a croupy mess.  Regardless, she rescued me from my bed and we made our first trip to the Stockton Farmer's Union Mercantile and Shipping Association.

We met with Deb Miller, the FIRST WOMAN and current General Manager of the Stockton Co-Op on Tuesday, May 28th.  She helped us begin our search with a write up of the speech she gave at the 100th Annual Stockholder's Meeting.  It included information such as the first directors, the difference in farming now as compared to the early 1900s, and a list of the century families.  The century families, as you may have guessed, are the families that have been with the Co-Op for the past 100 years.  I'm proud to say that my friend, Tyler Muir, is a part of the only three generation century family.  Go Muir's!  That's an AMAZING accomplishment!

After our trip to the Co-Op, we visited the Rooks County Historical Society, where Janet Chesney was happy to help us find some spectacular photographs.  Of course, you can NEVER spend just a few moments in the historical society.  We enjoyed coming across other photos and memorabilia as well, such as classic photos of my great-uncle, Robert Chesney.  How fun!

That evening we returned back to my family's farm for dinner and to recap our day.  We didn't have much, but we knew it was a start.  We were also able to create some great interview questions pertaining to things such as Rural Electric and the beginning of the hedging of grain. This is where I would like to thank Dr. Joseph Arata for helping me understand what HEDGING means in the first place!  His Grain and Livestock Marketing Class was great prep for this internship! :)

The next morning was somewhat dreary and Mrs. Miller was out of the office for the day.  So, Rebecca and I went to the Stockton Public Library to do something I had NO experience with...working a microfilm machine.  We searched high and low through multiple issues of the Rooks County Record (Now known as the Stockton Sentinel) and the Kansas History book shelves only to find a few articles paraphrasing the minutes of a few annual meetings.  I guess you win some, you lose some.

We returned home that night weary, and we kept wondering how in the world we were going to buzz through all of our selected co-ops in 2.5 months.  Not to worry, though.  Thursday promised not only lots of information, but FUN new experiences!  Getting some sleep also helped :)

The next morning after coffee on the porch and a game of fetch with the dogs, we took ourselves to the co-op to go through YEARS worth of meeting minutes.  We had everything from annual meeting minutes to board director's minutes, which were more frequent meetings.  One very important asset to our research, was Mrs. Miller.  She was VERY helpful, and graciously allowed us to take over her meeting table with minutes, photographs and our portable scanner.  Through the minutes and a short history written by Jean Lindsey, a friend of mine, we were able to see AMAZING sustainability.  The people of the co-op handled themselves well through fires, tornadoes, drought, debt and so much more, all without the need for consolidation.  Makes me proud to be from that small town, if I may say so!

While speaking with Mrs. Miller, Rebecca asked a good question: What is a "leg"?  The word is used numerous times while speaking about the building of elevators, and it was throwing us for a loop.  Mrs. Miller described it as a series of little buckets along a conveyor belt that transports the grain to the designated bin.  Then, we were given the honor of actually SEEING a leg and the inside of the elevator!  Ray Niblock, an employee of the co-op, gave us a wonderful tour through the elevator.  We rode up in a one-man elevator (that may or may not have given me a little anxiety going through the dark elevator shaft)  and were able to see the Woodston elevator, which is 10 miles away, from the top, let alone the whole town of Stockton!  He showed us how the leg worked at the very bottom as well as the very top of the elevator.  At the top, which we found most interesting, he was able to open each numbered hole which led to a bin where the grain would be held.  He then moved the downward spout of the leg over top of which ever bin he saw fit and it would then drain..had there been any grain to deposit at the time!  Rebecca had an absolute hay day (no pun intended?)!  Rebecca was excited to learn more about the agricultural way of life I grew up with, and I was excited for her.  It was an amazing feeling to actually get out of an office and see what we're working with.  We then travelled back down the elevator shaft to return to the office.  We finished our trip by scanning some awesome photos that just put the icing on the days events.

So, that would bring us back here to my front porch.  All we really have left to do is consolidate our load of information and Stockton will be complete.  Rebecca will return home tomorrow for a few days, then join me back at the farm to travel to Osborne, and hopefully, Mitchell Counties next week!  I hope you enjoyed our first trip, and we hope you'll follow us on others to come.  We hope to have some photos posted at a later date for you to see, so stick with us, and thank you for your support!

BIG Thanks again to Janet Chesney, Ray Niblock and, last but not least, Deb Miller.  Thanks for making it smooth sailing!

--Go State!
From the Top of the Elevator!!

An awesome capture of the 1944 Fire.

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