Author: Kate Campbell (Page 1 of 28)

Scott Thellman, Ag Entrepreneur

Scott Thellman, a first generation farmer, tells the story of how he started Juniper Hills Farms in 2006. His business savvy, interest in distribution systems, and passion for agriculture have meshed in this new enterprise.

It all began when Scott’s family moved to the country north of Lawrence in 1999. He began helping the man who rented the property with production work. 

Even in high school, Thellman began to purchase equipment to cut and bale hay.  Loving the work and realizing that he could make money, he bought more and better equipment with a youth loan he received from a USDA program. Even before graduating from high school, he expanded his operation to include more hay land and specialty crops.

After trying out several different university ag programs, Thellman graduated in 2014 with a degree in agri-business, economics, agronomy, and leadership.   About that time, he used what he was learning about food aggregation and local food distribution systems to leverage his investment in a large refrigerated truck by distributing for other producers as well as for himself. 

Growth was  steady until COVID hit.  At that point, Spellman adapted to the closing of his traditional markets in restaurants, schools, and grocery stores by creating Sunflower Provisions, doing pick up and deliver in and around Lawrence and expanding to serve more producers.

What lies ahead? For one thing, Juniper Hills will soon establish an industrial kitchen in North Lawrence. Spellman envisions producing salsa and marinara sauce using vegetables that might otherwise be wasted. He would also like to add to production of food-grade corn and soybeans.

Spellman will continue to experiment with ways to vertically integrate his business, a slow and steady growth pattern he believes is destined for success.

George Washington Carver Has Ties to Kansas

Most Kansans do not realize the connection that George Washington Carver has to the state.  Rotarian Jim Peters explained that Carver not only attended school in Kansas but also homesteaded here early in his life.

A scientist, inventor, artist, and musician, Carver was born a slave around 1864 in Missouri on the farm of Moses and Susan Carver, a couple who were among the first settlers in the area.  Carvers were unionists and anti-slavery.  When the Civil War ended, the Carvers rescued George and his half-brother  and raised them as their own children. 

Because he was sickly, Susan kept George away from heavy outdoor work and taught him to help with  household chores.  Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and performing other domestic tasks turned out to be the way that Carver earned his way through school.  As early as age 10, he walked to the town of Neosho, Missouri, to attend the only school available to Black children, rooming there with Mariah Watkins, herself a former slave, in exchange for doing domestic chores.

When the talented boy needed a better school, he moved to Fort Scott, Kansas, 75 miles away and once again cooked and cleaned for wealthy families in order to stay support himself.  During that time, Carver witnessed a lynching, upsetting him so much that he left the city.  Eventually, he earned a high school diploma in  Minneapolis, KS.

When Carver was denied admission to a college in Kansas City because of race, he decided to take advantage of the Homestead Act and try farming, joining a friend to start the town of Beeler in central Kansas.  He soon realized that farming was not what he wanted to do, so he went to Iowa to attend college again, enrolling at Simpson in Indianola where he studied art.  Carver studied agriculture at Iowa State University in Ames, IA, again supporting himself with a laundry business.  He was the first Afro-American to earn a Masters degree in agriculture. 

Booker T. Washington recruited George to teach at Tuskegee University in 1896.  Carver spent the remainder of his life there, teaching, starting the agriculture department at the school, and inventing numerous items to improve farm production processes.

Humanities Kansas Reaches Out

Leslie Vanholten, Director of Grants and Outreach for Humanities Kansas, relishes talking about the humanities.   The core of her message is this statement from the Humanities Kansas website:  “We believe that stories carry our culture and ideas change the world.”  

Defining the word “humanities” is often difficult.  Many associate it with a high school or college survey course in literature.  But Vanholten broadens the concept, emphasizing that “the humanities help us understand what it means to be human — to seek connections with people and place.  As we draw on our diverse histories, literature, ethics and cultures, we see more clearly who we are as people and define ideas that will shape a future worthy of generations to come.”

Humanities Kansas is a non-profit funded primarily by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH).  NEH was established in the late 1960’s as a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  The Kansas entity was established in 1972.   Money from the State of Kansas and from private donations make up the balance of the annual budget.  

Humanities Kansas distributed  grants to fund a variety of initiatives.  The primary criteria is that the humanities needs to be central to the proposal.  Many rural communities take advantage of the Speakers Bureau to stimulate ideas among residents.  Others use the book discussion leaders provided in the Talk About Literature program.  Museum on Mainstreet brings displays from the Smithsonian Institute on the road to small-town Kansas.  Collaboration on “Words of a Feather” has brought poetry and art together in a small book that has been placed in hotel rooms and cabins at state parks, on food trays for Meals on Wheels recipients, in local arts centers, and elsewhere across the state. 

DG Henricks Plans to Make an Impact!

President Lee Anne Thompson presents DG Vern Henricks with the Lawrence Central Rotary Club banner.

District Governor 5710 Vern Henricks strives to make an impact.  His resume is impressive, but most notable is his commitment to serve in ways that make a difference in the world.  The theme for Rotary International this year is “Serve to Change Lives,” fitting neatly with Henricks’ personal philosophy.  

Henricks has stepped forward in the past decade to assist a school in Haiti financially.  As a member of its board, he worked to place native-born, business-oriented Haitians into leadership.  He has donated to a Rotary youth program in Haiti to provide school supplies to the children.  He speaks enthusiastically about meeting with a Rotaract Club in Haiti and about a non-profit based in St. Louis that provides “Med and Food for Kids” in that country. 

Now Henricks is focused on making an impact as District Governor.  One way of doing so is to work toward continuity of ideas and programs.  To that end, Henricks is convening past and upcoming District Governors in District 5710 for regular conversations. 

He also believes that Rotarians can do better at communicating what we do, so he intends to launch a podcast where Rotarians can find updates about District activities.  The District 5710 website will begin to feature the work of particular clubs each week.  He encourages clubs to undertake tangible service activities because such efforts are what will attract younger adults to join Rotary.  

Henricks encourages all Rotarians to attend the District Conference set for October 21-23 to learn more about what Rotary is doing locally, district-wide, and internationally.

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