Thursday, April 28, 2022

FarmHouse: A Hundred Years (Plus)


School kindergarteners usually celebrate 100 DAYS of school. To a kindergartener, 100 days seems like a really long time, especially when they have to help Mama glue 100 pompoms to a t-shirt (or some other commemorative effort).

Celebrating 100 YEARS doesn't often happen in this disposable, fast food society.  However, Randy and I were happy to be a part of celebrating 100 years of FarmHouse fraternity last weekend in Manhattan. Just like with many big events, the centennial was delayed from 2021, due to Covid. But it didn't seem to affect the crowd: More than 400 members, spouses, FarmHouse staff and guests attended the Kansas State FarmHouse Centennial Celebration, April 22-23, 2022. The guys gathered for a panorama shot after the banquet.

Photo by Photographer Cody Cramer

Our keynote speaker for the evening banquet was a FarmHouse alum, Randy Linville.  He owns his own consulting firm now and is a former CEO of the Scoular Grain Co. 

Randy Linville photo by Cody Cramer

In his remarks, he talked about how unusual it is to reach the 100-year mark as an organization.  For example, some of the hottest major brands today are also relatively young: Apple debuted in 1976, Amazon was launched in 1995, and Google didn’t fully hatch until 1998. Who knows whether they will be around to celebrate 100? My crystal ball is as cloudy as usual today. 

Actually, t
he percentage of U.S. companies that make it to the 100-year mark is such a small number, there is no clear go-to source for accurate data on the topic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that only 36 percent of companies last 10 years and about 21 percent survive to see their 20th anniversary. Beyond that, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that only about 12 percent of companies are older than 26 years.

My research found this: The prevailing theory, though unconfirmed, is that only about a half a percent (0.5%) of all companies have what it takes to last 100 years. This means that centennial organizations truly do have lots to celebrate. They’re so rare it’s difficult to calculate just how rare they are. 

Linville mentioned a few of them, like Coca Cola, Boeing and Harley-Davidson. I found a few more as I researched: J.C. Penney, UPS, L.L. Bean, Kraft, Kellogg's, Equifax (founded in 1889 under the name, Retail Credit Company) and Target (founded in 1902 as Goodfellow Dry Goods). 
Information from

So, FarmHouse fraternity is among rarefied air. However, Linville made another observation. Lasting power is also more prevalent in rural areas with "rural" values. More than a few of the FH alumni in that hotel banquet room are part of Century Farms, including Randy and me with a farm established in 1900. (For the record, there are lots of engineers, doctors, scientists, business CEOs, teachers, pilots and a myriad of other professions, too.)

I've spent some time thinking about the 100-year mark since then, and I realize that we are personally connected to several organizations which have already celebrated their centennials. These particular ones also have their roots in agriculture or rural areas:

  • Kansas 4-H program, 1906 (National 4-H program, 1902) 
  • Kanza Cooperative, (Iuka Co-op established 1915, a predecessor to Kanza. The Iuka Co-op is where I trucked wheat as a high school driver on my family's Pratt County farm.)
  • Kansas Farm Bureau, established 1919
  • Kansas Master Farmers and Master Farm Homemakers, established 1927 
And a special person in our life also celebrated 100 years, my Grandpa Shelby Neelly, who was born in 1904 and celebrated his 100th birthday in 2004.

Grandpa Neelly on his 100th birthday in 2004 with the great-grandkids:
Front row: Abby, Paige, Grandpa, Jill and Madison.
Back row: Blake, Brian and Brent.
Shelby Neelly was also a K-State football player.

Grandpa Neelly is also the reason for my personal connection to FarmHouse. And, in a roundabout way, I suppose he's responsible for my meeting Randy in the first place. While Little Sister groups are no longer "politically correct," they were a part of the college experience back in the 1970s. At FH, you had to have a connection to a FH man to be a Little Sister. That wasn't a prerequisite for a lot of fraternities, but it was FH's tradition. Grandpa Neelly definitely encouraged his granddaughters to explore that opportunity.

Yes, this photo of the FarmHouse Little Sisters is old enough to be yellowed. (A few years ago, my friend and fellow Little Sister, Shari, sent this photo to me via Facebook Messenger, and we attempted to identify all those pictured. We didn't do too badly in our efforts.)

Several of us gathered Saturday night for a photo after the banquet.

My sister, Lisa, was in a different room, but a couple of Little Sisters found her afterwards.
Cindy, Shari & Lisa
Anyway, Grandpa Neelly wasn't one of the Founding Fathers. But as part of the Pledge Class of 1927, he was certainly an early member. And he was proud of his affiliation with FarmHouse - from that beginning in 1927 until the day he died. 

Both Lisa and I married FarmHouse guys. My brother, Kent, and his son, Brian, were FH men. Lisa's husband, Kyle, was a FH guy, as was their son, Blake. Blake served as finance manager for a rebuilding/renovation project at the Kansas State University chapter house, which was also celebrated on Saturday. Our son-in-law, Eric - as well as his dad, uncle and Eric's two brothers - are FH alums. 

Even though Grandpa's been gone for years, it still seemed a little like he was part of the special day. Lisa snapped a photo of the Study Room at the chapter house, which was named in Grandpa's honor. 

Grandpa would have loved the centennial event.


Randy and his friend, Rex, who is a high school classmate as well as a FH brother, certainly did! We all got to visit with friends we hadn't seen in years.


Randy's name was on a plaque for the scholarship room. We took a photo - just in case people wouldn't believe it. He says it wouldn't have been a surprise for my name to be on a scholarship plaque. However, he says his inclusion on a plaque for grades is worth commemorating.

One of my favorite parts of the night was the guys singing together near the end. Since Randy and I weren't dating in college, I didn't ever get to hear "A FarmHouse Girl" sung to me for a pinning or an engagement.

Photos by Gina Dreher Photography, Wichita

But one of my (many) favorite moments from Jill's and Eric's wedding was when the FH guys at the reception surrounded Jill with a serenade. It never gets old to hear that harmony at the end. It gives me goosebumps every time!
What a perfect way to end a fun day celebrating FarmHouse fraternity, family and friendship! 

A FarmHouse Girl song.MOV from Kim Fritzemeier on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Praying for Rain


See that blob of red in the middle of the state of Kansas? We farm really close to that red blob. That's an area of extreme drought.

All the color on the map - from yellow to burgundy - means that much of the state desperately needs rain. We certainly do.

So in this pictorial 21st-of-the-month wheat crop update, moisture - or the lack thereof - is the overriding concern.

The wheat isn't very tall. Dry conditions contribute to that.

In a Facebook memory that came up on my news feed last week, I saw that in 2017, the wheat had already headed. (Click HERE for that post.) We aren't that far yet as we work our way toward our summer 2022 harvest.

 But the wheat has jointed. The bearded head of the wheat is in the wheat stalk and will emerge soon.

This chart on wheat development is from Oklahoma State University.

While moisture is the current limiting factor for this year’s harvest, the outlook is more nuanced than measuring the dust or raindrops in the gauge. According to Kansas Crop Progress and Condition report on April 17, issued by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the winter wheat crop's topsoil moisture supplies rated 33 percent very short, 30 percent short, 36 percent adequate and 1 percent slurpus. Subsoil rated 32 percent very short, 34 percent short, 34 percent adequate and 0 percent surplus. 

The field crop report rated the winter wheat crop as 11 percent very poor, 20 percent poor, 36 percent fair, 30 percent good and 3 percent excellent. Winter wheat jointed was 34 percent, behind 47 percent last year and 44 percent for the five-year average. 

A few areas got a little rain overnight on April 22 into April 23. We got less than 0.10 of an inch. 

Here's what it looked like during my first photo session on the 21st of a month - this one from back in October. For that whole blog post, click HERE.

October 2021

There is a chance for rain later this week. Let's hope this round doesn't miss us!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Last Load


I took this photo yesterday as a hay truck rumbled down a dusty dirt road toward another field. The photo itself is unremarkable. At that time, the skies were overcast, and the photo was shot through a dirty windshield with a cloud of dust stirred up on roads that haven't seen a rain for quite some time. It's not one of those photos that will end up enlarged in 16-by-20-inch format on my living room wall.

But it does represent the end of an era. The hay truck was on its way to one last hay field to collect our final alfalfa harvest. And, for Randy, it signaled the end of a way of life for the past 50-plus years. 

In reality, Randy has been working in hay fields much of his life - and, yes, that's longer than 50 years. Even before he was the farmer responsible, he helped as his family put up hay each summer. As is true with most "vintage" farmers, there are plenty of stories in the memory banks about bucking hay bales onto trailers and maneuvering them into hay lofts. 

But it was also a hay field where he began his "adult" farming journey. As a high school sophomore, Randy's Great-Uncle Glenn gave him the opportunity to put up hay on his ground. Randy got a share of the hay. 


Undated photo, but probably the mid-'90s. Randy with Uncle Glenn during wheat harvest as we harvested his crop. 

It was the start of Randy's own farming journey, independent of his dad. Last June, I wrote a blog post about it. (You can click HERE for the whole blog post.)

Back in the day, he used the alfalfa field as an FFA project, so we had some photos and descriptions of the experience (along with some really snazzy photos of Randy modeling clothes from the 1970s, including his letter jacket paired with plaid pants.)

Click on these images to enlarge them and read the text written by Randy for the FFA report.

As a senior, Randy won a crop production award in the South Central area of FFA. He still has the plaque on our office wall.

Sometimes, he has trucked the hay himself to various buyers. (You can read about that HERE and HERE.) However, this time a trucker with Sebes Hay out of Larned came to collect the final truckloads of the hay we harvested last summer. 

We fed some of the bales last summer, but with the Millers taking over the day-to-day care and feeding of the cattle this winter, we sold 10 loads of hay to Sebes for $150 a ton.


Randy operated the loader tractor as the truck driver gave him hand signals for placing the bales.

The process has always reminded me of a giant Jenga game - but there are more consequences with the pieces falling over when you're talking 1,500-pound bales!

No hay bales tumbled off, however. Thankfully, both of these guys were experienced in the fine art of bale stacking.

This is not the end. We still have our wheat harvest this summer and a farm sale scheduled for August. But there still were a few heartstrings tugged as we completed yet another task and the truck rumbled away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Spring Pea Salad


I love a good-quality spiral ham for a holiday family meal. Most of the time, beef dominates our dinner table, since I have a freezer full of it, so it's nice to serve something out of the ordinary on a holiday menu.

But as much as I love ham - and the leftovers - I decided to go a different route for our small Easter dinner this year. 

Since our only guests were my parents, I opted to have a ham and cheese quiche as our main dish. It's usually something I make with my ham leftovers.

This year, I went directly to quiche for the main dish. Instead of leftover ham, I went with a package of cubed ham to jump start the recipe. It was super quick and easy, especially since I already had a pie crust in in the freezer. 

With spring and Easter on the mind, I still wanted the side dishes to have that springtime look and feel. This Spring Pea Salad went together quickly and was a delicious accompaniment to the festivities. I also did steamed carrots topped with Parmesan cheese and a fresh fruit salad. I had some homemade crescent rolls in the freezer. It made for a colorful and festive Easter plate!

 My usual go-to pea salad is a marinated version. I love it, too. 

  Marinated Vegetable Salad

But for this go-around, I opted for the creamy version often found at buffets or church potlucks. Sign me up for anything with sharp cheddar cheese! 

To make this salad even simpler, you can use high-quality packaged bacon bits instead of crisping it up yourself. While the original recipe called for red onion, I used green onions for a milder "bite."

For dessert, it was a family favorite - Lemonade Dessert. (After looking at my 2010 photo, I realize I need to take a new photo. But I promise: The recipe is a favorite among all my kids and granddaughters.)

While Easter is past, this salad would be a wonderful side dish for your next church potluck, BBQ or family gathering. 

Spring Pea Salad
Adapted from Mom on Timeout
16 ounces frozen peas
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 small red onion, diced (I used green onions for milder taste)
1/4 pound bacon, cooked and finely chopped


1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Remove peas from freezer and place in a colander and allow to slightly thaw while preparing the dressing.
In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Add the peas, bacon, cheddar cheese, and red onion and fold/stir to combine. Chill the salad for at least one hour before serving. The salad can be made up to 3 days in advance. 
Note: You may substitute packaged real bacon bits to make this salad go together even more quickly.