Jim and Sharon Zwonitzer and Bill and Ruth Pracht

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. Today we’ve got something a little bit different. Eric Atkinson will introduce you to Jim and Sharon Zwonitzer and Bill and Ruth Pracht, the new inductees into the 2014 Master Farmer – Master Farmer Homemaker Class.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer and we want to introduce you to the 2014 Master Farmer-Master Farmer Homemaker Class and right now we want to introduce you to Jim and Sharon Zwonitzer. (Eric) Though he attended Kansas State University to earn a degree in Agricultural Education, it was all but predestined that Jim Zwonitzer would return to the family farm in western Atchison County, northeast Kansas. Upon graduating from Atchison County Community High School in 1961 and then K-State in 1965, Jim taught vocational agriculture for seven years at schools not far from the home place, finally beginning farming full time with his father in 1972. Sharon also grew up in that same area, also graduating from Atchison County High in 1966 and after finishing two years at Highland Community College, she and Jim married and embarked on their farming life together. In addition to typical farm wife duties, Sharon worked in two small local cafes for 25 years. Jim is a member of several commodity organizations, but over the years has been a prominent leader in the Kansas and American Soybean Associations, responsibilities that have taken him and Sharon on many journeys promoting U.S. soybean sales domestically and abroad. Their daughter Jeannie and her husband are raising their family nearby. Son John and his wife are currently in Texas where he is a leading corn geneticist for Dow Agro Sciences. Jim credits his early experiences in two youth organizations as the inspiration for his farming career. (Jim) Well, I always did enjoy 4-H and agriculture and FFA and vocational ag in high school. Roy Eck was a great inspiration to every one that took his classes. (Eric) Let’s visit about the operation present day. It’s heavy on the crop side, is it not, Jim? (Jim) We have about 1,200-1,300 acres of cropland and about 50/50 on soybeans and corn. And then we raise a couple hundred acres of wheat just for rotation sake. (Eric) And you have a few cattle on the side, do you not? (Jim) We have Angus and tall cross cow herd. (Eric) When you look back to when you were growing up and then look at the operation present day, how has it changed? You’ve added acreage in all likelihood, but beyond that what has changed? (Jim) Technology’s really changed, in the bag as well as in the equipment. It’s amazing, the changes we’ve seen. (Eric) How about mechanical technology such as yield monitors, auto steer? Have you invested in that yet? (Jim) We’ve got one tractor with guidance and GPS for spreading fertilizer and doing that type of work. And combine’s got a yield monitor on it. (Jim) Stay tuned for after the break when we wrap up with Jim and Sharon.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host, and stay with us as we wrap up our conversation with Jim and Sharon. (Eric) Sharon, might note that as a farm wife, you also had a career off the farm. You were working in a cafe locally for almost a quarter century, is that right? (Sharon) Almost 25 years, almost. Yes. (Eric) Visit about that experience a bit, what got you down that path? And you stayed with it, obviously for a while. (Sharon) My daughter started working in a local restaurant, and when she went back to school in the fall why I took over and worked in the winter time when she was in school. Then she would go back and work in the summer time. And that’s why I really went to the restaurants. (Eric) So, you worked basically during the winter months, is that correct? (Sharon) Yes, when she was in school. (Eric) And then go back on the farm? (Sharon) And then after she got out of school, I just stayed. (Eric) Did it mesh well with farm activities? Because you were a self described gopher for the operation. (Sharon) Yea, right. Yea, cause I usually had pretty good hours. Like I usually worked from 7 to 2, and then that way in the afternoon, I could do other things, go for parts and this and that. (Eric) One of the things that you’ve been involved with, Jim speak to this, you’ve been involved in high quality seed dealerships for quite some time. (Jim) We’ve been a seed dealer to local neighboring farmers for Hoegemeyer for 25-30 years. We raised some certified seed beans for Hoegemeyer for several years. Any how, we’ve enjoyed working with customer’s seeds and Hoegemeyer’s been good to us. It’s a family owned company, that now is owned by DuPont, a division of Pioneer. (Eric) And as part of that one of the things you often do is provide a field day for producers to come in and see what’s going on out in the field then? (Jim) We have a test plot tour in the summertime. Sharon provides supper and we have our picnic at the county lake and it’s a family picnic. (Eric) And we want to talk about some of your travels as well, associated with your activities with the Soybean Association here in Kansas and even beyond. Jim you have delved deeply into this over the years. (Jim) It’s been an experience I really enjoyed from the standpoint, years ago I got asked if I’d serve on the Soybean Association Board. I served three years as membership chairman, one of those years we got recognized at Commodity Classic down in Tampa for being second place winner in the… (Sharon) Membership. (Jim) Membership and so we we’re very fortunate. Then the last ten years I’ve served on the commission and that’s been a rewarding experience working with the Checkoff Dollars, and investing them and several of those dollars are invested in research and activity at K-State. I got to represent our commission on the USPEEC Board, U.S. Poultry, Egg and Export Council. And we have traveled to…Sharon traveled with me to Hong Kong, to Bolnisi, Georgia. This March we will be going to Vancouver. The first year I was involved in it, we were in Panama, Panama City. (Eric) We do want to spend a few moments talking about your children and their upbringing as well here on the farm. You’ve two, correct? (Sharon) Correct. (Eric) And one is still very much local and the other one has gone on to a very fine career in the crop science business. Let’s talk about Jean for a moment if we might. (Sharon) Right now she’s a stay at home Mom and she enjoys that. (Eric) And then your son John went to Kansas State, earned a degree and found crop research very much to his liking. (Jim) He came home, the spring he graduated, and spent a couple of weeks spring planting time, and he had to take off for Virginia Tech. And so, he was in the small grains and grain seed technology genetics and got his Master’s. Went to Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma. He went to NC State in Raleigh, had a great corn breeder to work with. (Eric) So, this led to John being inspired to make it a full career. (Jim) Yes. (Eric) In crop genetics, corn genetics specifically then. (Jim) He’s with Dow Chemical Company, Mycogen Seed, in seed corn breeding. (Eric) We’d like to finish up by having each of you offer a thought or two on what this recognition as Master Farmer-Master Farm Homemaker means to you. Sharon, we’d like to start with you. (Sharon) I was just very much surprised. I know we filled out the application, but I figured there’s probably no chance in getting in it this year. It’s just great. (Eric) Thank you. (Jim) Very rewarding experience and we thank Ray Ladd for his work and his effort in asking us to consider applying and we’re deeply gratified that we get to be one of the recipients. Thank you. (Eric) Recognition well deserved and congratulations to the both of you. (Jim) Stay tuned for after the break when we meet Bill and Ruth Pracht.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer and we want to introduce you to the 2014 Master Farmer-Master Farmer Homemaker Class. And right now we want you to introduce you to Bill and Ruth Pracht. (Eric) Though he has never lived away from the family farm in Anderson County, east central Kansas, Bill Pracht has been somewhat adventurous in his agricultural pursuits. After graduating from Garnett High School in 1975, Bill wasted no time joining right in with his parents’ farming operation. His wife Ruth also grew up in the Garnett area, but they didn’t actually get together until both were adults, marrying in 1984. Together they’ve built up their farming enterprise, consisting of nearly 1,900 acres, the main emphasis on grain production, but with a cow/calf and backgrounder herd as well. In addition they’re engaged in a local agri service operation with Bill’s brothers. And Bill is one of the founding fathers of a major grain ethanol plant that thrives near Garnett. (Eric) Let’s talk a bit about the operation today and it is largely crop production with a few cattle included, a cow/calf herd. Is that right? (Bill) That’s correct, yea. Corn, soybeans, a little bit of wheat and then I partner on the cow herd with my brother John. And then all three of us brothers, Dave, John and I own machinery together. We own some land together. And so it’s a very loose partnership. Today the three of us will have 350 cows, 3,000 plus acres, tillable acres. It just seems like when an opportunity comes, if one brother wants to take it on by himself, if it works best for him, that’s how it is. And then in times we’ve combined and purchased things together. And most all of our machinery is purchased somehow together. (Eric) Now Ruth, to bring you back in, you worked full time off the farm? (Ruth) When I first married Bill, I worked in Osawatomie at a bank and I worked there five years. And kept looking closer to home, finally found an attorney in Garnett and he hired me and I worked there five years. And then I went to the high school when a position came open there and I was there ever since. (Eric) Part of what the both of you offer now in addition to your farming is agricultural service. Bill you might talk about that aspect of your operation. (Bill) Today… and also in this with my brothers and two other partners, that we own a grain elevator, feed store, and we have our own privately labeled company, Esme’s Nutrition and we cater to… on the feed side of it, to a lot of dairy. We have one of our owners is a nutritionist, so we have our own nutritionist. And so we’re able to…anybody changes feeds one day or not, especially in dairies, that can throw cows off. And so, we’re service oriented in the feed business. So, we’ve been involved in that for 10 years. (Eric) And another venture that you were in on the ground floor in creating and you’re still prominent in it today, an ethanol plant near Garnett, East Kansas – Kansas Ag Energy. (Bill) That’s right. (Eric) Talk about what got you headed in that direction, for that probably at some point was a leap of faith as that venture got going? (Bill) Oh, it certainly was. And we ended up with 700 investors that took a leap of faith with us. We started the plant in 2005. We are now approaching our 10th anniversary of production. (Jim) Stayed tuned for after the break when we wrap up with Bill and Ruth.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. Stay with us as we wrap up our conversation with Bill and Ruth. (Eric) Let’s talk community development and more specifically 4-H activities and involvement. I’ll let you Ruth expand on that a bit. Your youngsters went through the program, and you two were staunch and activity adult leaders. (Ruth) When Erica was old enough to get started, we got her started at seven. And a couple of years into it, I was a community leader and served as a community leader until all of ’em were gone. And each one of my kids achieved their… received their key award, which is the ultimate goal. (Eric) Let’s go ahead and talk about what your young people are doing currently and you hinted at a couple of things there. But Erica is married? (Ruth) Yes, she’s been married for six years. And her and her husband Nick live in Joplin and they have a four year old son and little Eva should be coming in two weeks. (Bill) She works for U.S. Bank and Nick’s a police officer in Joplin area. (Eric) We’ll come back to Ethan in just a second. But Wyatt is currently a student at K-State. (Ruth) He’s a sophomore at K-State, yes, yes. Majoring in Ag Econ with a minor in Law. (Eric) Then lastly Ethan, because he is farming actively now with the two of you. (Bill) Yes. (Eric) As well as has his own place, right? (Bill) That is correct. He worked on a ranch for three years. And then he’s been back here now two years. And so we’re getting him started in the beef industry. He really enjoys the cattle side of it more than he does the farming side of it. ( Jim) Last thing here, ask each of you to remark on what this recognition as Master Farmer-Master Farm Homemaker means to each of you? (Ruth) Means the world. Bill’s parents were Master Farmer-Homemaker, but it is quite an honor. Having gone to the banquet and knowing what does take place, it’s…more than words. (Bill) Yep. We’re tickled to death. And you know now…it’s not just your county anymore, it’s your three county district that we’re in and that they asked us to do it was…(Ruth) Very surprising. (Bill) Surprising. But we’re glad to have it and… (Ruth) Yes. (Bill) …we know we’re going to be joining a great group of people that are already the members and we want to congratulate the people that are going in with us today. (Eric) Well, congratulations to the both of you. (Bill and Ruth) Thank you very much. (Eric) Bill and Ruth Pracht, Kansas Master Farmer-Master Farm Homemaker, Class of 2014. (Jim) Well folks, I hope you enjoyed today’s show. And don’t forget next Friday at this same time, we’ll be back with another issue of That’s My Farm.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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