Lazy-T-Ranch

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. And we’re in luck because we’re on the Lazy-T-Ranch, just east of Manhattan here in Riley County, and we’re on a regular farming operation-Ron Wilson’s. But we’re also on an agritourism operation as well, so stay with us, we’ll be right and explore more about agritourism in Kansas.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Jim) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer, your host and we’re in luck today because we’re on the Lazy-T-Ranch, just east of Manhattan and we have co-owner here, Ron Wilson with us. And Ron’s gonna be talking to us about his operation and how they’ve kind of adapted to the 21st Century in that regard. So Ron, kind of tell us a little bit about the history of your home place here. (Ron) This place was homesteaded in 1855 by a man named Enoch Persons. The story is that he came from New Hampshire and he took a train from New Hampshire to Fort Leavenworth and then rode a wagon pulled by a team of oxen out here to the Kansas River Valley, homesteaded in 1855, same year the city of Manhattan and Riley County were founded. There were five generations of the Persons family who lived here through the years and expanded the farm over the decades. (Jim) They started off with a quarter? (Ron) Right. (Jim) Quarter section. (Ron) Right, started off a quarter section and had it up to a section of ground Some Manhattan businessmen bought the place in 1958 and they gave it the name the Lazy-T-Ranch. (Jim) OK. (Ron) And then my folks bought in 1968 and our family’s been here ever since. (Jim) I see. So, let’s talk a little bit about the… about the farming operation. What has it been historically anyway? (Ron) This has been a diversified livestock, and crop operation. My Dad always had a herd of cows. And he would graze cattle on the wheat out here, raised wheat and milo and corn on occasion. And there’s meadows for hay ground as well as alfalfa. So, it’s been a diversified operation through the years. We’ve essentially maintained that after we came back to the ranch. (Jim) Yea, you’ve got some good alfalfa ground over… you’ve got good bottom ground, beans and corn, and of course, you’ve got pasture up on the hillside up there for the cow/calf operation. (Ron) Yes, and we have another place north of Manhattan which our family had operated before, so we’ve got 300 acres up there of about a third crop ground and two-thirds pasture. And then 400 acres here. (Jim) OK. (Ron) The Lazy-T-Ranch has some great history. In 1958 these Manhattan businessmen bought the place and it was Mr. Hunter, Lundberg and Ambrose. And they said, we are gonna have a ranch and we’re gonna have it here. It needs a brand and it needs a name. And so they were playing with the initials of the owners and they took, one man was named Mr. Ambrose, and the other one was named Ted. And so they took… they made it an open “A” and then the “T” from Ted. (Jim) Lazy T. (Ron) But in brand language a letter on its side would be a lazy letter. If it had wings it would be a flying “T.” If it had rocking chair feet, it would be a rocking “T” etc. But they put the “T” on its side called it the Lazy “T” Ranch and put a sign up at the highway and it’s been the Lazy-T-Ranch ever since. And when my folks moved here, my Mom said to my Dad, you know we’re the owners now and we can name it anything we want to. Dad said, Nope, it’s been the Lazy-T-Ranch all the years I’ve known it, it’s gonna stay the Lazy-T-Ranch and so it has ever since. (Jim) That’s some good history. Thanks for sharing this history of the place. And stay with us, we’ve gotta take a break here. And folks, stay with us, we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Jim Shroyer, your host. And with us we have Ron Wilson. And Ron has an interesting operation here, but Ron, this is kind of part of your whole deal. What’s your other hat that you wear? (Ron) Well my full-time position is as Director of the Huck Boyd Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University, which is a unit that works very closely with Extension Community Development. Our mission is to encourage rural people to help themselves. The Huck Boyd Institute strives to encourage community leaders in communities across the state to make their communities better. Our premise is that no one is going to ride in on a white horse from Washington, D.C., and rescue us. It has to be the communities themselves that step up, take ownership and enhance their communities and help their communities to succeed. We have tremendous energy in these rural communities that are a vital part of our history and we want to build on that and make it a vital part of Kansas for the future. (Jim) OK. So, there’s an aspect that we want to get to here – agritourism. So, how has that related to the Huck Boyd Institute and how’s the agritourism taking off in the state. (Ron) Yes. As we work with rural communities across the state we encourage them to think strategically about what assets they have, how can they build on those and grow those? And so we talk about growing your own businesses, but agritourism is an excellent strategy for our rural communities. These rural communities are great places to live. Farm people are the world’s finest folks. And so, could you build on that? Could you invite guests to come out, see the farms, and see where their food comes from? So, we talked about rural communities using agritourism as a strategy? Then I came to realize that it was actually something my wife and I could practice ourselves on our own family ranch. And so we saw agritourism as an opportunity for us. (Jim) I’m guessing there’s a whole range of how this works. I mean, I’m sure there’s bed and breakfast, hay rack rides, chuck wagon feeds. I mean, I’m guessing there’s a whole range. (Ron) There sure is and we have seen people who have really specialized in weddings, we’ve seen people…we don’t have a lot of dude ranches in Kansas. But there are some who do provide an experience where you come out and can participate in a cattle drive. The Flint Hills region is a great one for trail rides and participating in a ranching operation. So, there are a lot of people who are actively working on different things. (Jim) Ron, good. We gotta take a break. But I want to come back and talk about what you’re doing in that aspect. So, folks stay with us. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer and I’m glad to see you got that cup of coffee in your hand there. With us we still have Ron Wilson of the Lazy-T-Ranch, just east of Manhattan. And Ron just before break we were taking about agritourism in general, but I want to know how you were practicing what you were preaching with Huck Boyd Institute. So tell us a little bit about your corner of the agritourism business. (Ron) Well, I really credit 4H. (Jim) The 4H organization? (Ron) The 4H organization. (Jim) Alright. (Ron) Our kids were active in 4H and we were at a 4H meeting and said, what could we do for fun this fall? Well, let’s go over the the Wilson’s place and have a hay rack ride and a bonfire. And we had a lot of fun. We put some bales on the hay rack and went out across the meadow, gathered around for a bonfire and some S’mores and it was a lot of fun. And we’d been talking about agritourism as a strategy, realized it was something that was fun and got… (Jim) Got the wheels going, got the wheels turning. (Ron) Got the wheels turning. Absolutely. (Jim) OK. (Ron) Well, and in addition our kids were all, they were taking specialty animals as one of their 4H projects. (Jim) Oh right, right. (Ron) So goats and even llamas in addition to the beef and hogs. And I said to my wife, some of these agritourism people go out and get a petting zoo. We’ve already got a petting zoo just with our 4H animals! So, we do special events here at the Lazy-T-Ranch, by appointment, evenings and weekends, to manage with everything else. We have a fall festival, weekends in October where we invite people to come in and participate in activities. (Jim) We’ll talk more in detail about that in a minute. (Ron) That’d be great. And then everything else we do by appointment – birthday parties, corporate events, family dinners even weddings are taking place here at the Lazy-T. (Jim) OK, so you have buildings dedicated to the big events like weddings… (Ron) Exactly. (Jim)… and barn dances and that sort of thing. (Ron) We have several places where people can do outdoor weddings and that’s really what we do, typically on the weddings is they have the weddings outdoors. But we have a building that was originally built as a machine shed where we put down a floor, and now it has become our event center. So, we can have a couple hundred people in a wedding reception and dinner, inside that building, it’s called the Tallgrass Arena. Cowboy Cafe is this building here, originally it had been kind of my wife’s office building for her work. Now, it has become an event center as well. (Jim) OK. Other facilities? Over here you’ve got just more barns. Just for the livestock, right? (Ron) Yes. That old stone barn we think was built in the 1860’s. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. So, it’s one of these classic, old stone barns. It’s still in use for livestock and hay storage and feed. (Jim) OK. (Ron) But then we can, what really makes it special is the Kansas River Valley and the Flint Hills. Because it’s a beautiful part of Kansas. (Jim) Right. I see you’ve got a hay maze. Instead of a corn maze, you’ve got a hay maze. And I’m thinking that I don’t think I’ve seen alfalfa bales used as a maze. I see you’ve got some prairie hay in there too. But you’ve got alfalfa as walls for the maze. (Ron) Absolutely, I think it’s the way agritourism ought to work. You take what you have which in this case are the big round bales we use for livestock feed. And instead of putting them in a row, we found we could put ’em in a maze and the kids come out here and have a blast going through there. (Jim) Ron stay with us, we gotta take a break here. Folks, stay with us. We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. With us we still have Ron Wilson of the Lazy-T-Ranch, just east of Manhattan. And Ron, you alluded to a Fall Festival a second ago. So, tell us a little bit more, what you got going on that? (Ron) During the weekends in October, we have a Fall Festival which includes a pumpkin patch, pony rides, hayrack rides, bounce houses, barn tours, petting zoo. We do those activities on the weekends in the fall. So, that’s when people pay at the gate and then they can come in and just enjoy a slide on the side of the Flint Hills. (Jim) I think I may try that later. (Ron) And the hay bale maze. They’re all family friendly activities that kids can do and end up with a pumpkin for Halloween. (Jim) So, how has that grown over time? It’s not a light switch on a business here. It’s more like a dimmer switch, you know? (Ron) That’s right. The best thing is to start slow and we didn’t have a great business plan. We found we enjoyed doing this… (Jim) Don’t tell that. (Ron) And start you know inviting friends and neighbors to come over and it has grown. We think we had some 1,300 hundred people participating over the whole month of October in the fall of 2014. And we’ve done extra fun things. We did a haunted hay rack ride right at Halloween time. And then in July we also have an event for the National Day of the Cowboy. (Jim) Right. (Ron) And we’ll have some entertainers come here and have a BBQ supper and we offer BBQ by appointment year around. (Jim) OK. (Ron) But we have those two special events. (Jim) Ron, one of the first things I noticed when we drove up was these designs on the different sheds that you have. Those are great designs. Tell us a little bit about those. (Ron) Those are called barn quilts. And the phenomenon really began I think in the state of Ohio, and they worked their way west. These people will take an actual quilt square, the design off of an actual quilt and they’ll get that painted onto a board, a panel and attach it to a barn. And they call that a barn quilt. It’s a way of displaying that design and they’re now actually people who are traveling around following quilt trails, to see… (Jim) Really? (Ron) …different quilts and learn the stories. (Jim) So, what have you got here? And you got a little bit of a story here, let’s unfold that or let’s look at it here. Tell us what you got? (Ron) This was my wife’s Great Grandmother’s quilt. And we have this picture of her Great Grandmother quilting this very quilt, decades and decades ago. This quilt won a blue ribbon in the Heritage Division at the Kansas State Fair. And then we used that design to paint this barn quilt attached to our barn and that’s the first… (Jim) Oh yea, I see…of course I see the designs here. (Ron) …this is the first barn quilt in Riley County and now there are a lot of people who are adding their attractive designs to their barns and sheds around Kansas. (Jim) I think that’s a great idea. That’s just wonderful because there’s some really good art in these quilts. Folks, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. We still have Ron Wilson with us here and in this last session here Ron, just kind of wrap up about the agritourism and how folks can get ahold of you to come to it. (Ron) We think agritourism is a good opportunity for farmers and ranchers. You need to do your homework when you get started and we enjoy having people out. We had a family stay at our guest house. They came from Denver. And the girls got such a kick out of gathering the eggs at night and making them for breakfast the next morning. But if people want to come here our website is www.lazytranchadventures.com. (Jim) OK. All one word with a dot in there. Right. (Ron) Right. (Jim) OK. Now Ron, I know you work for the Huck Boyd Institute and I know you have this agritourism activity going on, but you’re also a cowboy poet. In fact, you recited some cowboy poetry just recently here at the Governor’s inauguration. So, tell us, how did you get into that? (Ron) Well, my Dad was a farmer. My Mother was a teacher and a writer. (Jim) Oh, OK. (Ron) So, I think those interests kind of came together. But back in the 1990’s I discovered cowboy poetry. I’d always been a cowboy at heart. And I started writing and performing cowboy poetry. And we have a lot of fun doing it and now there’s a number of cowboy poets around Kansas. It’s a great way to celebrate our Kansas history and heritage and the great American cowboy legacy we have right here in Kansas. (Jim) There’s some conventions or meetings across the country that… do you attend those? (Ron) Yea. There are gatherings and different kinds of things. Some we put together. There’s a Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association that sponsors some events. We have a Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest which I chair, that’s coming up in conjunction with the Symphony in the Flint Hills. (Jim) Now, you haven’t won your own contest now have you? (Ron) No, no, no conflict of interest there. (Jim) OK, I thought there might be… (Ron) I probably couldn’t win it. But I did manage to win a trophy buckle in Dodge City one time. But there’s a lot of people who just come out and enjoy the cowboy poetry. It’s a fun way to celebrate the heritage we have. (Jim) Well, Ron, where can someone see some of your poetry? How do they get a hold of it? (Ron) Well, we do have a website for that as well and that’s www.ronscowboypoetry.com and the good folks at AGam are kind enough to let me appear on this show as well. (Jim) Well, that’s right cause folks can see you on Wednesday morning early, on Kansas AGam. And Ron, I really appreciate you taking time, sharing with us your operation and things that you do. And folks, don’t forget, next Friday we’ll be right here for 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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