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Class XII Curriculum

Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program

Seminar IX

Northwest Oklahoma Agriculture and Industry

Wednesday, August 24th
Scribe: Jeff Ball

We began Seminar 9 in the same manner as other seminars by getting up early in the morning, knowing that Dr. Williams has a long exciting day planned for the group. Some of the class met the Village Tours bus in OKC at 6:30 a.m., while others met us at the location of our first stop in Hennessy, Oklahoma. Jennifer Mock, Staff Writer, The Oklahoman accompanied us during the seminar.

Our first visit was at the Miller Game Farm in Hennessy. Don Miller, owner/operator, has been raising and selling game birds for over 20 years. Born and raised near Hennessy, he started raising quail chicks to train bird dogs. In his first year of production he hatched and grew 3,000 chicks. Demand from friends quickly grew, doubling his production in his second year. In his third year, production doubled again. Recognizing the demand for game birds, he began growing in size raising not only quail, but pheasant and chukars as well. Don markets eggs, chicks and mature birds of each species. He markets his birds domestically, personally delivering birds throughout Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Most of his demand is for mature birds for hunting. Don sells three to four quail for every pheasant or chukar. A question from the group asked about pen raised birds ability to survive in the wild. Don replied that most will not only survive, but reproduce, except for chukars, which are not native and will not survive in our climate.

Don’s hatchery is impressive with a capacity of 80,000 eggs. He has two incubators which he fills to 1/3 capacity each week to stagger hatching. The incubators simulate what a hen on a nest does by rotating the eggs 45 degrees once per hour. Eggs are in the hatchery for about 23 days each (21 days in the incubator and 2 days in the hatchery). He starts each year with 6,000 quail (along with mature pheasant and chukars) to supply eggs for the hatchery. Each quail will lay one egg per day through the summer. Laying starts in May and ends in late August. Don’s percent hatch is greater the 90%. He compared his operation to a dairy for its demand for time and attention.

After hatching, he transfers his young chicks to the chick barn where they stay for approximately six to eight weeks (if not sold). After this time he considers these birds as mature, and they are moved to the mature bird pens. The group was quick to notice that some pens were infested with weeds (common lambquarters) while other pens were clean. The weeds have a purpose by providing cover for pheasant, while both the quail and chukar pens are kept clean.

Predator control is a high priority. All stray dogs and cats enter the farm at their own risk. Don’s number one predator is hawks. They will often tear the nets on the mature bird pens. Don invests very little in advertising. He will set up a booth at a couple of shows a year, but most of his business comes from word of mouth. Competition is increasing, but this has not affected sales. Don’s philosophy is to produce and sell quality, not just quantity. An example of this dedication is evident in his feed. He has developed his own custom blend which is mixed and delivered locally.

We left the farm thoroughly impressed with Mr. Miller’s expertise in taking advantage of a unique agricultural market. He is obviously committed to excellence and it shows.

Our second stop was at Advance Food Company in Enid, Oklahoma. The company originated in 1973 with eight employees producing pre-cooked chicken fried steaks. First year sales totaled $300,000. Today, Advance Foods employees 1,800 and sells over $4.5 million annually. The company averaged 20% growth annually for the last 16 years. This type of growth is great for any business, but especially impressive due to the amount of competition in the food service market. Their success is due to several things - from employee loyalty (great benefit package) to customer service. The one thing that stood out to the class was their willingness to remain flexible, providing a product exactly to what the customer demands. Advance Foods production lines yield 60 to 70 different products, ranging from pre-cooked meatballs to raw ready to cook items.

We began our visit with a tour of the plant. Our tour guide was R.D. Justice, Production Superintendent. On the way to the production floor we passed their quality control lab. Product samples are brought to the lab and cooked up once an hour. Managers meet in the lab once per shift to assure quality and consistency. Once the group was overlooking the production facilities, R.D. was quick to point out their ability to change products in mid-shift. The plant is not only flexible, but very clean as well. Food safety is the highest priority. Everything from machines to employees with different food handling responsibilities are color coded. This assures that raw materials do not contaminate cooked materials. Advance operates two production shifts and one cleanup shift daily.

There are six steps or stages in the production line at the Enid plant. Step one is preparing the formulation ration. At this stage beef, chicken, pork, or a combination can be combined to the proper ration and/or fat content. Step two is the mixing of meat with other required ingredients. The mixer both blends and chills the meat using CO2 as the source. Step three is the fryer. Some products, such as meatballs, are briefly fried at 550 degrees Fahrenheit to assure color consistency. Step four is cooking. Step five is freezing, in which ammonia is used as the source. Lastly is packaging. All produce is weighed and passed though a metal detector, again to assure package size consistence and quality.

After the tour we were hosted by Kandi Nelson, executive secretary, for lunch and an overview of the company’s community involvement, employee benefit package, and history. Kandi shared the Advance Foods plans on doubling in size within the next 5 years, adding a huge number of jobs to the Enid area. Their community involvement ranges from a tutoring program to main street development. Advance Foods even funded the construction of a “mini” Bricktown Ballpark for both High School and American Legion baseball. Our timing was excellent in the fact the Enid’s American Legion baseball team won the National Title the night before. The class found our tour and visit with Advance Foods fascinating. Their business success has not negatively affected the community. Instead, the company decided to remain loyal to their community and economic growth. Advance Food Company is a perfect example of what good leadership can do.

Our third stop for the day was across town at W.B Johnston Grain Company. Troy Rigel, Head of Grain Merchandising, spent over an hour and a half sharing the humble beginning of the company to concerns into the future. The company started in 1893 and is still today family owned and operated by the third generation. The class was surprised to learn that the grain business is still a trusting business. A lot of trade is done by phone (volume and price) and “word is bond.” Mr. Rigel was quick to point out that the W. B. Johnston Company is in the transportation business. Margins are tight in grain merchandising, and cost of transportation can either make or break a profit. Trucks continue to be the most reliable method of transport, but it is also the most expensive. Train transport costs less than trucking, and W.B. Johnston has begun to utilize efficiency trains. An efficiency train is 100 cars in all and must be full or company will suffer huge monetary penalties. Over the life span of an efficiency train it will average 18 mph on the rail. A single car train will average only 1.2 mph. At the Enid site, they can load an efficiency train in less than 9 hours. Similar to commodities, efficiency trains are traded in a market (supply and demand). The cheapest transport is by barge. W.B. Johnston ships grain out of Port 33 at the Port of Catoosa. Since all of Oklahoma grown wheat is exported, transportation is critical in getting grain to Gulf terminals. Mr. Rigel stated that 15 years ago barges would leave Oklahoma ports 100% full and come in 70% full. Today they leave 70% and come in 100% with fertilizer. W.B. Johnston operates dual purpose elevators supplying corn for feed yards and handling wheat for export. They operate 23 country elevators, 2 shuttle train loaders, and 1 barge terminal.

W.B. Johnston treats transportation as a commodity. Rising fuel costs can cripple margin and the company is concerned about long-term viability. Also barge costs continue to increase due to the lack of barge production. The company does not speculate grain. They are strict hedgers since there is no real predictability in the market place.

Troy Riegel was a great host and we left with a much better understanding of what happens to Oklahoma wheat after it reaches the local elevator.

After loading back on the bus, we started westward to Guymon. The trip allowed for a time of fellowship and rest. Upon reaching Guymon, we were greeted by OALP alums, members of the Chamber of Commerce and Guymon ambassadors. Hosts and guests included: Jess Nelson – ex-mayor, Mike Ray - Class X, Dianne Roberts – Ambassador, Rick Kochenower - Class XI, Peggy Keenan – mayor, Rayland Earls of Class VII, Hal Clark – ambassador, Jimmy Quimby - Class XI (ambassador).

We received a nice warm welcome from the mayor and then were treated to pizza. During the meal we had the privilege of having Senator Owen Laughlin and his wife Charlotte join us. Senator Laughlin addressed our class regarding the “Changes in Panhandle Living.” The senator stated that most rural Oklahomans have done a lot of things in their lives, but one thing we all need to do is get involved in our communities. Liking history, he is a fan of George Washington. He detailed how George Washington got involved. He first signed the declaration, then built an army of volunteers, and then stated that “All men are created equal” (meaning that we were all created by God and that we should not be under the control of government). Senator Laughlin stands firm in his mission to assure that “government is kept at bay so folks can do business.” He is excited about the possibilities for rural development in western Oklahoma. He is confident that there will be an Ethanol plant somewhere in the Blackwell area and a Bio-diesel plant in Guymon.

The night came to a close with Jimmy Draper providing some panhandle history and agricultural statistics. We learned that Texas County ranks number one is agricultural production in Oklahoma and 5th or 6th in the nation.


Thursday, August 25th
Scribe: Dustin Tackett

On day two of our trip to the Oklahoma Panhandle, we had the opportunity to visit Seaboard Farms Swine Processing Plant. Mr. Mike Cawley and Mr. Rusty Noble joined us for the tour. While we were unable to take notes during the tour, we did come away with some valuable information and insight about commercial hog production. The processing plant has been in operation for ten years. It was previously a smaller processing plant. When Seaboard purchased the plant ten years ago, they expanded into its current size. The facility is highly mechanized and is able to process 1,000 pigs per hour. The plant can process the animal from start to finish with very little of the animal being wasted. The processing facility uses well water and the waste is stored in a lagoon. The water is then used by other farmers for irrigation.

Our next visit was to the Texas County Jail. The class was able to tour the jail, which was built in 1996. Kirk White, jail administrator at the facility, was our tour guide. He was very informative and candid with the class about how the jail operated and about the dynamics of working with the prisoners. The Texas County Jail operates for the Department of Corrections to house inmates for a temporary stay before they are sent to other prisons. The average stay is ninety days and the facility has room for ninety-six people. The prison population is mostly male with very few females. The men and women are kept separately and the prison staff takes extra care to insure that there are an adequate number of women on each shift. There is no smoking in the facility, but prisoners are allowed to buy snacks and items from the commissary. One of the positive aspects of the jail was the trustee program. This program allows non-violent offenders to work in the community for non-profit organizations. The jail had a unique aspect that the class found to be very interesting, a large garden. The garden was located just outside the building and served dual purpose. For one, it was an area for the prisoners to work in if they behaved well and it also allowed them to reduce meal cost by serving fresh produce in the prison cafeteria.

After touring the facility we were able to hear a few words from Sheriff Arnold Peoples about how the jail was started. He told us that the facility was built using tax money that was approved by a vote of the county residents. The sheriff lobbied several civic groups for the passage of the tax. The timing was right because another tax was set to expire at the time that they were to vote on the jail tax. Along with the tax for the jail, there were other projects such as upgrades to municipal fire departments. A successful advocacy campaign led to passage by 72%.

After the sheriff spoke, we heard from State Trooper Roy Anderson. He is a pilot in the air patrol division of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Along with patrolling for speeders the pilots also transport the Governor and other dignitaries. Trooper Anderson also conducts aerial surveys for the Oklahoma Game and Fish Department.

Our next visit was to the Oklahoma State University Research Station. We were able to see a variety of different crops while hearing from Rick Kochenower, OSU Area Agronomist. He informed of us the unique partnership that OSU has with Panhandle State regarding the management of the research facility. OSU now operates the facility in cooperation with OPSU. With water preservation being such a concern for the panhandle area, it was interesting to see the use of drip irrigation. Also, the city sewage lagoon is to irrigate the alfalfa and sorghum.

After our tour of the research station, we made a trip to Hitch Enterprises to see their operation. Our first tour stop took us to the Hitch feed mill where they mix their own feed rations for the large hog operation. They are able to formulate feed rations based on the needs of the animals. Cary Winterrowd, the manager of the facility, gave us a tour of the highly technical operation. He said that the biggest challenge at the facility is getting supplies shipped to the facility. The facility is able to produce 2400 tons of feed per week.

Our next destination was a tour of Hitch Enterprises. Mr. Mike Brandhern told us about the swine operation. He told us that the operation was divided into six 2,500 sow facilities. The hog houses are located at the corners of pivot irrigated fields where they are unable to irrigate. The pigs are weaned at twenty-one days of age and moved into a nursery. They are then moved to a finishing facility at when they reach approximately 65 pounds. The swine business produces 6,000 pigs per week. Along with the facilities that we saw, are twelve wean to finish buildings in Texas. The hogs are sold to Seaboard unless there are unusual circumstances.

We then visited Curt Raines, manager of Hitch’s farming operation. He said that they farm 6,000 acres and have incorporated no-till and strip tillage into their farming practices. He showed us the equipment that they use and we were able to see some shop made equipment that had been customized to fit the Hitch operation.

Paul Hitch and Rodd Schemm then gave us a tour of the Hitch feedlot. They showed us some of the innovations such as improvements to the gates and a sprinkler system that is being used to improve cattle conditions. We also saw a silage pit and were informed of the way that they silage is developed. The feed yard is organized into pens with the cattle in the different pens having different colored ear tags. This makes it easier for the cattle to be identified and sorted.

We rapped up our evening with a tour of Jimmy Draper’s show place along with a meal provided by the Guymon Ambassadors. We then heard comments from Ken Winter about R Calf and its role in policy making for the beef industry. Paul Hitch then talked about the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and its views on agricultural policy.

Friday, August 26th
Scribe: Randy Squires

Day Three for seminar 9 started with the class and guests boarding the bus and heading to Cimarron County. Rick Kochenower gave us interesting facts about Texas and Cimarron counties on our bus ride. Some of the facts were that 25% of all the arable land is in CRP and that the first irrigation well was dug in 1946 for these two counties. Also these two counties were the “epi -center” for the dust bowl.

Our first farm visit of the morning was with Jarrod, Lori and Jace Stewart and Jarrod’s dad, J.B. Stewart. Altogether, the Stewart’s farm consists of approximately 14,000 acres of dry land farms, growing wheat, sorghum, sunflowers and white wheat. Jarrod also has a crop insurance agency in Cimarron County. Three years ago the Stewarts purchased a grain elevator and now they store and market their own grain, as well as sell fertilizer and chemicals to their neighbors. One the largest parts of their farming operation is "no-till farming".

The next stop on our tour led us to cotton country. Kenny Lunsford from Guymon is involved in farming about 6,000 acres of cotton. Kenny explained that, with decreasing water reserves and increased pumping costs, he had to find more affordable crops to grow than corn. Kenny said with proper management you can look forward to net returns on irrigated land between $170 and $195 per acre of cotton.

Tom Stephens, Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and local farmer, spoke to us next about the struggles of producing wheat in today’s times. Tom, also being a rancher, talked to us about irrigated bermuda grass. On native grass you can run one pair (cow and calf) on 25 acres and on irrigated bermuda you can run two pair per acre.

To complete our tour on Friday we went to “Hunny’s” and ate excellent BBQ and listened to Jess Nelson, retired mayor of Guymon. Mr. Nelson told us that Texas County was the “bread basket of Oklahoma” with the #1 agricultural receipts in Oklahoma. He talked about the Panhandle being “No-Mans Land” and gave us history on the area. Then he discussed the steps that were taken to get the Seaboard Processing plant to locate in Guymon and then what the city had to do to expand to accommodate additional people that moved to town to work at the plant.

To conclude our exciting and informative trip to Northwest Oklahoma, our class had a synthesis session and then boarded the bus for the trip back to our own little worlds.