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Class XIII Curriculum

"Northeastern Oklahoma Heritage, Agriculture and Industry"

 Seminar VIII


July, 2007
Scribe: Mary Chris Barth
Bartlesville, OK

The August seminar began at the Woolaroc Museum near Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

Our group was hosted by Pam Snelson of Class VIII and guided by Mr. Bill Kruckenberg. The site was developed by Frank Phillips of Phillips Petroleum Company as a country retreat and a site to host business transactions. The museum focuses on three areas, Indian artifacts, early settlers, and air planes. The Phillips family continues to be involved in the running of the museum but not the company. Having the 101 Ranch nearby encouraged Phillips to add unusual animals to his collection. His Indian artifact include items in his honor as he was made a ceremonial chief by the Osage for his help in investing their money earned from oil revenue. The museum also holds the Waldo Wilson gun collection (WWI to present) these are presentation models. Mr. Wilson was from Louisiana. It also houses the 6th best Colt pistol collection and the best Colt Patterson collection in the United States. The art collection includes numerous artists along with a specific section dedicated to the works of Joe Beeler. This collection includes illustrated letters sent by Beeler to Phillips. The 12 pioneer statues used in selecting which would become the model of the pioneer women in Ponca City are on display. These were sent around for people to vote on and thus decide the final design. The type 500 airplane built by Travel Air later to become Beechcraft was on display. This plane participated in the 1st California to Hawaii contest. Flight time was 26hrs, 17mins, 33 seconds. A number of lives were lost by those participating in the contest.

The tour of the Frank Phillips Lodge was hosted by Bob Fraizer director of Woolaroc. From 1925-1948 200,000 guests were entertained by the Phillips. Phillips was a Methodist but donated extensively to Catholic Charities. Most likely indifference to the Osage whose land he was drilling for oil on the Osage. The Woolaroc Foundation was established in the 1930's and Woolaroc was transferred to the foundation in 1945. The lodge built 82 years ago is renovated by decedents of the family who originally built it. Numerous on the staff are multigenerational. The chandeliers came from the Waldorf Hotel that was torn down to make way for the Empire State building. Phillips noted these were million dollar items as that is all he got out of his interest in the building. The animal mounts include that of an elephant given by John Ringling. Ringling lost his circus to Phillips in a poker game at the lodge. The mount was to remind Phillips that he owned a circus for a day once. Phillips depended upon Ringling to choose animals for his nature park.

The group enjoyed lunching at the Firehouse on the Hughes Ranch with the meal provided by the Hughes and Snelson families. The well insulated steel building complete with bathroom facilities was artfully decorated focusing on area events in a western theme. In the winter two fire trucks are housed here ready to roll.

After the meal the group departed to the pastures for a tour. The ranch's boundaries are easy to note as this is the only area void of extensive tree growth. Upon returning from OK A&M John Hughes began to develop a program to reclaim the ranch from brush overgrowth. Along the way he established an application business to aid with the economics of covering enough acres. The chemicals used are: P&D Graz on 1 pint per acre when cooperating with the EQUIP 1 pint Remedy +1quart P&D. In both cases these are the chemical of choice over 24D because of the volatility problems. The EQUIP mixture does the best job but is considerably more expensive. The application is made during the 1st 20 days of the growing season. Half of the pastures are sprayed and the other half is burned each year with a burn date of April as the bluestem growth comes through. The perimeter is tracked with a heavy dozer along with mowing 14' width. Cattle will concentrate in this area in the fall encouraging early growth to enhance the fire barrier. The ranch never burns before noon as this is when the humidity drops. Humidity needs to be 40% or lower, below 15% creates problems. Wind gauges are used to monitor where the smoke will drift as the ranch is divided in half by a major highway. The do not co-op burn due to liability problems and the fire must be out before nightfall. Each burn lasts only a few hours. Natural barriers are used in planning the burn area.

The ranch has numerous oil well locations with the minerals belonging to the OSAGE tribe. The OERB is doing site remediation on the ranch. This program is similar to the beef check off and very positive for land owners. The tribal issue is of great concern as the Osage bought the land from the Cherokee in 1872 getting fee simple title. In 1906 2,229 allotments were given to tribe members with fee simple title, 3 Small reservations were retained. The Osage are now seeking to regain control of all the 1872 land basing their actions on the Navajo. The difference is the Navajo never allotted to the individual. The Osage wish to turn the whole county into a reservation.

An important source of income for the ranch is the 4,300 head of horses run for the BLM in their wild horse refuge program. The program came to be because of an activist named Wild Horse Annie (Velma Johnson) in 1972. Working through the schools she collected signatures from children. The law was passed 100% making it illegal to harass or kill wild horses, as this would eliminate mustangers and a way of life that had served the west well for several centuries. By 1995 wild horses were overrunning the west including White Sands military base. An OU ROTC graduate, now a General was faced with a problem, rooted in the 1950's Trinity missile program, 3 million acres, 5 mountain ranges and wild horses destroying the fragile environment. When the land was acquired for the Trinity program ranchers were to move their cattle and sheep but leave their horses as they would be getting their ranches back after the testing. True to government form this is not how it worked out. The ranchers to this date have not been able to return to their homes. The genetics of this particular herd was poor due to the short time they had been in the wild. A different genetic make up than the Mustang or Spanish ponies. The herd was classed as feral instead of wild horses. These horses are not adoptable due to age or disposition. They are fed 15# of alfalfa/horse 3 times a week during the winter. A yearly audit is performed expecting a mortality rate of 7-8% annually. All horses are tested by the BLM before arrival so they are not a disease threat to other horses in the area. The contract was developed by Harlan Deeds, retired long time soil conservation range management specialist, working as a consultant. The stocking rate is 8-10 acres native with 4-5 tame grass pastures. The grass is Little Bluestem and Big Bluestem, Indian, Switch, and Buffalo grass. Old crop land is over seeded with Fescue and Bermuda.

For 38 years the ranch ran cows & calves before deciding that stockers were a more dependable venture. The original cow herd was 19 Hereford cows and a Turner bull. They took in LeFores cows to help save that herd based in the Texas panhandle hit so hard by drought. The ranch sits on the most dependable grass growing region in the U.S. with a drought only once about every 50 years. They anticipate a 120# gain in a 100 day grazing season. Cool season grass for fall stockers 1 acre Bermuda, 2 acres native over seeded with fescue. They do their own back grounding using the OK Gold program. Feeding 3 days a week makes the cattle easier to handle. Five people do the ranch work along with an office manager in town. The key to keeping the ranch profitable is controlling the brush.

The Phillips Museum Tour was welcomed by Randy John, Operation Director. Kathy Triebel, Corporate Archivist gave an overview of the museum that was 8 years in development. Phillips started out as a barber in the Adams building which still stands. As he developed his oil company he made an effort to focus on the family and provide social organization for the employees. Among the highlights were pictures of Phillips 66th birthday party taken in 1939 when color film was only 2 years old. There were also pictures from 1965 of Boots Adams, 1st Manager, 66th birthday party. Phillips sponsored the greatest industrial basketball team from 1919-1968. Also on display were the 1st stock certificate, logo changes, war effort care packages sent to all Phillips employees in the service and a glass bank designed to save for war bond with markings telling when one had saved enough for a particular denomination of bond. The remainder of the displays showed the changes in operations of drilling and refining petroleum through the years.

At the evening meal two representatives from Conoco-Phillips gave updates on the company's view of the future for the petroleum industry. They spoke on the studies the company has made into alternative energy and the interest in bio-diesel. Noticeably absent from their presentation was any mention of the company becoming involved in ethanol. Of interest was that both engineers came from rural backgrounds one from England the other from NE New Mexico reinforcing how vital it is to maintain our rural communities to develop the leaders of industry across the world.

Scribe: Tim Bartram
July 12, 2007
Miami, OK

The morning started with the trip from the hotel to the Picher Housing Authority office. When we arrived we dodged the raindrops as we went inside. Summer Kemp was the Chairperson for the Morning and she passed out the rules and signing sheet for our visit to J&M Farms later in the day.

Brent Randle and Matt Gard from Class 12 were introduced.

John Sparkman was introduced as our first speaker of the morning. Mr. Sparkman is the director of the Picher Housing authority. He has been with them for 17 years. He told us we were now in the “twilight zone” Mr. Sparkman started with a history of the area since it was declared a “Superfund site” in 1983. Right after the declaration was made 10 million dollars was spent to plug well and creek diversion. This project used no local knowledge or resources. In his opinion, this project accomplished nothing. In 1995 high lead levels were discovered in the children of the area. To treat this program the EPA spent 150 million dollars to remediate yards in the area. Very few improvements were seen. However increased levels of mold and structural problems were seen. The EPA claimed that lead levels were decreased by 50%. However it was later proved that OU botched the study and in reality the levels were reduced by less than 20%.

In 2000 the first town meeting on moving the town was held. Eight hundred people attend with 80% in favor of moving the town. In 2003 Governor Brad Henry signed at state funded buyout of the families who had kids six years old and younger. 90% of the eligible families participated.

In 2006 Senator Jim Inhofe released a study on the risk of cave-ins. There have been over 30 significant cave-ins since 1930. The roof under the highway coming into town is only 30ft thick. Senator Inhofe was able to divert $1.8 million from other Tar Creek projects for a buy out program for the most at risk areas. In Mr. Parkman’s opinion this project has not gone as well as the first buy out. He felt that all residents were not being treated the same. He also questioned the qualifications of the Secretary of Environment to run this type of project.

Sonja Harris was the next speaker. She was formally the manager of the latest buy-out project until she resigned in protest of how the board and the Secretary of Environment were directing the project. She felt that the appraisals were not being done fairly and were not taken off the damage caused by the yard remediation project and were not being appraised as if they were not in the superfund site. Many of the people were not being given enough money to allow them to start over. She also felt that there were some conflicts of interests for some of the board members. In her opinion the rule of safe, sound and sanitary was not being used in the same way as the first buyout. We were told there were about 500 families left in the community and that the school would probably not open this fall due to the lack of students. The final fact given was that there were at least 300 miles of tunnels under the area.

The next speaker was Charles Nuttle, Director of Mine Reclamation for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. He discussed the work that the OCC was doing to reclaim the land damaged by the mining. He told us that other areas of the state faced cave-in danger due to mining including the Tulsa Fairgrounds. We then drove to one of the sites were they had been working. They had put back into the tunnels 60,000 cubic yards of chat and had resealed five tunnels in the area. Once grass had been reestablished the control of the land was returned to the land owner. The work that had been done allowed the land to be removed from the super fund site.

Mike Thralls, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, was our next speaker. He spoke more on the work the commission was doing to restore mine sites in the rest of the area and across the state. They have had very good success in restoring these sites to productive grass lands and wildlife habitat. There were many questions from the group on what was happening in the area and why. There were many conflicting opinions and emotions about this topic. But the most asked question was why the mining companies weren’t be held responsible and paying to move people and clean up the area. The answer was that they no longer existed.

After a short break, we moved to another controversial topic, Immigration. Our first speaker was Nidia Lopez. Nidia is a college graduate working with migrant worker’s children as part of a federally funded school program. She was an illegal immigrant from Mexico as a child. She has become an American Citizen. Her father was working in the US when President Reagan signed a law which made him a legal resident. It would have taken several years to get her and her mother into the US legally. They decided not to wait. It took 12 hours to get across the border. When she enrolled in school the school district had the same fears and problems she did. Nidia was the only Spanish speaker in the school and did not know English. She quickly learned and caught up with her classmates. In 1993 she became a legal alien and in 2000 a US Citizen. If she hadn’t come to the US, she would have only gone to school through the sixth grade and gotten married at age 15. At least half of her childhood friends in Mexico have husbands working in the US.

Nidia then moved to discussing the situation as she saw it. She said as in her case the head of the household comes first. Many do not want to stay but just make some money and go back. Others want to move their families here. The education situation was a major factor in her parents desire to come to the US. In rural Mexico public education is only through the sixth grade. She said the desire to remain in the US and fit in is dependant on a persons make up. She said just like any other person the immigrants adapting to moving is dependant on how attached they are to home area. Many people in the US face the same issues. They may move to an area because of work but intend to go home at the first chance. Others move because of a job and the new area is now their home and they have no desire to return to were they were born.

In rural Mexico, 10% of the people are very rich and 90% are in poverty. There is no middle class. A person can make $80 a week in Mexico and $200-300 a week in the US. US companies that have opened facilities in Mexico are not changing the situation. In fact some of them have used illegal child labor. The cost of living has increased some in Mexico.

Our next speaker was Richard Hedgecock, Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative John Sullivan. He said that the first thing needing to be done is a pause to absorb what illegal’s that are here and to get the bad ones out. Recently the Tulsa County law enforcement had completed training to allow them to process violent illegal’s themselves and not wait on Immigration officers. The next step would be to set up reforms which would allow needed workers too legally remain. He also said that Border Security and Immigration our two different and separate issues. In his opinion the need for reforms by the Mexican Government are needed to totally solve this problem. Their policy is to export poverty and import capitol.

We then journeyed back to Miami for a good lunch at Charlie’s Chicken sponsored by the 1st National Bank of Miami. The morning’s topics were discussed further by the group over lunch. And they will probably be brought up again as the class moves forward in their experiences.

Scribe: Galynn Beer
July 12, 2007
Miami, OK

The afternoon tour at J-M farms was fantastic. This was the first time many of the class members had been exposed to a mushroom farm and it was fascinating and informative. From the beginning of the process which starts with getting the compost correctly balanced with poultry manure, urea, wheat straw and sugar beet lime, to the packaging of the mushrooms, the process has evolved over the years into a streamlined process. Since beginning in 1979, J-M Farms has grown to produce 24 million of the 700 million total pounds of mushrooms produced in the U.S.

After the composting process, the process moves along to where the pack (mud is added to the top of the compost in the trays) is inoculated with spawn (rye that contains the mushroom spores). Once this is done, the process is up to the growers and it is something of an art form to get the moisture correct in the trays to be able to get the ‘pinning’ process started. Once that has begun, the mushrooms grow rapidly. 17 weeks start to finish is what it typically takes for the process. The harvesting is done 3 times/day because the contracts that have to be filled and the growth rate of the mushrooms dictate frequent harvesting. The Jurgensmeyer Family has done a great job of building this into a major economic benefit for the Miami community and the State of Oklahoma.

Continuing on the mushroom theme, we toured the Engelbrecht farm, which functions as a contract grower for J-M Farms. Scott Engelbrecht has utilized some innovative thinking in the process, from adapting green houses for their growing process to utilizing wood as a heat source for climate control. Scott got the idea of boring wood while on the international seminar to Brazil with OALP Class XII. On both the J-M Farm and the Engelbrecht Farm utilities are a major cost of production. Given the spike in energy prices the last few years, they are forced to be innovative in controlling that expense.

Green Country Soils, the last tour of the day, is a company born of the innovative thinking of Tom Potters and Pat Jurgensmeyer. Disposal of the compost after using it for mushroom production was a problem initially. However, Green Country Soils solved that issue, turning a negative into a positive by taking the compost and bagging it to be sold as mulch and potting soil. Automation has eliminated much of the back breaking lifting that initially took place and has increased productivity while reducing labor inputs. Now supplying several Wal-Marts, Green Country Soils now receives and bags several other landscape products as well as the compost. Mulches and landscape rocks are bagged and shipped from their facility to Wal-Mart distribution centers.

The afternoon tour was a great example of innovative thinking and desire that have resulted in what most would consider unusual agriculture production for the State of Oklahoma. However, it demonstrates that there are many ways to make a living in agriculture and sometimes we need to expose ourselves to facets of agriculture that are out of our normal mindset.

The afternoon concluded with a great dinner at Buffalo Run Casino sponsored by Engelbrecht Farms, Brent Rendel, and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission.

Scribe: Rob Bauter
July 13, 2007
Tulsa, OK

After an early start and a short trip from Miami, OK to the East side of Tulsa the group arrived at Johnston Enterprises Port 33 located on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Upon arrival, Steve Taylor, Vice President and head of Port 33, and Paul Defenbaugh, Grain Operations Manager, greeted us. Mr. Taylor gave us a brief history of Port 33 and a description of some of the operations carried there, including the loading of grain onto barges for export, the unloading of many agricultural and industrial commodities such as fertilizer, pig iron and petroleum coke. Mr. Taylor next gave us an overview of expansion plans at Port 33 including the construction of new harbor that will feature 4 new docks for the loading and unloading of various types of cargo. We then loaded up into vans for a driving tour of the port. The port features 5 docks for loading and unloading freight, including one dock dedicated to handling grain (wheat, soybeans, milo, etc.) Originally constructed in 1975 with a storage capacity of 150,000 bushels, today the grain operation has a capacity if around 800,000 bushels, and is made for the speedy handling of grain and loading of barges, not for long term storage. During the van tour, we observed a barge being loaded with wheat, saw piles of petroleum coke that had recently been unloaded, fertilizer storage and load out facilities and pig iron storage. At the conclusion of the van tour, we departed Port 33 and made a short trip to the Port of Catoosa.

At the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, we were greeted by Mr. Bob Portis, Director of the port. We started with a tour of the port making brief stops to observe different areas of operation in the port. Located at the head of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, the Port of Catoosa includes a 2000 acre industrial park that is home to 72 industries that employ approximately 4000 people. After the tour we met back in the newly constructed education center for discussion and questions.

Mr. Portis gave an explanation of how the navigation channel originated and was funded for construction. Originally thought of for flood control, Senators Robert S. Kerr (Oklahoma) and Jim McClellan (Arkansas) were unable to secure funding for the project for that purpose, however, in 1943, they were able get 1.5 billion dollars for the construction of a navigable waterway for the shipment of goods to the Mississippi River and on to New Orleans. The navigation channel is 440 miles long and follows the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers and contains 18 docks and dams. For more information on the navigation channel and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa visit At the conclusion of our time, we traveled to Bailey Ranch Golf Course for a lunch sponsored by National Steak and Poultry.

Dr. Tom Gardner with National Steak and Poultry Company and a member of OALP Class X joined us for lunch and provided information about National Steak and Poultry. NSP has been in business for 26 years, the last 11 of those being located in Owasso, OK. Their primary focus is on providing products for the casual dining segment of food service, but they have recently started branching into value added products targeted for retail. NSP employs around 450 people, and they do not process any live cattle, but buy boxed beef for processing. After a very nice lunch, a question and answer period with Dr. Gardner and Mr. Portis from the Port of Catoosa followed by a short synthesis we adjourned for home.