Wednesday, October 7, 2009 a.m.
Scribe: Annette Riherd
Our journey started early as usual with a groups meeting in
Stillwater and Oklahoma City then joining together in Shawnee for the first
leg of our trip.
Our first stop was the Shawnee Milling Company;
Homesteading during the Oklahoma Land Run, the J.L. Ford family built their
original log cabin in 1895, the landmark still stands today. Mr. Ford started
the Shawnee Milling Company in 1906, which is currently operated by the third
generation of Ford family millers.
The Ford family started by milling flour and has expanded the
operation into what it is today, a company that mills flour, corn, and feed
for animals such as cattle, horses, chickens and various types of pets.
Shawnee Milling Company has become very diversified since it began milling.
Shawnee Milling Company's Food Division meets the custom milling and mixing
needs of customers with flour and corn milling facilities and a sophisticated
mix plant providing the finest baking products available. Special packaging
capabilities allow Shawnee to offer flour, corn meal and custom mixes in a
range of sizes from several ounces to bulk transport. Shawnee's flourmill has
the flexibility to mill a wide variety of wheat to meet their customers'
Mixes made at Shawnee Milling Company can be found at Wal-Mart and grocery
stores as well as many restaurant chains.
With three elevators on site in Shawnee they also offer retail feed stores to
help provide for farmers and ranchers throughout the Southwest.
One of the leading independent mills in the United States, the Shawnee
Milling Company produces over 2 million pounds of consumer and food service
products and a wide variety of quality animal feed products every day. These
products, known for their quality and value, are produced for a variety of
markets including retail, private label, food service, bakery, and national
The tour ended at 10:30 and by 11:45 we were in Wetumka, Oklahoma touring our
next stop, which was the Harbin Fish Farms.
We met with Spencer Harbin, a Kansas native who moved to Oklahoma ten months
ago to start the Oklahoma expansion of the Harbin Fish Farms on a 155-acre
site. He seemed very knowledgeable about the industry to be only 22 yrs of
Spencer, a third generation fish farmer, began by telling us the different
types of fish they raise on their farm. The many fish they raise include;
Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Channel Cat, Bluegill, Walleye, Hybrid Bluegill,
Grass Carp, Fathead Minnows, Small Mouth Bass, and Buffalo. His top three
fish are the Largemouth Bass, Catfish, and Bluegill.
The Harbin Fish Farms provide for live food markets, supply fish for stocking
ponds of all sizes as well as special contracts to stock ponds for clubs or
Though not in the Harbin name the family started their business in 1969,
starting with Spencer’s grandfather and then on to his father who converted
it to the Harbin Fish Farms in 1982.
Spencer gave wonderful tips to us not only for stocking our own ponds but
also for purchasing fish from a store. Such as “If you buy filets in the
store that don’t say farm raised in the USA, they came from China or Vietnam.
China and Vietnam have the ability to treat their fish that are sick or have
disease with certain chemicals that are known to cause cancer. We do not here
in the USA.”
We finished the tour with Spencer showing us the 155-acre farm, which is
mapped out into 25 ponds or 90 acres of water. He let us watch as he fed the
fish, this was an amazing site to see. Using a fishing rod, he caught a small
Large Mouth Bass weighing approximately 1.25# which he stated sells for $5
and a larger Bass weighing approx 2# selling for $8. After dragging many of
the guys away who wanted to stay with fishing poles we headed to our next
Harbin Fish Farms contact information is 620-968-7499 or 405-452-3465. They
provide either by delivery or pick up.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 p.m.
Scribe: Scott Sproul
The Oklahoma Ag Leadership group departed from Harbin Fish
Farm at 12:45 and headed towards the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
in Poteau, OK. Our group arrived and the Kerr Center and was greeted by
several excellent speakers.
Dr. Jim Horne gave us an introduction to the Kerr Center and told us how the
center got its start as well as a background on the area. Dr. Horne grew up
in Southwest Oklahoma and received agricultural degrees from Cameron State
Agricultural College as well as Oklahoma State University. He then went to
work for the Kerr Foundation in 1972 as a consulting agriculture economist
and today in the President and CEO of the Kerr Center. The Kerr Center was
started in 1965 by the family of former Oklahoma Governor and US Senator
Robert S. Kerr. Kerr began buying land in the 60’s and amassed a total of
60-70,0000 acres in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. The Kerr family
visited the Noble Foundation in 1965 and wanted to establish the same type of
operation in the eastern part of the state to help farmers and ranchers with
their decisions to become more profitable. The Kerr family then hired several
individuals and began giving out free technical assistance to area farmers
and ranchers to help them with their farming and ranching decisions.
Today the Kerr Foundation is split into four separate entities and one area
the foundation is working on is community food systems. Dr. Horne talked to
us about food deserts which are areas that have limited access to food for
different reasons such as lack of population. In earlier years most towns had
access to food but today with transportation problems and low population,
some citizens have to travel many miles to have access to groceries.
We were then taken outside to look at a rare breed of cattle, called
Pineywoods that the Kerr Center is preserving because of some of the traits
that the cattle possess. Mary Penick, who has MS and BS degrees from Oklahoma
State University, is the Pineywoods cattle manager. This breed of cattle
looks like a Longhorn at a first glance. They are actually a cousin to the
Longhorn breed and were brought to America by Spanish settlers, but they
adapted to their environment and possess a few different traits than a
Longhorn. They have a more narrow spread between their horns and are a
beefier type of an animal than a Longhorn. The Choctaw and Cherokee Indians
began to domesticate and breed these animals and used them as a dual purpose
animal for milking and for pulling logs like oxen. There are very few of the
Pinewoods cattle in the US today with only 200 head being registered each
year. These cattle have worked well in crossbreeding programs because they
have excellent fly resistance and are believed to have resistance to diseases
such as anaplasmosis. Even though these cattle will not become a major breed
in today’s world, the Kerr Center is preserving them because some of the
traits that these cattle have could be beneficial in years to come in the
Next we were greeted by George Kuepper where he talked to us about some field
trial studies he is working on with organic foods. Mr. Kuepper had worked for
the Kerr Center in the 1980’s then moved on to do some other research
focusing on organic foods. He came back to the Kerr Center and has
transitioned a five acre plot into a certified organic farm. Kuepper
explained to us how he uses smother crops that shade the ground when they are
not growing vegetables to allow them to conserve moisture. He mostly uses
Heritage varieties because these are most popular at the farmers markets.
Okra, tomatoes, and squash have been grown on the farm and sweet potatoes and
are in the plan for the coming year.
David Redhage visited with us last at the Kerr Center where he is the natural
resource economist. Redhage has been responsible for setting up riparian area
management demonstrations on the Kerr Center Ranch. He told us about a couple
of projects they have been working on, one being grafted tomatoes. Grafted
tomatoes are used in third world countries for their disease resistance and
for length of growing seasons. Another project he showed us was pole frame
greenhouses. These were developed for their cost effectiveness and because
they are easy to put up. Burton Harmon demonstrated for us how to bend the 24
ft. galvanized tubing used to frame these houses. Redhage told us a 17ft X
100 ft building could be put up for around $1,000.
Finally Mary Penick talked to us again this time about Buck Forage Test. This
is patterned off of the bull forage test, except for goats. The male goats
are only fed .5 lbs of supplement with the rest being forage. Gain is
observed over a period of 101 days. They are looking for a gain of around .35
lbs per day and also observe parasite resistance in the goats.
We were then taken back to the headquarters and had an excellent meal
courtesy of Dave Shaw (class x) and his wife Darlene.
Thursday, October 8, 2009 a.m.
Scribe: Dana Bessinger
1st Stop: Tyson Processing Plant in Broken Bow, OK
Beth Blocker, Employment Manager for 25 years welcomed the group and asked
each of us to introduce ourselves. After dividing into groups, my lucky group
headed off with the headsets for an interesting tour of the chicken
The temperature in the plant is kept cool; less than 55 degrees and the ideal
temperature is 40 degrees. Keeping the plant as well as the chicken as cold
as possible is important.
The gear of the employees depends on the job. The red hairnets signaled a
tough job with a high skill and higher pay. The folks that run the hot wings
line have to wear a special iron mesh glove. USDA inspectors are seen
throughout the plant.
Many companies request a special portion size breast and cutting down the
meat does that. Much of the meat is marinated in a tumbler with special
flavors depending on the company’s’ requests. Large tubs are used for packing
the meat from place to place. We were on the tour as Sam’s Club boneless,
skinless breast meat was being processed. The 8-piece whole chicken cut is
for hospitals, cafeterias, schools, and some restaurants. Tyson does the
whole chicken for smoking, the strips for Hooters, and tenders for Chili’s.
Dark meat is selling more volume in these tough economic times.
The plant makes use of all the bird parts either sent to a rendering plant or
ground into calcium for feed. The wastewater is treated and sent on.
The Tyson Plant is clean and automated in many ways. The plant is salmonella
free. They kill 1.2 million birds per week. Hydraulics, metal works and
electronics are important to keep the plant running smoothly. The biggest
challenge for the management now is labor. If they can get a new employee to
stay 90 days, they are there for the long haul. There have been great changes
in the past 60 years and they are always looking for a better way.
We were all presented with a Tyson mug, notepad, and an invitation to return
as we left the plant.
Brad Bain, OSU Extension County Director from McCurtain County met us to take
us on to some local farms. Brad is one of the really super guys in the area
and the state.
2nd Stop: Tom McClain’s Poultry Farm
Farm/Rancher Tom McClain met our group along with Stephen Clarity with Tyson
Foods on Mr. McClain’s ranch.
Tom has 6 chicken houses.
Each house holds 24,000 birds for a total of 144,000 every
Mr. McClain has had success, which he attributes to high feed
rations and genetics.
No hormones are used.
1st two weeks is crucial
2 trucks bring in the chicks and 30 trucks to take them out.
Works chickens in the morning and cattle in the afternoon
All chicks are the same age on the farm for biosecurity
Computer operated houses, but the grower operates the
7-year contract with Tyson
No comfort zone on a bad inspection
Cap and Trade will shut this farm down
3rd Stop: Don Allen Parson Farm
Don is a 3rd generation operator.
He raises cattle and pecans, row crops such as corn,
soybeans, and wheat.
He manages the soil for maximum production.
The average rainfall in McCurtain County is 50 inches/year.
Management of water is a concern.
He and his wife and granddad run the 1200-1300 acres.
His pecan crop looks good for 2009 harvest. Their orchard was hit with an ice
storm in 2000 and the grove has recovered.
4th Stop: Lunch in Idabel
Lunch was BBQ brisket sandwiches, chips, pickle, cookies and tea served in
McCurtain County community building.
Thursday, October 8, 2009 p.m.
Scribe: Brent Thompson
After having a great barbeque lunch at the McCurtain County
Extension office, we journeyed North of Broken Bow to Weyerhaeuser’s office
where we were greeted by Fred Fallis, Carol Smith, Jimmy Tucker and Cory
Bouffleur. Mr. Fallis spend the first part of his talk explaining to us in great
detail the safety information that we needed to be aware of while we were on
Weyerhaeuser’s property. Mr. Fallis then spent the next few minutes talking to
our class about how Weyerhaeuser is structured.
Weyerhaeuser is an international forest product company that is located in 18
different countries and known as the largest private owner of softwood timber
worldwide. With the downturn in the home construction market, Weyerhaeuser has
been hit hard. Their sales for 2008 were $8 billion which was down from the $20
billion in sales the previous year. They have also had to downsize the workforce
from over 55,000 globally down to approximately 15,000 primarily due to the
shutting down of mills. Their business sectors include Timberlands, Building
Products, Pulp and Real Estate.
Our tour covered the timberland sector of their business. The growing process
starts with preparation of the site, planting of 435 trees per acre which
equates to 4 trees for every tree harvested and then encouragement of growth
over the next 25 to 30 years. This encouragement is done through the thinning or
cutting down of the trees at approximately age 15. Their goal is to thin the
sites down to 125 trees per acre. They also control herbaceous plant growth
through the application of herbicide at different intervals during the growing
cycle. Mr. Fallis also informed us that managed forests sites grow 3-10 times
more timber than unmanaged sites.
Weyerhaeuser prides itself on its commitment to the environment. Through the
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Weyerhaeuser protects endangered species,
identify and protect unique and sensitive sites and protect waterways. Mr.
Fallis pointed out that several people think that forestry is the cause of
environmental concerns. If done inappropriately it could be detrimental to the
environment but through SFI, Weyerhaeuser is actually helping it. SFI is not
required by federal or state law but it is something they do to keep their
license to practice forestry and to keep them from being regulated.
Within the state of Oklahoma, Weyerhaeuser has 130 employees statewide and own
505,000 acres of timber. In 2008 they planted over 14 million seedlings within
the state and also paid over $750,000 in property taxes.
Carol Smith then spoke to us about their Land Adjustment Program that is
continually looking at upgrading their property through the buying and selling
of lands. They have sold areas that they own for recreational and developmental
purposes and the take the proceeds from these sales to reinvest in areas that
are more suited for growing trees. Since 2007, Weyerhaeuser has purchased over
25,000 acres of land primarily in Texas.
She concluded her talk by telling us about the permit hunting that Weyerhaeuser
offers. They have just over 241,000 acres that are leased out to 112 different
hunting clubs averaging 2,150 acres. They also have an agreement with the
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife that consists of 250,000 acres of public hunting
available to the public through the purchase of a permit. They admitted that
with owning as much land as the do there is no way to monitor every acre. By
having the permitted hunting areas, Weyerhaeuser has seen a dramatic decrease in
dumping, illegal drug operations and forest fires.
After leaving their headquarters, we traveled to one of their harvesting
operations where we saw up close the process of cutting the trees down, trimming
them to length and loading them on trucks that are taken to the mills for
further processing. We left there and went to one of their sites that they
harvested 4 months earlier that they have prepared for planting this coming
January. The site preparation consists of running a large dozer with a ripper on
the back into the ground. This loosens the ground so the planting crews can more
easily break the ground with a dibble bar to plant the trees.
Our final stop was at a 15 year old orchard that was in the process of being
thinned down to 125 trees per acre. This thinning down promotes further growth
of the remaining trees. They also were pruning the trees which will then allow
the trees at full maturity to produce more clear, knot free boards at harvest.
The thinning and pruning process is very labor intensive but pays large
dividends in the future at final harvest time.
The one question on everyone’s mind (John Leonard) was in fact about Big Foot
sightings. While we were not exactly sure of Weyerhaeuser’s official position on
the subject, Jimmy Tucker informed us all - Big Foot just wants to be left
Our caravan left the hotel in Idabel at 7 A.M. on a cool, rainy Friday
morning. We met Paul May with the NRCS and Kevin Dale with the FSA at 9 A.M.
in Durant. They took us to The Peanut Shoppe owned by Robert Armstrong. Mr.
Armstrong started the peanut snack business in 1978 with two products. He
moved into his current location in 1985. Though he has customers ranging from
Monterey to Montreal, the majority of his business is local. This was obvious
by the steady flow of customers as Mr. Armstrong spoke to us.
Everything the Peanut Shoppe produces they make in small batches and labor is
hard to find. Spanish peanuts, a variety of peanut used in snacks, are also
getting hard to find. This is because of the decrease of peanut production in
the area and Oklahoma in general. They receive Spanish peanuts from far
Southeast United States along with Asia. Some other inputs are cashews from
Vietnam and macadamia nuts from Hawaii. They also offer 4 different flavors
of beef jerky. Mr. Armstrong did say the FDA and State Health Department are
getting tougher to work with.
The Peanut Shoppe does do some custom labeling for other companies, but not
much. Their showroom is approximately 4500 square feet with numerous
products, which they are continually changing. In the early days they
attended trade shows but have since stopped going because they don’t have the
time. They do sell some products online, but most business is still done in
We watched them cook 300 pounds of Spanish peanuts. It takes about 15 minutes
in 70 gallons of peanut oil at 320 degrees. As the peanuts were cooking, we
were able to sample fresh chocolate peanut clusters.
With bags full of snacks, we loaded up were headed to learn about economic
development in the city of Durant.
The next stop was at the Durant Chamber of Commerce. We had the opportunity
to hear from a very passionate and knowledgeable Tommy Kramer. Mr. Kramer was
raised on a cattle ranch in far eastern Oklahoma and has three Ag degrees
from Northeastern, Panhandle State and Oklahoma State University. Part of his
professional background was spent with Owens Sausage (10 years) and Potter
Sausage (Vice President for 10 years). He has been with Durant economic
development, Team Durant, for 12 years.
Founded in 1872, the city of Durant has a population of 16,143. In 2009,
there are 19,000 jobs in the city. He proudly pointed out that they have more
jobs than they do citizens! They currently have a 92% occupancy rate in
downtown buildings. At 5.3%, Durant has the 11th lowest unemployment in
Mr. Kramer shared the three things you must have for successful economic
development: Leadership, Money, & Passion. He was proud of the fact that over
the last 12 years all of the issues voted for by the Board have been
unanimous, in favor of or against the issue. Mr. Kramer did state that you
must create industrial jobs, as they fuel everything else. He also said that
he does not ever bring a company to the table that cannot have a significant
positive impact on the city.
The impact of Wal-Mart Supercenters became a topic of conversation. Although
the Supercenters can cause some businesses to close, it also creates a niche
markets. Businesses that discover and satisfy these markets will be
successful. These markets include strip malls in which some local investors
began building. Mr. Kramer did have an interesting viewpoint regarding Lowes.
Prior to Lowes coming to Durant, they had three lumberyards (2 were older,
locally owned yards). After the Lowes opened, none of these three yards
closed. So where did the Lowes customers come from? They were local
customers. Instead of driving to Texas to the nearest Lowes for more variety
like they [local customers] were doing prior to the opening of Lowes, they
stayed in Durant.
Some of the businesses that have been brought in because of Team Durant
Big Lots (distribution center)
Cardinal Glass (created 700 jobs)
PRC (major call center)
Three hotels plus the Choctaws resort/casino
Sanimax (leather company)
Hardy Farms (bulk feed mill)
Eagle Suspension (largest leaf spring manufacturer in North
American Heritage Equine (equine supply company, about to
open their second location)
Icon Construction (builds portable buildings for the Federal
Best Fender Manufacturer
Some points that attract businesses to the Durant area over Texas are:
Lower labor costs
more affordable land
Better job training.
Brent Thompson asked Mr. Kramer if Team Durant solicits business to move to
Durant or do the companies pursue Durant as a location? Mr. Kramer said in
the past it’s been a combination of both, but now most of the companies
pursue them. “Success breeds success” said Mr. Kramer.
David McMullen asked how they keep their Main Street with all the new
businesses. Mr. Kramer said they have a strong downtown and work hard at
keeping it that way. Main Street has to adapt and look to fill those niche
markets. Such as the shoe store near Main, where you can walk in with an old
pair of shoes and they can replace the soles in a matter of minutes. A
service that Wal-Mart or any large company does not provide. Durant has also
completed two Main Street renovation/upgrades. This includes new sidewalks
A key component to not only Mr. Kramer’s success, but success in general, is
service after the sale.
After some housekeeping notes by Dr. Joe, the group departed for home with
Northeastern Oklahoma on our mind for next seminar.