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Farmweek | Exodus | January 2, 2020


MIKE IN TODAY’S SHOW, WE BRING YOU THE CONCLUSION OF OUR 4-PART SERIES “BACK TO THE FARM.” THE MEINDERS FAMILY HAS MOVED TO BURRTON, KANSAS — AND EXPERIENCED NOT ONLY A BIG CHANGE IN LIFESTYLE, BUT DISCOVERED JUST HOW MUCH WORK IT TAKES TO RUN THE FARM. WE’LL HAVE PART 4 LATER IN THE SHOW. BUT HERE’S JOHN TORPY WITH PART THREE. PKG NATS: Mechanical work being done. ZACH MEINDERS, BURRTON, KANSAS: “It’s, it’s, it’s just being adaptive. So it’s a change. It’s a huge change. FOR ZACH MEINDERS, HIS RETURN TO THE FARM BROUGHT WITH IT A MOUNTAIN OF WORK. ALMOST A YEAR AGO, MEINDERS, AND HIS WIFE JONI EMBREE- MEINDERS, MOVED BACK TO RURAL KANSAS TO HELP OPERATE THE YOUNG FARM, AN OPERATION THAT HAS BEEN IN JONI’S FAMILY FOR THREE GENERATIONS. ZACH MEINDERS: “It’s called just trying to stay ahead of the game because if you’re not trying to stay ahead, you’re going to fall behind and as soon as you fall behind, then you’ve got five things that just piled up behind you. You just keep moving forward if you don’t, you’re going to fall behind.” FOR THE EMBREE- MEINDERS FAMILY, THE MOVE FROM DES MOINES, IOWA TO BURRTON, KANSAS WAS ALL ABOUT TIMING. ZACH’S HELP WAS NEEDED MOST WITH HARVEST OF NOT ONE, BUT THREE CROPS, MAKING FOR A STRING OF LONG DAYS. ZACH MEINDERS: “I get home at, you know, 10:00 at night compared to getting home at 7:30, you know, don’t have quite that time. I mean, I don’t see the kids as much. That’s definitely, it’s a no, it’s, it’s definitely known that I’m not seeing the kids very much because I have one little boy that goes Dad, Dad, Dad nonstop when I get home because he hasn’t seen me.” JONI EMBREE- MEINDERS GRAPPLED WITH HER FIRST HARVEST BACK ON THE FARM IN MID-2018, BALANCING PAPERWORK AND PHYSICAL LABOR. SHE SPENT THE FIRST FEW MONTHS UNLOADING GRAIN CARTS AND WORKING 120 HEAD OF CATTLE WITH HER SON COLBY. THE NEW CHORES HAVE INSPIRED COLBY TO DREAM ABOUT BEING THE FOURTH GENERATION TO WORK ON THE YOUNG FARM. Nats EMBREE- MEINDERS’ FAMILY IS HAPPY SHE TRADED HER DENTAL HYGIENIST SCRUBS FOR A PAIR OF BOOTS. THE LONG-HOURS WORKING ALONGSIDE FAMILY AND PERSONAL DEVOTION TO THE FARM’S OPERATION HAVE BECOME PART OF HER PERSONAL JOURNEY TO REJUVENATE RURAL ROOTS ON THE HOME PLACE. JONI EMBREE- MEINDERS, BURRTON, KANSAS: “But I also like getting dirty, and I like being out of the bins and I like being in the field. And I love, I love the cattle.” “So it’s, it’s all pretty enjoyable. But the best part is that it’s no matter what I do, I’m doing it for my family.” Nats ALLEN YOUNG, JONI’S FATHER: “I’m originally thought that she would be a good one to take over when dad couldn’t do the bookkeeping anymore, she could do that, you know, what she has agreed to do and stuff. But also she was, I mean, a couple days ago I was over at the farm and she was in the truck with the gooseneck trailer hooked on behind it, you know, and she was driving and they were moving one group of cattle back over to the farm.” WHILE ZACH, JONI, AND THEIR THREE CHILDREN ENJOY LIVING IN A RURAL SETTING, THEY KNOW MOVING BACK TO THE FARM IS BUCKING THE TREND. ACCORDING TO DATA FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS, THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE LIVING IN BURRTON PEAKED IN THE 1980s AT 976. THE POPULATION HAS BEEN IN STEADY DECLINE, IMPACTING THE TOWN AND ITS ECONOMY EVER SINCE. Nats – Church PASTOR KIM ANDREWS, PLEASANT GROVE METHODIST CHURCH: “I think it’s great that they’re coming back. I think it’s a maybe shows to our young people — our young couples — ‘Hey, you’ve got something here that you don’t know.’ This is a little gem that somebody has noticed and seen and is coming back to uncover. And maybe you look at that gym all the time and you don’t see it’s such a special thing anymore. Maybe it’s lost its luster. Maybe you just need to, you know, shine it a little bit, you know.” Nats – Church PASTOR KIM ANDREWS HAS SERVED THE CONGREGATION OF THE PLEASANT GROVE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH FOR SIX YEARS AND HAS WATCHED THE NUMBER OF PARISHIONERS FILLING THE PEWS SLOWLY DWINDLE. PASTOR KIM ANDREWS: “We’ve lost a lot of major important people here who were the grandmas and the grandpas — and that knit us together. And so it’s a time that the people who are here now need to decide, ‘Are we going to be now those folks for other people that are coming up.'” Nats – Church PASTOR KIM ANDREWS: “What she talks about in wanting to have a place for her family and for her kids to connect with the community and understanding, she’s been there. You know, she’s seen that, she’s lived that. And so what may still look kind of appealing to some folks here – she understands that maybe the grass is actually greener here for her and her family.” THAT GREENER GRASS HAS LURED MANY AWAY FROM THE SOUTH CENTRAL KANSAS TOWN. JOSH DURNER, WHO IS PART OF THE SECOND GENERATION TO OPERATE THE STATE BANK OF BURRTON, ELECTED TO STAY BECAUSE HE SEES PROMISE IN THE TOWN’S LOCATION. JOSH DURNER, PRESIDENT, STATE BANK OF BURRTON: “We’re in a unique position in Burton. We’re 15 minutes from Hutchinson, 45 minutes from Wichita, so we are kind of a community that commutes to work for the most part.” MAIN STREET HAS BECOME A SHELL OF BYGONE BUSINESSES AND THE STREET ITSELF IS IN DISREPAIR. THE TAX DOLLARS AVAILABLE TO FIX THE ROADS HAVE BEEN DECREASING ALONG WITH THE POPULATION. JOSH DURNER: “We need more people to come back and take an ownership of the community. I mean, people that grew up here, that lived here and they need for the, for Burton not to dwindle off and disappear. We need more people to come back.” THE EMBREE- MEINDERS FAMILY IS FOCUSED ON FARM AND FAMILY AS THEY APPROACH THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY IN BURRTON. TO MAKE THEIR RETURN A SUCCESSFUL ONE, THE COUPLE FEELS THAT EMBRACING THEIR COMMUNITY IS KEY TO THEIR FUTURE IN RURAL AMERICA. JONI EMBREE- MEINDERS: “I’m all in. I’m here to do what my grandpa needs me to do and learn what he wants me to learn. But I’m also here to help them wherever I can. And at the end of the day when I get ready for bed, I am so content. My heart is so happy here.” AMY

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