Ronald Fredrickson always planned on returning to the family farm where he grew up near Osage City. But first came active duty in the Navy, and 29 years of working in academia, ending as a professor and administrator at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
"We came back for summers to the farm and the kids spent time here as well," Ron says.
His wife, Patricia, grew up in Sedan in southeastern Kansas and they met at Emporia State College. They were married in 1954, but prior to their return to the farm in 1992, those summer experiences were the sum of Pat's knowledge of life on the farm.
"We had spent a lot of summers on the farm with his parents," she said. "It was novel and fun. That first year was kind of the same way. Then, reality hit and it was hard for me. I was used to vacations and days off and it was kind of overwhelming."
But it didn't take long for her to find her niche. She had been a church organist since the age of 14, and found her talents welcome. She joined Farm Bureau, became involved in extension, 4-H and community affairs.
After a hired hand suffered a severe cut to his foot in a chain saw accident, Ron hurt his wrist in a gate accident, broke a leg when an ATV overturned while he was chasing a cow and his dad fell over a hay rack, Pat decided that farming and ranching was a hazardous activity in need of a safety emphasis.
"She put together a safety training program that anybody we hired to work here had to go through," Ron said. When the Osage County Farm Bureau saw her program, they urged her to submit it to the state."
They duplicated it, added to it and distributed it to farmers and ranchers across the state. It remains the basis of the standard Kansas Farm Bureau safety booklet.
The Fredricksons both became involved in a project to restore Rapp School #50, the one-room school Ron attended as a child. The effort produced a fully-furnished brick country school building that is now a National Historic site.
As the years passed, Pat kept a journal of stories and experiences on the farm. This year, she turned them into a book titled "Old Ugly and Other Farm Tales," which will soon be available for sale.
The Fredricksons have primarily a beef cow/calf operation, selling pre-conditioned spring calves in December of January to a "Meyers All-Natural" feeder in Iowa.
Conservation is not just a farming practice on the Fredrickson ranch. It's a passion.
The ranch has terraces, buffer strips, streambank stabilization projects and KDHE approval for all of its cattle feedlots, even though they are far too small to require it.
His history in academia is also evident in practices such as the written goals he posts in the farm office -- goals for his workers, for himself and for the ranch.
An atypical plan for transition to the next generation
During their growing up years in Massachusetts, both the Fredrickson's son, Doren and daughter, Anne, spent summers on the farm.
Doren, pursuing a career in medicine, had purchased a farm near his parents with plans to return to farming after retirement. He was the endowed professor of public Health at KU Medical School in Wichita and Sedgwick County public health officer when he died unexpectedly at the age of 53.
Anne, a Nurse Practitioner, helps out with budgeting and bill paying duties for the farm, but does not want to take over primary operation and management.
But the Fredricksons do have a "next generation" transition plan.
Jace Balding, who began working for the Fredricksons years ago when he was only 14, is working to be ready to take over managing and operating the farm when they retire. They paid his tuition for Range and Ranch Management education and helped him buyhis own farmland and cattle.
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