Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive April 2017 Show 1714 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1714

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1714

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we meet four individuals honored for their lifelong contributions to Oklahoma agriculture.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1714

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1714

For more information visit these links:

ODAFF Hall of Fame

Okla. Dept. of Ag

J-M Farms, Inc.

Show Details

Show 1714: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: April 2, 2017



Rob McClendon: Here is what is coming up on your “Horizon.” Well, Oklahoma's agricultural roots run deep, from farmers in the field to large agribusiness, it is a bedrock industry for our state. Today, our focus is on Oklahoma’s agricultural legacy. We will meet four Oklahomans honored by Gov. Fallin at the state Capitol for their lifetime achievements. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company -- with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, to make your living from the land, you have to be a bit of a risk taker. Not only do farmers and ranchers face the same market trends and global competition that other industries do, they also must contend with the weather and an ever-changing climate. Today, we are going to meet four different Oklahomans who all share a common trait – that ability to step out and be a trailblazer. The late Floyd King has been called the father of the Oklahoma peanut industry. Through his honest, soft-spoken demeanor, combined with iron determination and a unique sense of vision, he brought prominence to a previously minor Oklahoma crop and gave farm families an opportunity to pursue a better life, as remembered by his grandson, Garret King.

Garrett King: The Oakdale Missionary Baptist Church was founded in that eventful year of Oklahoma statehood, 1907. Under territorial and earliest state policy, schools had to be within a set number of miles from farms, and Floyd, as well as most of his siblings, attended that one-room schoolhouse at Oakdale, and church services were held there. And Oakdale very much was at the heart of Grandpa’s life. Floyd served his country in the second world war; it was in the European theater where he earned the bronze star. When Grandpa came home from the war, he made what many at the time would have thought was an insane promise. He said, “I’ll irrigate or I won’t farm.” And in that day and age for a young man to raise his family in northern Caddo County and not farm, I don’t know what he would have done. He began seeking financing, and there was no financing to be had. He went to the Department of Agriculture, and there was no funding for irrigation projects in our part of the United States, although it existed in other parts of the United States. And so he began an aggressive correspondence with United States Sen. Bob Kerr. And eventually the senator’s office told Grandpa, “You know what, go back to the Farm Home Administration and see if you can get a loan for financing on this. And you let me know if it doesn’t work this time.” Well, Grandpa walked out of there with a loan to finance a well that he had drilled in 1951. Halfway into the field, the driller got stuck because the sand was so thick. Grandpa and the driller had to go and get help from two neighbor gentlemen. And when they asked Floyd what he was doing, and he told them he was drilling a well to irrigate peanuts, they said, “You’re crazy, that water will seep right through that sandy soil, it will do no good.” I believe that of those two gentlemen who called him crazy, two years later one bought an irrigation system from my grandfather, and I believe the salesman he bought it from was the other gentleman who had been there who was now employed by my grandfather. At that point, Caddo County was not mentioned in the annual legumes publication of the census of agriculture. By 1990, Caddo County, Oklahoma, was the No. 1 peanut producing county in the United States. He was very, very cognizant of the fact that if we didn’t all hang together, we’d all hang separately. He founded the Caddo County Area Peanut Growers Association. He goes on to help found the Southwest Oklahoma Peanut Growers Association, the Oklahoma Peanut Commission. He was first president of those organizations and then first president of the National Peanut Growers Group, which became the National Peanut Board. And he was always there, and that was because he always kept focused like a laser on the well-being of the farm families that grew the peanuts and the well-being of the communities that nurtured them. During the great debates about freedom to farm, during the even greater and more significant debate in 2002 over abolition of the quota system, I came to realize how tremendously people in our program looked to my grandpa for leadership. And at that time, he was already an octogenarian. They still knew Floyd understands these issues, Floyd has our best interests at heart, and Floyd will give us the information on how to navigate it. He was supported in all things by the daughter of some very humble farmers, my grandmother Lola, who was a very sweet lady. Her decline into illness marked the end of his public life. My grandmother died in 1998. The peanut quota was repealed in 2002. I don’t think the two are unrelated. He loved peanut farming. He loved the American peanut farmer. Beyond the glitz and glamour of public life, beyond his substantial business interests and accomplishments, Floyd King was a devoted family man and a devoted father, husband, grandfather, great-grandfather and a devoted member of Oakdale Missionary Baptist Church. And that’s all he would care anyone to know about him.

Rob: Now, when we return, living a life of conservation.

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

Rob McClendon: If you have ever ventured into our state’s Panhandle, you know it is a land of wide-open spaces and bitter extremes, and while harsh, it is a landscape that Hal Clark has spent a lifetime taming. At 84 years of age, Mr. Clark still checks cows and fences with a smile on his face, despite the fact just months before we visited, he had gotten trampled. Our Blane Singletary introduces us.

Blane Singletary: Hal Clark is a man of the land.

Hal Clark: It’s just the nature and being outside, working the livestock and trying to grow grass and run cattle, and our wildlife we have here too. It’s just good being with nature.

Blane: Clark takes pride in the Panhandle ranch land that’s been in his family for three generations. And that goes hand in hand with his pride in his history and heritage.

Clark: My grandfather came to the valley here. He worked for a ranch in Kansas, southwest Kansas, and then came to the valley here in 1877.

Blane: His grandfather worked for the Muscatine Cattle Co. and later bought the remainder of their herd and carried the brand into the next century. Hal would take the helm of managing the Clark Ranch after he graduated from Texas Tech in 1953 and married his wife, Pat.

Clark: It was quite unusual to bring a city gal from Oklahoma City out here in the middle of the drought of the early ’50s – 1950 was when we got married.

Blane: A drought not unlike the one that led up to the Dust Bowl just 20 years earlier.

Clark: We went through some difficult times there but she was enduring, and she must have had a good feeling for sustainability because she stayed with me.

Blane: It’s a focus on sustainability that Hal kept with him to prevent another Dust Bowl from happening.

Clark: Sustainability, that’s quite a buzzword that so many people have been trying to define. Sustainability is to endure, but not to interfere with the future generations. And I think that, to me, explains the whole situation for sustainability.

Blane: That simple definition became his mantra and directs his farming practices to this day.

Clark: We run an Angus herd, and we have utilized a lot of rotational grazing. Because of the droughty conditions, it’s, so many times it’s hard to have enough grass. The rotational grazing is the way that nature worked with the buffalo herds. They would graze off all of it and then move on and let the grass regrow.

Blane: Hal and his family focused on conserving soil, probably the most important resource a rancher has, by keeping a strategic vegetative across the land, which protects the soil from the wind and, while it hasn’t been all that common lately, the rain, too. And that’s not all he’s done.

Clark: We built a lot of structures here. We’ve got a lot of impoundment dams and some spreader dikes, which we can kind of utilize when we do get a hard rain. We can try to control the water better either impound it in a series of dams or to have an area like the field in front of us that we can spread the water out to water the field.

Blane: His efforts didn’t go unnoticed. In 1966, he was elected to the Cimarron County Conservation District board of directors where he still serves to this day. In the 50 years since then, Clark and his fellow commissioners oversaw the adoption of several new pieces of policy as well as technology. Among his many accolades and accomplishments, he says he’s especially proud of the county conservation building they established in Boise City.

Clark: That has worked out really well because it belongs to the producers out there, it belongs to the farmers and ranchers. That’s really what I always try to do, is to see things get accomplished.

Blane: Today, Hal still tries to spend as much time on the ranch as he can, though most of the day-to-day operations are handled by Charlie, a man who’s worked with his family on the ranch for over two decades. Hal’s goal, just as he said about sustainability, is to keep his ranch thriving for his surviving daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Clark: Every day is precious. And I’m so blessed every morning to be able to get up, feel good and to know that the Lord is here and that I can go see Pat and be with her. I just wish I could get her out more.

Blane: Hal Clark says stewardship of the land is an integral responsibility of any landowner. And there’s not a thing Hal won’t do to keep his land thriving.

Clark: Why not? If we can improve the land and nature and what we are being sustained with for future generations and produce more crops, we feed the world, and that’s important for our export market and for us to be the breadbasket and be profitable and good stewards of the land.

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Rob McClendon: Well, our next trailblazing agriculturist has the distinction of being Oklahoma Cattlewomen’s longest living member. Not bad for a rancher who started off her family's herd buying just one calf a month. But as Anna Bell Wiedemann is quick to tell you, nothing good comes easy, and a little hard work never hurt anyone.

Anna Belle Wiedemann: This is Carl and I, and this is he and my daughter hunting.

Rob McClendon: When you first meet Anna Belle Wiedemann, agriculture may not spring to mind.

Wiedemann: That’s the combine in the field.

Rob: But visit just a moment, and you quickly understand farming and ranching is her passion.

Wiedemann: I’ve had a great journey because I’ve liked everything I’ve done with agriculture.

Rob: It was 1946 when a young Anna Belle was at a Farmers Union fundraiser.

Wiedemann: My dad hired a band to play and then they charged to get in, and it was a big night. And all at once, why, Carl laid down the bass fiddle, he was the bass fiddle player in the band. And he came down and asked me to dance.

Rob: And with that first dance began a 64-year romance with Carl Wiedemann.

Wiedemann: We got married in September, and how dedicated he was, we got married on Sunday, and Monday he got up and planted alfalfa hay.

Rob: The Wiedemanns started out small, hand-pumping water for 10 calves and some chickens.

Wiedemann: Carl didn’t like chickens, but I did.

Rob: And while the work was hard, it was rewarding.

Wiedemann: We had electricity, but didn’t have running water or indoor facilities. We just took our bath there in the stock tank out where the cattle drank out of.

Rob: And the Wiedemanns’ fortunes began to mirror their effort.

Wiedemann: So every month, why, we would buy a cow or a pig or a chicken or whatever. And we had 1,300 laying hens, and we sold to Kamps Grocery at Oklahoma City and sold there for 22 years.

Rob: In 1959, the Wiedemanns were blessed with a daughter. From farm to family, a busy life that was soon to get busier when Anna Belle was the youngest of four female state representatives elected in 1968.

Wiedemann: I was the first woman from Canadian County to be ever elected to a state office. And when I went to the legislature I was still raising chickens and laying hens and take the back seat out of the car and load about 10 to 11 or 12 cases a week in there that I took.

Rob: After leaving the House of Representatives, Anna Belle’s service to Oklahoma continued at the Oklahoma Consumer Credit Commission. And in 1984, Anna Belle became the coordinator of international marketing for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.

Wiedemann: I went to Taiwan to visit with their head chief that was the buyer of wheat. He said he would come and buy some wheat from us. So I had them in the backyard here, and we had kind of a picnic and a cookout of beef and all of that. And he said, “Well, since you are here on the golf course, why don’t we go ahead and sign this $2 million agreement, and I will play golf tomorrow instead of going to the office with you.”

Rob: Under Anna Belle’s leadership, the Made In Oklahoma program became a reality, and she was instrumental in implementing the Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom.

Wiedemann: I take pride in it because they really did sell the product, the Made In Oklahoma. And people now still will flip it over and see that label on there, and it’s been a great help.

Rob: In 1994, Anna Belle became the director of rural development for the Department of Agriculture.

Wiedemann: I made a lot of speeches over the state. Sometimes we forget there is a western Oklahoma or an eastern Oklahoma.

Rob: And while busy at work, Anna Belle remained a constant ambassador for the beef industry.

Wiedemann: I am the longest member they have now in the Cattlewomen. So I started way back.

Rob: But still making time for family, even being named Oklahoma’s Mother of the Year in 1991.

Wiedemann: Determination is a great thing to have. It will get you where you’re going.

Female Announcer: Want to see more stories like this? All our segments are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV.

Rob McClendon: Well, growing up in a large family on a Missouri farm, a young Virgil Jurgensmeyer often found himself helping his mother can vegetables in the kitchen. And it was when the green beans kept going bad, but the corn did not, that Jurgensmeyer’s interest in food safety was first sparked. Jurgensmeyer moved to Oklahoma in 1979, in the middle of wheat and cattle country, to start a farm that was decidedly outside the mainstream. Yet today, with annual sales revenue surpassing forty million, it is arguably now one of the state's largest. Our Austin Moore introduces us to the founder of J-M Farms.

Austin Moore: Virgil Jurgensmeyer has a theory as to why he is the recipient of the Governor’s 2017 Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture Award.

Virgil Jurgensmeyer: They made a mistake. I, I’ve fooled them. I’m just a farm boy. Country boy.

Austin: A humble farm boy who created one of Oklahoma’s most unique agricultural enterprises. Based in Miami, Oklahoma, J-M Farms today employs more than 500 employees, producing more than 27 million pounds of white button, cremini and portobello mushrooms yearly and generating annual sales in excess of $40 million, all with a breakneck production schedule.

Jurgensmeyer: So every day I plant a new crop. Every day I take an old one out. Mushrooms grow 24 hours a day. And they’ve got to be harvested or watered or something has to be done every day.

Austin: Today, J-M is a well-oiled machine with seasoned employees in charge of every step. But in 1979 when Virgil, his brother, Joe, and Darrell McLain founded then J-M Farms, they were truly starting from scratch.

Jurgensmeyer: You came here with no experienced people at all here. And that made it kind of tough.

Austin: Jurgensmeyer also says there was an underdeveloped appreciation for mushrooms in this market.

Jurgensmeyer: Every store opening my wife and I would go. If Albertson’s had a new store to open, we were there for the first couple of days, sauteing mushrooms and frying mushrooms. And that mother would come through and she would taste them, and I’d hand one to the little kid. And she’d tell the little kid, oh, you won’t like that. And 20 minutes later, here comes that little kid sneaking up the aisle again. He wants another one. But it took that. It took all of that to develop in a new market. Cause mushrooms, people didn’t know about mushrooms. It’s just like that lady telling that little kid, “You won’t like that.” And they did like it. They hadn’t had a chance to experience it before.

Austin: That experience of growing a market stuck with Jurgensmeyer years later when Gov. Henry Bellmon appointed him to the State Board of Agriculture.

Jurgensmeyer: I felt that the farmers in Oklahoma were, did not have the opportunity to develop their own products, because that’s a challenge. It takes a lot of equipment sometimes to do it and to come on with a food product.

Austin: This passion led the board to create the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University, though it wasn’t always destined to be there.

Jurgensmeyer: We were going to build it first at the Department of Ag Building there in Oklahoma City. And we got to tossing that around and I said, you know, we are going to need the expertise from a lot of people to have that available if that farmer or person comes in with a product. At OSU, I said, we got a department there that has got in all areas we’ve got experts, doctors in those different areas. And we need to be able to draw on all of those. So I feel partial to the Food and Agricultural Products Center because it’s been a baby that I’ve worked with from the beginning.

Austin: Back in Miami, it is clear that Jurgensmeyer is a great cultivator of mushrooms, but more importantly, he is a cultivator of great people.

Jurgensmeyer: We are all human. We are all going to make mistakes. All I’ll ask of you is, we learn from those mistakes. And nobody gets criticized because they made a mistake and because it cost us. We learn from it. And once you got that through, people don’t hide them that away and it comes to the surface. You’ve got them. It works like a family. And there is too much of that missing today in our society. We are not acting like friends. We are not acting like family.

Austin: With three sons involved in the business, and a management team Jurgensmeyer talks about with the pride of a father, there may be no better example of this familial attitude than the annual Steve Wright Memorial Golf Tournament, held in honor of the plant manager who passed away in 2013.

Jurgensmeyer: We lost him to a tumor. And the money from those, what we earn from that, goes to a school. To our school here in Miami, Oklahoma. To a certain class or to who he -- his wife was a teacher. Nobody here has forgotten him. Everybody, I mean, he was a family member. We lost him. That is J-M Farms.

Rob McClendon: Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we’ll visit a classroom where students are learning some old lessons in a new way.

Debra Deskin: If I could tie ag into every lesson I do, then I’m going to be happy with it.

Rob: Plus, we’ll introduce you to the person behind a very familiar voice.

Siri: I was made that way.

Susan Bennett: I did not speak to Siri myself. It was just too weird to have my own voice coming back out here. I talk to myself enough as it is.

Rob: On Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: And finally, each of the Oklahomans we introduced you to today were this year’s inductees in Gov. Fallin’s Agriculture Hall of Fame. And while they each represent different areas of the state, they share the ability to look past the what is to the what could be. Where others saw sandy soil in the middle of a drought, Floyd King recognized the importance of irrigation. Hal Clark began farming in the same drought but in an area decimated by the Dust Bowl less than 20 years earlier. But rather than give in to nature, he worked to harness it. Anna Belle Wiedemann was a pioneer not just for her gender, but her ability to see the future of Oklahoma agriculture stretched well beyond our state’s borders. And then there is Virgil Jurgensmeyer, an Oklahoman who saw an opportunity to introduce a crop that most of us never knew we liked until he got us to try it. All four agricultural trailblazers and all inductees into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.