Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive March 2017 Show 1710 Lew Meibergen - 2010 Ag Hall of Fame

Lew Meibergen - 2010 Ag Hall of Fame

Value Added: Innovation has long played a vital role in America’s prosperity, and here in Oklahoma, few have been more innovative then Lew Meibergen, an Enid businessman who is the epitome of an agricultural entrepreneur.
Lew Meibergen - 2010 Ag Hall of Fame

Lew Meibergen - 2010 Ag Hall of Fame

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Johnston Enterprises

Oklahoma Ag Hall of Fame

Show Details

 

Show 1710: Lew Meibergen - 2010 Ag Hall of Fame
Air Date: March 5, 2017

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Well, innovation has long played a vital role in America’s prosperity, and here in Oklahoma, few have been more innovative than Lew Meibergen, an Enid businessman who is the epitome of an agricultural entrepreneur.

Lew Meibergen: This is a picture of my grandfather’s first store.

Rob: For Lew Meibergen, the story of the family business is the story of Oklahoma.

Meibergen: My mother’s father founded it in 1893. He made the run at the Cherokee Outlet; he wasn’t successful in getting a claim or anything, but later on he bought out a gentleman. But to start off with, he furnished the settlers’ seed to plant the wheat. In other words, he’d loan them a bushel of wheat, and they’d repay him at harvest time when they brought their wheat in.

Rob: Planting the seed for what was to become Johnston Grain, one of the state’s most successful agribusinesses through good times and bad.

Meibergen: Everybody had a hard time in the ’30s, the Depression, but managed through it; Granddad had 30-some country elevators in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

Rob: As soon as he was old enough, Lew Meibergen began working in the family business before heading off to college at Oklahoma A&M.

Meibergen: Well, I went over there, I guess in 1949, thinking I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I couldn’t get into vet school because all the World War II veterans had preference.

Rob: So Lew earned his degree in agriculture and entered the family business.

Meibergen: I was in Fairview, Oklahoma, at that time, running our country elevator out there. Then from there, I went down to the state Capitol when Gov. Henry Bellmon appointed me to commissioner of agriculture.

Rob: After leaving state government, Lew went into banking, until the day he had the opportunity to buy controlling interest of the family business.

Meibergen: When I bought it we had six country elevators in the terminal here in Enid, and now I think we have 26 country elevators.

Rob: An expansion that created the largest independent grain company in Oklahoma, thanks in great part to Meibergen’s ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace.

Meibergen: Then to today it’s been nice, we’ve had a lot of changes, and really changing now in regards to technology.

Rob: Unable to get enough rail cars to transport all the grain now being brought in, Meibergen looked to the water; and in doing so, changed Oklahoma agriculture.

Meibergen: A gentleman by the name of Veldo Brewer had his little port over on the river, and he talked me into putting an elevator over there, so that was probably one of the smartest things I did because it really opened it up so we could move our product. It got the railroads competitive. They dropped their rates and tried to service a few cars once they found out there was an alternative method of shipping grain to the Gulf.

Rob: Sending Oklahoma grain to new markets while giving Oklahoma farmers new opportunities.

Meibergen: Because of the river we were able to go to sell to mills, flour mills back east and the northeast, where we couldn’t by rail.

Rob: Today Port 33 is Oklahoma’s largest bulk handling port, delivering both agricultural and industrial goods all around the world.

Meibergen: It’s the best kept secret in Oklahoma; it’s, I mean, it’s a great, great asset.

Rob: Just one of a number Meibergen has been behind. In 2002, Johnston’s built a value added facility in Shattuck, Oklahoma, that allows farmers to get the most for their crops and has increased export business to Mexico and premium millers in California. When the first shipload of Oklahoma wheat arrived in Cuba, it was a ship full of Johnston grain. And when baseball teams took the field at the Beijing Olympics, it was on grass grown from Johnston seeds, a fitting tribute for a company whose origins began by providing seeds to Oklahoma settlers and still today serves their descendants.

Meibergen: We’ve been lucky. It’s been a good life, and we get the satisfaction of helping producers, see ’em do better, and working together we can do it.

Rob: Lew Meibergen, Oklahoma entrepreneur, and recipient of the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture. The impact Mr. Meibergen’s work has had on Oklahoma was honored this week at the state Capitol. He is the latest to be inducted into the Governor’s Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Jari Askins: So it is with great pleasure and pride for me, to present to you, the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture and would you please say a few words?

Meibergen: I don’t know if I can or not.

Jari: Yes, I bet you can.

Lew: One of my accomplishments, or what the company has done, would be impossible without the wonderful, dedicated employees we have. They’re the ones that make W.B. Johnston Grain Company’s entrepreneur prices, not me, but our employees are dedicated and well qualified. Once again, many thanks.

Jari: A lot of times I’m not sure Oklahomans understand the impact of the agriculture industry and the accomplishments and contributions of a man like Lew Meibergen.