Doug Holladay, Bud Hund, John Hund, and Dan Wagner describe their big dreams for getting Paxico on the map for its Blues Fest, neighborhood music scene, and antiques.
Community Builders in Wabaunsee County
Read their stories here-
in their own words
With scenic beauty as a stunning backdrop, Wabaunsee County has a strong commitment to community and culture. Drawing on historic roots, while appealing to new audiences, social events like barn dances, quilting bees and pitch tournaments have paved the way for Hot Alma Nights, Mulligans, Vintage Motorcycle Exhibits, the Paxico Blues Fest, the Tractor Crank-up Tour, and the Pumpkin Patch. These experiences build community, attract new people to Wabaunsee County, and support the local economy. Here are some of the people who have enriched the community either through volunteerism, innovative industry or safeguarding heritage sites.
Alex Gnadt, Owner of Flint Hills Stone
Alex Gnadt, owner of Flint Hills Stone was born and raised in Wabaunsee county. While in college he developed an interest in the limestone ledge found in the Flint Hills. Alex founded Flint Hills Stone in 2008. As a fourth generation farmer he is committed to land conservation. Our operation is managed with reclamation and preservation at the forefront. We work closely with landowners and local seed producers to reestablish the right blend of native grass. We have implemented best practices in conservation to ensure the return of the tallgrass prairie for continued farming and ranching. We are proud to partner with landowners to help sustain family farms and to ensure the Flint Hills will continue to thrive for years to come.
Amy Langvardt, Rancher
Amy Langvardt owns and manages a cattle ranch in southern Wabaunsee County with three generations of her family. The goal at Lyons Ranch is to produce Angus seedstock with superior genetics using a mix of old and new techniques every day: time-tested cowboying, enhanced with newer science like Artificial Insemination and DNA testing. The culmination of the year, in addition to calving season, is the annual bull sale, held for more than three decades at the ranch headquarters near Manhattan.
Amy’s husband Karl’s family run two livestock sale barns in neighboring counties. They help market tens of thousands of cattle annually- yearlings off the Flint Hills grass after grazing season and the calf crops of their Wabaunsee County neighbors.
Amy serves on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the Kansas Beef Council, the national and state boards that allocate Beef Checkoff dollars for marketing and research programs designed to increase the demand for beef at home and abroad through advertising, research and education.
Annie Compton, Community Leader
During the week, homeschooling mother of four, city council member, and photographer Annie Compton wears many hats. But her dedication to improving the community she grew up in is realized in her work as President of the Eskridge Park Foundation. For the past three years, the EPF has been dedicated to revitalizing the Eskridge City Park, founded in 1903. Their dream for the park is to make it a hub of activity for the community again by adding restrooms, playground, picnic amenities, sidewalks and more, while paying respect to the beautiful history of the park by restoring its historic bandstand. The group has raised over $65,000 so far, won the Heritage Trust Fund Grant in 2020, and continues to plan events not only to bring these dreams to fruition, but to bring their community together.
Barb Downey and Joe Carpenter, Ranchers
Barb & Joe hold a vision for their community that cultivates that same holistic & integrative approach they use on the ranch. They see the rural nature & wide-open spaces of their community as the incubator of many uniquely American values with which we all identify: self-reliance, self-startedness, the intimate familiarity with nature and that necessary symbiotic relationship with her, all capped off with personal responsibility to all who depend on you. It is that integration of the environment & the community that helps ensure all will thrive together.
Bruce Waugh, Community Leader
Bruce Waugh grew up in Eskridge across from the City Park. He became active in 2002 when industrial wind turbine complexes threatened to invade the native prairie of the Flint Hills. He joined and supported other concerned landowners, residents and friends of the Flint Hills to establish regulations to prevent such industrialization.
Bud Hund, Entrepreneur, Festival Producer, Storekeeper
I come from a seven-generation family of German immigrant farmers and ranchers. I have promoted festivals and music for over 48 years while running an antique store in Paxico, Kansas. The Blues Festival was started with the assistance of a former African- American resident who is a producer of blues music. I would like to see Paxico as a destination for music in the Flint Hills. I continue spending a lot of time keeping mediocrity at bay.
Lee and Cindy Schultz, Ranchers and Educators
The Flint Hills of Wabaunsee County have been home to Lee since birth and to Cindy since 1972 when her family purchased a local ranch and relocated here. Together we have worked to be strong stewards of the land as we provide, and preserve, our ranching lifestyle – rising early, working late, and playing hard. Our time and energy have been given to various organizations and visions, including surrounding schools, churches, 4-H, and youth athletics- from horse drawn hayrack rides for all schoolmates, to tubing down Mill Creek with gymnastics families; from early morning crosscountry workouts and homemade cinnamon rolls, to ziplines and spectacular views from the “S” hill for soccer youth.
We have also shared our family ranching experiences with local, national, and international guests from 9 to 90 years of age. Our children and grandchildren, fourth and fifth generation Schultz Family, continue to be involved in our seasonal ranch work. Their help is essential for gathering cows, working and weaning calves, building fence, and managing pastures and hay acreages. Our life together continues to be filled with nature, wildlife, cattle and horses, the Flint Hills, helping, and family. Our drive has always been to provide our children and grandchildren with wings to fly and ranching roots to come home to. We are blessed.
Dan Wagner, Educator and Community Leader
Dan Wagner was raised in Paxico and has spent almost his entire life in the community. He has served the city as both a councilperson and as mayor of the community. His volunteerism has led to a solid effect on improving the city’s appearance, and to improvements at the city park. The city park in many ways represents the direction the city is going.
My dream for Wabaunsee County is for the county to balance the maintenance of its pristine beauty, but also allow economic development along the I-70 corridor.
Doug Heigert, Community Leader
I live in Wabaunsee County by the Grace of God. My great Grandfather came here from Germany to work for his uncle and aunt and my wife and my family grew up here. We had a wonderful childhood and when we married made a conscious decision to stay and raise our children here because of the environment.
My volunteerism started in childhood because of the example of my parents and extended family. Living in a small town, attending a small school and church means you have to be involved if you want something to grow and become better and just to function. You can’t let “somebody” else do it because sometimes there isn’t anyone else. Working with a lot of people over the years, Paxico and the surrounding area has grown and improved; we have worked to make the area a delightful place to visit; a place we are very proud of. We live across the street from Sacred Heart Catholic Church and there are many visitors, and they always comment on the beauty and peacefulness of Mill Creek Valley and the Flint Hills; that is something we hope to maintain and hope others can enjoy.
I serve on the Wabaunsee County Historical Society Board, Paxico Foundation, Paxico High School Alumni Association and help at the Catholic churches in Paxico/Newbury and Maple Hill.
Gary and Peggy Schultz, Ranchers
The Schultz family’s ranching tradition started in Wabaunsee County back in 1872. Lush green grass for grazing and the railhead at Volland that allowed for shipping cattle in and out made this the ideal foundation to get started.
My grandfather Gus was a risk-taker and had a mindset to grow his business. He acquired large amounts of Flint Hills Grass, some for as much as $6.50 an acre.
That land is still in our operation today. My father Bill followed in his Dad’s footsteps, just as I did. I’m proud that my daughter Candi and her husband Chris recently purchased some of that original land to continue our family tradition.
Burning pastures to help with brush control, maintaining and building fences, processing and caring for cattle, are all rich traditions that have been enjoyed from one generation to the next.
The Flying S Ranch in Wabaunsee County is a family affair. We feel blessed to be chosen stewards of one of God’s most beautiful creations here in the Flint Hills.
Heather Beggs, Yoga Instructor
Our family moved from KC to Alma in 2016, and I began teaching yoga at the Alma Community Center shortly after. Flint Hills Yoga gives name to a growing community of yoga practitioners here in Wabaunsee County. These are the neighbors who seem to feel good no matter their age, they move and think with efficiency, and they are curiously calm, all gifts of yoga done with consistency.
Flint Hills Yoga moved to a storefront in the heart of Alma, in June 2019. It was with intention that class traffic contributes to the feeling of a vibrant downtown, its energy spilling over to other establishments inhabiting historic stone storefronts in The City of Native Stone.
As a former city-dweller and occasional traveler, my dream for Wabaunsee County is that it keeps the charm of small town USA, felt as genuine neighborliness and friendliness as opposed to mere politeness. Another charm is the traditional building material, native limestone. When we have traveled, it is the unique destinations defined by place that lure us rather than the no-man’s land of suburban sprawl.
During Flint Hills Yoga lessons, we first decide the goal, and then move towards it. As I watch residential and commercial developments continue to crawl across the land, my wish is that we exercise similar thoughtfulness in addressing the needs of the future without surrendering this small town charm to some future highest bidder. We occasionally learn too late that some things are priceless. Places like Wabaunsee County will be a refuge in the coming decades and beyond, if we agree that there is something special here worth protecting.
Jesse Gehrt, Kansas Game Warden
John Hund, Rancher and Community Leader
John Hund lives and works on ancestral land in Mill Creek valley near Paxico. A portion of this land was part of an original purchase made by his great-great grandfather Michael Hund in 1871. After college and a career in mental health, he returned to the family farm where he and his wife Terry now reside.
John’s parents and grandparents always stressed that community involvement and volunteerism is an obligation. He currently is on the boards of directors of the Wabaunsee County Historical Society, the Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards, the Flint Hills Discovery Center, and the Sacred Heart parish council. He is also a member of the Tallgrass Ranchers, an organization started 20 years ago whose mission is to educate the public about the unique nature of the Flint Hills, and the importance of preserving it when possible.
All of these organizations have a positive impact [cultural, educational, conservation, stewardship] on our local and greater Flint Hills community.
Wabaunsee County is deemed by many to be the most scenic and diverse county in Kansas. His wish for the future is that those fortunate enough to live here appreciate and protect our natural and cultural resources as a gift to future generations.
Kathy Hogue, Stonebridge, Flint Hills Preservationist
Bill & Kathy Hogue are lifelong Kansans. Bill was raised on his grandparents’ farm in Wabaunsee County where he learned the value of land stewardship. Kathy realized her childhood dream of owning her own pony when she married her Stetson Darlin’ and became a country gal! Angus cattle have been raised on their Mission Valley Ranch since 1957. Realizing the need for more pasture, they purchased an 1860’s Flint Hills homestead with 1,470 acres of Bluestem, including several crumbling stone structures. After years of neglect, Stonebridge, the landmark homestead with its arched ceiling stone cellars has been restored and now stands proud on the Kansas prairie. The Hogues are pleased to share the pioneer story of “Stonebridge” with scheduled visits. It is their hope that others will follow in their path of preservation. Click to learn more of the Stonebridge history – Kuenzli Legacy by Kathy Hogue.
Laurie Hamilton and Lee and Cindy Schultz, Grimm-Schultz Farmstead
Laurie Hamilton, a retired Kansas business woman, fell in love with the Flint Hills over a decade ago when she first put a foot on the site for a Symphony in the Flint Hills. She worked as a volunteer planning the event, served on the Board, authored articles, and co-edited the Journal for SIFH. Her 2014 research project at the UMKC School of Law addressed the use of conservation easements in the Flint Hills. When touring the Farmstead with the Schultz owners in 2019, Laurie was so captivated by the limestone farm buildings that she marshaled her resources and plunged forward with a purchase. Renovation began in early 2020, and by October 2020, the property gained listing on the state and federal registers of historic agricultural properties. Laurie, and Lee and Cindy Schultz wish to preserve this Wabaunsee County history for the greater community for generations to come.
Michael Stubbs, Historian and Community Advocate, Mount Mitchell
Michael Stubbs is a local historian and community activist who has spent the last thirty-five years working to preserve and promote Wabaunsee County’s cultural heritage and Flint Hills landscape. He is the founder of the Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards, managers of the Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie Park.
Morgan Holloman, Entrepreneur
Morgan Holloman owns and operates the Antique Emporium as well as Mill Creek Mercantile located in downtown Alma. The stores invite travelers from all over the country to shop small and explore the many stops Alma has to offer.
Patty and Jerry Reece, Landowners, Flint Hills Advocates, The Volland Store
Patty and Jerry came to Wabaunsee County in 2000, fulfilling a longtime dream of having a place in the Flint Hills. They bought a 19th century stone farmstead with a few acres, where their children and grandchildren could experience the joys of the land and a rural lifestyle. Over the years they bought additional pastureland, keeping in place the previous land managers, understanding the value and rarity of the tallgrass ecosystem. The Reece’s embraced the local culture and were rewarded with stories of days gone by. They learned that the local general store, which had fallen into disrepair, was once the social and cultural center of the surrounding ranching community. It held many fond memories, and when presented with the opportunity to purchase it, the Reece’s understood it was not just a building that was important to preserve, but the history of a culture. In 2015 The Volland Store re-opened after a 45-year slumber as “A Place for Art and Community.” It now hosts art exhibits, music concerts, horse shows, vintage motorcycle exhibits, poetry readings, talks by artists, scientists, humanitarians, and many community gatherings. Next up – a residency program will be created at Volland for open-minded artists, scientists, and humanitarians who not only have a love of nature and an appreciation of simplicity and contemplation, but who look forward to engaging with the local community. The gift of time and space in the tallgrass prairie will offer an experience perfectly suited to today, with continuing relevance for the future.
Paul Miller, Rancher and Community Leader
Paul’s ancestors, on both sides of the family, settled in Wabaunsee County in the 1860’s. He is the fifth generation to operate the land south of Alma. Paul believes that the best way to make a difference is to contribute to the local community. His involvement in the Wabaunsee County Historical Society and the Alma Area Foundation as a volunteer offers an opportunity to keep our community vibrant.
Richard Feyh, Purveyor of Native Grass Seed
Born and raised in Wabaunsee County Richard Feyh began farming on his own by renting land at age 15. Incorporating in 1995 Feyh Farm Co. provides seed for native warm season grasses and wildflowers as well as smooth Brome Seed nationwide helping to fuel the regeneration of lands in Wabaunsee County and many other states.
Sherry Hensley & Marcy Merritt, Founders of Hot Alma Nights
Wrenn and Arturo Pacheco, Ranchers and Entrepreneurs
Arturo and Wrenn Pacheco of Pacheco Beef have created a ranch-to-table business by providing high quality beef directly to the consumer. Customers can shop in their storefront that is located on the main street of Alma or visit their website and purchase beef cuts to be shipped or delivered. The couple shares their story of ranching and their rural lifestyle on social media. Wrenn is a professional photographer (Wrenn Bird Photography) and writes a blog called “Cooking with the Cowboy,” where Arturo shares his recipes and culinary skills. The Pacheco’s moved to Wabaunsee County following graduation from K-State, because they recognized the quality of the grass for ranching. Their fresh perspective and entrepreneurial ventures enrich our community as they put down deep roots in our county. They understand the opportunity to grow a business that they hope they can pass on to their boys one day.
Thank you to our
CROSSROADS COMMUNITY PARTNERS
Arla & Tony Barelli
Kansas Beef Council
Wabaunsee County Historical Society
Community Exhibit Partners
Alma Area Foundation
Bruce & Tina Breckenridge
Bank of the Flint Hills
Carl & Mary Ice
Jim & Barbara Meinhardt and KanEquip, Inc.
Lyons Angus Ranch
M7 Ranch – McGee Family
Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards
The Native Stone Scenic Byway
Heidi & Nelson Nast
Henry & Cara Newell
Patty & Jerry Reece
Stockgrowers State Bank
Wabaunsee County Farm Bureau
Community Event Partners for Commitment to Community Week
Hier Insurance Services, Inc
Paxico Longbranch Bar & Grill
EXPLORE Map printed courtesy of Wabaunsee County Economic Development Office