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Class XXIX Session on Agriculture/Rural Development
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Class XXIX Session on Agriculture/Rural Development in Guymon

Class XXIX was in Guymon on April 1-2 for their session on Agriculture/Rural Development. The goals of this session were to enhance participants’ knowledge of the past, present and future roles of agriculture in Oklahoma and its social and economic impact. Other activities included discussing innovative ways rural communities have developed and funded quality of life projects in Oklahoma, such as infrastructure enhancement, development of entertainment and athletic venues, integration of diverse populations into the cultural fabric of the local community, and retail attraction and growth.

Read reflections on the session from four Class XXIX members and view a few photos from the session. Click HERE to view more on Facebook!

Wow! This is one of many adjectives that can be used to describe my next to the last Leadership Oklahoma experience. As a 5th generation OKIE, I saw things on this trip that I had only heard and read about but considered and thought of it as one author’s opinion of the state’s Panhandle community.
The “trek” to Northwest Oklahoma this month was enlightening at best. Who knew of this “hidden gem’s” existence and that it contributed so much to the State’s economic base? Its diverse culture, industrial areas and farm/ranch community makes it unimaginable to describe to anyone what this area of the state had/has accomplished to include their ability to co-exist and function as a cohesive unit since the late 1800’s.
This region demonstrated a spirit of pride that was, for me, unlike any other LOK experience. The leadership and other persons that presented and hosted this event spoke of their “highs and lows” in all aspects of life and what has kept these people fighting for what had been passed down throughout generations to include what factors bring the newcomers to this area.
The generational and foundational beliefs along with their tenacity for a better life came through in one voice regardless of what county we visited and that they have explored any potential opportunity to make this corner of the earth somewhere they are very proud, of whether it’s agricultural or technological in nature.
Although it is one of the furthest locations in which I have traveled in Oklahoma and that it is “smooth” educationally “bar none”, I will definitely recommend it to my peers, friends and relatives to visit this locale. I can also honestly tell them in the words of a former co-worker of mine, J.D. Hensley, “I have been to a hog-killing, goat roping and a County Fair, but I ain’t never seen nothing like this!”

Kathy Banks-Monroe, Class XXIX
Department of Army/Network Enterprise Center

When I visited Haiti recently, I was once again (as in all developing countries) amazed at how life......all of life.... happens along the side of the road. There are people everywhere doing everything! Not so in the communities near Black Mesa. "No Man's Land" seems an apt name for this beautiful corner of our state. Of the three counties in this area, Cimarron boasts that this is the only county that touches 5 states and there are no stoplights in the entire county!
Black Mesa gets its name as it is capped by erosion resistant basaltic lava formed by a volcano eruption approximately 3-5 million years ago. It is beautiful, vast and austere. It is considered high mountain desert with only 15 inches of rainfall annually. The highest point in the great state of Oklahoma can be visited here as well. I wish we could have had the time to hike the trail up to 4973 feet. It is 8.4 miles out and back, with multiple switchbacks and varied terrain. Once the top of the mesa is reached, there is a one-mile trek to the granite monument that marks the Black Mesa Summit and the highest point in the state.
Our first stop after leaving Guymon was the community building in Kenton, OK (population 30 or so?). We met Jane Apple and her son, Leross. The town is tiny yet has three churches and a post office! We headed north from Kenton and along the way we were entertained and educated by Leross who is 4th generation living and working here. His country/cowboy humor was infectious and made the tour quite fun! (How did he talk so much with that toothpick in his mouth?) He told us all kinds of stories like the one about the mummified child from millions of years ago when water covered this area of the world, as well as facts about the area: takes 40-50 acres per cow, 5 kinds of turkeys in the US, three are in OK and one in this area only. We drove through Black Mesa State Park, viewed Robber's Roost, previously home to 60 outlaws, and several rock/lava formations that have a variety of names like "the Wedding Party" and "the Old Maid." We arrived at the Tristate area where a marker confirms the spot where Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado all touch! The original marker was incorrect supposedly because they "used the wrong string and stick!"
During the 1930's, a dozen dinosaur quarries were opened and excavated in the US. A femur from a Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus was found at the quarry in Black Mesa. The discovery was made by JR Collins of Kenton. Abundant fossils have since been found in this area through the years: 18 TONS of dinosaur bones! Most recently OU students and scientists discovered additional vertebrae in 2012. Tracks left by an Allosarus are located in Carrizo Creek. We visited the tracks in the dry creek bed. The area at one time was a swamp and forest area. The tracks, those of a 30-foot-long beast who walked on hind legs, are close together indicating walking slowly along a beach or pool. The tracks are Jurassic in formation, sandstone and are estimated to be 150 million years old.
Back to the community Center for lunch prepared by the good folks from Kenton. I sampled a hot cinnamon pickle for the first time! After lunch we hiked via a pasture of cactus and mesquite bushes, and climbed over or through a barbed wire fence to reach a cave in the side of a mountain. From there we had a gorgeous view of Black Mesa.
On the bus, now accompanied by Leross's brother, Leon, the sheriff of Cimarron County. we visited Coronado's signature and an original sod house.
I am amazed at the people of this area of our state. They are incredibly hardworking, proud, resilient and independent. Clearly they love the openness of the area: “You can see tomorrow from here." And they don’t mind the lack of access to things like Walmart, much less a Whole Foods. Kids travel to school up to 60 miles daily! They are fiercely loyal to their land and to the people here as evidenced by many families having 5 generations having lived here. There must be something healthy to it, too! Jane Apple's mom is 102!

Dr. Susan Chambers, Class XXIX
Susan Chambers MD, PC (OKC Gyn/Ob Inc.)

March 31st was the beginning of our Leadership Oklahoma adventure to the Oklahoma panhandle and Guymon. I call it an adventure because it was my first visit to the panhandle and so different from southeastern Oklahoma where I reside. Our first day was spent at Black Mesa where we met and spent our time with the Apple family. They were tremendous hosts and devoted their day to showing us the Mesa, their ranch and other local attractions. It was amazing to me how large the ranches were in the area, but with the arid climate it was necessary. It was also very interesting hearing from a 5th generation rancher that knew exactly how his ancestors came to and settled in the community.
Our next two days were spent in Guymon learning about agriculture in the panhandle. We learned techniques for water conservation in an area where the average rainfall is about 16 inches per year. Farming has become very technologically advanced with the use of GPS on tractors and notification systems when irrigation systems fail. We spent time at the Seaboard processing plant and witnessed how hog processing is done on a very large scale and we spent time with the Hitch family learning about their farming and ranching operations.
Overall, my impression of the people and places we experienced in Guymon was one of great pride in their industry and their longevity. Almost everyone could trace their ancestry back at least four generations to the area. The hospitality and the genuine friendliness from everyone we visited with was second to none. The former mayor, Jess Nelson, and the current mayor, Kim Peterson, gave us a very good history of Guymon, the obstacles they have overcome and the progress the town of Guymon has made to support industry and grow its economic impact for the state of Oklahoma.

Jalinda Kelley, Class XXIX
Secretary of Interior Services
The Chickasaw Nation

I would just like to say, it was another great program put on by Leadership Oklahoma and our host community of Guymon.
It might seem strange to many, but I was looking forward to the tour of the Seaboard processing plant. As a fresh high school graduate, I went to work at a processing plant, which was a great way to learn some real life lessons and a great opportunity to do some soul searching on what I really wanted to do with my life. Therefore, it wasn’t long into my packing house career that I decided to procure a college degree. But, I did continue to work at the packing plant during summers and holidays, as it was great not only for life lessons, but it also helped finance a college degree.
During the tour, I was impressed with some of the new technology and the automation. As I thought about the new technology, I realized it was really just the same result with new process. Now, after some time has passed, it hit me, the most significant change in the process was not the process itself, but the people and faces. I can’t quote the number of different dialects or foreign countries represented but the numbers are staggering. A lot of individuals from different parts of the world living their American dream in Guymon, Oklahoma.
I would like to congratulate the community leaders and the management of Seaboard. The issues they have tackled are many and difficult. These issues range from multiple languages, different cultures, and the growing pains of the municipal services and housing. Last but not least is the public school system. The administration and staff of the Guymon Schools have embraced the challenges like true leaders.
Again, thanks to Leadership Oklahoma and our Guymon hosts for a very informative session.

Steve Sherman, Class XXIX
Executive Vice President
McClain Bank


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