Internships are probably some of the most rewarding, frustrating, time-consuming, and interesting things you will every take part in, but it is all worth it in the end. December 2013, I will be ending a yearlong internship that has changed my general way of thinking, the way I conduct my friendships, and my view of agriculture.
Rebecca Hall and I took an internship with the Chapman Center for Rural Studies in April 2013 that was funded by a grant from Cenex Harvesters States. The idea was to research farmer cooperatives across Kansas in order to build an online archive for student researchers. Rebecca is majoring in History, while I’m majoring in Agriculture. So, the thought was, pair up the History and Ag majors, and you will get the best of both worlds while researching a very important part in the history of agriculture. We chose which co-ops to research, which included co-ops that were 100 years old. We traveled from town to town doing our research, and were lucky to have family and friends to stay overnight with for the most part. The one thing Rebecca and I share is a love of history, and that is what I think made this a successful project. Stepping into a 100-year-old co-op and looking through the old photographs and minute books sends chills down my spine.
The very last co-op we visited was in Gorham, Kansas. They recently celebrated their 100th anniversary in October of 2013, which made them a must-have for this research. We spoke with Mr. John Lapka, the general manager, and he set us up with more than our history-loving hearts could handle. We went through old photographs and tried to decipher handwriting in minute books from 1913 to 1975. We were like kids in a candy store. Most of our summer was much like the trip to Gorham. Delphos, St. Francis and Garden City are a few places that are home to the most gracious, helpful, and interesting people who helped us get as much information as we could.
Kanas cooperatives are so full of history, and it was our job to get their story to the world, and let others know just how important they really are. Though the project will be complete come December, I’m hopeful that the Chapman Center folks here at K-State will want to expand on the project and include more co-ops, as well as ones that are no longer in existence. If you ever get the chance to be included in research like this, DO IT! Not only did I get paid and partnered with the coolest person ever, but I also got to meet new people, make connections, and learn more about the cooperatives that have been a friend of the farmer for over 100 years.
We also ran a blog while on the road this summer! If you’d like to check it out and learn more about the co-ops we visited (until our website comes out of course!), visit http://kstatehistoryadventures.blogspot.com/!