I am currently interning on campus with K-State Research and Extension’s News Media and Marketing Services. As a dual major in animal sciences and agricultural communications and journalism, I am truly blessed with this opportunity. It is allowing me to write news articles and press releases while going to school and the experience I have gained is unlike anything I can get in any classroom. Earlier this semester I was assigned to write an article about the new feed mill built on campus. The O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center was dedicated on Oct. 11, 2013 and the full news article about this can be found at http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/innovation_center110113.aspx. While I enjoyed writing about the ceremony itself, my favorite part was finding a story within the story. While attending the dedication ceremony I was able to hear Ron Kruse speak of his father, O.H. Kruse, and the legacy he left behind.
MANHATTAN, Kan. – The O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center was made possible by the support of people and organizations dedicated to bettering the future of the feed industry.
One of those is Ron Kruse, owner and CEO of Western Milling LLC, who donated the first $2 million toward the construction of the feed mill, which was opened this fall on the Kansas State University campus.
“We’ve had a lot of graduates from Kansas State work in our organization and they’ve been very helpful and innovative in making our company a success,” Kruse said. “In my mind, Kansas State has done a better job than anybody in the country in educating people in our industry and because of that it was simple for me to make the decision to make a significant donation to this project.”
Kruse said that his family is especially proud of their support because this facility is named in honor of his father, Otto Henry Kruse.
“He was a dedicated man that embraced free enterprise and had vision that brought about a big change in the feed industry, or at least on the West Coast, where he introduced bulk feeds and the delivery of feed in bulk to customers,” Kruse said.
O.H. Kruse grew up working on his family’s small dairy operation in California. In 1925, at the age of 17, he went to work for the El Monte Grain Company. When the depression hit, this company failed and he went to work for F.F. Booker Wholesale Hay and Grain.
In 1935, the owner was killed in an automobile accident. Kruse was a hard-working employee who had earned his rank and was able to purchase the company for a couple hundred dollars down and a note for $5,000.
All of this occurred during the Great Depression and the newly purchased company’s finances were unstable, but Kruse was successful in restructuring the company and later renamed it O.H. Kruse Grain & Milling.
Ron Kruse said that he remembers his father working late at night to develop a plan for the business. Today this plan is described as core values, but to his father it was common sense. These core values included:
* You make and sell products that help your customer achieve success.
* You hire good people that are committed to work together for the best interest of the company.
* Stay financially sound and keep adequate reserves for a rainy day.
* You strive for efficiency and always look for new ways to be more efficient.
* Be responsible, enthusiastic and have fun with what you are doing.
“That’s the way Otto lived his life,” Ron Kruse said, “and he instilled in us and the people around him how to get through life in a good way.”
In the early 1950s, O.H Kruse was asked by the American Feed Manufacturing Association about donating money to the establishment of a feed technology program at Kansas State.
Ron Kruse’s first trip to the Kansas State campus was in the mid-1950s with his father, to look at the project his donation was helping to fund. “I was in high school at the time and I was really impressed,” Ron Kruse remembers.
Several years later, he took a trip back to K-State and toured the feed mill, located in Shellenberger Hall.
“That feed mill in those days, to me, was a Taj Mahal,” said Kruse. Although he had seen feed mills in California that were on a more practical basis of getting things done quickly, the equipment in this facility was new and exciting.
The feed mill is what persuaded Kruse to attend K-State. He said that he hopes future students will tour the new feed mill facilities and decide to come to K-State because they feel the same way he did years ago.
Ron Kruse graduated from K-State in 1962 with a degree in feed science and became CEO of Western Milling Company in 1968. His son, Doug Kruse, followed in this father’s footsteps and graduated from K-State in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in grain science.
This story was also published in the High Plains Journal and the Nov./Dec. 2013 issue of the Grain Journal.