Potwin man named 'Leader of the Year'

By Times-Gazette Staff

POTWIN — Rick McNary had a great idea during the pandemic — connect farmers and consumers directly using social media. 

Rick McNary, Potwin, left, received the Friend of Agriculture Award from the  Butler County Farm Bureau during the organization's 2019-2020 Annual Meeting. This week he is being recognized again for his "Shop Kansas Farms" effort, this time at the state level by the Huck Boyd Institute.

The group now has nearly 150,000 members — and McNary is getting attention. Honored as a "Friend of Agriculture" by the Butler County Farm Bureau last fall he was featured as a speaker fe July 2 during K-State Research and Extension’s monthly online series, First Friday e-Calls, which helps to nurture small businesses and inspire entrepreneurship in Kansas. 

One day later he was featured in the Kansas Profiles Series by Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd Institute. 

Huck Boyd is honoring McNary again, this month naming him  a "Leader of the Year" for 2021 by the Huck Boyd Institute.

According to Kansas State Research and Extension, Shop Kansas Farms  was partly inspired by a beef dinner McNary and his wife had a little more than a year ago. 

“We noticed at our local grocery store that the meat counter was empty that day,” McNary said. “It got me to thinking, we just had some great beef (purchased directly from a local producer), so how can I connect people I know with that farmer and the beef they are producing.” 

Shortly after, McNary launched Shop Kansas Farms on Facebook and within 24 hours, he had more than 5,000 members. “I felt like a little kid who was walking along a dam, saw a leak and I was trying to plug it,” McNary said. 

Officials with Kansas State University’s Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development say that ‘making a difference’ is a common theme of those to be honored as Huck Boyd Leaders of the Year for 2021. 

“We are pleased to recognize these innovative Kansans who make a difference by supporting our communities and our rural economy,” said Gary Doane of Downs, chair of the Board of Directors of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development. “They are excellent examples of value-added agriculture, entrepreneurship and community service.” 

The winners will be honored during a hybrid Zoom/in-person awards presentation on Sept. 22 in Manhattan. 

Shop Kansas Farms, LLC has since added a website and is helping to connect consumers from across the United States with Kansas products. It has formed connections with another popular program – From the Land of Kansas, managed by the Kansas Department of Agriculture – to help inspire consumer interest in Kansas-grown products. 

McNary said many producers on his site have reported as much as a 500% to 600% increase in direct sales to consumers. He pointed to one such producer who had 20 customers in 2019, and more than 500 in 2020. 

There are more than 775 farmers selling products on his site. “When I look at that list, I see 775 entrepreneurs,” he said. “To me, the best part of this is that we have stimulated entrepreneurship in Kansas.” 

This year’s award categories and winners include:

•Community Service -- Heather Hartman, Julia Rabe, and Colleen Eberle, Mitchell County Strong, Beloit.

•Entrepreneurship -- Scott and Jennie Andersen, Kansas Earth and Sky Candles, Ellinwood.

• Value-Added Crop Production -- Tonya Martisko and Julie Ball, Gaeddert Farms, Buhler.

• Value-Added Snack Foods -- Kelly and Thaddeus Perry, Perry’s Pork Rinds, Bronson.

• Value-Added Specialty Products -- Melinda Williamson, Morning Light Kombucha, Hoyt.

• Value-Added Food Marketing -- Rick McNary, Shop Kansas Farms, Potwin.

• Community Betterment -- Kansas PRIDE. 

The 2021 Huck Boyd Leaders of the Year winners were selected by entrepreneurship students in K-State’s College of Business and by agricultural communications students in K-State’s College of Agriculture. Each year the Huck Boyd Institute selects its leaders of the year from among those featured on its weekly Kansas Profile radio program and column during the previous year. 

Kansas Profile is distributed by the K-State Radio Network and K-State Research and Extension's news media services to radio stations and newspapers statewide. 

The Huck Boyd Institute is a public/private partnership between K-State Research and Extension and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The foundation’s office is at the Huck Boyd Community Center in Phillipsburg. The Institute office is at Kansas State University in Manhattan.