K-State breaks ground on $13M feed mill facility


For Liyan Chen, graduate student in grain science, Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony was a big event.

“I came because I did not want to miss it,” Chen said.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the O.H. Kruse Feed Mill and BioRefinery Teaching and Research Facility on Saturday evening was indeed huge for the Grain Science and Industry department, despite the cold winds which had many people following the sun as it set to stay warm.

“We have been thinking about this for 20 years,” said Keith Behnke, professor in the department of grain science and industry and host of the ceremony.

Ron Kruse, who donated to the facility, said getting to the groundbreaking took longer than he thought but now that things are finally off the ground, he said he hopes things move fast.

The department of grain science and industry and the department of animal sciences and industry will both use the facility, though it will be a few more months until students can use the building.

Ken Odde, department head for animal sciences and industry, said he does not believe industry is in the title of both the departments coincidentally. They both serve industry by studies and feed mill. He also said Dirk Maier brought a lot of energy to the project.

Maier, head of the grain science and industry department, said he was delighted to be at the ceremony, thanking the faculty and staff. And although “a lot of work still needs to be done for this facility to become a reality, this is an exciting day,” he said.

President Kirk Schulz agreed in the respect that much support is still needed. He said Kansas’ budget is low, but needs the support — students, faculty and money — to make this a reality.

First, the importance was on those who will be using the facility.

“Students are what it is all about,” Schulz said.

April Mason, provost and senior vice president, said the groundbreaking helps the university realize its future. She said students are the professionals of the future and they help attract the best faculty.

The focus then shifted to the dedicated leaders who tired even the president out by the end of the day because they are, Schulz said, hard workers and the donors.

Jim Brown, of Clay Center, Kan., donated a gift and said he was awed to be part of the groundbreaking. He said K-State is like a second home, and he is thankful he could do a small part to help students be sharp with cutting edge-technology. Brown said he looks forward to seeing great things come out of this project.

Ron Kruse, the son of the man the building is named after, made a commitment because he was born into the shadow of the feed mill.

“It was all I knew,” he said. “I was determined.”

O.H. Kruse was asked to help fund the first feed mill at K-State and wanted his son, Ron Kruse, to check out his investment. He told his son to drive the truck from Detroit, stop in Kansas and see the mill, then continue on to California. Kruse was impressed by what his father put time and money into. On his visit, he met John Shellenberger, former grain science department head, and this sparked the fire of this groundbreaking. Kruse then decided to come K-State, and after he graduated he got into the feed business in California, where O.H. Kruse Grain and Milling is located.

Kruse said people in the industry look at K-State and have expectations and that receiving a diploma from K-State helped open doors.

Joel Newman, CEO of American Feed Industry Association, was invited to speak at the ceremony. He said K-State and the association have a long, mutual relationship in which they help each other out by providing training, jobs, support — thus accomplishing major goals. The association has employed more than 700 K-State students, all of whom Newman said have had fruitful careers.

Mason said K-State will be seen as a leader, leaving a legacy for the 150th and the 200th anniversaries and signifying foresight and vision.

Maier, Gary Pierzynski, interim dean and director of the college of agriculture, Schulz, Kruse, Brown, Mason, Newman and Odde all picked up shovels and participated in the initial breaking of the ground.

One of the shovels was different than the others. Behnke said that was because it was used in the original groundbreaking of the feed belt in 1952. Kruse used that shovel and afterward, it went back on display.

Though the event flier called these eight people “Dirt Diggers,” Pierzynski clarified that it was soil.

“We are not here to move dirt, we are here to move soil,” he said. “And here is a nice, good representation of Kansas soil.”

He went on to say K-State cannot miss the opportunity to align this facility with land grant goals and Schulz’s goal of K-State ranking as in the top 50 public research university by 2025.

“We are not here because we are a land-grant school and we are supposed to do these things but because of the richness of history of both departments,” Pierzynski said.