Agriculture industry's leaders call Marion County their home
John Stika, CEO of Certified Angus Beef, may be 11 years younger than Gary Fike, but he hired Fike in 2004 to work as a feedlot specialist from an office in Manhattan.
The two men grew up eight miles apart, Stika seven miles south and Fike one mile west of Ramona.
When Fike attended Centre High School, there was no FFA program, but he was active in 4-H. He graduated in 1978.
Stika, a 1989 graduate, was chapter and district FFA president and became a state officer. He earned the Kansas Star Farmer award, won the state speech contest, and was a member of a parliamentary law team that grabbed a state title and competed at the national level.
Fike has worked most of his adult life as an extension agent, serving in Lane, Dighton, and Mitchell counties in Kansas, as well as in Iowa and Ohio.
He obtained a master’s degree in beef nutrition from Kansas State University in 1993.
After joining CAB, Fike worked with feedlots and collected carcass data. For several years, he conducted “day on the farm”–type events, in which chefs and beef retailers came out to the country to tour beef production.
After 10½ years with CAB, Fike joined the Red Angus Association as a commercial marketing specialist. For more than four years, he traveled all over the United States, visiting ranches, going to trade shows, and helping ranchers find markets for their calves.
He likes to think that his work helped the Red Angus breed grow from the 12th to the fourth largest registered breed in the country, behind Angus, Hereford, and Charolais.
“I loved that job,” Fike said.
However, all those hours and days on the road led him to take another job as an extension agent in Riley County.
Fike and his wife, Karol, live in Westmoreland. They have two sons at Kansas State University and a daughter in high school. Karol is an animal science professor at K-State.
Fike still owns 80 acres of his family’s farm, so his roots remain deep in Marion County.
“I’ve always had a keen interest in the cattle business,” he said. “I showed cattle and judged meat-judging teams in 4-H. As an extension agent, I’ve emphasized cattle. I like extension because it is about helping people.”
Fike praised Stika as an outstanding individual and a great boss.
Stika has been with Certified Angus Beef since 1999 and president for 13 years. The company has seen record growth every year he has been at the helm.
Beef cattle must pass 10 science-based specifications to qualify as Certified Angus Beef.
Stika said the percentage of Angus-influenced beef that qualify grew to 35 percent this year.
Stika and his wife, Deanna, live in Creston, Ohio, near CAB headquarters. They have three grown sons.
Mark Harms, owner of Harms Plainview Ranch, Lincolnville, was president of Kansas Livestock Association in 2013. He and his wife, Kim, raise Black Angus, Red Angus, and Charolais seedstock.
Harms is a founding member of U.S. Premium Beef, a producer-owned beef marketing company.
The American Angus Association recently reported the Harms ranch as the fifth largest in Kansas in registering Angus beef cattle during fiscal year 2019, ending Sept. 30.
Tracy Brunner of Ramona has a long history in the cattle industry. He was president of the Kansas Livestock Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He also served on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and several policy-making committees.
Brunner runs Cow Camp Ranch Feedlot. Cow Camp has a separate Simmental seedstock and farming operation in the Lost Springs area. According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, 54 percent of all ag sales in Marion County in 2017 were livestock. Cattle and calves totaled 71,820.
Paul Penner of Hillsboro is a grain farmer and custom farms for other small farmers in the area.
He was president of the National Association of Wheat Growers in 2014 after serving several years in other positions. Before that, Penner served as president of Kansas Wheat Growers Association and in other offices, as well.
Penner was actively involved in creating Heartland Plant Innovations, a for-profit company established by Kansas wheat farmers in 2009 to promote advanced plant breeding.
Penner is a Tabor College graduate. He writes a column for Kansas Farmer, “View from the Hill.”
He and his wife have three grown children and several grandchildren.
Last modified Oct. 23, 2019