A natural fit

 

Drs. Ron and Pat FredricksonFrom the cab of a well-preserved 1963 Chevrolet one-ton truck, Ron Fredrickson pulls a rope that augers a special ration to his herd of Angus cattle roaming a pasture northwest of Osage City, Kan. On a farm that straddles the Lyon-Osage county line, Fredrickson and his wife, Patricia, have taken cattle feeding a step further than many producers.

That additional measure—producing certified natural beef free of hormones and antibiotics—parallels the Fredricksons’ careers since they met at Kansas State Teachers College in the early 1950s. Moving 20 years ago back to the farm and ranch that’s been in the family since the 1880s, Ron and Pat have worked to improve not only the land they tend, but also the community in which they live.

ONLINE EXTRA: Ron and Pat Fredrickson video

It’s a long way from Amherst, Mass., where Dr. Ronald H. Fredrickson (BSE ‘53) built a career as associate dean and director of the School Consulting and Counseling Psychology Program in the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s School of Education, and where Dr. Patricia Fredrickson (BSE ‘53) was a high school business education teacher. Ron Fredrickson founded the UMass school counseling program, which in September 2012 was renamed in his honor to acknowledge his guidance and inspiration. He also authored “Career Information,” a 1982 book devoted to the process of occupational choice.

The couple opted to take advantage of retirement incentives that UMass offered Ron in 1992 and finally realize Ron’s dream of one day returning to his family’s agricultural origins. “The farm next door to us came up for sale at the same time we moved back to Kansas, so we bought it,” Ron relates.

In the years since, the Fredricksons have received numerous awards for their land conservation work. Signs from the Osage County Conservation District, Kansas Bankers Association and Kansas Farm Bureau lining the fence along the gravel road leading to their home tell of the Fredricksons’ success with terraces and buffer strips of trees to curb soil erosion.

After experimenting with raising a leaner type of beef that ended up being not as palatable to consumers, the Fredricksons linked up with Meyer Natural Angus to market choice and prime beef from cattle certified to be free of antibiotics, animal byproducts or implants. “You can cut the meat with a butter knife,” Ron says. “We send some to our friends back east, and they think it’s great. I don’t know if they’d agree that it competes with lobster, but we think it does.”

“We’re also very interested in preservation,” Pat says. The Fredricksons worked with neighbors to preserve a one-room schoolhouse west of Osage City. The Rapp School, which Ron attended as a child, has been made a National and State Historic Site available for meetings and family reunions.

The couple’s generosity extends to their alma mater, where Pat contributes to Emporia State music department scholarships. “I minored in music in college and made use of my music training throughout my career,” said Pat, who retired two years ago after serving as a church choir director for 13 years.

In fact, the couple might not have met had it not been for Pat’s musical talents. “I played trumpet in the band and wasn’t very good,” Ron admits. “I noticed over to the side somebody who played flute very well, and she looked pretty nice.”

The flutist was Pat Keck. “He called from a pay phone to ask me on our first date,” recalls the woman who later became Pat Fredrickson. “And then, on the same dime—the same phone conversation—he asked me for another date!”

Ron and Pat were married in April 1953, shortly before Ron started a five-year tour with the U.S. Navy.

The Fredricksons were recently recognized for another gift, this one to name the director’s office in ESU’s Career Services Office now located in the newly renovated Memorial Union.

“What I learned from Emporia was resourcefulness,” Ron said, noting that the couple’s Memorial Union gift celebrates the hopes of students as they launch their job-searching journey through the Career Services Office. “At Emporia, I learned that if you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen.”

 Glancing at his wife of 59 years, Ron quipped, “And I also learned it’s a good place for good-looking women.”