Midland Junction Farm Store: A Nostalgic Look at an
Agricultural Gathering Post
Just north of Lawrence and out into rural Douglas County, the early morning sun casts long shadows across the grain elevators of Midland Junction. Farmers from the countryside begin to congregate inside the historic farm and feed store that stands to the northwest and beside the railway. Inside this quaint and nostalgic locale conversations are accompanied by a free cup of black coffee.
Grain prices are scratched on the blackboard that hangs behind the counter and the static filled radio plays the country and western sounds of Hank Williams. Midland Farm and Feed has been a gathering post for farmers and other rural residents living in the northeastern corner of Douglas County for many generations. Today it continues to be a reminder of life as it was generations ago and is a destination for individuals who want to continue to share in that experience.
In the late 19th and throughout the 20th century, community members have come to Midland to buy feed for their animals, seed for their fields and other supplies as needed. In the 1920‘s and 30‘s, live music and dancing brought community members in on Saturday nights. It was a wonderful time for socializing with folks from the area in the large open dance hall above the store.
Margaret Shirk, a 90-year-old resident, who lives nearby, remembers the farm store when she was a child and the two- room schoolhouse she attended just across the road. “In the early 1920’s the old store was owned by Russell Shaw and his family. They lived in back of the store and sold groceries to residents. They also made sandwiches for the school children who were being educated nearby.” Mrs. Shirk remembers her father bringing children to the school in an old box wagon and has fond memories of a rural way of life in the Midland area.
Today, new resident farmers carry on with tradition of coming together in rural Kansas and sharing a similar lifestyle. Some young and some old, they all wear their work upon their sleeves and carry remnants of farm life on their faces, each specializing in agricultural pursuits of their own.
On this particular day I pull my car into the gravel lot just north of the store. The small metal barns to the east of the feed store are full of straw that is grown in the area. Each bail stacked high and smelling as sweet as the day it was cut awaiting the truck that will take it to hungry livestock nearby. Outside I find two men who are engaged in a conversation about how gasoline prices are affecting them and one man brings his tractor in for a much needed repair to the front right tire.
The front of the building stands straight and tall and displays the weather worn signs of harsh Kansas seasons. I walk inside to find a small group of men huddled around the wooden counter. Rick Grimmett, owner and local farmer: “We’re talking about politics, this morning, in fact, all morning. I’ve got a bunch of hogs to sell that aren’t worth anything because the corporates are forcing out the little guy.” Grimmett lives in nearby Jefferson County and farms 400 acres, most of it planted as a hayfield. He bought Midland Farm Store 17 years ago and continues to operate it as an agricultural hub for farmers in the area.
Larry Miskimen delivers goods for Grimmett and can be found at the counter most mornings and before his work begins. “I pick up sack feed, deliver grain and stacking rock almost every day.” Miskimen encourages Clyde Bristol to join in the conversation which leads the group into the subject of fencing in cattle and horses in the surrounding area. Bristol builds fences for livestock and he buys all his supplies from Midland including barbwire, fencing rolls, and pipe. “Whatever I need, he has it here,” declares Bristol. “I’ve been coming here to buy supplies for years and plan to continue doing so. It’s a great place to meet people who stop for directions and who sometimes linger for a while.”
As a nearby resident, I find Midland Farm Store to be full of history, charm and agricultural heritage. My own small, 6-acre tract is planted in prairie grass and I don’t have much need for cattle feed. However, I often stop in to just say hello to the farmers who meet behind the doors of the old store. Sometimes I grab a cup of coffee and sometimes I just stop in for a newspaper. No matter what brings me into Midland Farm Store, I always know that I will find an appreciation for the land and what these farmers do to preserve rural Kansas life through their work, their conversation, and their commitment.