Pioneers. They were the brave men and women who came west and settled the state of Kansas. Today we honor those pioneers, but we also honor the modern-day entrepreneurs who have pioneered modern approaches to agribusiness. One such entrepreneur has built a remarkable agribusiness enterprise in southwest Kansas.
Steve Irsik is an agricultural entrepreneur whose family has built a remarkable ag enterprise. His family has deep roots in western Kansas. In fact, it is a true story of pioneers.
“My grandmother came to Dodge City in 1880 on a stagecoach,” Steve Irsik said. It sounds like a western movie, but it’s true. The Irsik side of the family came west to Kansas in the 1920s. These pioneers settled in southwest Kansas and built homes and farms.
Steve Irsik’s father served in the south Pacific during World War II and came back to the farm. Steve was born and raised near Garden City. He went to K-State, studied agricultural economics, and served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era.
When Steve came back to join his family in the farming operation, the irrigation and feedlot industries were beginning to be developed. The Irsiks were pioneers in this type of agribusiness.
“My dad bought a farm which had the second irrigation well in western Kansas,” Steve said. “My father and two brothers started feeding cattle in 1961. That was just the second or third feedyard in southwest Kansas.”
Before that time, farmer-feeders had been raising a few head individually to be butchered or sold. Feedyards became a more efficient way to produce finished cattle. Then beef packing plants were built in western Kansas so as to be close to the source of production. The agribusiness complex boomed.
The Irsik family was a leading part of the agribusiness growth. Their first feedyard built in 1961 had a capacity of 2,000 head. Today that feedyard’s capacity is 40,000 head.
Irsik Farms is now a dryland and irrigated farming and ranching operation with ranches in Kansas and Nebraska, including a 1,800 head cowherd. Irsik & Doll is a related business with feedyards and grain elevators across southwest Kansas. Irsik & Doll elevators are located in communities from Hutchinson to Sublette. The feedyards are in rural locations in southwest
Kansas, near towns such as Garden City, Scott City, Cimarron, Hugoton, and Pierceville. Pierceville has a population of perhaps 300 people. Now, that’s rural.
Part of the success of the Irsik family farming operation has been to integrate the various elements of the beef value chain.