Legend dairy: Clubines named top farm family

Harry and Kathleen Clubine were named on of 10 Farm Families of the Year by the Kansas Farm Bureau. They'll be recognized in December. They were also the Allen County Farm Family of the Year in 2020.

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November 4, 2021 - 9:41 AM

Harry Clubine and wife Kathleen will be recognized in December by the Kansas Farm Bureau as one of 10 Farm Families of the Year. The Clubines were the Allen County Farm Family of the Year in 2020. Photo by COURTESY OF KANSAS FARM BUREAU

It would be impossible to think of Harry Clubine anywhere but on the farm.

He was born the son of a dairy farmer, rising every morning at the crack of dawn — “or earlier,” he joked — to milk cows.

“I was born into it,” Clubine admitted.

Of course he did the typical farm kid chores, and in his spare time kept busy by preparing for county and state fairs.

But as much as Clubine learned about the joys of working on the farm, his parents also instilled in him the importance of civic engagement.

“Since I was a little kid, I can remember Dad either going to school board meetings or Farm Bureau meetings,” he said. “I learned at a young age, you need to be involved and in service work. 

Kathleen and Harry Clubine Photo by COURTESY OF KANSAS FARM BUREAU

“That’s what I like about Iola and Allen County,” he continued. “There are lots of opportunities to get involved.”

So it’s no surprise to those who know them that Clubine and wife Kathleen will be recognized in December by the Kansas Farm Bureau as one of 10 Farm Families of the Year. The Clubines were the Allen County Farm Family of the Year in 2020.

“There are a lot of good people involved in agriculture, and to be singled out in the county, and at the district level, is pretty honorable,” Clubine said.

Clubine, who has worked for Strickler Dairy since 1985 — the last 26 years as farm manager — has maintained his dedication to civic engagement.

He served as Allen County Farm Bureau’s board president, and continues to work with the Farm Bureau’s Dairy Committee. He’s also on the Kansas Holstein Association board of directors, and has recently finished off his sixth and final year as a member of the Farm City Days Committee.

And while not an official Rotarian, Clubine is heavily involved in the Iola Rotary Club’s recycling program.

“I’m not trying to take all the credit,” he laughed. “There are a lot of people who do more than I do.”

Nevertheless, earning the honor in Allen County — “which has a good reputation in the state,” Clubine said — makes the recognition even more gratifying.

In fact, he doesn’t need to look far to see other KFB district honorees.

His parents, the late Frank and Carolyn Clubine, earned the Farm Family of the Year award in 2007; his brother Phillip, earned the same designation a year later out of Montgomery County.

Other district honorees from Allen County are: Stanley and Maxine Dreher, Ivan and Madge Strickler, Glenn and Ginger Roberts, Darrell and Kathy Monfort, Layne and Alicia Sterling and Craig and Denise Mentzer.

Go back even further, and Harry’s grandparents, Clyde and Viola, also were prominent in Kansas farming; Clyde Clubine was a Kansas Farm Bureau state board member, and a conservation award based out of Montgomery County bears his name.

“I learned at a young age, you need to be involved in the community,” Harry Clubine said.

Heck, still today, Harry’s sister, Debbie Bearden, works at the ACFB office in Iola. She and husband Duwayne also are up to their eyeballs in various projects around the area.

IT WAS growing up as a youth that Clubine became familiar with Strickler Dairy, and the Strickler family patriarch, Ivan.

“I’d known Ivan all my life,” Clubine noted, because he frequently was competing against Strickler’s children at various 4-H events at the state and district levels.

So it came as no surprise Strickler offered Clubine, a Montgomery County native, a job in Iola not long after he graduated college and married Kathleen, a Hill City native.

He started “at the bottom of the totem pole” and slowly worked his way up.

“Everybody else left, and I moved up,” he said. He was promoted to farm manager in 1995, where he oversees day-to-day operations.

“If something breaks, I’m in charge,” he told the Register in 2020.

THE DAIRY business is an ongoing struggle, more acute the past few years than at any other time in his career.

The troubles started when the U.S. and China cut off trade in 2018, lopping off a huge portion of the dairy industry’s market.

“We’d worked for years and years to get trade opened up  to China,” and suddenly it was cut off,” Clubine said. “We export 15% to 16% of our milk product, and half of those exports went to China.

“In an industry where a 1% surplus or deficit makes a huge difference, when you take away 7%, that’s a big cut,” he continued.

The setting has improved somewhat, but the COVID-19 pandemic, and its ripple effects in the shipping industry has slowed the rally.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing going on,” Clubine noted. “The shipping operators say the truck drivers aren’t there. The truck drivers say they’re sitting there waiting. There’s been a lot of speculation as to what’s really happening.”

He refused to tip his hand one where the core problems lie.

“But our exports are slowing down because they don’t have enough shipping containers to ship products,” Clubine said. “It’s not just for dairy, but for grains, hay, and other agricultural byproducts.”

While there are other Clubines who will continue the family’s farming legacy elsewhere, Harry’s two children, Ben and Tyler, have found success in other careers.

Ben works as a chemical engineer; Tyler is a history teacher.

But even though they’re not on the farm, Harry Clubine notes his sons have maintained a family legacy in an equally important effort: staying involved in the community.

“That’s the way we were raised.”

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