Garden City | KCUR

Garden City

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

The president of Garden City Community College faces growing pressure to resign over a range of sexual harassment issues at the school and a threat to its accreditation.

This week, the college’s faculty senate demanded Herbert Swender step down — citing what it says was a too-slow reaction to accusations that a coach sexually harassed former cheerleaders and directed racist remarks at them. Local residents echoed those sentiments to the school’s board of trustees.

Meanwhile, the community college faces possible suspension of its accreditation.

Three men were found guilty Wednesday of conspiring to blow up an apartment complex in western Kansas that housed Somali immigrants.

Attorneys for two of the Kansas men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex filled with Somali Muslim immigrants in Garden City argued their clients were bit players not interested in actually carrying out the plan.  

Attorneys defending three Kansas men accused of a bomb plot in Garden City are arguing there wouldn’t have been a plot without FBI manipulation.

Defense attorneys for two of the men charged in an alleged bomb plot in western Kansas argued their clients were manipulated by the FBI into remaining part of the conspiracy.

Cross examination of Dan Day, the paid FBI informant in the case, wrapped up Wednesday, with the defense asking him why he didn’t put a stop to the plot earlier when he had the chance.

An FBI informant’s account of the investigation into an alleged bomb plot in western Kansas was called into question Tuesday.

A key witness in the trial involving three Kansas men accused of planning an attack on Somali immigrants testified Thursday that the group was actively recruiting people to help carry out the alleged plot.

The ex-girlfriend of one of the men accused of plotting an attack against immigrants in Garden City says the men spent months studying how to make homemade explosives.  

Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office

Federal prosecutors told jurors Thursday that three men charged with plotting to bomb an apartment complex and mosque in western Kansas were motivated by their hate of Muslim immigrants.

“They wanted to send the message that Muslims are not welcome here — not in Garden City, not in Kansas, not in America,” prosecutor Risa Berkower said.

Her opening statement in the Wichita trial laid out a case that only the work of federal agents stopped, the trio from carrying out a bombing the day after the Nov. 8, 2016, presidential election.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Three militia members accused of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex in southwest Kansas go on trial Tuesday in Wichita.

Their alleged plot laid bare tiny pockets of the ugliest, potentially violent, racism in a region that’s seen immigrants drawn to tough meatpacking jobs for decades.

The raw hate exposed in the alleged plan shocked some of the refugees who were targeted, reminding them of violence they fled in Somalia and sparking an exodus from one of the prairie towns.

It also prompted more people to talk with admiration of the workforce that keeps the meatpacking industry, and the region’s economy, alive. They’ve reached out to the would-be targets of domestic terrorism.

“We all give each other a chance here,” says LeVita Rohlman, who directs the Catholic Agency for Migration and Refugee Services in Garden City. “Even when things go wrong. I believe that this community stands united.”

The plot took root near Dodge City, at the easternmost point of a the Kansas meatpacking triangle formed with Liberal and Dodge City. All three Great Plains cities have for generations drawn immigrants for the smelly, dangerous work of transforming cattle into steaks and hamburger. It’s work that few U.S.-born Americans take on.

Orman for Kansas

Independent candidate for governor Greg Orman picked a running mate Wednesday with middle-of-the-road credentials who balances the ticket geographically.

Orman’s choice is state Sen. John Doll. He’s a former mayor of Garden City who lost a bid for Congress in 2006 running as a Democrat. He later changed parties and won a seat in the Kansas House as a Republican.

Doll advanced to the Senate in 2016 by narrowly defeating conservative incumbent Larry Powell in the GOP primary before swamping Democrat A. Zacheria Worf in the general election.

A new, widely debated federal mandate requires truckers to electronically track the number of hours they’re on the road — a rule that’s meant to make highways safer. But there’s a big difference between hauling a load of TVs and a load of cattle destined for meatpacking plants.

Ben Keubrich / Kansas News Service

A humanitarian group that helps refugees settle in western Kansas among plentiful slaughterhouse jobs is shutting down its office in the region amid changing rules that welcome fewer newcomers to the country and the state.

The International Rescue Committee, or IRC, says a falling number of refugees prompted the agency’s plans to shutter its Garden City office at the end of September.

Kansas took in 580 refugees in the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, compared to 914 the year before. IRC officials said they expect the drop-off to look even more dramatic this year.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

It’s a time of low unemployment across the Midwest, leading to a labor shortage that’s stunting the growth of urban and rural businesses. Given that Donald Trump campaigned on a staunchly pro-business platform, one would think he’d have instituted policies benefiting everything from high-tech startups to huge dairy operations.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Update: On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Alford gave up his chairmanship on a Kansas House committee and stepped aside from a child welfare task force.

 

After a western Kansas lawmaker suggested black people respond to the use of marijuana differently than others, the Republican leader of his own party condemned the remarks.

On Saturday in Garden City, Rep. Steve Alford of Ulysses said the drug was made illegal because of the way he contended it affects African-American users.

www.franchiseopportunities.com / Flickr — CC

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to know why a student athlete at Garden City Community College was kicked off the basketball team after he continued shooting baskets during the playing of the national anthem.

Rasool Samir, a Muslim, was sent home to Philadelphia two days later and has not returned to the school since.  

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

A rural hospital administrator in southwest Kansas has taken on the role of go-between for Kansans and immigrants from war-ravaged countries on the other side of the world.

James Dobson / Garden City Telegram

Shona Banda, a Garden City, Kansas, mother who drew national attention after losing custody of her son over her use of cannabis, has pleaded no contest to felony charges in exchange for probation.

Banda, who has Crohn’s disease, has been a vocal advocate of medical marijuana and self-published a book about her use of cannabis oil to treat her condition, an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause severe abdominal pain and other symptoms.

This is a two-part story on immigrants and small town viability. Part one aired on this Weekend Edition Saturday. For the full story, listen to both audio segments.

Like thousands of rural towns across the country, Cawker City, Kan., was built for bygone time.

Resident Linda Clover has spent most of her life in Cawker City, and she loves the place, but it's a shell of the town it used to be.

Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

When Don Stull first heard the news that the FBI had foiled a domestic terrorism plot aimed at Somalis in Garden City, Kansas,  he thought: oh no.

“It was so unlike the Garden City that I know,” he says.