Three well-recognized and respected members of the construction community join the list of honored members of the Rural Builder Hall of Fame. Honors were officially bestowed to the trio at the 2011 Frame Building Expo in Indianapolis on March 3. Their nominations and selections were made by their peers in the Hall of Fame. There have been 95 inductees since the tradition began in 1982 as a way to recognize outstanding educators, builders and suppliers.
Kenneth K. Kistler, Perma-Column East, Lenhartsville, Pa.
In November of 1970, Ken Kistler responded to an advertisement for an equipment operator for Umbaugh Pole Building Company. “They needed someone to layout and dig holes for pole buildings,” he remembers. “I had no idea what a pole building was, but I needed a job and they hired me.”
Kistler went on to become the owner of his own pole building company. In 1981, he and his wife, Beverly, opened Kistler Pole Building Company and Kistler Building Supply in Fogelsville, Pa.
After 26 years, they decided to retire and began looking for a post-retirement project. “At that time we also became aware of Perma-Columns and decided we still needed something to keep us busy and connected to the industry, not to mention we thought Perma-Columns were an innovative product for the future of the post frame industry,” Kistler says.
“Currently, we operate Perma-Column East, LLC, in Lenhartsville, Pa., which is a licensed producer of Perma-Columns for the east coast and love the ties it provides for us to stay connected to the post frame industry.”
Throughout the years, Kistler has been involved in the NFBA. “I joined the NFBA in 1983 and served on the Board for several years,” he says. He was instrumental in starting the Atlantic Northeast Chapter of the NFBA and today assists the Chapter with Pennsylvania Construction Code Academy courses for code officials, plans examiners and township officials.
For 10 years he and Gerry Richardson taught an NFBA course in Strategic Planning for the Post Frame Industry using their experiences and failures as teaching tools. “Anyone who knows me knows of my love for the post frame industry,” Kistler says.
Although Kistler has come a long ways from not knowing what a pole barn is, he physically has not moved far from his roots. “I was born and raised in New Tripoli, Pa., which is where we are still living today. We live on land that was with the original farm where I grew up,” he says.
He offers this advice to newcomers:
– “First of all, know what you are doing. Strive to always take advantage of any opportunity to learn – always be aware of how little you do know, not how much you think you know.
- “Be conservative, but do not be afraid to take a chance; however, have a back-up plan. I call it the “what-if” plan – what if it does not go as expected.
- “Be prepared – there will be ups and downs over the long haul, so you need to be ready to deal with the down side.
- “And, never take anyone or anything for granted, stay connected and be grateful. Business will not always be great, but it will always be great to be in business.
Kistler sees a bright future for post frame. “We are beginning to break the ‘barn mentality’ and move from pole building to ‘post frame construction’,” he says. “I can remember when we spent more time telling a potential customer what a pole building was than selling it. That is no longer the case. We are limited now only by our imagination.”
When Kistler isn’t promoting post frame, you might find him out enjoying a game of golf, riding his motorcycle or traveling with Bev. They have two grown sons, Benjamin and Michael, “beautiful and talented daughters-in-law”, Jamie and Shannon and “two precious granddaughters,” Adisan and Emily.”
Rick Bragg, McElroy Metal, Marshall, Michigan
Raised on a dairy farm near Marion, Ind., Rick Bragg says, “As long as I can remember I was in the building business.”
In addition to the farm, his father had a construction business. “My grandfather, my dad and my brother-in-law were all builders,” Bragg says. He remembers as a 5 year old going on jobsites with his dad. He’d carry nails and take naps in the truck.
“My dad always said he didn’t know if he was a full time carpenter or a full time farmer,” Bragg says. “We kind of farmed at night and built during the day. I grew up working from daylight to dark seven days a week.”
Rick liked the construction business, yet he also liked sales.
“I started working on the counter at Wicks Lumber after I got back from the army,” he recalls. “That’s kind of really where I started in sales: at Wicks in Elwood, Ind.”
He also worked at HNP as the company’s first-ever sales representative. He joined McElroy Metal in 1987 and became a regional manager in 1994.
Always on the lookout for innovation and improvement, he developed trim packages and details to improve the aesthetics and functionality of post-frame buildings. He is now the chief inventor and patent holder for McElroy Metal’s MESA wall and roof panel.
“I guess I’ve always had a creative mind. I’ve always looked at things as: Is there a better way of doing something?” he says.
He had various ideas over the years, but did nothing until late 2004 or early 2005. “We had a meeting in our headquarters in Bossier City, La., and the V.P. of our company made a challenge to our group: ‘If anyone here has an idea of how to make a light-gauge, post-frame panel that’s new and different and better, I challenge this group to develop that’, he said.
“When I got on an airplane to head back to Michigan,” Bragg recalls, “I thought, well this is my opportunity to take the ideas I had over the years. So I came back and began to draw. And I drew what I thought would be a panel that had an invisible lap in it. And that was my challenge: it was to make it look so the building had no visible lap. It would look like a one-piece building.”
It was a problem just waiting for his solution.
He took his drawing back to the headquarters weeks later and presented it to the owners. “And Messa Panel was born that day,” Bragg recalls. It was so unique it won patent approval in 2006.
He has more ideas, and they too are being explored.
Bragg says his background has been a big plus in the making of those ideas. “I understand the challenges the builders have with the weather and with the aesthetics, trying to get a post frame building to look like it does today,” he says.
His sales background keeps him in tune with the customer. “The customer today is quite different,” he says. “He may have a half-million-dollar house on a 10-acre plot and he expects his barn to look as good as that house and that’s a challenge because you’re dealing with timbers and you’re dealing with structures that aren’t like houses. So that’s been my idea: how can I help the builder sell more buildings and make his product look more like his home.”
Bragg has been a strong and vocal advocate of post-frame construction and has served as a member of the NFBA Board of Directors. “I was at the first NFBA meetings ever held,” he recalls. “Ed Bahler, Sr., Freemon Borkholder, Jim Picha, those guys organized themselves and had some meetings at Purdue University way back, and I was at those meetings. I remember Freemon Borkholder was so intense about frame buildings being recognized as structures that were acceptable to the municipal people, the building inspectors, ‘and it wasn’t a barn’, he said. That was in the ‘70s. At that time it wasn’t the NFBA, it was a group of guys who saw a need for an organization.”
He believes the progress made by the NFBA has been impressive. “When I first started in the industry it was still guys building with round telephone poles, and from that point, the innovation that came out from the supplier base – Cannonball, HNP, Plyco – all these companies that started to come together and form, made that industry change; we started to build on main street. We went from the pole barn with no trim on it in back of the house to a building that’s a strip mall on Main Street, two-story structures. It’s been a pretty phenomenal change. I’ve got to see a lot of good stuff happen.”
Bragg is also a husband and father. He and his wife Carol have five children: ‘big Kevin’, Kent, Kathy, Jason and ‘little Kevin’.
L. Bynum Driggers, Emeritus faculty member, North Carolina State University
Early in his career, L. Bynum Driggers was a believer in the theory that improving the environments of animals improved the production and quality of the animals providing food. He devoted his life to that belief, becoming a dedicated professional who made outstanding contributions to the design of agricultural structures.
Driggers grew up in Sumter, S.C., and headed to Clemson University for his undergraduate degree. “In 1957, upon receiving a B.S. degree in Agricultural Engineering from Clemson, I was employed by Virginia Tech as the Farm Buildings Plans Specialist and thus began my career in the Structures and Environment field of Agricultural Engineering, the first in my family,” he recalls.
He spent 10 years at Virginia Tech as an agricultural engineer before joining the staff at North Carolina State University. A leader of extension agriculture engineers throughout the U.S., he significantly influenced many rural construction practices, pioneering a number of ventilation and environmental controls for livestock housing that are now widely accepted in the industry.
Much of his work involved the on-farm set-up of research and demonstration units, testing ways to improve barn airflow and techniques for animal feeding. He also taught agricultural engineering.
Two innovations in swine housing that were developed by Driggers changed the way in which hogs are produced.
The first was the North Carolina Underfloor ventilation system for slotted floor swine buildings which allows the winter ventilation rate to be exhausted from beneath the slotted floors, removing odors and gases from the building before they appreciably enter the animal and personnel area, providing a better environment for both.
The second was the partially controlled environment breeding facility as an effective means of improving reproductive performance in the herd.
A number of swine building plans featuring the North Carolina underfloor ventilation system were developed. Many of the plans were accepted by the Federal Cooperative Plan Exchange and made available to all 50 states through their respective Land Grant institutions.
Using these plans, North Carolina swine production grew from a national ranking of nine in the 1970s, to the Number 2 state in the nation today.
To bridge the gap between animal and poultry science technology and engineering technology, Driggers developed a graduate course for Extension agents, “Environmental and Structural Requirements in Farm Buildings.”
In cooperation with Poultry Science, Driggers was instrumental in the inauguration of the North Carolina Poultry Housing Seminar, and for many years, data was collected and disseminated on energy use and conservation in swine and poultry housing systems.
Driggers is the author or co-author of 13 refereed journal articles, 83 Extension publications, 36 proceedings and technical reports, 72 papers for professional meetings and technical conferences, and 47 popular articles which included two for Farm Building News (now Rural Builder) in 1972.
His list of awards is long and illustrious, including among others, the 2008 North Carolina Pork Council Hall of Fame, 1989 ASAE Fellow, North Carolina Agriculture Extension Service 1977 Superior Leadership Award, and Who’s Who listings in the categories of Engineering and Frontiers of Science and Technology.
Driggers said his greatest enjoyment has not been awards, but rather “developing technologies and seeing that applied in helping clients achieve their goals and improve their lives.”
For today’s builder, he sees a bright future “for dedicated, honest professionals that remain educationally up-to-date and involved in conferences, expos, seminars and other training activities and professional meetings that reinforce their education and on-the-job experiences,” he says, adding, “Of course, there will be ups and downs, but by applying good business acumen in all decisions, chances of weathering the storms are much greater. There is no substitute for hard work.”
He also advises to: “Always be professional. Stay abreast of the changing technologies. Don’t provide information to clients that you are not qualified to give. If questions arise that are out of your area of expertise, don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know,’ but be diligent in getting the correct answers for the client and yourself.”
Today, Driggers is an Emeritus faculty member for North Carolina State, having retired in 1984.
Married to wife Kay for 53 years, the couple have two married children and three granddaughters: son Louis Bynum “Bud” Driggers, Jr., his wife Julie and their daughter Maddie, 13; daughter Pam and her husband David, and their daughters Morgan, 17, and Kathryn, 14.
“Being retired now I enjoy having quality time with the children and grandchildren,” Driggers says. His favorite activities include quail hunting, fishing, attending sports events and watching sports television. RB