“John Vanier was a self-made businessman, who ran his business right from under his hat.” – A description of John J. ‘J.J.’ Vanier
John J. Vanier, former owner of the CK Ranch located near Brookville, Kansas was born in 1897, on a farm settled by his grandfather in Pawnee County, Nebraska. His parents, Jacob C. and Julia A. Vanier, moved their family to Kansas City, Missouri. Vanier attended school before he left and sought employment with the E.D. Fisher Commission Company in the Board of Trade Building. While there, he learned about grain trade and the milling industry. Later, John became a salesman for the Abilene Flour Mill in Abilene, Kansas. Following his service in the Marine Corps during World War I, John worked in the Flour Mill in Abilene. On May 13, 1922, Vanier married Lesta. The couple had three children, sons Jack and Jerry and daughter Joyce. In 1925, John secured controlling interest in the Western Star Milling Company, located in Salina, Kansas. Vanier took the Western Star Milling Company from flounder status to an efficient, profitable firm; allowing John to assume guidance over other grain and milling firms in Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. He was able to found the Central Kansas Hereford Ranch, later the CK Ranch, near Brookville, Kansas. Vanier expanded his holdings, adding farm and ranch property in Hunter, Dorrance, Herrington, Manhattan and Salina. He established commercial cattle ranches in Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma; and grew his business empire to include: milling plants, elevators, soybean plants, food processing plants, livestock feed mixing plants, dehydrating plants and pelleting plants. In 1935, John Vanier began the CK Ranch’s register Hereford Herd. By the 1950s, the CK Ranch’s registered cattle were 2,000 head with annual registrations totaling over 1,500 a year. In 1946, Vanier served on the Board of Directors for the American Hereford Association and was elected the organizations President in 1952. John also belonged to the Kansas Livestock Association and the National Millers’ Federation. In 1978, John Vanier was one of the first thirty-eight members inducted into the Honor Gallery of the Hereford Heritage Hall. In 2005, the Kansas Business Hall of Fame, Emporia, inducted John as the Historical Heritage Award Recipient. Described as a self-made, generous businessman, he supported various schools and colleges, including the Kansas State University Animal Husbandry Department, with money, land, cattle and by activities held on the CK Ranch. In 1970, Vanier sold a major portion of his vast food manufacturing and marketing facilities, retaining the farming or ranching operations. John Vanier passed away on February 20, 1980 at the age of eighty-three. His children, thirteen grandchildren and several great-grandchildren still carry on the ranching legacy started by John J. Vanier.