“Think outside the cow.”
Jane Koger was born into a ranching family in Emporia, Kansas on June 14, 1953, the daughter of Betty (Beedle) and Evan Koger. Raised in Cottonwood Falls, she is a fourth generation rancher on her mother’s side in Chase County. Today all five Koger siblings have ranching interests in Kansas. She grew up wanting to be a cowboy and Stoney Burke was her hero. At age six she wanted a black horse with a white blaze named Lightning. She got the horse, but his name was Billy. While in high school, her interest in ranching faded, and in the 1970’s she moved to Idaho. Her father urged her to read “Atlas Shrugged.” Knowing that running a ranch rather than owning a railroad was within reach, she was inspired to return to her father’s ranch in Kiowa County. She worked as a cowhand there before returning to Chase County in the late 1970’s. She and her youngest sister, Kay Lauer, bought land in Chase County near Matfield Green that they discovered had been originally homesteaded by their great-grandparents. Since 1983, Jane has operated the Homestead Ranch named in honor of this family history. Jane has been a cow calf producer her working life. Jane also offered a program called Prairie Woman Adventures Retreat that allowed women to participate in hands-on ranching including calving, branding and weaning. This program also gave her the chance to connect with the consumer and educate them about ranching and beef. Some of her management practices changed as she learned more about their issues of animal welfare and food safety. Over the years she has learned the key to successful ranching is good range management, and her focus shifted from cattle to grass. In 2004 she started the Homestead Ranch Renewal Initiative which involved experimenting with patch burn grazing. Several universities conduct research on her ranch in her never-ending quest to try new things and “think outside the cow.” Jane has been awarded the Society for Range Management’s Excellence in Grazing Management Award, Chase County Conservation District’s Grassland Award, and Water and Energy Project’s Model of Innovation Award. She was designated a “Friend of Flint Hills” by the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan. In 1994, she hosted on her ranch an all-women’s orchestra, Symphony on the Prairie. Today she lives off the grid in a hay bale house. She believes the Code of the West is as relevant today as it was when it was written.