On the ranch

Incorporating a legacy of quality

Summer intern Nicole Lane

Summer intern Nicole Lane

Today our team coverage of the MBA class’s Kansas education continues with summer intern Nicole Lane, an Oregon native and current Kansas State University student. As the foodservice professionals broke up into smaller groups for a personal ranch experience, Steve, Kaitlin and Nicole each tagged along.  Read on for Nicole’s take on Rocky Hill Ranch.

Family farms. That seems like the gold standard for many people who don’t have agriculture experience. However, the foodservice pros on a field trip for our Masters of Brand Advantages (MBA) program got to take a look at a “corporate” farm. But it wasn’t at all what they (or I) expected.

Meet Paul and Nancy Miller, 4th generation ranchers whose family has been working the same land in the Flint Hills of Kansas since 1878. That’s a family legacy. But when there is no one who wants to be the next generation to run the operation, what is a producer to do?

Nancy and Paul Miller with Randall Debler owners of Rocky Hill Ranch.

Nancy and Paul Miller with Randall Debler owners of Rocky Hill Ranch.

Rather than sell their land, Nancy and Paul found Randall Debler, a determined K-State grad who wanted to become a first-generation rancher.  While the start-up costs of breaking into production agriculture might deter some, Debler found a way around that obstacle.

He began working for the Millers and the partnership eventually led to the decision to turn Rocky Hill Ranch into a corporation so Debler and his wife Erin could buy the place in small shares.

While visiting the ranch outside of Alma, Kan., MBA participants got to see more than just cattle. They snapped pictures of the original homestead that still stands on the property and learned about the history of Wabaunsee County stone fences on the farm. They also saw the sustainability of cattle being produced on the same land for more than 100 years and learned about alfalfa production while watching Paul rake hay on a tractor that his father bought brand-new the year Paul was born.

What Debler fondly refers to as "The Rock Place" is the site of the original homestead on Rocky Hill Ranch.

What Debler fondly refers to as “The Rock Place” is the site of the original homestead on Rocky Hill Ranch.


“It was amazing how passionate and dedicated these people are to their trade and how precise they are with each animal,” Mark Unger, MBA class member from Performance Food Group-Middendorf, St. Louis, Mo. said of Rocky Hill Ranch.

Unger and other MBA participants enjoy Debler's humor as he explains life as a commercial Angus producer.

MBA student Mark Unger (middle) chats with Randall Debler.

It goes to show that it doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth-generation family member to inherit the land, or a first-generation hopeful buying in, passing down the tradition of raising quality beef is what matters.


Look for more about Debler and Rocky Hill Ranch in a future edition of Angus Journal.

Ride along with the Certified Angus Beef supply development team as we work to help cattlemen put more black ink in their record books with cattle management news, tips and ideas to profitably improve quality. CAB is a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Angus Association. It was founded in 1978 as the first fresh beef brand based on specifications, and remains the largest in the world. We spend every day working with cattlemen and women across the country to help them better supply the CAB brand with high-quality beef. Join us for a view from many a pickups' passenger seat.
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