IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Kansas farmers harvest meteorites

Kiowa County farmers have found a new crop worth harvesting: meteorites.
Allen Binford, left, poses with meteorite hunter Steve Arnold, and the 1,400 pound meteorite that was discovered on Binford's farm by Arnold in Haviland, Kan.G. Marc Benavidez / The Wichita Eagle file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Kiowa County farmers have found a new crop worth harvesting: meteorites.

But even though a 20-pound meteorite can go for up to $20,000, area farmers Don and Sheila Stimpson have another goal in mind. They want to open a meteorite museum and establish Haviland as the Meteorite Capital of America.

On Saturday they invited Haviland Mayor Jeff Christensen and University of California research scientists Candace Kohl and Kunihiko Nishiizumi to watch as they dug up three meteorites with the help of backhoe operator Dan Woods.

"This is better than hunting for Easter eggs," Kohl said.

The Brenham meteorites, named for Brenham Township near Haviland, fell from space about 20,000 years ago. They're known for their naturally occurring gemstones of olivine crystals, which look like stained glass when cut.

In the 1920s and 1930s, one of the world's foremost meteorite hunters, Harvey H. Ninnger, examined Kiowa County's impact crater site and left with many finds. In 1949, collector H.O. Stockwell found the previous record-setter, a 1,000-pound meteorite, on what is now the Stimpsons' land. It's housed at the Celestial Museum at the Big Well in Greensburg, Kan.

The hunting frenzy began again in earnest in Kiowa County last fall when Steve Arnold, a professional meteorite hunter, uncovered a 1,400-pound meteorite in Brenham Township. It turned out to be one of the world's largest oriented pallasites, which have olivine crystals embedded in iron-nickel alloy.

The two smaller meteorites found Saturday weighed between 150 and 250 pounds each. The larger still has to be weighed but measured 2 feet by 2 feet by 20 inches.

But the Stimpsons still hoped the new meteorites would help them get their museum.

"I consider this meteorite crater to be a national treasure, a pallasite meteorite crater," Stimpson said. "I am hoping we can attract some attention to the area."