The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

April 12, 2014

Far beyond humble beginnings: For Meibergens and Johnston Grain, it’s a family affair

ENID, Okla. — The W.B. Johnston grain elevator towers over Enid like a monument to the Johnston/Meibergen family that began the business 120 years ago.

As of this month, the grain business portion of Johnston Enterprises is owned by Louisiana-based CGB Enterprises, a multifaceted agribusiness company that already counted three Oklahoma grain elevators among the 70 Midwest states elevators in its arsenal.

Johnston’s Port 33, east of Tulsa, now is owned by Arkansas-based Bruce Oakley Inc. Johnston’s Port 33 includes ports in Catoosa, Muskogee, Chalmette, La., and Gramercy, La., as well as Johnston’s Barge Freight Sales.

Lew, Butch and Joey Meibergen, the family members who have been at the company helm since 1976, have grown the company far beyond its humble beginnings as a local seller of grain, seed, flour, coal, hay and livestock.

At the same time, members of the Johnston/Meibergen family have taken an active interest in growth and improvement of the Enid community.

That stake in the success of the community comes natural to the family, Lew Meibergen said. He points to the history of both sides of the family to illustrate.

“My granddad started it all when he made the run,” Lew Meibergen said. “We’ve kind of inherited that. Granddad, Joe Meibergen, was an early mayor of Enid. He had a men’s clothing store with his cousin. I guess as far as Enid’s concerned, we’ve been involved in developing the community since day one.”

Joe Meibergen served as mayor of Enid from 1899-1903.

The same is true, of course, with the Johnston side of the family, Lew Meibergen said.

Lew Meibergen’s maternal grandmother, Olive Newcomb, came to Oklahoma during the Cherokee Strip Land Run and staked a 160-acre claim along Skeleton Creek. She later married Willis Boyd Johnston, who had come to Oklahoma before the land run. He was the founder of the business destined to become an agribusiness empire.

Asked if his progeny learned the importance of community involvement from him, Lew answered that he guesses so.

“I tried to do it, and I tried to instill in them the obligation to work and support the community,” Lew Meibergen said.

Lew Meibergen’s father, Joe Meibergen, had been vice president in the family business for many years, but retired before Lew Meibergen left his career in banking to purchase the company from his uncle, Dale Johnston.

“I always really wanted to be involved,” Lew Meibergen said. “I was fortunate to be able to buy it. My father was vice president forever.”

Lew Meibergen was Oklahoma secretary of agriculture from 1963-1966. He was a member of the Oklahoma State University Board of Regents during those same years.

Four years ago, Lew Meibergen became the first agricultural businessman to be named to the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Lew Meibergen spent four years as director of the National Grain and Feed Association. He served as commissioner of the Kansas-Oklahoma-Arkansas River Association in the mid-1980s.

He continues to be a major supporter of OSU agriculture programs.

Butch Meibergen came to work full time for the family business in 1979, three years after his father purchased it. He previously had worked for the company before he joined full time.

Butch’s son, Joey Meibergen, joined the company in 2004 after completing degrees in agribusiness and finance at OSU. He also is a  graduate of the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program.

Joey Meibergen is an active board member for several community and business organizations. Among them are Transportation, Elevator and Grain Merchants Association; Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association; Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce; and Leonardo’s.

The Meibergens say their focus always has been on the success of their customers.

“We’ve focused on the success of our growers and our customers,” Joey Meibergen said.

“Helping them has helped them become successful and expand their business,” Butch Meibergen said.

The sale of the business will enhance that relationship, Joey Meibergen said.

“We needed to establish geographic diversity to keep up with agricultural demands,” Joey Meibergen said. “We’ll be able to provide better products and services to our growers.”

Butch and Joey Meibergen have three-year contracts with CGB Enterprises, and will remain deeply involved in the management of the company now that the partnership moves forward.

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