Ken Flies grew up on a dairy farm near Plainview, Minn., and says he led a very sheltered life during his youth. “I didn’t even leave Wabasha County for the first time until my junior or senior year in high school when I went to the Twin Cities for a basketball game,” he said.
Once there, all he could think about was getting back home; but it didn’t take long for him to get over his fear of the unknown. In 1962, at the age of 19, he answered President Kennedy’s call to serve to become the youngest first-ever Peace Corps Volunteer from Minnesota. Flies spent two years in a remote area of northeastern Brazil, teaching villagers how to establish an agriculture industry.
When he returned home, Flies became an accomplished national and international business and social entrepreneur, involved in the start-up and development of more than a dozen companies and organizations domestically and internationally.
In addition to being a pioneer in The Peace Corps and business, Flies was the founder of the Rural America Writers’ Center, the Rural America Arts Partnership, the Great River Ridge State Recreation Trail, and the Minnesota Peace Corps Legacy Association. He is the author of Retrieving Isaac and Jason, and the Peace Corps memoir Into the Backlands. He has written and lectured extensively on the Civil War including serving on Governor Dayton’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Task Force. He is also a past Board member of the Minnesota Park and Trail Council.
Ken was recognized by Minnesota Governors Tim Pawlenty and Mark Dayton first in 2002 as an outstanding rural entrepreneur and in 2012 for his entrepreneurial contributions to the State of Minnesota.