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 in the original group of Peace Corps volunteers. 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 helped found the Rural America Writers’ Center and Rural America Arts Partnership; and he helped develop what is now the Great River Ridge State Recreation Trail. He is the co-author of Retrieving Isaac and Jason, has written and lectured extensively on the Civil War including serving on Governor Dayton’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Task Force. He has a forthcoming memoir on his Peace Corps experiences titled: Into the Backlands.
Ken Flies 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.