“A Refuge to Explore” is a program developed for Stafford County with the goal to cultivate a county level pride/identity. It’s part of the Engaging Placemaking for Innovative Communities (EPIC), which is a placemaking pilot program lead by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC). The goal is to find, preserve, and provide programming that taps into a community’s history and enhances the cultural environment for locals and tourists.  

“A Refuge to Explore” focuses on Stafford County being the gateway to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Quivira is a wetland of international significance with proximity to the Central Flyway migration route and the salt marshes on the refuge combine to endow the refuge with a large variety of birds. Many of these birds are uncommon in other parts of Kansas or even the central part of the continent. Quivira also boasts as a migration stop for Monarch butterflies who stop in Quivira to rest and eat.   Quivira has untapped tourism potential as a destination for bird watching, hunting and fishing, and education for young families. It’s a place that can be leveraged to develop the economy of the county. 

The Stafford County EPIC cohort’s plan is to develop 3D statues of whooping cranes at the entrance of each city just off the highway that highlights Quivira. The whooping cranes outside of Stafford will invite guests to enter their gateway to Quivira. Stafford intends to develop an event space that incorporates a spot where monarchs can stop and eat, a park where people can enjoy learning about the different animals from Quivira while listening to music or enjoying a picnic with friends. A band shell will be placed in the park for the many events that Stafford does downtown including their Octoberfest that is continuing to grow. Another event is going to be created to kick off the spring season to invite the migration of both the birds, monarchs, and tourists. A Crane mural will be painted on the side of the old lumber yard to enhance the beginning of the downtown area.  Steel banners will be added to the light poles showcasing the majesty of the crane with its wings outstretched. All of this enhances the gateway to Quivira and invites people to “Explore the Refuge”.  

We will also be offering smaller cranes and monarch butterflies that families can put in their yard or on their houses as a fund raiser to fund further tourism activities. 

People living in Stafford County know that this county has an abundance of raw materials. 

We are agriculturally focused. 

 We have everything from orchards, a tree farm, a flour mill, watermelons, honey, vegetables and several farms producing high-quality meat and dairy products to name a few. However, there are still just a few farm to table products developed within Stafford County.  

The reason for this has to do with available facilities and also the cost of setting up manufacturing.  There are opportunities to get support from places like Land of Kansas that help support local small food producers (https://www.fromthelandofkansas.com/) with advice on setup, labeling, and even have a marketplace to sell products they support. 

Hudson Cream Flour ships flour to biscuit makers and bakeries.  We have the ability to not only create products within our own communities but because Hudson Cream Flour ships anywhere in the U.S. and with the market access the internet give us today through platforms like etsy.com., it would be great to see Stafford County products in stores across the U.S. and around the world. 

 What about salsa?  What about cheese?  What about jelly for your PB and J?  What if you created those things? 

That’s why Stafford County Economic Development is working on a pilot project to support Farm to Table Food Processors.  We will be launching this pilot project soon to 1) locate all the people and businesses developing value-added food products, 2) provide mentoring through the business plan/product development process, 3) connect these entrepreneurs or businesses to food processing resource experts (production, packaging and marketing), and 4) help them make connections with sales channels in and outside of the county. 

If you have a desire to create a food product for commercial purposes, please reach out to us.  We want to hear from you.  Whether you want to create a product or support the pilot project as a partner business, please reach out to Ryan Russell at [email protected] or 620-314-5561.   

Photo of winter’s sunset with irrigation by Jody Suiter

There is a new flower shop opening in town just off the square in St. John behind Equity Bank.  The Petal Shop will be aiming for a soft opening on July 31st and will have everything from homemade gifts, fresh flower arrangements, candy bouquets, and plants.  The family behind the opening of the shop are the Truitt’s who are also the owners of Kansas Pest Inc. Jarrin Truitt is known by many through the Pest control business. But his wife, Kimberly, will soon be in charge of the flower shop. Keith Van Doren and Darla Stone were instrumental in helping the Truitt’s get their building. Kim is originally from Medicine Lodge and has lived in St. John for nearly five years following Jarrin who’s lived in here since 2005. The Truitt’s also have two boys Dylan and Jett who you’ll probably see hanging around The Petal Shop with Kimberly.

 Kimberly loves doing scrapbooking, journaling, photography and started focusing on crafting in 2020 right as Covid was starting and needed an outlet while being a stay-at-home mom with a one-year-old.  She first got into doing art projects when she joined Facebook groups that had cute inexpensive ideas.  Ideas like the pizza pan wreaths that are featured on early posts on her Facebook page.  In Medicine Lodge Kimberly arranged several community fund raisers and worked with the Chamber of Commerce through social media campaigns and Peace Treaty Pageants.  Since moving to St. John, she’s been a stay-at-home mom.  Now that her boys are bigger, this is the right time to start The Petal Shop.

 Kimberly had been thinking about opening a small craft/gift shop in St. John for the past 5 years but was encouraged by Jarrin to dive into it after seeing the need for a flower shop in the community.  Kimberly says, “Jarrin’s persistence and faith in me probably was the driver. But when we started to investigate what we needed to do, everything has come together like it’s meant to happen.”  They’ve also received lots of encouragement from the community once they announced they planned to open. 

 The Petal Shop will have delivery eventually for the entire county but at the start it will just be Kimberly by herself running the shop.  Eventually they will be able to provide full-service delivery to the entire county.  For now you can do pickup at their shop or they can deliver within St. John area.

 The Petal Shop logo was inspired by Kimberly’s Grandma Violet’s fabric paint design on a pillow case. 

 Follow The Petal Shop and make orders on Facebook or [email protected].

The Stafford County Childcare Committee just signed a lease with Logen Kernell to be a childcare provider in St. John.  Logen currently lives in Great Bend but is originally from Fowler, KS.  Her boyfriend Garrett Thomas is a truck driver and is from Larned. Logen likes watching her two favorite animated movies Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. Her favorite children’s books from her own childhood are Goodnight Moon & Love you forever.

 Logen has worked in an in-home daycare as well as her Aunts Community Daycare.  She’s even spent some time working in a preschool classroom.  She’s having lots of younger cousins she’s watched over the years and now has an 8 week old son!

Logen says, “I was trying to find childcare for my son, but it was very stressful as most of the daycares were full. I want to be able to help a community like St. John as I know firsthand the struggles with childcare.”  She’d looked at starting a daycare in Great Bend but ran into several roadblocks.  She was then recommended to the Stafford County Childcare Committee.  She’s excited to get started and hoping to open August 1st.  There will be an open house on July 25th, from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Different activities she plans to do with the children would include Circle time, this will include the calendar, days of the week. She plans on also having story time once a day and the kids doing a craft at least once a week to take home to their families.

If you are interested in getting on her waiting list:  [email protected] or 620-539-3102

Stafford County Economic Development (EcoDevo) has been looking into different concepts that might work with the growing need of the county’s beef producers to slaughter, process, and package meat to sell directly to consumers.  After talking with Kansas Commerce and Land of Kansas, EcoDevo organized a site visit to see Midwest Meats mobile beef slaughter trailer in Abilene, KS.  On June 23rd a group of 5 people including Billy Milton, Lisa Cornwell, Scott and Jennifer Pfortmiller, and EcoDevo’s Ryan Russell went to Abilene to meet with Troy and Brian Leith of Midwest Meats.  

The group first went to lunch and discussed Midwest Meats journey of over 2 years in trying to figure out how to create a system of farm to table beef products.  The main challenge had been city ordinances which stopped them from doing beef slaughter within city limits.  Now they were operating and had followed guidelines to be Federally approved.  Troy said, “All small towns in Kansas should be replicating this, it’s the only way forward economically allowing small beef producers to slaughter, butcher, and sell directly to customers.  Our goal at Midwest Meats is to promote branded beef specific to beef producer farms’.” 

 The concept they had built was a 13 ft tall trailer that had cooling capacity for 5-6 slaughtered cattle.  They could drive it to any farm in their county, set it up with a 3 man crew, and complete the slaughter process of  a cow within 40 minutes of setup.  After that, drive the cooling beef to their butcher shop and transfer them from the trailer for processing at their butcher/retail shop.  The trailer has on board electricity and water.  They have plans to set up slaughter staging stations at all the farms they worked with, equipping them with a concrete slab and electrical hookups for their trailer.

The trip made all participants intrigued about what might be possible for beef producers in Stafford County.  This is the starting point in the due diligence process to create a project that fits the needs of beef producers in Stafford County.  There will be a followup meeting with all beef producers interested in entering the discussion on how to go about getting beef slaughter and processing into Stafford County. More information about next steps will be available on EcoDevo’s facebook page soon.

If you have any questions or interest please contact Ryan Russell at [email protected] or 620-314-5561. 

Midwest Meats Trip Media

Stafford County Economic Development sponsors an annual photography contest for images that will be used on promotional materials and/or our website. A $25.00 prize will be given to the winner in each of the 3 categories listed below, and an unlimited amount of honorable mention winners will receive a $5.00 prize for each entry.

The new rental houses completed earlier this year in St. John and the currently under construction in Macksville are part of the nine house county-wide rental housing Stafford County Economic Development (EcoDevo) started building in September 2021. The first house was built in Hudson and completed in February 2022. Three houses in Stafford were completed in June 2022. The three houses in St. John were completed in January 2023. And the final two houses in Macksville should be completed by August 2023.