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By Beccy Tanner

Four years ago, Glora Batten started her journey into canning.

A friend asked her to come over to their house and help can pickles.

“We got started and made a batch of pickles and I just thought it was very fun,” the 29-year-old St. John woman said.

That moment started her thinking about the possibilities of canning more foods.

Soon, she had created an array of jams and jellies, pickles, relishes, and syrups.

Currently, Batten says she is in a canning hiatus.

Her youngest daughter, Charlotte, was born last June and is taking much of Batten’s daily attention.

But she is hopeful to get back into the full canning swing later this spring where she can offer sometimes as many as 30 different varieties of items.

When she does, Batten said she plans on using the new commercial kitchen in the Stafford County Annex.

“I have filled up my dining room table laying down jars and canning equipment,” she said. “I always go through a deep cleaning before I make anything, so it will be nice to walk into a nice, clean kitchen (at the Stafford County Annex) and just simply get the process going.”

Her business is called Preserved Goodness and she sells all over Central Kansas – Salina, Hutchinson, Wichita and Great Bend — and on Facebook.

“I’ve done a lot of pop-up markets over the last couple of years,” she said. “And I’ve been invited to sell products in a couple of stores and in different small businesses … I’ve always enjoyed cooking. I have a good friend. Her name is Phyllis, and she runs Dilly and Doc (a creative studio in Great Bend). She kept telling me I should have a booth with my jams and jellies.

“I didn’t think I had the audacity to do such a thing. I kept telling her so. And then, I went down in my basement after a day of canning, and I realized that I had filled up an entire room with probably 400 to 500 jars of jelly.”

Batten and her husband, Shawn, have four girls – Talley, 10; Rebekah, 4; Savannah, 3; and Charlotte, 7 months.

“My oldest daughter likes to do lemonade stands at the farmers markets,” Batten said. “This summer, I am hoping to go with her and have a few jellies to sell. And then, we will start back up doing random pop-up markets this fall.”

Until then, Batten said she can take small orders with advance notice.

She makes pepper jams, sandhill plum jelly, mulberry and blackberry jams. She has traditional flavors of jams and then, some not so traditional – think chocolate strawberry, blueberry-strawberry, carrot cake, monkey butters and tropical jams.

She sells half pint jars, typically around $7 each.

“Anything that looks fun, I usually try.”

To check out Glora’s business, see Preserved Goodness Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/preserved_goodness .

By Beccy Tanner

Two teams and four St. John High School students are the county winners in this year’s Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Ryer Ward, placed first in the contest, which was held Feb. 7 at the Stafford County Annex.

He receives $750 and a chance to compete at the state competition on April 16th at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

His entry was called “The Pocket Shop” and details a business that would make breakfast rolls or pockets with filling.

Second place winners are Garrett McAlister, Willow Murphy, and Uricke Engelbrecht for their entry of “Unraveling Fibers.” Their business would include a subscription service for crocheting and needlework projects.

They receive $500 and have a chance at applying to be a wild card team in the statewide contest.

To participate, students must submit an executive summary of a business proposal and do an in-person presentation.

Each team is then judged on their business’s marketability, niche, and ability to grow their company as well as model.

This year’s judges included: Lea Ann Seiler, from Network Kansas; Trisha Greene, 21st Central District K-State Extension; Angela Peterson, St. John-Hudson USD 350 elementary principal; and Ryan Russell, director of Stafford County Economic Development.

Stafford County Economic Development with funding from South Central Community Foundation hosted the local YEC competition and sponsors the students to attend the state-wide competition.

 EcoDevo is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to promote economic and population growth throughout the county by assisting local businesses, engaging in community activities, and promoting Stafford County as a great place to live, work, and play.

By Beccy Tanner

After being involved in education for nearly 30 years as both a teacher and principal, Jo McFadden decided to take a new direction in her life.

“I retired and this is my retirement gig,” McFadden said. “I was looking for a job. This came up on my radar and I thought it sounded like fun.

“I applied and here I am.”

Since August, the 55-year-old McFadden has served as the director of the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library in St. John.

She replaced Laura Davis as the director.

McFadden has been a life-long resident of Hutchinson and continues to live there with about a 50-minute commute back and forth each school day.

“I was going to pull my (retirement) papers because I had 85 points and could retire. But this (the St. John library position) is a KPERS job. So, I didn’t officially retire because I didn’t pull KPERS. I did retire from being a principal and decided I would keep on working.”

She taught middle school algebra and geometry for 11 years and was an elementary principal in Hutchinson for eight years; and then, principal at Inman Elementary in Inman for eight years.

“I have my master’s in administration and have taught college classes through Baker University and Newman University. I have presented at national conferences on a number of different topics … My areas of interest and skill include professional learning, curriculum, instruction and assessment and school improvement.”

Her hopes for the Ida Long Goodman Library are to increase programming, circulation, and services available to the community.

“We have two exciting things that are in the works right now that I think will be wonderful for our community,” McFadden said.

The first is a Digi Lab – where the library has installed a digital scanner so that patrons of the library can scan old photographs, negatives and slides – and save them digitally. It will evolve into a full Digi Lab where clients can bring in their DVD’s or VHS tapes and can digitize those, as well.

“Think of those little camcorder tapes – all kinds of things – that can now be digitized,” McFadden said. “So, we don’t lose those things that are so important. I know I have a ton of tapes from when my kids were little stored away. I can’t view them on anything. So, once we get those things in, the staff will be practicing on them and then, the community can come in and get their things transferred.”

Another program the library has just established is a premium family membership to Exploration Place in Wichita. The pass is free for area families to come and check out and then use for their entire family.

“So, they can go to Wichita and go to Exploration Place; go to the Dome Theater and see the science show and check out traveling displays,” she said.

She has also started an adult book club and scheduled a series of Lunch & Learns at the library in partnership with Stafford County Economic Development. Topics have included information for first time home buyers; Stafford County’s Exoduster legacy; services offered by the Stafford County Health Department; and Estate Planning.

As the director of St. John’s library, McFadden said her new position is – in some ways – like that of being a principal with all the administrative duties.

“There is the budgeting, staffing and just all the paperwork and programming,” she said.

In addition, she said there is one more added benefit:

 “I will say I have always loved to read and just being among all these books has been amazing.

 “I just can’t get enough.”

This is the audio from our monthly radio show: Focus on Stafford County. This show aired live Thursday, Jan. 25. Topics included a $50,000 HEAL grant that was awarded to the W.R. Gray Studio in St. John and a $50,000 loan from SJN Bank for the studio’s renovation. Other subjects included the Stafford County Port Authority, updates on the upcoming Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge; the county’s commercial kitchen, childcare, the Community Fair Building and new housing construction.

This is the audio from our monthly radio show Focus on Stafford County. This show aired in December. It includes discussion on Giving Tuesday, Stafford County’s commercial kitchen, the partnership between Stafford County Economic Development and the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library’s Lunch and Learns, a new gazebo for the St. John Square and some upcoming grant writing workshops.

By Beccy Tanner

For many Kansans, the Christmas holiday season begins first with a visit to the Delp Christmas Tree Farm in St. John.

It’s tradition and for good reason:

The Delp Christmas Tree Farm is the oldest continuously operating commercial Christmas tree farm in Kansas. Cecil and Ruby Delp started the farm in 1959 and were founding members of the Kansas State Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Decades later, one of the Delp’s sons, Tony and his wife, Linda, returned to St. John to help with the farm. And now, Joel and Sarah Delp and their children help – representing the second, third and fourth generations of the Delp family to help with the farm.

Go now, and there are Christmas carols playing nonstop on a sound system.

The scent of fresh-cut trees, swags and wreaths hangs in the air.

Inside the main office is a fireplace and a help-yourself area with peanuts, candy canes and hot apple cider. Outside are rows and rows of trees where generations of families have come to select Christmas trees.

In the beginning, it was small-town life that first drew the Delps to Stafford County.

Cecil and Ruby moved to St. John in 1946. Cecil was originally from the St. John area. His parents did some farming south of St. John, near the Antrim community. Ruby, although she was born in Arkansas, grew up near Guthrie, Okla. The two met in Oklahoma.

Tony and Linda were the next generation to move back.

“We moved back to St. John so we could be closer to family and also a smaller, rural community where we could raise our family and have the advantages of a smaller school and the opportunity to work out on a farm,” Tony Delp said.

How the farm began

The idea of a Christmas tree farm began with his father’s cousins, who would talk of harvesting 40,000 to 60,000 trees grown in natural habit for sale at Christmas in Detroit and Chicago. Also, Cecil Delp’s two brothers both operated fruit orchards in Yakima Valley, Wash.

“Dad always liked to try different things,” Tony said. “He never liked to do like everybody else. So, he took trips and looked at nurseries and trees. He worked with Kansas State University with the state forester.”

By the 1960s and 1970s, the Delp Tree Farm in St. John was a large operation. During the summers, high school and college students would often help with the farm labor.

When it was the first Christmas Tree farm in Kansas, it wasn’t unusual to see car after car lined up along US-281, waiting for the chance to pull in and select a tree.

Travel the surrounding highways then – especially after Thanksgiving — and it was a common site to see station wagons and pickups with Christmas trees tied securely on top or in back.

The Christmas tree farm heyday for the Delps and other tree operators was during the 1970s and 1980s, when there were 150 tree farms across the state. Now there are closer to 30.

Pre-lighted artificial trees have grown in popularity, Delp said, but he has seen their popularity peak and decline over time. Also, there are more trees available at local grocery stores and at organizations that set up lots in cities.

Cecil Delp was well past 50 when he planted 17,500 evergreen trees using his Fordson tractor, sons Phil and Tony and a planter he borrowed from the local Soil Conservation Service.

Ten acres were set aside for a 4-H project for Phil and Tony.

For decades, Ruby Delp taught first grade to students at St. John Elementary School. Then, in the early 1970s, Ruby and Cecil built a combination tree office and pre-school on the farm. The center of the office included the huge fireplace where customers could go to get warm after tromping through rows and rows of trees to select a Christmas tree. Cecil and Ruby both died in 1997 after 65 years of marriage.

Joel Delp has also experimented with various fruit trees including growing some paw paws. The paw paw trees are normally grown only in thick woodlands, usually close to streams in eastern Kansas, as far west as Butler County. And so, it is rare and exceptional the trees are beginning to thrive on the sandy soils of Stafford County.

Still, it is the Christmas trees that remain popular.

“We couldn’t have a better customer base than the people who come for the Christmas trees,” Tony said. “Most of them are happy, pleasant, and easy to talk to and get along with. It’s fun to see them each year.”

It’s all about family for the Delps.

Linda Delp – according to Tony – is an expert bowmaker and has literally created and tied thousands of bows. She also runs the counter and keeps the office going.

For the Delps, Christmas is their family legacy.

“We care about the community,” Tony said. ““For our family, Christmas begins with Christ and then, it’s about spending time with each other.”

By Beccy Tanner

When Darrell Bauer, owner of the Wheatland Café in Hudson talks about the quality and uses of Hudson Cream Flour, his voice takes on that enthusiastic tone of a loyal fan.

“There’s all kinds of flour out there but Hudson Cream never fails,” Bauer said. “And, they have a lot of good products – a biscuit mix, gravy mix that’s really good.”

But then, he starts listing all the dishes he uses the flour in:

“I use it in our cinnamon rolls, bierocks, for making gravy, breading chicken, chicken fries … I’ve used other self-rising flours before when I was out, and it just doesn’t do the same. I can’t tell you what they (Hudson Cream) do differently, but the food is always good.”

Stafford County Flour Mills Company in Hudson, which has produced Hudson Cream Flour for the past 118 years, has developed a mighty loyal reputation.

The gourmet magazine Saveur told readers in 1998 that “Hudson Cream is not a blend of hard and soft wheat flours, as all-purpose flours are, but is made entirely from hard red winter wheat. The result: higher, lighter breads with a rich flavor.”

Hudson Cream Flour is all about innovation and creativity.

It’s also about a loyal fan base of chefs and cooks that grows exponentially with each generation.

Especially in Stafford County, think about a holiday meal that doesn’t somewhere have Hudson Cream Flour included in a couple of the recipes.

But beyond flour, the Hudson mill is also a trendsetter in many other ways.

For example, in 2014, Stafford County Mills installed a wind turbine outside the city limits of Hudson, making it the first commercial flour milling facility in North America to use wind power-generated electricity produced on site.

That kind of innovation really began decades ago.

According to its website, hudsoncream.com, in 1922, “Leila English Reid, who was born and raised in Stafford County, moved to West Virginia.”  Not happy with the type of flour she found there on grocery shelves, she negotiated to bring a train car shipment of Hudson Cream Flour to West Virginia.

The rest is history because now, a majority of Hudson Cream Flour still sells and is popular on the East Coast.

“Why it has survived, I think, goes to two things: number one, it is a premium product on the market, and it’s allowed us to keep a market share when a lot of people sold out.,” said Derek Foote, who is in management at the mill’s corporate office in Hudson. “The other is the local community supporting it. When the mill went up for sale, there were local people buying it to keep it local.”

That happened in 1986 when, the Krug family – the original owners of the mill -were ready to retire and looking to sell the Stafford County Flour Mills. Fearing it might mean a loss for the local economy, several area residents pooled their resources to buy the flour mill and keep the company local.

The end results is that the flour and other products are now shipped to 41 states, Foote said.

“Not all that’s in our bags, nor the Hudson Cream Flour or Stafford County Flour Mills label,” he said. “Most of our label goes either in the Midwest or back to the Appalachian states.”

In addition, the Stafford County Mills supplies the public schools in Hawaii with flour, and product for kosher companies in New York and Chicago.

When the mills are running, 400,000 pounds of flour can be turned out in a day, Foote said.

“A lot of it is the quality of the product,” Foote said. “I think that’s the biggest thing is that we have kind of a cult-like following, especially back in the Appalachian states because of its short patent flour. Basically, it’s how we refine it. We pull a lot of the clear flour, the heavy stuff off. And so, what we are left with is just the heart – a flour that is smother, softer. That’s why the cream is in the name. Big mills can’t do that — or they don’t do it so much. It allows us to make more of a premium product that differentiates ourselves. We have been able to sell to niche markets.

“We are about the only one (in the nation) that does it with winter wheat – that’s the key part.”

In recent years, the mill has also substantially grown a market for organic flour.

“We actually do a pretty good volume of it,” Foote said. “It’s not grown around here as much and not as much of it is sold around here – but that product goes more to the east coast and to places like Denver and Austin. We do a significant volume, and it just keeps increasing.”

Not bad for a flour mill where the majority of its wheat is grown within 26 miles of Hudson.

2023 SCCF $5,000 Children’s Health Grant Recipient: 

City of Stafford: West Park Equipment Update 

2023 SCCF Community Grant Recipients: 

Lucille M. Hall Museum for Education and History: 

                       Isaac B. Werner Memorial Fireproof File Cabinet……………… $1,000  

USD 349 – Stafford Schools: Art Program Materials and Supplies……………. $1,000 

Macksville Middle School: Social Studies Books…………………………………….. $1,000  

Zenith Community Presbyterian Church:  

                      Stafford Ministerial Alliance Food Assistance Program……….. $1,500  

USD 350 – St. John-Hudson Schools:

                     Therapy Dog Training and Certification………………………………. $1,760 

Macksville City Library: Hometown Hospitality on Display Project………….. $1,395 

Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library: Computers………………………………………. $1,000 

St. John High School: Robotics Technology……………………………………………. $1,000 

USD 350 – St. John-Hudson Schools: Orff Instruments……………………………. $1,838 

Stafford County Core Community: Core Curriculum…………………………………. $680 

Macksville Grade School: Library Books……………………………………………….. $1,000 

Macksville Grace Church: Food Pantry and Necessities Nook Supplies……… $2,000 

City of Stafford: Uptown Sound System………………………………………………….. $1,462 

St. John Elementary School: STEAM Day Supplies………………………………….. $1,240 

St. John High School: Cameras……………………………………………………………….. $950 

Macksville High School: Leadership Workshop and Supplies…………………… $1,600 

Stafford County Economic Development:

                      Youth Entrepreneur Challenge Supplies………………………………. $1,880 

Nora E. Larabee Memorial Library: ADA Bathroom Project…………………….. $1,954 

2023 SCCF $250 Teacher’s Grant Recipients:                                                                                                                                            

St. John Elementary School: Social Emotional Online Learning………. Michelle Christiansen 

Macksville Junior High and High School: Care Closet Restock……. Jessica Neeland 

St. John Elementary School: Shoe Lacing Trainers…………………………… Trish Wade 

St. John Junior High School: Classroom Library Books………………….. Andrea Long 

St. John Elementary School: Kagan Cooperative Learning Materials. Bonnie Ward 

Stafford High School: Classroom Library Books………………………….. Dianna Fisher 

USD 350 – St. John-Hudson Schools: Ceramics Tools and Glazes…….. Brad Emery 

By Ryan Russell

Stafford County leaders have been working to finalize details in opening a commercial kitchen at the Stafford County Annex in St. John.

While some of the initial construction has yet to be completed, the county commission has generously given to help get the kitchen going.  In addition, Stafford County Economic Development Inc. was awarded a grant by South Central Community Foundation to hold Youth Entrepreneur Challenge (YEC) this year with a focus being on value added food creation. 

The YEC youth are challenged to create a business concept and compete against each other.

Stafford County Economic Development will offer an entrepreneurship training program in 2024 — that is food related, once the kitchen is completed and licensed.

Additional programming will be in partnership with 4H extension with their youth programs to create commercially viable products.  We will also work with 4H extension to create year-round programming.

The idea behind this is that Stafford County has an abundance of raw food materials from the flour mill, produce farmers, a number of small farms producing high-quality meat and dairy products; however, there is a lack of value-added products that are marketable.

Additional funds are needed.

The goal is to raise $10,000 for the operational and programming costs connected to the Commercial Kitchen.  This will include the costs of bringing in people with the technical skills and knowledge to help with training in packaging and food processing.  We will also be putting in a gas stove and other equipment that may be needed depending on who uses the kitchen.

Here’s how that money can be raised:

Beginning in November, South Central Community Foundation is doing a matching day on Giving Tuesday.  They have a pool of $70,000 to use in matching.  Each organization has an opportunity to get the funds they’ve raised matched, and an endowment created that will gain interest every year to be used for whatever projects an organization has to fund. 

Though Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, individuals can give throughout the month of November. Stafford County Economic Development is participating in South Central Community Foundations month of giving.  

So, give generously this November and help Stafford County Economic Development spur economic growth in Stafford County’s nascent food product industry.  To donate to support this important program, click on the link. https://www.sccfmatchday.org/nonprofits.cfm?id=1830

Stafford County Economic Development has been working hard the last 2 years to complete 10 houses that are in St. John, Stafford, Hudson, and Macksville respectively. These houses have government requirements for income and age and meet the need of a critical group in our community. We are now looking for a lucky person or family to move into the last house in Macksville. The 412 W. Halveson house has a large yard and has 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms. The other houses in the county are now called for. The house on First and Monroe in St. John was recently filled and the house in Hudson has someone moving into it starting in November. If you or someone you know needs housing in Macksville please contact Housing Opportunities Incorporated (HOI) our partner who manages the houses. Reach out to HOI by phone (620) 792-3299.