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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 .

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.

By Beccy Tanner

There may be a new/old look coming soon to the northwest corner of St. John’s Square.

A $45,000 matching grant awarded by the Kansas Creative Arts/Industries Commission – a division of the Kansas Department of Commerce—will portion some of that grant to St. John for use in building a Victorian-type gazebo.

The largest portion of the grant will go to Stafford to help them in helping the city construct a band shell.

A study last year determined both communities lack public outdoor spaces for special events.

Stafford’s project is called “Spaces Within The Places” and celebrates Stafford as the Gateway to Quivira.

With the annual Jubilee and Homecoming events held in the St. John Square, about $4,500 of the grant will go to St. John for construction of the gazebo and concrete pad.

In applying for the grant, Ryan Russell, director of Stafford County Economic Development wrote:

“These spaces will draw people together to hear music from all kinds of artists and bring young families together to enjoy the outdoors.”

The 10 x 16-foot gazebo in St. John will cost roughly $10,000 with $4,500 coming from the grant. The City of St. John will provide the remainder in funding along with the concrete pad and electrical wiring and sound for the gazebo.

Sturdi-Bilt near Hutchinson is constructing St. John’s gazebo.

It is expected to be delivered to St. John sometime in April or early May – in time for the Jubilee.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the square boasted a similar type of gazebo, and it was used as a forum for bands and special events. It eventually fell into disrepair and was torn down.

It is hoped the new gazebo will be a gathering place for people to once again come together.

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

When Connie and Tim Gross retired in 2015, they moved to Stafford County.

For both, it was a coming home.

Connie was born and raised in Stafford County; Tim, from Pawnee County.

They moved to her family’s fourth-generation homestead located six miles north of St. John, off US-281. The property was originally homesteaded by John Shotton in the late 19th century. The  Walls family farmhouse was built in 1900.

And, in their own way, Connie and Tim began their lives in 2015 as pioneers back on the farm.

“We decided we wanted to put up a garden because I have always liked to play in the dirt,” Connie said. “The garden we planted had a whole bunch of things.”

It did great.

In fact, there was lots of produce.

“We decided to go ahead and take things to the markets because we had more than we could use,” she said.

A lot more –oodles of green beans, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, squash, watermelons, cantaloupe, Brussel sprouts and even more than that.

What they didn’t sell at local markets, they gave to churches.

“We just had too much,” Connie said.

So, they began canning.

But as they began selling produce and canned products, they needed a name.

That’s where family history and humor come in.

“When I was little, my cousin, Carol, asked her dad what their farm was named,” Connie said. “Because they had a little hill, her dad (Fred Walls) told them it was Mountain View. And I was really thinking, ‘Well, I wonder what our farm is called?’ At the time before they leveled out the land, the road went up a little hill and came back down then went up again. My dad said it was Turkeyknob Hill. I thought that was pretty cool. I didn’t think it was as pretty as Mountain View but I got a kick out of it.

“So, when we were doing this, we decided we’d call this TurkeyKnob Farm.”

First came the salsa.

And pickles.

Then, their creativity really set in.

The names of their canned products roll off the tip of a tongue. Some are just fun to say:

Bourbon Caramel Apple Jam, Strawberry Jalapeno Jam, Chokecherry Jelly, Jalapeno Butter and Rattlesnake Relish.

TurkeyKnob Farms was one of the first businesses to utilize Shop Kansas Farms, a Facebook page and website that promotes Kansas grown products.

After that, the rush was on.

“I wrote on the page that we had jalapeno butter, and we were selling it around town and at local markets,” Connie said. “We had over 800 responses, 600 people wanted to order it. We had 24 jars at that time. So, that’s really what started TurkeyKnob Farm as a small business.”

The jalapeno butter is Tim’s personal tried and true recipe.

“Tim was working at the stove almost continually making the jalapeno butter. There was no way we could meet the first 600 orders but we did try to meet most of them. As time went by, he began making candied jalapenos as well.”

He has also made and created barbecue sauces.

Both Connie and Tim are mostly self-taught cooks. Both their fathers inspired them to experiment with jams and food combinations.

Connie said her father, George Walls, loved to make strawberry rhubarb jam. However, she doesn’t care much for rhubarb but does make some mighty-mean strawberry jam.

“It seriously tastes like you are eating fresh strawberries,” she said.

Tim was in college when he began exploring different methods of cooking.

“I was living in a house with roommates, and I got a lot of cooking in that way,” he said. “I had an interest in what kind of spices go together to get an optimal taste. It was trial by error. I learned to make the barbecue sauces and then the jalapeno products, as well.”

Currently, the couple market 15 different products. They are sold in eight White Foodlineir stores, some co-ops and various specialty shops such as Smith Market in Hutchinson, Sunflour Café & Collective in Wichita, Happy Valley Farm in DeSoto, Golden Belt Beef near St. John, Miss Pretty Pickles in Great Bend and Simply Unique in Larned.

 The number of products they have available can vary from time to time.

A link to their page with Shop Kansas Farms is https://shopkansasfarms.com/turkey-knob-farm-llc

Last year, their business was placed on hold for about nine months. Connie suffered a major fall and ended up with several broken bones, torn muscles and ligaments. Then, there were several surgeries.

And, in the meantime, they moved – twice.

“One of the reasons we moved is that we felt, at our age, we couldn’t take care of the property like we wanted. And, we wanted to get our living area all on one level,” Conniie said. “My dad and Tim’s mother have already passed away. We didn’t have any big reason for keeping us in Stafford County. A couple of our kids now live in the Kansas City area, and we wanted to be a lot closer to our grandkids.”

They now live in Berryton, Ks., near Topeka.

Still Stafford County is close to their hearts.

“I was born and raised in Stafford County and we still have a lot of friends still there,” Connie said. “It was a hard decision to leave. We lived there eight years. But we felt we were getting older and didn’t want to miss out on our grandkids.”

In the meantime, TurkeyKnob products can be found in almost any store around.

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: Ryan Russell and Beccy Tanner

It’s Thanksgiving week and you might be needing a little help thinking of some new recipes to try.  Why try to find new things when you have the best from the old recipe books that grandma had laying around.  In 1979 the town of St. John put together a great recipe book to celebrate the cities centennial.  Here are some oldies but goodies straight from that cookbook.  But before we get to these timeless recipes let’s look at the Golden Rules for the kitchen.  These Golden Rules are also found in the St. John 1979 Centennial Cookbook but look even further back to the Century Cookbook form 1892. 

GOLDEN RULES FOR THE KITCHEN

  1. Without cleanliness and punctuality good cooking is impossible.
  2. Leave nothing dirty; clean and clear as you go.
  3. A time for everything; and everything in time.
  4. A good cook wastes nothing.
  5. An hour lost in the morning has to be run after all day.
  6. Haste without hurry saves worry, fuss and flurry.
  7. Stew boiled is stew spoiled.
  8. Strong fire for Roasting; clear fire for Broiling.
  9. Wash vegetables in three waters.
  10. Boil fish quickly, meat slowly.

(From Century Cookbook 1892, Belonged to Mrs. James Harris, grandmother of Helen and Ralph Waters.)

These recipes are sure to be a hit.  I’m personally a pecan pie lover! Don’t forget the whipped cream!

CORN BREAD

Lucille Hall

(From Her Mother, Mrs. T. W. Hall)

1 c. flour
2 c. corn meal
1 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. soda
1 egg (beaten together)
2 c. sour milk
1 c. sour cream

Beat together the egg, milk and cream. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the first mixture.

Pour into a 9×13 inch greased pan and bake at 400° for about 1/2 hour or when done by tooth pick test.

DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Beccy Tanner

3 eggs
1 c. corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla  
2 T. melted margarine
1 c. pecan halves
1 c. brown sugar
9 in. unbaked pie shell  

Preheat oven to 400. Beat eggs with fork or eggbeater, add remaining ingredients and mix well by hand. Add pecans last, and place into the unbaked pie shell. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for 30 minutes or until pie is set.

TURKEY CASSEROLE

Elnor Shulz

1/2 c. oleo
2 cans (3 oz.) drained chopped mushrooms
3 T. flour
3 c. fat free chicken broth
3/4 c. cream or half and half  
2 T. pimiento (chopped)
3/4 c. grated cheese
4 c. cubed turkey
1 pkg. (12 oz.) medium egg noodles (cooked)  

Cook noodles. Heat margarine in pan, add flour. Remove, stir in broth, stirring to keep smooth. Add cream and cook till thickened. Stir in mushrooms, pimiento, and cubed turkey. Arrange layers of noodles and turkey mixture in greased casserole. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

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.

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.