Posts

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: Ryan Russell

Gray Photo Studio (GPS) is soon to be renovated and will soon after open it’s art studio after receiving a $50,000 matching grant from Kansas Commerce Historic Economic Asset Lifeline (HEAL) program.  SJN Bank of Kansas, which is always looking for ways to help develop Stafford County, has provided GPS with it’s match in the form of a loan.  Without the matching loan, the HEAL grant would not have been possible.

Stafford County Economic Development Inc. (SCEDI) has been working with GPS to develop a plan to complete the historical building.  SCEDI and GPS have a fiscal and administrative partnership.  The buildings renovations will start no later than April and be completed by the end of the year.  In March SCEDI and GPS are planning an online art auction that will benefit the GPS, with over 10 artists committed to donating pieces of art for the auction.

Stafford City Manager Jami Downing also applied on behalf of Stafford and received a HEAL Grant to renovate one of Stafford’s downtown buildings. See Governor Laura Kelly’s announcement of all the counties to receive the HEAL Grant. 

https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/KSOG/bulletins/386bc8f

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: 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.

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.

By Beccy Tanner

St. John’s century-old photo studio, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, is about to get an interior make-over.

The board at the W.R. Gray Photo Studio at 116 N. Main has created a partnership with Stafford County’s Economic Development office to help finish the building’s interior.

 The building was constructed at the turn of the 20th century.

“We’ve signed an agreement with Eco-Devo to complete the restoration of the building,” said Carol Long, president of the Gray Studio Restoration Board. “Basically, it is just for that. It’s not a longtime administration agreement. It’s just to complete the building.”

Ryan Russell, executive director of Stafford Count’s Economic Development, said his office would help write grants.

“We are an administrative and fiscal sponsor,” Russell says. “So, what that means, is that we will help them find the money to do the project.”

For years, the building sat vacant and neglected until Long and others within the community began a concentrated effort in trying to save it.

That’s when it was listed on the national register and a new roof was installed. Then, the building’s exterior was painted: windows were repaired on the structure’s iconic northern skylight and, the interior was essentially taken down to the studs and beams.

Now, it is time to finish the rest of the work.

“They need help with the finishing projects,” Russell said. “And, we are going to be looking at selling some tax credits and obtaining grants.”

Long said the goal for the building will be turn a portion of the space into a residential artist apartment.

However, the bulk of space will be utilized for a classroom and special events.

“This is not some favor to Gray Studio,” Long said of the help provided by Eco-Devo.

“They are getting compensation for their work … The reason this has happened is that we need somebody to have their mind on Gray Studio all the time – somebody skilled and with connections to grant writing and organizations that build the grants,” she said.

“We needed people in the know.”

Long said that for the past decade, the members of the Gray Studio board have been working on getting the building completed.

“We want to do programs when the building is done,” she said. “The building will house a workspace for classes and maybe a place for a resident artist to work. It will have a little retail space and museum.”

The reason the photo studio is so important to Stafford County is because it documented the early families who lived in the area.

The Gray family took photos in Stafford County for 76 years.

The type of photography that the family used was glass plate photography, started in the 1850s and used up until the 1930s when Kodak’s Brownie camera and film became more accessible to most families.

William Gray moved to St. John in 1905 from Fall River. He operated the studio until his death in 1947. His daughter Jessie took over the business until her retirement in 1981.

In 1986, she donated the glass negatives to the Stafford County museum.

 No one knew what they really had until Stafford County Museum curator and project director Michael Hathaway brought the 30,000 glass plate negatives up from the basement of the town’s old bank building and moved them into the museum’s library next to his office.

That was in 2004.

Gray had kept 11 ledgers dutifully noting each of the 30,000 photos.

Those business ledgers indicate his clients came from all over Kansas. Many of the photos include portrait sittings but also street scenes, crime scenes, festivals and, of course, who can’t resist a picture of oversized produce?

Now, with this new partnership, the building can be completed and it’s legacy can continue as an important landmark of Stafford County.

By Beccy Tanner

In its day, the old Quonset-style fair building on the Stafford County Fairgrounds was state-of-the-art.

It had an enclosed space, concrete floor, showers in the restrooms and giant electric fans that kept the air moving as fair-goers perused hundreds of 4-H projects.

That was more than 70 years ago.

In recent years as the steel framed-round top community building began to leak and rain water dripped on projects, the Stafford County Fair Board re-evaluated what they could do.

“The building’s roof had begun leaking and during heavy rains, it rained on photography exhibits and stuff like that,” said Billy Milton, fair board president. “We started looking into fixing the roof and got back an estimate that was going to cost between $30,000 to $40,000 to fix and that in 10 to 20 years, we’d have to do it again.

“We did not feel like that was the right area to pursue. It doesn’t make sense for us to be spend that much money. Our budget just is not that big to operate like that.”

A few weeks ago, the old 50 by 120-foot community building was removed from the fairgrounds.

And the ground has been prepared to receive a new building – a little bigger, 60 by 120-foot.

The construction will be more of a Morton-esque-style building.

The biggest hope and feature for it will be air conditioning, Milton said, and a more comfortable space for people to gather.

Using $250,000 in funds that was available to Stafford County to help stimulate the economy after the Covid pandemic, Milton said, the fair board was able to begin the process of replacing the old building. The money was awarded by Stafford County Commissioners with the stipulation it be spent by the summer of 2024.

“That led us to deciding to go ahead and replace the building,” he said. “It will suit our fair and the community a lot better than what we currently had … I have been on the fair board for the last six years and we’ve always kind of talked about wanting a new building – even back in the 1990s, there was talk about it.”

Milton said the fair board has partnered with Stafford County Economic Development to raise an additional $275,000 to pay for the building’s amenities – such as heating and air conditioning, a concession stand area with stove and refrigerator and install showers in the restrooms.

“The rest of it will be open for meetings, wedding receptions and reunions,” Milton said. “We entered into a fiscal sponsorship agreement with Stafford County Eco-Devo because our organization is not a 501-C nonprofit so that when people donate, they can still get the tax breaks and save a little bit of money with sales tax, also.”

The partnership allows for a tax-favored option.

People wanting to donate to the new building fund can do so by sending a check to the Stafford County Economic Development Office at P.O Box 233 at St. John, KS, 67576 or by calling 620-549-3527.

The checks can be made to Stafford County Eco-Devo with the words “Community Fair Building” in the memo portion of the check.

Donation levels include: Grand Champion level at $80,000 and up; Reserve Champion, $50,000 to $80,000; Champion, $20,000 to $49,000; Reserve, $10,000 to $19,000; Purple, $2,000 to $9,999; Blue, $500 to $1,999; Other and Add a Brick, $200 to $350.

A 4 x 8 brick with no clipart has three lines with 20 characters per line; the same size of brick with clipart has an equal number of lines with 15 characters per line; an 8 x 8 brick with no clipart has three lines with 20 characters per line; and with clipart, three lines with 20 characters.

People serving on the fundraising committee include Milton, Joanna McAlister, Barb Alpers and Sharilyn McNickle.

“Right now, with the amount of money we have, we have enough money to get the shell of a building. We can get it back to where we were before,” Milton said. “But the additional money will go towards plumbing, electrical, tables and chairs, a bathroom and kitchen area on the inside.”

Check out the schedule here and also the other festivities on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StaffordOktoberfest .