Thursday, December 13, 2018

Shop Local - Stay Local

Shop Local - Stay Local. It's more than the latest internet buzzwords. It could mean the difference between survival or death for local businesses.
Let's face it: It's usually not too difficult to find a parking spot on Main Street in small-town Kansas, including Stafford.
Stafford's Main Street looks different than it did in this photo from 1955 (found in Stafford's Centennial book, Crossroads of Time: 1885-1985).

By contrast, back in the early- to mid-20th century, Main Streets provided the hub of social and business activity on Saturday nights as farm families loaded up the car and came to town.

During the past three months, the City of Stafford and the Stafford Chamber of Commerce asked people to Shop Local - Stay Local. People could keep receipts and a tally of monies spent at local businesses. Then, there was a drawing for prizes - for everything from gift certificates at local businesses to a credit for electricity to a summer pass for the new swimming pool. (I won one of those passes. I am going to see if I can gift it to a Stafford youngster who might enjoy using it!)

On the little leaflet in which we collected our local receipts, it said this:
If 100 families within Stafford spent an additional $75 locally per month, that would inject more than $90,000 annually into the local economy. Shop Local - Stay Local
We are doing our part - especially at the grocery store, farmers' co-op, lumber yard and auto parts store.

The world is different today. We're more prone to "like" something one of our "friends" said on Facebook than to make plans to meet them for a treat at the soda fountain or share a tub of popcorn at a Saturday movie. For many, the big box store in the town 30 or 40 miles away is the place to stock up on paper goods or groceries. A click of a button on a website means that a store will deliver your every want and need to your own front door.

We say we want to shop local. But do we choose to do it enough?
Before Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, I saw an editorial in The Salina Journal. Here's part of that column:
We'll be spending money. A lot of money. According to the National Retail Federation, we’ll shell out $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion total this holiday season. According to the federation, each shopper will spend about $1,007.24 apiece.Make sure, though, when you plan out that spending, that you think about what companies benefit. Will you be funneling your dollars to Amazon or a big box retailer? Or will you be supporting local businesses?

That decision makes a difference. ... It makes a difference to the city and state economy, which benefit directly from you keeping your dollars in the community. It makes a difference to businesses, many of which work mightily to survive in a shifting retail marketplace. 

Think about it this way: Big online retails extract capital from cities. With few exceptions, we don't see that money again. Local retailers put that money straight back into the local economy.
Brent's first job out of grad school was at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Morehead had a vibrant "shop local" initiative. At one of their local eateries, tucked alongside the menu, there was a page thanking people for shopping there. It detailed 10 ways that the decision to patronize at a locally-owned business made a difference. Here are just a few:
1. You kept dollars in our economy. For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $68 will stay in the community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? Only $43 stays in the community.

2. You embraced what makes us unique. You wouldn't want your house to look like everyone else's in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?

5. You nurtured community. We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.

10. You made us a destination. The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone. 
Does it really make any difference whether I spend the bulk of my grocery dollars at Wal-Mart or at my local Paul's Grocery?
Does it matter if I buy paper goods at Paul's or at Stafford's Simply Overstock store instead of stocking up in Hutchinson? Randy and I think it does. Even something as mundane as toilet paper can make a huge impact on the success or failure of our small-town businesses. (Click on the link for more details.)

Instead of being like Chicken Little and yelling, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling," we need to be part of the solution. I believe the possibilities could be as vast as the big, blue Kansas sky if businesses worked together and small-town citizens made a commitment to buy locally first.
Admittedly, smaller storefronts don't always have every single item you need. I'm not saying that you can never shop in a Wal-Mart or Target again. I shop in those stores, too, and I keep a running Hutchinson shopping list for ingredients and other items I can't buy locally. I just think it's time to look at our small towns for all the pluses instead of concentrating on the negatives.
Admittedly, Main Street Stafford isn't as bustling as it was in the early 1900s or during the oil boom of the 1940s. But there are businesses that have been here for the long haul and some new ones that complement them. (I started to list local businesses and then decided that was a formula for leaving people out. Our little town has restaurants, a bank, a flower and gift shop, farmers cooperative and many other businesses that contribute to a good quality of life for its citizens and neighbors.) We are fortunate to still have Stafford District Hospital and a rest home meeting health care needs in our hometown.
We have the Ritz Theatre showing first-run movies each weekend. Several years ago, the city upgraded the sound system to digital.

Our Stafford USD 349 continues to offer quality education to our community's youth, including adding innovative programs like the Stafford Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) Center. Students start their own business and become business owners through this program.

Our high school added a Culinary Arts and Management program several years ago, cooperating with local restaurants, Stafford County Flour Mills at Hudson and others in the private sector. Vo-ag students have built a greenhouse on school property and they're even trying to impact world hunger. Technical career education is a focus for our school district. It just goes to show that you don't have to be a big, metropolitan school to offer innovative, hands-on programs.
Sunset, July 15, 2016
Shop Local - Stay Local:  It's a message that should resonate during this holiday season ... and every other day of the year. It has to ... if we want to keep our rural communities from becoming ghost towns.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

I'm in the Army (Truck) Now

I'm in the Army now!
OK, more accurately, I'm in the Army TRUCK.
For the past week, due to circumstances beyond my control, my to-do list has had an addition. I'm the feed truck driver.
In its former life, our feed truck was an Army truck. We purchased the 1991 5-ton, 6-wheel drive Army truck and had the Kelly Ryan feed wagon box added to the back in 2014.
C. Melvin Fritzemeier, 10th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
Since Randy's Dad drove an Army truck in the Korean War, there's a bit of nostalgia there, too.

It still has its Army number emblazoned on the driver's side door.
That first step is a doozy. So I use my handy-dandy ladder to get into the truck.
Once inside, it looks a little like mission control. 
To start the feeding session, I have to zero out the scale. We add grain to the bottom of the feed wagon. Randy augers it in from our storage bin.
Right about now, we could use some extra help like we had a few weeks ago when Kinley and Brooke were visiting.
In our high-tech operation, I honk the horn when the scale gets to 650 pounds. (My auger operator can vaguely be seen through the dusty rearview mirror.)

He's a good teacher. Once you get the crash course, the feed truck is not so intimidating. Wait ... maybe I shouldn't say "crash course" when talking about driving. Especially when I consider the rather tight turn into the pasture where the silo is located.

To make sure I don't end up in Peace Creek, I have to pull into a driveway past the actual entrance into the pasture, back up and then come in from the north.
There are no guard rails on that wooden bridge, you know!
Once at the silo, Randy uses the loader tractor to put silage into the feed box. 
Several scoops later, we're ready to be Meals on Wheels and deliver the silage to the feeder calves.
Once we get back to the farmstead, Randy hops onto the step of the truck for a short ride to the pasture, so he can open the gate and flip down the feed chute. 
The feeder calves were ready for their breakfast.
I'm getting better at getting the right trajectory to get the feed delivered to the bunks.

These cows across the road on sudan stalks always look a little envious that I'm delivering already chopped feed to the feeder calves. They are having to forage for theirs right now!
While I put the feed truck back in the shed, Randy gets some grain to top the silage in the feeder bucket.
That mixture goes to the calves we are fattening for our own dinner table.
 Mission again accomplished!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Prevented Planting: Wheat 2019

Sunset - October 25, 2018
This sunset sky photo is undeniably pretty.

But the reflection of that sunset sky in mud puddles reveals a big problem for us this fall. For the first time ever, we weren't able to plant almost one-third of our 2019 wheat crop - about 385 acres. This has never happened since Randy began planting wheat in 1974 as a senior in high school.

The ground was too wet to plant after 14-plus inches in October and 2.5 inches more in November, along with three snows.
To receive full crop insurance coverage on wheat, we needed to plant the 2019 wheat crop by October 31. That simply wasn't possible on low-lying areas. It was either under water or too muddy to drive a drill through. 
The sunset over the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op revealed another storm system on the way.
If we had been able to plant by November 15, we could have done so and received reduced insurance coverage. However, with the additional rain and snow, it wasn't possible.

We have elected to take a prevented planting option in our crop insurance policy. It will pay a percentage of our revenue guarantee. Part will be paid now and more could be paid later, if we don't collect crop insurance on the next crop.
The "other side" of the sunset, October 25, 2018
To qualify for prevented planting coverage, "the insurable cause of loss must be weather related and must be common to the area. The cause of loss must have prevented other producers in similar situations from planting the intended crop. ... The prevented planting acreage must have been planted and harvested at least once in the previous three years."

Next spring, we plan to plant dryland corn (and a little milo) on the acres we couldn't plant to wheat. The cost of planting corn is appreciably higher than the cost of planting wheat due to seed costs, fertilizer and herbicide. Because we are a totally dryland farm, wheat typically performs better than corn on our acreage. 
October 3, 2018
In addition to not being able to plant some acres, Randy also had to replant most of our seed wheat and some of our other fields, totaling about 300 acres. This was an additional expense with seed cost, labor, fuel and equipment usage.

At this point, none of the wheat looks very good. That's because of too much rain, not enough sunshine, poor germination and emergence.

We'll hope conditions improve before we truck our Harvest 2019 to Zenith next June!
October 29, 2018

Monday, December 3, 2018

Letter Perfect: A Tribute to Bill Snyder

NOTE: This is a repost of a post I wrote in 2015. As Bill Snyder announced his retirement yesterday, I want to join the multitude of K-State fans wishing him well in this second round of retirement. Yesterday on Twitter, Brent posted this photo I took back in 1998. Here's what he had to say:
My wardrobe from 1996-99 pretty much consisted of a rotation of like 20 K-State football t-shirts. Some of the best memories of my childhood were thanks to Bill Snyder and for that I will forever be grateful. #ThanksCoachSnyder
This Mom echoes that thanks, Coach!

I sent K-State football coach Bill Snyder a handwritten note a few weeks ago, congratulating him on his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. My favorite part of the national football championship was watching Coach Snyder walk onto the field during the coin toss.

I made my own notecard, using a photo I'd taken at the K-State-Auburn football this past September. I hand-printed my congratulations because he has done the same for so many people.

I didn't expect to receive a letter back. But I got one anyway.
In it, he apologizes that he didn't hand-print the letter himself. He got so many congratulatory notes that he responded via a typewritten letter. But he says he read each and every one. I believe him. He's that kind of guy.

I was a student at K-State in the late 1970s. Attending football games was a lesson in futility. I always went because I grew up a K-State sports fan. But I sure didn't have to fight for elbow room. Our football program was in the cellar of the college football rankings. 

Week after week, we'd make the trek across campus from the Derby dorm complex and sit in the stands. Despite our chants to "Eat 'em up! Eat 'em up! K-S-U," it was our football team who was getting chewed up and spit out on the field week after week.

Bill Snyder was hired in 1988 and has been called "the architect of the greatest turn around in college football history." The Wildcat program was in the midst of an 0-26-1 run when he was hired and had been to just one bowl game in its first 93 seasons. He took the worst college football program in the nation to a perennial top-25 contender.
He's a five-time national Coach of the Year honoree and a seven-time conference Coach of the Year recipient. He's coached the Wildcats to 19 bowl games and two Big 12 championships. He's compiled a 215–117–1 record in his 27 seasons as K-State head coach (updated to reflect current record).

Impressive? Sure. I love cheering for a winning football team after so many years of drought. But what's most impressive to me is Bill Snyder, the human being.

Every so often, an athlete from a competing school posts a handwritten Coach Snyder note to Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes, it's an athlete hurt in a game vs. K-State. Sometimes, it's a player who has achieved something special on the football field. Every time I see one of those notes, I think about how blessed K-State is to have Coach Snyder at the helm of its football program.
Brent & his friend, Scott, at a 1998 football game, waiting on the team in the north end zone.
Brent was born in 1988 and has been a big, big, big fan of Bill Snyder his whole life. For many of those years, we sat in the north end zone during football season. Coach Snyder and his team would walk right by us on the way to the locker room. It was a thrill for our biggest little K-State fan.

My folks with their seven grandkids - now all K-State graduates!
Snyder posters and quotes dominated the decor in his childhood room. Then, Coach Snyder sent Brent a letter. Brent won a national award while working for K-State Sports Information as a student intern, and Coach Snyder congratulated him. Brent framed the letter, and it has hung on the walls of his home, be it in South Carolina, Kentucky and back to Manhattan. It's one of his prized possessions.

One of Brent's MANY K-State football t-shirts
I didn't think I could like Coach Snyder more than I already did, but when you encourage one of my kids? Yep, I liked him even more. And it made me think about the ways I could and should encourage others who touch my life in a positive way.

A few years ago, Coach Snyder came up with 16 goals for his football team:
  • Commitment
  • Unselfishness
  • Unity
  • Improve every day
  • Toughness
  • Self-discipline
  • Great effort
  • Enthusiasm 
  • Eliminate mistakes
  • Never give up
  • Don't accept losing
  • No self-limitations
  • Expect to win
  • Consistency
  • Leadership
  • Responsibility
Snyder believes the 16 goals are not only critical to success on the field, but also in everyday life. Once someone has dedicated themselves to doing things the right way, their chance of success in any field is dramatically increased. - See more at:
Snyder believes the 16 goals are not only critical to success on the field, but also in everyday life. (More details about the goals can be found here.)

Yes, it's great to win football games. It's even better to have a coach who teaches these principles the football players will carry long after they quit tossing around the pigskin. The rest of us should pay attention, too. 
I'm proud to be part of the K-State family.
Thanks, Coach!
As it turned out, Randy & I made it to the end of Coach Snyder's final appearance as head coach. It was darn cold, but I'm glad I stuck it out to the very end.
November 17, 2018 - Bill Snyder Family Stadium vs. Texas Tech (a win)!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Let's Talk Turkey: A Fun Holiday Salad

It's been Camp Grandma and Grandpa at the County Line this week. With cattle to feed and move, Thanksgiving rolls to prepare and cats to pet ... just to name a few ..., there is no time for lengthy blog posts. But I thought this one was worth sharing before Thanksgiving, if you are looking for a way for the kids to help make your holiday table festive.

Kinley and Brooke loved putting these healthy salads together yesterday for dinner. And Great Grandpa and Grandma Moore even knew what we made without giving them any hints.

Gobble Me Up Thanksgiving Salad
From Family Fun
Orange or clementine
Bosc pear
Peanut butter or cream cheese
Mini chocolate chips
Dried cranberry
Stick pretzels or dried apricot (see directions for explanation)

Cut apples and pears, taking out cores. Dip into a lemon-water mixture to help prevent browning. Separate orange or clementine sections.

Arrange the apple and orange slices to resemble turkey feathers. Lay a cored pear half on top, cut side down.

Use a dab of peanut butter or softened cream cheese to attach mini chocolate chip eyes, a cashew beak and a dried cranberry snood.

For turkey feet: The original directions call for using a dried apricot. Use scissors to halve a dried apricot, then snip small triangles from each half and tuck them under the pear to form the feet.

However, my dried apricots were past their prime. So we broke stick pretzels in half and placed them under the pear.

Happy Thanksgiving from The County Line! I'll be back soon ... after I recover from a week of cattle tasks, followed by a week of Grandma time. It's the perfect definition of highs and lows. I'll bet you can guess which was which! 

Blessings to all!