Thursday, May 31, 2018

Kansas Staycation: Scott County

Our Kansas Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker group has made it a priority to Discover Kansas with a field trip each spring or summer. Even though many of us are lifelong Kansans, we haven't explored every nook and cranny of our home state. Discover Kansas gives us a chance to celebrate the beauty, history and industry of the Sunflower State.

Staycations" are a growing trend - a way to have a little holiday without spending a lot of time and money. After visiting Scott County with Discover Kansas, it could be one summer destination for a staycation. 

As I wrote in my last blog post, Scott County residents are investing in themselves. They've found ways to survive - and even thrive - in a volatile agricultural economy by thinking outside the proverbial box. They could be among the success stories found by authors James and Deborah Fallows in their recently-released book, "Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America."

Agriculture is still Scott County's "bread and butter," so to speak. It's 2nd in Kansas in total production agriculture and 32nd in the nation (2012 figures). It's a place with quality farm ground and also is a hub for animal agriculture, with 17 commercial cattle feeders, six commercial swine operations and one dairy.

But they've also found some value-added components to agriculture, including NuLife Market.
NuLife Market Founder and President Earl Roemer gave us a tour. Earl’s family has farmed in the western Kansas for four generations. For years, his family grew grain sorghum – also called milo – as a feed grain crop for livestock. But then Earl began exploring how sorghum could be a human food source, especially as more and more consumers wanted gluten-free products. Sorghum has no gluten.

He admits that the early grain sorghum products “tasted like cardboard and the texture was like sand.” In 2007, Earl founded NuLife Market in Scott City to produce and market sorghum-based products and sell sorghum ingredients to other food companies.

NuLife uses sorghum grown in the region, providing value-added opportunities for area farmers. And now NuLife supplies sorghum and sorghum products for companies like Kashi, Bear Naked, Go Lean and Annie's Organic, just to name a few. Their sorghum products can be found in more than a thousand products, such as gluten-free baked goods, cereal bars and snacks, represented by some 80 brands. Nu Life Market is shipping its products coast to coast and beyond.
Another business with a reach far beyond the county is the Spencer Flight Center, a pilot training center created as a memorial to Scott City residents Dylan and Amy Spencer ad their daughters, Chase and Ansley, who died in a crash of their private plane in 2011. It's equipped with the only full-motion flight simulator between Denver and Salina. The simulator gives pilots a chance to train on a Beechcraft A36, Beechcraft BE58, Cessna 172 and a Cessna 206 under varying weather conditions.
That evening, we had a prime rib dinner at the Majestic Theater Restaurant in downtown Scott City.  The theater was built in 1922 and was a theater until 1966. The restaurant features original interior components including a decorative ceiling, wall lighting and large wall tapestries.
Next stop was the  El Quartelejo Museum. It traces the history of the region through fossil discoveries to present day. Displays feature both Native American and pioneer history. Attached to the museum is the Jerry Thomas Gallery and Collection. The Scott City native now lives in Manhattan, but he opened the gallery in his hometown. His art and collection focus on Native American, Civil War, Indian War, cowboys and wildlife.

The next morning, we actually saw some of the history we first learned about at the El Quartelejo Museum when we toured Battle Canyon. It's where the last Indian battle in Kansas was fought in September 1878.
Punished Woman's Fork includes a monument which overlooks the cave, canyon and the bluffs where the Northern Cheyenne hid, waiting to ambush the Cavalry.
As usual, Randy had to explore the cave a little more closely. The cave sheltered the Cheyenne women and children during the battle.
The draw to the northwest was the escape route for the Cheyenne after the battle.
More Native American history was found at Lake Scott State Park. The El Cuartelejo Indian Pueblo is the 1664 reconstructed pueblo ruins of the Taos Indians, who were fleeing Spanish rule.
It was later used by the Picurie Indians in 1701. The ruins were discovered by Herbert Steele in the mid-1890s. In 1970, the Kansas Historical Society began excavation and restoration.
Lake Scott State Park includes natural springs, wooded canyons and bluffs.
The 1,020-acre park surrounds a 100-acre, spring-fed lake.
There's a building where some groceries are available, along with rental of canoes, paddle boats and some fishing and camping supplies.
 Its arches provided a perfect frame for photos of the lake. 
We also stopped at a new business in Scott County, the Bellwether Barn. Owner Susan Griffith told us that her daughters used to ask their dad to build them a barn for their weddings. Dad wasn't convinced, but it sparked an idea with mom. She finally convinced him and Bellwether Barn was built. And, yes, they have had a daughter get married there. So have a bunch of other couples from the area. It's also been a revue for meetings and conventions and has become another cog in the tourism of Scott County.
We also took a trip to Monument Rocks. More on that next time.  I'm planning to share several ideas for Kansas Staycations in upcoming blog posts. 

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