Letters (Week of Dec. 5, 2007)

Town and St. Nick have been amazing

Since recently moving to Hillsboro, we have enjoyed the spirit and kindness of this community.

Saturday we and our family attended the Old-Fashioned Christmas at the historic Schaeffler House. It was a lovely experience. St. Nicholas was amazing!

Thank you for welcoming us to your community.

Cliff and Diana Ediger
Hillsbor o

Learn from an ag-tourism expert

A lot of people think economic development is all about bringing large manufacturers to our community. That would be great, but then we have to consider where the skilled or even unskilled work force will come from.

This problem is not unique to Marion County, but all across our state. We are doing a good job of sending our best and brightest to college, only to see too many of them leave our state for high paying jobs.

It?s no longer ?fashionable? to mentor and apprentice our young adults so they can or will stay here in our rural communities.

Another issue that affects our county is the struggle to keep our small farms prosperous as they are forced to compete with large farming operations that are not always locally owned and operated.

One way that the family farm can remain viable and prosperous is agritourism. Examples include Walter?s Pumpkin Patch and Wylewood Cellars. Who would have thought raising some pumpkins, grapes or elderberries and providing family entertainment could be so successful?

The state of Kansas has taken notice and is encouraging the development of agritourism by providing funding and training.

Since I have started talking about expanding current agribusinesses and developing new agribusinesses, I have been contacted by 12 rural families that are interested in this type of business.

Agritourism isn?t anything new, but it is something that can be developed in our area and make a huge impact on our economy.

In June, the Flint Hills Resource Conservation and Development Council received a $20,975 grant from USDA Rural Development to implement the ?Agritourism Business Development and Support Project.?

The purpose of this project is to provide educational and technical assistance to agricultural producers, landowners and others interested in developing an agritourism or nature-based business.

The RC&D Council has contracted with Jan Jantzen, owner of Kansas Flint Hills Adventures, to serve as the agritourism business development facilitator. Jan has experience in operating his own agritourism business, and with his background in education, he will be a natural fit to lead this effort.

Last week, as Marion County economic development director, I met with Jan and scheduled a date to meet with local residents, entrepreneurs and business owners interested in learning more about this effort in our county.

Jan has partnered with Flint Hills RC&D and the Center for Business and Economic Development at Emporia State University to offer a variety of workshops on how to develop an agritourism-based business.

The first local informational meeting will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Lehigh City Building. One of the important steps that will be discussed is ?packaging.? As families take more vacations or day trips within driving distance, we must look at providing the event, lodging, meals and entertainment all in one package.

Jan has a good deal of experience in selling packaged deals. No reservation is necessary to attend this meeting. For more information, please contact me at 620-382-8830 or 620-381-3920.

Teresa Huffman
Marion

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