Were you aware that there is a group of Kansans providing thought leadership in the area of caring for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and seniors? In this month's episode, Rachel talks with Mike Strouse, CEO of Goodlife Innovations. RememberKC Pop Co? They are one of Goodlife's innovative life enrichment and skill development programs. Rachel sits down to listen and learn (uncover) how they are delivering the kind of life people they support want to lead, and how other agencies are looking to them in order to implement similar models across the country.
How do you more cost effectively deliver the kind of lives that people want to lead? That’s what it’s really about. ~Mike Strouse, CEO Goodlife Innovation
What’s a honey tap? Is there lanolin in alpaca? You can learn the answers by listening to the podcast and by attending the Kaw Valley Farm Tour. This year’s tour is October 5-6, 2019. It is also the 15th anniversary, featuring 34 farms located in five counties. Attendees are able to get an insider view of working farms and ranches and get to know the people who produce the food they consume and the materials that go into the products they buy. Uncovering Kansas loves encouraging our listeners to explore and learn about Kansas. Rachel interviews the owners of two of the farms participating in this year’s Kaw Valley Farm Tour: Spike and Patty Durkin of Happy Valley Farm, and Claudia Hey of Ad Astra Alpacas.
A side note from our co-producer: The relaxed format of our podcast leads to friendly, casual bantering between host and guest. This episode is no different. Listeners may incorrectly conclude we (Rachel and Geoffrey) literally 'throw out' our empty honey containers. I assure you, friends, we do no such thing. We recycle with pride and vigilance and, whether glass or plastic, our honey containers are correctly disposed of with care and attention to environmental impact. Also, I'm wicked stoked to work this honey tap. Bees, baby. Bees!
Kaw Valley Farm Tour
Happy Valley Farms
Ad Astra Alpacas
While on the Big Kansas Road Trip, I came up with an idea to set up a pop-up restaurant in small towns in Kansas that can't support a wide variety or large number of restaurants. I think it would be fun, but can't pull it off by myself. So if you are interested in joining the effort to establish a pop-up restaurant in Kansas small towns, let me know by sending me a note through the form. We won't use this information for anything else.
This is the second episode of the 3-part series about the 2018 Big Kansas Road Trip. (Part 1 may be found below and the Part 3 is pending.) This episode focuses on the experience we had on the trip. Specifically, the people we (Geoff and I) met. As a reminder, the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) is hosted by the Kansas Sampler Foundation – whose mission is to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities. And the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) is a multi-day event where people are encouraged to explore 3 Kansas counties that have been selected by Kansas Sampler Foundation.
In the background of the BKRT is a vibe. There’s a rhythm of hospitality offering a consistent experience not typically available to travelers. Because these small towns were expecting visitors from all across Kansas, they were ready and willing to engage. People from Kansas are friendly – but this was more than saying hello as you passed each other on the sidewalk. They were there to represent their town and to talk to strangers and engage in conversations usually reserved for your closest friends.
As suburbanites Geoff and I are aware we are inexperienced about the daily workings of ranch life. Luckily Marti —who manages a ranch— was available to answer questions. The price of admission? The chance to have a great conversation. Living in a rural community has its challenges and we had a great conversation about these. She opened a corner of the ranch to BKRT participants and set up a snack bar for hungry travelers, a port-a-potty, and a photo station with the Gypsum Hills as the background. These may sound simple but they were important to road weary travelers in need of stretching legs.
We met Jack —a man from Mullinville in his 80s. He’s a musician and gave Geoff an impromptu lesson. These type of situations are wonderful and rare because too often travelers just blow on through small towns on their way to some destination. Every person participating in the BKRT did so for the experience. That created social spaces —rare folds of space and time— that allowed intentional interactions. Fellow travelers shared road stories. Visitors were given permission to ask questions. And locals were on hand to talk about their town and share stories (Geoff learned of a ghost story whose setting provided him with some inspiration). We had a wonderful experience.
(Here is a link to the Big Kansas Road Trip Facebook Page)
On this episode, we uncover a unique program in Johnson County Kansas that enables and encourages commercial art-making by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Papercrete Works is a program created by Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS) that marries art, commerce, and recycling to create an opportunity for clients of JCDS to earn an hourly wage. I learned of the program’s existence when I visited their open studio at InterUrban ArtHouse.
The term Papercrete is used to describe a mixture of cement, water, and recycled paper that gets poured into molds to make flower pots, picture frames, paperweights, decorative bowls, and other art objects. The process requires a wide range of skill sets, and allows people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to put their skills to work for an hourly wage. Some people shred the recycled paper, some mix the concrete, others fill the molds, use fine motor skills to paint the items, and even learn sales and marketing skills when the items are sold at art shows or other events.
One of my goals for Uncovering Kansas is to help educate Kansans about interesting and innovative things going on in Kansas and to start conversations that discuss and challenge stereotypes. And I think Papercrete Works art studio does this. There are many ways to look at programs like this, but as soon as I walked into the Papercrete Works art studio, I knew this would be an enlightening interview for me. I sat down with Micah Wickstrom, Ben Koontz, Jaimie Cureton, and Deb Bartholomew to talk about the program. Michah is the Papercrete Works Program Coordinator, Deb is a JCDS Team Lead, and both Ben and Jaimie are clients of JCDS who are working for Papercrete Works.
I enjoyed learning about the success the program is having in just 2 ½ years. The program assists people like Ben and Jaime with necessary skills development to participate in the the community. To learn more about the program, check out their website. If you are in Johnson County, their open studio at InterUrban ArtHouse is on the 3rd Friday of each month.
In this episode we uncover an innovation approach to solving one of the issues facing our foster care system. (Note: the podcast is an abridged version of the interview.)
The foster care system in Kansas is facing some pretty big challenges. With about 7,600 children in foster care in Kansas, there are only about 2,700 approved foster families. This means that a lot of foster children are sleeping in a different location every night, or in the foster care offices on couches or cots.
Sarah Oberndorfer has come up with a plan to help address this issue by creating a community of foster homes in Basehor, Kansas, called Joy Meadows. By creating a neighborhood where all of the homes are foster families, there is a built-in support structure that will reduce foster family burnout, increase capacity for foster children, and ensure more siblings get to stay together. In addition, the neighborhood will have a community center that will allow social services to come to the families, reducing the amount of time spent driving to and from appointments.
On this episode of Uncovering Kansas, we talk to Sarah about foster care and her plan for Joy Meadows. We think that you’ll learn a lot about the state of foster care in Kansas and find that another innovative Kansan has come up with a great idea to help improve the system.
To learn more about Joy Meadows, please visit the Joy Meadows website.
Our third episode of Uncovering Kansas highlights August Festivals across the state to encourage those who want to uncover Kansas on their own.
August is a time for County Fairs in Kansas. All County Fairs have the same key elements: animals, carnival rides and games, crafts, and plenty of food. We encourage you to change things up and visit a county fair in a county you’ve never been to. This way, you get to enjoy all of the traditional County Fair elements while also experiencing a part of Kansas you’ve never experienced before.
Here are the featured county fairs:
Dodge City Days July 27-Aug 5
Crawford County Fair Aug 1-4
Cowley County Fair Aug 2-6
Inter-State Fair and Rodeo Aug 13-18 – in Coffeyville Kansas
Yoder Heritage Days – Aug 25
In addition to County Fairs, here are some other festivals or events going on across Kansas in August:
Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo Aug 1-4
This event features saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie down roping, team roping, women’s barrel racing, bull riding! Over 500 cowboys and cowgirls compete for over $37,500 in added prize money, plus entertaining specialty acts between events!
Taste of Kansas Dinner Aug 4
This farm to fork dinner brings the best of local Kansas cuisine to you at Shiloh Vineyard and Winery. Las Vegas trained chef & WaKeeney resident, Ean Mong will pair Kansas wines with dishes prepared using only Kansas ingredients for the multi-course dinner. Featuring musical entertainment by Lucas Maddy.
Ranching Saturdays Aug 4
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Strong City
experience daily activities on a working ranch. Living history interpreters demonstrate activities such as: stove cooking, music, gardening, quilting, carpentry, roping, fence repair, saddling, wool spinning, sewing, stall cleaning, and housekeeping.
The K&O Farm, Home, & Ranch Show Aug 17-19
Winfield Fair Grounds
The show features a tractor rodeo, garden and antique tractor pulls, arts-and-crafts show, and a variety of other attractions.
Sand Creek Summer Days Aug 17-19
This is not your typical festival! Featuring a Floating Flotilla Parade, Human Foosball Tournament, Cardboard Regatta, and 80s costume contest in addition to all of the usual festival events.
Roots Festival Aug 24 -25
Non-stop music is on the agenda, plus a BBQ Contest, and plenty of crafts and food.
The podcast about culture, travel, people, history, and enterprise in Kansas.