HUMBOLDT – Before Our Market Butcher & Grocery opened in July 2021, more than two years had passed since residents of Humboldt, Kansas in Allen County, had been able to buy fresh produce, meat, and other items at a local grocery store.
Since Moon’s Hometown Market, which operated out of the same location as Our Market at 915 N. Ninth St., closed its doors in March 2019, many residents were forced to drive to grocery stores in bigger towns like Iola or Chanute.
Amy and Scott Welch, a local couple with a family cattle farming operation, put an end to that. They opened Our Market, which in addition to the grocery store also serves the community with a butcher shop that processes beef, hog, and deer meat.
The store’s website, www.ourmarket.farm, states that the Welches, “are a local family that wanted to sell affordable, high-quality meat to a community that didn’t have access to it.” They have done even more than that, though, as they have brought back the local grocery store and greatly improved access to healthy food options in Humboldt.
Our Market was one of the stops on a recent tour of Allen’s County’s rural grocery stores by participants in the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) Annual Forum.
Amy, who teaches full time in Humboldt USD 253, is a mom, helps her husband manage the family farm and still finds time to run the store, spoke with funders about the successes the store has enjoyed since opening nearly a year ago.
The store has become a supplier for local school cafeterias and restaurants, and the community supports the store. Instead of residents having to drive down the road to Chanute and Iola, Amy is seeing some residents of those towns shopping in her store. And the butcher shop, which has successfully tapped into the local food system, is constantly busy.
Challenges – a competing Dollar General store, high energy and operating costs, rising prices, and no ability to maximize economies of scale – remain. Amy knows that keeping prices in check is key to keeping the store filled with customers.
The need to improve access to healthy food options is not a new issue in Allen County. In 2017, it was one of eight communities to receive grant funding through Sunflower Foundation’s Project HERO – Healthy Eating: Rural Opportunities pilot project, which focused on supporting community-based strategies for addressing food access across rural areas, to include strengthening local grocery stores.
Our Market is a shining example of a rural grocery store serving the needs of its community. The challenge it and other small-town grocery stores face is developing a sustainable strategy for keeping the doors open.
To that end, the Welches continue to seek new avenues for grant funding to offset expenses. Their goal is to one day own the building that they currently lease from Monarch Cement. In the meantime, she’s happy to have the support of the community, and Humboldt residents are thrilled to be able to shop at their local grocery store.