Gaylord Sargeant has seen a lot of changes in his years as a vendor in the Derby Farmers Market, but this season is certainly unlike any other.
“It’s a different atmosphere,” said Sargeant, as he looks over the event, where vendors have masks on, as do many of the attendees. There’s also a hand sanitizing station, with liquid hand cleaner and paper towels, all in an effort to minimize any effect of COVID-19.
Sargeant, who owns and operates Sargeant’s Farm at 9836 S. Hydraulic, has been with the market as it moved among a variety of locations before it found its current home in the parking lot of Madison Avenue Central Park. On this particular market day in mid-May, there were about a dozen vendors and Sargeant said business was decent, but not as busy as it will be later in the season when popular items such as tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and melons are ready.
“It will really pick up in June and July,” he said.
But limited selection didn’t seem to dampen the spirit of customers, who strolled up and down the small concourse under cool, cloudy skies. Many of them seemed to be happy just to be out and about in the community, visiting among each other and getting a long-awaited break from the two-month stay-in-place order.
Sargeant said that’s what he picked up on, too.
“People want to get out and do something,” he said. “I think that’s a reason why we’re doing OK now.”
Among the attendees was Stacie Griffie of Derby, who purchased asparagus.
She had been to the market “years ago,” but plans to come back again this year.
“I’m having a good time,” she said.
New guidelines ‘received well’
That’s what Derby Market Manager Tom Lezniak wants to hear – and hear more of as he works to build the event up in his first year as director.
“It fell off a bit, but we’re rebuilding it,” he said.
The market is held on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon. This year’s season is from May 2 to Sept. 26 and the market is one of three operated by Kansas Grown Farmers Markets.
The other two are at the Sedgwick County Extension Office at 21st and Ridge and in downtown Wichita at Union Station.
The Extension Office event also is on Saturdays, but from 7 a.m. to noon and it has a longer season, from April 4 to Oct. 31. The Union Station market is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and its season is the shortest, going from May 20 to Sept. 2.
There also are other markets operated by different organizations in the area.
Farmers markets were termed “essential businesses” by the state, so like supermarkets, they could operate throughout the lockdown order. Thus, their opening for the season was up to each organization.
Both vendors and customers are glad to see the Derby event going again, said Lezniak, who added that the new guidelines, including social distancing, are being “received well.”
It’s a well-behaved crowd, too.
“Everyone is so polite and respectful of everyone else,” he said.
The city doesn’t charge the group to use its parking lot and while Lezniak said the site is good overall, a little more visibility could help it as the view of the market is “kind of hidden” from the road. Previous sites at the Derby Senior Center and the former Dillons at Madison and Rock both had higher visibility from drive-by traffic.
Electronic marketing campaign
There is a sign on Madison, but Lezniak also said he’s working hard with social media on an electronic marketing campaign to get more people to the market.
Sargeant said the effort should pay off.
“Tom is getting started on it and he’s getting it figured out,” he said.
Another vendor, Tirza Lobato, who was selling produce, honey and cheese curds from a creamery in Alma, Kan., said she’s happy with the market’s start this season.
“More people are being encouraged to shop local,” said Lobato, who has been at the market in the past.
New vendors Jim Wilhoit and Cassandra Ruhlen also were pleased with business. They were selling bags of horse and goat compost for $2 or $5 each along with homegrown lettuce and eggs, which they had sold out of by 10:30 a.m. The outgoing pair greeted each person going by with a cheery “hello” and made it clear they were more than happy to talk about composting and related topics.
The site has plenty of room for more vendors and some from past years, such as Trena Bradley, plan to return later in the season.
“I’m just waiting until things settle down,” she said of the phasing back from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Bradley sells fabric creations and was the market’s manager for six years until retiring from it last year.
“It was just time,” she said of making the change and having Lezniak take over.
Working to get and keep the word out on the weekly event, the location and its season takes a lot of effort, but Derby’s market is worth it for both vendors and community customers, she said, and added that it would be great for the market to fill up its area.
“We’d really like to see it grow,” she said.
Becky Moeder is sweet and bubbly on the surface. If you dig deeper, that pleasantness holds true, but there’s something else below the surface – a hunter.
Moeder is a lifelong Derby resident. She grew up near El Paso Elementary. She spent kindergarten through sixth grade at El Paso, then went to Derby Middle School, back when it was located where the Derby Historical Museum is now.
She attended Bishop Carroll Catholic High School – a decision her parents made. She’s currently making up for that by having her kids go to Derby High School.
Her parents moved to Derby when she was 3 so that her dad could open a pharmacy. Her dad is now retired, but Damm Pharmacy is still around.
Moeder, 43, has seen four decades of Derby. She remembers the days when if you couldn’t find it at the Trading Post, you had to go to Wichita. Back then, Rock Road was two lanes.
“You had to plan your trip around the traffic,” Moeder said.
The town has grown and changed since those days, but Derby retains its small town feel, Moeder said.
Moeder has also grown and changed since those days, but ask anyone who has known her for a while, and they’ll tell you she’s the same old Becky: a happy, kind, motivated go-getter – someone who can be smart, patient and hard-working, and who hunts down new opportunities.
Dan Stang was Moeder’s sixth grade teacher 32 years ago. His first impression of her back then was that she worked hard at everything she did, Stang said, and that she was a leader.
At the time, Moeder was doing math well above her grade level.
“More than likely she would have been able to teach it herself,” Stang said.
Years later, Stang crossed paths with Moeder again. He was teaching elementary PE, and she was working as a gifted teacher. Stang said it was clear again that Moeder “was a natural-born leader.”
“She expected the best of her kids, just as people expected the best of her,” Stang said.
Moeder’s two-decade career at Derby Public Schools is hard to keep track of. In 1999, she was hired as a part-time elementary music teacher at Carlton Math Science Magnet. In 2000, she taught full-time as both a part-time elementary gifted and part-time music teacher. In 2003, she became a full-time gifted teacher.
Gifted teaching was her job for a number of years. Then in 2017, she became the interim principal at Cooper Elementary, and things started to shake up again. In 2018, she became special services coordinator. In January 2019, she became interim director of special services, then in July, she started her current position, assistant director of special services.
Now she’s readying for her newest role, which she starts this July: assistant superintendent of human resources.
Over her years at Derby schools, Moeder has had numerous accomplishments, but one thing that she’s particularly proud of is that she’s had a connection with every school in the district in some way or another.
“I feel pride in my connection to all those buildings,” Moeder said. “It helps me feel really connected to our community.”
It may sound cliché, but there’s one big reason she has stuck around so long: the people.
That includes Marsha Allen, who lived next door to Moeder in the ‘80s. Just like Stang, Allen crossed paths with Moeder again later in life.
Allen is a realtor, and she assisted Moeder with a number of things: listing Moeder’s house, selling her a house, and more.
Allen said she remembers Moeder being “very positive [and] very smart” back in the ‘80s. She said that is still true today.
Allen acknowledged that aside from hunting down opportunities, Moeder is also another kind of hunter: a literal one.
“One thing that surprised me the most, because she doesn’t look like it – she’s such an outdoors woman,” Allen said. “She hunts. She wears camouflage. She sits out in the blinds. To me that bespeaks patience.”
Hunting is Moeder’s happy place.
Her first hunting trip was eight years into her marriage, and then she “was hooked from that moment,” Moeder said.
Moeder likes to hunt with a compound bow. She mainly hunts deer, and sometimes turkeys.
“My kids love jerky, so that’s why I hunt deer,” Moeder said.
She loves being out in the woods. “I like the peacefulness,” Moeder said.
Moeder has shot about four bucks over the years – one with a rifle, and the rest with a bow.
Her favorite place to hunt is a spot along the Arkansas River. She can’t disclose the exact location because of the “hunter’s code,” she said.
She hasn’t been able to hunt as much since getting into administration, but she still goes when she can. Her current assistant superintendent opportunity is her focus now, she said.
“I’ve worked hard to get here,” Moeder said. “I’m not quite there, it doesn’t start until July, but I’m really excited, motivated and energized.”
The skills she has perfected over the years are part of her success both out in the wilderness and in the classroom.
Her patience and focus have paid off so far – and there may be more to come, Dan Stang said.
“I wouldn’t doubt if she’s the superintendent of Derby schools one
of these days,” Stang said.
Dax Benway’s summer 2019 conversation with Matt Walter was no ordinary phone call.
The 2019 Derby graduate’s connections to Northwestern Oklahoma State (NWOSU) run exceedingly deep, seeing five members of his family have not only attended the school, but played football as a Ranger.
As he stepped out of his bedroom to tell his parents of an offer to play at the school, the message was a moment his family will never forget.
“I remember he came out of his bedroom with a tear in his eye,” his father Todd, who played at NWOSU from 1991-1994, said. “I asked him what was going on and he said, ‘Coach just called and offered me.’ His mom and I were sitting down and Heidi said, ‘no he didn’t.’ She had her back to him and I was looking at him and I knew he was being serious.”
Seven months after his offer, the youngest of the now six Benways to play in Alva, Okla., officially signed the dotted line.
What was it that built this Benway pipeline?
Todd said Alva’s similarities to his hometown of Watonga, Okla., were noticeable. As a Class 2A (now 1A) school that sits roughly an hour and a half south of the NWOSU campus, he remembers the school track and field meets that brought him to his future college home.
“[At that time] I never knew there was a college there,” he said. “My older brother was a senior when I was a freshman and we got to play one year together. It felt more like Watonga than some of the other places. It’s a smaller town … The teammates that were already there show you around and it was a natural fit for most of us.”
Fast forward 20 years and the next wave of Benways made their way to the Great American Conference (GAC) school.
Todd and his two brothers all played for the Rangers between 1986 and 1999.
Even when he first strapped on a Derby High School helmet, he too was no stranger to the drive to Alva. The school, which became an NCAA D-II institution in 2015, left an indelible mark on Dax.
“I’ve been going to games there for as long as I can remember,” Dax said. “The coaches have known me since my freshman year of high school. We’ve been down there ever since my cousin was a freshman. I love the town and there isn’t a lot to do but play football. I knew that’s what I was going down there to do and that was my main focus.”
The 2019 season was Dax’s first in Ranger red and black. His cousin, Jayden, was a redshirt junior in the program. An additional Benway on campus circulated quickly in conversation.
“Whenever you show up there … everybody is saying, ‘oh, another Benway is here,’” he said. “The name is so deep and all the professors know me. I don’t even know half of them myself. Just because of my last name, it puts a pretty big target on my back. I really just want to uphold the name and keep the name proud at NWOSU.”
When Dax’s first game came on Sept. 5 against East Central University, Todd said he was riddled with butterflies.
“I was really never nervous when Dax was on the field in Derby,” he said. “I knew that for the most part, they were going to win most of those games … The first game in the fall I was a nervous wreck when he’d go in. It’s a lot different feeling.”
NWOSU finished 4-7 overall last fall, finishing its season with a 28-16 win over rival Southwestern Oklahoma State.
Dax, who totaled three tackles as a nickel corner last fall, is fighting for a starting spot in NWOSU’s secondary. While spring ball was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, he’s beginning preparations for his sophomore year at home.
Needless to say, he’s itching to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“I like to stare a receiver in the eyes, knowing he can’t do anything,” Dax said. “I love being out there, knowing I worked all week for it and I’m finally there. The crowd, the lights … it’s just me and the receiver and he’s not getting past me in my eyes.”
“It was definitely difficult not being able to have a graduation like past years. Not getting to finish basketball season and or start soccer, prom and all the year-end activities you look forward to … we weren’t able to have them.
Graduation was something for me personally I’ve been looking forward to for years. It just stinks not being able to have that. That was what probably hurt the most for me.
But we’ve been able to look at the positives. I’ve been spending time with my family. My sisters came back home from college. And I have a lot more free time, which is a blessing and a curse. But playing so many sports, it can be hard to find free time, so it’s been nice.
We’ve found alternatives for the senior traditions. My family had a prom in our dining room and we danced, and I’ve gotten cap and gown photos. We’re coping as best we can.
I’ll be attending K-State in the fall studying marketing and dermatology, and I’ll be a manager on the volleyball team. The only thing that’s changed is my move-up plans.
But I’m worried about school having to be online. It’s hard enough losing half of senior year. I can’t imagine losing the first half of senior year at college. I’m trying to stay positive. That’s the best way to look at things. If you look at it negatively, you’re going to be down all the time. With all this free time, looking down on the situation isn’t going to help.”
“This year I was supposed to graduate from Butler with an associates degree, in addition to my high school diploma. Instead of losing one graduation, I lost both of them. I have six siblings and they were all super excited and were like, ‘Oh my gosh, school’s cancelled.’ I immediately started crying because I thought I had worked so hard my entire year until now, and to find out it was all cancelled made me sad. It made me feel like everything I worked on was kind of pointless.
But now I think that the quarantine has made me a better person. I think it’s benefited a lot of us in weird ways that we didn’t expect. That kind of makes me happy. More people are out doing physical activities. I’ve gotten closer with my younger siblings. I’ve been doing a lot of school work, and I’ve also been teaching my little brother. He’s in 2nd grade. I’m one of the oldest [siblings in my family], so I’ve had to take on a kind of mom role.”
“The coronavirus has impacted me a lot. There are obviously a whole lot of things I wanted to do in my last semester as a senior. I play tennis, and I didn’t even get to play one match. I didn’t even get to pick up the racket that much. And it affected prom and family trips. All that stuff got cancelled. But I’ve worked through it and it’s getting better.
When I first heard [about the coronavirus], I didn’t think too much about it. I didn’t think it would actually close schools. When it actually started happening, it kind of blew my mind. I was sad, and all my friends were sad. But now as it’s getting a little better, it’s good that we’re coming together. And I’m obviously trying to get all my schoolwork done.
I’ve also been working at Papa Murphy’s. And I’ve played a lot of video games – a lot of Rocket League and Call of Duty.”
“The most difficult thing has been college visits and recruiting. I had a few [visits] set up before everything went down, and they had to cancel them. It’s been a mess trying to figure it all out. School itself has been pretty easy.
Being at home is pretty nice, but I miss seeing my friends. I haven’t really got to hang out with anybody. I’ve just been really bored.
I’ve been in the process of figuring out where I want to go to college. I did a bunch of virtual tours, and found out I’m going to Pratt Community College to wrestle. I’ve always wanted to wrestle in college, so I’ve been really excited. The high school wrestling state tournament finished two weeks before [schools and businesses closed]. I don’t know what I would’ve done if the state tournament got cancelled. I really feel for everybody who got their sports cancelled – especially seniors.”
“At first I was really sad, because I wanted to spend time with my friends that I spent the last few years of school with. But we’ve been texting and calling and finding ways we can hang out while keeping safe. So it was tough not being able to see everybody that I messed around with every day in class, but I got used to it, and now I’m ready to get going on college.
And there have been positives. [The coronavirus] has thrown a wrench into what we thought was going to happen, [but now] in the future if something doesn’t go to plan, we’re learning how to change quickly and keep going forward.
I live in Goddard, and there’s a disc golf course, so I’ve really started doing disc golf a lot – almost every day. I’m not the happiest about what’s going on, and I have my own ideas about how things could be handled, but I guess it is what it is. I don’t think we should still be locked down necessarily how we are. I think we could open up a little bit more, but that’s just me. I’m just ready to get back to normal.”
Working for the city of Derby as a multimedia specialist/graphic designer, Justin Miller has gotten to know the community well and become immersed in the city.
That exposure led Miller to an idea – an idea he pursued in his spare time during the current COVID-19 pandemic – that manifested itself in the form of a Derby Coloring Book, officially released May 3 on amazon.com.
“Attending different events, I thought with everyone stuck at home it would be fun to create something that maybe people could access easily – familiar places [where] they had been – to color,” Miller said.
Miller said he was inspired by adult coloring books while creating his own, wanting to make something that would provide some relief during a stressful situation.
On top of featuring many Derby-specific designs that can be customized, the book also includes a number of uplifting messages throughout to help as a morale booster.
“It’s kind of an easy thing to take your mind off everything and get lost in the coloring book. It’s the kind of thing I thought would be fun for not only kids, but adults as well. It’s an easy thing to do and relax with,” Miller said. “I tried to incorporate many different aspects of Derby, so I’ve got sporting events. I tried to incorporate the military, so I illustrated a refueler flying over Derby. It’s an assortment of different, familiar Derby items. Then, there’s also several inspirational quotes interlaced between all the illustrations.”
Miller began illustrating pages piecemeal during his free time in the evenings – as he has remained busy working with the city through the current situation.
Design-wise, Miller said his work for the city tends to have more corporate elements (from web design to city signage to infrastructure logos), but he wanted to experiment with some different styles for his coloring book.
“Most of my work for the city is more of that corporate style and this is more of a hand-done illustration,” Miller said. “This was all done on my iPad. It was more of a creative excuse to do more hand-done illustration.”
Working with Amazon to publish the book was a fairly straightforward process, too. While Miller handled all the design, the books are made print-to-order through Amazon and officially are available for $8 through the online retailer.
Creating a follow-up will depend on public demand, as Miller categorized his first coloring book as a “test run.” However, if people are receptive to the book, then he said he would consider making another version – aiming to be a small escape during difficult times.
“I hope that people can see a familiar place or familiar scene and maybe it’ll take them back to visiting that place and it being a good memory,” Miller said. “Then, they can get lost in coloring a page and kind of take their mind off things a little bit.”