The Kansas prairie is an enigma. It can be peaceful and beautiful one moment and fearful and unforgiving the next.
Austin and Erin Boggs experienced the unpredictable nature of the Kansas prairie first-hand. But unlike some, they didn’t abandon their dreams, falling for the guise that the grass is greener in metropolitan areas. Instead … they made history.
There’s a certain myth that exists about America’s Heartland. Undoubtedly it has suffered losses – but much like the prairie upon which it stands, rural America has found ways to adapt to an ever-changing climate.
The popular claim is that rural America lacks the ability to entice young couples to see the prairie as a place worth raising a family and opening a business. However, as violent crimes, overcrowding of public schools and environmental pollution continue to increase in major metropolitan areas, it would seem that rural America would be the ideal place to raise a family.
The Boggs family agreed and like a number of young rural Kansans, they desired to be ranchers. They had the knowledge, experience and resources. What they lacked was the cooperation of Mother Nature. As a devastating drought continues to take its toll on a large portion of the Kansas prairie, operation of smaller ranches has become almost impossible, especially for those just starting out.
Faced with the realization that for now, Mother Nature had the upper hand, the Boggs had to take a long hard look at the situation and figure out another means of income. With family as the number one priority, Erin wanted to be home as much as possible with their children, so a flexible schedule was a must. Flexibility in the workplace, however, is not always easy to find. For the Boggs, there was only one way to handle this problem.
In a stalled economy, in a region where the population has declined 50% in the last four years, Austin and Erin Boggs decided to take the bold step into business ownership.
While competition is certainly healthy in some economic environments, the business ecosystem of a small town is fragile – one bad move could do more harm than good. Knowing this, Austin and Erin carefully and thoroughly evaluated the community’s existing businesses, having no desire to compete with their friends and neighbors.
Throughout its history, Meade, Kansas has been as dry as the prairie. The small southwest Kansas town, rich in heritage, was for many years strongly divided on the issue of alcohol consumption. While some members of the community remain opposed to alcohol, they have grown to accept that there are members of the community who don’t necessarily share their belief and choose to imbibe. Over time the community has developed a mutual respect between the different beliefs.
Knowing that it had never been done before and it certainly wouldn’t compete with any other business, Austin and Erin rolled the dice and took a gamble – they opened the very first liquor store in Meade, Kansas.
Since the drought made it impossible for the Boggs to operate a cattle ranch they chose to appropriately name their business Liquor Ranch.
Liquor Ranch carries the basics in beer and liquor along with the not-so-basics in wine, specialty beers and liquor. They’ve developed a loyal local customer base, and the store draws in a number of travelers passing through on US Highway 54. Liquor Ranch has also been generous in sponsoring a variety of events that benefit the community. Best of all, the business allows Erin to spend time at home with their children.
While Erin operates the business, Austin works at National Beef in Liberal, Kansas as a Beef Selector. They reside 10 miles outside of Meade, on the small, dry ranch that inspired history. The Boggs have three kids, affectionately known as the “creepy country kids”: Degnan, Makenna, and Josie.
Austin and Erin enjoy raising their kids in the country where they can enjoy the prairie’s wide open spaces. They have horses, dogs, an occasional barn cat and a donkey.
The Boggs could have chosen to live in the country outside a larger city but instead chose the small town, largely for the well-being of their children. Austin and Erin wanted their kids to go to a small school in a small community. Like any good parents, they didn’t want to have to worry about their children’s safety. Rather they hope to instill in their kids a sense of community and involvement that can often be lost in major metropolitan areas.
After a long day of work and school, the family enjoys the quiet afforded by country life.
Believe it or not, Erin even has a little spare time to blog. Her fans know her as, “the rural life wife.”
One need only explore her blog http://www.rurallifewife.blogspot.com and they will quickly understand why the Boggs family is rural by choice.
I asked Erin why, in spite of the struggles of rural life and the allure of the city, they chose to stick with the prairie. She offered the following insight:
“I have a special place in my heart for small towns. I grew up outside of one and swore I’d never live there again. However, it didn’t take me long in the big city of San Antonio, Texas to figure out that I was not a city girl. While there are many things I like about the city, it’s just a place to visit for me. My husband also grew up in a small community. He probably always knew he’d be a small town guy because he doesn’t enjoy much about the city other than leaving it.
We feel it is really important to work to build small communities such as ours. Our community has supported us and continues to do so, and in turn we work hard to support our community. It isn’t the job of older generations to make our community a place we want to live. It’s our job to further their work in keeping the community viable, safe and enjoyable.”
While the prairie may not always be the easiest place to live, there are many people who, like the Boggs family, recognize the unique and often subtle beauty that comes with a home on the range.
America’s Heartland is very much aware of the challenges it faces and recognizes the need to once again adapt. All across the Golden Belt, communities are rising up to meet the challenge and prove that rural America is indeed open for business.