Cleaning out the 4-H Food Stand last week for this year’s 2019 Ellis County Fair, Mike Jensen paused a moment, then said he thought the 4-Hers sold about 1,200 hamburgers at last year’s fair.
“How many did we sell?” Jensen asked his wife, Amy, also at the stand preparing for the fair, which started in earnest on Monday.
“Yes, probably 1,200,” Amy confirmed.
The stand is right in the heart of the 4-H exhibit buildings, an enclosed metal building with a full-blown kitchen, customer service windows and a covered patio with cement floor and picnic tables.
Over the course of the fair, it’s a handy meal place not only for the public but for many of the 4-Hers and their families.
“All the proceeds, it all goes back to the food stand,” said Mike, who along with Amy owns Professor’s Classic Sandwich Shop, 521 E. 11th St.
The profits go to 4-H scholarships and to help pay the way for kids to go to 4-H camps, he said.
“We’re third-generation 4-Hers,” Mike said. “Amy was on the committee to build the food stand.”
The Jensens, well-known for growing produce and mushrooms, as well as keeping bees on their farm northwest of Hays, are a staple at the food stand, said Susan Schlichting, 4-H youth development agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.
“They’ve been volunteers for years,” Schlichting said. “They were instrumental with building the 4-H food facility. It’s helping kids learn about customer service.”
While the Jensens have volunteered at the food stand for years, for the past two they were hired for the job.
“They get paid to do this now, but it’s not a super-huge amount,” Schlichting said.
The outside structure was built by an applied construction class at Fort Hays State University, and the Jensens helped with the design on the inside, mapping out the food flow and other kitchen-specific details.
“They were very involved with getting that laid out,” Schlichting said.
Asked how she got involved with the food stand, Amy quickly replied and pointed to her husband. “Being married to him,” she laughed.
Maybe it’s a labor of love, given the number of hours.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Diana Staab, of Hays, a longtime 4-H mom with the Shooting Sports 4-H Club, and whose daughter, Megan Howe, 17, is helping at the stand this year. “It’s two full-time jobs.”
Whatever the case, Schlichting said of the Jensens, “They are a perfect fit for managers.”