Sunday, October 24, 2010

Farm Inspections October 21, 2010

I can't believe summer is over and winter will be here before we know it. I probably will not be inspecting any new farms or current vendor farms until next year. We have had a very busy year and I have inspected 87 farms since April.

This week I visited Rocking Z Ranch in Mountain Grove, Missouri. Rolly & Megan Sauls currently sell at the Springfield Market but would like to add another market and have chosen the City Market. Rocking Z Ranch is a sustainable family farm raising Angus Beef which are free from growth enhancers and antibiotics. Each animal is born on their ranch and are free to graze and roam as nature intended. Dale and Megen showed me around their ranch driving me out in the pasture to get an up close look at their operation. Currently the Sauls have about 200 head of cattle. For more information about their wonderful ranch and upcoming activities visit their web site at www.rockingzbeef.com If all goes well they should be at the market fairly soon.

My next stop was Carthage, Missouri and a visit with Craig and Kendra Hansen. The Hansen's grow Elephant Garlic. I always like to meet a new vendor who specialises in one thing. It was very interesting to hear how garlic is planted, harvested, dried and packaged. I have never seen or eaten Elephant Garlic and can't wait for Craig and Kendra to start coming to the market. The garlic is in the ground now and covered with straw, they will start harvesting in the spring and should be ready to sell at the market starting in July. Craig has quit the operation and it is very apparent that he takes great pride in what he is doing. I think they will be a great addition to the City Market.

Just a reminder the City Market is open year round. We are very lucky to have an enclosed heated farmer pavilion for our vendors to use during the winter months. Our winter farmer market hours are Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Farm Inspections August 19, 2010

I am getting close to finishing up my farm inspections for this season. To date I have visited 80 farms since April 1st. Today I visited Pumpkins Etc. and Grandma Dings Fudge which is located in Platt City, Mo. The fudge part of the business is ran by Kathy and Bill Wright and their daughter Jane or as they are known at the market, "The Fudge People". Kathy and Bill were on vacation so their daughter Jane showed me around. Jane was just starting to determine what fudge needed to be made for the weekend. My favorite is rocky road and their hand made turtles but I think most children enjoy their fudge cones.

If you want to purchase fudge you will have to get it within the next few weeks since the Wright's will be away from the market getting things ready for their annual pumpkin patch. The mums are almost in bloom so we must be getting close to the end of summer. In addition to fudge Bill and Kathy also grow blackberries,tomatoes , green beans, herbs, summer squash, lettuce, greens and cucumbers. Most of these items are already done for the year. If you would like more information and directions to their pumpkin patch visit their web site at www.pumpkinsetc.com.

Although I am only checking two farms today I have quit a drive since the second farm is in Rayville, MO, just east of Excelsior Springs.If you are looking for a great place to get a fire oven pizza, try a little local wine and have a beautiful view Van Till Family Farms & Winery is the perfect place. When I first started visiting Cliff and his family in 2004 they had just built the bakery, since then they have added a restaurant, covered patio, vineyard and have started making wine. Today they were busy building a small walking bridge which will be perfect for wedding pictures and will lead visitors out to the pond. They were also busy harvesting their Mars and Reliance table grapes. Although they have expanded into great pizza and wine they have not forgotten how they started by making wonderful artisan breads. For more information visit their web site at www.vantillfarms.com.

The weather will be heating up again tomorrow so plan to visit the market early on Saturday morning and bring your reusable bags.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Farm Inspections August 12, 2010

I visited farms close to the market this week so I could work on clearing off my desk and get ready for the weekend.

A short 15 minute drive from the market and I was at the farm of Por & Chaxamore Huns in Kansas City, Kansas. No one was available to show me around but I have visited a few times so knew my way around. Like many of the farmers I visit there are numerous bee hives which are placed on a farm by a bee keeper to help pollinate the plants and also provide the bee keeper with wonderful honey. Huns gardens had quite a few and the bees were very active. It appeared that weeds had overtaken much of Pors's farm but after a short walk I could see there were quite a few flowers, sun flowers, bitter melon and hot peppers.

My next stop is just west of Parkville at Dry Lake Farms. I tried not to keep Loyd and Addie to long since they were on there way to the hospital to wait for the arrival of their first grandson. Addie gave me a quick tour of her licensed kitchen where she makes wonderful pies, cookies and sweet rolls. She was particularly proud of her commercial stove which will hold 20 pies. Loyd has had a terrible season this year and you can tell he is really disgusted. Dry Lake Farm runs along a levee, this spring the corp of engineers needed to lower the water level so they flooded out most of his farm for a few weeks. Loyd said the plants can handle a couple days but not weeks so he lost much of what he had planted. Today they started about 6 a.m. picking cherry tomatoes to start to get ready for Saturday's market. Loyd had already plowed under his beet and cabbage crop which was destroyed by the water. Along with baked goods Loyd and Addie will have onions, tomatoes, okra and potatoes at stall 126-128 on Saturday.

Floyd & Mike McFarland's farm is just down the road from the Horn's farm. It seems like every time I visit Mc Farlands Plant Farm the city is doing construction around the entrance of his drive, today was no exception. I found Floyd and his son Mike busy picking cherry tomatoes. The weather was already heating up. Mike has made a fence out of fishing line to help keep deer out of his fields. it is amazing that although a deer could go through the line they turn around when they feel it. Por Huns had soda cans tied to line to keep deer our of his fields. Floyd took a little brake and walked me around his fields. Even with the extreme heat his tomato plants didn't look too bad. In addition to cherry tomatoes they will be bringing tomatoes, okra, eggplant, peppers and onions to the market on Saturday. You will find them in stall 0- 1 - 2 on the south side of the market.

I thought it would be nice to get a brake from the heat and check on a artist/crafter vendor. Sarah Biondo lives in Kansas City, Missouri and works out of her home. Sarah usually sells crocheted items in the fall and winter. This time of year she makes "Granny Greens Laundry Soap" and embellishes hats. Sarah was working on a shawl which she was making on her loom. She also has a knitting machine which she is not too sure she likes, I think she would rather do it the old fashion way. Like most crafters Sarah's supplies have found a way to take over her house, lucky for her she has a basement.

Hope to see you at the Market this weekend. We should have a lot of melons.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Farm Inspections August 12, 2010

I rally had an easy inspection day this week since three of the farms I visited are within a mile of each other.

After answering a few e-mails and returning some phone calls I headed to Odessa, Missouri. My first stop was Busy Bee Acres which is operated by Bob and Liz Harrison. In addition to maintaining numerous bee hives and fruit trees Liz has a group of pet llamas which are strictly kept as pets. They appear to have it pretty good, they even have misters which help to keep them cool during the dog days of August. Liz gave me a tour of their licensed kitchen where they process the honey after it is harvested, very interesting to see. Bob was gone so Liz pointed me towards the beehives and fruit trees. I am sure I was stepping pretty high walking through the tall grass looking out for snakes, sometimes I can be such a city girl.

Out the Harrison's driveway and down the next road and I was at Buds and Berries. I visited Gayle and Gary's other farm in Butler, Missouri a couple months ago. If you have been paying attention to the weather you know that Odessa has really been getting hit with rain this spring and summer. The rain has just washed out all the rows between their melon crop.This makes it really hard to harvest melons, you can't drive your truck out their very easily. I spoke with Gayle at the market on Saturday, she ended up picking the melons and tossing them to Gary one by one. It makes me appreciate the melon I bought this weekend even more.

Just around the corner from the Beachners farm is Pete Economides greenhouse and a small area where he grows a wonderful assortment of peppers and beautiful sunflowers. Pete was working his day job but gave me the okay to walk around. I couldn't resist taking a picture of his pig. (Which I found out was the reason Pete couldn't make it to the market on Sunday. The pig got loose Saturday evening and Pete was up most of the night trying to catch it.)

My next stop was Lexington, Missouri. I felt a little bad dropping in on the Fahrmeiers this week since they had their annual "Tomato Day" on Saturday night. Every time I visit their farm I am amazed at all the changes they make from year to year. This year they were adding solar panels to their winery. Ron gave me a tour of their 12 high tunnels and where they keep their produce to keep it cooled down. The building was once used for keeping sows after they had a litter of pigs. If you have never visited the Fahrmeier Farms I would suggest you do so. They have live music and wine tasting every Thursday night. For more information visit their web site at www.fahrmeierfarms.com

It was still pretty early so I thought I would get one more farm inspection in. I headed west past the Market to Kansas City, Kansas to visit the farm of Bao Vang. Vang's Garden starts along the road and just seems to keep on going. I am always surprised how much land lies behind many of the homes in KCK. In addition to growing your normal vegetables Bao grows bitter melons, Asian cantaloupe and Asian rice. I am anxious to see the rice after they harvest it and bring it to the Market to sell. Make sure you checkout the picture of their scarecrow. They are having major deer problems which even the most creative scarecrow can't seem to help them with.

I'm not sure where I will be heading next week. I still have quite a few contracted farmers to visit in addition to the Market's crafters.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Farm Inspections July 29, 2010

I am really behind on posting my latest farm inspection. On Thursday I headed down to Oklahoma again to check a new vendor that will be coming to the market on Sunday and hopefully Saturdays to sell free range pork, beef, chicken, lamb and eggs. Bob, Natash and their son Bobby Shufflebotham will be a great addition to the City Market. Welch, Oklahoma is about a three hour drive from the City Market and I picked a hot and stormy day to make the trip, but the experience was well worth it. Bob was born and raised on a ranch in Wyoming. After working as an Engineer in Russia for a short time decided to settle down in Oklahoma with his wife Natash and purchased 400 beautiful acres which include 7 lakes/ponds. They currently have 60 head of cattle which roam freely. It was so hot on Thursday that all the cattle where hiding out under shade trees scattered throughout the property. Bob and son Bobby gave me a great tour of all their hiding places while teaching me a little about coyotes and a family of badgers that call Oklahoma home. All the livestock are kept in separate large fenced in areas and roam freely. Enjoy all the pictures.

I visited a little longer than I had planned with the Shufflebothams so was only able to visit one more farm on my drive back to Kansas City. I stopped in Nevada, Missouri at another cattle farm. Mark Curtis raises black Angus beef which he lets graze in a couple different pastures. By this time it was raining and lightning pretty good so I was only able to get a few pictures. Mark will hopefully be ready to come to the market fairly soon.

Next week I plan to stay a little closer to home and visit vendors in Odessa. Plan on visiting the market on August 7th for Crazy Corn Days.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Farm Inspections July 15, 2010

Today I have two new vendors to visit and two contracted vendors. My first stop is Vesecky Family Farms in Baldwin, Kansas. William was not home when I arrived but his father was nice enough to give me the grand tour. The Vesecky's have a you-pick strawberry and blueberry farm which has run its course for this season. When they come to the City Market they will be selling chicken and eggs year round, duck in October and November and turkey in November. I had a great time seeing the menagerie of farm animals. Running free in a very large fenced in area was 1500 "Heritage" chickens which had recently been sold and will be replaced with the very young chickens being kept in another large area. In addition to "heritage" chickens they also raise "Cornish" chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, geese and a few cows. I was lucky enough to be able to see the 150 baby turkey's which are kept in an enclosed area with heat lamps. They were really cute and surrounded my feet when I walked in. I have a feeling no visit to the Vesecky farm would be complete without seeing their pet elk. I must say this was the first time I ever had an elk eat out of my hand.

My next stop is quite a drive so I had to stop and get a coffee to go. What a beautiful day to drive through the Flint Hills of Kansas. It was so pretty I stopped at a scenic overlook for a quick picture. Flores Farms is located in Manhattan, Kansas and is one of the larger farms that sell at the Market, about 350 acres. Barbra and her daughter Andrea have been coming to the market for years starting when Andrea was a child. Now Barbra's grandchildren come to the market every Saturday with their mom. Flores farm currently has 13 greenhouses many of which are filled with flowers in the early spring. This morning they had just picked cabbage to take to a farmers' market near their home. Although the weeds seem to be growing at record speed due to all the heat and rain it was easy to see all the melons, peppers, tomatoes, squash, corn and eggplant. I caught everyone as they were finishing up their lunch, I don't think they were anxious to get back in the hot fields.

Another long stretch in the truck down I-70 and lunch. Next stop is in Weston, Mo. I arrived at Green Dirt Farm just in time to watch them make their sheep cheese. Green Dirt Farm has been at the Market for three years in the 3rd shed in stall 119. In addition to sheep cheese they also make yogurt and sell lamb. I think the sheep had more sense than I did today, they were back out of sight enjoying the shade.

I have one more vendor to check in Weston, James Mc Pherson. In addition to growing garlic he also runs the local paper with his wife. James had already picked the garlic at the Weston location so there was not too much to see. In addition to the area behind his business he also has a plot of land near Smithville which I will check another day. Due to a limited amount of garlic this year James might not sell at the City Market until next year.

I am hoping for cooler weather next week as I am sure everyone is. It should be a great day at the Market tomorrow, produce is coming on fast with all the heat.Hope to see you there.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Farm Inspection July 1, 2010

I only have time to check one farm this week, Frye Farms in Buckner, MO. Marlin Frye has been farming for sixty years in the Missouri river bottom area. Frye Farms has become a little smaller during that time but Marlin and sons Jarred and Mark still grow quit a few tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelons, summer squash and egg plant. The amount of rain in that area has made it difficult to get the crops all in, they are planning to plant a late crop of 1500 tomato plants and pumpkins right after the 4th. Their early field tomatoes should be ready in about 3 weeks if all goes well.

In addition to coming to the market the Frye's also have an Agri Business in Buckner where they sell bedding plants, produce and sorghum that they make. Marlin, Mark and Jarred are in the farmer with local supplement category at the Market. This means 50%of the produce on their table must be grown by them and 50% can be supplemented from a neighboring farm or local auctions within a 500 mile radius of the City Market.This week they will be bringing tomatoes and summer squash. In a few weeks they should have eggplant, cantaloupe and watermelon.

I will be taking a break from checking farms next week due to the holiday but will be back at it the following week.

Have a safe 4th of July.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Farm Inspections June 24, 2010

What a perfect day to be out of the office checking farms. No rain, no storms, no mud and plenty of sunshine. Today I will be checking a new farm in Imogene, Iowa. For those of you who do not know where Imogene is, it is just a little north of the Missouri /Iowa line off highway 59. Razee's Berry Farm is much more than just a berry Farm. Aaron would like to continue to farm into his senior years so has chosen to grow everything in raised beds. He currently has 132 raised beds filled with soil he continues to feed throughout the season. Unlike many of the farms I visit which have weeds choking out the plants, Aarons beds were practically weed free. In addition to growing yellow & red raspberries, blueberries, radishes, rhubarb and tomatoes he has become quite the garlic producer. I was amazed to find out he grows 92 different varieties of garlic. I didn't know there were that many different varieties. Although Razze's Berry Farm is not certified organic Aaron does use organic practices except where his sweet corn is concerned. He rents a parcel of land near the Missouri line to grow sweet corn so if it needs to be sprayed due to a weed or worm problem it will not affect his other produce. Aaron currently sells at the Omaha market on Saturdays and plans to come to the City Market a few times this season on Sunday.

After a quick lunch break I veered into Kansas to see what John Goode was harvesting. Goode Acres is located in Wathena Kansas overlooking the Missouri river. From that vantage point you could really see how close the river is to coming over its banks. John added a large greenhouse last year and has received a grant this year to have a section of his land terraced. He hopes to have it finished in time for some late summer planting. John was getting ready to harvest Yukon gold potatoes which were looking very nice. He has been picking greenhouse tomatoes and lettuce for a while. His Napa cabbage is ready to bring to market as are his beets a few purple peppers and cucumbers. The warm humid weather has really started to make the produce shoot up the last few weeks. John had already planted melons, sweet potatoes, assorted herbs, celery, carrots, cabbage, assorted peppers, zucchini squash and okra. I plan another visit to see how the terracing turned out. Goode Acres is at the market every Wednesday (shed 2), Saturday (shed 1) and Sunday (shed 2).

I had planned to visit Jarred Juhl, who also lives in Wathena, but he wasn't available to show me how to get to his other farm locations. I will have to try again when I am out that way later this summer.

My last stop for the day is in St. Joe at Natures Choice. Fred and Helen Messner are Biodynamic farmers. Biodynamic farming is based on the work of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. In addition to organic practices such as crop rotation and composting, biodynamic farmers rely on special plant, animal and mineral preparation and the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets, and stars. They are at the market every Saturday and most Sundays. Fred loves to talk to his customers and has a wealth of information when it comes to farming. They have been pounded with rain so much the last month that a few of their tomato plants keep ending up in their pond. But like all good farmers you just replant and try again.

Next week I will be heading to Buckner, Missouri.

Just a reminder, talk to the farmers when you visit the market. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get to know who is growing your food.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

City Market Farm Inspections June 17, 2010

Finally I am back on the road again. May and the first of June is always a little crazy at the Market so I needed a few weeks to catch up.

Today's first stop is De Soto, Kansas and Thane Palmberg's Farm. Thane is in the Farmer 100% category, which means he only sells what he grows on his farm. Thane's specialty is growing miniature vegetables, such as eggplant and squash. In addition to a wide variety of produce he also grows a very unique Italian squash which is always a conversation starter at Saturday's market. Thane's family has had stalls at the City Market since 1932 and are currently located in pavilion 1 stalls 18-21 every Saturday.

Since I am so close to Lawrence, Kansas I decide to stop by Anthony's Beehives just south of K-10. Anthony's Beehives is a family operation started by Anthony several years ago with the help of his parents Tony and Terri Schwager. Due to the hard winter we had this year they lost about half of their 200 hives. Tony told me they have recouped a little and currently have about 120 hives in Douglas, Leavenworth and Franklin county. You will find Tony at the Market most Sunday's in shed 3, stall 128.

Last stop for the day is right off 435 and Holiday Drive. This is a fairly new location for Tillery Farms. Randy and Marsha have been coming to the market for many years and are best known as the farmers with the green umbrellas. Like many area farmers they have been struggling to get crops planted between rainstorms continuing to blow through our area. Even with record breaking rainfall, comparable to the 1993 floods, Randy and Marsha only have a little standing water in their fields. Just enough to attract a few wild ducks which have decided to take up residents. Tillery Farms will start coming to the Market this weekend, just look for the green umbrellas.

Just a note, we will have the first sweet corn at the Market this weekend. If you remember the first week I started my farm inspection blog in April I visited Heck Family Farms in Westphalia, Kansas. The corn they started in their greenhouse is ready to pick, about two weeks early.

This week I stayed close to home, next week, if all goes well I am heading to Iowa, Wathena, Kansas and Saint Jo, Missouri.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Farm Inspections May 27, 2010

Since I will be checking farms in Kansas City Kansas today I decided to stay at the office part of the day to get caught up. Many of the vendors who sell at the market live in Kansas City Kansas, which makes my day much easier. I left the office about 12:00 p.m., headed west on I- 70 to 57th street to check two waiting list vendors, Yia and Vanna Her, who farm the same section of land together. Luckily Yia was at home and explained which section was hers and which section belong to Vanna. Yia was not pleased with the way her garden looked. Nothing was coming up the way she had hoped it would due to all the rain we have been getting and the cold temperatures earlier in the month. She hopes to have something ready for market by Mid June, Yia fears it will not be a good season.

Five minutes later I arrive at a large parcel of land which is farmed by four different families. I always take a minute to enjoy the sight of this farm. You cannot see it from the road since it sits down in a valley, but when you walk to the top of the hill it is quite a sight to see. It reminds me of a beautiful patchwork quilt. The land is owned by Cha Vang and sectioned off for each family, all of which have stalls at the Market. Cha Vang is in stall 123 on Saturday and 75 on Sunday. Chou Lor sets up in stalls 121 & 122 on Saturday and 79 & 80 on Sunday; Yee Vang is in stalls 66 & 67 on Saturday and 76 on Sunday. Chiong Vang also has a small plot in addition to the 2½ acres located behind his home. Cha was also not happy with the condition of her fields.

I then headed to 67th street which is the location of Chiong Vangs 2 ½ acre farm. We walked to the back of his property so I could see everything which was planted not thinking about the hike back up the hill. Everything was planted and looking pretty good considering the lower section of his property had been pretty muddy.

One more stop in Basehor, Kansas and I will call it a day. Not too far off K-7 is a very nice garden located behind the Her home. No one was anywhere to be seen so I took pictures from a distance. Xa Her is a Saturday waiting list vendor who has been coming to the market for a few years now.

I will probably continue to check farms in Kansas again next week. About one third of the farmers selling at the City Market farm in Kansas.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Farm Inspections May 20, 2010

I am sure everyone is sick of all the rain but trust me no one more than the farmers. Everywhere I go I see vegetable plants sitting in greenhouses waiting to be planted. And the farmers that were able to get their fields seeded have watched the seed wash away. Everyone needs a few dry sunny days with a light breeze, I don't think that is asking too much.

Today I headed out in the rain towards Saint Joe, Missouri to visit Randy Kahler. Kahler Family Greenhouse is usually at the Market April through mid June unless he has sold out before then.Randy has one greenhouse and a roadside stand in front of his house where he sells bedding plants. I don't think Randy will make it to mid June this year, his green house was getting pretty empty, and this was before he loaded up for the weekend.

My next stop is only a hop skip and a jump to King City and Lost Creek Farm. Donna and Darrel Clausen have a licensed bakery on their farm. Donna does most of the baking but Darrel has been known to help. In addition to the bakery, Darrel farms, and in spite of all the rain has managed to get quite a few things planted. They will be bringing white and red radishes to the market this weekend to sell in one of their stalls and bakery items in the other two. Donna's pies are wonderful, my favorite is her cherry pie.

While visiting King City I had to stop and take pictures of all the wind generators that have been erected since my visit last year. Donna told me there are 100 in the area. They are amazing to see.

I then headed down H highway through Amity and took a quick look at The Crowther Farm and then off to their bakery, Bread of Life, in Stewartsville. Everyone was very busy baking bread so I tried to stay out of their way and just enjoy the wonderful smells. Amanda and Bethany are at the Market every Saturday through December in shed two stalls 82 and 83. Bread of Life will also be at the Market on Sundays this year in stall 111.

I headed south down K highway to Gower, Missouri. If you are ever out for a drive around Mothers Day weekend you will want to stop at Comanche Acres Iris Gardens (www.comancheacresiris.com) I was lucky enough to visit this year when Jim's 17 acres of irises were in full bloom, what a sight to see. Jim thinks they will be in full bloom for at least another week.

Next stop Platsburg, Missouri and George's Garden. George was not home but I knew he wouldn't mind if I looked around. Although there was a lot of mud George did have onions and leaf lettuce coming up which will be ready to bring to market next weekend. In addition to produce George raises beautiful succulents and cactus. Like many of the farms I have visited his vegetable plants were in small pots waiting for things to dry out so they could go into the field.

William and Clara Hanks also live in Platsburg so I did not have a very long drive to get to Windy Ridge. I had heard that a tornado went through their property last week but I did not expect to see so much damage. They lost one greenhouse completely, the second is badly damaged and the third needs quite a few braces and the plastic replaced. It is a wonder no one was injured and their house was still standing. The one upside is that their plants were not damaged, so all was not lost. They just hope they can get the rest of their crops in. Their son Bill and and Daughter in-law Jennifer are at the market every Saturday in stalls 63-65.

Next week I plan to head into Kansas and I am hoping for nothing but sunshine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Farm Inspections May 13, 2010

I had planned to head north to Wathena Kansas and St. Joseph, Missouri this week but changed my mind with all the rain we got on Wednesday. I didn't want to take a chance in getting stuck in the mud. Instead I went to Platt City to visit Carrie Georges or as she is known around the Market, the "Dip Stick Lady". Carrie makes dip and bread mixes out of her licensed home kitchen. The dip mixes are packaged in straws with the precise amount of seasoning to add to a tub of sour cream. Carrie is at the market most Saturday's stall 53 and Sunday's stall 117. For more information visit her web site at www.imadipstick.com.

Next stop is Independence,Mo so I headed east on Hwy 92. Bloomers Greenhouse is located just south of the intersection of 210 and 291. I always enjoy walking through the green houses with all their wonderful fragrances and beautiful plants. Lauri had a great selection of very unusual plants, which I have not seen in the other green houses I had visited this year. You will find Bloomers at the market on Saturdays stalls 60-62 April through June.

If it drys out a little I will be heading to Saint Joe next week.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Farm Inspections May 5th & 6th, 2010

This week I will be checking farms for two days and visiting three states. By the time I get back I will have traveled 1100 miles.
I knew I had a long day ahead of me so I left Kansas City at 6:00 a.m. headed east on 50 hwy to visit a soon to be new vendor at the market. Jill Smith raises longhorn steers and will soon be bringing free range longhorn beef products to the City Market. Jill currently has approximately 57 head, 17 of which are calves. The star of her herd is “Bo” the bull. Although I arrived at Jill’s around 7:00 am she was kind enough to take me out to see the heard on her “gator”. I have never been in the middle of a longhorn heard before and it was very cool.

My next stop is an 83 mile drive to Osceola, MO and White Oak Berry Farm. Michael Goth had “gone fishing” so his neighbor and employee walked me around the farm. The strawberry plants were covered with green berries and should be ready to bring to market in a couple weeks. Michael also raises gooseberries and blueberries, both of which were thick with green berries. This should be a good year for blueberries. After much pruning Michael’s blackberries looked very healthy and one variety will produce seedless berries. Michael got back before I left without any fish. White Oak Berry Farm is in pavilion 3 stall 120 on Saturday and should be at the market shortly before the end of May.

Back in the truck I head west on MO 82 to Seneca, Mo which is just south of Joplin (114 miles). The Lee Family Farm has been farming for the past 12 years and have been selling at the City market for two years. The Lee’s are located in pavilion 3 stalls 116-118. They will be back at the market Saturday May 8th for the first time this season and usually are at the market every Saturday through October. The Lee family has a beautiful farm which is farmed by the entire family. Unlike most of the surrounding areas Seneca has been a little dry lately and Lor Ge is hoping for a little rain. They sent a bundle of freshly picked onions and onion tops home with me. Lor Ge told me the flowers on the onion tops are great in stir-fry, they give it a little sweetness. I will give it a try when I get back home. Time for lunch so I head into Seneca and find a great local dinner, I love dinner food and was not disappointed.

My next stop is only about a 30 minute drive to Anderson, MO. Ying Xiong is the owner of this farm and has been in the area for about two years after moving from Minnesota. Since my visit last year Ying has really expanded his operation and has added a green house. All his plants are in and look very healthy. Ying and his wife Nhie have been coming to the market for the past few weeks with onions, assorted greens and lettuces. In addition to growing produce they also raise cattle and have about 60 head. Ying and his family are on the market’s waiting list so will be in a different location each week.

Now I head east of Joplin to Fairview, MO and the farm of Ton and Helen Cha (35 miles). As with many of the new farmers selling at the market the Cha’s operation has also expanded. They have doubled in size since my last visit due in large part to Helen’s parents doing a great deal of the growing. Ton is mainly in charge of taking the produce they grow to the market. In addition to selling produce he also raises turkeys for Butterball. They have added strawberries which were ready to pick so I had to sample one or two.

Only a short 9 mile drive and I am in Purdy, Mo to check a new vendor who has just applied to be a vendor at the market. Mai Thor Yang has planted a few plots but much of what she has planted has been beaten down by the rain. I don’t think she will have enough produce ready this year to justify driving so far to sell it. They have additional acreage which they plan to farm next season to help supplement their income from raising commercial chickens. They have three chicken houses behind their home.

My next stop is to Cleveland, Arkansas to visit the farm of Bill & Audrey Sturtevant. Cleveland is located north of Conway, AR this is a 4 hour drive most of which is sharp 35 mile curves. I had hoped to make it to their farm today but did not get in their area till after dark so will visit them first thing in the morning. I had a little trouble finding a hotel so had to drive past my cutoff to Conway, AR.
Up at 5:00 am and off to see the Sturtavant’s. Cedar Rock Acres has been at the market for four years and is best known for their wonderful grapes, blueberries and strawberries. This season their strawberry crop is not producing as much as they had hoped so Bill will probably not be selling strawberries at the market this season. Blueberries will be ready the first of June and grapes in July. Bill and his son Sheldon are very excited about a new variety of green grape they will be bringing to market this season, they will be sweet and seedless. Cedar Rock Acres is best known for growing the Mars variety which is similar to a concord grape but seedless and a little sweeter. Audrey provided me with a quart of strawberries to snack on, there is nothing better than fresh picked strawberries.

I am back in the truck for four more hours heading north to Gentry, Arkansas (197 miles). I will be meeting five new vendors who all rent a section of land from Dao Moua. Each farmer has their own section of land, similar to a community garden plot but much larger. Houa Lor also farms a section of land in Garfield, AR. Dao Moua, Houa Lor, Me Lor, Xong Lee and Blia Lor are all Hmong farmers originally from Laos. (Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west) Everyone was hard at work when I arrived and were a joy to meet. I look forward to seeing them at the market.

It is getting late in the afternoon and I am heading west towards Tulsa, Oklahoma (73 miles). After maneuvering through all the construction I arrived at a fairly large farm operation, The Yang Farm. I was lucky enough to catch Ying Yang’s daughter at home and she was nice enough to give me a tour of their five hoop houses and gardens. They had a very nice farm and a nice variety of produce.

One more stop and I will be heading back to Kansas City. I have to backtrack 18 miles to Claremore, OK and the See Lao Farm. They have a large backyard garden which even includes about 10 peach trees. I am not sure that they will have enough produce to justify such a long trip to the market.

If I don’t make too many stops I should get back to the market by 9:30 p.m. It has been a great trip, beautiful scenery and great to be able to meet and visit with such wonderful hardworking farmers. Next week I will be heading north.

Farm Inspections May 5 2010

This week I will be checking farms for two days and visiting three states. By the time I get back I will have traveled 1100 miles.

I knew I had a long day ahead of me so I left Kansas City at 6:00 a.m. headed east on 50 hwy to visit a soon to be new vendor at the market. Jill Smith raises longhorn steers and will soon be bringing free range longhorn beef products to the City Market. Jill currently has approximately 57 head, 17 of which are calves. The star of her herd is “Bo” the bull. Although I arrived at Jill’s around 7:00 am she was kind enough to take me out to see the heard on her “gator”. I have never been in the middle of a longhorn heard before and it was very cool.

Friday, April 30, 2010

City Market Farm and Craft Inspections April 29, 2010

What a beautiful day to get out of the office and visit farms. I have two new vendors to check today, both live in Princeton, Missouri. For those of you who like trivia, Princeton is the highest point in Missouri which is why Tim and Mary Ann named their farm High Point. Princeton is about 21 miles east of I-35 on highway 136.Currently hay is their main crop; their farm produces over 130 acres of hay a year which provides food for local dairy goats and other livestock. This year they are expanding their operation by raising tilapia which they hope to have at market by the first of October. I will keep you updated throughout the summer as things progress. This week the Medford family spent numerous hours planting espinaca, cilantro, acelga, assorted salsa tomatoes, poblanos, anchos, epazote, tomatillos, gherkin cucumbers and jalapeƱos. Some of these items will start showing up at the market the end of May.

My next stop was just a short drive to one of Tim and Mary Ann’s neighbor’s farms. For those of you who have been searching out certified organic produce at the City Market you will be glad to know that Menno Lambright will be bringing his organic produce to market the first part of June. Menno has a beautiful farm which is truly a family operation. Although everyone was busy working they took time to show me around their farm. I was amazed by the amount of cabbage they had planted. A few weeks ago the Lambright’s had a micro burst go through their farm which completely destroyed one hoop house and tore the end out of the one next to it. As with all good farmers they learn to adjust. Since they did not have the hoop house to protect the new transplants, they were mounding mulch around each plant to provide a little protection from the wind.

I then backtracked back to highway 13 and headed south to Jameson, Missouri and Song Bird Creek Farm. I always get a little nervous when I turn off the main road and drive to their house. The lane is downhill and depending on how much rain we had that week can be very muddy and scary. I was relieved when I saw Dan and Esther had brought in a load of rock, this city girl likes to drive on asphalt. When I arrived Dan was out in the field picking asparagus and Esther was in the greenhouse watering. I had not seen the Hughes since last season so after catching up a little they walked me around their fields showing me what has been planted and what will be planted soon. Dan and Esther will be back at the Market this weekend selling vegetable plants and assorted produce later in the season. You will find them in pavilion two stalls 78-80.

The Hughes son and daughter-in-law are back home after serving in the military and will be farming the land adjacent to Dan and Esther’s. So far they have the plots plowed, potatoes planted and the vegetable plants ready to go in. Joel and Maria should be at the market in late June.

Back to I-35 south to Kidder, Missouri and Pisciotta Farms. I found Russell busy taking water out to the chicken coops so got to ride along. He has three coops on wheels so they can be moved to a new grass area as needed. Russell has learned the hard way to never move the coop during the day. The chickens will not follow the coop to the new location; they will remain in the old grass area. You have to move the coops after the chickens go in to roost. Who knew? We then went in the barn where I got to see all the new baby chicks, they are one week old. Russell is in the process of getting a new area behind the barn set-up for the new chicks to stay until they are ready to go out to the coops. I was lucky today; the bulls were near the house so I could see them. They were a little nosey but didn’t want anything to do with me, they kept their distance. Russell comes to the market every Saturday and sells, processed chickens, beef, fresh eggs and honey. In November he also sells processed turkeys. (*all meat sold at the City Market must be processed in a USDA or state inspected facility and sold frozen)You will find him in pavilion 3 stall 142.

By now it is starting to get late but I think I can get one more stop in on my way back to the office. If you have been to the market the last three weeks you probably have seen Scott Feemster. Scott is a new artist/crafter vendor that makes beautiful arbors, steel and granite tables, wine racks and gates. I think he could make almost anything out of metal. I usually visit all the artist/crafter workshops before they rent space at the market. I got a little behind this spring so Scott sent me photos of all the items he had made and his workshop till I could schedule a visit.

Next week I will be on the road for two days checking farms in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Farm Inspections April 22, 2010

This morning I left a little early since I knew I had a long drive ahead of me. I also had a copilot, Deb Churchill, Property Manager for the City Market. My first stop is a three hour drive from the Market in Newark, Mo. We will be meeting Edmond Soo who will give us a tour of Heartland Creamery. Heartland Creamery is located in the middle of a corn field and operated by the Heartland Community which is a ministry designed to help troubled adults and children to get a fresh start in life.

Our tour started with seeing where the milk is packaged. We were able to sample goats milk and their wonderful chocolate milk. Edmond then drove us to the cheese house where we met Kathy. The cheese house is where the cheeses are sent to dry, add the flavors to the goat cheese and get packaged for sale in local grocery stores and markets. When we arrived Kathy had a great assortment of flavored goat cheeses and artisan cheeses. I think the most unique was the black walnut goat cheese.

Next stop was the building where the cheese is actually made. Heartland meets all state regulations in their cheese facility which was very evident as we walked from room to room. I won't post the picture of Deb Churchill and myself in our stylish blue hairnets.

Edmond then drove us 12 miles to see where the 3000 goats are housed, milked and where the goat cheese is made. Fascinating! I loved being able to see the baby goats, some were just born that day. Goats that were not being milked were grazing in the fields.

Next stop, the milking barn for the cows. This was probably my favorite part of the tour, except for the cheese tasting. Heartland milks their dairy cows 24/7. They have a very cool carousel milk machine which milks 360 cows and hour. The cows are housed in barns and moved out to the pasture to graze when their milk has dried up. Heartland grows all their own feed and has a section on their farm strictly for storing and preparing the feed.

We were able to meet many of the employees who are responsible for making the cheese, milking the cows and goats, maintain the land and feeding the livestock. It was obvious that they take great pride in what they do.

We ended our visit by having lunch at the Heartland restaurant and visiting the Heartland Ford Museum.

Back in the truck we headed south on highway 139 to Hale, Mo to visit Joe Bryson. Joe was not home but his son Peewee was able to show us around. They didn't have very much ready to pick at this time other than asparagus. Joe had just planted his starts in the fields earlier in the week so was grateful for the rain. Peewee said they were a little late in getting the tomatoes in so won't have any for a while. Last year Joe had planted blueberry bushes but didn't get them fertilized on time so won't have anything to pick this year.

For those of you who are morel mushroom fans, Joe will have some available this weekend and ready to sell once they have been inspected. You will find Joe and his family at the Market every Saturday in pavilion 1 stalls 36-38 and Sunday pavilion 2 stalls 90 and 91.

Friday, April 16, 2010

City Market Farm Inspections April 9th and 15th.

I needed a little break from the office last Friday so took some time and visited a new City Market vendor in Kansas City, Kansas. After a very short drive down I-35 and 18th street I pulled into Michael's driveway and into a beautiful garden. Unlike many of the vendors selling plants at the Market, Michael raises everything in flower beds that are attached by a meandering grass path that covers his two acre yard. Although Adair Gardens consist mostly of various types of hostas and ferns I was surprised to see groupings of bamboo and assorted grasses as well. Michael is a new vendor this season and will be located in pavilion two stall 59 on Sunday. He will be moving around the Market on Saturday's so feel free to stop at the yellow information booth for Michael's location.

I packed up the truck a little earlier than usual on Thursday since I knew I had a long drive ahead of me. My first stop was three hours from Kansas City in Stover, Missouri. Stover is a very beautiful area just south of highway 52. Robert Lorance, or the cucumber guy as he is known at the Market, sells European cumbers mid May through October. Robert was not at home when I dropped by so the pictures will not show you what a great operation he has. As the plants grow Robert ties the vines up so that the cucumbers grow long and straight. After harvesting the cucumbers he takes them to a small shed where he wraps each one. He is located in pavilion 3 stall 140.

Next stop leads me down highway "T", 52 and highway 'CC" to California Missouri and Woodland Acres Plants and Produce. Jim and Rosann have done so much work since my last visit that I hardly recognised their farm. They have added two very nice greenhouses, a retaining wall and a gravel parking lot for a total of five greenhouses. They hope to have a retail location on their property by next season. Rosann took time to show me all the changes and how they heat the greenhouses in the winter months. They start the winter by using one greenhouse and slowly move into a second as plant starts are ready to be re-potted. Jim was busy watering flowers which is a never ending task.Timothy was working on organizing the greenhouse to get ready to load the trailer for Saturday's market while Kristopher worked on transplanting flowers into hanging baskets. The Ramer family have already started coming to the market this season. Look for them is pavilion 1 stalls 32-35.

Thankfully Rosann knew a short cut to get to Mark Zimmerman's farm which helped to keep me from backtracking. Mark has been coming to the Market off and on for a few years, he has quit a big operation. In addition taking produce to the action Mark also has a roadside stand next to his house, which as you can imagine keeps them very busy this time of year. When I pulled up they were busy waiting on three other customers so told me to feel free to walk through the greenhouses. They have four greenhouse one of which was full of tomatoes, a few where ready to pick. Mark had already planted tomatoes in the fields and covered them with plastic to protect them from any late frost. I think I startled his daughter when I came in the greenhouse, she was busy re-potting bedding plants, I guess the pony tied up by the door did not give me away.

I couldn't believe how fast the day was going and I still had three more farms to check. Next stop Otterville, just off highway 135. Although I knew there would not be much to see in the way of produce at Mee Vang Lo's farm I thought I would stop by since I was in the area. Mee has just applied to be a waiting list vendor this season. Once they get everything planted they will be bringing herbs, greens, squash, eggplant, cucumbers and I am sure a few more items to the Market. At the time of my visit they had just gotten their fields plowed and marked where each item will be planted.

My next stop only took me a few minutes to find. I just had to head north down "O" highway. After crossing the Katie Trail twice I pulled up to Merle Shrock's home. If you were at the market last Saturday you would remember Merle, he was the only vendor with homegrown local strawberries. He will be back again this weekend probably in his contracted stalls 125 & 125 in pavilion 3. I waited till Merle suggested I pick a few strawberries to try, they were delicious. It was such a treat to eat a strawberry that had flavor and was actually juicy. As I munched on berries we walked through the greenhouses where he has 1600 plus tomato plants, green beans, cucumbers which are struggling a bit and lots of strawberries. I then took a look at a trailer that Merle had been working on so he would be able to comply with the Kansas City Health Code for selling fresh eggs at the market. Each vendor must have a permit and a refrigerator on their truck. Merle will have eggs available this weekend.

My last stop takes me west on I-70 to Higginsville. Higginsville is the location of Peacock farm owned and operated by Betty Mendenhall and her husband Kenneth. Betty's farm has been in their family since 1868. Kenneth was just coming in from planting corn when I arrived, Betty was in town where she works during tax season. since Kenneth was obviously busy I showed myself around. The back fields were plowed and ready to plant. Betty has two small green houses which had a few herbs and plants to bring to the market. The Mendenhalls are very lucky to also have a small cooler on their property for cooling off vegetables once they are picked. Betty will be at the market this Saturday for the first time this season.

I have had a great day but I am ready to head back to the city. Next week I will be heading up by the Iowa line to check a new dairy.

Friday, April 9, 2010

City Market Farm and Crafter Inspections April 7, 2010

This week I headed south on 71 highway. My first stop was in Butler, Missouri at the farm of Gayle and Gary Beachner. Last year Gayle and Gary had a terrible fire which destroyed all of their greenhouses. When I visited them they had set-up small temporary shelters for their plants and were working mainly out of their retail location. It was great to see they had rebuilt two greenhouses and had the frame up for a third. I never tell vendors when I will be inspecting their farms so Gayle was not available to show me around but she did give me the okay to walk through their greenhouses. As you can see from the photos many of their plants are almost ready to bring to the Market. Gary told me to make sure and check their raspberry bushes and asparagus, which is starting to come up, he apologizes for all the weeds. Next week they are hoping to start transplanting plants in the fields. When I left Gayle and Gary's house I drove into downtown Butler to visit their retail space which will open this weekend. I got to meet Gayle's mother who was very busy helping to get the greenhouse ready for customers.You will find Buds and Berries at the market the end of April through mid November on Saturday pavilion 3 stalls 101-104 and Sunday pavilion 2 stalls 69-71.

After grabbing a coffee to go I headed back up 71 highway to Belton, Missouri. After making a wrong turn I finally arrived at KC Buffalo Co.which is owned by Peter Kohl. Peter was not at home but told me I would find the buffalo grazing on the backside of his property. I wish I could have gotten a little closer but what a beautiful view. Peter raises approximately 150 head of buffalo which roam freely on his 100 acre farm. KC Buffalo Co. is at the market most of the year in Pavilion 2 stall 87 on Saturday and stall 63 on Sunday.

Since I got a late start Julie Brodersen will be my last stop for the day in Grain Valley, Missouri. Julie has a large workshop in her home where she makes soy candles and melts, potpourri, oils and a large assortment of clay decorative items. I found Julie busy trimming the clay pies she had poured the day before. She uses her garage for poring the clay molds and cleaning some of the items she uses for making potpourri. Julie took me to another room in her basement where she mixes her oils, pours candles and assembles the potpourri. I couldn't believe all the different items that she uses to make her potpourri unique. If you are looking for a great gift or just something to make you feel good stop by Clay Creations on Saturday in front of the Steamboat Arabia museum and in pavilion 3 stall 134 on Sunday.

The nice weather has finally arrived and the vendors are coming back.

Friday, April 2, 2010

City Market Farm and Crafter Inspections April 1, 2010

What a beautiful day to start checking the vendors farms and craft work shops. My first stop was in Garnett, Kansas to visit Mary Bauman. Mary and her family have been vendors at the City Market for many years and attend the market every Saturday mid March through the end of November. You will find the Baumans in pavilion 1 stalls 3 & 4. When I arrived at Bauman Farms Mary was busy preparing crust for pies and getting cookie dough panned up for baking. For those of you who love gooseberry pie you will want to make sure and stop by Mary's stall.


My second stop was in Westphalia, Kansas and the farm of Duane Heck. Normally I would not visit Duane this early in the season since he mainly grows corn but I heard he was trying something new this year and wanted to check it out. Duane started corn in his greenhouse and last week transplanted it in his fields, this is very labor intensive but might be worth it if he is able to bring corn to the market early this season. After the corn was transplanted it was covered in plastic to protect it from frost and cold night temperatures. I will keep you updated on how this all worked out. Heck Farms Family Produce is located in all three pavilions in stalls A - 52 and 143 as soon as the corn is ready.


I then headed back up I-35 to Edgerton, Kansas and Enright Gardens. Steve, Sue and Bo have been vendors at the market for the past 45 years providing customers with beautiful bedding and vegetable plants. I was very lucky to catch everyone busy at work and was able to take a tour of their greenhouses. It was great to see how the seeds are started and transplanted to get them ready to bring to the market. I never realised how hard everyone works till I started visiting the vendors farms.To extend their market season Sue and Bo are expanding into growing green house tomatoes this season. The Enrights should be returning to the market as soon as the early morning temperatures rise above 45 to 50 degrees. If plants are taken out of the warm greenhouses and stuck out in the cold it will damage their leaves and make them curl up. You will find the Enrights in Pavilion 2 stalls 48-51 every Saturday April through June.


A few minutes later I arrived at The Flower Farm located in Gardner, Kansas. The Flower Farm is owned and operated by Keith Johnson and his family. I could only visit for a short time since it is Easter weekend and a very busy time at The Flower Farm, they raise Easter Lilies. Keith was busy sterilizing his potting soil to make sure his potted plants do not contain any fungus, weeds or bugs. I was on my own to walk through Keith's many greenhouses, my favorite being the one that contains the tropical plants. The Flower Farm is located in pavilion 2 stalls 84-86 April through July.


My final stop before heading back to the market was Kansas City, Kansas and the work shop of Melisa and Christopher Cavallari. After a quick tour of their workshop Melisa got busy demonstrating how she makes macrame/beaded bracelets and assorted earrings. Melisa buys all of her supplies in bulk and has it labeled and organized in plastic bins through out her work area. After demonstrating how she cuts glass and lays out her design for glass pendents she placed it in the kiln and moved onto another project. She is very good at multitasking. The next project was to assemble pendents that resembled something you would find in a scrap book. After many steps including soldering, the pendent was completed. Although Melisa demonstrated the making of one item at a time she normally makes all her items like they would be assembled in an assembly line. For example cutting glass for twenty pendents then moving on to the next step. Melisa and Christopher work full time creating their unique jewelery items ,which is why they are able to offer such a wide variety of items at the market. Melissa also makes skirts and shopping bags which she was busy working on while at the market last weekend. Suryashakti is at the market most Saturdays and Sundays all year weather permitting in stall B on Saturday and 84 on Sunday.


Next week I will be heading out to check a few more greenhouses and a couple bakeries.

Friday, March 26, 2010