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.