Friday, June 24, 2011

Farm Visits June 23, 2011

I think everyone in the office was a little jealous today when I left to do farm visits since the weather was beautiful, much to nice to be inside. As I drove over the Broadway Bridge I couldn’t believe how much the river had risen since yesterday.

Today I am heading north to King City, MO. For those of you who have never gotten the chance to drive along 31 highway between King City and 169 you are missing quite a site, there are miles of huge wind turbines as far as you can see. I just think they are really beautiful to watch. Donna Clausen, Lost Creek Farm, told me they turn into the wind and turn off whenever there is a storm passing through. The ones located by their house are very quiet but Donna said they have a different kind down the road which are a little louder. I guess you would get use to the sound after a while. Donna was busy baking when I arrived and het kitchen smelled heavenly. Donna has an inspected kitchen located in a separate building across from her home. It is very nice and supper clean. Darrel has added a new building this year to house their chickens. As soon as they start laying they will be bringing brown eggs to the market. Donna had 20 minutes before her timer went off so she walked me through the six acres they farm. In addition to wonderful baked goods, her pies are to die for, they grow potatoes, green & red cabbage, snow peas, green beans, assorted greens, beets, onions and tomatoes. Their fields looked great thanks to a couple of the neighbor girls who help with the weeding. Lost Creek farm is at the market every Saturday in the first shed on the south side of the market closest to 5th street.

I can’t resist stopping in Stewartsville on my way to Plattsburg. Just off highway 36is Bread of Life bakery. As always everyone was busy baking but took a few minutes to visit with me. Bread of life is a family bakery which has been part of the City Market for the past 9 years. They are known for their gluten free baked goods and they grind some of the flour they use in their breads. For more information about Bread of Life visit their web site at or stop by and see them every Saturday and Sunday in the middle farmers shed.

Once I get to Plattsburg and cross a few streams I arrive at Windy Ridge Greenhouse & Produce. William is busy mowing but takes a break to give me the grand tour. You might remember the pictures from my blog last summer when the Hank’s had a tornado go through their farm and destroy a couple of their green houses. The Hank’s will still have some beautiful hanging baskets available at the market on Saturday if you already forgot to water the ones you bought in early May. They will also have hibiscus and other assorted perennials. William is not really happy with his broccoli or cabbage right now but hopes they will perk up soon. His cauliflower has already started to turn a little yellow so they tied the leaves around the heads to keep it white; I learn something new every day. This year William’s son Bill, his wife Clara and daughter in law planted two rows of heirloom tomatoes, they looked great. Bill came across a cantaloupe seed which will produce after 54 days, so if everything is perfect in the universe the Hank’s should be bringing cantaloupes to the market the 2nd or 3rd week of July. A few of the plants already had a few small melons on the vines. William’s watermelon patch was looking pretty good depending on the variety and size of melon, each plant can produce 6 to 10 melons. I can’t wait till local melons make it to the market. If all goes well the Hank’s will get all their pumpkin plants in tomorrow. The farthest field had more tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and squash. The Hank’s are at the market every Saturday in the middle shed.

Last stop for the day will be in Gower at the farm of Jim Hedgecock. Jim is expanding a little this year and adding heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and squash to his stall on Saturday. Jim is known around the market as the “Iris Guy” since he grows acres of irises and has a big mail order business. Jim is in the farmer with local supplement category and supplements his stall with local apples from Lexington, MO in September. Jim had 70 tomato plants in the ground and they were looking pretty good. If all goes well he plans to add more vegetables next year. Comanche Acres Iris Garden is in the first shed on the south side of the market every Saturday.

Sorry for the lack of pictures this week, my camera decided not to work while I was at Lost Creek Farm, I will make sure it is up and going before I head out again.

I am taking a week off from farm visits next week since we are coming up on the markets “Groovalicious Fruit” celebration and 4th of July weekend, which is always really busy. After the holiday I plan on rechecking some of our vendors which I visited in the spring.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Farm Visits June 16, 2011

Today I head south for my yearly visit to southern Missouri. Each year I receive more and more calls from farmers who live in this area. Many of them have relocated to this area from Minnesota, I am sure it is for the longer growing season and to escape the long cold winters. Deb Churchill, Property Manager for the City Market, will be co piloting for me today.

I always try to plot out my day ahead of time so the last farm I visit is on the way home. First stop today will be in Diamond, Missouri about two and a half hours south of Kansas City. A Mouacheupao has patiently been waiting for me to check her farm so she can start selling at the market. When we first pull into her drive I am thinking we have the wrong place, we drive past many commercial chicken houses before we spot the farm. A Mouacheupao shows us the three plots of land she has planted. The first section has a few rows of corn, onions and squash, she will be plowing up the unused section to plant another crop of tomatoes, hopefully by June 22nd. The second section is a little larger and planted with green and yellow squash, kohlrabi, cabbage, cucumbers, beets and a lot of potatoes. A has been gone for a few weeks visiting her son and was surprised how much things had grown and that her plants had not been watered. The last area is mostly flowers and an assortment of vegetables way too numerous to mention. A Farm will probably start coming to the market the end of June on the daily waiting list.

Next stop Seneca, Missouri which borders the Oklahoma border. James and Mai showed Deb and I one of their fields which is always very well maintained and pretty weed free. Deb could not resist taking pictures of the cow pies we had to maneuver around; you don’t see that in the city. In addition to the field we looked at they have a field at the back of the property and one down the road a piece. Mai told me they planted additional produce this year to sell to Freedom Hospital in Joplin. The only damage Lee Family Farm had the day of the Joplin tornado was hail damage to their plants, but it did not cause too much damage. The Lee farm grows a wonderful selection of produce, even one plant that no one can remember the name of. The leaves are used as tea or a great addition to chicken soup. They apparently planted it once and now it comes up sporadically in the field. The Lee family is at the market every Saturday in stalls 116, 117 & 118.

Back in the truck and head down the road to Anderson, Missouri and the farm of Ying and Nhia Xiong. I have been visiting their farm for three or four years and it gets bigger each year. The first time I visited this farm I had a terrible time finding it. You have to drive down a grassy lane, through a cattle gate and through the field before you come to the farm. Nhia has three separate fields located on either side of his property. When we arrived they were busy picking green beans, which from what I hear from all the vendors this is one of their least favorite things to pick. Nhia has lined all the rows with black plastic to help cut back on the amount of weeds they have to deal with. Everything looked beautiful and they also grow the “no name plant” and can’t remember what it is called. Ying and Nhia drives three hours to the market every Saturday and are located in stalls 84, 85 & 86.

We start heading east to Fairview, Missouri, I have two farms located here. Ton and Helen Cha have two locations they farm, the first field was planted but was not yet producing any produce. Helen told me Ton was busy working in the other location off highway 86. Ton was busy picking the lasts rows of spinach before he tills it and replants. The Cha Family farm is definitely battling the weeds, and in some areas I think the weeds are winning. Ton had a new hoop house that was full of tomato plants covered with tomatoes which should be ready to pick next week. In addition to growing produce Ton also has three turkey houses where he raises turkeys for Butter Ball. The Cha Family Farm comes to the market on the daily waiting list so their location varies week to week.

The second vendor who lives in Fairview is Mailor Vang. Mailor has been to the market a few times this year and will probably be coming again this weekend. Mailor has just added a new section of red raspberries to her field in addition to the 30 or so bushes she already had in last year, they should be coming on soon. As with all the vendors today the list of vegetables they raise are way too long to put in this blog. Although their farm was not as large as some of the others I visited today, she has a nice variety and things were looking pretty good. Like Ton, Mailor is also on the daily waiting list.

I want to check a vendor in Purdy, Missouri which I checked last year and really did not see much produce planted and what was planted looked really bad. I was a little scared to get out of the truck since I had two dogs standing at my door, one of which did not look to friendly. I could not get a hold of anyone in the hose so had to check things out from the road. Things looked much better this year. Mai Thor Yang has not come to the market yet this year but at least I know she actually has something growing this year.

Last stop in Sarcoxie, Missouri and a new farmer who contacted me on Wednesday, luckily I had already planned to come down this way. Cha Fue Lor is originally from Kansas City but moved to Sarcoxie about ten years ago. This is his first year planting produce on his 40 acre farm and has really done a great job. He is a little discouraged since he had planned to sell his produce at the Joplin Farmers’ Market, but since the market was destroyed in the tornado he has not had a market to sell at. I hope he does well at the City Market. Cha also grew the “no name plant” and can’t remember what it is called; I think it must be a secret. We were just getting ready to walk out of the field when Cha showed me a plant that looks like corn but is actually sticky corn and the ears are sometimes black, I can’t wait to see this at market.

By the time we got back to Kansas City we had driven 475 miles and had been gone for 13 hours. Boy I am ready to call it a day. I am not sure where I will be heading next Thursday but I am sure it will be a little closer to home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Farm Visits June 9, 2011

Today I am staying pretty close to Kansas City but will visit eight farms. My first two stops will be in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

Randy Tillery’s farm is located along the Kansas River which I am sure he is hoping will stay in its banks this summer. Last year when I visited Randy’s farm he had so much standing water in part of his field that a family of ducks had taken up residency. This year it looked beautiful, as did all the farms I visited since weeds have not started to take over the plants yet. No one was working in the fields yet so I just roamed through the rows enjoying the cool breeze and the sight. Randy has a great variety of produce planted but is known for his melons, assortment of peppers and sweet potatoes. Randy has not yet started coming to market this season but should be back towards the end of June in stalls 46 and 47, just look for the green umbrellas.

My next stop is actually near downtown Bonner Springs. I was a little leery getting out at Herb Lee’s farm, I was not sure if his dog was friendly or not so I gave him a call and luckily he was home. I don’t get much of a chance to visit with vendors when they are at the market since everyone is way too busy, so it was nice to have a chance to chat with Herb. Herb’s family has been at the market since he was a small toddler; he is now in his 70’s. He use to farm 30 acres but since he has gotten older has downsized to farming 8 acres and leasing out part of his land. Herb used to be a big sweet potato grower but will probably not plant any this year, he does have potatoes from last fall which he has stored in his basement over the winter. Herb was a little late getting his plants in but has greens ready for market. You will find Lee’s Vegetable Wonderland in the middle shed in stalls 57, 58 & 59 most Saturdays.

Now I head towards Kansas City, Kansas to check a new vendor, Nhiaxiong Herr. They are not home but give me permission to walk back to their garden. Nhiaxiong has not started coming to the market yet but should be ready latter this month. Nhiaxiong has everything planted on a hill side, from the road you would not even relies there was a garden there. Nhiaxiong will be on the daily waiting list on Saturday and maybe Sunday. They have eggplant, squash, green onions, cilantro, lemon grass, zucchini, okra, cucumbers and cut flowers.

Just down the road I stop at the new location of Hmong Vaj Vang Farm. Last year Chiong farmed on the north side of KCK, this location is much larger, about ten acres. What a beautiful farm, a mixture of vegetable plants, herbs and flowers. Chiong gives me a tour and explains some of the plots are tended by family members. They all get together to tend their plots and to visit with their family. What a great way for a family to stay close. Trellises are ready for climbing squash, Chiong reuses the trellises each year, many farmers take them down each year, till up the ground and then reassembles them. What a lot of work! You will see pictures of vegetable plants that are covered with yellow flowers; Chiong lets the plants flower so they can collect the seeds for next season. Another interesting thing I learned today. Chiong grows sweet potatoes, not for the potatoes but for the leaves. He tells me they are very good. Vaj Vang Farm is at the Market every Saturday and Sunday, stalls 68 and 92 on Saturday and 86 on Sunday.

I always love visiting my next vendor; she grows the most beautiful flowers. See Vang is also in Kansas City, Kansas not far from Parallel Parkway. I was happy to see that See had expanded her garden this year to include more vegetables. This year her stalls will include Lettuce, green onions, sweet peas, okra, eggplant, squash and cucumbers. Enjoy the pictures of her beautiful flowers. See is at the Market every Saturday and Sunday in stalls 135 & 136 on Saturday and 82 & 83 on Sunday.

My next Stop was only a few blocks away at the farm of Choua Lor, John Vang and Cha Vang. As with Choing Vang’s family, many of the relatives’ have a section of land they farm with other family members. The Vang’s farm reminds me of a large patchwork quilt. The square sections of plants and flowers just flow along the hillside. It is really beautiful. I only saw one person in the field who was very busy working and I really did not want to disturb her. I have been at this farm many times so I just continued to follow the narrow path which leads to the bottom of the valley. This is why I truly love the days I visit the vendors farms. It is always very peaceful and the plants have a beauty all their own.

Cha Vang has another section of land behind their house but I need to get to Parkville, Missouri before it gets too late, so I will save it for another time.

I head south down 435 towards the 45 highway intersection, you can’t miss Floyd and Mike McFarland’s farm in the outskirts of Parkville, Missouri. McFarland plant farm is known for their flowers and vegetable plants in the early spring, but this time of year they are focusing on growing produce. I never stop by the McFarland’s when I don’t find them hard at work in their fields. (Except when Floyd is bowling) Mike has added Napa cabbage to their long list of vegetables this year, Napa cabbage is a brighter green than the normal cabbage you see. Floyd is trying something new this year, he is separating each variety of tomatoes he grows; I think he told me this would help stop cross pollination. I learn something new every week. McFarland Plant Farm is at the Market every Saturday through most of November if we don’t get an early frost. They are in the first shed closest to 5th street in stalls 0, 1 & 2.

My main reason for going to Parkville this week was to visit Lloyd and Addie Horn. Dry Lake Farm is named after the road the farm is on, the farm might be anything but dry in the next few days. The Horn’s farm along the Missouri River and live on the other side of the levee and a small lake. They lost their home in the floods of ’93 and stand a good chance of doing so again this summer. Addie has a commercial bakery in their home where she bakes wonderful pies, cookies and rolls which go very fast on Saturday’s. Lloyd has already rented storage units in town in case they need to start hauling out Addie’s baking equipment. I can’t imagine what it must be like to not be able to do anything but wait and hope we don’t get too much rain. Lloyd has planted 600 cherry tomato plants which should start producing in the next two weeks; he might not ever get a chance to pick them. If the flood waters don’t breech the levee the water could still kill his plants from underneath and rot the roots. With all this going on Lloyd was still his normal cheery self, and explained the two basic types of tomatoes were basically vines or bushes. Lloyd pointed out what he had planted in each row as we sat at a picnic table under a big shade tree. I just can’t get past the idea that this could all be gone within a week. If all goes well you will find Dry Lake Farm in the 3rd shed north side of the Market every Saturday and maybe Sunday, just look for the pies.

Let’s hope for just a little rain to make the crops grow but not so much that they wash away.

Next Thursday I will be heading down to Southern Missouri with Deb Churchill as my co-pilot.