Thursday, October 4, 2012

Farm Visits October 4, 2012

My farm visits are starting to wind down this year since some of our farmers are slowly starting to drop out for the season. But many of them have replanted fall crops so will continue coming to the Market through December. That’s right; the farmers’ market does not close down the end of October.

Today I setup a time to visit Huns Garden so Pov and Chaxamone could walk me through their fields so I could see what was being harvested for this weekend’s market. I received a complaint from a customer who thought Pov was not growing all the produce which he was selling at the Saturday and Sunday farmers’ market. Whenever I receive a complaint I feel it is my job to see if the complaint is true. Pov was more than happy to meet me and give me the grand tour. I am very happy he did or I would have missed much of what he still had available. Pov does not pull weeds, he grows his crops in the weeds to help protect the plants from the sun and to help keep the soil from drying out. I know it is a little unusual but it works and probably was one of the things that made it possible for them to have produce available all summer. Pov has replanted lettuce and kale which has already come up and should be ready very soon. He is still harvesting Swiss chard, bittermelons, cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, Asian sorrel, arugula, long beans, water spinach, onions, beets, collard greens, a few carrots, French sorrel and of course flowers. (I am sure I am forgetting something) Many of the items the Huns grow will survive over the winter as long as the temperature does not drop below 24 degrees. Pov has six hoop houses which help to make this possible. Huns Garden has 3 contracted stalls at the Saturday market, one of which is a supplement stall, and two stalls at the Sunday market. They are currently supplementing watermelons and pumpkins. I am happy to say my visit was very enjoyable, but not necessary.

 Last week I did not update my blog but I wanted to share the pictures Deb Churchill took when we visited the North Missouri Produce Auction in Jamesport, Mo. For those of you who have never visited Jamesport it is an Amish community located north of 36 Hwy. The town is full of shops and restaurants and a great day trip. The auction is located right out of town and is worth seeing if you are in the area around 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday or Friday. Some of our vendors purchase produce from the auction to supplement the produce they grow. All the produce sold at the auction must be harvested within 100 miles of Jamesport so meets the Markets requirements of 500 miles or less. This time of year I visit farms as needed but will keep you posted on what you can find at the market this fall and winter


Friday, September 14, 2012

Today it felt like fall as I headed out to visit farms in Lecompton and Kansas City Kansas. I actually had to wear a coat. Lecompton is just west of Lawrence off I-70. “Two Sisters Farm” is a fairly new hydroponic operation which had its first crop of lettuce and greens in March of this year. Hydroponic farms grow everything in a controlled environment where all the plants are grown in a liquid nutrient instead of soil. Ryan met me at the door to the packing area of the greenhouse where they were busy packaging lettuce for a pickup later in the day. I was amazed by how clean the greenhouse was and the contrast in colors. It was just beautiful. The Eddinger’s can grow 9,306 heads of lettuce at once and are constantly either harvesting, transplanting and rotating their crop. It is just amazing to see. They do not need to use any chemicals since the lettuce is grown in a controlled environment. If there is a problem they are usually able to solve it with ladybugs. When the lettuce is harvested you will get the roots and all. If you store the lettuce in your refrigerator with a little water on the roots it will stay fresh for weeks.

Ryan and Caroline will be at the market this coming Sunday and probably throughout the winter on Saturdays. What a treat to get fresh, locally grown lettuce and greens all winter. For additional information about their wonderful operation visit their web site at

Since it was still early when I headed back to the office I thought I would stop and visit Chiong Vang’s farm in Kansas City, KS. I visited this farm the first of July but with the very dry summer we have had I thought I would take another look since we have been getting some rain. They still have a few items they are harvesting such as green beans, okra, Asian peppers, long beans, beats, kale, fresh herbs and cut flowers. They have also replanted cucumbers and onions which will start producing later if the weather holds. Hmong Vaj Farm is at the market every Saturday and Sunday in the middle farmers shed.

Almost all of our farmer’s stalls should be full tomorrow and the weather will be cool and sunny. What a great day to stroll through the market, get some wonderful local produce, enjoy the sights and have lunch. I am still undecided where I will head next week; I still have quite few more farms to visit this season.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Visit to the Central Missouri Produce Auction August 28, 2012

This week I did something a little different and visited the Central Missouri Produce Auction in Fortuna, Missouri. If you are ever out that way on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday morning between 10 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. it is well worth a look. I have been at the auction house for conferences but never to attend the actual auction. They have enlarged the facility since the last time I was there and it is very clean and nice.

Farmers from within a 100 mile radius from the auction arrive early in the morning to sign in and to give the manager time to list what will be auctioned off. Each farmer then pulls their trailers of produce into the center of the auction house which is lower than the area the customers are in so everyone can get a good look. The auctioneer starts the bidding off with a higher price and then always drops it down until someone places a bid. I had to really concentrate on not talking with my hands; I could have come home with cases of tomatoes. From what I saw they usually auction off the big lots first and the smaller lots last. If there is an item that is from farther than 100 miles away they save it for the very end and let the customer know where it is from. Today it was potatoes from Missouri but farther than 100 miles.

It was nice to get to catch up a little with James Ramer who manages the auction. James was a vendor at the City Market for years and always had the most beautiful flowers. I also saw Mark Zimmerman who had brought in a load to get auctioned off.

It is amazing what you can buy at the auction. I thought it was just produce but they also have jams and jellies, baked goods, bales of hay, corn stalks and a large horse made of corn stalks which sold for $210.00. And if you get a little hungry they have a snack bar where you can get some lunch. It was very fun and I was surprised to only see one of our vendors purchasing produce. I will have to plan a trip to the Jamesport auction in the near future.

Next week I will take a week off from my blog since it is a holiday week and I have fewer days to get ready for the weekend. Have a safe holiday and stop by the market to pickup everything you will need for all your holiday gatherings.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Farm Visits August 23, 2012

After checking my list of farms which have not been inspected this year I decided to head over to Kansas City, Kansas. I had six farms to visit, four of which are at the same location. Checking urban farms makes my day pretty easy with very little driving. The farms are usually located right off the main road, no driving for miles once you leave the highway.

I decided to go to Huns Garden first, which is right off Metropolitan Avenue. Pov Huns has been a vendor for years in the Farmer 100% category he also has one stall in the Farmer w/ Local Supplement category just in case he has a difficult year like this year. Pov can supplement 50% of the items in one of his stalls. The drought has taken its toll on the Hun’s farm. Although he has access to water on his property his produce is looking pretty taxed. Pov supplements his watermelons and cantaloupe from local growers. He did have a fairly good selection of flowers which they make into bouquets and sell at the Market. I think Chaxamone, Pov’s wife handles almost everything to do with the flowers. They still had zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers hanging on. After walking to the rear of the property I found a small field of tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers, small red Thai peppers and basil. Some of the area had been tilled and probably replanted but without rain there is no hope for a fall crop. Pov farms about 4 acres and has 3 high tunnels which are covered and one frame which is not covered. For more information visit their web site at

My next stop is made up of about 8 acres off Parallel Parkway which is divided among family members. This plot of land always reminds me of a big quilt with all its squares made-up of different plants. No matter when I visit this farm there is always someone in the field working. Today Yee Vang and his wife were busy picking Thai peppers, they are very small and I am sure very tedious to pick. I was so glad Yee was there to show me which section of land is assigned to which relative. He graciously pointed out the various plots and walked me through the areas that belong to him. It is nice to have someone explain each plant since I am not familiar with some of the items the Vang’s bring to the Market. I am amazed that their plants are doing as good as they are with no irrigating what so ever. Yee explains that the plants are much smaller and producing much less due to the lack of moisture and the extreme heat. Each section has many of the same items but tended to by a different brothers family. I think it is great that this 8 acre section of land helps support Yee Vang, Cha Vang, Choua Lor and Chiong Vang. Each of these vendors are in the Farmer 100% category and are at the market every Saturday and Sunday. They were still harvesting cucumbers, Tai peppers, lemon grass, Japanese eggplant, garlic, assorted flowers, basil, a plant which produces an edible flower and a plant they grow just for the leaves (sorry I did not get the name of these plants). Not sure how much longer they will be coming to the market if we don’t get some rain so they can plant some fall crops.

Last stop is at Lucky Farm. I always love walking around See Vang’s farm since it is acre after acre of flowers. The zinnias are still blooming but not as pretty as they usually are since the leaves are so burnt. The sunflowers were still beautiful and towered at least 8 feet over my head. I am sure the pictures will not do them justice. See is one of the few vendors that plants eucalyptus to include in her flower arrangements. The silver blue adds a beautiful touch to her bouquets. I am not sure what the yellow flowering plants are but they remind me of baby’s breath, just yellow instead of white, they are beautiful. See also grows a little produce. She still had some bitter melons, egg plant, cherry tomatoes and Tai peppers. I love how she has used sticks to make trellises for the plants to climb on, a nice change from the metal cages most farmers use. See is at the market every Saturday and usually on Sundays. You will find her in shed 3 stalls 135 & 136 on Saturday and shed 2 stall 82 on Sunday.

As usual I am not sure what my plans will be for next week. I can’t believe it is almost September and probably only one more month to visit farms if it does not rain sometime soon.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Farm Visits August 16, 2012

It seems like every Thursday that I check farms in the last few weeks there is a chance of rain. I always bring my umbrella but never seem to get wet. Today I had a new vendor to visit in Warrensburg, MO. Doug Miller is the owner of Prairie Schooner Produce. A funny thing happened on the way to his farm today; the spare tire fell off my truck and went bouncing into a ditch. Luckily I was not on the highway and no one was behind me. Needless to say I thought it was one of the truck tires, my heart stopped. I was on a very narrow road with no place to pull over, only deep weed filled ditches Once I realized I was in no danger I just went on to Doug’s farm which was just a mile away. I decided I would look for the tire on the way back and hoped Doug might help me. I was not looking forward to going into that ditch.
Doug is new at farming and has picked a very challenging year to get started. Luckily he had a water source close by although it was city water and as everyone knows pretty costly. Many of his crops had already been tilled under such as cucumbers, green beans and squash, these have been a challenge for everyone. Doug had also planted 3 acres of corn with drip line which he had to till under. He did manage to salvage his tomatoes and peppers by covering them with a shade cloth to protect them from getting sun burnt. The plants actually looked pretty good and were covered with tomatoes and Anaheim and cayenne peppers. Doug is having trouble with turtles eating his tomatoes. Any tomato which is close to the ground has been munched on; this is a new one for me. I usually hear about raccoons, deer or coyotes. Doug will be in the farmer with local supplement category on Sundays if he has enough produce to bring this year. You will be able to spot him since he sells his produce out of a replica of a prairie schooner he built, hence the name of his farm. By the way Doug graciously helped me retrieve my tire.

I thought I would have to take a detour on the way to Higginsville due to construction but luckily it was finished and saved me a lot of time. I made it to Peacock Farm in no time. Betty Mendenhall was out delivering to her CSA members. A CSA is a program where customers purchase a share of a farmers produce, usually during the winter months, and receive fresh produce all summer. I am sure this year has been a struggle to provide all the share holders with produce. Who could have predicted the extreme summer we have had. Betty did not have much left at all, only tomatoes, peppers and purple hull peas. If we get some rain her green beans might hold on a little longer but this is doubtful. I visited with Betty’s husband who told me they just had their 40 acres of corn checked and what normally should yield 220 bushels per acre will only produce 50 bushels per acre if they are lucky. This is just so sad and really places a financial hardship on the farmers. Betty has two stalls in the Farmer 100% category and one stall in the Farmer w/ Local Supplement category so most of the produce she brings to the market must be hers. Luckily for Betty she also has a commercial kitchen on her property so can include jams and jellies as well as eggs in her stalls. For more information about Peacock farms visit their web site at or stop by her stall in shed one (south side of market) stalls 15-16 & 17.

My next stop is on the south side of I-70 in Odessa, Mo. Going to Odessa is always a little easier since I have three vendors within a mile of each other. I decided to visit Pete Economide, Odessa Greenhouse, first. Pete is located along M highway so very easy to find. The last time I visited they had a very big dog who did not like me at all so I was very leery getting out of my truck. No one was home so I just looked at his greenhouses quickly before Rover spotted me. The greenhouses were overflowing with house plants which are a large part of what Pete brings to the market in addition to peppers. Pete has had a tough year growing peppers. Trying to get water to the plants is expensive and very time consuming. They were keeping the weeds pulled until they decided to leave the weeds to shade the plants. Pete told me he felt like he was just wasting his time watering the weeds. Luckily Pete planted 100 pepper plants in the greenhouse so they should produce enough peppers to get him to the market a few more times. Pete raises pigs and sheep (which are not for resale purposes) so I could not resist taking a quick picture. Odessa greenhouse is in the Farmer 100% category located in shed 3 (north side of the market) stalls 105-106 & 107.

Last stop for the day is just around the corner from Pete. Bob & Liz Harrison have been selling honey at the market for many years and have quite a large operation. Busy Bee Acres processes all their own honey in a certified kitchen on their farm. Bob took me through the bottling area and the room where they take the honey out of the comb, very interesting and a little sticky. Bob & Liz have quite a few apple and pear trees on their farm which the bees love. This year they did not spray the apples so they are inhabited by some worms and will probably not be sold at the market. I have never visited Bobs other location where he has hives so Bob drove me to three additional location. He has about 20 other locations in the area where he has 10 to 25 hives per location, which is a lot of bees. I did not get out of the truck when we pulled up to the hives since it was obvious the bees were a little cranky. I always stay clear of cranky bees. Bob told me they were agitated because they have been extracting the honey the past couple weeks which has disrupted the bees working environment. Who knew! Busy Bee Acres is in the Farmer 100% category and located in shed 1 stalls 24-26 every Saturday.

Still on the fence where to go next week, possible Platt City, MO. I have a few vendors with new commercial kitchen which I need to see.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Farm Visits August 10, 2012

I took a day off this week to regroup so am a day behind checking farms. I decided to stay close to the office today and only make two stops.

I was in Parkville last week but just ran out of time so headed back that way this morning. Mike Pearl was a vendor at the market quit a few years ago but due to a transfer with his job had to stop farming. Mike has a small farm located at what use to be his parents house many years ago. He had quite a few rows of tomatoes which looked like they were doing fairly good; I think the fact that his garden is surrounded by shade trees probably helped a little this summer. In addition to tomatoes he also had a few rows of pepper plants that were still producing. Across the street Mike had another plot which had more tomatoes, a row of cucumbers which were still producing a little and a nice watermelon patch. Mike will be selling at the market on Sundays only on the daily waiting list. He is in the farmer 100% category which means he is only allowed to sell what he grows.

If you have been following my BLOG you might remember a plot of land in Kansas City, Kansas which I visited in early May. This is a large section of land that runs along I-70 and is divided up among at least 7 different families. Much of the produce had not started producing when I was there since it was a little early in the season for some items. I had planned to revisit these farms but I think I waited a little too long. Almost everything was dried up and done producing except the eggplant, okra, Asian peppers, zinnias and sunflowers. It is so sad to know how much hard work and planning goes into farming and in a short few months it can totally be destroyed due to the heat and lack of rain. I spoke with one of the ladies working in the field pulling up dead plants; she said they will just try again next year.

Next week I am headed towards Warrensburg, Higginsville and Odessa and will check 5 farms. I sure hope the weather is as nice as it was today; I hated coming back to the office it was just too nice out.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The beginning of August, I can’t believe how fast the season is going and I still have quite a few farms to check. Today I went to four farms and traveled 158 miles.

I was in the St. Joe area about a month ago but did not get a chance to visit the Messners at Natures Choice and since I am in the area I will also stop by Goode Acres in Wathena, KS. I visited John Goode the last time I was in the area but I sometimes visit the farms of vendors in the supplement category more than once a year. When I arrived John and his wife Stacey were busy working picking blackberries. They had gotten a little rain early in the morning but everything had already dried up, luckily some of the farm has drip lines supplied with rural water. John walked me through the farm showing me what was ready to harvest for Saturdays market. Since John roasts and sells peppers at the market he raises about 9 different varieties. Such as banana peppers, cayenne, jalapenos, Hungarian, Anaheim, red, yellow and green bell peppers; he grows most of these in the field and one row in his tunnel. John currently has three tunnels but has just been approved for a fourth which he should get in the fall. They are currently picking tomatoes from one of the tunnels which is full of various varieties including Cherokee purples which are heirloom tomatoes and scarlet reds. His plants look very nice and are producing very well. If you follow my blog you might remember that John had a bug issue with his cucumbers the last time I visited but they have still been producing a small amount of cucumbers, of course nothing like a healthy plant would produce. John has planted one more row of cucumbers in the tunnel but they have not quite started to produce yet. In his field surrounding the tunnels John had various varieties of eggplant ready to pick, he has about 100 plants in this area. The most unique variety is Turkish orange eggplant. Eggplant is one of the crops that do well in the heat. He also has onions, garlic, basil, rosemary, French sorrel, dill, Italian basil, rainbow chard and lavender. John replanted green beans 15 days ago and hopes to have beans to pick in about 30 days. John has melons and squash planted but they are not producing yet. John like many of the vendors at the City Market are in the Farmer w/ Local Supplement category. This means these vendors are allowed to supplement 50% of the produce they bring to the market each day but they must grow at least 50% of the produce and the supplemented produce must come from within 500 miles of the market. Some vendors get produce from a neighbor, a local orchard or from one of the Amish owned auctions in the state. Most of the produce from the auctions must come from within 100 miles of the auction. John, like many of the vendors gets his supplemented produce from the Jamesport, Mo auction which is quality local produce. All of John’s watermelons and cantaloupe come from the auction.

My next stop is at Fred and Helen Messners Farm, Natures Choice. I have been anxious to visit them this summer to see the new solar panels they have had installed. The panels provide electricity to their home and greenhouses. Fred’s son Andrea greeted me when I arrived and gave me a quick tour of the farm. When I pulled up he was on the way out to the field to help Fred dig potatoes. I was amazed at how many tomato plants they had and how many tomatoes were on each plant. Something apparently got into their squash crop so all the squash was going to get picked later that day, the vines looked terrible.. Andrea showed me their rows of orange and purple carrots which he thinks they will continue to bring to the market for another three weeks. On the way out to the potato field we passed a beautiful apple tree just full of no spray apples, I had to stop and take a picture. Fred was busy driving the tractor through the potato field to dig up the potatoes. Andrea will then go through the field picking up the unearthed potatoes. Fred told me if they don’t get them picked up quickly the skins will get sunburned. Their greenhouses are pretty much finished for the season so the produce they are bringing to the Market is coming from the fields. Fred has planted 1.3 acres of blackberries since I visited them last year, they should start producing next year. Nature’s Choice is located in shed 1 stalls 12-14 and is in the farmer 100% category.

So far the trip has been going pretty smoothly till I head to Lloyd Horn’s farm only to discover a bridge is out. I have to turn around and backtrack another 30 minutes to come in on the other end of 45 highway so I decide to stop by Floyd McFarland’s first. Floyd was out in the field as he always is when I stop by. Floyd drove me through his fields showing me which crops are finished due to the lack of water and extreme heat. His cucumber and summer squash are done; the egg plant is very short but still producing. Floyd told me his pepper plants are full of peppers but they are just getting burnt before they get to size. He has a second planting of tomatoes that won’t set, the flowers just bloom and drop off. If we get a couple inches of rain they should start producing. The okra and cabbage looked good. McFarland plant farm is located in shed 1 stalls 0-2 and has two stalls in the farmer 100% category and one stall in the farmer with local supplement category.

Finally I make it to Lloyd and Addie Horn’s farm. Dry Lake Farm is in Farley, Mo along the Missouri river. Last year Lloyd was battling flooding this year it is a drought. They usually have a pond that is located behind their house; it is totally empty and dry. Lloyd has an abundance of tomatoes which are producing quite heavily. His okra, cabbage, onions and potatoes also look good. Lloyd grows the best variety of small tomatoes, I can never remember the name but they are always the first thing on my Saturday shopping list. In addition to produce one of Lloyds stalls is filled with Addie’s wonderful pies and cookies. Her licensed kitchen is top notch and always very clean and orderly. I always have kitchen envy when I leave. The Horns are located in shed 3 in stalls 126-128 every Saturday.

I was hoping the heat would break before I head out again next week but no such luck!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Farm Visits July 26, 2012

What a great day to check farms, the weather was much cooler and the farms I visited had gotten a little rain, about 1”. Today I checked two farms, one in Lexington, Mo and the second in Buckner, Mo. I also had company today, Mark Thomas, Chief Operating Officer for Copaken Brooks. Copaken Brooks is the company that manages the City Market and the company I work for. It is always nice to have someone to talk with as I drive.

Fahrmeier Brothers Produce is a family owned farm which has been in Ron Fahrmeier family for generations. The farm continues to change each time I visit. Over the past few years they have added twelve high tunnels and a winery. They were all busy getting ready for this weekend’s 4th annual “Tomato Day” at the farm so I really appreciated the family taking time to show me the farm. Ron showed us the smaller tunnels where they grow eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. Since the strawberries are grown in the tunnels they will be able to bring berries to the market all season. Like most Missouri strawberries this variety is a little small but very sweet, I just had to taste one. After a quick walk around the area located on the hill near the winery we headed down the road to look at the high tunnels where they are strictly growing tomatoes, one contains only yellow tomatoes and the eleven others tunnels contain red tomatoes, that’s a lot of tomatoes. Behind the tunnels is an area dedicated to sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelons, and peppers, everything was looking very good since they have drip lines in all of their fields and tunnels. The Fahrmeiers’ have 6 to 10 employees depending on the season; today they were busy picking tomatoes and peppers. Once the tomatoes are picked they are taken to the sorting house where they are washed, sorted, packed in boxes and kept cool. No visit to the Fahrmeiers’ would be complete without a visit to their wine tasting area; my favorite today was their raspberry wine, yummy! For more information visit their website at or follow them on facebook.

My last stop today was in Buckner, Mo at Frye Farms. This farm is also a family farm which has been in Marlin’s family for many years. This farm is always easy to find since it is located just north of Buckner off of hwy 24. Marlin and his wife were busy waiting on customers at their roadside store when we arrived and a few of the high school kids they hire were getting ready to hit the fields and tie up some of the vegetable plants. They do this so the produce is up off the ground. Alongside the store is a few greenhouses, one contains what is left of their spring annual bedding plants. The other greenhouse is full of tomato plants, all of which are covered in green tomatoes. Marlin explained to me that they pick the tomatoes when they are yellow and then let them ripen up before taking them to the market. In addition to greenhouse tomatoes they also have field tomatoes that are doing pretty good since they are in raised beds which are lined with drip lines. The Frye’s had much more produce planted this year and have even started some additional tomato plants which if all goes well should produce tomatoes late into the fall. They currently were picking peppers, tomatoes, cantaloupe and cucumbers. Their squash was starting to show the stress from the heat so has really pretty much stopped producing. Marlin drove us to another section of land they farm located along the river about 10 miles from his home. This field is used for growing cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelons. This section of land does not have irrigation so the plants were a little stressed but the morning rain really gave them a boost. Marlin has been battling spider mites, beetles and aphids in this field so he has had to spray, something most farmers only do as needed. As if the drought and bugs aren’t bad enough he also has a big problem with coyotes eating the center out of the melons. Marlin, Mark and Jarred Frye are at the market every Saturday. Mark is in shed 1 stalls 27-29, Jared shed 2 stalls 88-91 and Marlin shed 3 stalls 129-131.

I hope the weather next week is as nice as it was today. Not sure where I am going next week, I need to check my list to see which new vendors are still waiting to be checked and which contracted vendors I have not yet visited. I can’t believe it is almost August.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Farm Visits July 19, 2012

I decided to take a week off last week to catch up on things in the office and get all my e-mails and phone calls returned. It always feels good to get caught up.

Today I am only checking one farm since it is a couple hour drive each way and I don’t really have any farms that are very close to Joe Bryson’s farm. Joe lives in Hale Missouri which is about 100 miles from Kansas City. The heat has taken a toll on Joe’s fields so a few crops have recently been plowed under such as pumpkins and cantaloupe. He got a little rain last week, but like all the farms around the area, a little doesn’t really help much. The only produce that is growing pretty good is his zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes and blackberries. I was surprised that Joe waters everything with city water, which I am sure, can get a very expensive. Joe was busy helping his grandson move so his son Pee Wee (this is his nick name) showed me around their farm and drove me to six other farms where they get most of their produce. All of the six families were Amish and grow produce for Joe, he purchases all the plants or starts them in his greenhouses from seeds, and his neighbors raise the produce and harvest it. The Amish farmers do not have a way to get their produce to the city and these particular farmers don’t grow enough to take to the local auction. This arrangement helps all the families involved, Joe knows how the produce he is bringing to the market is grown and the families make a little money. Two of the farms really didn’t have much left to pick only the farms that used drip lines still had fairly decent yellow squash, okra, tomatoes, cantaloupe and a few green beans. Since all the familys were Amish they did not have fans or air conditioning, I guess it is all what you get use too. At least they all had a nice breeze and some shade trees.

Next week I will be headed to Lexington Missouri and Buckner, I was hoping the weather would break but the extended forecast sure does not look that way. I hope there is still produce to check next week.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Farm Visits July 5, 2012

I had not planned to do farm visits this week with the 4th falling in the middle of the week but changed my mind and visited two farms today, both in Kansas City, Kansas. Both farms I am visiting today are in the farmer 100% category which means they are only allowed to sell what they grow.

Tillery Farm is located off Holiday Drive and Randy and Marsha are at the market every Saturday, June through October. Shortly after I arrived Randy pulled up with a tank full of water on the back of his truck which he had just filled from the business across the street. With the extreme heat and lack of rain it is a full time job just keeping the plants watered. The tomato and pepper plants were really showing the effects of the heat. The tomato plants were starting to turn brown and some of the tomatoes were a little sunburned. The various varieties’ of squash and melons did not seem to mind the heat too much. Randy is one of the few farmers that I know of that grows Brussels sprouts to bring to the Market. They should be ready to harvest in another month or so and are sold by the stalk; they are always quite the crowd stopper. The cantaloupes looked ready to harvest and the watermelons should be ready soon, I can’t wait for local watermelons to be ready I usually buy one every week. On Saturdays you will find Tillery Farms between the first and second shed in stalls 46, 47 & 48.

I thought I would check Hmong Vaj Farm next which is located south of I-70 before I called it a day. The temperature was already in the high 90’s so I knew it wouldn’t take much to hit 110. Chiong Vang is on vacation so his father, who was busy picking green beans when I arrived, showed me around. Green beans are one of the more time consuming things to pick. They told me it took two of them one hour to fill a 5 gallon bucket with beans. One of the main items the Vangs bring to the market are cut flowers, the heat is really taking a toll on the zinnias and lilies. The only flower that seems to be thriving is the sunflowers. Chiong is starting to lay rows of drip line to better provide water to the plants; he uses well water and city water for his watering. Like many of the farmers whose families originated in Laos the Vang’s grow long beans, bitter melons, assorted herbs and lemon grass all of which are struggling with the extreme heat and lack of rain. In a few weeks I plan to check the other farms in the area and will check the remainder of the items being grown by Chiong and his family, not all of their produce is grown at this location.Hmong Vaj Farms are at the market every Saturday and Sunday April through November.

Not sure what I will do next week, in addition to checking farms I also visit the crafters to verify they are making the craft items they sell at the market. I have not really checked any crafters this year so need to do so pretty soon.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Farm Visits June 28, 2012

Boy was it a hot one today! But unlike many of us a farmer cannot just stay inside in the air conditioning just because the temperature is in the triple digits. Everyone I visited today was outside working when I arrived.

Usually when I visit Jarred Juhl in Wathena, Kansas I only see a small part of where he is farming. This year I had Jarred meet me in downtown Wathena and drive me to all of his many locations. I am so glad he was driving since most of the time we were going down steep dirt paths and bouncing along through the fields. Most of the land Jarred farms is land that belonged to his Grandfather and father or he is renting it from a neighbor who no longer farms. There is no way I would have been able to find each field. As we were walking through one of the many fields, Jarred showed me a very old piece of equipment used for digging potatoes. The blade is drug through the field digging up the potatoes; the potatoes are pushed onto a grid where most of the dirt falls through leaving just the potatoes. The potatoes are then forced off the back and fall into the field, Jarred then goes through the field and picks up the potatoes which are on top of the soil. I often wonder who invents some of this equipment. Jarred is one of the few vendors at the market that raises heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms come in many colors and are usually not the same shape and sometimes have small cracks by the stem. They are a little softer and do not keep as long as the tomatoes most of us eat, which is why you won’t find them in a grocery store. If you have never tried one you are in for a real treat. While we were walking through one of the corn fields I noticed an ear of corn which had been chewed on, Jarred said he has a real problem with raccoons. He said sometimes he gets a little obsessed and sleeps in the field, when he hears the raccoons pulling back the husk he runs over with a flash light and tries to find them, raccoons can destroy a crop. Jarred had black plastic in most of his fields with a drip line underneath. When the plants need water he hauls it in big drums from town and hooks a hose to the line. Drip lines are a very efficient way to water plants. Jarred sells at three other markets on Saturday so his sister Jessica and her daughters handle his City Market stalls. They are located in the 3rd farmers shed in stalls 138, 139 and 140 on Saturday and hopefully starting this week will be at the market on Sunday in stalls 124 & 125.

I didn’t have to far to go to get to my next farm since it is also in Wathena. Goode Acres is located on a hill overlooking the Missouri River, the view is beautiful. John was busy tilling up the weeds between the rows of peppers when I arrived, he was pretty lucky since his tractor was air-conditioned. The peppers in the field were not quite ready but should be in a few weeks. John is currently working to get his organic certification and should be certified by the first of February. He will be the only vendor at the market that is certified organic. John has received a few grants over the past few years to have his farm terraced and to get three high tunnels. He currently has three tunnels and has one more to put up. The first tunnel we entered was filled with pepper plants, squash and cucumbers. John is having a problem with white flies which are doing a lot of damage to his cucumber plants. Since he can’t use any sprays he will just have to let them go and replant. The second tunnel was filled with tomato plants covered with green tomatoes, there were a few that are ready to pick. John also grows heirloom tomatoes. The third tunnel had a few herbs and Swiss chard but was pretty much done and will be replanted once the weather breaks, the extreme heat is very hard on plants which have just been transplanted. In addition to produce John also has a row of red and black raspberries, blackberries and he chips up various types of wood for BBQ. For additional information visit Goode Acres website at

I decided to cut over to Plattsburg after leaving Wathena and visit Windy Ridge Greenhouse. Clara and William Hanks have been vendors at the market for years and have currently relocated from shed two to shed one. On my way to their farm I pulled over to let a farm tractor go by and to my surprise it was William, he was on his way to another field to cut straw. Since I have been to their farm many times I just showed myself around, I sure did not want to keep him from what he was doing. Windy Ridge has three greenhouses where they grow bedding plants, herbs, vegetable plants and beautiful roses in the spring. This time of year they have closed their greenhouses to the public and are concentrating on their fields. They had summer squash ready to pick and a few small cucumbers. Eventually they will also be picking melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers; things just are not quite ready yet. For more information visit their web site at

I will be staying close to home next week since I will only be working a half day on Thursday. We have quite a few vendors who travel less than 20 minutes to get to the market so I will have plenty to choose from.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Farm Visits June 21, 2012

Today I knew for sure that I have the coolest job ever. I got to start my day off by visiting a lavender farm and ended it by visiting a bee keeper, what a great day. I even had some company today, Deb Churchill, the property manager for the City Market and my boss went along to take pictures and I’m pretty sure she wanted to see the lavender farm.

Washington Creek Lavender is located south of Lawrence, Kansas up a long curving gravel road. We were greeted first by a large Irish setter who wanted to say “Hi” and stuck his head in the truck window. When he saw we were friendly he jumped in the back of the truck, I am sure it was the smell of garbage that attracted him. (I drive the City Market truck used to pick up trash) Kathy and Jack Wilson moved back to Lawrence in 2004 to start a vegetable farm, but after much bad weather decided to turn to Lavender. They started with a small test plot to see which varieties would do best, they decided on Grosso Blue and four or five culinary varieties. I did not know lavender came in pink and white, I thought it was always purple. We parked by their beautiful log home and walked along a lane to their drying barn. The Wilsons have been harvesting lavender for a week so the barn was fairly full. After cutting each stem it is bundled, tied with a rubber band and hung upside-down to dry. Kathy told me it takes two or three weeks to dry depending on how wet it was when harvested. Today they were working on pulling weeds since it had rained overnight and the lavender was very wet. Once we topped the hill we were greeted with a beautiful sight and fragrance, the pictures will not do it justice. Kathy walked us through the field explaining the differences between plants and when they were planted. She pointed out a new high tunnel they are working on and told us what their plans are for the future. I was so amazed when you stood still in the field and no one was talking the sound of the bees was incredible. A few weeks ago the field was bursting with butterflies. What a site that would have been.

I would have loved to just set in the middle of the lavender field for a while but Tony Schwager, Anthony’s Beehive, was expecting me around noon. Tony had a hive that he needed to check and was waiting for us to go along. Tony has been a Sunday vendor at the Market for about three years and this year has also taken a Saturday contract. Anthony’s Beehive was created due to Toni’s son, Anthony’s love of beekeeping. And since then it has become a family operation. Tony has hives in 20 different locations around Lawrence, this is a very common thing to do so you are able to get different flavors of honey, early spring honey is made from mainly clover and wildflowers. The kind of honey depends on what flowers are blooming at the time. The hive we visited was at a home a few miles away and had not been checked for a while; actually Tony thought it might be a dead hive. When we arrived there was a lot of activity so he knew this was not the case. Tony told me it is always exciting when you open a hive, you never know for sure what you will find. The hive today consisted of about 60 thousand bees, usually about 2thousand per frame. This hive had three tiers. Tony had extra beekeeper hats and gloves for Deb and I to wear, as you can see from the picture it was a good look! After getting the smoker fired up, the smoke confuses the bees so they stay in the hive, Tony opened the hive and oh my. To Toni’s surprise the hive did not have all the frames in place so there was just one massive heap of honey comb covered with bees, It was very cool. Toni’s plan today was to divide the hive and take a queen bee and some worker bees to another location. Bees are just amazing. I was not too nervous when the bees were swarming around me, but I did get a little worried when they started climbing up my leg. Tony did not have gloves on when slowly removing each frame; I asked him if he ever gets stung since the bees are just thick where he puts his hands. He no sooner said “not usually” when he got stung. It is very important when working with bees that you move slowly so the bees don’t get agitated; trust me I did not want the bees to get agitated. Tony sent us home with a large honey comb which I shared with my grand children, they thought it was great.

I have not yet decided where I am going on Thursday but with the heat wave we are having I don’t think I will be gone all day. Cantaloupe should be at the Market any day now and I saw my first field tomatoes last week.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Farm Visits June 14, 2012

Got a really late start today, thought I would just check a few e -mails and phone messages and just got sucked in for a couple hours. I checked a new vendor today in Richmond, Missouri. Keith and Rita Calvert were vendors at the Market many years ago when the River Market was known as the River Quay. At that time the City Market had a pretty bad reputation and the Calvert’s decided to sell their produce to large processors and grocery stores. They grew a variety of produce but grew mostly green beans. Over the years they have downsized their operation and currently farm 38 acres, in two separate locations. I found Rita and Keith in the field when I arrived, they were checking on their corn crop. Like all the farmers I have visited in the past few weeks the Calvert’s also plant all their crops in succession so they will have produce throughout the season. Some of their sweet corn was ready to pick so they might be at the Market this coming Sunday. In addition to sweet corn, which is their main crop, they also grow tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, squash, eggplant and pumpkins. Keith told me they were lucky enough to get some rain on Monday but they also got hit with a burst of small hail, which damaged some of the plant’s leaves. I find it very interesting what farmers do in addition to growing produce. The success of any given year is always dependent on the weather; very seldom does a farmer have a perfect year. Calvert’s Produce is the first farm I have ever visited that operate a skeet shooting range, a bird hunting preserve and breed hunting dogs and Yorkies. You do whatever you can to make a living doing what you love.

I only checked two farms today, the second stop is a farm I tried to visit last month but could not get past the gate. Today I called Ivan and Ludmila Guban before I left the Market so they could let me in. The Guban’s have been vendors on the waiting list since 2006. The first time I checked their farm they had a few peach trees and grew produce on their property closest to the river. This land is always great for growing produce but is the first to flood. Since 2006 Ivan changed course and puts all his efforts in growing peaches and table grapes. They currently have about 350 peach trees consisting of various varieties such as Red Havens, White Peaches, and Donut Peaches. The Guban’s are the only vendors who actual grow their own peaches; all of the peaches you see at the market are purchased from Waverly, Missouri. I really enjoyed walking through the peach orchards today and learning about what it takes to grow peaches. I didn’t know that you have to knock some of the blossoms off the trees to thin out the peaches; this gives each peach more room to grow. When the first peaches start to ripen you need to cover the trees with netting to keep the bird away. Apparently the flock sends out a bird to scout out the food supply, when the peaches are spotted the scout informs the flock and they can wipe out a peach crop. The average peach tree takes about 5 years before it really starts to produce but you will see some peaches after the second year. Each tree needs to be toped each year to keep the tree from getting too tall and to protect the branches from breaking. Who knew! The Guban’s have also added to their vineyard with a larger selection of table grapes. The plants are in various stages, some have been planted in the spring and others are a few years old. Ivan showed me how he grafts a shoot from a vine to an existing established plant and once the shoot takes hold he cuts off the existing vines and can totally change the variety of grape. Very cool! Each bunch of grapes needs to be protected from the birds so are covered with a mesh bag, the grapes have not yet started to turn but are beautiful. Much of what is grown at Pink Blossom Orchard is not for resale. Ivan and Ludmila are pretty much totally sustainable. They built their own home, collect rainwater for daily use, freeze or can all their food and have put in a pond which is stocked with fish. Last year Ivan built a log chicken coop which is one of the nicest coops I have ever seen. They are raising a type of broiler chickens for their own use, these little chickens eat constantly and must be processed within a certain number of days or they will have a heart attack due to the amount of weight they carry. Crazy right? I was so impressed with what they have accomplished and really hated to drive back into the city.

Next Thursday Deb Churchill, Property Manager for the Market and I will be going to Lawrence, Kansas to visit a lavender farm. They are harvesting the lavender so it should be very cool to see.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Farm Visits June 7, 2012

I truly enjoyed checking farms today, weather wise it was a beautiful day, blue skies and not too hot. I feel like I am a little behind since I missed a few weeks lately. I decided to visit a few vendors that have brought corn to the Market, which is coming on about three weeks early this year.

My first stop was in Fort Scott, Kansas at Clayborn Farms. This season will be Dennis’s second year as a contracted vendor at the Market, last year he had a Sunday contract waiting for a stall to open up on Saturday. When his crops start coming in a little heavier he will be at the Market every Saturday and Sunday. When I arrived Linda and Dennis were busy working in the fields picking produce for this weekend, in addition to having stalls at the City Market they also sell at the Overland Park Market. Once their produce is harvested it is placed in one of three box trucks which have been fitted with an air conditioner. It is really important to cool the produce down as quickly as possible after it is picked. Dennis, like many farmers plant everything in succession so they will have produce to harvest throughout the season and into the fall. Today they were picking cucumbers and had already picked two bushels of tomatoes. Dennis said his field tomatoes will be coming on strong next week with the warm weather and hopefully some rain, he planted 1200 tomato plants. It always amazes me how many plants or seeds the vendor’s plant. Dennis and Linda plant everything on their 55 acre truck farm by hand. Just to give you a little idea how much that is, they planted four thousand green pepper plants, four thousand hot pepper plants, thirty rows of okra and 650 sweet potato slips. This does not even come close to covering everything like squash, corn, melons and green beans. Right now most of the seeds they planted lately are coming up pretty slow due to the lack of rain. Last night they spent their evening watering some of the young plants with a bucket. They have a large water tank on the back of a truck, drive the truck through the field and fill buckets with water to pour on each plant. They also pump water from the lake on their farm to irrigate if necessary. Everyone is hoping for rain. The Clayborn’s stalls are located at the NE side of the market in stalls 99 & 100 on Saturday and Sunday.

The drive to Westphalia, Kansas was quite beautiful, wheat seemed to be getting harvested everywhere I looked and the sun made it look like gold in the fields. Duane Heck was also cutting wheat when I arrived; he told me that this is the earliest anyone can remember where wheat was harvested this early. Once the wheat is harvested they will be able to plant a double crop of soy beans. Duane also plants all of his 45 acres of corn in succession and anticipates bringing corn to the Market through the first week of October. Heck Farms came back to the Market last week for the first time this season with three trailer loads of sweet corn, and trust me when I say it was very good. The corn Duane brought was early corn which was started in the green house and then transplanted in the fields. Early corn always has small ears and short plants; the later corn is much taller. Duane gave me a tour of the farm in his truck, which is much nicer than mine and had air-conditioning. In addition to growing wonderful sweet corn they also had watermelons and cantaloupes planted and two green houses filled with tomato plants. Like everyone Duane has had to water his crops but because of the size of his farm he has irrigation which is pumped from his pond. This week they will only be bringing greenhouse tomatoes to the market because there is a one week lull in harvesting the corn. But next week they will be back in all three sheds in stalls A, 52 and 143.

I got a late start this morning so will only be able to visit one more vendor since I will have to drive an hour and a half to get home in rush hour traffic. Mary Bauman operates her bakery in Garnett, Kansas and has been a vendor at the Market for many years. I was not able to get a hold of Mary before I arrived because I was having trouble getting a signal. I assumed she would be home getting ready for Saturday’s market. But she had just finished up for the day and had left for the Garnett Thursday afternoon market. Luckily her daughter showed me around. The Bauman’s have a licensed kitchen in an out building separate from their home. The walk-ins were filled to the brim with freshly made pies and cookies which will be baked off tomorrow and brought to the market. Mary is one of the few vendors that has a machine which rolls out the pie crust, another that portions out the cookie dough and yet another that measures out the bread batter. I will have to come back another time when Mary is baking, I am sure I will be back in the area again this summer. Bauman Farm is at the market every Saturday March through Thanksgiving in stalls 3 & 4.

I had planned to go to Bonner Springs on my way back but will have to save that trip for another day. Next week I will be checking vendors in Richmond and Lawson, Missouri.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Farm Visits May 24, 2012

I can’t believe how far some vendors will drive to sell their produce at the Market. Although Iowa sounds farther away than it actually is. Lenox. Iowa is 133.8 miles from the market which is not as far as some of the vendor’s drive who live in Missouri. Mai Lee and her father Roger Lee sent in their application in mid March so will only be allowed to sell their produce on Sundays, which will probably work out well for them since they are also vendors at the Omaha Farmers Market. Mrs. Lee was busy battling the weeds when I pulled up so Roger and Mai showed me around the three acres they had planted. They had many herbs planted such as dill, chives, cilantro and mint. Roger will be plowing up the section of land where radishes had been planted and will replace it with sugar cane. They had a great selection of produce even purple Chinese spinach. The Lee family plan on being at the Market this coming Sunday.

I won’t be checking too many farms today since it took me two and a half hours to get to the Lee’s farm. I love driving around King City since the country side is dotted with at least 100 wind turbines. I can’t believe how big they are when you have a chance to get close to them. Donna and Darrel Clausen have been vendors at the market for many years selling produce and baked goods. As I pulled up Darrel was busy planting in one of their many plots. He left large sections of grass between the plots to keep them from washing out, plus it just looks really nice. Darrel drove me around their farm pointing out what was ready to harvest and what he had recently planted. His Napa cabbage was beautiful and just starting to form heads. Darrel told me this was the first year he had planted this variety. Over the years I have heard farmers tell me about the problems they have with various animals eating their plants but this was the first time I heard of mice or moles eating the seeds before they could sprout. How annoying is that? With all the produce Darrel has planted this year Donna might have to give-up one of her bakery stalls or reconfigure their booth. I knew Donna was busy baking when I arrived because I could smell the cinnamon rolls all the way to my truck. Donnas’ kitchen is always very clean and organized and is located separate from their home in an out building. I was hoping she would be baking pies, I love her cherry pies. Last year Donna & Darrel added a few chickens to their farm so they could sell eggs at the Market, the chickens were out of the coop today enjoying the beautiful day under the watchful eye of the family dog. You will find Lost Creek Farm at the Market on Saturday in the first farmers shed, north side of the Market, in stalls 9-10-11. For additional information visit their web site at

I had time for one more stop in Gower, MO. Comanche Acres Iris Garden is always a beautiful sight if you time your visit when all the irises are in bloom. Due to the warm winter this happened a little early this year so I missed it so I posted some pictures from last year. In addition to selling iris bulbs at the market Jim also raises tomatoes, he planted 150 this year, and some cucumber plants. Jim is in the farmer with local supplement category so in addition to the product he grows he also supplements his stalls with local apples in the fall and vegetables from his brother’s garden. Comanche Acres will start at the market the first Saturday in June in stall 30 -31. For more information visit Comanche Acres web site at

I won’t be doing any farm checks next week because of the holiday but am planning a trip to northern Missouri and the Jamesport Auction in the near future. Have a safe Memorial Day!

Friday, May 18, 2012

What to Expect at the Market This Weekend

This week I took a little break from doing farm visits. I had to adjust my schedule a little so I could attend my grandson’s preschool graduation, it was so cute. Since I can’t tell you about the farms I visited I thought I would let you know what to expect this weekend at the Market.

For those of you who have long been awaiting local strawberries, they are here. I have vendors from all parts of Missouri that will have them in their stalls this weekend. I would suggest you come early before they are gone.

This spring has been one for the record books with the extremely mild winter and no late freezes. Some of the farmer’s crops are coming in early this year; we might even see sweet corn by mid June. Many of the farmers have taken a little risk by planting crops early hoping that Mother Nature would be kind and not freeze the delicate plants, their gamble has paid off. We are already seeing zucchini and summer squash which is almost unheard of. The broccoli and green beans have been really good this year since we have had warm days and cool nights. I will definitely need a bigger shopping bag this weekend.

In addition to produce the Market has a great selection of vendors who sell farm raised or grass finished beef, free range chickens, pork, lamb and farm fresh eggs. I just found out the other day that the reason the yolks in free range chicken eggs are so yellow is due to the fact that the chickens are actually in the sun, makes sense to me.

We still have a wonderful selection of annual and perennial bedding plants available. These plants get great care before being brought to the Market so as long as they get watered properly, will thrive in your flower beds. The vendors can also provide you with information so you can choose the right plants for your location.

For those of you who would like to try your hand at planting a few vegetable plants, the vendors have a great selection. I have seen tomato plants so large that they already have tomatoes on them, talk about instant gratification! If you have an EBT card you can use your SNAP tokens to purchase vegetable plants, what a great way to stretch your food dollars.

Last weekend we broke a record for the number of rented vendor’s stalls on a Saturday. The most stalls since I started at the market in June of 2003. I am anticipating the same number of vendor stalls this weekend which would be about 188 stalls. Where can you go for that kind of variety and quality? Plus the market is just a fun place to be.

I think I will be heading to Iowa next week and northern Missouri, should be a great trip.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Farm Visits May 10, 2012

Today I plan to check four farms which I hope will be a much shorter week than last week’s trip to OK. I have two new waiting list vendors to check, a waiting list vendor who has been coming for many years and one of the Market’s contracted vendors. The market has many vendors who are on the waiting list who call in on Friday in hopes that a contracted vendor will not be using their stall(s) that day. They are usually able to get the stalls they need every week, the exception might be this coming Saturday. Mother’s Day weekend is one of our busiest weekends for vendors selling flowers, the Market should be completely full Saturday unless it rains.

I had quite a long drive to get to my first stop in California, Missouri. Just a little tourist info, California, MO is the home of Burgers’ Smokehouse which is located on HWY 87 just up the street from the greenhouse I visited. The Smokehouse has been in operation since 1952 and even gives tours. Ruby and Carl Cram own Cram’s Greenhouse which is located at their home and is open to the public. Ruby met me as I drove in and explained what types of plants they grow and which greenhouses house which plants. I was on my own after that since she was busy with customers. All their plants are pesticide free whenever possible to protect the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and all their perennials are native to Missouri. Ruby will be a Sunday waiting list vendor and hopes to be at the Market mid month if she has enough plants to justify the drive to Kansas City.

California was my furthest stop so I had to backtrack a little to get to Versailles, but that was my plan. There is a great store located on HWY 50 that I stop at every time I am in the area. The store is a Dutch Bakery and Bulk Food store filled with every kind of candy, snacks or baking supply you would want and they have a restroom. The Busy Bee greenhouse is located not far from the intersection of Hwy 5 and Hwy 52 which is an area known for their greenhouses and a produce auction house. Diane and Daryl Unruh have been coming to the City Market for many years and have beautiful flowers. They have added a roadside operation which has done very well considering this is the first year it has been open. I went to their home first, where they have one large greenhouse. I didn’t stray too far from the truck since no one was home and a couple beagles were not too happy I was there. As I was pulling out of their drive Daryl pulled us and gave me directions to their retail location where I visited with Diane and her mother. The roadside greenhouse was once a hydroponic strawberry operation ran by Diane’s parents. Things did not go as planned so they have switched it over for plant sales. It is a great location and very nice. The Unruh’s will probably be at the market for a couple more weeks if they don’t sell out before then.

From Versailles I headed west on hwy 52 to Leeton, Mo to visit one of the Market’s contracted vendors that has been selling at the Market since 2010, they are always wearing the orange Bristle Ridge t-shirts and are located in the third shed (north side of the Market) in stalls 111-114. Jeanette was busy working in the greenhouse when I arrived and Don was on the tractor heading towards their field to do some mowing. The Neal’s have mainly been selling plants and herbs but will have a wide selection of vegetables soon. The main area they farm is located a couple miles from their home so Jeanette rode with me to show me what they have planted and what is ready to harvest. While we were there her son came over and showed me a spear head he had just found while working in the fields, apparently they find quite a few arrowheads along the stream at the back of their property. Very cool!

The day just got away from me and of course my last stop of the day and I can’t find the farm. After quite a few phone calls, many of which kept dropping, I find the area they are farming. The Lor family lives in Blue Springs but farms a section of land in Pleasant Hill. It looked like they had a little trouble with standing water but the flowers, onions, sweet peas, potatoes and beets they have planted look like they are doing pretty good. Kaying Lor will be at the Market this Saturday.

I only have a few more new vendors to visit and then I will get busy checking on the contracted vendors. I still need to make a trip to the Iowa sometime soon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Farm Visits May 3, 2012

May 1st, what a perfect day to visit a few greenhouse and shop for flowers. Today is my day off but I need to get some flowers for my home. I happen to know about a few good greenhouses in the area (at least 12) and it’s a perfect day to go shopping. Enright Gardens, in Edgerton Kansas and the Flower Farm in Gardner are two of my favorites. Enrights have a lot of large greenhouses so they have a great selection to choose from. I had a terrible time not getting carried away, I love flowers. Just as I was getting ready to load my purchases in the car I saw Sue Enright and was given a tour of their newly rentevated event space. They used an old barn which is surrounded by gardens and bubbling ponds. The facility will hold 350 guest and even has a private brides dressing room. It was just beautiful! Made me wish I knew someone who was getting married. For more information visit their web sites (Greenhouse) (hall rental)

I needed to get a new tropical plant for my home so went to the guy in the know Keith Johnson, at the Flower Farm in Gardner. Keith has the best selection of tropical plants and knows everything there is to know about each plant. In addition to tropicals he also has a big selections of annual and perennial for your garden. Keith is at the Market every weekend in the middle farmers’ shed in stalls 69, 70 and 71. The Flower Farms web site is

Thursday Deb Churchill (my boss) and I headed to Oklahoma and southern Missouri. Our goal was to check 8 farms which we did after a long day of driving more miles than I care to think about. We left the market about 6 a.m. and got back at 10 p.m. that night, I was dragging in the morning. My plan of attack is to start with the farm which is the farthest away and work my way back home. The first farm today was in Jay, OK located along the Arkansas Oklahoma line. Tang Moua is a new waiting list vendor that will be coming to the Market on the 5th. We had a little trouble finding the actual farm since we couldn’t find very many addresses on the mailboxes. We drove up to one house and asked the gentleman sitting on the porch for directions. I think he probably does not get very many people to talk to because before we knew it his head was poked in the window ready to visit. He was really surprised that we had driven al the way from Kansas City. After one more wrong house we found Tang and her sister busy at work. In addition to the produce they grow Tong Thao, Tangs sister, also operates an organic egg business. The large chicken house sits across from the fields so absolutely no pestisides can be used around the chicken house or in the fields. The sisters had a huge variety of produce planted even artichokes which I have never seen before. As we walked through the fields Tang explained what each part of the plant was used for or could be used for. Her rule of thumb was “if bugs eat it you can”.

I had one more vendor in Oklahoma to visit and had hoped to be at their farm by 11:30, no such luck. Welch , OK had a huge storm go through the area on Monday and had major flooding. We had to take a detour due to high water on hwy 10. It was amazing how many miles we drove with fields flooded on each side of the highway. Natasha and Bob Shufflebottom were busy taking care of their livestock when we arrived. The storm had knocked down four large trees, one of which fell on part of their house. They had two out buildings damaged as well and lost a new born baby ram to the storm. The Shufflebottom’s have hundreds of animals on their farm at any given time and include sheep, geese, chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs and of course cattle. Bob originally bought 400 acres when he came to Okalhoma, last year he added an additional 50 acres. As you can probably tell from the pictures I took the sheep are ready to be sheered soon. Bob has had some customers at the market ask to purchase some of the wool for spinning and the rest will be sold to fund a much needed vacation. When Bob and Natasha don’t make it to the Market it is usually because they need to be at home taking care of their animals. Last year they missed most of the summer because of the extreme heat and the animals needed to be watered throughout the day. Bob, Natasha and their son Bobbie are at the market most Saturdays and some Sundays year round when possible.

I did’nt plan the trip out very well since we drove right by Anderson and Seneca , Missouri on the trip down and now have to backtrack but at least we are headed twords Kansas City. The Lee family works two large sections of land just south of Joplin in Seneca and like all the farms I will check today have a large variety of produce planted. I have been visiting their farm for the past four years and have watched their family grow. The lee Family Farm is made up of Lor Gee Lee, Mai Mou Xiong, Toua, James, Kao, Kong, Sia, Koua, Song, Xee, Shoua and Kou. As always I find them busy working in the fields. I am always amazed by the amount of rock they need to work around. Piled by almost every farm field I visit I find a large pile of rocks which are constantly being pulled out of the fields. In addition to their main field which can be seen from the road they also have a smaller plot located at the back of their property. This field is planted with various virieties of potatoes and onions. The Lee family drives to Kansas City every Saturday and are located in the third farmers shed (north side of the Market) in stalls 116, 117 & 118.

My next stop is Anderson, MO which on the map looks like it would just be a short drive, but like most of the areas I visit there is really not a direct route. Nhia and Ying Xiong’s farm is very difficult to find, but like the Lee’s farm, I have been here many times so it is getting much easier. The Xiong’s farm also gets a little bigger each year I visit. To actually get to the farm you have to drive down a long very rocky lane and through two cattle gates. The first time I came to their farm it took me forever to find it, they did not have a mailbox yet , just a stick in the ground with a red flag tied to it to mark the lane. Nhia has a beautiful farm with row after row covered in black plastic and lined with drip line. This is a lot of work to lay the plastic but well worth it since it helps to controll the weeds. There is a special machine that lays the plastic and tucks the edges in a trench to keep it in place. I always wonder who invents these types of machines. Ying is busy working in the fields while Nhia gives us the grand tour. As always his produce is beautiful. The Xiong’s are at the market every Saturday in shed 2, stalls 84, 85 and 86.

We were running really behind by his time and had three vendors to visit in Fairview; MO. Fairview is east of Joplin. Our first Fairview stop was a new vendor, Abby Vang. Abby and her granddaughter had just pulled some radishes before we arrived and were busy tying them in bundles to sell at one of the local markets on Friday. Abby pointed out various rows of produce while her granddaughter translated. In addition to all the usual produce the Vang’s also grow peanuts and rice. Abby will be coming to the Market in a few weeks when more of her produce is ready. You have to have a lot of produce to justify the trip to Kansas City.

Our second stop in Fairview was on a main road but we kept passing it, I think we turned around three times and my GPS was getting very cranky. Mailor was on crutches the last time I saw her so I was glad to see she was getting around much better. She had her produce in but had done so a little later than she had planned so probably won’t be at the market before June. I asked Mailor if she would be bringing raspberries to the Market since she has quite a few bushes. She didn’t think they would have enough to bring since her children seem to eat them all before they get a chance to pick them. Mailor is a waiting list vendor so her location will vary week to week.

Last stop in Fairview is at Ton Cha’s farm. Ton has been a waiting list vendor for quite a few years but does not usually have enough produce to bring to Kansas City very often. Last summer the drought and weeds got the best of him. This year he has a new plan of attack, he has laid black plastic in his fields. I hope things go better for him this year.

I was sure the vendor at our last stop had given up on us, we finally made it to Carthage at 7:30, just before dark. Craig and Kendra Hansen grow one crop, elephant garlic, and they do it very well. The day before Craig had cut the large purple flowers off of each of his 1400 plants. If the flowers are not cut off they will cause the garlic bulb to be about half the size that it should be. And for those who love the flavor of garlic, the flowers are edible and can be sprinkled on your salad. Once the garlic is harvested Craig will take it in the barn where he will place the bulbs on racks to dry. After the bulbs are dried it is bagged and ready to bring to the Market. Hopefully you will see Hillside Farm by the end of June or first of July.

I have to regroup this week so not sure where I will be headed on Thursday but I do know it will be a much shorter trip.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Farm Visits Thursday, April 26, 2012

I took a little break this week and stayed close to home. I have found over the years that farms come in all sizes and the farms I check today are a prime example. I have about fourteen farmers who reside and farm in Kansas City, Kansas. Most are very small family farms located in back yards, but most of their backyards are quite large.

The first location I check is located along I-70 and farmed by at least six different people maybe more. Each section of land is divided, plowed, planted and cared for by different vendors some of which are related to each other. All the plots are definitely at different stages depending on when they were planted and how much care each plot receives. I can’t help but notice how dry the ground is, it is already starting to crack in some areas. Water is being hauled in and stored in large containers and even 1 gallon jugs. I am sure these vendors are hoping for a nice rain shower tomorrow. This section of land is divided up among See Vang (I have two See Vangs who sell at the market), Nhia Xiong Herr, Pheng Her, Chava Xiong and Amy X. Lo. So far See Vang is the only vendor who has started attending the Market this year. The only thing I see that is ready at this time is assorted leaf lettuce and green onions. From the looks of things they have a terrible time scaring off deer. I think they are trying everything they can think of, twine, snow fencing, shirts blowing in the breeze and even a disturbing stuffed Grover tied to a stake. I will probably plan to visit these farms again in June, maybe later if we don’t get some rain.

Today I am spending a lot less time driving between farms, in 10 minutes or less I am already at the next location. This particular backyard farm has been farmed by various family members over the past few years. This year Tony Lor has taken it over. Tony was gone for the day so gave me the okay to show myself around. I have been here quite a few times so I know to walk down over the hill. Although some plants have been planted there are quite a few plants that need to go into the ground. They are being kept under the patio just in case we have a little late frost. Tony has a small portable greenhouse to get the plants started, it is really nice. If I had a yard I would want one of these. Strawberries are in, green onions, peas, mixed lettuce leaves, and carrots. If Tony comes to the Market this Sunday he will only be selling lettuce and green onions. There was a crazy rooster crowing the whole time I was there, he was a little confused since it was way past sun rise.

The farm checks are going very fast today, since five of them are at the same location, so I go about six more miles and visit Vanna Her. Perfect timing, Vanna just got home from the grocery store. Her plants are still very short due to the heat and lack of rain so I decided to come back in June when I recheck the other farms. As beautiful and warm our spring has been the lack of rain is really a problem for quite a few vendors who don’t have drip lines or irrigation.

I have another new vendor to check but after calling her to tell her I was in her driveway I find out she has decided not to come to the Market this year, which is a relief since I did not see anything planted. I never let vendors know when I will be checking their farms unless they operate a commercial kitchen, dairy or fall under the crafter category and I have to come in their home.

I got done much earlier than I had planned so thought I would visit one more waiting list vendor in Gladstone, MO. Nicole Duval and Curtis Kelly own and operate Yappy Hour Dog Treats and a doggie day care. They were super busy baking dog treats for this Saturday’s Market. I am not allowed to tell you the secret ingredient; if I do they might put me in the dog house. I could not believe how much the dog treats look and smell like cookies, they were actually very pretty. Since Yappy Hour Dog treats are on the daily waiting list their location could change every week. So if you are ever at the Market and cannot find a particular vendor just stop at the yellow information tent and they will contact me on the radio to get the location for you. For additional Yappy Hour information visit their web site at

Next week is a major farm check day, Joplin, MO and Oklahoma. I have so many miles to drive and so many farms to check that Deb Churchill, who manages the property, is going along as my co pilot to make sure I don’t get lost. So more than likely next week’s Blog will not get posted on Friday morning, I am thinking maybe by Saturday if I stay focused.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Farm Visits Thursday, April 19, 2012

What a fun day I had today. For one thing the weather was beautiful and the route I was driving was very scenic. I traveled in a big loop starting in Leeton, Mo and ending up in Rockville, MO.

I have a new vendor who has been waiting very patiently for me to get to his farm. Glenn Varner, A & B Homecoming Beef, will be a contracted Sunday vendor who plans to be at the Market every week starting in May. Glenn will be selling frozen beef which he and his wife Jane Ann raise on their 80 acre farm. All their cattle are grass fed/grass finished and processed in a USDA plant in Clinton, MO. Glenn took me out to the paddock (a small grassy enclosed field used for grazing) closest to his house where he had about five cows that would be giving birth soon. Accompanying the mothers to be was the proud father, a bull named Jethro. I could not believe I was standing in a field just a few feet from all these cows and a bull, it was so cool. The Varner’s have a 6 month old shepherd who is pretty comfortable around the cattle and very friendly. We then went to another nearby field to move the cows to a paddock with fresh grass. I couldn’t believe they all just followed us and waited while Glenn opened the electric fence so they could enter. Glenn explained that the orange tags on the cow’s ears let him know which cows will be processed first. Glenn raises the cows for three years before they are taken to the processor. His cows are shorter and thicker than other cows because they are not fattened up quickly like commercially raised beef. For more information about A & B Homecoming Beef visit their web site at www.a&

I went to Cole Camp next so I drove east on Hwy 2 through the Amish community of Windsor. Tim and Carol Holdeman started coming to the Market last season. They operate a commercial kitchen in their home where they make casseroles, pizza rolls and soup which are sold frozen. They make wonderful Greek olive bread which is a great accompaniment with the soups and casseroles. This year they will also be selling tortilla chips and a salsa which is made with Brazilian pumpkin peppers which Tim grows himself. They were busy working on projects when I arrived but took time out from their busy day to give me a tour of their walk-in freezer, dry storage area and beautiful kitchen, all of which were designed and custom made by Tim. I was very envious when I saw the kitchen, especially when I saw the pull out draws that had another drawer within that draw. The kitchen was designed so there is a place for everything, and there was. Tim and Carol will start coming to the Market on Saturday starting in May. For additional information visit their web site at

I must be visiting with everyone too much so probably won’t be able to get all of the vendors checked that I had hoped to. I am going to Osceola, MO next so will be winding around the arms of Table Rock Lake as I drive. Michael Goth has been a vendor for many years and is the owner of White Oak Berry Farm. I found Michael out in the field on his tractor. He was super busy so after visiting a bit and talking about all the fish he caught earlier in the week I just strolled through the fields. The blueberry bushes were thick with berries that were already starting to turn a little blue on the edges. The raspberry bushes were blooming and looked very healthy. Michael has had issues with Mother Nature for the past few years and this year is no exception. Last week he had to till under all his potatoes after receiving
four inches of rain. Michael will be back at the market on Saturday with asparagus, for those of you looking for berries you will have to wait a bit.

Last stop for the day is Country Blooms Greenhouse in Rockville, owned and operated by Linferd and Judith Klassen. The Klassen’s have been vendors at the Market since 2010 and have really expanded their operation. When I first visited their farm they had one greenhouse, they now have three. Linferd was busy loading his trailer with a large wholesale order. His son was on watering duty since the wind and heat can dry the plants out very quickly. Everyone’s greenhouses are bursting at the seams with plants; the Klassen’s greenhouses were no exception. Everything looked beautiful and healthy. Linferd and Judith will be at the Market this coming Saturday. For more information visit their web site at

Not sure where I will be heading next week, maybe Joplin or Iowa.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Farm Visits April 12, 2012

I had originally planned to go to Leeton, Mo today but had a change of plans and headed to Moberly, Missouri and Baldwin City, Kansas. I usually don’t check farms so far apart but both of these vendors are new waiting list vendors and are ready to come to the Market on Saturday.
Moberly is located a little north of Columbia and about a two and a half hour drive from Kansas City. Dan and Joanne Nelson, the owners of DanJo Farms, were vendors at the market years ago. Joanne gave me the tour of their commercial kitchen, which was being used today to wash produce. Having a commercial kitchen on their farm makes it possible for them to make and sale such items as baked goods and jellies. Dan showed me around their out building which houses all their freezers and coolers. Coolers are very important to any good farm operation so produce can be cooled down after harvesting. In addition to produce Dan and Joanna raise a few cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys which they sell at their farm. Eventually they hope to sell their processed livestock at the market if any space opens up. All of DanJo Farms produce and livestock are Certified Naturally Grown ( which means they use natural practices free of synthetic chemicals to produce food for their local communities. This weekend they will be bringing swish chard, asparagus, green onions, spinach, potatoes, lettuce and assorted herbs. If all goes well they might also be bringing a small amount of apples, Asian pears, apricots, pie cherries and peaches to the market if the few fruit trees they have produce this summer. For more information about DanJo Farms and their CSA visit their web site at
I had planned to go to Vandailia, Missouri today but after talking to the Martins I will postpone my visit later in the spring when they have everything planted.
Next stop Baldwin City, Kansas to check Vinland Valley Nursery. I love visiting the greenhouses in the spring it just makes you feel good. Lucky for me everything is inside at this stop since it is raining. Vinland Valley Nursery is owned and operated by Doug Davison and his family and has been in business since 1998. They emphasize environment friendly gardening minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and use only organic products. Doug had a beautiful selection of annuals, perennials, vegetable plants and herbs. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this very cool purple plant that looked like clover. I think Doug’s passion is native ornamental plants which provide basic shelter and food resources for wildlife. You will find Vinland Nursery at the market this Saturday. For more information visit their web site at
Next week I am definitely heading south!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Farm Visits Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring has sprung and I am once again hitting the road to visit all the contracted vendors’ farms and all new vendors who would like to sell at the Market. I have received so many new vendor applications this year that I will be staying very busy this summer trying to get every farm checked. With all the rain we got on Wednesday night my big yellow rubber boots were a must today.

I try to check farms in a similar area so I can make a big loop and end up back in Kansas City by the end of the day. Today I am heading north to Plattsburg, Osborn, Lathrop and Lawson, MO my last stop will be in Kansas City, KS.

George Slusher, from Plattsburg, has been a vendor at the market for about seven years. Last year he took a year off and decided he missed all his customers and the other vendors so will be back this year. George has down sized his operation quite a bit so will only be renting one stall this year. He has been busy this winter building raised beds to plant his potatoes and onions in. A raised bed garden is a garden that is above ground and contained in an area with high sides. The farmer walks between the beds and it is a very organized way to farm. It can be any depth you choose and can be used for virtually anything you wish to plant. George plans to be at the Market this coming Saturday and will be selling his smaller potted tomato plants. He has some that are taller than me and won’t fit in his truck. He also has a little bit of garlic, black walnuts, cabbage plants and green onions.

Luckily the rain stopped by the time I left Georges and the sun came out. Osborn, MO is north of Plattsburg off highway 36. Bob Dorton is a new vendor at the market and operates a small tree farm. This is the first tree farm I have ever visited. Bob is bringing small trees to the Market, mostly the pine variety but will also have blue berry bushes and other assorted trees. As with most of our vendors, Bob works a day job in addition to his tree business so was not available to show me around but his horse was there to keep me company. Lucky for me he was very friendly and just followed me around.

Today is the day for visiting a wide variety of farms. Next up is a chicken farm. Ligia Wilson has about 300 chickens and is in the process of building a pretty big chicken coop. She has one small movable coop which gets moved around the property so the chickens can be in a grassy area. Ligia had a great devise to help keep the chicken safe from predators such as chicken hawks and owls. When a hawk swoops in the area a sensor goes off letting out a loud siren type sound, the chickens run for cover under the chicken coop, very cool. Best part of the day was seeing all the new baby chicks and the variety of chicken that lays blue eggs. Ligia will be at the Sunday market selling eggs as soon as she gets all of her equipment which is required by the Health Department. She also has plans to sell live chickens at the Sunday Market as soon as she gets her Animal Display permit, hopefully soon.

I had intended to check the Guban farm in Lawson next but could not get a hold of them to open the gate to their property. I was able to take pictures of a small section of their peach orchard. The Guban’s grow beautiful peaches and will also have table grapes this summer. I will have to try again when I am in the area.

I have another new farm to check, I thought it was in Kearney; oops that is where they live. The farm is in Lathrop so I have to backtrack a little. Tom and Anna Christopher operate a pretty large farm. They currently have one large greenhouse but have plans to add another one this summer. Today they were working on staking the 850 tomato plants which are planted in the ground in the green house. This particular house also has sides which roll up. So far Tom has 10,000 cabbage plants, 5000 cauliflower plants and 5000 broccoli plants in the field. Christopher Farm has 260 acres so as the season goes on they will also plant sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupe, pumpkins, eggplant, peppers and European cucumbers. I think they will be a great addition to the Market.

One more farm to check before I head home. Sai Lee has a small plot behind her house in KC, KS. Sai has been coming to the Market since the spring of 2011. She will be bringing garlic, green onions, cilantro and lettuce to the Market on Saturday. Her lettuce was looking very good.

Next week I need to head down to the Leeton area, I am hoping for a sunny spring day.