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.