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.