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.