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!