Friday, August 30, 2013

Today was a real dog day of summer; I tried not to look at the rising temperature as I drove. As hot as it was it was nothing to compare with last summer. I remember how burnt all the corn fields were last year, today they were green and went on for mile after mile. I visited farms in Hale, Higginsville and Kansas City, so for the most part I stayed on the interstates and highways.

Joe Bryson and his family have been coming to the City Market for many years and are located in the first pavilion in stalls 36-38 on Saturday and pavilion two on Sundays. This time of year most of the farmers start planting their fall crops especially the vendors who sell at the City Market, since we are a year round farmers’ market. Joe has got most of his fall crops in with drip lines lining each row.  Tomatoes are really coming on strong right now so if you plan on doing any canning, now would be the time. The Bryson’s had an abundance of tomato plants covered in green tomatoes, they had already picked for Saturday’s market. They were also picking green peppers, assorted hot peppers and really hot peppers and digging potatoes. About a mile from Joe’s farm, in downtown Hale, his son has a garden where he is growing all the summer squash, okra, green beans and more tomatoes. Joe is in the Farmer w/ Local Supplement category so is allowed to supplement no more than 50% of his produce each market day. Joe gets his supplemented produce from a couple of his Amish neighbors. As I was getting ready to leave the tornado sirens started to go off.  I asked Peewee if they tested them on the last Thursday of the month since there was obviously no storm blowing in. He told me they go off everyday at noon and 6 p.m.; it is like a very loud dinner bell.

From downtown Hale I just need to make a slight jog and I am heading south on hwy 65. My next stop is in Higginsville at Peacock farm. Peacock Farm has been in Betty Mendenhall’s family for generations (1868) and is on the registry as a “Missouri Century Farm”. Betty, as usual, was not at home when I arrived but her daughter greeted me and gave me a quick tour. Most of their early vegetables have been plowed under such as beets; radishes etc. but they are still harvesting tomatoes, green beans, long purple green beans, purple hull peas, assorted herbs and garlic. In a small greenhouse Betty also grows a variety of succulents which she sells at the market. A few years ago Betty put in a commercial kitchen on her farm, her hope was that she would rent it out to people producing products to sell at area farmers’ market, similar to what the Market does with the Farm to Table Kitchen. So far she has had no luck doing this so uses the kitchen for producing her own items such as jams, jellies and some baked goods. Betty is also in the Farmer w/ Local Supplement category and gets her supplemented items from the Amish action in Versailles, MO. Betty manages a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and has her customers pick up their shares at the Market on Saturday. Peacock Farm is located in the first pavilion is stalls 15 & 16 on Saturdays.

I had time for one more visited so thought I would head back to Kansas City and stop at Urbavor before getting back to the Market. Urbavo is an urban farmstead operated by Dan Heryer and Brooke Salvaggio, they also are the owners of Badseed Market located in the Crossroads Art District ( ) Dan and Brook have been at the City Market since 2008. At that time they were farming in a residential area on Banister Rd and due to city ordinance issues were forced to relocate to their current location. Sometimes things turn out for the best since they now are able to farm 13.5 acres of what was once unused land. I was not able to get to their farm last year and I was amazed on how much things had changed. They have fenced in the property in order to keep the dear out, yes there are a lot of deer in urban areas, added  about 84 fruit trees, 750 strawberry plants, blackberry bushes,  expanded their vegetable production and are building an earth contact home. I wonder what they do in their spare time! Dan took time out to walk me through the fields pointing out what they are currently harvesting, what they have replanted and what is done for the year. Dan and Brook identify their method of farming as “beyond organic” practices and strive to be totally sustainable without tilling or sprays. I was fascinated to hear and see how Dan plants potatoes. Most farmers plant the seeds underground and then dig up the potatoes. Dan places the seeds on top of the soil and covers them with mounds of straw, when ready to harvest they just push away the straw and pickup the potatoes. This totally makes sense and protects all the beneficial organisms in the soil. When we reached the back section of the farm Dan pointed out how they are growing their beans, squash and corn, he called it the Native American System. The corn is used to support the pole beans and the squash is planted between the rows, very cool. They are growing a few unique varieties of radishes for the fall; one is called a watermelon radish because it is red inside. I can’t wait to try it.  Urbavo is in the Farmer 100% category, they only sell what they grow. Dan and Brook are at the City Market every Saturday, during the summer season, in the second pavilion stalls 55 and 56. Urbavo does a beautiful job displaying their produce; it is a joy to see.

I am going to take advantage of the holiday weekend and take a few days off this coming week so will not be visiting any farms. When I get back I plan on heading towards Columbia, Mo. Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The weather is heating back up and I am so glad to have air-conditioning in the Markets new truck. Today Meghan Buum and I are headed to Manhattan, Kansas which is the home of K-State and located in the beautiful Flint Hills. K- State is where Meghan attended school; she was surprised to see so much farm land just outside the city.

The City Market has had many families who have sold at the Market for many generations; the Flores family is one of these families. Barbra Flores has raised her children at the farmers market who are now bringing their own children each weekend. This family is truly a farming family and operates one of the biggest farms currently selling at the City Market consisting of approximately 300 acres. For those of you who frequent the Market on a regular basis you might have noticed that Barbra has not been in her stalls lately. She was in a terrible car accident about six months ago and has been hospitalized ever since. She has continued to make good progress but will be in the hospital for at least four more months and then will have to continue with physical therapy. Andrea, Barbra's daughter, and her husband have taken over running her farm along with their own. When we arrived Andrea was just leaving to be with her mom so she had one of her employees show us the farm. The fields which were planted in vegetables last year are now all used to grow field corn, sweet corn and green beans. Not too far down the road and down a lane is one of their second fields which has more varieties of peppers than I have ever seen, I am just guessing but I think about fifteen different kinds. They ranged in color, size and heat. Meghan was very brave and tasted the very hot variety, I passed. We walked through row after row of eggplant, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupe, pickles, tomatoes, potatoes waiting to be dug, sweet onions and okra. They had five varieties of watermelon and were having the same issue as the other farms I have visited this summer, the coyotes and raccoons have been playing havoc in the melon patch. Silly me I forgot to close up the truck while we were walking through the fields and came back to a truck full of mosquitoes, and not the city variety, these were huge! About three miles away Barbra has another field which consists mainly of more watermelons, pumpkins and a variety of squash.  You might be wondering where all this produce ends up. Flores Farm sells at the Manhattan and Topeka farmers’ markets and provides vegetables to Liberty Produce in Kansas City and a few Manhattan grocery stores. Flores Farm is at the Market every Saturday for most of the year in stalls 72-74 and at the exit to the Market they sale live goats (ordered in advance) chickens and ducks. In years past they have always been at the Market on Sundays but due to Barbra’s accident have not been able to do this much this year.

As always I visit the farthest farm first and catch a few other vendors on the way back. In addition to checking the farmers I also check on the artist/crafters. Lisa and Jeff Kanantzer are from Topeka, Kansas and are known around the Market as the alphabet vendor. They photograph various architectural items which resemble letters, have them printed with a secret technique (which I promised not to divulge) which gives their photos a unique color. Lisa and her Father Larry scour old neighborhoods around the City and when they travel looking for the perfect letters. Lisa said that “R” is the hardest letter to find. They sell the letters separately so you can pick which ones you like the most; they have a few choices for each letter. Customers then take the photos home and display them in frames or the Kanantzer’s can take a special order and have them framed. Six months ago Lisa and Jeff opened up a new shop in Topeka called Uniquely Yours where they sell their alphabet art, jewelry (which is $2.50 for each piece) and unique purses. Just in case you want to pay them a visit when you are in Topeka the store address is 2900 SW Oakley. Make sure and stop by their booth, located on the east side of the Market, it is really interesting to hear the story behind each letter. Uniquely Yours is at the Market year round, every Saturday and Sunday.

As we were leaving Uniquely Yours we saw the smallest McDonald's ever. I think it is the real deal, what do you think?

We were making really good time today so are able to make one more stop before getting back to the Market. Right off I-70 and 78th street is the location of Hmong Vaj Farm which is owned by Chiong Vang. When Chiong became a vendor in 2006 he was farming a different location but a few years ago needed more space to expand his farm. No one was home when I arrived so Meghan and I walked through the fields on our own. What a difference from what I saw last year, the drought had really slowed down production. This summer everything is thriving and looks wonderful. He had an abundance of purple hull peas, okra, and assorted peppers. I could see where they had replanted lettuce and a few other items for their fall crop, crop rotation is key if farmers want to continue coming to the market into October and November. In addition to vegetables such as long beans, squash, eggplant and bitter melon Chiong and his family also sell cut flower arrangements. I will be visiting an additional location Chiong farms in a few weeks when I visit more vendors in that area. Hmong Vaj Farm is at the Market every Saturday stalls 99, 91, 108 & 109 and Sunday in stalls 85 & 86.

I am still up in the air where I will be heading next week since I still have a lot of vendors I have not yet visited this season. I got a pretty slow start due to the cold April and the snow in May, I feel like I have been playing catch-up all summer.

The following recipe is from the University of California and is also available each weekend at the yellow information tent.

Oriental Eggplant
Season: June through November
Storage: Refrigerate in a zip lock bag for up to 4 days
Health Properties: Immune system, blood pressure and heart health

Marinated Eggplant
5 oriental eggplants
1 T. sesame oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 T. rice vinegar
1 ½ T reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. each sugar and mirin (a kind of rice wine)

Wash and trim eggplant ends: steam eggplant 10 minutes until barley soft. Cut into bit size strips. Combine oil, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Mix well until sugar dissolves. Pour over eggplants: chill and marinate overnight. Serves 4

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Today was really an interesting day, I was able to visit a vendor who grows mushrooms, a soon to be u-pick berry patch and a farm that grows peaches, apples and grapes. I had to backtrack a little but I wanted to get these three farms checked this week. I ended up driving 238 miles today, which puts me at 3227 miles for this year.

I really did not know what to expect on my first stop today. I met Matt and Nora Trammell at the Market last weekend so I knew they grew mushrooms and I knew they lived in Overland Park. What I did not realize is that they grow the mushrooms in their apartment. What I have come to realize over the last ten years is that farms come in all sizes and locations. Nora and their son Dave met me when I arrived, and took me to their deck where they are growing brown oyster mushrooms in three laundry baskets. The Trammell’s get the spores from Wakaruse Valley Farm in Lawrence and then very carefully provide them with the perfect growing environment. The base for getting the mushrooms started is Starbucks coffee grounds, what a great way to recycle, and straw. Matt then sells oyster mushroom grow kits at the market so you can try this a home. I love it when someone thinks of something outside the box. We then went into their bedroom where they have a small plastic greenhouse set up by the window. With the help of fogger they have created the perfect environment for mushrooms. I always thought mushrooms needed darkness to grow, but this is not the case for brown oyster mushrooms, they actually need a little sun light. The coolest mushroom they are growing is the pink oyster mushroom, it is beautiful. Nora explained how they care for each kit, turning in as needed so every side gets the right amount of light. The mycycliam will start producing mushrooms in about one month. The Trammell’s will be at the City Market on Sunday, August 18th.  For more information about this unique business visit Trammell Treasures Mushroom Farm’s website at, they also provide you with recipes and tell you how to care for your growing kit. Very cool!

After leaving Overland Park, KS I head to Adrian, MO to visit Gayle Beachner. Gayle has been a vendor at the City Market for many years along with her husband Gary who passed away last year. Due to many obstacles Gayle has had to relocate her farm from Butler, Mo to Adrian. This season she is farming in a few areas around Adrien and by next year hopes to have everything at one location. She has already planted 1000 blueberry bushes, about 200 black berry bushes, eight rows of red & black raspberries, (three different varieties) even a yellow raspberry. By next year Gayle’s stalls will be filled mostly with berries. Her plan is to open a u-pick berry business on her farm, add a handicap assessable walking trail and hopefully by next year a pumpkin patch and petting zoo. It will be exciting to see how she transforms the farm over the next few years. The area is beautiful and it was nice to be able to walk through the fields and have Gayle point out where everything will eventually be placed, I think it will be wonderful. When I arrived they were picking green beans for the Market. Gayle and her daughter road with me to another location, about 15 minutes away where most of this year’s produce is planted. They had an abundance of tomatoes ripen all at once so will have a lot at their table this weekend. As you know I love seeing unique items being grown, Gayle had red okra ready to start harvesting, it was really pretty and I am sure my picture will not do it justice. She also has watermelons and cantaloupe planted but they were not doing too well and animals were getting into them. Her yellow squash and cucumbers were looking good and did I say she had a lot of tomatoes. This year has been tough for Gayle but I am sure she will be back on her feet before next season. Buds and Berries is at the Market every Saturday in the third pavilion stalls 101-104 and some Sundays in the second pavilion stalls 69-71.

After heading back north I noticed the gray sky ahead and by the time I got to Lawson, MO it had started to rain. Ludmila met me at their gate to let me in. The Guban’s peach orchard is located right inside the gate and consist of 300 plus peach trees, which are all hanging low with the weight of the peaches. Ivan grows a few varieties varying in size and color. Normally I would walk through the entire orchard but it was raining and vary obvious that the Guban’s are growing all their own peaches. All the trees were covered in blue netting to protect the peaches from the birds. The wonderful thing about the Guban’s peaches is that they pick them when they are ready to eat, unlike peaches which are shipped in which are picked before they ripen so they can be shipped and stored. The difference is in the flavor. In addition to peaches, apples, plums and persimmons Pink Blossom Farm also grows beautiful table grapes. After we grabbed umbrellas we walked through the grape vineyard. They have been hard at work this year constructing a trellis system to support the weight of the grapes. As with the peaches they grow a few varieties trying to figure out which will do best in the mid-west. The draught was really hard on the grape crop last summer so they were unable to bring them to the market, I was very disappointed since I had sampled them and knew what I was missing. This year they looked beautiful and were hanging in large bunches from the vines. They have had to insert mesh bags over each bunch of grapes and then cover the lower part of the plant with a net to keep the birds from eating them. What a lot of work and they do it all on their own. Pink Blossom Farm is at the Market is at the Market on Saturday and sometimes on Sundays. You will find them in the third pavilion in stall 119. 

Next week I think I will drive to Manhattan, KS to visit Flores Farm. Meghan Buum, the Marketing and Events Director is going with me to keep me company since it is a little longer drive. It should be a beautiful drive through the Flint Hills.

This recipe was on the internet from Salt Lick Restaurant in Austin, TX.I made it with fresh peaches I bought from Pink Blossom Farm but you could also use frozen peaches.
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup room temperature milk
1 room temperature egg

1 – 28 oz. can sliced peaches drained
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg 

Melt butter in a 9 x 13 pan.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and egg. Pour evenly over melted butter. Combine peaches, sugar and spices and spread over batter. DO NOT STIR!
Bake 35 to 45 minutes at 350 F until batter comes to the top and is golden brown.
Serve warm with ice cream.