Sunday, September 29, 2013

The season is winding down but all the farmers are still coming to the market so I still have farms to visit. Unlike many local farmers markets, the City Market is a year round farmers market, so many of the vendors are replanting in order to lengthen their season. Many crops do very well in the late summer early fall, such as broccoli, turnips and kale.

Today I am not traveling very far, just over the state line into KCKS. The City Market has many vendors living in this area who farm in their back yards, but their yards can be 1 to 10 acres or more. I was so surprised when I first started visiting this area to see how much land they have. I got a late start today; I had to catch up on my filing, emails and phone calls but since I will be at the first farm in 15 minutes, this was not a big deal.

I am sure many of you would never realize when you are driving west on I 70, right before 78th street, that they was acres of farm land just over the hill. There is a plot of land which is divided out and rented to some of the Markets farmers. It is a little tricky when I visit because I am not always sure which plot belongs to whom; they really need to post their name someplace. As I got out of the truck I startled a group of wild turkeys (about 10), I am not sure who moved faster, them or me, since I did not see them before I climbed out of the truck. I walked around the various farm plots for about 45 minutes; there was no one around but me and the turkeys, very relaxing.  The vendors farming this area and selling at the City Market are, Amy Lo, Pheng Her, Chava Xiong and a new vendor Youa Vang.  The produce growing in each plot is similar and has fared much better than in years past. This area does not have access to water so must be hauled in and stored in large containers. Hoses are attached to these containers and work much like a rain barrel. The area was peppered with zinnias, ornamental millet, gomphrena and celosia. They are still harvesting okra, kale, Thai peppers, lemon grass, rice, eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, and have replanted broccoli, lettuce and beans.  

Only a few minutes down the road and I arrive at Vanna Her’s. Vanna farms 10 acres with the help of her family. The farm provides food for all and enough to sell at the market. Vanna has increased the area she is farming since I visited last so I was happy that she was at home when I arrived to show me around. I got so tickled when Vanna showed me the patch of  winter melons, she told me that she told her grandson that they were dinosaur eggs, he is eight so totally believed her plus they look like they could be. Apparently they are not very flavorful but make a wonderful tea used for curing the flu. Vanna grows rice every year but for the past two years it has been so dry that it has not produced very well. She also grows luffa, like the sponge, which is known as Vietnamese gourd or Chinese okra and is part of the cucumber family. Vanna likes it fried, sautéed or in soup. She also raises sugarcane, pole beans, lettuce, bitter melon, lemon grass, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Vanna is a waiting list vendor who sells at the Market on Saturdays but her location changes weekly.

My last stop for today is at a farm that is worked by three brothers, Cha Vang, Yee Vang and Choua Lor. All three brothers have been vendors at the City Market for more than ten years. They also have enlarged their fields over the past few years. I always like visiting their farm; it reminds me of a patchwork quilt. It sits down in a valley and is made up of square plots, each a different color and shape and texture, it is just beautiful. I walk down each worn path seeing some familiar items and a few things I had no idea what they were. Luckily I came across Yee in the far corner of the farm. Yee pointed out what section of the farm was his and what belong to his brothers. One of the items I was unfamiliar with was water spinach or sometimes known as swap spinach. It gets its name because it can be cultivated both in water and on dry land. Another unfamiliar item was bitter eggplant, instead of being elongated it was small and round. Choua Lor is in pavilion 3 stalls 122 & 121 on Saturday and Pavilion 2, stalls 79 & 80 on Sunday.  Cha Vang is in pavilion 3 stalls 123 & 124 on Saturday and Pavilion 2, stalls 75 & 81 on Sunday.  Yee Vang is in pavilion 2 stalls 66 & 67 on Saturday and Pavilion 2, stall 76 on Sunday.  

Not sure where I will head on Thursday, I still have quit a few farms to visit yet this year.

Lemon Grass Chicken Soup

2# skinless chicken legs
4 lemongrass stalks
4 green onions, halved crosswise
1 onion, halved
1” piece ginger, 1/2 thinly sliced, 1/2 cut into thin strips
1 fresh Thai or Serrano chili seeded
1 tsp black peppercorns
10 cups water
5 stems fresh cilantro, plus 1/3 cups leaves
3 stems fresh mint, plus 1/4 cup thinly sliced leaves
1 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms

1. Place chicken, lemon grass, green onion, onion, sliced ginger, chili, peppercorn and water in large pot. Cover, bring to simmer. Gently simmer 1 hour.
2. Add cilantro and mint stems; simmer 15 minutes; strain. Reserve broth and chicken; discard remaining solids.
3. Shred chicken meat; discard bones. Refrigerate broth and chicken separately for 4 hours or overnight.
4. Skim fat from broth and reheat.
5. Combine chicken, thin ginger strips, cilantro leaves, thin mint strips, and mushrooms in a bowl.
6.Divide broth among bowls, and serve with chicken mixture on the side.

serves 6

Friday, September 13, 2013

The summer is winding down but the farmers are replanting for fall so I plan to continue visiting farms for a few more weeks. I was surprised today when we hit a wall of rain on I-70 around Odessa, just a little sad it did not rain longer, everyone could really use it. Today I have farms in Moberly, Richmond, Lexington and Buckner to visit and had some company. Justin Cottrell, one of the owners of KC Commercial Realty Group which manages the City Market and Deb Churchill, Property Manager for the Market went along, it was nice to have someone to visit with since I had long stretches to drive between farms.

DanJo Farms is the first stop today and is located in Moberly, Missouri about 30 miles north of Columbia. Dan and Joann had been vendors at the Market when I started in 2003 but relocated their farm shortly after that and did not return to the Market until 2011. The Nelsons are at the City Market every Saturday year round. They are able to do this since they sell a variety of value added items in addition to produce. Dan took us into their licensed kitchen which is located in an out building next to their house. This is where they process the honey from the hives located on their farm, produce the baked goods they sell (today Joann was making peanut butter cookies) dehydrate vegetables, dry herbs and anything else they can think to do which will help to extend their produce into the winter months, they are always thinking outside the box. The Nelsons are currently harvesting tomatoes, assorted peppers, fresh herbs and horseradish. Two of their greenhouses are just sitting full of weeds and dried up vegetable plants. Dan told me they call this burning off the greenhouse, they let it get extremely hot which kills off all the bugs so they can replant for fall/winter. In addition to produce DanJo Farm also raises pigs, turkeys, chickens, ducks, cattle and goats which are processed in a USDA plant and then brought to the market. Some of his stock is located about 15 minutes north of his farm on land he leases. With the chickens and ducks come eggs which they also sell each week. We got to meet “Boris” the bore and a new batch of piglets. Dan is currently working on switching over to Hereford hogs; these are brown and white like Hereford cattle.  DanJo Farms is not always located in the same stall on Saturday so if you can’t fine them, just stop by the yellow information tent and we will point you in the right direction.


 Next we head west on 24 highway towards Richmond, Mo. Keith Calvet is a fairly new contracted vendor at the Market. His main crop is corn and green beans. At one time Keith and his wife Rita ran a large commercial vegetable farm but over the years have chosen to downsize. Earlier this year Rita passed away and Keith is once again making changes in his farming operation. He currently is picking the tail end of his corn crop and harvesting green beans. Keith grows a large amount of green beans and is able to manage this with very little help because he owns a green bean picker. If anyone has ever picked green beans you know it is backbreaking work. In addition to Calvert Produce, Keith also operates a skeet-shooting range, a bird hunting preserve and boards and trains hunting dogs. You will find Keith in pavilion two; stall 68 on Saturdays as long as he has green beans to harvest.

Justin and Deb have been waiting for the next stop all day. The Fahrmeier’s farm in Lexington, Mo and also own and operate a winery which is located on their farm. I have seen drastic changes occurring on their farm since 2007 when I visited them for the first time. Ron and Joan have been farming this land since the 60’s and during that time have raised cattle, pigs and produce. They currently have twelve high tunnels where they are growing tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and artichokes. A high tunnel is a type of greenhouse, usually unheated, with a Quonset hut shaped frame and covered in plastic. The addition of high tunnels on a farm helps to increase production, in less space, and to extend the growing season by about four to six weeks. Brett showed us where they are planting their fall crops which are all being irrigated with water from their ponds. Their corn crop has been plagued with morning glories which have wrapped themselves around each stalk making it very difficult to pick. Who would have thought such a beautiful flower could cause so many problems.  Farmers have all learned it is a necessity to have a location where the produce can be washed and cooled. The Fahrmeier’s have turned an old hog barn into a walk in cooler equipped with a large machine used for wash produce. Not too far from the winery Brett showed us the beautiful mums they will soon be bringing to the Market, they were huge! The final part of the tour was the old barn they turned into a tasting area for their wines. The view from the patio is beautiful and a great place to check out the vineyards. Since I was the designated driver I did not partake in any wine sampling but it must have been wonderful because Justin and Deb bought a few bottles to take home with them. I always enjoy my visit with Ron, Joan and Brett. I only wish I could visit more often. The Fahrmeier’s are located in pavilion two, stalls 64 & 65 most Saturdays and pavilion one, stalls 27 & 28 on Sundays. Brett usually continues selling at the market at least through November.    

One more stop and we are done for the day. We were all so busy visiting we totally forgot to eat lunch and then it was too late and not a lot of good options.  Buckner, Missouri is on the way back to KC and since I had not been there for a few months was the perfect time to stop. Mrs. Frye was busy canning pickles, for their own use, so told us to just show ourselves around. All of the crops which were flourishing in the planting beds in July were totally burnt up so we headed up on the hill to see the crops that were planted a little later. The watermelon patch was not faring very well with the lack of rain so was not producing much. The peppers and egg plants, which love the heat, were looking pretty good. Marlin had two of his grandsons busy picking tomatoes when we arrived. Marlin picks them when they are a little green and lets them slowly ripen in boxes. This helps to keep them from splitting and getting sun burnt. The Frye’s are in the Farmer with Local Supplement Category so supplement all the peaches they have been bringing to the market. The peaches are purchased from Beckners’ Orchard in Lexington, Missouri. Frye farms are usually at the Market April – September.

Next week I plan to stay close to home and will visit all or most of our farmers in Kansas City, Kansas. Not much driving to do but a lot of farms to visit.

Tomato Pie

1 folded refrigerator pie crust
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese
5-Large garden ripe tomatoes
1 Tablespoon dry basil
1-1/2 cloves minced garlic
3/4 cups mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Unfold pie crust according to package directions. Place in a 9” deep-dish pie pan. Flute edges. Prebake according to the package directions. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and let set till melted. Meanwhile cut the tomatoes in bite size pieces, drain on paper towels. Arrange tomatoes over the melted cheese in the baked pie shell. In a small bowl combine the minced garlic and basil. Mix well. Sprinkle the mixture over the tomatoes in a medium mixing bowl; combine the remaining cheeses, white pepper and mayonnaise. Spoon the cheese mixture over the tomatoes, spreading evenly to cover the top. Bake in a 375 degrees oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is a golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.