Friday, May 23, 2014

Today I made a really large loop when visiting farms, Kansas City, Fort Scott and Adrian. I had planned to get four farms in today but ran out of time so will plan to visit Hubbard Farms in a few weeks.

 Only 15 minutes from the Market and I arrive at the farm of Chao Lo and Lue Chang. They are leasing the land they are farming and have two separate locations. When I arrived I found them both busy at work trying to keep ahead of the weeds. When the weather warms up like it did this week weeds can take over a field in no time. You might have seen Chao Lo and Lue Chang at the Market last year but they did not have their own stall, they were helping out a family member. This year they will be a Sunday vendor selling their own produce. Lue Chang walked me through the fields showing me where and what they will be planting in the coming weeks. Currently they have lettuce, onions, kale, radishes, mustard greens and lilies ready to bring to the Market this coming Sunday.  I followed Lue Chang to another location on Parallel Parkway which is owned by his wife’s cousin. Lue pointed out the corner section of the Vang’s farm which he has planted. He had a good start on getting things in the ground but I will come back in a few more weeks to see how things are coming along.

Next I head south on 69 highway to Fort Scott, Kansas. Dennis and Linda Clayborn are the only farmers currently selling at the Market from this area. They have about 50 acres including the land their house and outbuilding are on and farm a little over 30 acres. They are very fortunate to have access to a lake, pond and creek for watering if they need to. But like most of the farmers they only do this when we see a long stretch without any rain. I was happy to see that the Clayborn’s were able to save all of their crops from last week’s heavy frost. They were out most of the night last Wednesday spraying all the plants to keep the frost from killing them. This is quite a task when you’re talking about covering 30 acres of plants. Dennis was not there when I arrived so Linda stopped what she was doing and showed me around. Linda and one of her employees were hard at work putting in tomato stakes, lots of tomato stakes! They bought a piece of equipment this year that helps to pound the stakes in, before they did this with a sledge hammer, makes my shoulders hurt to think about it. The list of plants they have in the ground range from lettuces, greens, corn, lots and lots of tomatoes, beets, onions, melons and a lot more. Their stalls should remain full through November if Mother Nature cooperates. You will find Clayborn Farms at the Market every Saturday in stalls 92, 99, 100 and Sunday in stalls 39 and 40.

I wanted to make sure I got to Buds and Berries today since Gayle’s strawberries are ready to bring to the Market on Saturday. I am so excited since it has been about five years since we have had a big crop of strawberries at the Market. The weather has been quite a problem lately. Gayle and Linda have 3000 strawberry plants and five varieties. I must admit I had to sample a few berries as I visited with Gayle and her sister Linda, they were wonderful! I love to eat them when they are warm right out of the field. Gayle and Linda have been really busy since I visited last year, they are close to finishing their licensed kitchen so they can make value added items such as baked goods and canned or frozen items to extend their season into the winter months. They will also have a you-pick and pumpkin patch which will hopefully be opened to the public later this year. I plan to visit later this summer to see how things are coming along. Buds and Berries are at the Market every Saturday in stalls 101, 102, 103 and 104. They hope to start coming in on Sundays in the next couple of weeks as their other produce comes on. or

Strawberry Spinach Salad
University of Missouri Extension
Makes 11 one cup servings

2 cups sliced strawberries
9 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)

Mix berries and spinach in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, mix dressing ingredients well. Pour over salad.

I am taking a few days off next week so will not be out on the road until June 5th. I hope everyone has a safe holiday and remember the City Market is the perfect place to find everything you need for your weekend cookouts.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I started today off in Kansas City Missouri at the home of Laura Wymer. Laura is a new artist crafter vendor who will be selling at the Sunday Market. I love it when vendors make something new and unique. She also makes a variety of different items so her booth should be pretty interesting. Laura makes really cute pup tents just the right size for children, which are also collapsible and can be made to order with an original painting on the side. The tent I saw today had her son’s favorite character on it. Laura also makes yoga mates which are also perfect for children to sit on. They are made out of large handmade pom-poms and then sewn together. They are really cushiony and washable. Laura is not the only artist in the family, her daughter Zibah will also have original paintings to sell. The one I saw was very nice and would brighten up any room. I think this is one of those booths that will evolve as time goes on and could include hand painted note cards, handmade laundry soap, herbs grown in their back yard and possibly duck eggs. They currently have fifteen ducks, which is the limit their neighborhood allows. Laura is working on getting enough products made and should be at the Sunday Market in the coming weeks.

My main destination today is Hale, Missouri so I stopped in Higginsville on the way there at Peacock Farm. I have been visiting Betty Mendenhall’s farm since I started at the Market in 2003. Peacock Farm has been in Betty’s family since her great grandfather moved here from Virginia. Betty was not home when I arrived but her husband gave me the go ahead to show myself around. Betty has two small hoop houses where she starts the plants until they are ready to be put in the fields. The houses also contain some succulents, lettuce and herb which she has been bringing to the Market. They have already planted cabbage, peas, lettuce and tomatoes which will be ready later next month. Betty also has a larger area along the pasture which has been plowed and ready to go. A few years ago Betty put in a licensed kitchen on her farm so she also makes jams and jellies to sell at the Market. You will find Betty in the first shed stalls 15 and 16 now through October.

The drive to Hale was really nice, I drove through towns I did not know even existed and saw a lot of corn fields on the way. Joe met me when I pulled in but his son Pee Wee showed me around, Joe has been under the weather lately. I was told the ticks were bad so I immediately pulled on my big yellow boots, tall grass, snakes, ticks those boots come out. The Bryson’s have six tunnels in various sizes,the smaller tunnels contained lettuce, beets, tomatoes, carrots and the plants waiting to be put in the fields. They already have put in potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and the list goes on and on. This year they have added an additional 20 acres which they have already started to plant. Since they don’t have big enough equipment to take on the additional acreage, Pee Wee bartered with a neighbor to let them use their farm equipment in return for Pee Wee working for them, whatever it takes to make it all work. I will probably head out to Hale again in a month or so once everything starts coming up. The Bryson’s are at the Market every Saturday in stalls 36-38, 81 and Sunday’s stalls 90 and 91.

Next week I will probably head south to check a few produce farms. Last night many of the farms had a terrible frost which could really delay everything coming to the Market this summer. I spoke with one farmer this morning who was up all night spraying all the plants to keep the frost from killing them. Strawberries are just coming on, let's hope they also survived last night.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I can’t believe what a difference a week makes. Last week it was 42 degrees when I was on the road, today it hit 80.Today I did a little off-roading. There is a large area along I- 70 by 78th street which has been leased out to various families to farm. The City Market has seven of these families who sell at the Market on Sundays.

 I had originally planned to check the plot farmed by Vang Thao, who will be a new vendor this year. When I arrived I saw Chava Xiong who is a contracted Sunday vendors and has been for a few years. At this location it’s very helpful to have the vendor on the property when I arrive so they can show me exactly what section they are farming. Chava has been very busy over the past few weeks getting everything in the ground. He said his favorite time to start working is early in the morning as the sun is coming up, it is peaceful and relaxing. He has planted 4 acres consisting of flowers, three kinds of spinach, radishes, squash, 1000 tomato plants, bitter melons, sugar snap pea, long beans and the list goes on and on. Chava will probably have produce to bring to the Market by the end of May if all goes well. You will find Chava’s Farm at the Market on Sundays in stalls 54 and 55.

The vendor’s plot I had originally planned to inspect was still a ways off from having anything to harvest so I will probably come back in a few week. I also want to make sure I am checking the correct plot.

I have another new Sunday vendor to visit, Pang and Chao Her. They are farming the acreage beside and behind their home in Kansas City, Kansas. I was amazed when I saw this area, it is very hilly but they are utilizing every inch of it. The center of their lot is full of bamboo, which they are using as stakes for all their peas or anything else which requires support. When they turned in their application in March they thought they would have a little more produce ready to harvest by now, but as always it depends on the weather. They do however have onions and peas that will be ready to bring to the market this week. This is another farm I will have to revisit in a few weeks. As I walked through the fields I could not believe the number of deer tracks, keeping the deer out of their field will be a definite challenge.

I try to visit the Artist/Crafter vendors every couple years but lately I seem to be so busy with the farms I have gotten behind. Clyde Puckett has been a vendor at the Market since 1991. He started out selling Chickens but has found that selling concrete yard art is a little easier with fewer costs. Clyde and his wife Stella have been pouring concrete statues for the last 18 years, they were busy doing just that when I arrived. They have spent the morning pouring concrete into the molds, they have lost count of the number of molds they have. Once they are poured they tap on them with a rubber mallet to get all the air bubbles out. With the weather being warm and dry the molds usually dry in one day. They are then placed on pallets in the sun to cure. The Puckett’s concrete statues range from $5.00 to $25.00 and go very fast. You will find Clyde most Saturdays in the north east side of the Market by the concession area.

Produce is really starting to come on now so I will start focusing my attention on the vendors who raise vegetables and try to also get to some of the Artist/ Crafter vendors as well.

Friday, May 2, 2014

It sure is cold for the first day of May. While I was in Saint Joe today it was 42 degrees and winds were whipping out of the north. I did not dress appropriately!

Over the past few weeks I have been staying south and east of Kansas City, this week I decided to head north to Wathena, Kansas which is located just west of Saint Joe, Missouri. John Goode, Goode Acres, has been a vendor at the City Market since 2003. He raises a variety of produce, sells fire wood and once peppers come on he will roast them in his vendor stalls. You will know when he is doing this; you can smell them all over the Market. For now John is selling an assortment of vegetable plants and herbs, eggs, firewood, and lettuce. Goode Acres is in the Farmer with Local Supplement category so is allowed to supplement up to 50% of what he brings to the Market each Saturday as long as it comes from within 500 miles of Kansas City. The items John is supplementing at this time are hanging baskets, bedding plants and tomatoes. The weather has played havoc on one of John’s high tunnels; the wind took the plastic off about five weeks ago. You will find Goode Acres in stalls 5-8 located in the first farmers shed (south side of the market).

My next stop is only about 10 minutes from Wathena in Saint Joe. Natures Choice is located on 169 highway so is a cinch to find. I found Helen Messner busy in one of their greenhouse. This particular house if where they have all their vegetable and herb plants which they are currently bringing to the Market. They also have a section planted with beets. For anyone who has not tried eating beet tops you don’t know what you are missing. Helen drove me out to one of the fields where they have planted their tomatoes, I hope the temperature doesn’t drop too much tonight I don’t know how much the plants could handle before being damaged. There is always that risk. In addition to field tomatoes they also have a greenhouse full of tomatoes, these plants were looking really good .Fred put in a large field of black berries a few years ago, these won’t be ready to bring to Market until sometime in June depending on what the weather does. Fred and Helen are at the Market every Saturday and Sunday. On Saturdays you will find them in the first shed in stalls 12-14. Their Sunday location is in the second shed in stalls 60-62.

I have two vendors to visit in Plattsburg, Mo. The first is George Slusher. In addition to fishing everyday George grows a great selection of succulents and cactus. He builds really cute planters out of pallets and fills them with a variety of these plants; they would make a great mother’s day gift. He also grows onions in small raised beds next to his house and tomatoes. You will find George at the Market every Saturday and Sunday. His Saturday location is the third shed stall 122 and Sunday shed one stall 38.

Last stop for the day is located off highway C south of Plattsburg at Windy Ridge Greenhouse. Boy have the hanks been busy this winter, they have added a new tomato house and one other greenhouse. Clara and Bill were busy with customers so I roamed through the greenhouses enjoying all the beautiful flowers and even buying a couple. The Hanks do a very busy plant business at their farm in addition to selling at the City Market and Liberty Market on Saturdays. Their greenhouses were bursting with a huge selection of annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetable plants. Even a few I had never seen before. The new tomato house they put in this year is filled with 500 tomato plants and a row each of squash and cucumbers. The house is powered by a battery, since they don’t have electricity in this part of their farm. The battery operates the two vent doors on the end to control the heat and can also drop the sides of the house. It is very cool! If all goes as planned the Hanks will have tomatoes for most of the year. Between all the rain storms they were able to get their cabbage in, I am sure not everyone was able to do that. 

In addition to William and Clara their son Bill and wife Jennifer are also part of Windy Ridge. I drove down the road to Bills house which once belonged to his Grandfather; this is truly a family farm and has been for many years. Bill took me in their chicken coops; they have added a second one since I was there last summer. Most of the chickens are golden comets which also lay the most eggs. Bill told me they usually eat 400 pounds of food a week, plus grass and vegetables in the summer. These are some well fed happy chickens. This year Jennifer got a new rooster named Willy, he is much better behaved than the last rooster who ended up in the freezer. Willy better behave! The photo of the bucket is actually something Bill found on line to wash the eggs before they come to the Market. It is like a whirlpool so the eggs don’t break or crack. The Hanks are at the market every Saturday in the first shed, south side of the Market in stalls 32-35.

I’m not sure where I will be next week; I need to get to some of the Missouri actions. There are three in Missouri and always fun to visit.