Friday, July 31, 2015

I always know when I am getting close to Union Star; I see the wind turbines in the distance. No matter how many times I see these I always have to stop and take pictures. Today the wind was barely blowing so they were hardly moving at all. So cool!  

Donna and Darrel Clausen’s farm and commercial kitchen is located in King City, MO. Darrel met me when I pulled in. One of the many things I like about visiting the farms is to have the chance to actually visit with the vendors. The weekend market gets a little hectic so I very seldom get a chance to catch up with them. Darrel talked about the struggles he has had growing vegetables this year. He could not remember a year when they had so much rain this late into the summer and such large amounts of rain each time. He has replanted things many times this year and some vegetables, such as okra, he has just given up. Darrel recently attended a workshop on how to grow elderberries and since has planted a 1/4 acre. The plants will start yielding fruit next year and in three years they should be producing an abundance of fruit. If things goes as he hopes he might opt to switch over to elderberries entirely. Elderberries can be made into so many things that it will open up so many options for them and for the items they can sell at the winter market. Although Darrel has struggled this year he has managed to save some of his crops and has broccoli, cabbage, carrots, dill, assorted peppers, green and yellow beans, purple hull peas, and tomatoes and with some luck fall squash.

I found Donna busy baking in the kitchen. They have a separate building which houses a licensed kitchen so they can bake pies, breads, cookies and cinnamon rolls to bring to the market. Today she had just finished baking and wrapping cinnamon rolls, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Donna was mixing up key lime bread while we talked and popped it in the oven. I will have to buy some on Saturday since I do love key lime anything. Donna plans to make elderberry jam once the plants start to produce. Lost Creek farm is at the market every Saturday in the 1st pavilion located on the south side of the market, stalls 9-10-11.

After leaving King City I headed back towards Saint Joe to Wathena Kansas. I had visited Goode Acres earlier in the spring but with all the rain we had things were not really doing very well. John was not home but his wife Stephanie showed me around. Goode acres is very hilly, as is most of the Wathena area, the ground was trenched were the heavy rain ran off the fields. Even with the rain things were looking pretty good. Stephanie has been picking blackberries every day and the red raspberries should be ready soon. John grows a lot of peppers in various varieties, he will be bringing a pepper roaster to the Saturday market in the next few weeks. Customers purchase peppers which are then roasted, put in a bag and taken home, the smell in the market is wonderful. In addition to peppers they are currently harvesting onions, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, rosemary and basil. John Goode is at the Market every Saturday in stalls 6-8 on the south side of the Market.

My last stop for the day is also in Wathena, Kansas. Jarred Juhl has been a vendor at the City Market since 2004 and also sells at the Overland Park farmers market. Jarred will start selling at the City Market this week; he is very late starting because of all the rain. The plants just were not producing produce as fast as they should. Jarred’s farm is spread all over so I did a lot of off-roading today. We road through some of the fields in a four wheeler checking out the corn, tomatoes, melons and the list just goes on and on. Jarred is even experimenting with growing cotton to sell as an ornamental, very cool! Today I was very glad the City Market has a truck with four -wheel drive since I had to use it a couple times before we made it through all the fields.  Before I headed back to KC  I got to meet Jarred’s wonderful family which was a great way to end the day. Juhl Truck Farm is located in the 3rd pavilion on the north side of the Market in stalls 138-140 on Saturdays. He hopes to start back at the Market on Sundays very soon, stalls 22 and 23.

Next week I have a very busy day planned. The City Market is hosting the 2016 National Association of Produce Market Managers (NAPMM) conference in April. This conference includes farm tours so we will be visiting farms that will probably be part of this tour. It should be a fun day.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Today I had to get an early start since my first farm was 200 miles from Kansas City. I got to drive through a portion of the Flint Hills, if you have not driven through this area it is quite beautiful. I saw my fair share of cattle, longhorn steers and corn.

Kay Neff sent in her application back in January and it got mixed in with some of the farmers 2015 contracts. I came across it last week and was really embarrassed that I had misplaced it. Needless to say Kay got a big apology. Neff Family farm raises early crops so everything is wrapped up for the year but I knew I could get a good sense of what they grow on their farm so she would be approved for early next spring. Kay will be selling a large selection of fresh herbs and vegetable plants which she propagates from each year’s plants. All of these plants were still in the pots and Kay will start working on this task in September. Kay is a sixth generation farming family and everything they grow are started from plants they propagated and they grow everything chemical free. They have five high tunnels, one of which was pretty much destroyed by one of the many storms that came through that area this past spring. They will have to replace it along with the plastic on another frame. They also grow strawberries which have long been finished for this year, I was however able to see all the plants so know they have a nice size strawberry patch. In addition to growing produce Kay is a potter and will be selling her hand thrown pots at the Market, certainly something to look forward to next spring. For more information on Neff Family Farm visit their web site at

GPS got me a little lost getting to Sedgwick, KS so the day really got away from me by the time I headed towards Wichita. Hill Top Farm is 229 miles from Kansas City. Bernard was originally from Maryland and now resides and farms in Garden Plain. Bernard grows seven acres of cantaloupe which he has had to replant twice this year due to all the rain. In the past he has sold to his local Dillon’s grocery store but thought this year he would like to start selling at farmers markets and after a visit to the City Market they decided to give it a try. Bernard thinks he should have cantaloupe ready to harvest in about three or four weeks. He has a few different varieties which should provide melons for about twelve weeks. Hill Top Farms will be selling at the Sunday farmers market.

I found a great place to pullover and eat my lunch on the way back to KC, I guess you could call it lunch even though it was mid-afternoon. There was a little lake right off the highway with a picnic table so I was able to write my blog while it was fresh in my mind.

Next week I plan to head north of the river, I have a few farms in that area that I have not yet visited this year. Next week will be a lot less driving, but today the weather and scenery was beautiful.      

Sunday, July 19, 2015

After taking a couple weeks off from farm visits I thought I better hit the road today, the season will be over before I know it.

I always try to get to Comanche Acers iris Garden in May to see the irises in full bloom. This year I never made it since it seemed to be raining everyday in May. I found Jim Hedgecock out in the fields with a helper mowing and digging up iris bulbs. I think they were both happy for a reason to take a break. Jim sells mainly iris bulbs at the City Market starting about mid June. Jim is in the Farmer with Local Supplement category so in addition to selling iris bulbs he also sells produce that he purchases from the North Missouri Produce Auction in Jamesport, Missouri. All produce sold at this auction must be harvested within a 100 mile radius of the auction, which meets the City Markets requirement of a 500 mile radius of Kansas City. They accept produce from large commercial grower as well as backyard gardeners. The North Missouri Produce Auction is open the end of March through October and is open to the public. (32643 State Hwy F, Jamesport, MO 64648) Vendors in the Farmer w/ Local Supplement category are required to post the farm name and city and state where the supplemented produce has been harvested. Jim also had about 70 tomato plants which were covered in green tomatoes; Jim should be bringing his tomatoes to the Market in a couple of weeks. When apples are in season, Jim will purchase apples from Rasc Orchard in Lexington, MO. He must continue to have at least 50% of the items he brings to the City Market be his own. You will find Comanche Acres Iris Garden in the 1st farmer shed located on the south side of the Market in stall 30 and 31. For additional information visit his web site at

I decided to head back towards Kansas City and visit Juniper Gardens located in Kansas City, Kansas. The Market has three vendors who are part of New Roots for Refugees, a wonderful program sponsored by Catholic Charities. ( They help families get a new start through farming. They are given ¼ of an acre to farm and have access to a really nice facility that has a large walk in cooler for cooling down the vegetables once they are harvested, a large washing stating where the vegetables can be washed prior to bringing to the Market and a greenhouse where plants can be started early in the season. Each plot is sectioned off and the name of the person farming that section is posted which makes it very easy for me when I visit.

I never tell vendors when I am coming to visit so Mee Nge, Ha Li Mar and Sa Je Dar were not at the farm. I walked through each plot making note of the product being raised and what is ready to harvest for Market. The ladies farming here are also very lucky since they have access to water. Even though we have had a lot of rain it doesn’t take long for things to dry out in this heat and wind. The weeds also like this hot weather and have started to really takeoff, sometimes weeds can help to shade the vegetables and keep them from getting sunburned, so weeds are not always a bad thing.

Mee Nge is a Sunday contracted vendor and sells at the Market every Sunday in the middle farmers shed in stalls   63 & 64.

Ha Li Mar is also a contracted Sunday vendors who sells every Sunday her location changes every Sunday in search of a shady space.

Sa Je Dar is contracted as well selling in stall 84 the middle farmer shed.

Next Thursday will be a very long early day; I am heading west into Kansas. The first farm I will visit is 200 plus miles from Kansas City. I will defiantly be packing lots of water and snacks.