Sunday, June 26, 2016

Last week I pulled out my hat, to ward off the heat, and headed to King City, Missouri. Justin Cottrell rode along with me today to visit the Wells Family Farm. Justin is one of the owners of KC Commercial Reality Co. which is the management company for the City Market.

The Wells Family Farm raises mostly black Angus cattle which are all grass fed but with a variety of grasses. The Wells herds appeared to be very contented cows. We drove to each pasture to check on the herd only to find them grazing along the tree line, I think they had more sense than we did. At one point about forty cows headed towards us at a full gallop, they thought we had food. Needless to say we high tailed it out of there, when I am told to run I don’t ask why.

Since we were already in King City we dropped by to see Donna and Daryl Clausen at Lost Creek Farm. I knew Daryl was out of town at an elderberry conference but Donna and their son Todd met us when we arrived. Normally I would have found Donna busy in the kitchen baking for Saturday’s market, but this week she had opted to stay home so Todd would be at the Market selling produce. Growing elderberries is new to Daryl but you would not know that if you saw the plants, they look amazing. It sounds like there is a lot of work involved in the harvesting of the berries but they can be used for making wine, jellies, syrup and pies. They were just beginning to flower when I was there and from what Donna told me the berries are super small. In addition to elderberries the Clausen have planted cabbage, beets, eggplant, squash, potatoes, onions, okra, cucumbers and watermelons. They received so much rain in May they had to replant some items three times, however things are looking great now.

Today I stayed near KC and started my day off in Platt City at Rivers Edge Farm. This is a family farm that has been in the Oberdiek family since 1880, in fact the road is named after them. They currently farm 900 acres of corn, soybeans and hogs. Fifteen acres of the 900 are dedicated to growing for farmers markets. At present they sell at the City Market on Saturdays, Sundays and some Wednesdays, the Parkville Market and the Leavenworth Market. Zach oversees the greenhouse which is filled with 1200 tomato plants which produce about 2,000 pounds of tomatoes per week. Tomatoes grown in controlled environments do not have the same imperfections as tomatoes which are grown in the field and can be started much earlier. Zach set the tomatoes in February this year. Gary told me they are really late in getting many of the plants in due to the heavy rain in May, by heavy I mean 4 inches in an hour and was so deep it covered the mounded plastic covered rows. Now they are dealing with too little rain and extreme heat. They were able to get green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe and squash planted. The watermelon should be ready in August, I can’t wait!

Just a short distance down the road and I arrive at Dry Lake Farm. Addie and Lloyd Horn have been vendors at the City Market since 2005. Lloyd handles the farming and Addie has a licensed kitchen built on the side of their home where she bakes wonderful pies, cookies and cinnamon rolls. Lucky for me Addie just pulled cookies out of the oven when I arrived and I got a sample of a double chocolate chunk cookie, made my day. Making pies were next on her to do list; she was working on portioning out the crust. Lloyd drove me around the fields; he has had a tuff time this year. Hail beat down his plants three times in the spring, last year he dealt with flooding. He had a bunch of candy onions he had already pulled; they were drying in the garage. As we drove through the rows of onions in the field Lloyd pulled one for me to take home, there is nothing better than a fresh onion. He hopes to have cherry tomatoes ready to bring soon and he has some zucchini ready to pick now. I always enjoy my visit with the Horns and look forward to it every year. You will find Dry Lake Farm is the third covered pavilion, most Saturdays, in stalls 126-128.

One more farm to visit in the same area along 45 highway. Floyd (Davie) Mc Farland and his son Mike have been Vending at the Market for years and years. I know that Floyd eats lunch exactly ant noon so I waited till 1:00 P.M. to stop in. He was just getting ready to go back out in the field to till in between a few more rows to help control the weeds. Floyd, like many of the farmers, is in dire need of rain. The tomato plants are flowering to only have the flower drop off in the dirt. This is very sad after all the work that has gone in to getting the plants to this point. Once we get a little moisture Floyd will have a wonderful variety of vegetables in his stalls. Floyd and his son are at the Market every Saturday in the first covered pavilion in Stalls 0 – 3.

My last stop for the day will be in air-conditioning, thank goodness. Like the farmers, I also visit the craft vendors to verify that the items they are selling at the Market are made by them. Kari Thomas lives close to the City Market so the perfect last stop for the day. Kari makes a variety of items by hand so her booth should be pretty interesting. When I visit crafters who sew items I look to see if they have a large amount of materiel, lots of spools of thread, interfacing, patterns etc. Kari had all of the above. For more information about Kari - On –Bags visit her website at kari-on-bags

 Next Week I am heading to Buckner, Missouri which is located east of Kansas City.

Don’t forget to stop by the Wednesday evening market; although it is a much smaller version of the weekend market you will still be able to restock your fresh vegetables. The Wednesday hours are 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Friday, June 10, 2016

I have been looking forward to today since I visited with Jack Wilson, Washington Creek Lavender, at the Market last Saturday. They will be hosting their open house this weekend June 11-12 and the lavender is in bloom. When I visited Washington Creek last year it was closed due to flooding, what a disappointment. What a difference a year makes. I found Jack and Kathy busy getting things ready for the weekend. A few years ago they expanded and added a barn where they have a really cute gift shop filled with everything lavender, I had to take time and browse.  This is also where they hang the lavender to dry after it is harvested. Since I visited last they have also added a small still where they make their essential oils which goes into their lavender scented soaps. The lavender fields are so beautiful and serene I had to take a moment to sit and take it all in which also gave me a chance to visit with Kathy and Jack. For directions to Washington Creek Lavender visit their web site at The Wilsons will not be at the Market this Saturday since they will be hosting their open house but are usually at the Market most Saturdays in stall 68 located in the middle farmers pavilion.

On the way back from Lawrence, Kansas I stopped at Tonganoxie to visit Chava’s Farm and to recheck Dang Chang’s farm. When I visited in late April Dang’s produce had not yet started to come up, at that time they were harvesting tulips only. The Chang’s are new to the City Market and have a stall at the Sunday market in the north farmer’s pavilion. They had more flowers coming up and had planted a nice selection on produce. Chava Xiong met me as I pulled in and walked me through his fields. Chava farms full time and has adjusted the items he grows since my first visit a few years ago. He is expanding the selection of flowers he grows and has added roses. He is also focusing on Heirloom tomatoes in addition to a great variety of produce. Chava grows a variety of yellow cherry tomatoes which I am a little hooked on so I was happy to see he had planted them again this year. In addition to farming at this location in Tonganoxie both of these vendors also lease land that sets up on a hill overlooking Kansas City and I -70. I currently have five vendors who farm at this location so I visit it often. Chava’s section was looking wonderful!

While I was here I also took time to walk through Amy Lo’s and Vang Thao’s plots. Each farm separately and marks their area with stakes and twine. Vang was working in the fields when I arrived so walked me along each row explaining that things are coming on very slowly since each time she planted the heavy rains battered the tender plants. But like most farmers, she never gives up and continues to replant.  She hopes to have produce ready to bring to the market soon if the weather cooperates. You will find her at the Market on Sundays throughout the summer.

Amy Lo grows a variety of flowers and has sugar snap peas ready to harvest for the weekend. Sugar snap peas are only available for a short time so I make sure and buy them every week; I love them as a snack or in salads. Amy is at the market every Saturday in the middle farmer pavilion in stalls 53 and 54.

Next week I am headed north to King City, Mo.