Friday, July 28, 2017

The weather this last week has been a little crazy and have caused some major issues for a few of our vendors. The extreme winds we had last Saturday can cause a lot of damage to a greenhouse or high tunnel, not to mention it is very hard on some plants. Many of the rural areas had flooding on Wednesday night, I know of at least one vendor in Odessa who had a portion of his field under water Thursday morning. Farming can be such a challenge especially when Mother Nature is in a mood.

I have been keeping super busy traveling around Kansas and Missouri the last few weeks visiting with new vendors and those who have sold at the market for a few years. Earlier this month I drove to Garden Plain, KS which is located on the other side of Wichita. It was a long drive but the day was beautiful and I love driving in the Flint Hills. I stopped at a scenic pull over to stretch my legs only to find out it was a cattle crossing where the cattle would get herded over the highway, it was very cool.

I think I got a little off track, the vendor I was visiting was Rhonda Loehr, the owner of Hill Top Farm. Rhonda is fairly new to farming, she has been growing thirteen acres of watermelon and cantaloupe since 2013 and has been learning by trial and error. This year’s crop was just getting ready to harvest but the extreme heat has been taking its toll on the plants, it was 97 degrees when I arrived. If they have enough product to bring to Kansas City you will see Rhonda at the Sunday market.

The day I visited Don Stucker in Blue Springs I had planned to make a day of farm visits.   The storms caused a change in my plans, the rain was a little extreme and the highways were backed up so I opted to stop in Blue Springs in the morning and Odessa on my way home once the rain let up. Don and Tracy have been selling microgreens and baby greens at the Sunday market for a couple weeks. If you are not familiar with microgreens they are almost any green vegetable or herb that has edible leaves and is harvested when the first set of true leaves sprout. Microgreens have a very concentrated taste and the health benefits are similar to sprouts but will vary depending on the type of plant. The variety of micro greens and baby greens Don is currently growing are sunflower, mustard, broccoli, kale, sweet lettuce, radish, carrot, peas, wheat germ, amaranth and spicy salad mix. As with many of our vendors Don and his wife have day jobs but love the flavor and health benefits of microgreens and want to share this with others.

On my way home that night I stopped and visited with Colin Douthit who has a farm in Odessa, Mo. Red Team Farm raises grass fed and grass finished beef, pasture raised pork, pastured poultry and free range chicken eggs. All of their chickens, in addition to eating in the pasture, are fed non GMO grains. Colin raises a smaller heritage breed of cattle called Irish Dexters. They are shorter and very stout, I couldn’t believe how thick their necks were. As we were standing among the cattle in the field I suddenly felt something nudge my arm, it was the bull wanting me to pet it. He was very docile and became my new friend. Red Team Farms hopes to start vending at the Sunday Market next month. For additional information visit their web site at

Monday, July 24, 2017

Stephen's Orchard & Apiary

Sarah here! While out checking a Youth Market vendor’s tomato plants, I stopped by Stephen's Orchard & Apiary a few Tuesdays ago to take a look around. Walt and Karlon Stephen are both a joy to be around at the market and I was really looking forward to seeing their place! Walt let me know ahead of time that they wouldn't be able to meet with me, but encouraged me to still stop by.

City Market’s Property Manager, Deb Churchill, came with me to Bonner Springs, Kansas to walk around the Stephen’s orchard and see the hives Walt keeps on property. The apple trees in the orchard were heavy with delectable looking apples. Surely they will be ready to bring to market in the upcoming weeks.

The hives were quite active, Deb and I decided we would be better off staying away from them since Walt was not there to advise us. The Stephen’s keep about two dozen hives on their property and have hives on other nearby farms as well. Having bees on the farm helps pollinate crops that would otherwise have to be pollinated by hand. I fully appreciate bees even if I am a little afraid of them stinging me.

While the Stephen’s market table is filled with tasty looking jars and bottles of honey, you’ll also see beeswax soaps, lip balms, and other body products that Karlon and her daughter Michelle make using some of the byproducts from the hives.

Find Stephen’s Orchard & Apiary at the market on Saturdays in the north pavilion stalls 141-142 and on Sundays in the middle pavilion stalls 67-68. See you at the market!

Friday, July 7, 2017

I have once again let myself get so far behind on updating the farmers market blog even though I have been very busy visiting farms over the last few weeks. Sarah and I put in a long sixteen hour day visiting all of our vendors who come up from the Joplin area on June 22nd. We tried to make sure we got to everyone since the first farm in Anderson, MO is a 3 ½ hour drive from Kansas City. I am so glad Sarah was able to adjust her schedule and ride along, sixteen hours in the truck by myself is a long day and I would have had to eat way too many snacks to stay awake.

Nhia and Ying Xiong, as always, were busy working in the fields when we arrived. It is a nonstop job staying on top of the weeds and getting things harvested for Market. In addition to the City Market Nhia also sells at the Thursday Webb City Farmers Market and a few other local markets. Their farm continues to grow each year, since my last visit they have added two additional high tunnels which really helps to extend their growing season. They added peach trees a few years ago which are now producing fruit, they are not sure if they will have enough peaches to bring to the City Market so more than likely you will not see this in their stalls at the Saturday market. The Xiong’s have been vendors at the City Market since 2008 and are located in the middle pavilion in stalls 83-86. They grow such a wide variety of products, too many to mention here, many of which are very unique and are in high demand with our early morning shoppers. A few of these items are maringa trea, chayote and cassava leaves which are native to many tropical countries.

Not too far from Anderson is our second stop for the day in Seneca, MO. This is the farm of the Lee Family who started their farm in 2005 selling at local farmers markets in the Joplin area. Mai was busy working in the field closest to their house when we arrived and was able to walked with us pointing out each type of vegetable they grow. They have had a rough time of it this year with all the rain but things are starting to pop back. Like the Xiong’s the Lee family has also added a high tunnel to their farm. Many of these high tunnels are part of USD grants which are available to small farm operations and make a huge difference in the length of time these farms will have produce available to bring to markets. The Lee family grows a wide variety of produce, Sarah was very happy to see that they grew patty pan squash. I must admit I had never tried this variety of squash but after roasting it in my oven I am now a fan, it was delicious. Lee Family Farm is at the City Market every Saturday through the end of October in the third pavilion located on the north side of the Market Square in stalls 116-118.

Our third stop was a little change of pace, we visited Sprout Faster Soil Supplement located in downtown Joplin. Aaron Smith is the owner and operator of a worm casting operation. If you are not familiar with the benefits of using worm castings in your garden or flower beds you need to visit Aaron at the Market on Sundays. His earthworm castings are all natural and organically produced and are very helpful in assisting with loosening hard soil and slowly releasing moisture to the soil. Aaron started his business two years ago and this year he had to expand to a larger building. You will find his product at 11 farmers markets in Missouri and Arkansas and recently Planters Seed and Feed has also started caring his soil supplement. Aaron’s operation seems pretty simple but everything he does needs to be precise, the worms don’t like noise, light or too much moisture. He even had a little bit of trial and error before he found the right dirt to start the process; his source for the dirt is a well kept secret! You will find Sprout Faster Soil Supplement in the first pavilion located on the south side of the Market Square in space 5 on Sundays. For additional information visit

Lucky for us we arrived in Webb City just in time for their Thursday Farmer Market. I have known Eileen Nichols, the Webb City farmers’ market manager, since I started working at the City Market in 2003. Webb City has a great farmers market which is obviously a big part of their community. When Sarah and I arrived the parking lots were full and the produce was going fast. Many of the vendors we checked on this visit also sell at the Webb City market. If you are planning a trip to the Joplin area make sure and take a slight detour and visit Webb City, for additional info visit their web site

After having a great visit with Eileen and a nice lunch at the market we pushed on to our next three stops for the day. Nhia Yang started vending at the market last year and her farm is located in Purdy, MO. Last year they struggled to have enough produce to justify the three hour drive to Kansas City but everything is looking great this year. Farming is all about the weather for sure. Some of the more unique items the Yang farm grow is Thai sorrel, malaka spinach, ground cherries and lalu which is similar to okra. Yang farm will be at the Sunday farmers market as a non contracted vendor which means their location could vary week to week.

Our next farm is located in Granby, MO which is pretty close to Purdy. Nature Valley Farm has been vending at the City Market since 2016 and is located in the third pavilion in stall 141-142. Ma Yang has a beautiful farm and a really nice area to wash and store the produce once it is harvested. It extends the freshness of the produce when a vendor is able to cool the produce after harvesting. I am seeing more and more of our vendors putting in coolers for this very reason. I am always amazed how many rocks farms in this area need to remove from their fields; Nature Valley Farm has started making a barrier around their field with them. Ma’s produce looked amazing as it does when they bring it to the market on Sundays.  

By the time we arrived at Craig Hansen’s it was almost 6:30 p.m. and I am sure we were keeping them from having their dinner. We had planned our visit to Carthage for this week since I knew Craig would be busy harvesting garlic. Hillside Farm got its start in 1995 with two cloves of elephant garlic, since that time he has expanded to harvesting 4,000 pounds of garlic per year. Over the years Craig has perfected his method for harvesting and drying the garlic, if not dried correctly the garlic will rot. You will find Hillside Farm at the Market on Saturdays starting in late June till they sell out which is usually in the fall. Their market location is in the middle pavilion in stall 89. 

We arrived back in Kansas City around 10:30 p.m. and needless to say we were glad to get out of the truck. Last week I visited two new Sunday vendors but that will have to wait for another time. The phones in the office are ringing off the hook today and I am struggling to stay focused. Next Thursday I will have another long farm visit day since I am headed west of Wichita, Kansas. Lucky for me I bought a new book on tape at the Friends of the Kansas City Public Library sale last week which should make the drive fly by.