See ALL the Photos . . .
Click over to the Summer Fun Farm Tour Series DAY TWO Album on flickr to see more than 25 of Tom Parker’s beautiful photographs from our tour stops at: JET Produce, Greater than U Farm, and Cal Ann Farm.
The ‘Growing Undercover Day’ highlighted opportunities with high tunnel, greenhouse, and hydroponic production of produce, microgreens, and living herbs.
Learn more about the 2019 SUMMER FUN FARM TOUR SERIES.
JET Produce, Leavenworth, KS
By Mary Howell
Jacob E Thomas, owner of JET Produce Leavenworth, had a passion for growing vegetables that started in high school when he asked to turn part of the yard into a garden. He went on to Iowa State to get degrees in Horticulture and animal science. In the summer of 2012. On summer break from college he started JET Produce to grow high quality fruits and vegetables for the Leavenworth area. In 2014, he added meat to the business adding angus beef, changing the name to Jet Produce and Meats; later came chickens and eggs. Pork and lamb were added to the offering in 2015 with the addition of Duroc and Berkshire hogs and Katahdin sheep, a hair sheep that requires no shearing, and doesn’t mat. The sheep are also good for weed control. Coyotes are a real problem. Pyrenees dogs are used to guard the animals.
Jacob expanded vegetable production in 2017 with the addition of 5 hoop houses and a greenhouse. They plant seedlings sixty plants in a tray. They have decided to grow flowers also to make a little more money. Planted flowers and perennials are easy to grow. The two hundred hanging baskets they planted sold well. They enjoy experimenting with new varieties. Spring crops are followed by summer cantaloupe and squash plants.
The have added succulents, and in early summer plant Chrysanthemums. They arrive as plugs and are planted in pots for people to buy for fall yard flowers.
Jet Produce sells at three weekday and two weekend farmers markets and in their own farm store that they built in 2018. They also sell to local restaurants. The benefit of shopping at the farm store is they offer a wider selection of meat products to choose from, than what they take to farmers market.
Jet Produce donates their excess produce to local food pantries for use in the local community to help families in need.
The view is wonderful and there is always a breeze. They transplant their seedlings with a one row transplanter, an old tobacco setter. It cuts a v and the plants are set into the row, water is dripped in the row and then covered up. To plant thirty rows with sixty plants takes about two hours. Their livestock are all grown on the farm. Cattle and lambs are born on the farm. The baby pigs are produced by a neighbor, they are bought at weaning and grown to finish at JET Produce and Meats. The chickens for eggs and meat are purchased as baby chicks and are gown entirely on the farm. The animals are raised with access to high quality forage, supplemental hay and grain. The chickens are allowed to range and are also offered the produce trimmings.
People enjoy a trip from miles around, to meet Jacob and his family and purchase their high-quality Jet Produce and Meats!
Mark and Donna Olson, Greater than U, grow sunflower sprouts and microgreens in their basement in Lansing.
Greater than U, Lansing, KS
By Mary Howell
Mark Olson is a retired marine with PTSD and Donna Olson is a retired educator, who grow microgreens in their basement. The Greater Than U business is not busy enough to support a family, but it does bring in a nice supplemental income each week that they have microgreens to sell at the local farmers market.
Why microgreens? They are something healthy and not everyone else is growing them. They wanted and needed something that is a short-term project. They just don’t plant the next crop, if they need to go somewhere.
Growing in the basement was a test to see if they want to be in agriculture. The experiment was successful. Sunflower sprouts and microgreens. They have built a grow area and have proceeded to develop their business in their basement.
Microgreens are the first true leaves of the plant, the beginning 2-4 inches after they sprout. They don’t keep well after they are cut.
Sunflower greens and microgreens started in the 90’s in California. They started with sunflowers in high-end restaurants. To create something different, they cut the newly sprouted sunflowers off at the shoot. They were impressive and a big hit. Sunflowers are very nutritious, delicious and crunchy in a salad or as a garnish.
They sell at the farmers market at a decent price. We grow and take product to the Leavenworth farmers market. We do classes at the library and kids take home a kit to grow their own salad.
The grow medium is peat, vermiculite and compost. Equal parts of each and mix it up. To plant, they buy seeds in bulk. Microgreens come from regular seed.
The seeds are just sprinkled very carefully, evenly and thick onto the grow medium to cover. Compress the soil gently with a board and water it. Put it under a cover and water 2-3 times daily. After 3 days you have a plant. The sprouts are harvested at 5 days or so. Left over greens come home, get dehydrated for use in sauces, smoothies etc.
They sell only organic seeds. Sunflower sprouts come from organic sunflower seeds, soaked overnight so they germinate on the third day.
Everything that they tell customers about microgreens, they try to make sure there is some research on to back up what they are telling people. Nutrition is 30-40 times more potent than the full-grown plant. All of the nutrition is in the sprout of that plant.
Traditional sprouts grow in water. They tend to spoil easier. Micro greens are healthier than sprouts. Sprouts are just grown in a water setting whereas microgreens are grown in soil. There are separate regulations for food safety for people who grow sprouts.
Mark and Donna are certified as completing the Food Safety and Modernization Act FSMA training. Producing high quality, nutritious and safe food is a very high priority for them.
Cal Ann Farm
By Mary Howell
A family farm for five generations.
Jeff and his wife Pam are the fourth generation, their children the fifth. Their grandfather purchased a square mile of land in Basehor, at that time a model farm.
Officially formed in 1976, Calvin, Annette and Jeff. The farm was named after Calvin and Annette. Cal-Ann Farm, focused on dairy farm production that peaked in 1995 with 750 Holsteins.
Faced with having to expand but they were losing money, and the only way was to expand, or get out of the dairy business. 1998-99 saw the sale of the dairy cattle and equipment.
Once the dairy cattle were gone, they transitioned to beef cattle and row crops—400 acres of grass and 400 acres of crow crops, 75 head of angus cattle.
Aquaponics—a sustainable food production system that combines aquaculture the raising of fish with a traditional hydroponic method of growing plants in water.
Fish and plants are a symbiotic relationship. Cool water fish with cool weather vegetables, work together. They started with tilapia, the standard. The holding barn was good for veggies. That is when they started aquaponics and sold fish for a while.
Cal-Ann was doing a lot of produce during winter. Their second daughter, looking for a market for winter vegetables, was told by Ball Foods they needed a basil grower. The produce person came out and looked at the setup and said he would buy everything they could grow, but he was looking for a living basil plant.
They had lots of trials and tribulations along the way. They perfected the system and grew very good basil until recently. They grew and delivered living sweet basil plus varieties lemon, lime, thai, amethyst and osmin.
They did product branding and marketing, used a graphic artist to design a label, and even won first place award. Cal-Ann is consumer driven, and pushes their quality to enhance their reputation.
All of the kids have grown up and left the farm for an occupation. Jeff and Pam Meyers, aquaponic and hydroponic business for 15 years is now closed, shifting to consultation services on aquaponic and hydroponic growing methods. The next step—They couldn’t continue the without the help of the kids. They are sad to close the family basil business. It was highly successful! They have decided it is time to retire and quit production. They are selling off the equipment. It is now about family. They want to have time with the three grandkids.
Jeff will move into the hydroponic consulting business. He will use his experience and expertise to help other growers to get started.