Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Trip Back In Time

Today I had a very unusual experience! Several weeks ago I signed up to take an organic farm tour to help choose produce for the August beer dinner at Beer Kitchen. Our theme in August is an all vegetarian dinner to highlight the great food that can be prepared using fresh local produce.

All participants were told they were touring a nice farm just south of Lee's Summit, MO. We were instructed to wear closed shoes, long pants, and no tank tops due to the nature of the farm's thicket, and to meet a caravan of people in a parking lot at 7:00 a.m.

To be honest I was not looking forward to this dress code in 90+ degree weather, and I had also closed down the restaurant last night and then had to be in the parking lot in Grandview, MO and not Lee's Summit, MO at 7:00 a.m. sharp, only allowing for me to have about 4 hours of sleep.

Our trip south from Grandview, MO landed us in Rich Hill, MO. I know of this town well, as it is where my grandfather grew up and who still owns a large farm. It has probably been about 15 years since I've last visited.

Once we arrived at a small gas station to regroup, I learned that we were touring a large Old World Mennonite farm just outside town. These farms have no electricity, no running water, they give true definition to horse power, for all of the produce is harvested into horse drawn wagons and sorted on a conveyor belt powered by real horses, the farm workers are every member of each family from ages 5-65. Arriving at the first farm, I quickly realized that we were taken out of 2011 and dropped right into the mid 1800's.

We toured 4 farms in all, a melon farm, a squash, corn, onion, cucumber and berry farm, heirloom tomato farm, and a canning facility. The farms are not organic, but they use minimal pesticides and no weed control. When we toured the larges farm we were driven around on a horse drawn wagon, and allowed to pick any ripe produce we saw to take with us. I scored sweet corn, squash, green bell peppers, pablano peppers, candy onions, and garlic.

This is the heirloom tomato farm. The Mennonites string together tons of bird houses for insect control.

The Mennonite produce store. I purchased a variegated hot pepper and purple basil plant.

Just harvested cantaloupe melon.

True method of transportation.

The Mennonites were extremely gracious to us though we invaded their farms. I spoke with Benjamin our wagon guide for the large farm, and they only allow tours 2-3 times a year. They were wonderful, kind people who seemed to be just as curious of us as we were of them. Once the tour was finished we all went back into town and we had lunch prepared by the Mennonite cafe at a small local park. It was simple yet delicious with smoked free range chicken, home made bread rolls, cucumber salad, corn on the cob, and fresh watermelon and cantaloupe. My whole day was much more intriguing than I thought possible and I thank those farmers for allowing me to take a peek into their lives.


  1. That sounds awesome! Do they sell their produce on a regular basis? Like, can I go out and buy some?

  2. Did you sample some dandelion wine?

  3. that sounds like a once in a lifetime experience! You're Lucky!!!

  4. Tina-they do have a small store where you can buy produce, but any produce at Hen House and Price Chopper that has the "local" labor is most likely from that farm. This way you don't have to drive too far!

  5. Andy-No! But that sounds delicious!