Story by Dave Eckert | @eatsanddrinkswithdave
I love this time of year for many reasons: baseball, vacations (fingers crossed), and more than anything, fresh local produce. Kansas Citians have more options for procuring delicious local produce than ever before. There are, of course, numerous excellent farmer’s markets in Liberty, Parkville, The River Market, Brookside, Overland Park, and Lenexa, just to name a few. But here, I wanted to go right to the source, so I visited two local farms, one in Missouri, one in Kansas, and both outstanding.
Rusty Dodson runs his My One Acre Farm on property in Independence that has been in his family for nearly a century. “My grandfather originally owned it. He was the kind of guy who would say ‘Oh, you need a place to stay for a while, let me build you a house.’ So, he threw two small buildings up on the property in addition to the main house,” Dodson shared. “I’m rehabbing all three houses. I’m not that far along, but they all will get done.”
Photos courtesy of My One Acre Farm
Dodson says there were always animals on the land and a garden where his family would grow vegetables for their own consumption. Dodson has taken that model and run with it, adding ducks and chickens, which roam free most of the time, along with nearly a dozen or so vegetables he cultivates in five separate growing areas. Dodson has a practical approach to farming, figuring out what crops will grow best where, then treating the process, and the products, with respect. “We farm sustainably, and even though we’re not certified organic, we practice organic farming methods. That’s important for me, and it’s important that our customers know that,” Dodson said.
Dodson says My One Acre Farm started when he moved back onto the land from a 4,000 square foot house in the city in 2015. His first crop was heirloom tomatoes provided to his then chef-girlfriend who used them in a fresh tomato salad. The tomatoes were a hit with the girlfriend and her customers. Dodson was hooked, and the farm and the items Dodson was planting, began to grow. “I still have the fancy tomatoes and specialty peppers, but these days, I also grow real food,” Dodson exclaimed. That real food includes some amazing romaine lettuce that I had the pleasure of sampling, along with potatoes, onions, squash, zucchini, okra, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and, for the first time this year, corn. “I grow almost year-round as I start a lot of the stuff in the house in the winter. For sales, we typically sell from Mid-June through October,” Dodson shared. Much of Dodson’s sales come from word of mouth. He says he will also have a stand in Harrisonville over the summer. But an easy and quick way to connect with My One Acre Farm and its products is through Facebook. It’s how I became aware of this delicious labor of love, and how you can too.
On the Kansas side of the state line, I chatted with Deb and Jim Crum of Crum’s Heirlooms in Bonner Springs. As the name implies, the Crum’s also started with heirloom tomatoes, which have become their calling card as the couple supplies them to many of the best restaurants in the metro. “We enjoy working on the land and growing healthy and delicious products. People need to have good things to eat and know where they come from, ” Jim Crum told me. “For us, it’s all about eating local, fresh, and healthy.”
Photos courtesy of Crum’s Heirlooms
The Crums began with a small production of heirloom tomatoes they sold at local farmer’s markets in the early 2000s. This summer, thanks to friend and loyal customer, Craig Adcock of Jude’s Rum Cakes and Table Ocho fame, consumers can get in on the Crum’s amazing produce. “We’ve done a lot of work with Craig, and he asked us if we’d be interested in providing him stuff that we had that he could, in turn, sell. It just all worked out,” Crum shared. So, each week, the Crums contact Adcock and tell him what they have. They put the produce in one-pound packs, which Adcock sells through his kitchen pantry. The products vary from week to week, and consumers buy as much, or little, as they like with a one pack, one-pound minimum purchase until that week’s produce is sold out.
There are lots of terrific products to be had from the 12-acres the Crums cultivate. I asked Crum what is important for consumers to know about what they grow and how they grow it? “It’s grown locally. It’s grown with the utmost care and the least amount of intervention. We don’t use any herbicides or pesticides. We aren’t certified organic, but we strongly believe in organic practices,” Crum stated.
If you’ve had heirloom tomatoes at any of the finer dining establishments around town, chances are you’ve had the Crum’s tomatoes. If you want to get into any of their other tasty delicacies, check out Adcock’s website at tableocho.com.
And there you have it-two states, two farms, and many delicious decisions for the home chefs this summer and fall.