And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadowlark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.
"Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer.
You may recognize those words, excerpted from a 1978 speech by radio icon, Paul Harvey. His ode to the American farmer outlines the extremes of the job--the long hours, the heights and breadths of a job that is more than a job, it's a calling. And while so many of our state and our nation's farmers toil outside of the limelight, a few times a week, you can meet a few of them at the area farmers' markets.
This year has been a rough one--rains delayed planting and some crops, like strawberries, had a shorter season due to mold. But the area farmers found ways to persevere--some grew in hoop houses, some sourced tomatoes from neighboring farms that didn't fight the flood waters. And so, as the river still lapped beyond its banks, the intrepid farmers came and set up tables, smiled at browsers and brought the spirit of optimism to their customers, along with fresh produce.
There are four farmer's markets in the Northland--Parkville, Gladstone, Liberty, and Smithville. All have a variety of farmers offering fresh produce and eggs, ranchers offering locally pastured meat, and other vendors--honey, essential oils, jewelry, and baked goods.
Farmer's markets aren't just for getting out the freshest tomatoes, either. In some ways, they are incubators. One of the Gladstone Farmer's Market's greatest success stories is The Laughing Place Bakery. Owner Alicia Hammon started her bakery in her garage and initially sold her wares at the Gladstone Farmer's Market. Now, the market is held a block away from their storefront on 70th Street. They still have a booth selling cookies, bread, and pies.
If you're looking for something fresh and local, one of the area farmers markets will have you covered from the fresh beef to the houseplants on your kitchen window sill. Meet a few of the people working hard to keep you fed this summer.
Parkville Farmer's Market
English Landing Park
Wednesdays Noon to 4 p.m. through September 11
Saturdays 7 a.m. to noon through October 26
Gladstone Farmer's Market
7010 North Holmes Street
Wednesdays 2 to 6 p.m.
Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October 30
Smithville Farmer's and Maker's Market
108 W Main St
Wednesdays 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. through September 25
Second Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. through September 14
Liberty Farmer's Market
111 N Water St
Saturdays 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. through October 7
Behind the Booth
Who: River's Edge Produce
What:Asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, and more
Where:Parkville Farmer's Market
Tarra McGee is the smiling face that you'll see when you visit the River's Edge Produce. Along with her brother, she is a fourth generation farmer, working the same farm in Platte City that has been in her family since 1886.
River's Edge specializes in tomatoes, growing them in greenhouses nearly all year round. They are known for their meaty beefsteak and flavorful heirloom tomatoes, although they also grow early season asparagus, sweet corn, and strawberries. Grab a Brandywine red or Cherokee purple for a fresh Caprese salad or bowl or roasted tomato soup.
Who: L&R Farms
What: Salad greens, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and more as well as row crops of corn and soybeans
Where: Parkville Farmer's Market
Lanny Frakes has farmed all his life--he's a fourth generation farmer and his son is the fifth. In addition to growing corn and soybeans, he grows produce full time. He utilizes high tunnels to grow his tomatoes and cucumbers but the rest of his crops are at the mercy of the weather in the fields, a prospect that has challenged his yield. He's still looking forward to mid-July's sweet corn crop and the pumpkins of October.
Who: Morning Dew Farms
What: Whatever will grow
Where: Gladstone Farmer's Market
Farming wasn't Joel L's first love--that was the military. But when the financial crisis hit and he lost his job, he decided to start his retirement plan--farming--early. Nine years later, he organizes the Gladstone Farmer's Market, now in its permanent home at Linden Square. Morning Dew Acres is located in Plattsburg and Joel's philosophy is simple--he tries to plant and if it grows, it grows. He grows organically and has an adventurous attitude toward this farm. He also raises chickens and sells fresh eggs. Find all the ingredients for your next frittata at Morning Dew Farms.