Thursday, June 28, 2012

"I have an idea!"

K&V Farms, Cowgill, MO

Gena Vasbinder looked at her husband one evening in 2009 after reading several books by Eliott Coleman on organic gardening and said, "I have an idea!"  Her idea bloomed, and in 2010, farming became a full-time job for both of them.  Visiting Gena and her husband, Paxton at their farm in Cowgill, MO was a pleasure for me.  The backyard she spent hours playing in when she was a child is now where she spends hours plowing, planting and harvesting produce for her business, K&V Farms.  The farmhouse her family purchased in 1973 is Gena & Paxton's home part of the week.  I asked if she enjoyed gardening when she was growing up and she laughingly replied that her Dad would probably say he had to whip her to get her to pick green beans when she was little!

High Tunnel helps to keep veggies warm during early Spring
She began with tomatoes and cucumbers, but today, things have obviously changed.  As she gave me a tour of her gardens:  kale, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, chard, blueberries, turnips, rhubarb, potatoes, leeks, kohlrabi, beets, carrots, cantaloupe, peppers, squash, okra, green beans, spinach, radish and watermelon!  I could hardly write fast enough.  A high tunnel helps new plants start under cover until the weather breaks in the Spring.

Besides attending farmers markets, K&V Farms supports itself by acquiring CSA members.  Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs allow a consumer to purchas a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Weekly or bi-weekly, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to you.
Watermelons- ready to eat in 82-85 days
CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront. This early bulk payment enables your farmer to plan for the season.

I asked Gena what she would like people to know the most about CSA's.  She said that the heart of a CSA is the relationship that you create with the producer.  "We are full-time farmers and CSA members support us year round", she said.  Market fees, seed, equipment repairs and ground preparation all come early in the season before any markets are even open, she explained.  The support of the members helps them off-set those fees.  Members choose their produce and tour the farm, often feeling the pain and joy Gena and Paxton do as they "weather the storm of farming", so to speak.  Gena said there are crop failures and other things they cannot control, but having the on-going support of their members means they can pursue their passion full-time.

Gena & Paxton Vasbinder making a go of farming full-time!
As I wrapped up my visit on this peaceful, quaint country farm, Gena's Dad was coming down from the tractor.  As I introduced myself, he talked about the ups and downs of farming and what it means when people choose to farm full-time.  He said by the time you add up all the time put into bringing produce to a farmers market, Gena and Paxton might be making $2.00 an hour.  That is what Gena explains to her customers when they ask why something at her table might be $1.00 more than someone else's produce.  She said it doesn't usually keep them from purchasing from her; they just want to know.  I had to laugh, as I was asking Gena's Dad questions about the early days of his farm.  He jokingly said of Gena, "She wouldn't have worked out there when she was little..would've have to whip her!"

It's good to know that some things never change and that is definitely the case at K&V Farms.  Family farming to bring you the freshest produce each Wednesday at the Gladstone Farmers Market.  It's not just the soil and sun that makes it grow, it's the Vasbinder's love!

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