The produce Kathy English offers for sale at the farmers' market in downtown Delta doesn't get much fresher — she's up at the crack of dawn Wednesday and Saturday mornings to load her pickup with carrots, cucumbers, cabbages and more. By late morning, she's sold out of everything she harvested that morning.
Tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon — folks are anxious for the unbeatable taste of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
While farmers' markets have gained popularity with city folks who want to know where their food came from, and how it got to their plate, the folks who frequent Delta's farmers' market are generally more straightforward in their approach. They know that Kathy will bring only the ripest, freshest-tasting produce, and they know that if they need a boxful for canning, she'll be able to provide that, too.
Now's the time of year when everything is ripe for the picking, and that means Kathy will be laboring 12, 14 and even 16 hours a day until mid-September.
The 11 or so acres of Bill and Kathy English's farm dedicated to gardening are prolific producers of beets, onions, garlic, carrots, pumpkins, green beans, sweet corn, watermelon, gourds, cantaloupe, potatoes, a variety of squash, and peppers of all kinds. Sections have been devoted to early, middle and late plantings of most vegetable types so Kathy can keep her customers supplied into the fall months. There is one crop she cuts back on — squash. "Don't plant a lot of that in the fall because everybody has a squash plant in their yard."
For the first time in Kathy's experience, sweet corn was ready for harvest by the 4th of July.
"That's never happened before, but everything was early this year."
In addition to selling at the farmers' market, Kathy has a number of wholesale customers who stop by the farm near Pea Green for special orders. Tomatoes and pumpkins are shipped out by the semi-load.
"We send out pallets and pallets of tomatoes," Kathy said. When she's not at the farmers' market, you're likely to find her in the shed sorting and boxing the tomatoes for shipment. This task is so overwhelming it requires the help of Merced's wife.
The English farm is comprised of 84 acres, plus they farm two additional parcels of 11 and 24 acres for neighboring landowners. The bulk ofthe land is planted with feed corn for Foster Farms. That side of the operation is handled by Bill. "He's the real farmer," Kathy says.
She didn't get into farming until after she and Bill were married in 1970. "I went to college and obtained a master's degree in child psychology. My dad still shakes his head."
Her introduction to farming came from a widely known expert, John Harold. She worked for him for several years before "Olathe Sweet" gained its well-earned reputation for outstanding flavor. She and Bill were also involved in field testing the sweet corn.
They have two employees, including one who has been with them for over 35 years. Merced made the move with them when they sold their farm on East Mesa outside of Olathe and moved to the opposite side of Highway 50 in 1989.
With an eye on retirement, Bill and Kathy put their farm up for sale about five years ago.
"It's pretty hard to sell anything right now, I suppose, but nobody wants to buy a farm — it's too much work," Kathy says.
So they keep planting and harvesting, planting and harvesting, but Kathy says they're definitely slowing down. Health issues have been a concern since she and Bill were involved in an accident that totaled their pickuplast spring. Bill escaped serious injury but Kathy was hospitalized for several days with broken ribs and a knee injury. She continues to have problems with her heart — a result of the sudden impact from the pickup's airbag. Still, both she and Bill are up at 4:30 a.m. to start irrigating. The threat of a water shortage has forced the Englishes to conserve, but Kathy says that's just made them do a better job of farming.
Then it's into the fields to start picking. It's not a big farm, but as any gardener knows, a healthy, productive garden requires constant planting, weeding, watering and spraying.
So when the end of October rolls around, Bill and Kathy are ready to disappear for a few days. They let just a couple of family members in on their plans, then they take off for parts unknown.
Despite the lingering injuries from her traffic accident, and the long hours needed to make a farm successful, Kathy always has a smile for her longtime customers. And when they no longer show up once or twice a week, it's like she's lost an old friend — one that she wants to make sure has the best home-grown produce she has to offer.blog comments powered by Disqus