City Roots: The Heart of Kansas City’s Farmers Markets - American Farmland Trust

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City Roots: The Heart of Kansas City’s Farmers Markets

During childhood, my family would pack up on Saturday mornings before the sun rose and head down to the Parkville Farmer’s Market. In addition to being a part-time librarian, my mom would sell tomato plants and other seedlings in the spring and vegetables in the summer, all while my dad used recycled 55-gallon drums to make rain barrels that were a huge hit. I always loved market days as the community of growers was so warm and welcoming. Everyone was always excited to trade, and I would often swap tomatoes and potatoes for honey sticks and baked goods. It was like Halloween every weekend.

As we grow, we often try our best to be as different as we can from our parents; their hobbies and careers often rebelled against. But here I am, two decades later, with a 1,500 sqft garden on my .33 acre city lot with a dozen quail and a recycled window greenhouse, working full-time as the Midwest Urban Ag & Small Farm Outreach Specialist with American Farmland Trust (AFT) supporting urban growers.

The American Farmers Market Celebration that AFT holds every summer is such a great way to support farmers markets, and I happily participated this year, tabling at The Historic City Market in Kansas City, Missouri. I love the Kansas City farmers market, City Market for its farm vendors, local restaurants, and produce distributors, there are so many incredible flavors and smells from all over the world in this one place, unifying the community.

I grew up a city kid, and our household was within city limits. My mom was an avid gardener and loved exploring new things to grow. On our family’s .30-acre city lot, she grew varieties of tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, greens, corn, and just about anything that the neighborhood woodchuck would stay away from. Anyone who has grown food knows it’s a labor of love, with emphasis on the labor, so I would get pulled into garden chores anytime I looked bored (except the strawberry picking, as I was told too many ended up in my mouth and not the basket). But I didn’t mind; I always loved playing and relaxing in the soil.

My mom would become an urban farmer before the term “urban farmer” was a buzzword. Her cultivation expansion included a dozen chickens, half a dozen ducks, and a miniature horse I adamantly named Stella. I now question if any of this was legal at the time, as Kansas City had not yet implemented its backyard chicken guidelines, but that didn’t stop her from pushing the boundaries. Eventually, Mom’s efforts grew and matured like the garden, our harvest exceeding what our friends and family could handle. So, she tried her hand at the farmer’s market to share the harvest with our community.

Juicy heirloom tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and sweet, warm watermelon, there is nothing quite like the farmers market on a hot Saturday morning. My love for farmers’ markets goes beyond the bright colors, bold flavors, and friendly atmosphere; in my book, markets are the heart of a city and summer. I wasn’t aware that the choices my parents made would set me on a never-ending journey of food exploration in my personal and professional life. They sparked a passion that has morphed and grown over the years, from Kansas City farmers markets to regional food systems and beyond Kansas City to the whole Midwest.

When you say Kansas City, many people know us for our epic style of barbecue, our rich Jazz history, or our Superbowl winning football team (maybe the tight end’s high profile girlfriend?). But when I think of Kansas City, I smell the spices from Tikka House, taste the pain au chocolate from Bloom Baking Co, and imagine standing amongst the incredible farmers of The Historic City Market.

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About the Author
Annalise Lallana

Midwest Urban Ag & Small Farm Outreach Specialist

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