What began as two greenhouses in 2010 has grown into eight at Show Me Produce in Cole Camp, owned by Gary and Jeanne Schwartz.
Moving into their fourth season, the family has expanded their production from a hydroponics greenhouse to several cold greenhouses plus outdoor strawberries, rhubarb and herbs. Jeanne is on the board of directors for both the Sedalia Area Farmer’s Market and the Cole Camp Farmer’s Market, and they participate in the SAFM Bounty Bag program.
In the warm months they deliver fresh produce once a week to local individuals and to Jake Davis at the Root Cellar in Columbia, but in the winter months delivery is every other week.
“Things aren’t growing as much, so if we do it every other week people can order and keeps without any problem,” Jeanne said.
Since beginning their greenhouse, the Schwartz’s have seen an uptake in people requesting fresh locally grown produce.
“It’s not a question of not being able to sell it,” Jeanne said. “People are in the mood for local produce, responsibly grown or sustainably grown. People want to know where the food is coming from. They are getting a little more educated, I guess about some of the dangers. Food safety is a huge issue.”
Although the weather outside has been sub-zero, spinach, carrots, chard and kale are growing nicely inside the greenhouses like small miracles in the making.
“To me it’s amazing to be able to have fresh (vegetables), now without any heat on it,” Jeanne said.
The Schwartz’s have added pea shoots, sunflower shoots and even popcorn shoots to their growing inventory this past year. Jeanne said the Root Cellar asked if they could provide them and they decided to try.
“That’s a new thing we’re doing,” Jeanne said. “They’re really tiny little plants. A lot of people put them in salads. They’re just kind of a garnish, or they steam them a little bit or put them on a sandwich. It’s amazing to me, if you eat this little pea plant it tastes just like peas. And the same way with the sunflowers, you get that flavor … I don’t like the sunflowers as well because they’re thicker.”
“And then we’ve done a lot of garlic outside,” Gary added.
“Yes, this year we’re going to have a huge amount of garlic, rhubarb and asparagus that we’ve put in” Jeanne said. “This will be our first year cutting the asparagus.”
Jeanne said she’s amazed that with the cold and snow outside she can go into the greenhouse and see and smell the green plants and the damp earth in the greenhouses. To protect the plants, both she and her husband tuck “little blankets,” or row covers, around them each night to keep them warm; and one of them stokes the wood stove outside the hydroponics house every four hours during the night.
“What’s amazing, is that this morning, the door to the greenhouse had ice and frost over the pane of the door,” Gary said. “But inside things are growing.”
January saw deliveries of bok choy, two types of lettuce, shoots, parsley, chives and cilantro, just to name a few.
“We vary it from week to week, it just depends on what we’ve got ready,” Jeanne said. “We’ve pulled almost 30 pounds of carrots this week. Turnips will be coming in, in just a little bit. We’ve had radishes through the winter, and green onions before too much longer, and Chinese cabbage.”
The winter selection is less than the spring and summer offering Jeanne said, but there is still a wide variety.
The Schwartz’s plan to introduce brussel sprouts and ginger this year.
“We are constantly trying new varieties and new things,” Jeanne said. “Like the ginger we’re going to plant. And they call this baby ginger because you harvest it and you use it fresh. What you get at the store is dried. It’s becoming really popular especially with some of the chefs.”
“A lot of the seeds she gets are from Israel and Spain,” Gary added. “Because they’re a lot more advanced than we are in hydroponics and greenhouse production. They have limited space and they don’t have very good soil over there, so they need to conserve water. Over here in America we just irrigate everything.”
The seeds are sold by companies in America and Jeanne often buys her seed from Morgan County Seed.
“The radishes are just popping up, and I’m thinking when it’s zero how can those seeds germinate?” Jeanne said. “There’s just something refreshing about the green stuff, when everything out here is dead.”
With the arrival of spring and summer the greenhouses will offer more than 15 varieties of herbs plus many more produce items.
At present, produce deliveries will be on Thursday or Friday every other week until March, and then every week until the farmer’s market opens in May. For pricing and information, call Show Me Produce at 287-7114.