“I found one!”
Karen emerges from a row of hydroponic tomatoes holding the first ripe fruit of the season. The smile upon her face was equal parts pride and amazement. After all these years growing crops, you get the sense that she still has the excitement of a child who is just in awe of watching things grow for the first time.
With her prize in hand, she walks over to John, her husband, so they could share the moment together.
“The best part about farming”, she says, “is that I get to work every day with my best friend. That’s the thing I enjoy the most.”
John just grins back at her in agreement.
What’s the hardest part?
“The weather,” they say in unison.” Karen continues, “it has to be the hardest part about farming. We had a microburst hit our farm in 2006. Silos got knocked down. Everything on the farm was damaged or completely destroyed. We had over 300 people volunteer to come out after the microburst destroyed our farm and pick up fallen pieces of concrete and metal. People brought so much food we had enough to feed volunteers for two weeks. People were even picking up sheets of tin that had blown over a mile away and brought it back to fix roofs.
She takes a second to reflect on that experience as if contemplating what could have been and concluded, “It would have been very easy to just give up after that, but the community just wouldn’t let us quit.”
“We love our customers. We have some that come every day. That’s what we love most about selling directly to the public, the interaction. People love knowing who their farmer is. They love putting a face to their food.”
John and Karen Pendleton operate Pendleton’s Country Market in Lawrence, Kansas.
John is equal parts passionate farmer, skilled mechanic, nature lover, and avid entomologist.
A quick trip around the farm will have you encounter hard-working yet passive bumble bees that do the bulk of the pollinating in the Pendleton's hydroponic tomato shed to a bevy of beautiful butterflies that arrive, pollinate, and go on their way. And John loves all of it. He'll fix a tractor, do farm work, and still be able to tell you where the newest birds nest full of eggs is located. John can be found most days driving customers around on his vintage tractor as he shows eager pickers where the best harvest of the day is.
Karen is an enthusiastic farmer, dedicated educator, and incredible tour guide. She has a passion for teaching people about agriculture, whether it be about which plants to put in partial shade or the process behind how they grow their vegetables. Her roots in agriculture run deep, back to the days where she picked asparagus with her father on the family farm. Now, she's continuing that family tradition with joy, an infectious smile, and a tender heart.
But most importantly, their passion is to farm together.
Their relationship and connection with each other is one that makes you believe in something again. From John's admiring looks towards Karen or the simple way they just love to be in each other's company, their connection is beautiful and refreshing. It's something to get excited about...like the first ripe tomato of summer.