Half a dozen stalls at the Lawrence Farmers Market feature produce and baked goods labeled organically grown or pesticide free more than ever before in the history of the 13-year-old market.
The open-air outlet for locally grown produce and many other food items is open from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays in the city parking lot in the 1000 block of Vermont. Nov. 11 is the final session for this season.
"I've seen an increase in organics every year I've been there," said Kala Patterson, market manager for the past three years. "It's probably the fastest-growing type of selling at the market, just ahead of bedding plants."
IN SPITE of the rapid growth in this kind of produce, there is no formal definition of what the term "organic" means. No state or federal organic standards exist at this time, and only a few organic growers in Kansas have been certified through a new program of the international Organic Crop Improvement Assn., a private sector certifying agency.
As a consequence, consumers concerned about the conditions under which their food is grown must take the initiative to talk with growers about their individual techniques.
Following is a list of many of the "organic" growers and "pesticide-free" growers who regularly attend the Lawrence market, and information from them about their operations:
ORGANIC GROWERS Lakeview Farm
Willis and Velma Vann of Lakeview Farm, Carbondale, sell organic wheat, honey and bread made from their wheat and honey, as well as handcrafts. They began growing wheat without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers three years ago to alleviate Mrs. Vann's allergy problems.
John and Kathy King of Sunflower Organic Farm, Edgerton, sell organic basil and other herbs, sweet corn, squash, green beans. They also sell herbed vinegars and breads, and try to use all Kansas and Missouri ingredients in those products, although the breads are not totally organic.
They have been farming one year on land not previously farmed, and employ sustainable agriculture techniques, which rely on materials such as water, mulch and fertilizer available on the farm to improve soil, rather than purchasing such inputs from off-farm sources.
Marc Pine has been gardening organically on his great-grandfather's farm in rural Lawrence for three years, moving here from Tonganoxie. He uses cow manure for fertilizer and no chemicals. Starting with a small plot of sweet corn, he expanded this year into tomatoes, okra, sweet and hot peppers, and turnips to sell at the farmers market.
Gary Marckel and Mark Lumpe are partners in this farm operation south of Wakarusa School off County Road 458. They bought the land four years ago and have developed it into an organic you-pick berry farm. At the farmers' market, they sell berries and produce. "It's the way I've gardened for a long time. It just makes sense to keep the land as clean as possible," Marckel said, explaining that he uses no pesticides or herbicides on the land.
Bob and Joy Lominska of rural Lawrence sell rhubarb, lettuce, snow peas, beets, cherry tomatoes and broccoli, as well as honey and eggs. They have been farming organically in quantities since 1973 and have been at the Lawrence Farmers Market since it began. They also are members of Kansas Organic Producers.
Joy Lominska said, "We don't use any commercial fertilizer, insecticide or herbicide. The only things we use to improve the soil are manure, compost, leaves and grass clippings." Mainly, they use their hands for pest control, and spray only an organic insect control.
Brucels of Wellsville
Ted and Gloria Brucel of Wellsville, new to the Lawrence Farmers Market this season, have been gardening organically for well over 15 years, the last two at Wellsville. They have a half-acre garden and raise all types of vegetables. They don't use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides on their vegetables, preferring cow manure and crop residue to enrich their soil.
PESTICIDE-FREE GROWERS Mike Meier Family Farm
The Meier family of Tecumseh grow watermelons, cantaloupe, tomatoes, sweet corn, onions and okra with no herbicides or pesticides, but they do use a chemical fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia, to add nutrients to their soil. They've been growing produce for a year and this also was their first season at the Lawrence Farmers Market.
The Pendleton family grows sweet corn pesticide free, and John Pendleton said, "We try and lean that way (organically) as hard as we can with asparagus and (other) produce we sell to the public." They have had to use some chemical controls on rare occasions, "but we try to get by with carrying a hoe or cultivating. We realize our customers are concerned about what they're eating."