Roy Henry had just piloted his green tractor-led hayride around a gravel path when 8-year-old Savion Gisler of Baldwin City peered across a fence at four alpacas who studied him just as intently.
They were the first he’d ever seen, he said, noting that they moved pretty slowly. Back with his parents, Scott and Angie Gisler, at the family car, Savion took hold of his 1-year-old foster brother Robert’s stroller and raced him toward a barn at The Henrys' Plant Farm in Lecompton, the first stop for the Gislers on this year’s ninth annual Kaw Valley Farm Tour.
Overcast skies marked the chilliest day of the young fall on Saturday morning, the first of the tour’s two days. Few seemed to mind the temperature, least of all the farm’s co-owner, Roy’s wife, Marcia Henry, who wore a scarf spun with the brown hair of one of their alpacas, Russ.
Marcia was happy to let visitors feel the silky smooth wool for sale while other visitors departed with armfuls of plants. But through the years, the tour has been more than just an advertising vehicle for the more than 30-year-old farm.
“A lot of it is just sharing and educating,” she said. “If we sell a mum today, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine. We just enjoy sharing.”
The Henrys' farm was one of 27 farms featured on the weekend tour, ranging from Lawrence to Lecompton, Tonganoxie to Olathe, and continuing Sunday. Visitors can purchase tickets for $10 per carload and fill the day with stops at farms featuring produce, honey, goat milk, pumpkins and other goods. Tickets for Sunday are available at kawvalleyfarmtour.org, along with a map of the participating northeast Kansas farms.
For the Gislers, Saturday provided a chance to unplug, however briefly. Angie Gisler, who said her grandfather was a farmer, looked forward to exposing their kids to animals like the alpacas or the Henrys’ 1,000-pound hog. After the plant farm, the Gislers said, a trip to Iwig Dairy was to follow.
“So many kids and people think that eggs and milk just come from the grocery store,” Scott Gisler said.
Meanwhile, Harold and Cindy Carter, of Lawrence, watched their grandkids peer into an opening in one of the Henrys’ barns as they tried to locate the source of a screeching sound: Goose? Peacock? Cat?
The Carters hoped to fit up to a half dozen stops into Saturday’s schedule, but Cindy pointed to her daugher, Kelly Innis, of De Soto, for the final answer.
“She’s our tour director,” Cindy said.
The tour has become an annual tradition for the Carters, who brought along a few neighbors in their carload.
As Roy Henry’s hayride tours continued along past the farm’s 20 greenhouses and a flock of sheep grazed a hundred yards away, Cindy Carter gave her endorsement to the farm’s gardens, which included a rolling water garden and a lookout tour that revealed a butterfly-shaped garden on the ground below.
“We come here every year,” she said. “The gardens are definitely a must.”