Kaw Valley Farm Tour includes area stops
Residents wanting a taste of what life is like on the farm got firsthand experience this weekend during the annual Kaw Valley Farm Tour.
Fourteen farms showed visitors everything from bison ranching to proper goat-milking techniques and everything in between.
Gary Gilliland proudly wore on his shirt a "I milked a goat today" sticker from the Screamin' Oaks Farm while he and his wife, Judy, sampled some wines at Holy-Field Winery. The Lawrence couple, along with Charlie and Nancy Yockey, Lawrence, started their farm tour in Winchester at C&D Berries, then went to Jefferson Hill Vineyard in McLouth, Screamin' Oaks Farm in Tonganoxie and finally, the Basehor winery.
"It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be," Gary said.
Some of the stops, such as Screamin' Oaks and Holy-Field, returned this year to the tour; others, such as Jefferson Hill Farm, were first-timers.
The fledgling winery and soon-to-be bed-and-breakfast was the brainchild of Maxine and Don Bryant.
"We had always wanted a farm," Maxine said. "We had always wanted to grow things."
More than nine years ago Maxine and Don began their search for a nice piece of farmland. Maxine recalled that their Realtor told them of a dairy a few miles north of McLouth.
"At first we passed it and I said, 'Oh why can't that be our farm,' but as it turned out it was," Maxine said.
Maxine, a former employee for the Shawnee Mission School District, said she and her husband had sometimes wondered if all of the work of transforming the dairy to a vineyard and the hour-long commute to work were worth the trouble.
If there was ever a sign the Bryants made the right choice in buying the 40 acres dairy, it was found wedged between two wooden pillars in the charred remains of a carriage house that had burned more than 30 years ago.
A thin piece of metal glinting in the afternoon sun caught Maxine's eye spring one day as she walked about her land.
Any fears she had were put aside as she pulled out the plate covered with layers of dust and debris. On it was the name Bryant.
"From that day we were never going to question it again," Maxine said.
The winemakers framed the plate along with a brief story of its discovery and now have it hanging inside what will soon become the bed and breakfast house that was just completed two weeks ago.
"We work extra long hard hours, but we really like what we are doing," Don said.
During the tour Maxine was in charge of taking visitors around the farm and to the gift shop while Don was in charge of the wine tasting.
Don said the farm would not just focus on the 1,000-bottle-a-year wine operation, but on the bed and breakfast.
Their goal is to make Jefferson Hills a destination for couples to get married or for businesses to use for parties or events.
Another goal is to open a cafe, where they will sell locally grown food and other local products like the hybrid chocolate spread called Catawba Fusion. The spread is made from the Bryant's white Catawba wine and homemade white chocolate from Sleepy Jean's Confections in Lawrence.
"It did really well," said Jean Younger, a lawyer-turned-chocolatier and owner of Sleepy Jean's Confections. "Sunday was a Catawba day. I had made about 14 jars and I only had a couple of them left."
Younger said there one man on the tour had tried the Catawba fusion and then sampled the Catawba wine and returned for a jar of the chocolate that he could hide in his refrigerator.