What Its Like to Be a Kansas City Farmer

Dani Hurst with son

Photo: Zach Bauman

   Dani Hurst of Quite Contrary Farmstead never fancied herself a farmer growing up, but now she’s tilling new soil as one of a handful of female farmers in the region, and her organic produce and eggs can be found in some of the metro’s finest restaurants.

  “My love of the gritty, dirty, taxing work that is farming came as quite a surprise to me. I was more of a bookworm (read: nerd) in school and not someone who played sports or showed much interest in prolonged physical activity of any sort — so you can imagine the shocked looks from my family and almost anyone else who met me before my miraculous transformation, once I told them my new vocation.”

   “I know quite a few female farmers personally, and I follow even more on social media who I haven’t met but whose stories inspire me daily. Female farmers might still be in the general minority right now, but I find it extremely heartening that more and more women are joining the farming community and finding their way back to the land.”

   “I can’t help but smile every time I see the first green stalk from a brand-new seedling breaking through the soil’s surface. No matter how many seeds I’ve sown in my life, there remains an overwhelming relief — almost giddiness — when the tiny green shoots finally emerge to seek out the sunlight. I am honored and humbled every time they heed my call. It is the quintessential image of new beginnings, and I get to see it in real life on a fairly regular basis. How lucky am I?”

   “A lot of work goes into the growing process before the seeds ever feel the cool caress of the soil. While most people are planning their end-of-year winter holiday festivities, farmers in this area are prepping beds and planting next year’s garlic crop. When most people are just coming off the highs of celebrating another New Year, farmers around the country are already researching plant varieties and ordering seeds for the upcoming season. And while most people don’t think much about farmer’s markets until they open in May, the farmers have been planning, planting and tending those crops for months on end.”

  “I maintain that everyone has at least one plant family that they just seem to jive well with. One of mine is the Cucurbit family, which includes favorites like cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, watermelon, zucchini and summer squash. From the truly dynamic way their seedlings erupt out of the dark, to the way their vines ramble along the ground to create a vast green jungle, to their abundant productivity in our fields — this diverse plant family most captures my heart and imagination season after season.”

   “Unfortunately, many people are disconnected from the processes that produce the foods they eat on a daily basis. They don’t really grasp the true cost of food production in time, energy, and money and don’t appreciate its inherent value. Customers often don’t understand why our eggs and produce cost what they do, sometimes having only their neighborhood grocery store for price reference. A large part of my conversations with customers deal with managing expectations and helping educate them on the intricacies of growing good food — which I’m more than happy to do.”

   “I often think of being a farmer in terms of being a “solar energy manager.” We don’t make the plants grow; we just try to provide them with the best conditions possible for them to thrive. Towards that goal, planning ahead can be just as important as the actual work.”

   “My favorite part of farming is the community it has helped us build. Through our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, we’ve built lasting and meaningful relationships with both families and restaurants across the city. I don’t have immediate family in Kansas City anymore, so creating a support system has been crucial to our initial successes. Having the opportunity to nourish people — physically and energetically — with the produce we grow with our own hands, has added a whole layer of significance to our endeavor that I didn’t even know was missing before.”