Garden grows family bonds

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What began as a small garden for 4-H is now a two-acre plot filled with different varieties of vegetables and herbs after the Darin Kohlmeyer family found a niche to sell fresh produce at the local farmers market.

“We started gradually,” said Darin Kohlmeyer. “Our garden initially was for personal use. However, we had too much produce one year so we sold it at the farmers market and our customers encouraged us to grow more.” 

He along with his wife, Erika, and two teenage sons, Bryce and Bryan, own and operate B&B Produce that is a regular vendor at the local farmers market.

The couple initially grew alfalfa and later sweet corn in a field adjacent to their rural home. After selling limited produce at the market, the family began getting customer requests, which was the catalyst to start the two-acre garden filled with many varieties of corn, green beans, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage and peppers. 

The family also grows okra, eggplant, kale, Swiss chard, summer and winter squash, popcorn and gourds along with herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, chives, lavender, oregano, peppermint, sage, thyme and lemon basil. 

They boast of numerous varieties of the vegetables such as burpless and lemon cucumbers, banana and hot peppers including ghost peppers, yellow and grey zucchini, 11 types of squash such as Hubbard squash, white Italian Ice cherry tomatoes and more than 20 varieties of tomatoes. 

Erika Kohlmeyer explained the different varieties of vegetables offer different textures and flavors. For example, the yellow zucchini is sweeter than the green variety.  “It is great for zucchini bread,” she said. 

Bryan Kohlmeyer added Roma tomatoes are good for salsa and canning. The family cans beans and tomatoes at the end of the growing season.

“Each year we plant different things according to what our customers like,” said the oldest son Bryce Kohlmeyer, recently graduated from Paris High School and an agriculture business major at Ivy Tech College. This year the family planted spinach and different varieties of squash while several years ago they added Swiss chard to their list of produce.

The four members of the family work nearly all year around preparing, planting and picking the vegetables, but each person has responsibility for specific tasks to make the operation run efficiently. 

Darin Kohlmeyer selects and purchases the high quality seeds, creates spreadsheets and plots the garden during the winter months. Erika Kohlmeyer oversees cleaning the vegetables, the visual aspect at the market and price setting.

“We sell our produce at local produce prices,” she said. “Whatever the local produce prices are then that’s our price points. We set reasonable prices so that everyone can afford our products.”

The two brothers help start the seeds, plant, pick weeds and harvest the crops, while Bryce Kohlmeyer often oversees the sales at the market. Currently as the plants are in

growth mode, and the boys are doing routine maintenance of the garden. The family planted approximately 1,000 seedlings for the 2018 garden.

“As soon as the produce is matured, we will be picking daily,” said Bryce Kohlmeyer, noting there is only about a three-month period the family isn’t working on the garden. 

Work starts in January selecting their seeds and getting supplies ordered to begin planting in early spring. The seedlings are started in a greenhouse and transplanted to the garden when the weather permits.  

All of the hard work is to reach one specific goal. 

“We want to provide fresh, great produce that the customers knows where it comes from,” Bryce Kohlmeyer said, and his mother added, “We provide garden fresh vegetables to local residents, and we encourage people to visit us at the farmer’s market.” 

Bryce Kohlmeyer explained consumers don’t always know where vegetables are grown or how long ago they were picked when shopping in large retail chain stores. 

Along with earning a little extra money for the brothers, the small produce business also is a way for the family to spend time together.  

“This is not our career. It’s a hobby to get our family outside together and have fun in the garden,” explained Darin Kohlmyer. “It’s healthy for our kids to go out there and work to earn a little extra money.”

The Kohlmeyer’s produce is available at the Paris Farmers Market from 8 a.m. through noon on Saturdays during the summer.

 For special orders, contact the Kohlmeyers through the Facebook page B & B Produce or email kohlmeyerproduce4u@gmail.com.