See ALL the Photos . . .
Click over to the Summer Fun Farm Tour Series DAY THREE Album on flickr to see more than 50 of Tom Parker’s beautiful photographs from our tour stops at: Z&M Twisted Vines Wines and Winery, Schwinn Produce Farm and Barn, and Oregon Trail Farm.
‘Vines, Barns and Berries Day’ zeroed in on options with value-added production and agritourism, such as wineries, on-farm event hosting, and U-Pick operations.
Learn more about the 2019 SUMMER FUN FARM TOUR SERIES.
Z&M Twisted Vines Wines and Winery, Leavenworth, KS
By Mary Howell
A Kansas winery with a twist; innovative wines made from responsibly-grown grapes from their own Twisted Vineyard and locally sourced produce.
The story of Z&M Twisted Vines Wine and Winery is a love story. The seed was planted when US Army Major Bryan Zesiger met Gina Montalbano, and they recognized in each other a shared love of wine, life, community, and the planet. As their relationship grew, so did the idea that would become Z&M Twisted Vines Wine and Winery. Z&M is the fruit of the marriage between two people, working alongside each other to create a product they believe in, here in America’s heartland.
Tradition with a Twist – When it comes to their wines, Bryan’s military background pairs nicely with Gina’s Italian heritage. Sicily, where her family hails from, has been making wine for nearly 3,000 years. Z&M takes traditional wine production methods and uses them to make something fun, accessible, and most importantly, delicious. From their Blackhawk Blackberry wine, to their Hellfire jalapeño wine, all the way to their Blacked-Out Coffee Wines, Z&M specialty wines draw from the best of Old World wine-making to provide something new and exciting, while honoring the surrounding military, local, and farming communities.
Major Bryan is retired Army and Gina recently retired from her career in education as a principal. They own 100 acres of which 40 acres has 1200 vines planted in the ground.
Harvest moon was the first wine they made, as well as red and white wines made with recipes from Gina’s family.
They have been in business one year, opening on October 26, 2018. They own all the labels and designs, LLC’s intellectual properties. They belong to the greater Kansas City wine makers.
They started out very small, from the house. When Bryan’s wine “Rosy Bottoms” was served at an event…and was a huge success, they decided it was time to open their business. In one year, they have grown very quickly.
For every palate there is a wine and a wine for every palate. They have three kinds of wine: Farm to table…blacked out… and burlesque port wine. Each one of the wines tell a story. Unique wines develop an emotional response to what you are drinking or eating. Each label has to be sent in and is federally approved. For example, their Dolce Baci – means a sweet kiss and is a light, fruity, sweeter red wine.
Bryan shares one of the keys to success, “Wineries have to make their own niche in the wine business. There are 5000 chardonnays on the market. Yours has to have your own special feature to keep your customer coming back to your wine.” Wine is a fluid industry…it is not black and white.
The success that they have seen in their first year has been increased by the relations they have built with their customers, the community, organizations and businesses. The events help with branding and getting the word out. Once a month they do a fundraiser for some cause. A percentage of the money is donated to the cause. They feel a connection to the causes that they partner with. Everyone is a real person and is treated with respect. It is all about relationships. The saying about an unhappy customer, “Don’t take it personal, it is business” doesn’t apply to Z & M! Bryan and Gina are passionate about their business and customers, “Our business is approached with personal concern. It is personal and it is our business! Build those customer relationships, they support you with their continuing business in return.”
Joe Schwinn, Schwinn Produce Farm and Barn, uses labor-saving equipment for specialty crops including a sweet corn harvester. Sweet corn is their biggest seller.
Schwinn Produce Market, Leavenworth, KS
By Mary Howell
Schwinn Produce Market started as a large family garden.
Jerry Schwinn along with his brother Jay, started selling the extra produce in a roadside stand and later a Farmer’s Market. What started as a 4-H project still goes on today. Schwinn Produce Farm sells their produce at the Leavenworth Farmers market.
They had 10 acres in a plot of land by the highway and all 10 acres were put into vegetables. The highest vegetable production sales are mostly sweet corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins and squash. Their biggest market was the residents at the Fort Leavenworth until 9/11. After 9/11 the access into the Fort to sell vegetables was not allowed.
Over the years the farm has sold thousands of bushels of fresh sweet corn. In 1990 they bought a sweet corn picker to harvest corn. Sweet corn is still their main seller.
The other enterprise on the farm is the big beautiful barn that is used as a wedding venue. They have a large shaded outdoor wedding ceremony area, the barn for the reception, meal and dance along with a bridal house for the wedding party to get dressed in and use.
Oregon Trail Farm, Leavenworth, KS
By Mary Howell
Ken and Cindy Devan named their farm after the original Oregon Trail which ran over their property.
Ken Devan retired in 2010 from the Army after 28 years of service, numerous duty stations, deployments and combat tours. He along with his wife and daughters settled in the Leavenworth area they now call home, upon his retirement from the Army. Ken is the leading organizer for the Farmer Veteran Coalition in the Kansas City area.
They have two daughters and always took the daughters everywhere they went, and to U-Pick farms. Ken went to school at Southwest Missouri State University and worked with one of the leading experts in Blueberries. He had experience working with blueberries and likes them, so he decided to buy a farm and grow blueberries, raspberries and blackberries that was previously a soybean farm.
He built up soil by adding coffee grounds and horse manure. A local tree trimmer donated free tree clippings.
After the first two years they expanded. Challenges exist, the pH needs to be just right, everything wants to eat the berries, birds and bugs. Because people are eating these berries Ken chooses to avoid or strictly limit herbicides and pesticides if he has to treat a problem.
Oregon Trail Farm has six varieties of Blueberries, 2 early, 2 mid-season and 2 late; five varieties of Raspberries, 3 thorn less and 2 thorny (which he does not recommend to plant thorny because they are so miserable); and three varieties of Blackberries. The rows are numbered 1 thru 6. Berry roots need to be kept cool and do not like wet feet.
The berries have a pressure drip system. Rural water is used and the water is high in pH. An onsite well is not cost effective. The cost to develop the well and system would buy a lot of rural water. A ditch-witch was required to put in water lines.
They now have a mulch wagon., which makes life a lot easier. To plant, they rip a row with a one row plow and put everything in the row and let it compost. Turn it over, then rip the other way then rip and turn again, 3 times. Manure, sulphur, urea soil amendments, tree mulch, used coffee grounds (if available) and horse and/or steer manure all goes in the ditch. All these amendments build organic material. Then plant the berry, cover up the ditch and apply more mulch.
Weeds are cut down and tilled in, it is compost also. After the turning process, Ken then tills the ground. They take soil and tissue samples to figure what other micronutrients that they need. It takes the blueberry cuttings 6-8 years to grow up and be really productive. Bushes will live a very long time. Ken knows of bushes that he worked on 25 years ago.
Bag worms and Japanese Beetle can be problem some. Ken prefers not to spray unless he absolutely has to. There are lures that can be used to lure pests to control them rather than spray.
A good way to become educated on the crops that are of interest and bees, is to join social media groups and learn from all the chatter that those sites produce. Those chat groups may have information that might need to be filtered for what applies and will work for an operation; then forget the info that sounds crazy.
Berries need to have pollinators, 90 % of berries need some sort of one. Hillside Honey used to be two miles down the road. Ken would see the bees in his berry patch on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the owner lost his life in an Ultralight, flying accident. His wife kept the bees for another couple of years with a family member managing the bees. Eventually they closed the business and sold off the bees and equipment.
Ken started out by buying 3 hives, he watched u tubes, joined a bee association NEBKA and talked to beekeepers to learn as much as he could. He has added 10 more hives.
In the winter time Ken paints hives. Hives are painted with a bright colorful array of different artwork and themes. Hives are numbered so Ken can keep better track records and production on the individual hives.
They started with three hives and added ten more, added bee food of yellow sweet clover, Dutch clover, buckwheat, lavender and other bee forages for bees to utilize. The weed looking patch at the pond is really a feeding area for bees, growing a mix of numerous plants and flowers that bees like and use in honey-making. Ken does process and sell the honey that his bees produce.
Ken’s next entrepreneurial adventure will be to start with a friend to utilize the friends portable saw mill and start harvesting some area wood.