No matter what month it is, no matter how cold it is, it’s always green inside “high tunnels”, also called “hoop houses.”
“They allow you to extend the growing season,” said Christi Janssen, co-owner of C & C Farms in Scandia. “Typically in our part of Kansas, we wouldn’t be able to start tomatoes until early May, but we can get tomatoes in the ground the first of April and allows us to have them a month sooner.”
The tunnels aren’t heated, but they do protect the crops from the weather, allowing more produce to grow with less water.
In December, the ground is covered with dozens of varieties of lettuce, spinach, and mustard greens.
“When we started nine years ago, there was, and right now, there’s still a really big push for locally grown produce,” said Chris Janssen, Christi’s husband.
That appetite for fresh food spawned C & C Farms, named for Chris and Christi.
They grow more vegetables outside the tunnels, too.
“We plant everything on plastic so we run drip tape under the plastic, and that really conserves on water that way,” said Chris.
Between the fields and the tunnels, crops are growing year-round, which means there’s always something to harvest.
“It might be I’m picking a small row of asparagus,” said Christi. “It might be I’m picking strawberries. It might be the only thing I’m picking that week.”
On this day, it’s spring greens to sell to area grocery stores and restaurants, plus spinach that’s served at the local school.
The head cook at Pike Valley High likes to keep her lunch menu fresh.
“I know where it’s coming from,” said Kandi Wallin, who prepared a spinach salad. “I know it didn’t sit on a truck for three to four days in a warehouse.”
But what about the kids? Will they really eat spinach?
“It’s pretty good,” said one boy in the cafeteria. “I like it!”
“I love spinach!” said a girl at the salad bar.
“In the wintertime, we don’t get the fresh vegetables, and this is perfect because now we have the fresh spinach and salad greens,” said Wallin.
C & C Farms also sells their produce at farmers markets in Beloit, Salina, Belleville, Mankato and Phillipsburg.
“During the summer, we travel Tuesday through Saturday to farmers markets,” said Christi.
Plus, they and other local producers sell out of a storefront in Scandia and deliver directly to customers who order food for an entire growing season.
It’s called Community Supported Agriculture.
“For that, we have a radius of about 60 miles we travel, delivering produce to people,” said Christi.
It’s a lot of driving and work almost every day, but also, a taste of the good life for these gardeners at heart!