J500 Media and the Environment

drumm farm, where ‘if it grows together, it goes together’ by jessicasb
May 3, 2009, 11:01 am
Filed under: Farmer Stories, Food + Health, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

Listen to a podcast about Drumm Farm here. View a slideshow of kids working at Drumm Farm here.

Hundreds of acres, covered in bright green grass and neighboring a busy, pearl-colored street, seem to extend to the horizon here in Independence, Mo. All of this land used to be a farm, but now just under three acres are dedicated to agriculture. The remainder of the land is used for a golf course and homes for foster parents and their adopted and birth children. This is Drumm Farm.

Matthew, one of the children who lives here, comes to say hello. He is wearing a T-shirt that almost goes to knees, and squints through his glasses as he looks up to speak to much taller visitors with the sun behind their heads. “I love okra,” he says when asked about his favorite foods from the farm.

“The kids are great,” says Bruce Branstetter, one of the farmers. He and his wife, Maureen, and fellow farmer, Tim Walters, are the faces behind Drumm Farm. But then again, so are the kids.

The entire organization — consisting of the farm, the golf course and the foster homes — is named the Andrew Drumm Institute, and it opened in 1929. 

“It used to be conventionally farmed,” Tim says about the land. “They couldn’t make enough income off the conventional farming because it’s not big enough. They’ve only got a couple hundred acres here. So the golf course took the majority of it and then we got our little 2-3-acre piece here.” Maureen chimes in: “With the goal being to keep the home for the children.”

Over the years, hundreds of kids have lived here — all boys, until 2006, when girls first started living here, too. Kelly Vandeventer, who has lived on Drumm Farm for seven and a half years, is one of the house moms. She says each home — there are three — have one set of parents and up to 10 kids, with a few being birth children, the rest being foster children. The kids and parents living on Drumm Farm are free to eat whatever fresh produce from the farm they’d like.

Sam, who is 17 and lives at the Drumm Institute, says because of his part-time job at Drumm Farm, he can identify different plants and knows how to plant and drive farming machinery. “It’s a lot of responsibility,” he says.

The farm is certified organic. “We try to get the whole range,” Bruce says about their fruits and vegetables. “Our goal is to try to produce as much diversity as possible.” 

Bruce and Maureen moved from the Ozarks in 1996 to Independence. It was soon after when they started to work for Drumm Farm. Both are former chefs and say their culinary backgrounds make them especially eager to share any cooking tips with visitors to the farm. “That’s how primarily I got interested in food,” Bruce says of his culinary days. Some local chefs even buy their produce at Drumm Farm, and some advertise the produce’s origins at their restaurants. 

Maureen manages to make cooking a tasty meal with produce sound incredibly easy and foolproof. She says she’s known for suggesting preparing “peas, green beans, tomatoes” in no more than garlic and olive oil. “My new saying now is, ‘If it grows together, it goes together,’” she says.

Drumm Farms sells its produce for 29 weeks, from mid-April to mid-October, at its own market and at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside on Saturdays, and at the 39th Street Community Market on Wednesdays.

— Jessica Sain-Baird


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