Jack Frain stands with a 6 foot tall tomato plant in his backyard garden. Photos by Kathy Feist
A Late Harvest
By Kathy Feist
(This article first appeared in the August 6 print issue.)
The pleasant weather this summer may be ideal for many. But for those who make a living selling vegetables, this summer has been frustrating.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” says 86-year-old Jack Frain. Frain has been growing tomatoes in his backyard off 117th Terrace and Holmes Rd. since 1965. It’s usually sometime in July when he places his sign along the road near St. Thomas More church. In fact, it was only a year ago when he was selling tomatoes as early as late June.
“It’s just too cool for tomatoes and other veggies,” he states. “The cool nights that get under 70 degrees just won’t let them ripen.”
Slow growth for tomatoes are usually due to cool temperatures and oversaturation. By the end of June, Kansas City had received over 32 inches in rain, making 2019 the wettest year on record up to that date.
“It’s the same story for everybody,” says Frain.
A few miles away at 143th and Kenneth Rd. (State Line), Bill Keller, who has run his produce stand for 25 years, says this is the latest harvest he has ever known. He opened his stand in mid-July.
But the customers keep coming. Out of the thousands of tomatoes ripening in Frain’s backyard, only a couple dozen are ready for sale each day. They are sold by mid-morning. For the unsuspecting afternoon customers, Frain gives them a peek at his garden to offer hope. There, large green tomatoes hang on the vine waiting for the sun to turn them red. When they do, Frain will be busting with business.
UPDATE: As of the end of August, both Frain and Keller are dealing with bumper crops of tomatoes and will continue to as long as the sun shines. Want homegrown tomatoes any day of the week? You can contact Jack Frain at 816-942-1199.