Kansas City Food Circle Grower Member
Linda Hezel and Richard Moore
Rural Clay County, Missouri
Flavor (@) PrairieBirthdayFarm.com
Volunteer educational apprenticeship opportunities are available.
Across the growing season the following are available in limited quantities:
- heritage and wild tree fruits (apple, pears, persimmon, plum, etc.),
- domestic and wild brambles and berries (Concord grapes, currants, etc.),
- heirloom vegetables and greens (tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, etc.),
- herbs and edible flowers
- wildflower honey, and eggs (pastured heritage breed duck and chicken)
Multicolored eggs from Americana, Welsomer, and Cuckoo Moran heritage breed chickens and heritage breed Indian Runner ducks.
Prairie Birthday Farm was established in 1993 as a biodiverse, sustainable land stewardship effort. Its 15 acres include heritage fruit trees and the following gardens: heirloom vegetables, herbs and edible flowers, small (berry, bramble, and vine) fruits, and wild edible fruits. Pastured heritage chickens & ducks, honey bees, tall grass prairie, and rotation paddock pastures for 2 horses complete the landscape. Native plant and edible landscaping surrounds the residence. Bounty from the farm is sold to local chefs and area residents. “Tell me of what plant birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education” (A. Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, Prairie Birthday Essay, 1949).
Exceptions to Producer Pledge
Go to Page 14 of this .PDF (Missouri Prairie Journal) for an article featuring Prairie Birthday Farm:
|PDF Version Available!|
Linda Hezel’s 40 chickens greet her at the gate much like a family dog would. The birds cluck excitedly, anticipating the tasty morsels they’ll soon pluck from the grass beyond their spacious pen. “C’mon, girls,” Hezel says cheerily as she leads them out to feast on fresh clover, weed sprouts, insects, worms, and larvae. As the pudgy hens peck and coo contentedly, Hezel gathers their eggs in a wire basket. “These are their gifts to me for taking care of them,” she explains with a grateful grin.Hezel, who grew up on a farm in Missouri, began taking care of people as a nurse’s aide when she was a teenager. Her 20-year career included stints in cardiac critical care, home health care, and college classrooms. At one time a certified family NP, Hezel has a master’s degree in community health nursing and a doctorate in education. But it was at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, in a course she established for nursing students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, that her long-standing interest in the vital link between ecology and human health took its clearest form.
Today Hezel practices what she calls “the purest form of nursing”—restoring healthful biodiversity to 15 acres of highly eroded prairie.
“I did not imagine when I left [home] to pursue a career in nursing that I would come full circle back to my childhood experience” on a farm, she says. “But this time it is with a new understanding that the fundamental requirement for good health is eating locally grown, organic, and nutritious food.”
Hezel says she bases her views about agriculture on the work of soil scientists of past generations who understood that nutritious food grown in fertile soil is necessary for good health. As Louise Howard, wife of Sir Albert Howard (the “father of compost”), stated in her 1953 book about his work, “A fertile soil, that is, a soil teeming with healthy life in the shape of abundant microflora and microfauna, will bear healthy plants, and these, when consumed by animals and man, will confer health…. But an infertile soil … will pass on some form of deficiency.”
A paper Hezel is collaborating on with University of Missouri soil scientist Robert Kremer notes that “fertile soil can only be achieved through organic methods of soil protection and deliberate restoration,” and that’s exactly her approach on Prairie Birthday Farm, 25 miles north of Kansas City. When Hezel and her husband, Richard Moore, moved there in 1993, it, like many farms in the Midwest, was suffering from the intensive row-crop cultivation—hoeing the space between rows of crops to destroy the roots of unwanted plants—that robs soils of nutrients and microbes and destroys native plants and wildlife habitat.
But because “prairie plants do not a prairie make,” as Hezel says, she decided to inoculate her own land with soil from nearby still-intact prairies to help reestablish indigenous microbes. “So much of what constitutes a prairie happens underground,” she explains. “Microbes spread wonderfully through intentional and unintentional inoculation.”So each morning after her husband left for work, Hezel rolled up her sleeves and applied her skills to raising their two sons, reconstructing a prairie, and producing food “without poison.” A decade ago, you would have seen her pushing her youngest son, David, through the grass in a stroller as she planted her orchard.As you drive onto the farm, you’re greeted by a Pesticide-Free Zone sign and countless flowers native to the tall grass prairie—a welcome contrast to the chemically managed and closely shorn lawns of suburbia. In fact, Hezel has reintroduced more than 50 native flower species alone. She goes on plant rescues, digging for hours to save native species destined to be bulldozed to make room for housing developments and strip malls.
Her attention to detail has paid off. Prairie Birthday Farm pulsates with plant and animal diversity, from assorted pollinators attracted to the heady aromas and bright colors of wild and edible flowers, to lush herbs, vine fruits, berry brambles, heritage fruit trees, and heirloom vegetables. Recently a bird counter visiting the farm recorded 108 birds of 43 species in just two and a half hours, and a horticulturist counted 39 butterfly species. Heritage breeds of chickens, ducks, honeybees, and two horses round out the farm.Besides feeding her family, Hezel also sells goods from her farm to local chefs and area residents. And by feeding the community locally grown, nutrient-rich foods, she’s still taking care of people. “Producing organic food and teaching others to do the same—and by doing this protecting our earth home— is the most powerful nursing practice,” she says.
Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RD
- Be mindful of how you feed yourself, your family, and your community. Grow your own food to restore local food sources and habitats for other species, offset greenhouse gas emissions, and enjoy fresh flavors and superior nutrition.
- Protect your right to produce your own food by taking action to prevent suburban sprawl into agricultural areas. Get involved with land use planning and farm preservation groups. Consider how your locality can feed itself.
- Read the label on any pesticide, fertilizer, or other substance you contemplate applying to your yard and what you grow. If you don’t want to drink, eat, or breathe it, don’t use it. Nothing you apply stays only where you put it, and everything you do affects something else.
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