by Enrico Villamaino
Andrea DeJesus isn’t just a farmer, she is also a certified public accountant. And that’s a good thing, because accountants are adept at keeping track of high numbers. Eight children, for example. That’s what A&H Farm, located in Manhattan, KS, is – a family farm for a big family.
Named for Andrea and her husband, U.S. Army veteran Hugo, A&H is also home to Ben, Drew, Suezy, Anna, Chrissy, RJ, Beka and Clara. It’s fortunate that the family plot sits on 113 acres. Andrea laughed, “With this many children, it’s good to have some space.”
A third-generation farmer herself, Andrea’s grandparents were truck farmers, growers of fruits and vegetables, for over 70 years. Her grandmother was the owner and operator of Barbara’s Farm, also located in Manhattan, for decades.
Growing fruits and vegetables is also how Andrea got her start in professional farming. “We actually started our CSA program, ‘Farm to Table,’ three years before the official opening of A&H nine years ago,” she said. Subscribers can come to A&H to pick up that week’s featured box of goods, which can include spinach, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, lettuce, baby bok choy, root vegetables, cabbage, zucchini, squash, broccoli, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, red and white potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, green beans, peas, turnips, pumpkins and radishes. The program consists of a 24-week season, though members can participate in shorter six-week or even single week options. They currently have close to 100 shareholders.
That’s not the only way Kansans get their hands on A&H’s farm fresh food. “We take part in a lot of farmers markets,” said Andrea. In fact, she participates in five farmers markets per week from April through September. “We have a pretty good range of distribution. We travel as far as Overland Park, Kansas, over 120 miles away.”
As agritourism has become more and more of a fixture at local farms, A&H has been quick to take advantage of community interest in their operations. “In the spring we have our annual Baby Animal Festival. Spring is the time of year for newbies at the farm. Our guests can check out all the new babies – baby ducks, baby geese, baby chicks, baby calves, baby goats, baby sheep, baby rabbits and more. At our Fall Festival, we host both families and school field trips. They can see our petting zoo, pumpkin patch, corn pit, corn mazes, hayrides, our ‘Rosie the Milking Cow’ exhibit and more.” A&H’s Fall Festival also includes a game area (complete with horseshoe pits and tetherball,) rope mazes, giant Legos, a 60-foot giant slide and “train rides.” Andrea explained, “Our ‘train’ is actually a four-wheeler towing a series of wagons!”
Another popular draw is A&H’s U-pick series. “Depending on the time of year, guests can come in to pick their own strawberries, watermelons or pumpkins,” she added.
The overwhelmingly positive response to these agritourism offerings has Andrea looking ahead toward creating more opportunities to bring in guests and educate them about farming and farm life. “We’re trying to start up Construction Fest for the summer. We want to set up a time in August for guests, especially kids, to come see and learn about tractors, bucket loaders, backhoes… that sort of thing,” she explained.
Andrea has always been guided by her family experience when shaping A&H Farm. “I always tried to imagine what my kids would want to see and do. As they grew, so did the scope of what I wanted to do.” She added, “Eight children provide a lot of insight.”
For more information, visit www.aandhfarm.com .