Meet the vendor: JET Produce and Meats

Meet the vendor: JET Produce and Meats
Posted on 08/23/2018
Kris and Jacob standing by farm animalsWhen JET Produce and Meats comes to the Lenexa Farmers Market, they bring all sorts of goodies: tomatoes, summer and winter squash, herbs, cabbage, kale, new potatoes, popcorn, chicken and more.

Jacob E. Thomas, founder and owner of JET Produce and Meats, grew up on his parents’ farm outside Leavenworth, Kansas. At age 14, Jacob asked his parents if he could plant a garden. His father, Dale, hooked a large plow to his biggest tractor and made two passes through their front yard. Jacob continues to farm that piece of land today.

After graduating from Iowa State University with degrees in horticulture and animal science, Jacob returned to the family farm and slowly began taking the reins from his dad. Jacob continued with that small garden plot before increasing to a half-acre of broccoli, kale, chard, melon and corn. The first year, he sold out of everything, so Jacob went even bigger the next year. 

Today, JET Produce and Meats is made up of Jacob, his wife Jennifer, his father Dale and his mother Kris, who all work together to make the business a success. Dale and Kris primarily care for the animals, while Jacob and Jennifer oversee the tillable crops.

All of the JET plants start inside the greenhouse on the farm. Ultimately, most of the crops are raised in the ground but some are raised in high tunnels, which are like greenhouses but not heated. To help with insect control, Jacob uses crop rotation. For example, with potatoes, the potato beetle does not travel far, so switching the field the potatoes are grown in can help eliminate that pest. Unfortunately, the Japanese beetles have been especially hard on his berry crop lately. 

All of the produce JET brings to market is picked fresh and is less than 24 hours old by the time it reaches the market. Jacob says this means the flavor of his produce is superior to the produce you get at the grocery store because it did not sit on a truck for a week or more. 

One of Jacob’s favorite things to make in the kitchen is sautéed vegetables, where he chops his freshest produce and puts it in a skillet with a little butter and garlic. He starts with the harder vegetables and adds the softer ones as he sautés them. 

On the JET farm, the family raises both laying chickens that produce eggs and meat chickens that you eat. The flock consists of Bovans Browns and a mix of several other breeds. The Bovans Brown produces a larger, brown egg and are one of Jacob’s favorites. The chickens roam free during the day but have to be closed in at night to keep them safe from predators like owls and hawks.  More recently they have begun raising duck eggs.

Over the years, Jacob has increased the Angus cattle breeding herd to 120 head, and the Katahdin sheep and Painted Desert sheep herd to 120 as well. Jacob’s pigs consist of Duroc and Berkshire pigs that he buys as weaned piglets and pasture raises them on the farm until they are ready for market. 

They have a small storefront on the farm in Leavenworth County that features their entire line of meats and produce. You will also find products created by Lenexa Farmers Market vendors in the store. Jacob also currently has a small orchard he is experimenting with and has a dream of putting in a large orchard one day.

You can find Kris on Tuesdays and Saturdays manning the JET Produce booth at the Lenexa Farmers Market. Stop by the booth to visit with her while you purchase some of their quality produce and meat products.

Published Aug. 23, 2018