When Jeff and Pam Meyer took their family to Florida on vacation in 1998, they stumbled on something that would change the direction of the family’s dairy farm forever. At Epcot, the Meyer family saw a new concept of growing things – hydroponics.

As the Meyers shifted their Basehor farm away from the dairy business, they originally tried their hand at aquaponics, raising tilapia. The fish provided nutrients to plants and in return, the plants cleaned the water for the fish.  

For about five years, the Meyers expanded their tilapia and vegetable production but by 2005, the decision was made to grow only vegetables and herbs at their greenhouse and the fish were phased out. After perfecting their product and growing process, Cal-Ann Farms’ first basil and herb shipment arrived in area grocery stores in the fall of 2006.

Since that time, Cal-Ann Farms, named after Jeff’s parents Calvin and Annette, has become one of the leading providers of fresh basil plants to area grocery stores. With up to 20 employees, the farm has utilized the hydroponic growing environment for herbs as well as five varieties of basil. Deliveries are made to local stores five days per week to ensure that customers have the freshest possible ingredients.

Herbs including rosemary, dill, thyme, chives, mint, oregano, sage, savory and tarragon are available in select stores and should be stored in the refrigerator door once the customer brings it home. Cal-Ann’s large bunches of basil are sold in plastic sleeves with their roots intact and should be stored in a shallow cup of water on the customer’s counter at home to ensure maximum freshness. The basil is not meant to be planted as it is sold ready to be used. Cal-Ann also sells wheatgrass which is used in many healthy smoothies as well as being a favorite for pets.

One of the aspects that the Meyers take pride in is that their produce is non-GMO, grown from seeds and no synthetic pesticides are used. Seeds generally take from three to eight weeks to grow and be prepared to be sent to area markets.

“We get a great deal of enjoyment that the consumer can take the product and use it to delight their family,” said Jeff.  “We do it right.”

Their most popular product, sweet basil, is grown year-round in heated greenhouses that use alternative forms of energy to minimize the impact on the environment. They also recycle and compost everything possible.

Cal-Ann’s most recent addition to their product offering is pesto. Reading the ingredients on the packaging, consumers will see only things they can identify including basil, extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, nuts, garlic and a touch of sea salt. Nothing artificial is used. It has been so well received that pesto sales have increased 350 percent.

“We will keep evolving as we get feedback from our customers and incorporate what they want into our business,” said Pam. “We enjoy helping people, giving them quality food products. As long as the Lord provides us a means, we’ll keep going.”

Cal-Ann products can be found at Price Chopper in Leavenworth as well as area Price Chopper stores, Whole Foods, Hen Houses, Hy-Vee, Sun Fresh, Brother’s Market, Checkers and throught Shatto home delivery.

Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at gabi_kansas@yahoo.com