Where Farming is a Passion
When Kyle Reynolds’ job as afield supervisor with Del Monte Foods required that he relocate to Kingsburg 13 years ago, he knew instantly that he had found the place he was meant to be. When he first saw the century-old weathered farm house and barn situated on just over an acre south of town, he decided that there was no need to look any further.
“This was the first place I looked at, and I never looked at another place,” Kyle said. “I said, ‘Whatever they want, I’ll pay.’” And with that, the man who’d lived his whole life within the city limits took the first step toward his dream of becoming a farmer. “Farming was something I always wanted to do,” Kyle said. “Wherever I lived, I’d always had a garden.”
Kyle’s wife, Michele, is no stranger to country life. While growing up on her family’s 100-acre farm, a horse was her mode of transportation to school. When Kyle’s job brought the couple and their daughter, Kristi, to Kingsburg, Michele was more than happy to give up her job as a deli manager and instead manage what has come to be known as KMK Farms.
While both Kyle and Michele have a hand in making KMK Farms a success, they differ somewhat on their philosophies of farming. “Everything he wants has to bring in money, and I want serenity and peace,” Michele said, laughing over the time Kyle planted onions and horse radish in her pristine flower beds.
Since Kyle spends the majority of his work week at Del Monte, Michele manages things on the farm. She typically begins her day at 4:30 a.m. “Something always needs to be pruned, irrigated or planted, so I’d rather get it done in the morning,” she said.
When the Valley sun makes afternoons unbearably hot during the summer months, Michele spends that time inside doing paperwork and handling the business side of the farm. Before he day is over, she gathers and washes the eggs that are laid by the more than 80chickens that reside contentedly in their coops a short distance from the house.
The Reynolds began their venture into farming with 1.25 acres. They started with a garden and 100 avocado trees featuring 11 different varieties. Upon finding success selling their avocados at farmer’s markets, they began growing tomatoes and squash on a small scale. As the demand grew, so did their need for more land. They began leasing acreage from a neighbor, and have increased their farmland to 38 acres. Now, they grow just about every fruit, vegetable and herb imaginable and take pride in their unique varieties. Their produce is seasonal, so they are busy year-round.
From day one, the Reynolds farmed organically, but not because of the potential for any financial gains –they simply thought organic was best. “We’ve always farmed organically, mainly because I started growing it just for us and our friends,”Kyle said. “I’ve never used chemicals.” Michele shares Kyle’s opinion that organic is the way to go. “I feel it’s safer,healthier, and better for the environment, the earth, and our workers,” Michele said.
It wasn’t until they learned of Abundant Harvest Organics that the Reynolds began thinking about becoming certified organic farmers. They liked some of the other growers involved with the organization, and after Kyle first gave Vernon Peterson a tour of KMK farms and learned more about Abundant Harvest, he said he knew it was something he had to do. “I told Michele, ‘I just spent a couple hours with this Vernon Peterson character, and I think it’s going to change our lives.” Kyle said. “I knew it was a defining moment.”
In spite of the“overwhelming and intimidating” certification process, they got through it with Vernon’s help and encouragement. KMK Farms became certified organic in August 2008. Now that they work with Abundant Harvest Organics, the Reynolds are able to spend more time on the farm and less time selling their produce at farmer’s markets.
Michele revels in the smiles that farming brings to her face, and Kyle is counting the days until he can become a full-time farmer. “Farming is a passion – I enjoy it as much as I enjoy having time off,” Kyle said. “I really look forward to the day that I can devote all my time to farming.”