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— how It all BEgan —
It actually all started with apples and peaches. The year was 1951 when Myron and Cecelia (Sally) Sigler moved their family from their comfortable Kansas City home in the Coleman Heights neighborhood to farm life on 65 acres in Kansas City, Kansas. The orchard there was started by European immigrants in the late 1800s and was in full operation upon the Sigler's arrival with thousands of apple and peach trees ready for the next caretakers. The Siglers, with their eleven children, grandchildren, cousins, and friends worked the orchard until the late 1980s gaining a reputation for growing the best apples and peaches in the area along with Sigler's famous apple cider.
Liz Sigler (now Kurlbaum, aka "The Tomato Lady"), the youngest of all the Sigler children along with grandchildren helped Sally (Granny) selling the apples, peaches and cider at the City Market. There, Liz honed her sales skills. Unfortunately, the apple and peach orchard met its final end when the last of the family operators, Bob Sigler, had to call it quits after years of working for little or no pay (he went on to become a successful owner of Damage Control & Restoration). The farm went into dormancy for years.
Then, Liz met Sky Kurbaum, the latest dreamer who had a new plan. He and Liz moved to the farm to live with Granny when they married and Sky began to plant tomato plants. He was looking for the very best tasting tomatoes, just like those grown on his family's farm in Sandoval, Illinois, when he was a young boy. But the tomatoes he was growing just didn't have the flavor. Then he read about heirloom tomato plants. He ordered seeds from Seed Savers Exchange in the late 1980s, started and grew the plants, and when the tomatoes came in, the first taste was all it took--Sky became an even bigger Tomaniac (tm)!
Beginning with just 20 plants, and planting more and more each year with the help of the Kurlbaum's five children and Liz's sister, Sally Kuklenski and her family, the tomato farm is now producing tasty fruits (yes, tomatoes are fruits) from over 3,200 plants, including over 35 heirloom varieties. These tomatoes, known throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area as "Kurlbaum's Tomatoes", are served by great Chefs in over two dozen restaurants and are available for purchase from the Kurlbaums. And, the Kurlbaum's have added tomato farm-to-table dinners featuring some of the finest Chefs in Kansas City including Michael Smith, Jasper Mirabile, Michael Peterson, and many more. Local chefs also feature Kurlbaum's Tomatoes at special restaurant dinners devoted to satisfy discriminating tomato connoisseur. [See the Dinners tab for dates and times of these events and purchase tickets in the Store.]
The Kurlbaum's goal is simple: Grow the best tasting tomatoes in the world for family, friends and customers. How do they do it? Heirloom--Dry Farmed--Never Refrigerated. It's that combination that does the trick and why Kurlbaum Tomaniacs (tm) track them down each summer to get their fair share of limited production of the finest tasting tomatoes known to exist. Just ask Jasper Mirabile who uses Kurlbaum's Tomatoes for his highly acclaimed Tableside Mozerella presentation at his award-winning Jasper's Restaurante. Or, Michael Smith, a James Beard award-winning chef who features Kurlbaum's Tomatoes at his happening "Michael Smith's" Crossroads restaurant (the plate below is one of Michael's creations--a true piece of food art).