With the leaves of the plants rustling around them, farmers often spend countless hours scouting beans and experiencing a unique sense of tranquility as they are lost between the endless rows of soybeans. However, for Brian and Jodi Pomerenke, the sales professionals turned farmers spend their weekends between the rows of urban farmers market stands instead.
Since 2018, the Pomerenkes, or “Team Pomo,” have operated a third-generation, diversified farm in Miami, Missouri, where they raise hogs, cattle, corn and soybeans. The couple focuses on ensuring that both animals and people have access to healthy and nutritious soy food products by raising high-oleic soybeans to feed to their livestock and playing in a slightly more unique market space – edamame sales.
“My wife started growing edamame in the garden. We’d put a bowl out for ourselves, and before we knew it, we’d find that we’d finish eating the entire thing,” Brian says. “I thought, ‘You know, I really think we can sell this stuff at the farmers market.’ We’re fortunate because our product has been good, and people have been really pleased with it.”
“It fit hand in glove with Brian’s background of being a soybean farmer,” adds Jodi. “The first year we were there, our core offerings were all soy-based products, so we became known as the soy tent.”
An urban farmers market isn’t where one would normally expect to find a soybean farmer, but the neon green shirts and bright smiling faces of Team Pomo have truly become one of the main attractions for the Overland Park farmers market regulars during the past two years. Their stand offers a variety of soy foods including frozen or fresh edamame, soy flour and soy nuts.
Brian and Jodi each play their own role in the operation. While her husband handles the manual labor behind the stand, Jodi is out front using her “city-girl” experiences to connect with Pomerenke Provisions’ potential customers. She expertly addresses any questions consumers might have and helps to promote transparency in the food supply.
“In our previous work lives, we were both in sales,” Jodi says. “So, everything is designed with the customers’ experience in mind. Being able to educate them about where their food comes from and trying to bring our farm to table is really the endgame for us.”
The couple emphasizes the part that advocacy plays in their market endeavors.
“We bring an edamame plant to the farmers market, and you’d be surprised by how many people have never seen a soybean before,” Brian says. “I think to myself, ‘Don’t you look out the window when you’re driving down the road?’ But they’re amazed by something so simple. It is very fulfilling to help educate the community on where their food is coming from.”
The Pomerenkes often engage in more difficult conversations about soy nutrition, sustainability and conventional farming practices as well.
Utilizing a variety of techniques, including sharing soy recipes and meal plans, they help introduce new ingredients to their customers’ diets with the goal of helping them to live happier and healthier lives.
“We highlight our sustainable practices on our banners at the market,” Brian adds. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of sharing with consumers, and even some farmers, about how we utilize cover crops and plant our soybeans right into the wheat or cereal rye. You know, that’s helping the environment, and I take a lot of pride in that as well.”
“It is a non-GMO product that we sell, and that appeals to a lot of the customers at the market,” he continues. “It allows us to get into that conversation. I do talk to them and clarify that while our edamame and other products at the stand are non-GMO, I am a soybean farmer and I grow GMO products on my farm, too. I share some of the benefits and what it means for helping to feed our country. Sometimes that can be a tense conversation, but I try to put them in my shoes and help them understand some of the struggles that farmers go through, especially with weed control.”
Pomerenke Provisions is advertised across a variety of channels. Their efforts to leave the land healthier than they acquired it is emphasized in each one of them.
The couple was recently approved as a vendor for the Columbia farmers market and will begin their debut season on Wednesday evenings this summer. In addition to their normal products, they will be offering some of their homegrown pork as well.
Brian roasts high-oleic beans on his farm and feeds them back to his hogs. The addition of the ingredient to his hogs’ diet helps keep costs down by avoiding the need to purchase soybean meal. It also allows for further traceability in the end product, adding a whole new layer to their farm-to-table efforts.
As Team Pomo heads into its third market season, Brian and Jodi have grown their business and customer base to include several new products and countless loyal patrons. With a focus on great quality, advocacy and relationship- building, Pomerenke Provisions has proven to be a fulfilling reason to sometimes leave their rows of beans and sense of tranquility and instead stand in a store of soy, creating a lasting legacy.