Michael Kiele's growing philosophy is best summed up in his mantra: "Every plant has a purpose."
This explains his riotous garden, an ambitious amalgam of straw bale beds, leafy greens beautiful enough to display in wedding bouquets, self-seeding garlic, walking onions, and a plush carpet of native plants -- say, milkweed and tiny confederate violets, just to name a few -- too precious to remove. In this space, nothing goes to waste. Michael and his wife Bethany live in a picturesque neighborhood near downtown Neosho, but location hasn't dampened their farming ambitions.
The Kieles shopped at the Neosho Farmers' Market nearly every Saturday of the 2015 season. This time around, they're rolling up their sleeves and getting ready to contribute the bounty from their personal gardens. Customers can expect to see a variety of organic produce ranging from the familiar, like red radishes, elephant garlic, and salad greens, to more unusual items like walking onions, Chinese yard-long long beans, and purple basil. If it's rare and somewhat whimsical, Michael tries to make room for it in his garden. His favorite perennials are hot peppers like the Thai, serrano, chiltepan, padrones, and more. He and his wife grind these into the 'Kiele V Spice Chilie Powder,' a spicy and sweet condiment that will be available by late summer.
When he's not experimenting in his vegetable beds, Michael works in Redings Mill, managing the largest privately-owned chert glade in the country. Part of his job is stewardship, and he devotes a lot of time to saving or propagating rare, native Missouri plants. These will also be available at market. A few projects of particular pride in include milkweed, which he raised during the winter in small milk-jug "green houses" and an unnamed hybridized iris that he is in the process of patenting.
The Kieles have lived in Neosho for nearly two decades, but still spend a lot of time in Michael's native California. When you stop by their market booth, be sure to ask Michael about a few of these trips, like his most recent visit scuba diving adventure in Monterey Bay or backpacking the majestic John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevadas. Whether he's trekking through the wilderness or dirtying his knees in his own backyard, Michael just can't get enough of the outdoors.