It's not every day that the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a ribbon-cutting at a business that's more than 120 years old.
And yet, that's just what members of the business organization here were doing Friday afternoon, cutting a ribbon at Lamborn Farm and Pumpkin Patch, an agricultural site that has been in the family's possession since 1877.
“It's changed,” said owner and operator Joe Lamborn, simply. “It's a whole package now.”
He said the farm's focus has shifted since the time it was purchased five generations ago from a traditional farm to an agri-tourist business. The vegetable fields, pastures with cows, pigs and lambs and barns are now used for other purposes in addition to food production. A pumpkin patch, operating for a decade, draws crowds in the fall. Lamborn said he sells his grass-fed beef and pasture-raised lamb and pork and the family keeps a booth at the Leavenworth Farmers Market from May to November.
In June 2010 the Lamborn family started renovating one of the barns on the property that date back to the early 1900s. Previously, the roof had been falling in and vegetation had started to claim the sides. Pointing to a before and after photo, Lamborn said it sometimes hard even for him to believe the transformation.
The barn has now been fitted with a new roof, electricity and lighting and some structural elements like the stone foundation. But he said it was important to keep the barn as original as possible. Not only because in 2011 the site was named to both the Kansas and National Register of Historic Places, but because the heritage of the farm is, in part, what makes it unique.
“It's kind of a mix of the new and the old, I think that's a good way to put it,” he said.
For about the last year, the barn has hosted weddings and other events. Interest continues in that regard, though because of the barn's lack of insulation, he said the time during which he can schedule events is somewhat limited.
This summer, Lamborn said he plans to host a farmers market in that barn, using the stalls formerly used for horses as booths. The idea, Lamborn said, was not just his. He said he had heard numerous times about how residents of Lansing wanted a closer farmers market. Currently, he said 14 vendors are signed up to do just that, starting at 4 p.m. June 7 at the farm.
Lamborn said it's part and parcel with a philosophy that has led him to continually adapt.
“I've learned over the years that you got to listen to your customers as much as you can,” he said. “They give you some good ideas.”
Page 2 of 2 - Next, Lamborn said a Kansas State Historical Society Heritage Trust Fund grant will help him restore one of the other barns on the farm, also dating to about the same time. In that building, he said he would like to eventually establish a store that would sell Kansas-related goods.