Clayton Farmers’ Market vendor Kim Vogel grew up around the farm. She said her father bought the orchard that would later become Eilerman Brothers Orchards back in 1967, and he joined forces with his four brothers to make it all happen.
“It was my dad, Paul, Fred, Kenny and Phil (Eilerman),” Vogel said. “Phil left the business in the 80s, and then it was just my dad and the rest of his brothers. My dad was the head.”
She said that at that time, they were farming peaches, hogs and grain, but they got out of hogs about 20 years ago.
“We went with produce, peaches, apples and grain farming,” she said. “And we do have a few cattle, but they are strictly to feed the families.”
Eilerman Brothers Orchards is located in Calhoun County in Batchtown, IL.
A Family Affair
“We’re all family, and you don’t find that often anymore,” Vogel said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In addition to Vogel’s father and his brothers, she said there are four adult children and 13 grandchildren who are all old enough to work on the farm.
“It’s all family-run,” she said. “With my uncles and their kids, there are probably at least 20 more, along with spouses, and they all work on the farm.”
She added that all of her nephews work outside the farm, but they come back to work on the farm after putting in their eight hours in the workforce.
“Most of them are electricians, and they will work all day and then work on the farm all evening,” she said. “Last night, they didn’t get done until 10 p.m.”
She said that a large portion of the family actually lives on the farm, as well.
“Right on the farm are Dad, Fred, Paul and Kenny,” she said. “Two of my brothers and two nephews also live there, so that’s probably more than 50 percent that live on the farm.”
Vogel and her family live 20 minutes south of the farm in Golden Eagle, she said. She commutes to work on the farm, and she also handles other responsibilities from home.
“I’m pretty much the one who lines up the farmers’ markets, especially the ones in Missouri since I know the St. Louis area the best,” she said. “I’m also the contact person for Straub’s and Eat Here St. Louis--we sell to them.”
Raising Kids the Old Fashioned Way
Vogel said that her own children have been raised with a farmer’s work ethic.
“I think they learn a better work ethic (on the farm) because they have to get out and work earlier,” she said, adding that they used to hire local high school students to work on the farm in the summertime.
“But you can’t get any who want to work anymore,” she said. “And on a day like today, you can’t pay them enough to come out and work in this heat.”
Peach Season May Be Cut Short This Year
Eilerman Brothers Orchards is well-known for its peaches, which Vogel said are delicious.
“I’ve got all kinds of recipes, and I take homemade pies and turnovers to the Clayton Market on Saturdays,” she said. “I use fruit from the farm and I make the crusts homemade.”
She is concerned about the peach season this year, though.
“With this heat, it’s really working on everything and the peaches are ripening early,” she said. “The peach season could be short if things don’t let up—we’re already looking at being done with peaches by the middle of August, and they normally go to the middle of September.”
To Market, To Market
Vogel can be found at the Clayton Farmers’ Market on Saturday selling tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, cucumbers, zucchini and more—or as she put it, “about anything you can think of, along with the peaches.”
She said her daughter and brother-in-law go to the Tower Grove market on Saturdays, and her sister-in-law goes to the Ellisville market on Thursdays and the Wildwood market on Saturdays.
“I also go to Wash U on Thursdays,” Vogel said.