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After tornado, Kansas farm facing changes because of COVID-19

Posted at 4:23 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 23:46:16-04

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. — Rows of green fill Crum’s Heirlooms near Bonner Springs, Kansas, but Jim Crum still sees work to do.

“We’re still looking for stuff,” he said, one year after a tornado swept through the city. “It’s just a slow process to recover from.”

Jim, his wife, Deb, and their dog rode out the massive storm on May 28, 2019, in their basement.

“Things bumped and bounced around and rained like crazy, and then we came out and it was a mess,” Jim Crum said.

The couple found their greenhouse in a tree. Another tree fell on their house, and the storm destroyed their decades-old barn. The damage, Crum believes, added up to about $150,000.

“But you never have the insurance coverage and things you thought you had, so the out-of-pocket costs were way worse than the loss of sales," he said.

Crum’s Heirlooms customers are among some of the best-known restaurants in Kansas City. In fact, Crum said almost all of their customers are local restaurants, and many of them came to their rescue last year through fundraisers and food.

“So that was incredibly helpful,” Deb Crum said. “We managed to pull our season together.”

They just started rebuilding their barn in January. Then, just weeks after it was finished, the pandemic hit the area, directly impacting restaurants. Jim and Deb agree that between the tornado and the COVID-19 crisis, it was a bit of a one-two punch.

“They’re the hardest working people I know,” said Kate Frick, who not only works at Crum’s Heirlooms but also had to shut the doors of her own bar, Myers Hotel Bar, in Tonganoxie. For now, she says, she's staying afloat by selling curbside cocktails.

“I don’t have a plan," Frick said. "I’m truly trying to wrap my mind around the best way to proceed.”

The Crums say they’re down from more than 20 restaurant orders to fewer than 10 this week, but they are pivoting their business to online sales and delivery, which Deb says has been going “pretty well."

“Fortunately, people have picked up on the idea local produce is not necessarily expensive,” said Jim about the uptick in calls directly from consumers.

They’re donating what produce they can to places such as Crossroads Community Kitchen, hoping to help like restaurants helped them just a year ago.

“All the folks were out helping us last year, and you know, kind of have to pay those things back,” Jim said.

While the Crums say they will weather this new storm, they don’t know what is on the horizon for their restaurant customers.

“My concern is not that they won’t get back on their feet, it’s that some people won’t have as much money to spend for a while,” Jim said.

So they will keep working, hoping owners like Frick can find a way forward and grandparents like the Crums can snuggle their grandkids soon.

“I miss giving them hugs,” Deb said.

“I miss that a lot,” her husband agreed.