By Tyne Morgan, AgDay national reporter
Innovation is key for this Missouri farm that specializes in Japanese vegetables
Mark Frank is a teacher by trade.
"I was anything but a farmer when I was growing up," Frank said.
He ventured to Japan and taught English for 12 years. There, he fell in love, married a Japanese woman who is now his wife and started a family. His love went beyond his wife, son and daughter—he also developed a passion for farming.
"While I was in Japan I got into farming, actually, I really liked the small scale, organic, traditional farming that they did over there," Frank said. "I read some books first, then I got to know some farmers. And then decided to move back to the U.S. and it seemed like a good direction to go in."
So, when he made the trek back to the states to return home to southwest Missouri, he not only brought his family, but a box of edamame seeds. In four years, that one box has grown into 70 to 80 varieties on what his 18-acre farm.
"About 80% of it are actual varieties that we import from Japan," Frank said. We import the seeds over every year. And we're year round. We have a couple high tunnels and we use low tunnels, as well. To try and grow as much as we can 12 months out of the year."
Frank says other than the hot summers and harsh winters in southern Missouri, growing Japanese vegetables have a good fit in southwest Missouri.
"The latitude was very similar to where we were in Japan," Frank said. "So things that are daylight sensitive like edamame, tend to perform the same over here than they would over there."