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Meet Jimmy Vo…a One-of-a-Kind Wichita Farmer!

IMG_1700As part of Eat REAL America's series featuring local Wichita farmers, chefs and others who are great resources for REAL food, we wanted to provide you an opportunity to get to know an amazing local producer...Jimmy Vo of Kan-Grow!


We first met Jimmy Vo a few years ago at the Kansas Grown Farmer's Market.  He was selling the freshest-looking sprouts we had ever seen!  There was just something about his genuine and fun-loving personality that quickly turned us into loyal customers!  Of course, his YUM-YUM mix and pickled okra would have probably kept us coming back no matter what!

So, we recently sat down with Jimmy to learn more about Kan-Grow and what keeps him motivated and inspired to keep farming in Wichita.  The local farm, located between Haysville and Wichita, is owned by his parents and evolved from originally growing sprouts in the basement.  Always focused on quality, this working-water Hydro Farm concept grew and, in the Spring of 2011, the farm evolved beyond the basement and became Kan-Grow.  Now, the farm produces wheatgrass, okra, sprouts, Swiss chard, kale, cherry tomatoes, squash, pears and more!  Jimmy and his cousin, Doan Vo, handle most of the work at the farm -- they are obviously not afraid of hard work!

Jimmy is passionate about good food.  Prior to the farm, he graduated from KU, traveled the world (including visits to Vietnam and Europe), and then spent time in the food scene in California before returning to Wichita.

How has your farm evolved?

The farm has definitely grown and evolved into a broader variety, but the things that have stayed the same are our focus on quality and freshness.

What was the inspiration for the YUM-YUM mix?  

Also called Dua Gia, YUM YUM is a traditional pickled mix of sprouts, carrots, daikon and chives and is a staple in the Vietnamese culture.  It was the freshness and quality of the sprouts that were perfect for the YUM YUM mix.  Because of their freshness, they stay crisp and crunchy in the vinegar pickle mixture.  The best part of YUM YUM is it touches every tastebud!  It is best served with savory dishes, such as the Banh Mi sandwich, because it's a great combination of texture, flavor, saltiness, sweet and spicy.

What is your biggest challenge to farming?

Growing pains.  This is probably our biggest challenge...all the things you learn as you are growing.  Plus, the process of becoming an organically-certified farm is a challenge.

What is your biggest reward to farming?

Working with local restaurant owners and others in our community who have the same passion for local fresh ingredients.  Public at the Brickyard, Green Acres Markets, and the local Asian markets are perfect examples.  Especially those who appreciate and understand that quality makes a big difference.

What keeps you motivated and inspired?

My customers and friends.  All of the artisans and people in the community doing their thing to improve the Wichita food culture.  I am also greatly inspired by sustainable farming and implementing permaculture.  We do this by building permanent agriculture -- we try not to fight mother nature, but instead work with her to grow and evolve the farm.

What are you asked most at the farmer's market?

I am asked a lot about where we are located.  But that is good because it lets me know people care where their food comes from.  The questions I am asked most are about the YUM YUM mix and what exactly wheatgrass is.  Most people don't know wheatgrass is great for juicing and helps aid digestion.  It is also great for feeding guinea pigs, cats and dogs!

What are some of your favorite local restaurants?

The Anchor, Public at the Brickyard, Japan Express, Thai Lao, Grace Market, and most Vietnamese there are more...I can't even think of all of them right now!

{Eat REAL America comment: Jimmy has an incredibly keen knowledge of local restaurants with amazing food -- we first discovered Public at the Brickyard from Jimmy!)

Eat REAL America is all about REAL food...what is your philosophy on REAL food?

It's all about local, fresh, organic and mostly TASTE!  Once you start enjoying REAL food, you can TASTE the difference!  Which is why the freshness of our sprouts is so important -- we hear all of the time that sprouts in other markets just don't compare!

What is the most positive development in the past couple of years in the Wichita food culture?

More organic farms, more people who have passion for local food, and the support of local growers has increased.  I have hope -- the demand is getting there...

{Eat REAL America comment:  Jimmy mentioned Eat REAL America as a positive development, but what we are doing pales in comparison to all of the hard work that Jimmy and other growers put into making quality, local ingredients available to all of us!}

What change could help take Wichita's food culture to the next level?

More supply of quality, local ingredients.  Plus, people trying new things and getting outside their comfort zones.  Wichita has historically included a lot of "meat and potatoes," but that is definitely changing and the demand for quality, local food is increasing.

What would you like Wichita to know?

Great things are coming!  We can only grow more in quality -- we want to bring more fresh and organic to Wichita!

Jimmy Vo and Kan-Grow are huge assets to the Wichita food culture!  If you haven't already, visit Jimmy at the farmer's market for some great produce and see what we mean...Jimmy is fun to chat with!  We certainly hope that Jimmy will continue to be an integral part of Wichita's food scene for years to come!

Below is a recipe from Jimmy for his Opo Squash Soup -- we've made it and it's delicious!  Opo squash is an Oriental squash and a member of the cucumber family.  It has a taste similar to a blend of summer squash and cucumber.  You don't have to peel it and it's great used in Indian and Asian cuisines.  This Opo Squash Soup can also be found on the Eat REAL America website at

IMG_1727Opo Squash Soup


1 Opo squash (or yellow summer squash or zucchini, sliced and cut into bite size pieces)
4 garlic cloves (finely diced)
1 small white onion (thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup)
1 lb shrimp (dicing will help the juices flavor the broth)
1 cup fresh green beans (OPTIONAL, we used Thai green beans)
4 green onions (sliced)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp date sugar (or sugar)
2 Thai chilies (OPTIONAL, or jalapeño, diced, or adjust to your level of kick!)
2 tsp fish sauce
2 cups cooked brown rice (OPTIONAL)


  1. If you are serving your Opo squash soup with rice, you can go ahead and cook the rice now or wait until the soup is done.
  2. In a large bowl, add the shrimp, pepper, half of the garlic, half of the onions, sugar, and 2 tsp of fish sauce.  Stir to combine then set aside.
  3. In a large pot over medium high heat, add the 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add the remaining garlic and onions and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic does not burn.  Add the shrimp mixture and cook for another 3 minutes until the shrimp is beginning to firm up and cook through.
  4. Add 6 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of salt and bring to a boil.
  5. Once boiling, add the Opo squash and green beans (if using) and return to a boil.  Stir and reduce heat to a medium simmer.  Cook until the Opo squash and green beans are tender, about 5-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the green onions, and peppers if desired.  Let stand for about 10 minutes (if you can wait)!
  6. Serve with rice if desired.  Enjoy!

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