Sometimes the hardest-working hands are the ones plowing the earth year round to bring that generous harvest to your dinner table each holiday season. Mounds of apples, kale, onions, potatoes and rhubarb find their way to our grocery stores and farmers markets, and our fingers tingle with excitement — or fear — for what they will become in our care. And in the middle of seed time and harvest there is the inevitable question of “But is it organic?” that has steered so much of our weekly grocery shopping routines.

Photographer Ryan Jones, a student at this year’s Missouri Photo Workshop, followed one farmer in Platte, Mo., whose farm — Karbaumer Farm — produces more than 50 varieties of chemical-free, organic vegetables for his community by operating a CSA (community supported agriculture) just a few miles outside the Kansas City Airport.

“No one does the real work anymore,” says farmer Klaus Karbaumer of modern farming. Klaus moved to the Midwest in 1991 from Bavaria and has been a full-time farmer since 1999. In his past life, Karbaumer was a college professor of history and geography, but now, with his wife, Lee, runs the only tractor-less farm in Platte County, Mo., operated by draft horses. Karbaumer Farm produces more than 50 varieties of chemical-free, organic vegetables. The farm is based on Klaus’s steadfast dedication to upholding the tradition and humanity of old-world farming.

The farm is void of electric, engine-driven machinery, and all the plowing and cultivating of the 2.5 acres is done by draft horses and traditional tools. In a world where high-volume commercial farming has become the norm, Karbaumer Farm tries to “live and grow in harmony with Nature and her seasons.” The reasons are far more functional and economical than the sentimental appeal of paying homage to old-world tradition: horses compact soil less than tractors, and healthy soil simply does not need chemicals to enhance growth. Plus, horses provide a natural cycle to the fertilization process, further reducing overhead.

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