Four years ago, Vicki Riffle and her son Rodney Riffle decided to go into business together.
Vicki Riffle, who previously worked as marketing director for a real estate company, and Rodney Riffle, a landscape architect turned stay-at-home dad to three kids, went in a completely different direction for their new venture together and bought Farmstead Nuts & Treats from neighbors Jean and Randy Davis.
The company, a wholesaler of nuts, chocolate, brittle, dried fruit and other treats, was founded 35 years ago in Independence. About 12 years ago, it moved to a warehouse with a small retail storefront in Kansas City, Kan. Farmstead Nuts & Treats is located right across the street from Woodyard Bar-B-Que — you can smell smoldering hickory and cherry wood from the parking lot.
Farmstead Nuts & Treats opens the day after Labor Day and closes around Christmas. Vicki Riffle says that’s because the vast majority of nuts are sold in the fourth quarter in the United States. That makes sense when you consider all the holiday treats made with nuts, from pecan pie and almond bark to peanut brittle and walnut-studded fudge.
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“We start out so slow,” Vicki Riffle says, “and then the volume kills us. November is our busiest month.”
About 90 percent of Farmstead’s sales come from groups who buy the nuts for fundraising. Think church groups, Boy Scouts and Rotary clubs. To fill those large orders, the Riffles buy nuts in bulk from various companies. The nuts are temporarily stored in their refrigerated warehouse before they’re rationed into clear plastic bags by workers and hand-labeled “Farmstead Nuts & Treats.”
Vicki Riffle says that freshness separates Farmstead’s nuts from the ones stocked at grocery stores.
“These were made for us last week,” she says. “They haven’t been sitting on the shelf for weeks.”
The shelves at Farmstead Nuts & Treats’ retail store, a small space that’s about the size of my kitchen, are stocked with recipe-ready pecan pieces (a bestseller) and a bunch of other tempting treats: Trail mix, dried apricots, chocolate pecan turtles, raw almonds, dark chocolate-covered coffee beans and chopped black walnuts.
When the Riffles told me the black walnuts were grown in Stockton, Mo., I grabbed a 16-ounce bag ($12.25). The walnuts have a robust, earthy flavor that adds interest to banana bread, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. Farmstead’s walnuts are among the freshest I’ve ever had — eating them reminds me of the time my mom taught me how to crack open walnuts with a rock and scoop out the pieces inside.
While at Farmstead Nuts & Treats, I also picked out a 16-ounce bag of spicy “Mexicali” trail mix ($6.50) and a party tray of assorted nuts and chocolates to share with my coworkers. The trail mix — a blend of hot Cajun corn sticks, spicy peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds and pepitas — was crunchy, pleasantly spicy and, with all of those protein-rich nuts, a very satisfying snack.
The $19 party tray was a huge hit with my coworkers, who quickly snapped up the crunchy butter toffee peanuts. The buttery-textured jumbo salted cashews disappeared next, followed closely by the chocolate-covered almonds. My favorite was the chocolate-covered bridge mix because, like Forrest Gump said, you never know what you’re gonna get.
“The party trays are huge for corporate gifting,” Vicki Riffle says. They also make a good gift for a host or hostess, she adds: “Everyone takes a bottle of wine, but not everyone brings a party tray with deluxe mixed nuts.”
Stocking up on nuts for the holidays? Farmstead Nuts & Treats takes orders in person, over the phone, via fax, mail or email. The business is open until Christmas — or until the Riffles sell out of their supply for the season.
Sarah Gish writes about food and dining in Johnson County every first and third week of the month. Contact her by calling 816-234-4823, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting @sarah_gish.
Farmstead Nuts & Treats
Location: 2920 Merriam Lane in Kansas City, Kan.
Phone: 913-432-3638 or 800-776-5693
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: Free lot
Don’t miss: The recipe-ready pecan pieces ($8.50 for a 16-ounce bag), the Missouri-grown black walnuts ($12.25 for a 16-ounce bag) and the $19 party trays. The trays have six sections filled with assorted mixed nuts, jumbo cashews, chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate-covered almonds, chocolate bridge mix and butter toffee peanuts.