Chow Town

Kansas couple lives their dream at Fire Lake Camp

Julie and Bob Zoller are real estate agents turned farmers/agro-tourism hosts, and they love it.

With an idyllic location in a beautiful part of Miami County, what’s not to love about Fire Lake Camp?

“It’s kind of a crazy story,” Julie Zoller said about how it came togther. “We lived in our dream house for 18 years, the old Wellsville, Kan., train depot that had been picked up and moved in the middle of 80 acres.

“After our kids went to college it was just too big for the two of us, so with both of us being Realtors, we put it on the market.”

Some good friends had an idea — why not swap houses? And while it wasn’t Zoller’s dream house, the offer was just too good to pass.

“Who knew we would have such a love affair with our new home in the country” she said. “Fire Lake Camp is just a special place — the lake, the trees and a perfectly placed home with the best view in Kansas,” Zoller said.

Together, the Zollers have carved out a nice living on this lovely property. It’s the middle of U-pick asparagus season right now, and they told me they recently held a wedding for 350. That’s just a start.

The Zollers also host farm dinners, picnics and teas and cooking classes-everything designed to take advantage of the location and their gregarious personalities and abundance of talent.

“I just love sharing the experience,” Julie Zoller said. “I grew on a ranch in Colorado, so my childhood memories come pouring out. I love it when guests sit and talk for hours at dinner by the lake, or sit by the fire and look up at the stars, which are amazing You can just see their stress leave them.”

With all of the activities, the Zollers still manage to find time to enjoy their environs, taking in the lake in the evening, sitting comfortably in old Adirondack chairs and marveling at the beauty spread out before them.

As mentioned, Fire Lake Camp is in the middle of asparagus season. The dates for the spring harvest vary. I was curious what our cold, wet spring had done to this year’s harvest.

“It is a great year for morels,” she said. “We have found a good share on our property. But, aparagus has been tough. A normal season starts around tax day, April 15th, and lasts about six weeks. We had a late start, and then a cold snap that slowed things down even more.

“We’re looking forward to a strong finish. Our field is getting older so we have started planting more each year.”

Zoller says you’ve still got a little time get get out and pick some asparagus. Now that the weather has warmed, as mentioned, she’s expecting a strong finish.

Regardless, before, after, or during asparagus season, Fire Lake Camp is waiting for you to experience. “Although it is still a work in progress, the journey has been, and continues to be, fun,” Zoller said.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.