Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm glad to be part of Farm to Family Naturally

There aren't many things I enjoy more than visiting the farms of our suppliers. It's a great chance to see (and buy) strong, healthy vegetables grown using sustainable principles. It's a time for lovely chats about the things that are important to me, and to our customers.
Being a member of Farm to Family Naturally is what makes that possible for me. It's my job! Having a job I enjoy and that supports the issues I'm passionate about is almost too good to be true.
On a recent trip to the Missouri Bootheel, I had the privilege (and fun) of visiting my dear friend, Lillian Hunter. I have known Lillian for ten years, and we hit it off from our very first conversation. This woman knows bushels and bushels about organic growing.
Lillian's family came to Missouri from Arkansas when her father was young-back in the thirties. They were able to purchase a section of land, and have nurtured the land ever since.
After spending 30 years teaching in the Chicago Public School system, Lillian came home to the Bootheel. After living in a colder climate, she was very aware of the benefits of Southern Missouri's long growing season. She saw that she could help her family, her neighbors, and urban consumers by organizing a cooperative of organic farmers. Lillian organized many local farmers, and continues to guide and teach them. Farm to Family Naturally cooperates in every way with Lillian and her farmer friends. We participate in teaching opportunities, crop planning-and most important-we buy their produce and bring it to Sappington Farmers Market so that you, our customers, can enjoy it.
Lillian's daughter, Adrienne Hunter, has joined her in growing vegetables this year. Adrienne also works very hard at growing the cooperative. Adrienne works with Lincoln University, and is tireless in finding both educational and marketing opportunities for the coop.
Farm to Family Naturally-working with rural cooperatives to provide a better life for small farmers and better food for urban consumers!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

National Farmers Market Week

This is National Farmers Market Week for the rest of the country. For us, every day is Farmers Market Day.
I can see why this week was chosen for the honor, though. Produce is pouring in from all over Missouri. The only way to enjoy it all is to preserve some of it. No-one could eat enough to try it all!
So we can and freeze and dry and share and just enjoy the bounty from our wonderful small, independent farmers.
I recently was able to find some time to make blackberry jam from some tasty Missouri blackberries. It's a process I never tire of-the wonderful colors, tastes, and smells bring back wonderful memories of times past.
We love the opportunity to provide hard-to-find produce so folks can enjoy the dishes that remind them of their childhood-like fried green tomatoes, purple hull peas, or perhaps a special heirloom tomato. Our Cherokee Purple tomatoes are a wonderful memory for some, and a brand new taste sensation for others.
Eggplant and okra both seem to have their fans and their detractors. Personally, I love them both. While the eggplant is coming on, I am making and freezing ratatouille almost every evening-and the okra usually finds its way into some gumbo-like concoction. Of course, most of the old-timers fry both of them, but I prefer soupy, stewy dishes!
One of the advantages of Sappington Farmers Market is that we are open all year round and every day but Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our huge variety of local meats, dairy, cheeses, and specialty foods enables us to offer wonderful farm products year-round. The selection continues to grow each week. Red Wattle Pork, Kobe-style beef, local yogurt, goat and cow cheese and a plethora of sauces, jams, jellies and fruit butters offer a taste of Missouri-grown food year-round. Celebrate National Farmers Week with us-and keep coming back for farm food throughout the year!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Producers of the Ozarks Plateau

As spring approaches, I get to enjoy my favorite part of the job--visiting farms. Last week was an especially nice trip to the Central Ozarks, where I toured two farms of members of a newly-formed cooperative.
Since last Fall, Farm to Family Naturally has been working with the Producers of the Ozarks Plateau as they formed a new cooperative. Not that they needed much help. This group has really got it goin'. Throughout the winter months, the members met and formed their cooperative, wrote their bylaws and worked on their relationship with Farm to Family so we could help them market their products. Various members of the cooperative will be growing all types of produce as well as sustainably-grown meats and dairy products.
Producers include Jeff Johnston (the co-op president) and his wife, Tammy, who own Suncrest Farms.
Jeff and Tammy spent the winter building a beautiful greenhouse to use for growing seedlings and also to grow a steady supply of microgreens for Sappington Farmers Market. The greenhouse is managed organically and sustainably, with liquid kelp and fish emulsion as fertilizer. So far, the healthy plants have shown no pest or disease problems. If they do, Tammy plans to use a spray of soap and eucalyptus oil. Microgreens are available starting this week (first week of April) at SFM.
Tammy has a strong interest in herbs and flowers, and experience working at a local greenhouse as well as at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Jeff is a successful contractor who would like to devote more of his life to developing the farm the couple purchased several years ago when they moved to the Ozarks from Texas.
In addition to an in-depth tour of the greenhouse, Jeff and Tammy showed me their blackberry patch and their garlic patch. They plan to expand both of those projects next year. The garlic patch is for trialing different varieties of garlic so they can determine which are the most successful. The blackberry patch is wildly successful and there are plans to expand as soon as possible.
Later, we drove to some leased land where Jeff has already planted several acres of potatoes. Watch for Jeff's sustainably-grown potatoes in the late summer in the produce department at SFM.
As the weather warms, the Johnstons will plant summer crops of tomatoes, squash and sweet potatoes. They and the other co-op members plan to fill the SFM truck to the brim once a week so we can offer all their products in the store and in our CSA.
All their produce is sure to be of the highest quality because Jeff and Tammy have the expertise and motivation to succeed at sustainable farming. In addition, they have brought together some of the best small, independent farmers in the Ozarks with beef, lamb, goat, dairy products and more produce.
This joint venture brings us full circle with some of our meat producers as well.
Watch for my next blog, where you can tour the ranch of Roger and Caroline Schrock, who have been providing sustainably-grown, all-natural, source-verified beef through Missouri's Best Beef Co-operative. We have been marketing MBB beef under the Ranchers' All-Natural label since we first bought the store.
At SFM, we're proud to add the Producers of the Ozarks Plateau to our growing family of farmers.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Todd Geisert Farms-Doin' It The Old-Fashioned Way

Yesterday, I had the time of my life when I joined a Beginning Farmers Tour and traveled to Washington, MO to tour Todd Geisert's farm.
The bank thermometer said 101 as we drove through Washington on the way to the farm, but we were all game for the "hayride" that Todd took us on to view his farm fields and pig operation.
Todd's pigs are really living the life of Reilly. They live in individual A-frames, the sows farrow in A-frames, with plenty of room to turn around, and there are lots of streams and mud wallows for cooling off.
Baby pigs can explore and socialize and are obviously used to humans, as you can see from the pictures.

The Geiserts have been raising heritage breeds of hogs since 1916.
Pigs are farrowed in individual A frame houses in fields that have had a crop harvested the previous season. Several generations of Geiserts can

be found in the fields, caring
for the pigs and harvesting the produce. The pigs are antibiotic free and no growth hormones are ever used.

After a fun and fascinating tour of the farm, Todd brought us back to the produce stand where we enjoyed two varieties of ice cold watermelon and some delicious lemonade.

Todd's meats are available at Sappington Farmers Market in the freezer section and the cured meat section. Try his delicious bratwursts and ham sausage.
Now available in the fresh meat section: Todd's pork chops and pork steaks. You'll taste the difference that sustainable farming makes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Family Farmers Win A Big Battle

After 10 years of lobbying, family farmers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief. The unfair competition is over from large dairy factory farms who sell to big box stores and have been able to be labeled "certified organic" even though their growing practices are unhealthy and inhumane.
By tightening organic standards, the USDA effectively ruled out dairies that don't give their animals a chance to see the light of day. New requirements say that dairy cows and other ruminants must be allowed to exhibit their native behavior and consume a meaningful amount of their feed from grazing on pastures-specifically the new rules require that dairy animals be out on pasture for the entire growing season, and not less than 120 days.
Based on The Cornucopia Institute's research 90% of all namebrand dairy products are produced with high integrity. These tighter laws will eliminate unfair competition from factory farms who have slid in under the bar.
We at Sappington Farmers Market have always supported small producers who raise their animals humanely and show integrity in their branding. In fact, that describes our owners who raise livestock.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spring is just around the corner

Despite evidence to the contrary, spring really is just around the corner.
I just got back from the Missouri Organic Convention and am fired up and ready to plant. So what's that snow doing on the ground?
Actually, I already have some seedlings in my kitchen window. The reflection from the snow is making them grow better. And the snow on the ground will add minerals to the soil as it melts. But I'm still anxious to get growing for spring. Guess I'll have to while away the snowy hours planning and re-planning my garden while I peruse seed catalogs.
I learned a lot about soil fertility, cover cropping and extending my season with high tunnels at the MOA convention. Can't wait to share with some of our farmer/producers so we'll have more local produce at the store even earlier and it will be even more nutritious because of the better soil in which it will be grown.
And speaking of the store, we have a new manager who managed Wild Oats for years. He brings great energy, knowledge and a passion for organics to the store. Stop in and see the changes he is bringing about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Farm Aid-Supportively Sustainable

There are many things in life that just don't measure up to our expectations.
The Farm Aid concert, press event and Homegrown Village are not some of those things.
After weeks of excited anticipation, many of the staff at Sappington Farmers Market, with family and friends, attended the all-day and on-into-the-night event and completely enjoyed every moment. Even my three-yr.-old granddaughter, seen in the picture, had a wonderful time for hours and hours.
Kickoff for the day was the press event with the four headliners, Willie
Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews.
They were joined by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, USDA's Kathleen Merrigan, Rural Crisis Center's Rhonda Perry, University of Missouri Extension's Mary Hendrickson, a young dairy farmer from Wisconsin-and me, (representing Sappington Farmers Market and Farm to Family Naturally). We were joined on stage by assorted Farm Aid staff and performers.
The rest of the day was spent very enjoyably, browsing the many interactive exhibits in the Homegrown Village. Randy and Russell Wood's Floating Farms exhibit was a big hit, as was the Missouri Beekeepers Association's observation hive. Adults and children alike enjoyed finding the queen in the hive. Worm races drew a big crowd, and in my seed-saving booth, we gave away thousands of packages of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek seeds.
The food was awesomely fresh, local and tasty. The offerings at the Sappington Farmers Market booth included local apples, caramel apples made with agave syrup, grilled corn (the line for that was seemingly endless), deviled eggs and delightful all-natural baked goods from the interns at St. Louis University's School of Dietitetics and Nutrition. Tom Strumolo from NY City made the trip just to be able to help us present all that good food. We are immensely grateful to him for sharing his experience and expertise with our novice team.
I finally managed to finish taking down the seed-saving booth well after dark, just in time to race to my seat next to my dear son who had made the trip from Memphis. Just as I sat down, John Mellencamp hit the stage and I was in music heaven for the next few hours. It was well past midnight when we made our tired way home. None of us will ever forget it.