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.