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.