Category Archives: Gardening

Farm Fresh is Best

Oh, i suppose there are many, including farmers, who could somehow find a way to argue with the title of my blog (which is also the title of a great article in the latest issue of Missouri Life magazine written by Corin Cesaric).  But, the arguments will need to be pretty convoluted and perhaps mostly fall into the fallacy department.

Anyway, this is a beginners guide to exploring and discovering fresh food in Missouri.  If you live in another state, the same guidelines can be applicable.  No one is guaranteed a meal, nor is it even easy to find actual food in this country anymore.  It takes planning, a change of diet (more seasonal or simply eliminate them from your diet), and exploration.  Where is this great food?!  The home manager/economist must take up the important mantel of “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.  She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” (Proverbs 31:14-15)

Now, i’m not one to worry with eating out, but if that is your thing, there are meals out there provided by restaurants committed to purchasing and serving fresh, in season, local as possible.  Don’t forget to buy from your neighbors!!  As the saying goes, “Costco doesn’t buy Little League t-shirts for your community.”  Guessing that is true, but i’ve never been in a Costco or other big box store – i think there is one in Columbia (1 1/2 hours away)

On the rare occasions when I decide to make a home-cooked meal, it doesn’t take more than a five-minute drive to my one-stop-shop to gather all of the ingredients. I can find pretty much everything I need at my local Gerbes, and although there are many organic options, there’s hardly anything from local producers. The bigger the chain store gets, the more apparent this is.

A lot of people, myself included, are realizing how important it is to live sustainably. So I decided to attempt to eat only locally sourced food for seven days. I was excited, but also a little nervous. Would I have to dedicate a lot of extra time to sourcing my ingredients? Would I find everything I need? What ended up happening was that I gained a newfound appreciation for local business and learned a few life lessons, too.

Before I plunged into my recipes, I did some research on farming in the United States. According to the US Department of Agriculture, for every dollar consumers spend on food, only 7.8 cents goes to farmers.

“We believe that farmers should have not only the cost of production for raising livestock independently, but also a living wage on top of it,” Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) Communications Director Tim Gibbons says. Patchwork Family Farms, established by the MRCC in 1993, purchases hogs directly from local, independent family farmers in Missouri and pays farmers above market price.

One of the biggest advantages of buying local food is supporting these farmers and your local economy. Missouri relies heavily on agriculture, so if you love the town and state you live in, this is an easy way to support it. In 2016, agriculture and other related industries in Missouri had an $88.4 billion economic impact and contributed 378,232 jobs.

Luckily for me, Missouri is home to more than two hundred farmers markets across the state, so with that in mind, my first stop was the Columbia Farmers Market. I headed there late last summer when it was in full swing with about ninety vendors. I got a decent haul, met a lot of local farmers and producers, and had some ideas in mind for the following week. I found that knowing exactly where your food comes from makes cooking quite a bit more fun. I was taking my time and cared more about the end result of my meals.

Of course, there were some things that I wasn’t able to find from our state, but in the middle of summer, most things were accessible. Here you can see what I ate each day during the week.

Monday

I started out with pretty simple meals so that I wouldn’t get in over my head. For breakfast, I had honey bread from Fiddle & Stone Bread Co. topped with apple butter from C & J Baked Goods, located in Paris, Missouri. C & J sells fresh-baked bread, pies, jellies, and jams along with some other snacks that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. I can’t stress how delicious this apple butter is. It’s essentially highly concentrated apple sauce, but it has a sweet and caramel flavor. It immediately became one of my favorite morning snacks. As of now, Fiddle & Stone doesn’t have a permanent location, but you can find this homemade bread at the Columbia Farmers Market every week.

For lunch, I had a salad with bell peppers and onions with ingredients that I found at the farmers market, and I topped it with Italian dressing. I got all of my bell peppers for the whole week from The Backyard Farmer at the market, which is run by husband-and-wife team Jay Vang and Nou Lee from Sedalia and their five children.

The family is made up of their youngest, Crystal, who is thirteen, and their oldest, Jenny, who graduated from the University of Missouri and now works in IT in Columbia. Their three other children, Vicky, Nicholas, and Daniel, currently attend MU.

“We do a little bit of everything to pay for our kids’ tuition and rent a place so they can stay [in Columbia],” Jay says. This year is The Backyard Farmer’s fourth year in business.

I topped my salad with cheddar cheese from Hemme Brothers Farmstead Creamery located in Sweet Springs, and I ended my day with tacos. I used ground beef from Altai Meadows in Higbee with bell peppers, onions, and fried potatoes on the side. It was a simple meal, easy to whip up.

The money made by The Backyard Farmer, a family business, goes directly to helping the children while they are at school in Columbia. The family of seven all help out at the market when they can.

Tuesday

The next morning I used the bread from Fiddle & Stone Bread Co. again, but this time I made what I like to call “Lazy French Toast.” I learned how to make this in college. I’ve always liked it because you can make it in ten minutes or less, and it only takes three ingredients. Instead of adding cinnamon and sugar to make the meal sweet, I just slice bread, dip it in an egg mixture, and fry it. The eggs were from Buttonwood Farm in California, Missouri. I topped my Lazy French Toast with apple butter instead of syrup, ate it way faster than I should have, and headed to work.

I purchased the eggs from Root Cellar in Columbia, which is one of the best local resources in town. The market, owned by Chelsea and Jake Davis, sells locally sourced food and offers subscription boxes full of local ingredients that can be delivered straight to your door.

“Jake and I are both farm kids. We grew up in Southwest Missouri, so we have a deep passion for agriculture,” Chelsea says. “Growing up on independent family farms, we know the values that farming has and also the great food that the state of Missouri actually produces, which is really wide and diverse.”

They bought the grocery store in 2011 when the previous owner was selling it and immediately added the year-round subscription boxes. “We’re farmers ourselves and we want to make sure that farmers have an outlet for their products,” Chelsea says.

When lunchtime rolled around, my anti-cooking mentality kicked back in, so I started to search for places around Columbia that offered locally sourced meals. Places like Barred Owl Butcher & Table and Sycamore popped up—two of my favorite spots—but Le Bao is what caught my attention. This Asian eatery opened in 2018. Not everything on the menu features locally sourced ingredients—it would be pretty hard to find seaweed here—but the pork ramen uses meat from Patchwork Family Farms. I’ve never been a huge pork eater, but in order to eat local, I ordered it. I can say firsthand, this pork tastes different in the best way. It wasn’t fatty or overwhelming in taste and it really complimented the noodles.

“The way that corporations raise their hogs nowadays is in big buildings over slatted floors with the waste lagoon underneath the building,” Tim says. “This industrial production model not only negatively impacts the property rights of rural communities and their water and air, but also the taste and quality of the meat. Livestock raised by independent family farmers the traditional way respects their neighbors and results in a superior product. You can taste the difference.”

For dinner, I made baked eggplant with the ingredients I purchased from the farmers market. This is one of my all-time favorite meals, and like usual, it didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, my Italian bread crumbs were not locally sourced, neither were the salt, pepper, and spices I used during the week.

When I couldn’t find something sourced locally, I was able to easily find it at a grocery store. If I hadn’t had access to those stores, my meals would have looked and tasted a lot more plain, and I would have had to travel much more around the state to find exactly what I was looking for. I wouldn’t have been able to use basic things like salt and pepper or the Italian dressing I used for my salads.

If I truly didn’t have access to anything outside of our state’s borders, this week would have been more challenging, but still possible.


Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, I made scrambled eggs for breakfast with Hemme Brothers cheddar cheese. Lunch was also easy since it was my leftover dinner from the night before, but I’m not complaining. Eggplant really is one of my favorite meals, and many of the vendors carried the fruit—that’s right, I even learned that eggplant is technically a fruit.

The dinner I made on this day turned out to be my favorite meal for the whole week, and I’m not just saying this because I was proud of successfully cooking something. It really was delicious. I made stuffed peppers with homemade meatballs. I made the meatballs with ground beef from Hormann Meat Company in Springfield combined with mild sausage from Patchwork Family Farms. I cut some leftover peppers I had from the market in half and stuffed them with the meatballs and put them in a pot on the stove, then topped everything with local tomatoes and organic marinara sauce and added mashed potatoes on the side. There were plenty of leftovers I was happy to pack up.

Missouri Life Associate Editor Corin Cesaric cooks stuffed peppers with local ingredients from Root Cellar and Columbia Farmers Market.

Thursday

I headed to Main Squeeze for breakfast. This vegetarian restaurant has been known for its local and healthy meals since 1997. I opted for the breakfast tacos made with eggs from Share-Life Farms in Napton, jack cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, and salsa on corn tortillas with some greens on the side. This year, the restaurant will be replacing the corn tortillas with local flour tortillas from Tortilleria El Patron in Columbia.

“I would estimate we have spent more than a quarter million with local farms in the past twenty-two years,” Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze says.

When local isn’t an option, they choose certified organic products instead. Eggs, potatoes, feta cheese, bread from Uprise Bakery, pecans, and blueberries are always locally sourced.

“It seems like a natural extension of running a conscious business that you would want to support the local economy because you live here,” Leigh says.

Leigh didn’t grow up in agriculture, but she found her passion in creating meals in a sustainable business. As the owner, she does a little bit of everything around the restaurant and is the mastermind behind her tasty menu.

“I may not cook every dish that comes out of the kitchen at Main Squeeze, but I’m the one at home figuring out how to make something taste eggy even though it doesn’t have any eggs in it,” she says.

For lunch, I pulled out my leftover peppers to have them again and froze what was left for another meal later in the week. Around dinner time, I realized I needed to become a little more creative with my meals. I decided to attempt a lasagna. Instead of seeking out locally made noodles or the ingredients to make my own, I decided to use what I already had bought from the North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market in downtown Columbia, which was a whole lot of zucchini.

To say this meal was an experiment might be an understatement. I don’t have a vegetable sheet cutter, so I sliced the zucchini horizontally. Some pieces were thick and others were thin, so I made half of them into a lasagna like planned and the other half into zucchini roll ups. Despite the challenges that came with this meal, it still turned out pretty tasty. I purchased the meat from Root Cellar, and it came from Prairiebird Pastures.

Prairiebird Pastures is a private brand owned by Root Cellar that only carries 100 percent grass-fed beef with the Audubon certification seal. The Audubon Conservation Ranching Program works with local ranchers who raise cattle to help with Audubon’s mission. Since grazing cattle restores the land, the program fits with Audubon’s goal of protecting the habitat for native birds.

The Root Cellar and Columbia Farmers Market made grocery shopping simple.

Friday

The breakfast trend became bread with apple butter because it was so quick to make. It’s sweet, but not too sweet for breakfast, and I got the Thai Caesar Salad from Uprise Bakery for lunch. Uprise Bakery is another great spot in Columbia to find dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

For dinner, I had my zucchini leftovers, which still tasted pretty good. I’m proud of how my creation turned out and it provided enough food for three separate meals. Plus, I learned how to get water out of zucchini—and that it’s a necessary step!

Saturday

On the weekends, I usually sleep in a bit later, skip breakfast, and go straight for lunch. This weekend was no different. I went to my hometown Festus, but made a quick stop on the way for lunch at Lulu’s Local Eatery in St. Louis. This neighborhood cafe is known for its sustainability. According to its website, the restaurant recycles and composts 95 percent of the waste, offers a 100 percent plant-based menu using all-natural, local, and organic ingredients whenever possible, and offers 15 percent off to customers who ride their bike to the restaurant, among other eco-friendly perks. I ordered the buffalo cauliflower wrap.

When I made it to Festus, I stopped at one of my favorite produce stands in town, Richard’s Produce, and picked up a Missouri Melon. It’s similar to a regular watermelon, but a little smaller and a lot sweeter, and of course, they are all grown right here in the Show-Me State. At dinner time, I was still pretty full from lunch so I snacked on some locally sourced food that was around the house, like more of the Missouri Melon and a whole lot of Billy Goat Chips that are made in St. Louis.

Richard’s Produce has been in Festus since 1989. You can find fresh fruits, veggies, and various seasonal items here.

Sunday

I had brunch at Rooster in St. Louis. It’s hard for me to pass up crepes anywhere, but I usually opt for sweet ones. On this day, I went with the Mo. Made savory crepes. This daytime cafe has two locations in the city and supports local producers. The Mo. Made crepes are made with Missouri-made sausage, spiced apple, and cheddar.

When I got back to Columbia, I defrosted my leftover stuffed peppers and had them for a third time. I thought about making something new since I still had some local ingredients, but I decided to save them for the following week.

I’ve always known the importance of eating ethically produced food, but these seven days opened my eyes to other factors. There’s the obvious advantage of eating fresher, healthier food, but helping your local farmers, neighbors, and makers supports them and your community at a time they need it most. Although eating local all the time isn’t easy, it’s definitely worth doing more often.

Farmers Markets Around the State

C-Street Market, Springfield
City Market, Kansas City
DeSoto Farmers Market, DeSoto
Ferguson Farmers Market, Ferguson
Hickory County Farmers Market, Hermitage
Overland Farmers Market, Overland
Pulaski County Farmers’ Market, Waynesville
The Sedalia Area Farmers Market, Sedalia
Soulard Farmers Market, St. Louis
Wildwood Farmers Market, Grover
More at agebb.missouri.edu/fmktdir

Grocery Stores With Local Food

Clovers Natural Market, Columbia
Dutch Bakery and Bulk Food Store, Tipton
Local Harvest Grocery, St. Louis
Market Fresh Produce, Nixa
McGonigle’s Market, Kansas City
South Side Sales Amish Market, Clark
Weaver’s Country Market, Inc., Versailles

Photos // Drew Piester, Corin Cesaric, Columbia Farmers Market, Jesse Epple

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Garden is Done

Last night hit 31 F and my garden is wilted and done.  Sadly, there are several large green tomatoes which will not ripen, but not a loss – fried green tomatoes are a treat.  My tomato plants just didn’t get a good early start this year; same with Zucchino Rampicante Squash.  Only two are grown and large.  Incredibly, last year, i had so many of these and they are such good keepers, that i still have 3 of them to eat!  It was a challenging year for growing food.

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This squash is ripened and i’ll harvest it today.
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This monster at nearly 4 foot long isn’t ripe – i’ll harvest it and hope that it will finish in the house.

Master Gardener

Perhaps Jessica was 8 or 9 when she enrolled in the University of Missouri’s Master Gardener program.  That was nearly 20 years ago!  She really got a lot out of it (though i think her favorite lesson was flower arranging) by learning a lot about companion cropping, planting and caring for flowers, trees, and community involvement.  One of the requirements for finishing the program was to do a community service/beautification project.  Contact your local county extension agent for information about Master Gardener and other education programs available in your area.

Anyway,  October Gardening Tips from Garden Talk! for the Heartland garden enthusiast, a 4 page newsletter available online including past editions.

The ones which i will use are:

  1. Transplant deciduous trees after they have dropped their leaves.  We found a few redbud trees saplings we’d like to enjoy closer to our house.
  2. Persimmons start to ripen, especially after frost.  Well this year, no frost yet, but the persimmons are already ripe, picked up, processed, and in the freezer!
  3. Place wire guards around trunks of young fruit trees for protection against mice and rabbits.  Last year, i lost nearly all my new fruit trees during the winter.  i did have protection around them that was about 18 inches tall, but the snow drifted taller than that and the critters girdled them above the protective sleeves by walking on top the snow!!! Grrrrr…..
  4. Continue harvesting produce.
  5. Sow oats as a cover crop (i’m also chopping down the Sunn Hemp and laying it flat on the soil)
  6. Winterize lawn mower.  We send ours to John Deere for complete maintenance then remove the battery and store it inside so it doesn’t freeze.

 

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Garbage Disposal

In the United States, many of us automatically think of an InSinkErator, which is a brand of electrically run mechanical grinder of food which then flushes it all down the drain for someone else to deal with.  It is attached to a kitchen drain and mounted underneath.

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This old one no longer works and leaks!  Thus the bucket underneath because we haven’t found someone to disconnect and remove it.  I’ll figure it out and get it done sometime.  In the meantime, we put a note in the sink so water won’t be poured in accidentally.  It’s not at our house.

I remember when i was growing up, we had one.  There was always a good respect for its power – keep fingers and spoons out of them!  However, as an adult, i’ve never had one and honestly never missed it.  Now, i wonder why one would ever need this type of garbage disposal.  Natural processes are excellent at garbage disposal – especially food scraps and other organic stuff.

But, garbage disposal is actually just a term that describes various ways to dispose of garbage.  Your location and occupation often determines your definition of garbage and how you may dispose of it.  If you have too much; it might be time to make a plan to reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, repair.

In my world, food scraps are not garbage – either they are composted, (i’m lazy and just throw them out on the garden spot to break down over time, or if i’m really energetic, i may get a spade and bury them) or i feed them to our pastured laying hens (chooks), but chicken scraps go to the dog – (i never feed chicken bones and such to chickens – it just seems wrong).  Fruit from fruit trees almost always produce far more than i’m willing to preserve in some fashion, so the extra is allowed to fall, rot, and provide fodder for soil microbes which in turn provides fertilizer for the tree.

There are some amazingly attractive kitchen sized compost bins available.  Here are some on Amazon, but i’ve never tried any of them.  Do some research before purchasing – you sure don’t want smell and/or flies in your house!

But, by and large, we have very few scraps.  Leaves from broccoli and cauliflower, for example, make awesome replacement for celery or other similar greens.  This goes for nearly all greens attached to vegetables.  The core from tomatoes go to the chooks; they love them!  Beef fat goes to the chooks for extra protein they need when bugs are in short supply outdoors.  (As an aside, if you are buying eggs that are labeled as vegetarian raised chickens, the label is either a lie or the hens are in confinement – either crowded in a floored building or in a cage.)

There is a lot of hue and cry about being ‘green’, but as is usual, the ones crying the loudest are often the ones living the least ‘green’ and the biggest wasters of natural resources.  They are the crowd who shout ‘do as i say, not as i do’ while they manipulate regulations to suck cash out of your pocket and put it in theirs.

We can all do better at managing resources – we are, by and large, a wasteful country because we are blessed with so much abundance.

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Nabbed this poster from Mountain Top Cattle Co Facebook Page.

 

Sunn Hemp in the Garden

There was just a couple pounds left over of the Sunn Hemp and although it was a couple years old, i just threw it on my garden spot and expected it to do nothing.  HA!  Not only did the seed sprout (it was not even inoculated) it thrived, then took over!  Needless to say my garden production suffered, but i’m just gonna let it grow and see what it will do.  It is not supposed to mature and make seed in our environment.  Otherwise, it could become an invasive species and though it is not native to the US, it is being promoted as a deep rooted plant which will bring up minerals as well as provide some grazing when it is much younger.  The stalks now are up to an inch in diameter and quite sturdy.  I plan to chop them down and let them lay as a cover to the soil.  The chickens will have opportunity to winter in the garden plot and they will scratch it around and maybe eat a few leaves all the while adding manure out the back end.

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Those middle cattle panels are 8 feet tall.
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The flowers on Sunn Hemp are really lovely.  It is a native of India and is extremely heat tolerant.

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Experiment with Soils

What is wrong with me that i have to have some sort of experiment going nearly all the time?!!!

Here’s the one i started today:  Start and plant date:  6 APR 19

Four containers which previously held Portabella mushrooms

Two containers are filled with soil from my garden.  One is unamended, the other is mixed with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin Kelp from Iceland which i keep on hand for my cows.  Each amount is approximately 2 quarts of soil.

Two containers are filled with ‘Magic Dirt’ organic potting soil.  One is unamended, the other is mixed with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin Kelp from Iceland.  Each amount is approximately 2 quarts of soil.

The purpose is to discover if the Magic Dirt is better than my soil (probably!) and if how it compares to each amended with Thorvin Kelp.

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On the left are the two garden soil with the one at the bottom being amended with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin kelp.  On the right are Magic Dirt  with the one on the bottom amended with 2 teaspoons of Thorvin Kelp.  I placed 4 seeds in each container of Squash Zucchino Rampicante- one of our very favourite winter squashes.

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Faith, Family, Farm

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