A Lifelong Commitment To Growing Healthy Food

By Nancy Smith, Secretary, Farm to Family Naturally

Lillian Glass Hunter is a legend in her own lifetime. She has spent years improving the lives of fellow Bootheel residents while improving the quality of the homegrown produce offered in St. Louis markets.

Lillian was born during the Great Depression and remembers many of the creative ways her parents made ends meet. Her mother, who is still active at 103 years of age, always recognized the importance of quality and passed that to her children. Growing up on the farm, Lillian’s family raised chickens, turkeys and vegetables. They had no electricity and only one old tractor.
The family originally lived in Mississippi County, Arkansas and bought a section of land which became their family farm in 1937 after a house fire destroyed their home in Arkansas. One of Lillian’s father’s favorite crops was sweet potatoes, which Lillian delights in growing to this day. She considers herself an expert at growing sweet potatoes and recognizes most varieties at a glance. Her favorites are the types that have a deep red orange flesh with red skins, like Beauregard.
Lillian attended college in Chicago, where she met her husband in 1946. She remained in Chicago for 30 years, where she raised her children and taught in the Chicago School System.
When her husband became ill, Lillian brought him to the old family farm in the Bootheel, where she could care for him. Upon arriving back home after all those years, she was struck by the length of the growing season. She and her sister shared ideas and eventually formed a cooperative of local farmers. Her goal was to provide a decent living for low-income farmers while providing quality produce for consumers. From the beginning, Lillian was insistent that the farmers use sustainable growing methods and provide a variety of produce that was notable for its quality. For years, the fifteen farmers grew in their knowledge and marketing ability and successfully improved their own lives.

About five years ago, the cooperative fell apart when Lillian became ill, some of its members became too old to farm, and others lost their direction. This year, Lillian and her daughter, Adrienne Hunter and a friend, Darvin Green have resurrected the old cooperative and made it even better. They are focusing on bringing in younger members and providing training in sustainable farming methods and marketing. The cooperative plans to grow Southern crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, purple-hull peas and many varieties of squash. Sappington Farmers Market is working closely with this cooperative and will be proud to offer their produce in the coming season in the store and as part of the new CSA program.

Sappington Farmers Market is located at 8400 Watson Road, between Elm and Laclede Station Road

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