Making Great Strides in the Locavore Movement

By Nancy Smith, secretary, Farm to Family Naturally

Working with farmers is the part of my job that I love the most. Our efforts at Sappington Farmers Market have created a demand for local product that necessitates organizing farmers and aggregating farm products from very small farms to one spot where they can be picked up by our truck. Our farm families are the “salt of the earth” and it is a joy to work with them.
All winter, knowing that spring would open the floodgates of demand for farm-fresh product, we worked with farmers singly and in groups. Out of these efforts, one brand new farmer cooperative was born, and another was helped to grow. In addition, we have formed a relationship with a community of Amish people in central Illinois who are excited to have a committed relationship with a supermarket that takes buying local very seriously.

Representing two disparate areas of our state, the two cooperatives will eventually have the ability to provide most of our produce needs. Missouri Agricultural Producers is our co-op in the Bootheel of Missouri. Members of this cooperative typically grow small acreages of southern crops. Their specialties are tomatoes, melons, peppers, squash, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, collards, okra and southern peas (otherwise known as cowpeas or field peas). Farm to Family Naturally hopes to bring together these producers of traditional “soul food” crops with folks in the St. Louis area who have nostalgic memories of their families’ cultural dishes, and others who hope to try cooking southern food for the first time.

The long season of the Bootheel area will give us an opportunity to offer these products over many months of the year. Unfortunately, as is often the case with farming, this year brought its own set of problems with the massive flooding in the Bootheel area. Some of our farmers narrowly avoided having their fields completely flooded. However, they are planting much later than usual because of muddy conditions. Others had their fields inundated with water from the flooding of the Bird’s Point levee, and will probably not be able to grow anything this summer. We expect our southern crops to be late this year, and we hope for a good fall growing season.

The Producers of the Ozarks Plateau, a cooperative which was formed for the purpose of filling our trucks on a regular basis throughout the growing season, had less flooding. Cool spring weather and muddy conditions have proven challenging, but these growers exhibit the independence and determination typical of that hilly region. Most of the growers are proceeding with plans to grow micro-greens, blackberries, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, squash, peppers, melons and other crops. We can hardly wait to see the beautiful produce that both co-ops will be bringing us.
Produce has already begun to trickle in from the Amish community near Chester, Illinois, and our CSA members have enjoyed lettuce and strawberries from them already. CSA members assure us that the produce was delicious and incredibly fresh-and that’s what makes the effort worthwhile. We’re proud of the great strides we’re making to enable urban residents to enjoy the best and freshest food available.

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

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