The Earliest Spring Ever

by Nancy Smith, Farm Sourcer-ess

Spring is my favorite season of the year. This year it started in February, but no-one is complaining. What happens when the weather is spring-like in February? Fruit trees blossom early, winter greens keep growing (and some of them bolt and go to seed), and adventuresome gardeners and farmers begin to think about planting early this year. . .really early.

So far, the result of this headstart has been bounteous crops of spring greens, asparagus, radishes, lovely lettuces and the earliest strawberries on record. Already the produce bins at Sappington Farmers Market have been overflowing with wonderful locally and sustainably-grown produce like Sam Miller’s incredibly beautiful and tasty organic asparagus.

As “Sourcer-ess” for the store, I have had the pleasure of traveling to Sam and Melinda Miller’s farm in Macomb, MO several times to pick up asparagus and other tasty vegetables. Since the Millers use only minerals as fertilizer and use no pesticides of any kind, their fields are a joy to behold and a source of health to them, their children and the lucky consumers who take home their tasty vegetables.

Since it’s a big job for a family to pick, clean, weigh and box so much produce, I am often called upon to pitch in. What a pleasure it is to wash sparkling French Breakfast radishes and form them into tidy bundles. This past week, I helped Sam and two of his children pick kale and broccoli. Working together in the field is conducive to good conversation, so I was able to learn more about what it’s like to be an Amish farmer with limited resources.

Sam talked about his first job, working for a roofing contractor, when he was a teenager. He had never been off the farm for longer than it takes to go to town and pick up supplies, so it was a tremendous adjustment for him. He was no stranger to hard work, but he was uncomfortable in a culture so different from his upbringing. His strong work ethic soon endeared him to his employers, and he grew to enjoy the time off the farm.

Sam’s wife Melinda has also worked off-farm. She worked as a waitress before her children were born, and she says “I loved it!” Her goal was to make sure that everyone left with a smile on their face, and I’m sure she succeeded. Melinda is a genuinely sweet young mother of five children, with an engaging sense of humor. My time with the Millers always leaves me with a sense of well-being, and I usually head for home with simple gifts, like Melinda’s homemade noodles.

The asparagus, kale, radishes and broccoli that I have been able to bring to the store are simple gifts for you and your family, too. Soon the produce bins will be overflowing with the Millers’ sweet and juicy Chandler strawberries. Don’t miss them!

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