Columbia Farmers Market
By Amy Burger
Along with sunnier skies and warmer temperatures, one of the best things about spring is the reopening of farmers’ markets. In a region rich with farmland, Missourians have so many opportunities to get fresh, locally grown and produced food in every corner of the state, from small, roadside stands to large city farmers’ markets.
In fact, the US Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers’ Market Directory lists 310 farmers’ markets in Missouri, putting the state among the top ten states in number of farmers’ markets, and since 2008, farmers’ market establishments in Missouri have grown by 74 percent. Agriculture is also the state’s largest industry, employing nearly 300,000 people. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture data, Missouri is the second largest state in terms of number of farms and ranks twelfth in terms of most farmland. Better still, 97 percent of Missouri’s farms are family farms, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
“Farming has always been a part of Missouri’s rich history and economic makeup,” says Mike Downing, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “Farmers’ markets provide an excellent way for customers to connect with local producers and learn about the food grown in their communities. By shopping at a farmers’ market, we are supporting our communities and exposed to healthier food choices.”
AgriMissouri, a program within the Missouri Department of Agriculture, provides access to Missouri-grown and Missouri-made food and farm products as well as agri-tourism destinations and experiences. Visit AgriMissouri.com for a comprehensive list of Missouri farmers’ markets.
Here is a closer look at a few of the top markets and vendors from various regions of the state.
14256 Magnolia Ave, St Louis, Missouri 63110
Celebrating its eleventh season in 2016, Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in historic Tower Grove Park in south St. Louis has become a favorite of locals and tourists alike. The market is one of the region’s only independent farmers’ markets. In fact, the nonprofit organization relies on private donations for more than 30 percent of its operating budget, and its mission, in part, is to promote the sale of Missouri- and Illinois-grown farm products; to improve the variety, freshness, taste, and nutritional value of produce available in the St. Louis area; and to make healthy, regionally produced foods accessible to lower-income residents.
All vendors and products come from within 150 miles of St. Louis. In addition to plenty of fresh produce, meats, cheese, and prepared foods, the market offers fresh flowers, crafts, and even locally made dog food. New vendors joining the market this season include an alpaca meat and fiber vendor, a seasonal baby food maker, and La Vista CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) Farm.
Visitors to the market can also listen to live music weekly and participate in free yoga and Qigong classes each Saturday morning on the lawn next to the market. Other seasonal events planned for 2016 include a chef series of cooking demonstrations and a family day that will feature children’s activities.
The Tower Grove Farmers’ Market is open Saturday mornings from 8 am until noon from Mid-April through November.
Must-Try Vendor: Baetje Farms
Baetje Farms is an award-winning, French- inspired artisan goat cheese dairy and creamery based in Bloomsdale that has been featured in The New York Times.
The farm produces cheeses year-round and sells its products at retail shops, farmers’ markets, and through distributors across the United States. Owners, cheesemakers, and dairy farmers Steve and Veronica Baetje—both natives of St. Louis— got started while living in a rural Mennonite community farming and raising goats. Veronica began making goat cheese on a small scale in her kitchen and fell in love with the entire process.
After leaving the Mennonite community, the couple bought their current property, complete with an old farmhouse, moved in, and bought a herd of goats to make cheese on a larger scale. They extended the existing barn and turned it into a cheese manufacturing plant.
They love French-style cheeses in particular—inspired in part by the nearby Ste. Genevieve community, which has a rich French history and continuing French culture. With milk from their herd of about fifty goats, the Baetjes produce a wide variety of cheeses from fresh Coeur de la Crème chévre to aged varieties like Bloomsdale—their award-winning agship cheese—and marinated feta, among others.
The Chillicothe Farmers’ Market on the Chillicothe Courthouse Square will be celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year and will be kicking off the season on May 7 with its traditional ringing of the opening bell.
The long-running market is open to growers and craftspeople from the surrounding Livingston and Green Hills Counties. Around a dozen producers and vendors sell at the market each Saturday, with as many as eighteen during the peak produce months. Loyal customers can regularly buy fresh, local seasonal produce, baked goods, frozen meats, honey, jams, and plants as well as handcrafted items such as birdhouses.
The market also hosts a Canner Testing in early June each year and a market basket give- away on the last Saturday of every month.
The market is open on Saturdays from 8 am to noon, May through October.
Must-Try Vendor: Tonja Tiemeyer
Since 2013, Tonja Tiemeyer has grown and sold a wide variety of spring vegetables at the Chillicothe Farmers’ Market including green onions, lettuce, radishes, green beans, asparagus, rhubarb, and red and white potatoes. Tonja also sells farm-raised pork and beef by the package, whole chickens, and farm fresh eggs. With fruit from trees growing on their land, she bakes fresh pies including strawberry rhubarb, pecan, apple, peach, gooseberry, and blackberry.
Growing up in the country, this mother of three young children has been gardening for much of her life. After her second child was born, Tonja quit her job to raise her kids and manage their large garden on nearly an acre of land. It’s a family affair, and her two oldest kids—ages three and five—are already helping out.
“They help work the ground a little bit and really enjoy washing everything up,” Tonja says.
She also takes the kids to the market with her on Saturdays in season, where they enjoy helping customers.
This producer-only market offers a nice variety of 100 percent local vendors. Hannibal has enjoyed a farmers’ market for many years, but its current incarnation, Hannibal Central Park Farmers’ Market, began in 2015. Located in Central Park with its lush grass and shady trees, the market’s open, airy feel has attracted both new and old vendors, as well as loyal customers. Around a dozen local vendors gather each week through the season, offering everything from the usual produce to handmade crafts, eggs, and fresh dairy.
Throughout the season, the market hosts a weekly giveaway via its Facebook page, selecting a random customer name on Friday mornings. The weekly winner gets a special market tour on that Saturday morning in which they meet the vendors and are given a free item from each one to take home and enjoy.
The market runs from 8 am to noon each Saturday and 4 to 7 pm each Tuesday.
Must-Try Vendor: Hope Farms
Center-based Hope Farms is a family business run by Steve Huse. The farm offers all types of chemical-free produce including tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, onions, potatoes, apples, peaches, strawberries, and more. In addition to using all-natural growing methods, the farm uses other green practices—such as composting and recycling—as much as possible. To that end, the chickens Steve raises provide him with fertilizer, and he composts all produce waste.
Hope Farms operates in part on twenty-two acres that have been in the Huse family since 1934.
“I was raised on a farm, so it’s in my blood,” Steve says. “My grandparents were farmers and I inherited a piece of their land. I’m farming the same ground my parents farmed. My grandson will eventually inherit it.”
Hope Farms is entering its fifth season selling at the Hannibal Central Park Farmer’s Market. Steve looks forward to market weekends as a social time.
“Farming is hard work, especially the way we do it,” he says. “We work our butts off all week, so it’s nice to get to show people what you work so hard for.”
46321 Wornall Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64113
Open since 2003, Brookside Farmers’ Market is one of the oldest organic markets in the Kansas City area. At this producer-only market, all producers use organic, sustainable, and cruelty-free practices and travel less than one hundred miles to market to sell to consumers directly. Much of the produce even comes from Kansas City’s urban farms. Even non-food vendors and artisans adhere to these standards and use at least 51 percent organic or reclaimed materials to produce their goods.
The market’s offerings include farm-fresh vegetables, herbs, fresh owers, meat, free-range eggs, handmade home and body products, freshly prepared breads and baked goods, and ice cream. A typical day at the market also includes live music, children’s activities, educational exhibits, and cooking demonstrations. Good news for pet lovers: the market is dog friendly, so feel free to bring your four-legged friends.
The Brookside Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 8 am to 1 pm, April 23 to October 22.
Must-Try Vendor: Red Ridge Farms
Family farmers Ami and Jim Zumalt and their children Anna and Andrew have been growing since 2009 and started coming to the Brookside Farmers’ Market the same year. At their certified organic farm in Odessa, they plant and harvest more than four hundred varieties of fruits and vegetables. In addition to weekly market sales, they also offer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions and offer a great percentage of market prices with their debit style CSA program at Brookside.
“The surprise of having children with food allergies prompted us to explore organic food production eight years ago,” Ami says. “We both grew up on farms with extensive gardens, so returning to farming was a no-brainer.”
Recognized by Clean Eating magazine as one of the top fifty farmers’ markets in the country, this producer-only market started in 1980 with a small group of farmers selling out of the back of their trucks. They worked with the local chamber of commerce, Boone County Extension, and others to officially organize a market, which has grown to now include more than seventy vendors and around four thousand weekly customers during its peak season.
All vendors reside within a twenty-five-mile radius of the market, making it extremely local. The market regularly inspects all of its vendor farms to ensure that they are providing safe, local, and reliable products. The vendors offer everything from fresh produce, meat, and eggs to cheeses, honey, cut owers, plants, and various artisan items. Shoppers can also enjoy live music.
The market is open at 1701 West Ash Street on Saturdays from 8 am until noon, April through October, and 9 am until noon November through March inside the Parkade Center.
Must-Try Vendor: Stanton Brothers Eggs
Centralia-based brothers Dustin and Austin Stanton started selling their eggs at the Columbia Farmers’ Market in 2007 as an FFA project while still in high school at the encouragement of a neighbor. Fast-forward to 2016, and the Stanton brothers now operate the largest free-range egg operation in the country. With more than twenty thousand hens laying eggs, they sell to over forty outlets in central Missouri, though they still come to the Columbia Farmers’ Market every weekend.
“We just love it,” Dustin says. “It’s so great meeting all of the customers and talking to them.”
Many customers have literally watched Dustin and Austin grow up over summers at the market. On a typical Saturday morning, they sell between four and five hundred dozen eggs. They also sell potatoes, which Austin started growing, and homemade honey ice cream in their booth.
Dustin graduated from Mizzou last year with a degree in agriculture business, and Austin started there last fall studying agriculture systems management. The brothers come from a traditional farm family that raised crops and cattle.
“Eggs have been a way for us to grow an agri-business while still being involved with the family farm,” Dustin says.
This year-round market features vendors from a 150-mile radius of Spring eld and has been operating since 2012. Ranked by The Daily Meal as one of the top farmers’ markets across the country, Farmers’ Market of the Ozarks boasts more than 110 vendors in its membership, and even about forty in the dead of winter. Market Executive Director Lane McConnell previously worked for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, helping others set up markets across the state. When she moved back to her home area of Spring eld to help her parents, she decided to open a market there, too.
Through a thorough inspection program, the market does farm inspections with all vendors to ensure the trust and integrity of the products sold. The majority of vendors are area farmers, with a few small retailers as well. The nonprofit market holds two farm-to-table fundraiser dinners in the summer and fall.
Proceeds from that dinner go back to its education fund to help send farmers to classes and are also used for offering culinary classes and consumer education in the market.
The market is open on Saturdays all year from 8 am to 1 pm.
Must-Try Vendor: Ozarks Natural Foods
Ozarks Natural Foods offers fresh, local meat and is a joint effort between the Scarrow and Walker family farms. These aren’t your average farmers. Although he grew up on a farm, Alan Scarrow is a brain surgeon and president of Mercy Health System in Springfield. His wife, Meera, is an obstetrician. Beth Walker is an associate professor of agriculture at Missouri State University and has a PhD in physiology. Her husband, Weston, manages their farm full-time, where they raise cattle, lambs, and hogs. The Scarrows also raise cattle on their farm, and the business operations are centered there.
Both couples share a similar philosophy on grass-fed, no-grain beef as well as the humane management of animals.
“When I eat meat, I like my animals to be well- raised,” Meera says. “I think there’s a strong correlation between the health of the animal and health of people who eat the animal.”
The couples also love selling their meat at the Farmers’ Market of the Ozarks, where the Scarecrows’ eight-year-old son, Harrison, will often run the stand.
“Taking our children to the market is a great thing,” Meera says. “We love that they set up the market to not only focus on farmers but consumers and consumer education.”
Unique from the other farmers’ markets on this list, The Farmers’ Market at Fort Leonard Wood is located on an active military base. A fourth of its vendors are active duty or retired military personnel, and the market’s manager, Samantha Kramer, is working hard to grow that number by engaging local veterans with farmers and veteran agriculture groups.
“Fort Leonard Wood has a lot of great sustainability goals and initiatives, and increasing access to local foods for our service members was one of those goals,” Samantha says.
The producer-only market is open to the public and supports more than 750 acres of farmland within a forty-five-mile radius of Fort Leonard Wood. It currently has fifteen vendors that sell everything from grass-fed beef, lamb, rabbit, pasture-raised pork, artisan goat cheeses, and grass-fed bison to produce of all kinds, honey, breads, pies, cakes, and other goods.
Must-Try Vendor: Lightning M Ranch
Operated by farmer John Myers—a major in the Army National Guard with a degree in agricultural economics from Truman State University—Lightning M Ranch in Richland raises and sells hormone-free grass-fed beef. It only sells what is raised on the farm.
“We grow our own hay, so we know what the cattle are eating,” John says. “We also don’t use pesticides to get rid of flies. Instead, we use tiny wasps that are y predators. Many people are unaware that pesticides are often used to keep flies off cows; it’s poured on their skin and sinks into their flesh, affecting the meat. We don’t do that.”
John’s dad owned cattle, so he had exposure at a young age, and then pursued an agriculture degree. When the time was right, he purchased the farm. It didn’t have much existing infrastructure for cattle, so John was able to design it the way he wanted. He set it up to be easy for his wife, Sara, to take care of and run when he’s away on military duty.
The Myers family enjoys selling at the farmers’ market and o ering customers fresh steaks, ground beef, and ribs, as well as nuts and other wild edibles like native berries and sassafras root. They also grow and sell fruit including apples and grapes. They enjoy meeting and sharing what they do with other military families.
“I like eating clean and passing that on,” John says. “I try to sell at grocery store prices so regular people can afford to eat well.”
Now in its fifth year, the Cape Riverfront Market takes over a large public parking lot in downtown Cape Girardeau each Saturday where vendors from a hundred-mile radius set up tents to sell goods that range from produce to meat, owers, prepared foods, and even arts and crafts. The market has grown steadily with more than twenty-five vendors each week and around one thousand visitors on its busiest days. The Cape Riverfront Market also offers a free kids’ Marketeers Club from May through August. In this club, kids ages five to twelve learn about nutrition, science, and growing food through fun, hands-on activities.
Demonstrations of various types also take place every week between 9 and 11 am. Typically, the demonstrations come from vendors and area craftspeople who want to share skills. Sometimes, local chefs do food demonstrations.
The market is a true gathering place for the community with live music each week and a shady sitting area with tables and chairs for people to relax, eat, and listen. Most vendors are cash only, so come prepared.
Must-Try Vendor: Gillard Family Honey
Jackson-based beekeepers Grant and Nancy Gillard manage around two hundred hives and produce local raw honey and varietal honeys that reflect the owers in the area or the various crops their bees are pollinating. Although his full-time job is pastor of Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church, where he’s served for more than twenty years, Grant got the beekeeping bug early as a student at Iowa State University. Looking for an easy A class, he stumbled upon a beekeeping course and signed up. There, he learned about the remarkable world of bees.
“It’s a real sociological order and a biological system,” Grant says. “It’s truly amazing how they work—all doing their jobs.”
After graduating with an agriculture degree, he returned to his family’s farm in Minnesota and began keeping bees as a hobby. He got sidetracked attending seminary school in California, where he met wife Nancy. After completing their ministerial degrees, the couple returned to the Midwest, and Grant rekindled his interest in beekeeping, eventually getting Nancy into it as well.
The leap from hobby to honey business came slowly and organically. Today, the couple keeps bees in three different counties in Southeast Missouri and sells at multiple markets, including Cape Riverfront Market, where they’ve been vending since its opening. He loves educating folks at the market who think honey is just honey. The Gillards offer samples of their di erent varieties.
“Some of our bees are pollinating nectar on strawberries, and the nectar is so unique that the honey actually has a hint of a berry taste to it,” Grant says. “Others are pollinating watermelons, and that honey also has a light flavor; I call it wild flower honey.”