Saturday, April 11, 2009

Farmer's Markets in the Ozarks

Early next month, efficient Mennonite farmers of the Niangua Basin (with their matte-black vans, strong hands and their charming straw hats) will descend on Camdenton's courthouse square to usher in the opening day of the Camdenton Farmer's Market. They won't be the only peddlers of asparagus, spinach, lettuce, eggs and other early spring offerings, but will be joined by a whole host of local growers who produce everything from goat's milk cheese to grass-fed beef to soap. The Camdenton Farmer's Market began in the early 2000s, with a handful of vegetable growers, a talented wood craftsman, sheep's millk cheese producer Stoney Acres Farm of Competition, and a baker who sold delicious cookies and breads selling their products from self-furnished tables or the back end of their trucks.

The Camdenton Farmer's Market has grown in recent years, just as many other new farmer's markets have started to take advantage of the upswelling of the "buy local" trend (hopefully one that continues to grow in popularity). Now, the Camdenton Farmer's Market supplies tents to vendors so plentiful as to take up almost every inch of the parking lot at the junction of Hwys. 5 and 54. Unlike at my fancy big city farmer's market that charges body parts for cheese, produce, and eggs, even enormous bouquets of (preposterously large and smelly) pink peonies at Camdenton's Farmer's Market are very affordable (I think here they charge 25$ for five stems). I don't know if Stoney Acres still sells their luscious sheep's milk cheese, soaps, and lotions here anymore, but you can buy directly from them here, at Rolla's (great! expansive!) Foods for Health and a few other health food stores in the Ozarks. (I don't know the farmers, really, but I truly dig their cheese. Oh, and they have border collies)

Of course, Camdenton isn't the only town that hosts a great farmer's market each Saturday during the growing season. In fact, there are two markets on Hwy.19 alone, one in Salem proper, and the other near the canoe outfitter town of Alton. The Lebanon Farmer's Market, located downtown near Meeks Lumber, is another great one, with local vendors setting up shop Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 to noon, May-October. Rolla's is small, but growing, hosting vendors on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7-11. This early in the season at most farmer's markets expect nice brown eggs, meat, cheese, spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, lettuces, jams, breads, and vegetable and herb starts. At some markets you can find big healthy bunches of daffodils now (if you don't live near an abandoned homestead in the Ozarks to pick your own, always great sources for daffodils, forsythia sprays, quince). I've only been to the markets listed below, but there are plenty to choose from. If you're remiss about finding morels (or if someone else discovered your patch), I'd wager you could buy a breadsack of them for about 20$ at one of these....
Go here for a map of registered Missouri farmer's markets, though I myself know of several that aren't listed here. After all, it only takes a handful of farmers to agree to meet up on a certain day to sell their extra produce to create a small impromptu market. Feel free to send information about your own personal favorite and I'll add it to the list!
Fair Grove Farmer's Market at the Mill: Wed. 3:30-7, Apr. 22-Oct. 7
Ava Grower's Market: Sat. 7-noon, April-October. At the junction of Hwy. 5 and 76
Dent Co. Farmer's Market (Salem): Tues. 3-6 pm; Sat. 7:30-noon, May-Sept. On Hwy. 19, 1/2 mi. south of the courthouse
Branson Farmer's Market: Sat. 7-noon, May 9-Oct. At the corner of Pacific and 35.


Scott Hamlet said...

Hi Allison

I wanted to comment on how much I like your site. You really seem to have your thumb on the pulse of many of the very things regarding the Ozarks that resonate with me.

Your writing has been very inspirational in refocusing my goal
of returning to the Ozarks for a career combining GIS and Rx Burning.

You can bet I'll be a regular reader and occasional commenter. And we may even cross paths sometime.

Keep up the good work.

Allison Vaughn said...

Well, hello! Thanks for reading! And always nice to hear of new folks involved in prescribed fire. Since I'm nosey, I learned that you're in Oklahoma. I bet you were really really busy last week with the grass fires. Never seen anything like a 75 mph grass fire. Must have been wild! If you're new to the field, don't let anyone tell you that you should be burning old fields; they can't be restored to anything unless there's native prairie under there. If you're in woodlands, burn the woodlands. An old field will always be an old field. So many agencies in Missouri spend way too much time on their old fields while neglecting their woodlands. I'd love to see the smidgen of Ozark uplift in Oklahoma. (Have you been to Wichita Mountains? Outstanding! but for the hogs.)

Scott Hamlet said...

Well not exactly new to the Rx. I just got my FIRB taskbook signed off. Since I work for a tribe I'm in the IQCS system through a cooperative agreement.

I live down in the Ouachitas so last Thursday, while central OK was burning up, I was ducking tornadoes.

Since I'm nosy as well...who are you working for?

Allison Vaughn said...

The Ouachitas are incredible; reading now William Least Heat Moon's Roads to Quoz, an American Mosey and the first segment is about the Ouachita River. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite...get the river. I've spent years in and around the Ouachita River in Arkansas and Louisiana, and his writing is very outsider. But whatever. I'm finishing the book. Oh, I work for the state agency charged with protecting landscapes and ecosystems...a fine outfit, I guess, though a major source of significant stress in my life. Oh well. Hope springs eternal.

Allison Vaughn said...

Ted--I wrote a long, long, overlong post about grazing sometime last year. Maybe called "Behind the Fence?" I showed pictures of Bennett Spring Savanna, the nice high quality 60 acres versus the overgrazed section in the back that no management regime can help. Fire, thinning, napalm, none of it can reverse the long history of open range grazing in the Ozarks. And herein lies the problem with modern day grazing protocols: while grazing is an important management tool, one that CAN be used to mimic historic disturbances such as elk and bison herds, land managers and private citizens are not providing a monitoring protocol that will instruct them when it's time to move the animals off the land. Therefore, in the case of Taberville Prairie Natural Area, they're grazing the snot out of it without gathering any data, and biodiversity is suffering. I can't stress enough the importance of monitoring to management regimes. You have to be really, really careful about overgrazing. I have my own opinions about the bison at Regal, but probably should save my rant for an afternoon at Flat Branch...following a bike ride through the fine, bush honeysuckle woodlands of Columbia!