More and more often these days we hear about how it is more healthful to eat locally produced foods without additives, preservatives and growth hormones. Health professionals say eating foods with little to no additives reduces your risk of developing certain diseases, and improves your overall health.
Fortunately, I live in the farm rich region of Northwest Missouri. Fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat are all locally produced here. One of the best ways to shake off the dreary, confining days of winter is to pack a cooler and visit some of the farm stands and local shops for that high-quality food. One sunny, blooming day in May, I did just that.
The best way to start your healthy shopping trip is at the local farmer’s market. I recommend the Bethany Farmer’s Market, which begins in May, and runs through October or until the harvest season ends. It is open Saturday mornings, from 8 a.m. until the food runs out. Here you can get locally grown vegetables, Amish baked goods and jams, and even farm-fresh eggs. If you have never had an egg fresh from the farm, it has no comparison to a store-bought egg. One vendor will sometimes have duck eggs. Duck eggs are a real treat. They are larger, richer and have more protein than a hen-laid egg. Add some greens, and fresh-baked whole grain bread, and you are on your way to a balanced, healthy diet. For information on more Missouri Farmer’s Markets, visit AgriMissouri.com or stop in at a Missouri Welcome Center.
After heading south down I-35, I leave the interstate behind and venture onto Highway 6 toward Maysville. Getting off the interstate in Northwest Missouri takes you into open, hilly countryside. With almost no trees and hardly any man-made structures, there is little to obstruct your view of rolling, green hills and blue, open sky. Just outside Maysville is the Old Cookstove, an Amish-owned grocery store. The Old Cookstove offers bulk items such as rice, flour, nuts and spices, as well as fresh-baked bread, pies, noodles, snack mixes, meat and dairy, most of it from local farms. They also offer cooking utensils, including quality American made cutlery.
Back out in the sunshine, the swans, and goats feeding next to the store reminded me that this is not your average grocery store. Baby goats relaxed on a pile of rocks while a Billy goat with a beard and horns strolled by the pond. It was a picturesque scene. From Cookstove it’s another scenic drive to Trimble for more healthy food. If you take Highway 33 South to Highway 116 West you can go through Plattsburg, which has beautiful Victorian architecture. A quick trip from there down 169 South takes you to Trimble, population of 300 or so, and the home of Paradise Locker Meats.
Paradise Locker Meats is a family business, run by the Fantasmas. They process livestock from local, family farms. By the way, almost all of the farms in Missouri are family farms. The hogs processed at Paradise Locker Meats are raised outdoors, with no added hormones. You can get sausage made right at the facility, like apple brats or hot kielbasa.
Looking for something besides a hamburger?
Besides beef patties, Paradise also sells elk and buffalo patties, which contain less fat. They also offer rabbit, quail, duck and kangaroo (yes, you didn’t misread that.) Of course, there are the standard pork chops and pork ribs. However, at this meat locker you can get more than the standard cuts. You can get the odds and ends (or delicacies depending on how you look at it), like sweetbreads (brains), tongues, cheek meats, and other parts. A friend of mine got a cow neck bone, which makes wonderful restaurant-quality broth.
I stuck to the standard sausage, peppered bacon, and bacon cheeseburger patties. The Fantasmas believe a stress-free environment makes for a better quality meat, which is why the pig-pen has a misting fan for the hot, summer months. Contact Paradise Locker Meats about their tours if you are interested in learning more about this unique facility.
That frozen meat should be OK for a little while in the cooler, so I take time to stop on the way back at Shatto Milk Company in Osborn for some fresh milk. The general store has expanded and now offers a lunch counter and viewing window where visitors can watch the milk-bottling process. The people at Shatto Milk Company don’t use growth hormones (and neither do the cows, yuk yuk), and the milk is so fresh it can be from the cow to the store in as little as 12 hours. Shatto offers free samples of the different milk flavors that range from plain and chocolate, to root beer, orange crème, and cotton candy. Shatto sells butter, cream, cheese, and ice cream, all made on-site.
Also available is their newest product, gourmet ice cream “sammiches.” These “sammiches” are all natural, using “made from scratch” cookies. Before you go, say hello to the baby calves. Visitors to the General Store are welcome to pet them. Soft and big eyed, they are adorable. But watch out for that twelve-inch tongue that snakes out to lick your hand when you’re rubbing their heads.
Coolers stuffed full, that was the end of my shopping day. However, there are so many places to get farm fresh, healthy food in Northwest Missouri.
For non-perishable healthy foods, stop at Moriah Acres grocery store in Cameron. Located in town, they have an excellent selection of organic, gluten-free, and all natural foods. Often, they will have locally grown vegetables or farm fresh eggs. The great thing about Moriah Acres is that you can get the exact same brand of specialty foods that you can purchase in Kansas City, for at a fraction of the cost.
Later in the summer the farm stands in Waverly and Lexington will have locally grown peaches, and after that in the fall go to Schweizer Orchards in St. Joseph and pick your own apples. After that, pecan season starts in Brunswick. Be sure to get your picture taken with the world’s largest pecan. Almost any time of the year, you can find farm fresh food in Northwest Missouri. Almost as good as the taste of it is the knowledge that you are doing something good for your health.
Written by Sally Anton, supervisor of the Official Missouri Welcome Center in Eagleville.