Cape County Farm Bureau is not just for farmers. It is currently seeking new members from various fields related to agriculture.
To emphasize the diversity in agriculture, representatives from five local agricultural micro-producers spoke at the March 13 Farm Bureau meeting at Wings, Etc. in Jackson.
Lance Green of Patton now operates a small restaurant in downtown Cape Girardeau that features locally grown food. Called Spanish Street Farmacy because the space was formerly a drug store/pharmacy, the name is spelled with an “F” to emphasize the homegrown food.
The ground beef for its hamburgers comes from locally raised cattle that ate grass or non-GMO grain.
The old drug store soda fountain has been refurbished and you can purchase sodas, shakes and sundaes made with homemade ice cream. The milk and cream come from an Illinois Dairy (Green could not find a closer dairy) and the eggs come from Jackson Egg Co. The sugar is organic.
The apples in the apple spice cake grew on local trees.
“We make everything from scratch from things locally grown,” Green said. He doesn’t set the menu and try to find local producers. He works the other way around. “The supply we can get locally determines our menu.”
Green sells some packaged items but his dream of opening a full grocery store stocked with local items is off in the future. “The demand is not quite there yet,” he said.
Steve Meier owns a Christmas tree farm with his wife, Teresa. “After Christmas they don’t sell very well,” he said. In addition to Christmas trees, his property has an abundance of maple trees, so Meier began tapping the trees and cooking his own maple syrup.
He began the process with “absolutely no clue except what I read and what I found out on YouTube,” he said.
He begins tapping trees about Jan. 15, and he collects sap until the end of February. In March, the sap will start to turn yellow and taste bitter.
A 10-inch diameter tree will get one tap. A 16-inch tree will support two taps. A 24-inch or bigger tree can have three or four taps. Meier hangs gallon buckets on his taps. He may get from one to three gallons a day from each tree.
The holes drilled in the tree for the taps don’t harm the tree. They heal over in a year.
The sap is cooked down in a large vat over a wood fire. It goes from there into a finishing pot and from there into bottles.
It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
Real maple syrup has a different taste from syrup bought in a grocery store — most syrup is corn syrup with maple flavoring added.
Andy Stover started Stover Barns as a painting service. “I teach school nine months of the year. This is what I do on my free time,” he said.
What began as simply painting barns turned into repairing barns and remodeling them, sometimes for other uses.
“It’s hot and dirty and nasty work,” he said. He passed around a handout with photos of barns with before and after shots showing how he transformed beat-up rickety old structures into strong, modern structures.
Adam Birk of Jackson Egg Co. comes from a family of farmers, but he is the first to get into poultry. His company started small but has continued to grow. “We had to get bigger to survive,” he said.
He would like to expand, getting other local farmers who have at least five acres to park a trailer and raise 1,000 chickens. Then he would make the rounds in a refrigerated truck and pick up the eggs. He’d sell the eggs and pay the producers.
Jackson Egg Co. raises cage-free and pasture-raised chickens. It sells their brown eggs at a premium price at various grocery stores, including Schnucks and Food Giant in Cape Girardeau, and Dierberg’s in St. Louis. Several area restaurants also buy his eggs.
Josh Walther, a field technician with Mid-South Dairy Records, explained how he helps local dairy farmers. He visits 11 farms with cows numbering from 26 to 1,000.
By testing the milk from the cows, he can inform the farmer if any cows have infections. He can also report which cows are making the farmer the most money. Some cows produce more milk than others, and some cows produce less milk but the milk has more butterfat that brings a higher price.
This showcase of micro-production in agriculture helped to illustrate that there are local agricultural products and services available in this area in addition to the traditional farming.