Farmers markets are increasingly becoming the way people find ways to understand their food and keep their money in the local economy. In central Missouri, Osage Beach Farmers Market is making strides to bring food closer to locals and vacationers at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The market will open for the season on Saturday May 4, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Stone Crest Mall in Osage Beach.
“Food is the most important thing a person can buy,” according to Nathan Bechtold, market manager of Osage Beach Farmers Market. “So, just like when we buy a car, we ask around, compare quality, and find the best product to transport our bodies from place to place, we should also seek out the highest quality food to put in our bodies.”
The market opened in 2012, and in spite of last summer’s extraordinary heat, Bechtold said it was still a respectable first year.
“We learned a few things last year,” he said. “And this year we will be in a better location, at a better time of day.”
One important thing to Osage Beach Farmers Market managers, vendors, and customers is the Pure Food Pledge, which all vendors must sign before selling at the market. In doing so, vendors agree not to sell any fruits or vegetables grown from genetically modified seed, and they agree not to use chemical pesticides or herbicides. Farmers raising meat and eggs agree not to use routine antibiotics or growth hormones, and commit to having their animals in a pasture-based, outdoor setting.
Bechtold explains he and co-manager Will Runyon created the Pure Food Pledge for several reasons.
“We personally like to know what’s in our food... how it was raised. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to food,” he said. “But we also know that these kinds of agricultural practices are better for the soil and watershed, and create more nutritionally dense foods.”
He points to a study published in Science magazine, which shows beef from cows fed grain in concentrated feedlot operations on average has a higher fat content.
“Those fats in particular are Omega-6s,” he said, “which cause inflammation in the body. We eat way too many of those fats already, and feedlot beef is just adding to the problem.”
In contrast, this year’s market will feature vendors such as CC Highland Ranch out of Richland, which will sell grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Another, Osage Prairie Bison, located in Brumley, will sell bison meat raised the same way.
Bechtold listed the offerings he expects for opening day at the market: beef, bison, baked breads, eggs, pork, some early produce and homemade soap.
Page 2 of 2 - Tomatoes, peppers, and berries are coming soon, he says, but the prolonged cold weather and persistently wet weather this spring has slowed plant growth and prohibited market gardeners from planting as much.
Besides the selection of meats, produce, baked goods, and homemade items, the first 100 customers on May 4 will receive a free fruit or nut-bearing sapling.
“It’s all about growing what you can, and knowing who grows what you can’t,” Bechtold said.
He cited another perk of farmers markets, saying the money spent stays in the local economy: “Instead of paying the owner of some farm in Mexico or California, you’re paying somebody who lives just up the road.” And that brought him to mention a final benefit.
“Fresh food is always better,” he said. “As soon as it comes off the plant, a lot of produce begins to lose some of its nutritional content. And then when you have tomatoes that were picked green, shipped across the continent, and ripened with ethylene gas, you can just imagine the nutrient’s you’re missing compared to ones picked this morning, having ripened in the sun, on the vine.”
For many, one of the best things about market days is the community experience.
“You’re outside, in the fresh air, and everyone is just enjoying looking at the food and talking to the farmers and growers,” Bechtold said. “And whether you walk away with a huge bag of groceries or nothing but a smile, it’s just a great atmosphere at the market.”
More information about Osage Beach Farmers Market is available at www.osagebeachfarmersmarket.com and www.facebook.com/osagebeachfarmersmarket.