There is nothing like rambling down a bumpy road, alongside antique tractors busily cutting hay fields, with a friendly wave from the farmer in his straw hat and suspenders. Bobwhite quail flitter alongside green blades of corn crops so thick, rows are unidentifiable.

Do you enjoy exploring off the beaten path? If so, this one's for you.

Recently trekking through Mennonite country, main roads feature some well known destinations near Versailles for tourists. Unless you pick up a Mennonite Community map, you might be missing out on great small businesses, that definitely qualify as “off the beaten path.”

Fall is the most popular time for visitors to the mennonite country, with all the bright colors. But locals know that summer is a magical season in the farming villages of Morgan County. Head north to Highway 52 east of Versailles, through Latham, all the way to Highway 50 between Tipton and California is within a two hour trip.

There is nothing like rambling down a bumpy road, alongside antique tractors busily cutting hay fields, with a friendly wave from the farmer in his straw hat and suspenders. Bobwhite quail flitter alongside green blades of corn crops so thick, rows are unidentifiable.

One business that is a must see is Central Missouri Produce Auction. It is the premier destination for the home canner, who doesn’t have time to garden crops themselves.

The long metal building appears nothing special, But on Saturdays, its the social hub of the week. Mennonite families sell their home garden wares, as well as some of the big commercial growing operations of the area.

On the main sale floor, the crowd follows up to three auctioneers at one time, as they roam the aisles of freshly harvested produce. A little chaotic at times, it’s great fun jumping from one auction to another, as big flats of ruby red tomatoes, and 50 pound bags of corn still in husks quickly sell by the pick up truck loads. The rare flat of okra brings a lot vying for, as guests strain to see who the big spending winner is.. The small batch canner will appreciate the cafe room auction, which takes place after the big floor is completed.

Located in the cafe area, the amatuer canner like myself finds half flats or pints of plump blackberries, sweet juicy strawberries, and occasionally the rare okra crop. Lesser quantities line up on wagons, and are quickly sold, making way for the highly anticipated pie auction. A well stocked store cooler stands ready for some of the hottest bidding action of the day. Scoring a peanut butter pie and a blueberry pie, it's hard not to dig into on the way home. A bargain at 12 dollars each!

It’s delightful to discover these beauties are from Barbie’s Bake Shop near Barnett, a well known Mennonite baker who supplies to area stores, as well as restaurants.

Doubling back onto State Hwy E, Martin’s Goods and Gifts sits proud and bright, with it’s red barn logo, and boldly lettered building that can’t be missed. And boy, do they have the goods! Step into the family friendly variety of farm and home needs, as well as items perfect for gift giving. Handmade dolls, Hand woven rugs, Candles, Decorative hat racks, Quilt magic squares adorn the shelves. Located at 14384 Highway E in Versailles. Open Monday-Saturday 8am to 5pm.

Heading north sits the tiny unincorporated community of Latham. According to Moniteau County, Missouri Genealogy Project, Latham is named after Judge Gardiner Latham, one of the first settlers arriving in 1880. He along with a group of pioneers made this area a rich agricultural district, and set up Latham Commercial College. Today, the population is only 953 residents.

Latham Market at 255 Southway Highway E begs for a stop along backroads to Tipton. It is a family owned and operated antiques and collectibles store in Latham, MO.

Along with antiques & collectibles, Rustic Cast Iron Decor, Surplus Hand Tools, Surplus, Bicycle Parts, Antique Collectibles, Tools are all available for purchase. Imagine some of these hand crafted tools were treasures found while cultivating farm fields in the area. Latham Market displays act as a museum of agriculture from 100 years ago. Open Monday-Saturdays 8am to 6pm.

Finding yourself at the end of Highway E, just outside of Tipton ,finish your trip with a stop at local favorite, Blind Hog BBQ. It is a good old fashioned walk up, drive up, or counter service sort of place. It’s hard to contain one's excitement when finding a counter service, you just know it’s gonna be good. Smoked fresh daily ensures juicy goodness, with plenty of sticky sweet sauce, offset with a touch of tang. Pulled pork sandwiches are the local favorite, closely followed by brisket, and loaded roasted potatoes or nachos. Slabs of ribs are available on the weekends. Cheap and delicious, with quick service, Blind Hog BBQ is home of the best pork steak you have ever tasted.

Located at Hwy 50 west, Tipton. Open Wed-Saturday 11am-7pm.