By Garrett Hawkins
My wife has been stricken with a severe fever and itchy hands. Oddly enough, though, Jennifer is smiling, chatty and full of pep. It happens every year when March 1 arrives. She gets spring fever accompanied by the itch to garden, starting with planting peas and potatoes.
Gardening has been on an upward trend for at least a decade. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of people growing food for home use doubled. The National Gardening Association says 35 percent of U.S. households grow food either at home or in a community garden. News reports have shown this trend continuing, with younger Americans leading the movement. Millennials and Generation Z increasingly want to feel a connection to the land, their food and their local area, and growing some produce themselves has become a popular trend.
Even if you’re not a gardener yourself, soon you’ll be able to get out and enjoy the fruits of local farmers’ labor. The Missouri Department of Agriculture keeps a database of local food producers at missourigrownusa.com. Their Missouri Grown Locator lists over 100 farmers’ markets, covering every corner of the state. With over 550 agritourism destinations listed, Missouri Farm Bureau’s Agritourism Directory also has all kinds of ideas for how to enjoy nature and experience agriculture near your home. Check it out at mofb.org/agritourism for some outdoor family fun ideas.
When the pandemic caused supply chain disruptions in spring 2020, many Missourians flocked to join Community Supported Agriculture cooperatives, or CSAs. This is another great way to support local farmers and get to know what is in season and fresh every week of the year. Many CSAs encourage members to come out to the farm and enjoy some fresh air while picking up their share of produce. Some even allow members to help tend to the growing food by pitching in at planting or harvest time. Both of the directories referred to above also can connect you with a local CSA.
Whether you’re a green thumb like Jennifer or couldn’t even grow weeds, springtime in Missouri has something for you. Make a plan to get out and enjoy the nice weather and load up on local eats before the dog days of summer kick in. As any Missourian can tell you, they’ll be here before we know it.
Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, Missouri, is President of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.