You may not eat your vegetables, and at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks, you don’t have to.
There’s so much more than fruit and vegetables for sale at the market.
You can also find farm-raised beef and dog treats, homemade candles and fresh donuts. Here are a few eye-catching vendors to scope out the next time you visit. FMO is open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and is located at Farmer’s Park, 2144 E. Republic Road, in Springfield.
“I really don’t like to get stung,” Val Nichols said.
Rather unfortunate for a beekeeper. She wears a suit that is “almost sting-proof” when working with her 100 hives.
Beekeeping is a family tradition.
“My great-grandparents had bees whenever I was very young and that curiosity has always gotten me in trouble,” Nichols said.
Oddly enough, her mother moved to a new home with beekeepers for neighbors in 1994. Nichols asked so many questions that a neighbor invited her to beekeeping classes. Nichols started with two hives.
“It exponentially increased after that and it became a hobby on steroids. Now it’s a full-fledged business,” she said.
Now retired after 34 years at UPS, Nichols devotes much of her time to bees. She explains their caste system: The queen can lay 1,500-2,000 eggs a day. The worker bees — all female — do all the work of collecting nectar and pollen. The drones — all males — hang out and try to mate with the queen. If it happens, the drone dies. Or, they get kicked out of the hive in late fall because they’re not contributing to the hive.
Finally, an explanation for the 1973 cult classic “Wicker Man.”
Nichols said the bees produce wax frames and fill in cells with honey. That wax is honeycomb. She extracts honey once a year, in the summer, and does extractions for other beekeepers, too. She handles 150-200 gallons of honey each year.
“The farmers market is a great place to move some honey and meet great people,” Nichols said.
She is also vice president of the Beekeepers Association of the Ozarks.
“We have people who take our beginning beekeeping classes who just want to learn,” Nichols said. “They don’t really want to keep bees but they’re just fascinated by them.”
Beekeeping classes start in January.
Nichols splits an FMO booth with three other beekeepers, with each generally taking a slot per month.
If you want honey, get there early.
“We mostly sell out in a pretty quick amount of time,” Nichols said. “There’s just not enough big beekeepers to sell the amount needed every single weekend.
Ashlyn Wilderness didn’t go camping until she reached college. And no, that’s not her real name. A friend invited her on a backpacking trip.
“I’d never been camping or hiking before, but I was like, ‘You might as well call me Ashlyn Wilderness.’”
They visited Sam’s Throne in Arkansas.
“I was in a hammock. It was too cold. I did not sleep a wink, and I was in love with it,” she said. “Ironically, six months later I’m the strange kid in the dorms who drives 45 minutes because I want to go touch trees.”
Legally known as Ashlyn Deffenbaugh, she grew up in the suburbs of north Kansas City. She was a self-described “weird kid” who always made art. After a year and a half at Missouri State University, she got married and spent the summer at Yosemite National Park.
Then, she ran a small illustration business, but felt overwhelmed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked for Victory Mission, running Equip Coffee and learning valuable skills.
“I was able to have my training wheels,” she said. “I love the problem solving, critical thinking, something different every hour element of business.”
Deffenbaugh decided to try to be a professional artist and digitally paint Ozarks landscapes.
“The wilderness holds this part of my personality that I find very precious,” she said. “Like, being around things that are alive and thriving, and seeing stuff that I didn’t even know existed before.”
Even places right outside her door.
“Everybody knows what Arches look like, but I didn’t see anybody in my community painting the space that was right in our backyard. That didn’t feel right to me.”
Deffenbaugh also has a series of birds and of fish from the area. If you can’t find morels, you can still buy stickers that look just like them.
“I saw this big gap in the art world,” she said. “If I saw a print of Sam’s Throne I would gobble it up.”
Fast and Forever Foods
Patrick Gartin took a $75,000 pay cut to move to Springfield, and he was happy to do it.
As a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, he grew concerned about more terrorist attacks after 9/11 in Washington, D.C. He took a job as a criminology professor at Missouri State and moved his family to the Midwest.
Gartin still teaches, but he also devotes time to making snacks.
“I used to backpack quite a bit and I rarely brought freeze-dried meals because they are so expensive,” he said.
Gartin started dehydrating fruits, vegetables and jerky for his adventures, and he bought a freeze drier on a whim in 2019. Dehydrated foods lose about 1/3 of their nutrients, he said.
“When it’s freeze-dried you get a lot of moisture out, but you keep about 97% of the nutrients,” he said.
Now he offers fruits from berries to mangos — but it wouldn’t hurt to try his freeze-dried Skittles, which expand for an airy crunch. He may be a former DEA agent, but he compares them to crack.
“I wanted to offer snacks that were easy serving sizes that people could throw in a backpack and eat, and store forever and a day,” he said. “It’s not about prepping that you will never do.”
Ozarks Artisan Creamery
Six months ago, Patrick Gartin and his wife, Malaina, decided to try making cheese, butter and ice cream.
They met at the market a few years ago and he impressed her by bringing coffee and butternut squash soup to her while her dad was ill. They married in 2022 and have five kids between them.
Malaina is the head of the sculpture program at Missouri State and is pursuing a master of fine arts degree. She mentioned that she took 11 years to earn a bachelors, working and raising a family while studying.
“I wanted to prove a point to my kids that it may take you a while, but anything you want can be yours,” she said.
The couple spends a lot of time working on products in a 500-square-foot industrial kitchen. They use milk from Ozark Mountain Creamery, but the law requires another round of pasteurizing before milk can be made into cheese and butter for sale.
Gartin has a pasteurizer on order, so expect to be able to buy products by the end of the month. You can still sample items like truffle butter and jalapeno white cheddar at the market.
Recently, the couple was given the all-clear to sell ice cream because it’s not regulated by the state milk board. Bananas and caramel is a new favorite flavor.
“Apparently, I’m the only person in the state of Missouri who makes hard-packed ice cream and sells it directly to consumers,” Gartin said. “My wife wants to put up a sign that says: ‘So good it’s almost illegal.’”