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Food & Drink

Ask A Farmer: St. Louis Summer Produce Guide

April 3, 2013 7:00 AM

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(Photo credit: Facebook.com)

(Photo credit: Facebook.com)

(Photo credit: Facebook.com)

(Photo credit: Facebook.com)

Vesterbrook Farm has been in the Jaeger family since 1927. The farm carries a reputation for producing exceptional, quality, home-grown products. Today, Mike Brabo works the Vesterbrook Farm and grows and sells local organic produce and eggs to those looking for healthy fresh food in the area. Farmer Brabo and his family moved onto the farm in 2008 and began to focus on producing organically grown fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat.

(Photo credit: Facebook.com)

(Photo credit: Facebook.com)

Mike Brabo
Vesterbrook Farm
16991 Highway W
Clarksville, MO 63336
(573) 560-0871
www.vesterbrookfarm.com

When cancer strikes, it changes things, and Farmer Brabo knows first-hand how it feels. As someone personally familiar with the devastating effects of cancer, Farmer Brabo sought to provide fresh food free of harmful chemicals and pesticides. He saw a need to offer organic food that is rich in nutrients and organically grown. After researching the topic of organic certification, the Brabo family decided to pursue certification through Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), whose standards meet or exceed the USDA standards. The farm is now a member of Missouri Organic Association, Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, Certified Naturally Grown and Seed Saver’s Exchange. Brabo offers some tips for locals on summer produce.

Eating local does not always mean healthy.

The Brabo family sees eating as “a deeply personal issue, and people really need to know if they are ingesting chemicals, toxins and GMOs which could have a long-term negative effect on their health. As a farmer that has experienced cancer, I am deeply committed to providing healthy, organically produced foods to the greater St. Louis community.” There is currently a great emphasis on eating local, yet while he supports the “Eat Local” movement, he stresses that the foods which are laden with pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms do not have those compounds that magically disappear when they are produced within 100 miles of St. Louis. The recent exposure of horse meat sold as beef is an example of how important it is to not only eat local, but to know your farmer. It is crucial for consumers to visit the farms where their food is being produced to ask questions and become educated about the food they consume.

What is organic farming?

Though organic fruits and vegetables are the most natural available, turning a farm organic doesn’t happen without hard work. The Brabo family moved onto the farm and began the steps to make sure the land and farming practices became organic. The process included soil testing of every area on the farm and then developing a plan to amend the soil using only organic amendments like Sea-90 minerals, cover cropping, rotating crops and animal grazing. It also involves allowing fallow/rest periods for a season.

Local private co-ops and home delivery are great places to buy produce. 

The Brabo family not only grows the produce but arranges delivery to homes in the area. Have fruits and vegetables delivered straight to your front door. Select from seasonal produce like summer squash, green beans, cherries, apples, peaches, strawberries, plums, a variety of melons and other fruits and vegetables. Order a small weekly vegetable box for one to two people to enjoy. The family also sells its farm products through a private co-op.

Related: Top Vendors at St. Louis Soulard Market

Heat, drought and other weather conditions affect the overall cost of produce.

The summer of 2012 was the hottest year on record and brought many days where temperatures reached upwards of 108 degrees along with very little rain causing extreme drought conditions. Farmers like Brabo know how to adjust their planting to compensate to a certain degree but cannot predict an entire season’s worth of weather. This extreme heat means that consumers can expect to see less of cool weather greens this year, and produce prices will be affected by these extreme weather conditions. Food prices as a whole have increased 12 to 15 percent during the last year due to the drought, and the rising cost of fuel has also created a need to increase prices on produce.

Get ready to eat your veggies and enjoy your squash.

The land that the Brabos farm soaks up its rich nutrients from within the soil of valley land near the river. The varieties of vegetables that the Brabos grow on the Vesterbrook Farm are carefully selected. They choose seeds and plants that adapt well to the local micro-climate of the Mississippi River Valley. This year, the Brabos expect that St. Louis-area consumers will see more summer squash and green beans from their local harvest.

Related: Top Pumpkin Dishes in the St. Louis Area

Tere Scott is a freelance writer and author of e-books and two educational blogs. She loves to research information to share. She currently resides in St. Louis. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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