During my recent trip to Missouri I was able to visit one of my favorite seed suppliers, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which is located on a gravel road about 5 miles north of Mansfield. The farm is open to visitors and has a restaurant, a reproduction pioneer village called Bakersville, and a seed store that are free to visit. I had no idea where Mansfield was until I looked at a a map and discovered it was about an hour east of Springfield where I would be visiting my sister. So I arranged to visit with my niece and we had a great time. It turns out that Mansfield is also home to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum, the author of the Little House on the Prairie. If you have a Little House fan in your household, the museum and Bakersville would make a wonderful day trip and it is only 90 minutes from Branson.
The first structure we encountered on entering the gate was the restaurant, housed in the simulated hotel, which was fortunate because my niece had missed breakfast and was starving.
The vegan meal we were served would certainly fill up anyone. They have a fixed menu and that day the meal was a vegan chimichanga with fresh salsa, Mexican rice, a garden salad with lots of sliced radishes, and steamed heirloom beets (golden and Chioggia), with a mason jar of three berry iced tea and zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting. Payment is by donation, putting what you wish into a jar up front. The meal was excellent (even if a carb bomb) and you would certainly have enough energy to plow the south forty after that lunch.
After lunch we toured the village. The stores were furnished with appropriate fixtures and merchandise that can be purchased. The apothecary shop had dried herbs and medicinals and home remedies for sale. The mercantile store had handmade girl’s gingham dresses with aprons and bonnets for sale, plus bolts of cloth and patterns. Anyone with an interest in Little House on the Prairie would love the place.
Following the road around the demonstration garden in the center brings you to the seed store, where you can pay for your items and browse through a large display of seeds. I purchased the Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook and some handmade pot holders, plus a couple of packs of bush beans for my sister’s garden.
The other side of the road has the buildings used in seed operations plus some of the trial fields. I did not see lots of fields planted to seed crops but I assume a lot of their production is contracted out to local growers. If everything looks hot and dry, it was hot and dry and the temperature that day was at least 97°F/36°.
Baker Creek Seeds was founded by Jere and Emilee Gettle, a young couple that project an image of Ozark hillbilly but are actually very shrewd business people. They own the largest heirloom seed company and also own Comstock-Ferre Seeds in Connecticut and the Petaluma Seed Bank in California. I was suspicious of their large, glossy and expensive seed catalog (they print 350,000 copies a year), so I assumed they must have some corporate connection or inherited some money, but no, Jere and Emilee built their fortune on their own. Jere became fascinated with heirloom vegetables as a boy after reading about a tomato variety that was grown by Thomas Jefferson. He joined the Seed Savers Exchange, started trading seeds with other enthusiasts and issued his own price sheet in 1998 when he was 17. They are strong advocates for open pollinated, non-hybrid vegetables and strong opponents of GMO crops and Monsanto. They are the real deal and you can feel good buying seeds from Baker Creek.