Seeking an extra special gift for the holiday season? Missouriâ€™s agricultural producers have a lot to offer.
Pirtle Winery of Weston offers gift boxes with its best selling fruity Mellow Red wine and signature mead varieties, including a sparkling mead for New Year's Eve celebrations. Mead is an ancient drink made from honey and recommended as a dessert wine.
Ross Pirtle, an operating member, says there are plans to expand distribution in Missouri and move into neighboring Kansas markets.
His family's wines are just some of the dozens of potential holiday gifts being offered by Missouri farmers and producers. From beers and wines to meats, popcorn, pecans and cheeses, locally grown and processed agricultural products are often high in quality and widely available, says Mary Hendrickson, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Besides the taste and the quality in these gifts, it's the idea that they came from someone you know or someone in your community," Hendrickson says. "You're buying gifts from your friends and neighbors."
Hendrickson is head of the MU Extension Food Circles Networking Project, a program that encourages the selling of agricultural products from local farmers to local consumers. She buys many of her holiday gifts from Missouri farmers and plans to host a seasonal party for friends with a Missouri food and beverage theme. She encourages others to do the same.
"It's a good way to help people think about local food," she says. "Local food is available all year round -- not just in the summer at the farmer's market."
A health conscious holiday gift could include a bag of fresh Missouri pecans. Missouri Northern Pecan Growers, located in Nevada, sells the Missouri variety of the nut, which is smaller and sweeter than its sister pecan grown in Southern states. The Missouri variety is richer in the heart-healthy pecan oil, says grower Drew Kimmell.
The corporation is owned jointly by four growers and buys pecans from 50 or more other farmers, Kimmell says.
The pecans can be found in stores from St. Louis to San Diego, and retailers sell the nuts for $7 to $10 per 10-ounce bag. Bags can be ordered direct from Missouri Northern Pecan Growers via the Internet. Prices vary by type, which include different flavors and
organic- and conventional-grown pecans.
Other food producers include Patchwork Family Farms, a small farm cooperative based in Columbia, which sells holiday hams and pork rolls. Alma Meats in Alma sells hams and roast beef. Jordon Foods, Knob Noster, specializes in popcorn and sells a variety of other products such as cooking oils and barbecue sauces.
FYI: For a complete list of Missouri produced foods and goods and how to order products in time to ship for the holidays, log on to www.foodcircles.missouri.edu.