It isn’t everyday that you find yourself surrounded by so much love, but over the last four months that is exactly what I’ve experienced from professionals, friends, family, businesses, and farmers market customers that I see out and about.
It was in 2003 that I took my first shopping trip to the Columbia Farmers Market as a college student at Mizzou, and I fell in love with the market lifestyle! Fresh veggies, smiling farmers, amazing foods, and the sweetest beekeepers…ever! I would frequent market many times my senior year in college, until marrying my high school sweetheart, Charlie, and moving to Jefferson City, MO.
There, I worked for the Brownfield Farm Radio Network and learned so much about online marketing, social media, event planning and public relations. It was my first job, fresh out of college and it was a good one, filled with amazing people, and luckily I was still only 35 minutes away from my favorite place- the farmers market!
As a young professional and married woman, I worked on perfecting many dinner meals that I prepared with my husband with foods from both the Columbia Farmers Market and the farmer friends I made like Lowell Mohler at the Jefferson City Farmers Market. My husband and I would even help Lowell harvest his amazing asparagus from time to time!
Then, in 2007, I had a friend at the Missouri Department of Agriculture ask me if I was interested in possibly switching career directions. A position opened up with the department in the local foods sector. I decided to take a chance and it paid off. I began working at the department as a Marketing Specialist in the area of local foods, agritourism, organics and specialty crops. I oversaw farmers markets across the state, assisted small farmers in marketing and business planning and presented numerous workshops and presentations around the state. I made friends all over the state, helped to organize conferences and educational workshops for farmers, almost tripled the number of farmers markets in the state of Missouri, grew the organic cost-share program, presented 53 presentations on local foods, and loved every bit of my job!
In late 2009, I was awaiting the birth of our first child, Caston, in October. My husband was offered a very exciting opportunity that would move our growing family back to our home area of Southwest Missouri and closer to my family farm. We moved in January 2010, to Taney County and I slowly begun to build my business, Agri-Comm Services, which provides grant writing, business planning and marketing focused on agricultural and local foods.
Why am I looking back on my earlier career? Because the past has lead me to where I stand today. The past tells a story of how we became the people we are today, the choices we make and guides our future. I recently posted about ending a very important chapter of my life. It was the chapter after I moved to Taney County and helped establish a local foods pillar in our region, Farmers Market of the Ozarks.
When I moved back to Southwest Missouri my main goal was to somehow, someway build a local foods community in Springfield. And, I knew it could be done because our region was rich in local foods, home to an array of progressive farmers and foodies that were all searching for the same circle- a local food community circle where both farmer and foodie could meet. Thus, Farmers Market of the Ozarks was created. I owe Amanda Millsap Owens the biggest kiss for teaming up Matt O’Reilly and myself. After many meetings, hours of research, too many drafts to mention…Farmers Market of the Ozarks came into reality in 2012. The market has received numerous awards over the years and I have enjoyed working alongside some of the most hard-working, kindest, loving and generous people in my entire life. I am grateful to have learned so much from my farmers market vendors, and I wish the market only the best in its future!
I decided it was time that I focus on my next chapter this past fall and resigned as the Executive Director of market. It seemed fitting that as I close out an important chapter in my life, that I learn that I am being nominated for an award that celebrated my contributions in growing local foods in our state. I was nominated by a former intern and now friend of mine, Kelsie Young, and two MSU professors to be inducted into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame. I feel very thankful that these individuals believe in my work in local foods to be nominated and grateful to the Public Affairs committee for the award in which I will receive this coming spring.
I’m super honored to be inducted into the annual Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame with Peter Herschend, Jean Carnahan, Phyllis Washington and General John J. Pershing. Just to be part of this group of amazing individuals is humbling.
As for my next chapter, I am working on writing it currently. Stay tuned…