Berry Good 2018-05-22 COLOR252

Strawberries are the first berries to ripen each year; they are the leaders of the berry world, followed by raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and again, late summer raspberries.  Strawberries arrange themselves in the shape of a heart, and serve as a reminder to stay sweet, and always lead from the heart.

2014-05-31 strawberry heart

Start watching the weather on Mother’s Day, and plan on picking strawberries around Memorial Day, or as soon as school lets out. Strawberries need sunshine in order to ripen, but when it gets hot, the berry picking window begins to close fast. May is a busy month, but don’t let your kids grow up without picking strawberries because of that. Skip school or take the whole kindergarten classroom with you if you have to.

Strawberry picking will stain your knees, so wear old clothing, duck boots and bring sun protection, hand sanitizer and water. See if you can find a toad under the leaves, and look around for bees. Picking strawberries teaches a reverence for the land, while catching toads teaches empathy.  Look around for workers in the fields.

2012-05-12 Thies Farms Toad

It’s easy to pick far too many berries, so to protect your afternoon nap, work backwards from a recipe before heading out into the fields. Think: strawberry smoothies, strawberry shortcake, chocolate dipped strawberries, and strawberry jam.  Freezer jam is easy to make, and is an excellent gift for teachers, family and friends. Finding strawberry jam in your freezer is like opening a bottle of summer sunshine on a cold winter’s day.

Many families are worried about kids eating “dirty” strawberries in the fields. Weirdly, the dirtiest strawberries are the ones in the grocery stores, from customers “fingering” the fruit. Farmers want you to pay for your fruit, but farmers also understand the importance of growing happy new customers. So enjoy watching that toddler’s first taste of strawberry in the sunshine, and take lots of pictures.

2012-05-12 Thies Farms Saoirse

Millennials know that strawberries are #1 on the “Dirty Dozen” list, and local farmers are responding to that wish for organic strawberries. Ask lots of questions and take the “Strawberry Challenge” up a level, by growing strawberries at home. Or find organic berries at your farmers market, by showing up early and looking for the longest line.

2013-05-25 strawberries landscape

Arrange your sweet heart in the shape of the “Strawberry Leader”, and be the one who takes kids into the strawberry fields. Help cultivate a good food culture while embedding memories that last not only a lifetime, but arc across the generations. You’ll be glad you did.

2018 Babb Blueberries

Below are destinations that have been field tested by Green Spiral adventure families, in alphabetical order:

Babb Blueberry Farm in Beufort – If you miss the chance to pick strawberries in May, you can pick blueberries later in June. Blueberry picking is perfect for inter-generational groups, as there is no bending over for the elders, nor “too high” fruit frustration for the youngers.  Babb Blueberry Farm uses organic fertilizers, and no pesticides or herbicides. They also sell frozen blueberries and homemade jam. Located one hour west from the Arch along I-44, this is a small family operation with nice restrooms, a fishing pond and excellent hospitality. Bring a picnic lunch.  Or, stop in Eureka, Pacific or at the Junie Moon Cafe in Union along the way. They keep up on their Facebook posts, but always call before you go.  GPS: 2751 Highway 50, Beaufort, MO 63013 * (636) 667-1171

#BerryBikeRide – Annual Strawberry Bike Ride sponsored by Trailnet, ending with a strawberry festival in Saint Jacobs, Illinois, located about 40 minutes east from the Arch.

Eckert’s Farm in Belleville – The grandmother of all U-pick farms, Eckert’s is a seventh generation business, and the largest PYO orchard in the country,  offering U-pick strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins. This is a full blown agri-tourism operation, with a restaurant, store, concerts, festivals, pony rides, cooking classes and all sorts of things to do. They also offer school tours and operate four other farm destinations. Because Eckert’s is a mature business, they always answer their phones, monitor social media sites and keep their web-pages updated. Look for their online recipes.   GPS: 951 S. Green Mount Road, Belleville, IL 62220 *(800) 745-0513 or (618) 233-0513

EarthDance Organic Farm School – watch for EarthDance Farm in Ferguson to add U-Pick Strawberries soon. EarthDance is one of the most remarkable organic farm schools in the country. GPS: 233 S Dade Ave, Ferguson, MO 63135 * 314-521-1006

Farmers Markets of Saint Louis – Strawberries are popular items and sell out quickly.  If you want to find local organic strawberries, just show up early at your favorite farmers market, and look for the longest line. There is no apostrophe in Farmers Markets, because it is literally a market for farmers, plural.  Farmers Markets are business incubators, and at the core, farming is a business. If you want to support small farmers, and the local food movement, head for your local farmers market. Farmers Markets are the “Mothers” of any local food ecosystem, and strawberries are their favorite little darlings.

Grocery Stores – Most organic strawberries in local grocery stores are grown  in California. Sometimes you can find Thies Farm strawberries — look around and ask your grocer about local strawberries.  Beware of food from other countries, which have different protections for workers and from pesticides. There is a big discussion in the food community about organic foods versus local foods, so feel free to join in, as there are many right answers. Don’t swap berries between cartons, as it’s not healthy for other customers, plus, it’s rude. “Fingering the fruit” is why clamshell containers were recently invented, and it’s a surprise to learn that strawberries in the fields are cleaner than grocery store strawberries, for this exact reason.

Hermans in Saint Charles – for blackberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins. GPS: 3663 N. Hwy 94, St. Charles, MO 63301 * (636) 925-9969

Lakeview Farms near St. Peters – This is a tiny farm that is easy to miss, sandwiched between suburban neighborhood tracts. Sign up for the Lakeview Farms e-mail list, or follow the “Strawberry Report” on their simple web-site. They also send out a postcard each Spring.  Always call the morning of your trip; Farmer Karl answers on his cell phone in the fields. There are no porta potties so plan accordingly. When you get there, pick up a box, and you will be directed to a specific row to pick, marked between two flags.  For an extra fee, kids can prospect for gold and other treasures in the nearby creek. This is an especially nice location to pick raspberries later in the season. Fritz’s Ice Cream is located nearby on Hwy K, past Feise Rd GPS: 8265 Mexico Road; St. Peters 63376 * (636) 978-8830 (Farmer Karl)   Special Note: Be careful! Your GPS wants to divert you to a similarly named farm nearby. Stay in St. Peters.

Missouri Botanical Gardens – Visit the vegetable gardens, specifically the raspberry patch in early summer, to see how it’s done. The Kemper Center will help you with any questions, or you can call the hotline any morning before noon at (314) 577-5143 or send them an email at plantinformation@mobot.org

Ozark Berry Farm ===>>> field trip!

Thies Farm – The Thies family has been farming in Missouri since 1885 and now has three locations.   The three different locations makes the web-site, Fb and phones a little confusing. You can ask about strawberry picking on their Facebook Page, but it’s better to call and ask about field conditions before heading out. By the way, the way to pronounce Thies Farm is like this: “TEES Farm”.

The North Hanley location is the oldest and the smallest, with toddler swings and spinning tractor tires, perfectly sized for very young children.  It’s located near the airport, so you get to watch planes drop down in preparation for landing AND pick strawberries at the same time, which is super exciting for young children. Typically open only on Saturdays, this is a good destination for your very first strawberry picking trip. For older kids, come back later in the summer for blackberry picking and peaches. Watch out for thorns on the blackberries. You can also pick your own flowers. There is a small store, with porta-potties on site.  GPS: 4215 North Hanley Road, 63121 * (314) 429 – 5506 *  

The Maryland Heights operation, located near Creve Coeur Lake, is the largest Thies Farm, offering strawberry picking, a playground, a larger retail operation, and tractor rides into the fields on weekends, a highlight for kids. Thies strawberries are not organic, but Thies does practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management), crop rotation, and drip irrigation. Be careful with your GPS, as the road used to be named Creve Coeur Road and recently changed names to Maryland Heights Expressway. Again, always call before you go.  Farming is exhausting work, and it’s hard for farmers to find the time to do the work AND keep up with web-sites and social media. Maryland Heights GPS: 3120 Maryland Heights Expressway; 63146 * (314) 469-7559 *

The Thies Farm St. Charles location is a new retail operation, located along the Katy Trail; it sells plants, produce and specialty items, like grass fed beef, harvest pies and quail eggs.  GPS: 3200 Greens Bottom Road St. Charles, MO 63304 * (636) 447-2230 *  

Wind Ridge Farms in New Melle – This family farm offers wagon rides for kids and blueberry, blackberry and peach picking. It’s a bit of a drive from Saint Louis, but well worth it, especially if you are looking for peaches or blueberries. Located one hour west of the Arch, along 40/64 just past Weldon Springs.  GPS: 3511 Highway F, New Melle 63341 * (636) 828-5900

The End

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Many people are surprised to discover an organic farm in Ferguson, and not just any organic farm, but one of the most successful organic farm schools in the Heartland.

2011-06-09 Health Soil Sign

Welcome to EarthDance Farms, located on the site of the old Mueller Farm, the oldest organic farm west of the Mississippi. The Mueller family used to farm with mules and ladybugs, and continued to do so long after industrialized farming became the norm. Here’s a photo of EarthDance in 2011.

2011-06-09 Earthdance table

EarthDance was started by Molly Rockamann as a non-profit after Mrs. Mueller passed away.  Molly grew up in Saint Louis, went off to California to attend the “Harvard” of organic farm programs at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and returned to the Mueller Farm in 2008 to start a farm school.  Here’s Molly in 2011.

2011-06-09 Molly & young farmers

EarthDance is not just growing food, they’re growing a food culture along with a new crop of organic farmers each year.  Farmers in the apprentice program are called “Farmies”. A vast number of people, apprentices, customers, interns, staff and volunteers make EarthDance go.  They’re also an incubator for lots of local food entrepreneurs.  Ten years after Molly started EarthDance, it is now a bustling community with barns, pavilions and hoop houses.

2018-05-02 EarthDance Barn

The ways to connect with EarthDance are many, the programs are robust, and the offerings are top-notch.  Which you can check out here:   http://earthdancefarms.org/

Green Spiral likes to visit EarthDance often, follow EarthDance on field trips to other farms, and attend lectures when thought leaders come to town. Here we are on a private tour for the annual “Healthy Happy Hour” in May.

2018-05-02 Party Van

 

You can join a free tour of EarthDance any Saturday by jumping on the “Jolly Trolley” at the Ferguson Farmer’s Market.  Details here: http://earthdancefarms.org/community/farm-tours-field-trips/

Farming is hard work, and working organically takes food and farming to a whole new level.  You can help EarthDance with their mission by helping to cultivate a community that values fresh healthy food.  Start by visiting EarthDance yourself, and then by bringing your friends, and then their friends. That’s how it works! Experiences change you. Green Spiral will host another Party Bus Tour to EarthDance as a fundraiser, probably next May.  Be sure to get on the Green Spiral invitation list by sending a note to GreenSpiralTours@gmail.com.

2011 No Food No Farms

2016-06-11 Trip Date
Scouting Trip # 283

2017-sbyt-logo.jpeg

The Sustainable Backyard Tour began in 2010 in Saint Louis.  It’s a grassroots event, one of the first of it’s kind, and it just celebrated it’s 7th anniversary in 2017.  Known affectionately as the SBYT, this is a free event by locals, who throw their garden gates open to the public each year, to showcase best practices in organic vegetable growing, beekeeping, chicken farming, native habitats, water retention and clean energy.  Typically, over 40 hosts showcase their backyards and gardens every year.  Green Spiral Tours took advantage of the SBYT to visit the celebrated Urban Harvest Food Roof in downtown Saint Louis.  The Food Roof is fantastic!

2017 Food Roof Logo

Located downtown near the City Museum, and above Wave Storage, you can easily park on the street next to Wave Taco, which offers a volleyball tournament arena, several tons of white Florida sand, and a tiki bar serving tacos, beer and margaritas.  To get to the Food Roof, enter through the doors at W-ave Storage, and make your way up the stairs to roof.  When you pop up, expect to be impressed by an exceptionally well designed space and vibrant scene.

2017 Wave Taco

5 staff, 15 interns, 300 volunteers, and several master gardeners help make the Urban Harvest Food Roof what it is today.  It’s a beautiful rooftop farm, showcasing best practices while collaborating with a cluster of food partners.   The Food Roof is the brainchild of Mary Ostafi, an EarthDance Farm graduate; Mary is a trained architect, who brings high design and great intentionality to everything she touches.  The Food Roof is the first rooftop farm in Saint Louis, and is growing into a localized network of farms, gardens, educators and food distributors in north Saint Louis.

2017 Urban Food Roof

There’s a chicken coop and greenhouse on the roof, plus hydroponics, a community garden, test garden, and gathering space for events, educational functions and weddings. It’s incredible, and, it’s beautiful.

2017 Food Roof Chickens

70% of the food generated is donated to partner organizations, including the STL Metro Market (the Food Bus), the Fit & Food Connection, St. Patricks and the kids at Flance. Green Spiral has hosted field trips to both St. Patrick’s and Flance in the past.  St. Patrick’s serves under-priviledged populations, and has one of the first “kitchen incubators” in the country. Flance is a Platinum-level preschool – only the 4th such school in the world – and what happens inside the building is as impressive as the green building structure itself.  It’s exciting to watch these world class, cutting-edge sustainability programs grow, right here in Saint Louis.

2017 Food Roof GreenHouse

Now here’s the best part: if you want to visit the Food Roof, and missed the chance during the SBYT, you can drop-in any Saturday morning from 9 – 12, when the Food Roof is open to the public. OR, you can attend any number of special events, such as workshops, Happy Hours, Harvest Dinners, or yoga.  The events serve as fundraisers to help fund the many programs.  Find the time to visit this incredible and beautiful farm –  on a roof! –  in downtown Saint Louis; you’ll be glad you did.

2017 Test Kitchen

Here’s the link to go on your own: Urban Harvest Food Roof

Here’s the SBYT link:  Sustainable Backyard Tour

Here’s Wave Taco on Yelp:  Wave Taco – Yelp

Here’s GPS to Wave Storage: 1335 Convention Plaza; 63103

 

During Year Two of Green Spiral Tours, families experienced many magical moments, and learned directly from local entrepreneurs, farmers, educators and leaders in the sustainable field, at a wide variety of locations throughout the Saint Louis area.

Experience really is the best teacher!  Plus, bringing friends along is more fun and helps create a vibrant learning community.  At Green Spiral, we especially welcome adventurous families who like to write and photograph, will reflect and debrief online, and will share the learning via social media.

Green Spiral hosted 10 field trips in Year Two, (up two field trips from Year One).

Field Trips Include: 

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Pie Making at BEGIN New Venture Saint Patricks Center

We learned how to make pies with “Pie Oh My!” entrepreneur Jane Callahan, at the BEGIN New Venture “kitchen incubator,” a cutting edge program for local food entrepreneurs, located downtown at the Saint Patrick Center. 

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IMG_2358Bocce Ball, Herbaria and Ravioli Tour of “The Hill”

One mother’s testimonyI’ve lived on The Hill for seven

years and didn’t know all this stuff was here!”

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mail“Living Building” Tour at Tyson Learning Center 

Saint Louis is home to one of the very greenest buildings

in the world, a “Living Building” built by Washington University as a lab

and learning center. We got to see it on a rainy day. Closed to the public.  

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2011-05-20 Loden BradstreetStrawberry Picking at Thies Farms at the Creve Coeur location

Still the best place for u-pick strawberries within easy reach.        

Don’t let your kids grow up without strawberry picking at least once!

The best strategy for organic strawberry picking in Saint Louis is still DIY.

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mailRue Lafayette Cafe and Lafayette Park Pond and Playground

Saint Louis has a rich french heritage and it’s important to know at least a little something about it. Renting sailboats for the Lafayette Park pond and eating chocolate croissants is a nice way to start! This was our third year to Rue Lafayette Cafe on Lafayette Park.

 

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2011-06-09 Earthdance (4)Farm Tour at EarthDance FARMS

One of the primary movers in the Saint Louis food movement, 

EarthDance FARMS hosts regular tours on Sunday afternoons in the summer. 

If you want to explore to the front edge of the food movement, it’s a must visit!

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A river runs through it...Arrowhead Hunting 

The historic drought made this year an excellent year for arrowhead 

hunting, and it’s fascinating to hunt for artifacts from past civilizations,

which may be hiding surprisingly near you!

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Crawdad Fishing 

Missouri is home to the biggest spring fed rivers in the world,

and this makes us a biodiversity hotspot for “crawdads” (crayfish). 

We went to catch a few with very young children in Forest Park.

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Schlafly GardenworksSustainable Sensory Tour of Maplewood

The City of Maplewood is a hotspot for sustainability, 

anchored by the Gardenworks at Schlafly Bottleworks. 

We went to visit the gardens, along with sustainable

chocolate maker Kakao, and two healing arts centers:

The Salt Room and Cheryl’s Herbs. 

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mailMetro Journey to the Whispering Wall at Union Station

Union Station is again in transition, and so the annual

Metro Journey to the Whispering Wall was cancelled this year.

We are holding a bright candle for Union Station and know

that this rich cultural landmark will continue to be part of Saint Louis’ living legacy,

well into the future.

 

  

 

Sunday 15 July 2012 – EarthDance FARMs trip 

EarthDance FARMs is a celebrated urban farm

working to put the ‘culture’ back in agriculture.

Watch how EarthDance works with musicians,

artists, educators and non-profits to help cultivate

and create a vibrant food culture in Saint Louis.

Exciting news came out just before our field trip:

with the help of significant donor gifts, EarthDance

will now be able to purchase and develop the

Mueller Farm.   We love that, because now they

can build a toolshed, an educational center

and some restrooms!  For sure, Green Spiral will

be back for another visit, as lots of families

always ping in with interest.

The Mueller farm is one of the oldest organic

farms in the area, and preserving these fertile

farmlands is an important step in growing the food

movement.  We got to tour the farm with founder

Molly Rockamann and a large crowd; here is a photo

of Molly, and of the “three sisters garden”

created by one of the second year apprentices.

   

Want to get involved in the food movement?

Follow EarthDance FARMS and champion 

their work.  

 

Visit EarthDance on one of their tours,

typically held the third Sunday of each

month during the summer.

 

Support local farmers by 

shopping at local farmer’s markets and 

learning about local and seasonal foods.

 

Have friends over for dinner and share

food and recipes.  

 

Follow Green Spiral Tours 

as we spiral around the calendar to a 

new farm field trip every summer.