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Prosperity in Agriculture – Hannah W. Doggett

Nov. 22, 2018. The spoon. That’s the shape we found when we finally sliced open Eastern Douglas County persimmon seeds (which is a difficult and potentially dangerous task on its own – mind your thumbs if you do this), and so a snowy winter was predicted for us too. And sure enough, we have already had our first snow.   Sometimes those old tales have some right wisdom about them from some higher source who wanted to leave a hint that we’re going to need the shovels. 

Driving around, you’ll still see persimmons are hanging heavy on the trees in many places. They are delicious. Pick those, folks!

The deer have been justifiably nervous as their numbers continue to be reduced by hunters with good timing and good aim. Trish took out a 12-point buck in Cole County this past weekend, and rumors have it that the Sheriff got a big buck too.

Barbara Mae scored with the Maypop harvest. Timing the picking is a talent for those with a keen eye and years of experience. Picked too green and they’re hollow and tasteless. And if overripe they are compost. She can spot a ripe Maypop with a talent like a coon hound on a trail. There’s a moment in time when the passionfruit skins turn a certain shade of yellow green and start to wrinkle just the tiniest bit – and that’s when you get the full flavor bomb of the Ozark’s tropical vine. Not everyone can spot them at that moment. I’m learning.

On a trip north to the Hinkson Creek watershed, the Farm Resettlement Congress crew crossed paths with Douglas County native son everyone knows as Elderberry Terry.  Terry, who is one of the biggest elderberry farmers in the state, said the elderberry harvest was down a bit this year. The drought hurt many. Elderberries like water and growers who irrigated did fine. Others hurt. The season started strong. In June, every elderberry in the state was loaded with clusters of fragrant white blossoms. European scientists are trying to figure out how to capture that delicate smell. Until they do, you’ll have to find a patch and inhale on your own. 

Elderberry syrups, infusions, and other products fly off the health food store shelves during cold and flu season, because folks swear they help fight those germs. Old timers will remember elderberry wine. Younger farmers might just know elderberries as that ditch weed they brush hog every year. Most of the elderberries used in store bought products are imported from Europe and use a European species. You have to look for the Missouri grown ones. We don’t have enough acres of American elderberries in the U.S. in production so we’re dependent on imports from over the ocean for an old fashioned health tonic that God planted here in almost every low spot in Missouri. There’s only one way to fix this trade imbalance and that’s to dedicate a bit of land to growing American elderberries. February is the time to plant the cuttings you can get from creek bottoms, road ditches and friendly farmers.  Plan your plot now. Pick a spot that gets water or plan to irrigate.

The under-appreciated elderberry has yet to gain the respect it deserves here in Booger County. The clusters of pea-sized berries are not particularly sweet. They don’t attract compliments as fast as strawberries. But medicine isn’t supposed to taste like candy. Some glutton might overdo it. God gave us all good things and then gave us self-control. We’re expected to use it all – the gifts and the temperance. 

And here I am off the subject as fast as a new driver on an icy road.

The farmers around the state who have undertaken the elderberry challenge are finding it a nice farm income supplement. One grower near Sparta won’t trade his elderberry acre for anything on his cattle operation. I suppose cold and flu germs are more predictable than cattle prices.

More Prosperity in Agriculture later from the Booger County pea patch. Happy Holidays!