KubotaoftheOzarks

Celebrate Spring Planting Festival at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

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The Gettle family now includes two charming new family members from China adopted by Gere and Emilee Gettle, here in the greenhouse with Tong Tritathran, a family friend and chef who has shared his Thai recipes with the chef, Cory Egan. Tong will soon be heading to Thailand with seeds from Bakers Creek to teach gardening skills to disadvantaged young people in in home town.

On any given day during spring and summer, you’re likely to find Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, walking around his recreated village near Mansfield, Mo., happy to enjoy what has been created by this home-schooled collector of the rare and seldom seen.

That’s the case on this coming first Monday in May as Gettle welcomes an estimated 10,000 guests who will visit his pioneer village, Bakersville, for the annual Spring Planting Festival.

The courtyard gardens at Bakers Creek showcase a assortment of useful plants, many not found elsewhere.

“This festival has been 18 years in the making,” says Gettle, standing on the porch of the Baker Creek Seed Store. “We started the festival in 2000 in a homemade tent with 400 people.”

You can enjoy live bluegrass music, the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls and home cooked food wafting about as vendors offer everything from plants to natural crafts. And of course, there will be thousands of heirloom seeds, more than 1,800 varietals from 75 countries, the largest privately held collection of heirloom seeds in the country.

The main attraction is the pioneer village of Bakersville, a recreated hamlet that transports visitors back to the mid-1800s. It includes a speaker barn, restaurant, old-time mercantile, herbal apothecary, natural bakery, garden museum, blacksmith shop, music barns and even a western jail.

“We’ve created a place where people can connect to their past and build a sense of community again,” says Gettle. “This is the most diverse audience we get in this part of Missouri. There are so many people here from different backgrounds and thoughts. It’s a place where people can come to enjoy traditions, crafts, music or just relax. It’s an alternative to what’s on their television or smartphone. They can actually connect on a real-life basis.”

Kathy McFarland, public relations director at Baker Creek, says the village restaurant is one of the most popular stops for visitors. During the Spring Planting Festival, the line snakes out the door as festival goers wait their turn for fresh, organic cuisine.

“Our philosophy is that everybody is entitled to a good meal,” she said. “And Jere is a foodie who follows a vegan diet so he makes sure that’s the kind of food served in the restaurant.”

There’s no set menu in the restaurant, so you’re served whatever the chef cooks that day. It’s usually a dish with an Asian flair — Gettle’s favorite. It’s also free of charge, while donations are accepted.

McFarland says visitors and vendors come from across the U.S. and multiple countries for the Spring Planting Festival. The 2018 festival is Sunday and Monday, May 6-7. Baker Creek also has Heritage Days Festivals the first Sunday of every month March through October. Just don’t show up on a Saturday, when the entire operation is closed for religious observance.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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