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Slow Spotlight: Sassafras Valley Farm

December 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Farmers, Featured, Slow Spotlight

Sassafras Valley Farm: A Different Take on Poultry – by Alix Simnock

Sassafras Valley Farm is a family farm located near Morrison, Missouri that raises not your average fowl—they specialize in Embden Geese, an animal rich in Missouri history. The idea for the farm was conceived six years ago by two siblings, Connie & Bob Cunningham, as they shared a heritage turkey at their mother’s Thanksgiving table.

With the Christmas season fast approaching, they wondered where they could find a goose, their favorite holiday tradition. Then the clever siblings had a thought…why not raise heritage geese themselves! Connie took on the day-to-day responsibilities of the farm, her brother Bob agreed to handle the business side, and Sassafras Valley Farm was born. Now, as the only commercial geese farm in Missouri and one of the few in the country, they have grown from an original investment of 35 geese to now selling over 400 per year.

Featured in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and as a favorite dish in Hanukkah celebrations, geese have a special place in history as a traditional holiday food. Embden geese, as any water fowl, are unique in that they have a layer of fat beneath their skin, which results in a deliciously rich, dark meat. That coupled with the husbandry processes practiced by the farm, delivers an animal product lower in fat than most of their commercially produced brothers.

Sassafras Valley Farm prides itself on their commitment to low-impact, sustainable agriculture. They keep a low population density of 36 geese per acre so the geese always have fresh pasture and water. Pasture is free of chemicals and hormones, and is made of a variety of indigenous grasses and plants. They are proudly certified by AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) demonstrating their dedication to the humane treatment of their animals.

In addition to geese, the Cunninghams sell specialty products including pastured Angus veal, local Missouri caviar and a recent expansion into Rouen ducks. Rouen ducks are a heritage breed similar to Mallards and smaller and far superior in flavor to Pekins. Ducks will be available for sale November 2012.

Sassafras Valley Farm products are readily available through their website and ship frozen via UPS 2nd Day Air anywhere in the US. For those in the Hermann and St. Louis areas, products are available in-store at Swiss Meat and Sausage and Local Harvest Market in Kirkwood. Maudes Market is currently taking orders for holiday delivery.

To find more information about Sassafras Valley Farm please contact Robert and Connie Cunningham at 866-684-2188 or visit their website. Support a special farm right here in Missouri and order a Sassafras bird for your next celebratory meal!

The Slow Spotlight is a series of regular blog posts exploring the story of our food. The series reports on local farms, “slow” food products/businesses, and the preservation (or creation) of food traditions with occasional coverage of relevant organizations, issues, and events.

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