Visiting Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

by Becky
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Over my kids fall break they asked me to go to Baker Creek’s Village in Missouri. Of course I would never say no to that! We had been once before, around the same time of year, in October. Both times we had slightly different experiences.

If you haven’t heard of the company, where have you been?! Ok, I’m kidding. I’ll be glad to be the first to tell you. Baker Creek was started by Jere Gettle in 1998. He was only 17 when he printed the first catalog. The company has grown an incredible amount now offering nearly 2000 varieties. They are committed to preserving heritage varieties, many of which were almost lost forever. I’ve been ordering their seed since 2013 because of their rare varieties, the high quality of the seed, and the commitment they have to fighting gene-altered seed.

We chose to go visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company during the fall because it is not a busy time in the garden for us. However, Baker Creek does have days when they have many more activities, vendors, and music. One example is the Spring Festival (usually the beginning of May), which had 12,000 visitors last year. Heritage Day Festivals are held the first Sunday of the month, March-October. I’ve never been to either of these because I’m not a huge fan of crowds and we love the restaurant which is only open Monday- Friday.

We went up on a Wednesday and it’s about a two and a half hour drive from our home. There are many Amish communities as you get close to Mansfield and we enjoyed looking at some of the windmills and Amish homes as we drove by.

The kids favorite part from our first visit two years ago was touring some of their facilities like the warehouse and greenhouse. In October 2017, we were pretty much the only ones there. A staff member asked if we wanted to see inside the warehouse and of course we said yes! At that time we had no idea they did tours.

 Baker Creek Village

Baker Creek Village

On our most recent trip last week, we were hoping for another impromptu tour, thinking we would be the only ones there again. I had called in the morning just to be sure they were open and as about a possible tour but the staff member we talked to on the phone said to ask when we arrived.

 As we pulled up we noticed two buses with kids unloading. We parked and went into the seed store. Immediately the lady running the seed store asked if we were there for the tour. I said yes! But she thought I was part of the school group. As we chatted for a bit, she told me to talk to Karen to see if we could tag along with the tour the school kids were doing. 

Karen was very kind and attentive and said it was no problem. So we did tag along. We arrived just as the restaurant was opening but in order for us not to miss the tour we had to wait to eat. [Side Note: If you do want a tour, I recommend emailing or calling a few weeks in advance and asking for one. I got the feeling they prefer advance notice 🙂 ]

We toured many of the greenhouses with our guide, John. He was fun to listen to and was very involved with the greenhouse growing so he knew a lot about it. They showed us a seed starting greenhouse, another with dwarf tomatoes and watermelon, then one with Trinidad Scorpion peppers and corn. The Trinidad Scorpion pepper plants were almost 6 feet tall! 

If you haven’t heard of Trinidad Scorpion peppers they are one of the hottest peppers you can find. John warned the kids not to try the peppers for fear of them “foaming at the mouth” and being down on the ground in pain. Dax has been wanting to grow those peppers for a while because he likes hot peppers but after hearing that, I told him no way! Haha!

We then toured the village and about half way through the tour it was almost 1:15pm. The restaurant closes at 2pm and we were all very hungry so we skipped out on the rest of the school tour and ate.

One of our very favorite parts of visiting is the vegan Thai restaurant. It is pay by donation only. They don’t have a menu to order from, usually just one meal that is served to everyone (staff included). They told me at our most recent visit that even though most days are Thai themed, they also will do Indian and Mexican themed food some days. We came when they had Indian. 

It was delicious and we all cleared our plates. One of the ladies came and asked if we wanted dessert which was a scoop of chocolate ice cream. I was about to decline when I realized she meant coconut milk ice cream because it was a vegan restaurant! (Cow milk Ice cream is one thing I haven’t been able to eat for a long time due to digestive issues.)  It was all so yummy.

On the way out I saw one of the tour guides, Kristina. Because we missed the warehouse tour with the school group, I asked if she could give us a quick tour of the warehouse. She was so kind and obliging -even though I’m sure she was tired after just finishing taking 40 kids around. 

We got to see their new warehouse. Every October their seed filling packet machine is in full production. They are getting ready for the busy season ahead and the worker was busily filling seed packs with corn when we toured the building.

The next room was cold because it stored all the seeds. Bucket and boxes full of seeds ready to be put into seed packets. It was amazing to see the volume of seeds they go through. 

After passing through there you enter the seed packet picking room. Upon first walking in you see the shelving full of already packed seeds. 

Then a little further in, a few staff members were working on fulfillment. They ship just about anywhere in the world! She said that Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil are difficult countries to get seeds past customs and to customers but they have found ways to do so. I admire their persistence and willingness to send anywhere.

They have a state of the art and very unique system to pick seeds and get them ready to ship. The kids love seeing it in action but the system was being updated and so it wasn’t running when we were there. 

In another part of the building we saw Emilee Gettle’s (Jere’s wife) newly acquired business, the Bulk Herb Store. It was still in the early stages of transitioning to new ownership. They recently were able to get organic certified and it looked like they have some really cool herb and tea blends. I’m excited to see the growth that I’m sure will happen with Bulk Herb Store.

One other thing that always impresses me when I visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is they are extremely generous with donating to those in need. When there are natural disasters, they will take the proceeds of a few days of sales and donate all the money towards helping those in need. All of their extra seeds are donated at the end of the year as well to schools, food banks, natural disaster victims, etc. I love that even though they have grown so much they are still very generous in their donations.

We finished the warehouse tour and then walked by Dave’s house (Dave is like the mascot of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. You see his picture everywhere). It had tons of Luffa gourds all picked and drying around it. Kristina offered the kids one and they were so excited to try it when we got home. Dave stopped by and showed the kids how to feed the donkey next to his house some leaves. They did that for a while and then wanted to visit every other animal on the property. 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has some very unique breeds of farm animals. They have heirloom chicken and turkey breeds, guineas, goats, geese and more.

We walked around to all the animals and about halfway through, we stopped at the Bakery which is part of the Baker Creek Village to get some treats. The last time we were there, the Bakery wasn’t open since October is one of their slower seasons. However, they were open on the day we visited because they were expecting all the school children. They had cinnamon rolls, cookies, breads, and brownies. 

Another unique thing about Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is that the Gettles actually live in the farm house on the property. It was Jere Gettle’s parents home. So both times I have been there I have seen the Gettles and their children. I can’t even imagine doing that myself it seems like such a lack of privacy! I suppose they are used to it now. 

The last stop was going back into the seed store to look at all their unique things they sell in addition to the seeds. They have cookbooks, canners, kids toys, fabrics, pioneer clothing, and more. 

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