(Originally published November 20, 2013)
In this cooking video, the eighth of the MO Deep Roots series, Vera Gelder of Walk-About Acres in Columbia, Missouri, shows me how to make three dishes featuring the specialty of her farm: honey. Each of the recipes is very simple to make, requiring few ingredients, and all of them are very tasty. Vera makes a honey-mustard glaze for ham, honey-glazed carrots, and her family’s favorite honey-sweetened salad dressing. (Follow the links to view those recipes.)
Vera and her husband Art may have decided to become beekeepers as a retirement project, but twenty years after buying Walk-About Acres and making it into one of Missouri’s biggest bee-keeping operations and a popular agri-tourism destination, Vera and Art have decided to give retirement another go—but this time they’re trying harder.
But it’s tough to relax when you’re just a busy bee by nature. In their pre-farm days, Vera was an accountant, and Art an emergency room nurse, for more than 30 years. But once their kids were raised and out of the house, with retirement looming ever closer, they decided to return to their rural roots, and purchased a small farm that they populated with geese, emus, chickens, a donkey, hogs, dogs, cats, and millions of honey bees. Before long their bee-keeping operation had developed wings of its own, and Walk-About Acres became one of the biggest sellers of bee-keeping equipment and honey bees in Missouri. They also developed a line of honey products that they sell through their own farm store, local retail outlets, and the Columbia Farmers’ Market, and they created their famous honey ice cream, which they sell by by the cup or pint in a wide assortment of flavors.
It’s no wonder Art and Vera have found their first retirement exhausting, because they seem to be in perpetual motion. They’re often giving tours of their farm to groups of all ages; in fact, thousands of schoolchildren have gotten their first up-close look at bees (or emus, or peacocks) during a field trip to Walk-About Acres. The Gelders are active members of a number of associations, and often serve in leadership positions. Art currently serves as president and Vera previously served as treasurer of the Columbia Farmers’ Market board, and they’re on the Boone County Farm Bureau board. Vera and Art were founding members of the Missouri River Bluffs Association, and they’re also members of the Boone Regional Beekeepers Association and the Missouri State Beekeepers Association.
And bees are not their only passion: they also became fascinated by the Missouri Mulefoot breed of hogs, and raise this extremely rare heritage breed for its fine-flavored meat, which they sell along with their honey products and goat meat (chevron). The name “mulefoot” is derived from the breed’s solid, non-cloven hoof. Mulefoot hogs grow more slowly and have fewer offspring than breeds typically grown for production, but as I learned when Vera sliced into the honey-mustard glazed ham she prepared for this cooking video, the flavor is outstanding.
Now that Vera and Art are embarking on their second retirement, they will no longer be hosting tour groups, nor will they be making and selling their popular honey ice cream. But you’ll still be able to find them at the Columbia Farmers’ Market, where they’ll continue to sell honey, pork, goat meat, and eggs.