You know I’m a sucker for small-town America. Give me a hardy little burg that thrives on the fruits of agriculture and community spirit, and I’m in heaven. So this week, I’m making tracks to Mansfield, in the heartland of southern Missouri. Never heard of it? Well, you might just be more familiar with Mansfield than you think.
If you’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love Little House on the Prairie?), then you’ll be as excited as I was to learn that Mansfield was where Laura landed after all those years traveling the northern prairies. In 1894, Laura moved from South Dakota to Mansfield with her husband, Almanzo, and daughter, Rose. Home at last, the Wilders established Rocky Ridge Farm, a successful poultry, dairy, and fruit operation where they lived for 60 years. The farmhouse they built has been preserved and is now open to the public as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum. Thousands of visitors travel to Mansfield each year to soak up a tangible bit of history from Laura’s beloved stories.
As if Laura isn’t reason enough to head down to Mansfield, it is also the headquarters for Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, which is one of my favorite seed sources in the nation. Baker Creek was officially founded in 1998, when 17-year-old Jere Gettle printed his first humble catalog. These days, the company is in full bloom, offering 1,400 varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs from around the globe. Besides selling to gardeners, Jere and his wife, Emilee, supply free seeds to schools, educational projects, and impoverished countries worldwide. In Jere’s words, “It is our goal to educate everyone about a better, safer food supply and to fight gene-altered Frankenfood and the companies that support it.”
Craving a visit to Mansfield? Plan for a weekend somewhere between March and November. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is open daily during these months, and Baker Creek hosts Heritage Day Festivals the first Sunday of each month, including music, produce, crafts, and more.