Richard Oswald braved 6 hours of driving to meet with fellow members of the Missouri Farmers Union. And this year, he won the painting.
I’ve joked repeatedly with my friends in Missouri Farmers Union that it seems the only standing order of business regarding annual meetings is that they be held at least 200 miles from Langdon. Due to that seemingly incontrovertible off-the-books rule, I’ve seen a lot more of Missouri than I had before I joined MFU.
Thanks to Farmers Union I’ve been to and stayed in places like Jefferson City, Columbia, West Plains, Moberly, and Glasgow. About the only necessities for hosting a MFU convention, other than the 200 mile rule, are that the host town have lodging, meeting facilities…and FOOD.
This year’s convention, titled “A Movable Feast from Farm to Table,” was at Ste Genevieve. Few people realize it but Ste. Genevieve, MO, is about as old as a lot of the Revolutionary War era colonial settlements nearer the Atlantic Ocean. French trappers and German settlers in the early 1700s worked their way up the Mississippi to this area 60 miles south of St Louis, in what would become part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Things have sure changed since then; at least that’s what I thought as I became an unwilling participant in 12 lanes of rush hour traffic on I-270. It took me 5 hours just to get close to St Louis, and then it took me another hour to get away from it.
The closer I got to Ste. Genevieve the deeper the snow got, and the more numerous the power company trucks on the Interstate. Once I arrived in town it was apparent that the trucks weren’t stopping there for anything but sleep, food and fuel; they were headed to the ice storm victims in the bootheel.
When I arrived, the manager of the local motel told me that he was so sore from scooping snow he barely slept the night before. The fruit of his labor was piled high around the motel parking lot.
I headed on in to the Ste. Genevieve Hotel in the historic part of town. We had a short board meeting in the hotel dining room and then everyone drifted off to their rooms and slumberland.
We had meetings at the hotel all day the next day, and a banquet that evening. For entertainment we were serenaded by Les Petits Chanteurs, (English translation: “the little singers”). They were great. Following that Missouri’s new Director of Agriculture, Dr. Jon Hagler regaled us with tales of growing up on the farm in Missouri, and being hooked in the eye by his brother’s fishing pole. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Congressman Russ Carnahan gave us an update on the stimulus work being done back in the nation’s capitol. State Senator Wes Shoemeyer, a Farmers Union member, hammed it up as MC.
I asked a friend, Eddie, if Wes had always been that way or if politics had finally gotten to him. Eddie assured me that Wes was just being Wes (I mean that in a good way). MFU President Russ Kremer and Vice President Steve Wright handed out awards to friends of MFU, and to our Gary Wiggins scholarship recipient Nathan Vickers.
A small group broke off after the banquet and found a karaoke bar where, thanks to magic elixir, unknown talent was discovered. Others reported being awakened at 3 a.m. when the revelers returned. According to what I was told, the elixir had apparently worn off because by then the singing was definitely off key.
Ste. Genevieve is filled with history. First established in around 1735, many of the oldest houses have been restored as bed and breakfasts. There are antique shops and stores that offer Missouri wine, cheese, and flower tea. A huge church in the middle of town, Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church, was first established in 1759. We were told the first baptism of record was a slave child.
Like Les Petits Chanteurs, many of the locals don period clothing and entertain tourists with tales of old Ste. Gen. One gave demonstrations of colonial era farming techniques and implements used by the early settlers.
Saturday was the last day of the meeting. When Amy Meyer our communications director announced the winners of our silent auction fundraiser I found I was the proud owner of a farm scene painted by none other than Adam Oswald. I’ve never met Adam, but his painting keeps coming back to the silent auction, year after year. I’ve been trying to buy that picture for at least 4 years, and now it’s mine. (Note to Farmers Union; I’m keeping it!)
All in all we had a good meeting. The locals treated us very well, although many of our members from southern Missouri were stuck at home because of the ice storm. Still, we got the things done we needed to do and fulfilled our primary goal: meeting more than 200 miles from Langdon.