Missouri River Bluffs Association helps small-business owners connect

Sunday, March 25, 2012 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:55 a.m. CDT, Sunday, March 25, 2012
The queen honey bee, marked with a white dot, can be seen in the observation hive at Walk-About Acres LLC, a small farm in Columbia, on Friday. Owners Vera and Art Gelder tend the beehives on the farm and sell honey collected from the hives.

COLUMBIA — Even professional beekeepers Art and Vera Gelder get stung once in a while at Walk-About Acres, a family farm that focuses largely on using bees to produce honey.

Walk-About Acres is a business member of the Missouri River Bluffs Association, which has helped promote small businesses and other local organizations in or near the Missouri River corridor over the past two years. The association's members include wineries, bed-and-breakfast inns, small farms, restaurants, retailers, artisans, historians and individuals in five Missouri counties: Boone, Callaway, Cole, Moniteau and Osage.

Missouri River Bluffs Association

Membership fees for the Missouri River Bluffs Association are: 

  • Business membership: $50

     An individual or group that wishes to promote their own business. 

  • Individual membership: $35

    An individual that does not necessarily own a personal business but wants to support the group's efforts. 

  • One-year "Friend" membership: $15

    Anyone who believes the Missouri River Bluffs Association is a worthwhile effort and wishes to contribute financially, show support, attend meetings and/or offer sponsorship qualifies as a "Friend."

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Nancy Grant, vice president of the group, said it is a geographically diverse group of businesses and people who are trying to make a living and provide enrichment for the area. 

Boone County member Walk-About Acres is not just a honeybee farm. It also raises peacocks, pigs, rabbits, emus, chickens, geese, turkeys and goats. The honeybees, however, are probably the most fascinating creatures the farm has.

Walk-About Acres owner and operator Vera Gelder said if you would have asked her 20 years ago what a honeybee is, she would have said, "Well, they make honey, and, you know, they're bugs. What else do you want to know?"

Now she is able to answer her own question. 

Vera Gelder said that one honeybee makes one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. It would take 556 honeybees their whole lives to visit more than 2 million flowers and fly more than 55,000 miles to make just one pound of honey.

"Fifty-five thousand miles is like twice around the world, and like I tell the kids: 'How would you like to walk that every day to get your food?'"

Walk-About Acres offers field trips for groups from preschoolers to senior citizens. It also offers beekeeping classes and sells diverse products, such as  beekeeping equipment and honey ice-cream. 

Vera Gelder said the Missouri River Bluffs Association, which is a not-for-profit organization, works hard to get the word out about businesses such as hers. 

"Its been beneficial networking with other members, but to go ahead and say that it's been bringing in more business, I can't make that statement yet just because it's so new," Vera Gelder said.

Grant said the organization meets every other month and encourages car tours about twice a year to member businesses. 

Longfellow's Garden Center in Centertown hosted the most recent meeting. Grant said members got a tour of the garden center, potted some plants, met for lunch at Tammy's Restaurant and shopped at Centertown Antiques — all of which have been involved in the association.

Grant said networking and promoting other member businesses will help establish a distinct identity for the Missouri River Bluffs Association.

Vera Gelder said Walk-About Acres has sold honey, pork, goat meat and other products at the Columbia Farmers' Market, which is also part of the association, for the past eight or nine years, but will not be selling there this year.

"Our definition of local is approximately 55 miles as a bird flies," farmers market director Caroline Todd said. "That's why it's a good fit with our Columbia Farmers' Market because all of our producers come from a 54-mile radius."

The market opened Saturday at its outside location, the Activity and Recreation Center parking lot. 

"A farmers market is an incubator for small businesses," Todd said. "Most vendors can come to a farmers market and start a business for less than $1,000, and I think that's really important in today's economy with people trying to find work."

Todd said that the cutoff date for new vendors to join the Columbia Farmers' Market is April 1.

Epple Haus Bed & Breakfast, about 20 miles southwest of Hermann, is also a member of the Missouri River Bluffs Association. The bed-and-breakfast inn has been in business for more than 10 years.

"It's a secluded, comfortable, country-living setting," host Arlen Schwinke said.

Schwinke said he is confident that once the association establishes a website, Epple Hause Bed and Breakfast will see more business. 

Grant said the Missouri River Bluffs Association is developing a website and it is looking to recruit new members. There are about 40 members now.

"I think the organization has a lot of possibilities," Schwinke said.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

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