In 2011, with no farming background, just a love of good, healthy food and a desire to share that with others, Dan Pugh left his job of 15 years in medical equipment, to farm. He and his wife, Laura, bought 50 acres of pasture and rolling hills north of Columbia and called it Honey Creek Farm. Laura, who had been home with their children for eight years, returned to work at the University of Missouri, so Dan could work full-time on the farm.
“Our desire to farm was shaped by a belief that our large corporate food system does not produce the best food in terms of health, taste, variety, or environmental concerns,” Dan said. “We believe in a strong, local food system, and in individual family farms.”
Through classes, a network of farming friends, and the Internet, the Pughs have experimented with growing a variety of food products. They raised bees for honey, grew vegetables, raised chickens for eggs and meat, and raised pigs and sheep. Their farming practices are driven by the desire for the health of food, soil, animals, the environment and their customers.
The chickens and sheep roam on 30 acres of pasture, where Dan uses rotational grazing methods in order to nurture the health of the sheep, the soil, and the grasses. “Our chickens benefit from being on pasture, too, by getting exercise and insects while fertilizing the ground.”
Eager to share with their community, the Pughs soon began to sell their produce at the Columbia Farmers Market, he said, “because we believe it is the best market in the area,” citing “the diversity of both farmers and products.”
In 2016, the focus of the business changed. With his desire to try something new and a love of creative cuisine, Dan started selling prepared meals at the Farmers Market. By incorporating as much of his farm products as possible, he started offering simple breakfast items
Dan quickly expanded his menu to include lunch, frozen soups and created a mobile food business called Fresh Harvest Grill. During the week, he sets his grill up on-site at various businesses around Columbia and serves fresh, healthy meals at reasonable prices.
Customers can choose from such delicious offerings as stir fry, gyros, sandwiches, salads, tacos, and flatbreads. The food is custom made with vegetarian and gluten-free options available.
As the mobile food business has grown, Dan has been able to hire employees to help him, including his kids, Eric 17 and Sarah 14. When possible, he uses products from other farmers market vendors and the meat he uses for his meals are always healthy and locally sourced.
Dan said he and his family are grateful for the loyalty of the Columbia customers who come to the Columbia Farmers Market, “rain or shine. They come to us because they know how we produce. We love the feedback we get from people when we bring them products they enjoy.”
Dan offered this recipe for his lamb sliders.
Writing by Marcia Vanderlip.