Bob and Helen Teerlinck have been growing vegetables and flowers in their Columbia garden since 1988, and they have sold under the name of Sunny Acres Farm at the Columbia Farmers Market since 1992. Their daughter, Leanne Spurling, joined her mom and dad in the business in
Leanne, who holds a degree in agronomy from the University of Missouri, worked 4½ years at Rodale Institute Research Center in Kutztown, Penn., after college. “We were doing agricultural research, comparing conventional and organic systems side by side,” she said. But she wanted to put what she learned about organic farming into practice. So she moved back home to Missouri to farm with her dad. When she married in 1999, her husband, Bart, joined the crew. The trio does most of the vegetable and fruit farming, while Helen tends to the family’s flowerbeds.
The family farm consists of two plots, one at “Dad’s place in Columbia, and one at our place” in the Fulton area, Leanne said. “We grow chemical-free, using organic methods, but are no longer certified.” Bob Teerlinck, explained why. “We were certified organic for 6 years. But the fees kept increasing every year. By then, we knew how to grow organically. We discussed the matter with our customers and ended up discontinuing certification while continuing to grow organically.”
The family grows lettuce, kale, sweet potatoes, green beans, garlic, cabbage, onions, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, beets, potatoes, okra, winter squash, pumpkins, herbs, leeks and radishes. Leanne is also growing some fruit trees. Recently, one of the children took an interest in beekeeping. They now offer fresh, raw and local honey to cure any sweet tooth.
Besides tending the garden, Leanne and Bart are also parents to five children, a set of triplets, age 14, and a set of twins, age 12. “They all help out. The kids have their own crops. They each pick a couple crops and take care of them,” Leanne said.
For Leanne, growing food is a spiritual undertaking. “As growers, we have a ringside seat, as we experience God’s unfolding re-creation, from seed, to plant, to beautiful harvest. It is an amazing experience that never grows old,” she said.
Selling at the market never grows old either. “We love the friendly atmosphere and the enthusiastic, appreciative, and faithful customers at the Columbia Farmers Market.”