Are you sick of fruits, veggies or eggs from retail and grocery stores being devoid of flavor, and probably nutrients, too, due to long transportation periods and being genetically modified?
Well, one O’Fallon resident, Lisa Wall, was, and so now she only shops locally for her veggies, fruits and eggs.
“I’m a big fan of local grown, real food. When I say real food, I mean a tomato, for example, that smells and tastes like a tomato, as opposed to what we find in the store now, which has so little nutritional value, so here I get that, and if they don’t have it they’ll go out and pick it for you, and you can go home, cook it, preserve it, do what you want, so they’ve just been great,” Wall said, as she finishes picking up a couple pounds of pecans and some vegetables.
“It’s going here from the local farm to my table in less than an hour if I want,” Wall said.
Wall said visiting Papa Wally’s, which she found just by driving by one day, is an “awesome experience” for her, not only for what she’s able to leave with, but the sense of camaraderie she gets when she’s able to visit and exchange ideas, recipes and chat about canning, preserving or fermenting her food with Kay and Wally, and even some of the other visitors.
“Wally, Kay and I talk garden often because I used to have a big garden, and I used to do bees (maintain an apiary) where I used to live, and they do that here too, so we were even doing a tasting (recently) to see the differences between the bees from the dry canyons of northwest Utah where honeysuckle thrives versus Midwest Illinois where the humidity is high,” Wall said. “It was very different not much unlike wine can be. One was light and delicate and one was heavier.”
The different climates offer varying tastes or flavors of honey based on the types of native plants the bees are collecting from, so Wall said it was a blast being able to compare them.
“I’m a pharmacist by profession, but I just realized the value of food that has higher nutritional content, and just tastes good. Sometimes the store bought produce doesn’t even have a taste, it’s just so discouraging, and I don’t think it’s healthy for us,” Wall explained.
Wall met a couple Brent and Hannah Nix from West Belleville who bring their toddler, Orin, with them weekly or biweekly to stock up on fresh locally grown food their family. Hannah is a microbiologist who said she likes to ferment food for her and the family to help keep the flora (aka ‘good bacteria’) in their guts at a healthy level.
“We just had a big discussion about the rising trend of fermented foods, and increasing the bacteria colony in your gut to be more healthy, which (experts) think is being depleted because of all the toxins in processed food,” Wall said.
Fermenting food is easy, according to Wall, Hannah and Kay. All you need is a jar, sea salt to create a brine solution, water and the food to ferment. The trick, according to Hannah, is to ensure the food stays completely submerged in the solution otherwise mold can populate in the jar and then the food is no good.
“We really appreciate their presence here in the community and it’s worth the drive out here because they are good people who have good produce and eggs, actually we’ve been in the area for about a year and we’ve been buying our eggs from here,” Hannah said.
Brent said the stand is on his route to work so it makes it easy to stop in and get what they need.
“We got a little of everything, beans, okra, eggplant, tomatoes and some other stuff trying to supplement my sparse garden at home. The deer got most of our food this season,” Hannah said.
O’Fallon’s Dane Harrel also said he stops in from time-to-time to stock up on his veggies. As he purchased potatoes he talks about the convenience and peace of mind that comes from going to the stand picking up what you need for supper and knowing it is packed with “homegrown goodness.”
“It’s great to come here and see these folks, today I went down and even took a gander at the goats that were romping around. It’s a well rounded experience, not just in and out of a fluorescent lit store,” Harrel said.
Family roots go deep
Kay (Kiefer) Good lives on the 20 acres behind 138 Seibert Rd. with her husband ‘Papa Wally’ Good raising animals and crops. Kay said although they rent the home out now to a retired couple Pete and Eleni Marquith, both properties are the last remaining acreage that’s been in the Schaepperkoetter family since the 1800’s.
The home that sits on the roadside is a little white, two-bedroom house, and you wouldn’t believe it, but Kay’s mother, Carol Kiefer, was raised in the home with four other children and her parents, Alfred and Doris Schaepperkoetter.
“My great grandma and grandpa, the Schaepperkoetter’s, came in from Germany on a boat, and so did my mom’s family, the Kreiver’s and they settled down in Shiloh when it was a little bleep of a town, so my ma and pa built and lived here at 138 Seibert Road (when there was a lot more acreage), and we had our big gardens and sold our pecans and raspberries and fish and all kinds of stuff. We had pigs to butcher so all of us (five) kids could eat,” Kiefer said.
While Kay was growing up, Kiefer only lived two blocks away from her parents farm, so Kay and her late brother George Kiefer Jr., who passed in 2005 of cancer, spent countless hours at the farm. She said she knows her grandparents would be proud of her and the family for keeping the last piece of the property in the family and working it as they did. At one point in time the property extended all the way to the gas station on Main Street, but over the years, acreage was split between relatives, and eventually sold off.
“It was hard keeping it, but we managed and now I rent the home out to this sweet couple who are practically family now so we can cover the costs,” Kay said.
The property continues to have fruit trees, grape vines and black raspberries that Kay and Wally were able to salvage once purchasing the property from relatives.
It means the world to me to still have the same grape vines my grandpa used to harvest for wine and now my husband does the same thing.
Kay (Kiefer) Good
Kay said, “working the land that my grandparents once worked is very nostalgic to my mom and myself, and now we pass down the values and traditions to our children and grandchildren. The property is very sentimental to us and the memories that we share are priceless.”
It’s not easy work, but Kay said it’s worth the sweat and dirty fingernails from all the garden work.
“One row of beans gave us 11 pounds of green beans, which is a record breaker, I usually get 12 pounds out of two rows,” Kay said.
Kay said her favorite memories with Grandpa Alfred were picking grapes together and watching the process of making wine and gardening like “popping up potatoes and throwing them in a bucket.”
“It means the world to me to still have the same grape vines my grandpa used to harvest for wine and now my husband does the same thing,” Kay said.
With Grandma Doris, Kay said her fondest memories were of picking fruit and veggies we grew from seed then canned and made jelly.
“Gathering eggs from the chicken coop and picking up pecans to dry out for use and sale were some of my favorite past times with her too,” she said. “And, we still do it all just like they did.”
Although they can not legally label their food as organic due to stringent regulatory hoops to jump through, Kay said they don’t treat any of the garden beds or plants with any kind of bug repellent or pesticide, and they use compost and their own animal manure to fertilize the soil.
“We only feed our animals high quality grain and they also are free range, and able to eat the grass and the insects, so the eggs they produce are very rich in nutrients, plus we don’t use antibiotics either,” Wally said.
“I feel very blessed to be able to spend quality time with her my mom cooking and reminiscing about the good ‘ole days,” Kay said.
Green and goat adventure
Nothing goes to waste at Papa Wally’s either, according to Kay.
“It’s nice because if there’s beans or something that we don’t sell or maybe it has bad spots on it, we just cut it out and use it to be canned, and if it’s really unusable for us, then we use it to feed the animals, and they love it too,” Kay said.
Even though summer has come to an end, that doesn’t mean local residents have to wait until spring for more produce, eggs, pecans, jellies, honey, herbs, and even firewood, because Kay and Wally just planted several cold season crops like beans, carrots, lettuce and cabbage.
“Come on out and see us, if we are here we like to meet new people and help out, but if Eleni or I aren’t manning the stand, that’s alright, we work on the honor system and hope customers will keep being honest and help themselves with the scale,” Kay said.
And, bring the kids too, she said, “the kids love to see the animals and sometimes if we are out of something you want, the kids and I can go down to the garden with you and pick it. The kids love coming to the stand and feeding the goats, Pokey and Bruiser, are our bottle fed goats who are like our mascots here.”
“We use to have 40 goats, but we had to downsize because the little rascals are escape artists and would get loose and run down main street, so we only have about a dozen goats now,” Kay said.
One village resident walks down from her apartment often with her dog to top off on veggies.
“They have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and it’s close to my house,” Amber Kalagian said.
Nearly everyday Pete sits outside while his wife works the stand and he serenades her with his bluegrass tunes, and sometimes even friends come over and join in, according to Kay. The couple met while Pete was in the U.S. Navy stationed near Greece decades earlier in their youth, and Elini says, “she loves America, but wouldn’t be here away from her Grecian family ties if she didn’t love Pete so dearly.”
For more information visit Papa Wally’s Produce on Facebook.
A bluegrass song penned by Pete Marquith
Papa Wally’s is the place to buy your veggies
Papa Wally’s is the place to buy your eggs
It’s the place to buy pecans and homemade jelly
So hurry on down to Papa Wally’s place
Wally has some tasty red tomatoes
He has some yellows and some romas too
All picked right from the vine for you each morning
And placed upon the counter for your view
The lady at the counter has a big smile
Her name’s Eleni and she comes from Greece
She will help you with the choices for your table
And conversation is her specialty
Wally has fresh herbs like thyme and basil
Cilantro and some mint and dill
There’s some fresh-grown celery for your cooking
To add a little something to your meal
Sometimes two little goats come up to visit
Pokey and Brother Bruiser too
They’re very tame and cute and sometimes funny
It’s about like being at a petting zoo
There’s other than veggies too at Papa Wally’s
Eggplant, okra and zucchini large and small
Some acorn and some crooked neck squash so tasty
In Shiloh, Illinois right across from village hall
(repeat verse one)