Ava, Mo.: A Gardening Culture

Located deep in the Ozark Mountains, surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, Ava, Mo., is a friendly little town where gardening is king and residents from varied backgrounds feel happily at home.

| October/November 2013

  • Ava Missouri farmers market.
    Ava, Mo., farmers market vendor Peter Weiland, left, visits with a new resident.
    Photo By Myron Jackson
  • View of the Ava, Missouri farmers market
    The Ava, Mo., farmers market is one of Missouri's oldest.
    Photo By Myron Jackson

  • Ava Missouri farmers market.
  • View of the Ava, Missouri farmers market

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS selects a handful of communities to highlight in our annual Great Places feature. Check out the other towns featured in our 2013 installment of 9 Great Places You've (Maybe) Never Heard of.

Ava, Missouri. Located deep in the Ozarks of south-central Missouri, Ava is surrounded by forests, streams and spectacular natural beauty. The town offers no big-city amenities, but it is a welcoming community that one resident calls “a great big neighborhood.”

“I was born in Taiwan and moved to the United States when I was 9,” says Yun Hsia Queen, who lives north of Ava on a farm with her husband, Chris, and their five children. “If I had to choose one word to describe this place, it would be ‘generous,’” Queen says. “I’ve moved around quite a bit, and having lived in places where people were actually mean to me, I can honestly say I’ve never known such kind and genuine people — the best I’ve ever met anywhere.”

MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers would be especially happy to encounter a community of perhaps the most passionate gardeners one could meet. Just about everyone you run into is a gardener. If they don’t garden themselves, they’re probably at the Ava Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to take advantage of their neighbors’ garden offerings.

“The market is one of the oldest in Missouri,” says Arne Ahlstedt, president of the Ava Growers’ Market. “This spring we had our largest market ever, with more than 50 vendors.” Ahlstedt says developments at the market have mirrored demographic changes in the community since he first moved there in the 1970s, with food booths now including a mix of Asian, Hispanic and down-home American cuisine. Diverse religious groups are represented in the Ava area now — “Amish, Greek Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, and First, Second, Third and maybe Third-and-a-half Baptists,” Ahlstedt says with a laugh — and their presence has led to a radical acceptance rather than factionalism.

“There’s always been an independent spirit here — a sense that, as long as you watch out for each other and tend your own business, you’re welcome. What’s changed is the makeup of the community,” Ahlstedt says. “The newcomers are eager for knowledge and full of questions about the old ways of doing things.”

Karen Brown
9/22/2013 10:54:27 PM

Great article about the Ava, Missouri area!

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