Missouri-made products celebrated at Capitol

In an effort to promote local businesses and manufacturers to legislators, Wednesday marked Buy Missouri Day at the state Capitol.

While legislators meet in-person, the 2021 Buy Missouri event was virtual - an hour-long video showcasing some of the program's members played on its website and on loop throughout the Capitol.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe was responsible for the effort.

"When we buy Missouri-made products, we support our friends, family and neighbors who work at and own these businesses, which is why it's so important for our state's legislators to know more about, and help grow, the Buy Missouri initiative," he said in a news release.

The video featured comments from several state legislators, who showcased businesses from their districts. Gov. Mike Parson also spoke.

"When we support and buy Missouri-made products, we are supporting our fellow Missourians and our state's economy," Parson said. "Missourians produce quality goods with quality work, which is why I'm so proud of the Buy Missouri program, and everyone it represents."

Several local businesses were part of the showcase.

Blacksmith Artisanal Spirits, located in Lohman, explained how its distillery uses Missouri-grown goods, from corn to botanicals to the wood for its barrels. The limestone used to filter Blacksmith's vodka comes from the company's property.

Blacksmith is releasing a "Missouri 2021" whiskey to celebrate the state's bicentennial this year.

Giofre Apiaries in Fulton started as just a couple of beehives but has now evolved into a honey business with a cool twist - Dominic and Nancy Giofre also sell 23 flavors of honey ice cream, too.

They're consistently looking to partner with local growers for new honey creations.

"We are always open to meeting new producers to use their produce or product in our recipes," Giofre's website says.

Another Fulton business, 4 Girly Girls LLC, is a mother-daughter company that produces all-natural bath and hygiene products. Among their offerings are 19 different varieties of soap, as diverse as goat milk and charcoal.

Central Missouri Meat and Sausage, also based in Fulton, explained how it controls every stage of its offerings' creation to keep customers' interests in mind.

"Everybody these days is wanting source-verified product," co-owner Cory Hawkins said. "They're very concerned about what they're getting, what they're feeding their family, what they're feeding to their children, so that's been the focus You have to have that local, good product to end up with a good finished product."

From California, Burger's Smokehouse showed off some hardware from its four-generation history: In 1955, then-President Harry S Truman gave Morris Burger the "Grand Champion Country Ham" trophy.

These days, Steven Burger is carrying on the business that started with his grandfather selling those hams on the family farm in 1927. That farm is still home to Burger's plant today - and the trophy's displayed in its visitor's center.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected many businesses, the Buy Missouri program experienced significant growth over the last year. More than 100 new businesses joined in that span, Kehoe said, bringing the total to 420.

In October, Buy Missouri added a retail partnership with 17 members, something Kehoe called a "natural next-step for the program."

"We want to provide a space within Buy Missouri for businesses that would not qualify on the basis of manufacturing a product but sell and promote other Missouri- made products from various Missouri businesses and manufacturers," he said.

On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture also awarded grants worth up to $1,000 to 14 retail businesses around the state as part of Buy Missouri Day. Grants are intended to help reimburse businesses for promoting products that are part of the department's Missouri Grown program.

"Our Missouri Grown members have told us that placing product in retail stores is one of the biggest challenges to their future growth," Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said in a news release. "With this new grant opportunity, we've identified willing business owners that want to solve that challenge. I'm excited to see the growing opportunity pay off for our small businesses, while helping consumers find Missouri products."

Lucky Snipe Trading Post in Tipton is one of the recipients.

"This grant will enable us to permanently showcase these products and the entire Missouri Grown program, as well as expand our product line to include more delicious products made right here in the Show-Me State," owner Kim Force said.

Kehoe said he expects Buy Missouri Day to be an in-person event next year.