Cover Stories

Magnificent Missouri

Not too many of us wake up thinking about how to conserve Missouri’s natural resources. But Dan Burkhardt hopes to change that. He and John McPheeters created Magnificent Missouri for just that reason: to teach more people that conservation is vital, and that each of us can make a difference.

“We started Magnificent Missouri three years ago because we wanted to develop a platform for a variety of conservation groups to come together and celebrate the cause in a way that created excitement and buzz,” explains Burkhardt, partner at Oakwood Medical Investors. “The idea is to broaden the circle of awareness. More people need to know this is a good cause.”

The St. Louis-based nonprofit helps organize fundraisers to benefit Missouri conservation groups. The criteria for involvement is for each group to have a connection to the countryside around St. Louis or eastern Missouri and to be involved with on-the-ground conservation work, which can include anything from planting trees to improving wildlife habitats. Both founders have a longstanding interest in land preservation and the state’s natural resources. McPheeters owns Bowood Farms in the Central West End, and Burkhardt owns Bethlehem Valley Farms near Marthasville, Mo. He and his wife developed the Katy Land Trust to preserve Missouri forests and farms. But the two men want to attract those who aren’t dedicated environmentalists, and what better way to do that than with great local food, Burkhardt says.

“The most crucial thing we did was solicit the help of Gerard Craft (of Niche, Pastaria and Brasserie by Niche), who is a real believer in the Missouri countryside,” Burkhardt says. “We asked if he would help us connect people to this cause through local restaurants, and he jumped onboard. As someone who has had an interest in conservation for a long time, Gerard and other chefs have done more to get people thinking about the value of our farms than anything I’ve seen.” Through events that put good food on the table, Magnificent Missouri wants to communicate to people that they can’t get quality local cuisine without clean soil, water and air. One such event is the annual Conservation Celebration, this year slated from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 5
at Shaw Nature Reserve. Representatives of about 20 groups will be on hand to talk about their efforts with guests, and Burkhardt hopes this personal interaction will increase poeple’s interest.

Tickets range in price from $50 to $200 a person and can be purchased at magnificentmissouri.org. Festivities include live music, local beer and wine, and, most important, food prepared by some of St. Louis’ most respected chefs: Gerard Craft, Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe, Josh Galliano of The Libertine and Mike Emerson of Pappy’s Smokehouse. “Mike will barbecue locally raised red wattle hogs, a breed that is very historic and most of all, very tasty,” Burkhardt says.

Guests also will have a chance to tour parts of the 2,300 acres of the reserve, which includes Whitmire Wildflower Garden, habitat to more than 100 Missouri native wildflowers. “Food is really relevant because local farms and growers are dependent on good environmental conditions,” Burkhardt explains. “That’s what brings this home. Everything we do centers around a theme of conservation and the value of the natural resources we have around St. Louis.”

Photo: Bill Barrett
Pictured: Gerard Craft, Josh Galliano, Kevin Nashan, Mike Emerson

[Magnificent Missouri organizes fundraisers to benefit local conservation and environmental groups. The third annual Conservation Celebration will be held from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 5 at Shaw Nature Reserve. For more information or to buy tickets, visit magnificentmissouri.org.]

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