Nestled between Columbia and the historic little town of Rocheport lies one of central Missouri’s best-kept secrets: Blue Shepherd Farm. Here you will find a family-owned and operated farm that is just beginning to become a summer destination for Columbians with a fetish for freshly picked berries — blueberries, to be exact. The farm is the prized possession of Steve and Caroline Andriano, along with their two daughters.
Back in 2009, the Andrianos took a leap of faith to pursue a dream and purchased the site of an original homestead with hopes of planting and running a U-pick blueberry patch. Seven years and more than 800 berry plants later, the Adrianos have grown a thriving family business that’s the new buzz around town.
Visitors to Blue Shepherd Farm can pick five blueberry varieties throughout the summer, depending on what part of the season they arrive. The Andrianos selected their berry varieties based on the staggered time of year that each reaches peak ripeness. Steve classifies them as “early, mid and late” berry plants. Strawberries make up a small, but substantial, section of the berry patch. Their arrival kicks off the picking season in early May, with blueberries becoming ripe for the picking from the first of June through mid-July.
Access to the berry patch is granted by appointment only, with a maximum of 20 visitors allowed to pick at any given time. Steve says appointment-only picking times “allow guests to have a more personalized experience,” which may also include a tour of the farm and guided direction to prime picking spots. Guests are welcome to try berries fresh off the plants and are encouraged to do so, as Andriano’s plants are never sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. For the Andriano family, that’s how most of their berries are eaten. Caroline says it’s a rare occasion that any of their berries make it into an actual recipe because “we just like to eat them fresh from the patch. If they make it to the kitchen counter, they don’t stay there for long.”
The history behind the Blue Shepherd name shows that blueberries are not all that the farm has to offer. The land is also home to registered Black Welsh Mountain sheep, a breed that originated in the mountains of Wales. The sheep are known for their thick, black wool, which can be purchased from the Adrianos in the form of wool rovings or fleeces. Customers may also purchase lambs for processing at butchers. Choice cuts include racks, chops, ground lamb and roasts. Spring lambs are typically ready for processing November through December.
A trip to Blue Shepherd Farm makes for memorable summertime experience with family or friends, a convenient stop near Rocheport before you make your way to the a river bluff for an Instagram-worthy picnic with all of your gorgeous, fresh berries.
Check out this recipe for some delicious blueberry muffins here