Local produce shines at state food expo

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SPRINGFIELD – The Riverbend was well represented at this weekend’s Illinois Product Show at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Fifty vendors and more than two dozen wineries offered thousands of visitors the chance to sample Illinois-produced food and beverage products. Among those vendors was SS Backwards Longhorn Meats from the Macoupin County community in Medora.

“Our beef sticks are selling out,” co-owner Dara Simmons said. “You buy one and you will come back and have more.”

SS Backwards Longhorn Meats Beef Sticks are different because they start differently. The meat comes from grass-fed cows and all the meat, including the best cuts, goes into the sticks.


“They are extra skinny; they don’t leave a greasy taste in your mouth like some of the ones from the store do,” Simmons said. “They are low in cholesterol and contain five grams of protein per stick. They have a higher iron content because of all the beef in them.

The beef sticks come in simple, sweet teriyaki and jalapeno flavors and Simmons pointed out that they don’t have an overpowering smoky flavor like other beef sticks.

The road to developing Macouin County’s unique product began when Simmons and her husband, Scott, tried to sell livestock during the 2008 drought and found no one was offering the prices they needed for their animals. .

“I said to my husband, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m going to start a meat business,'” Dara Simmons said. “It wasn’t supposed to be a big company because we both have full-time jobs. But it turned out to be something bigger because everyone loves beef.

Last weekend marked the tenth year that SS Backwards Longhorn Meats attended the Illinois Product Expo.

“Oh my God; this is the best fun time I’ve ever had. I look forward to this every year,” Simmons said. . It’s my, ‘OK, I’m ready; let’s go.'”

The Illinois Product Expo also had representation from Calhoun County with the first attendee Odelehr’s Farm Market from Brussels.

“We did the smaller one in December, the Illinois Product Holiday Market, but this is our first time attending the Illinois Product Expo,” said Sandi Odelehr, co-owner of the company with her husband, Kenny. . “We’re doing a lot more stuff and we’ve wanted to do it for a while.”

Odelehr’s used to be a seasonal market, but is now open year-round and offers many types of food items made primarily from produce grown on their 150-acre Calhoun County farm.

“I love our jalapeno jams and peach salsa,” Odelehr said. “We make our own apple butter, jams, jellies, salsas, mustards, lots of baked goods, cocoa bombs, candies, breads and pies.”

Many visitors to the Illinois Product Expo were familiar with Odelehr’s because they also attend the Old Capitol Farmers Market in downtown Springfield.

“Our baked goods and our jams and jellies are the most popular, with peach jam, jalapeno peach jam and our apple butter being the most popular flavors,” Odelehr said. “The apple butter is Kenny’s great-grandmother’s recipe, the peach butter was my mother-in-law’s recipe, and most of the others we made ourselves.”

The 23rd Annual Illinois Produce Expo was hosted by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The event is designed to bring together Illinois food businesses and consumers to explore Illinois by tasting produce, enjoying cooking demonstrations and sourcing Illinois favorites. For an admission fee of $5, visitors could sample products from as many vendors as they wished.

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