Thursday, July 2, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 7-3-15



Hold on to your hat bands – we are going into high season!  The sweet corn is coming in by the truckload, the cantaloupes are here, the field tomatoes… Oh, yes, it’s that time of year when the tables are groaning and the pavilion is full.

Tuesday we had over 1,000 customers and tons of produce go through the market in three hours. We exploded our previous Tuesday sales record by over 50%. There were lines everywhere, but only for about 15 minutes. So if you prefer to miss the “seek and secure” drama of opening, just come about 20 minutes after opening. The lines are dissipated and the tables still loaded – because our farmers really know how to grow.

When Patrick Byers, an Extension horticulturist doing research at several markets including ours, was here last week, he told me at least three times “the quality of the produce is excellent”.
   
But things do slip through. If you buy an unsatisfactory product, please let us know at the information table and we’ll be sure it is replaced. With some produce, like sweet corn and melons, it can be very hard to catch a problem without actually shucking it or cutting into it. Your letting us know serves two purposes – it allows us to be sure you get what you pay for, but it also lets us work with the farmers in question to be sure they address any recurring problems. Our farmers strive to grow the best produce around but if they don’t know about a problem, they can’t solve it.

Today Granny Shaffers returns with their catfish and fried potatoes for $3. Lumpy’s Barbecue Express will have ribs, barbecued beef, pulled pork, and smoked chicken, as well as sides.

William Adkins plays from 11 to 1 with a break at 11:30 when the JLT’s cast of Forever Plaid performs a medley from the show. Randy Garrett of Lincoln University Extension will be on hand to answer questions about gardening.

Friday, we’ll have all our usual vendors, plus E & O Produce (who usually only come on Tuesday and Saturday but expect to have so many cantaloupes that they need an extra day to sell) and Terrell Creek, who usually sell their award winning goat cheese on Saturday but are coming Friday so they can take the 4th off. In other words, if you want goat cheese, come Friday.

But if you want kettle corn, come Saturday because King’s Kettle Corn is taking Friday off. Now, let’s review “Who’s on first?”

Saturday we welcome M & M Bistro who will serve their chicken pita wrap, gyro, and hummus and tabouleh plates and are adding lasagna and moussaka. They’ll also have their amazing baklava.

On Saturday, Cooking for a Cause benefits Crosslines, our regional food pantry. Volunteers from Central United Methodist and Peace Lutheran churches will serve biscuits and gravy, sausages, slices of market tomatoes, and orange juice or coffee for $3.50. For an extra dollar you can add cooked-to-order farm fresh eggs. 

Marshall Mitchell will be on the market stage astride his saddle, entertaining kids and adults. Music and breakfast run from 9 to 11.

Tuesday the Pommerts perform. Carmine’s Pizza bakes to order from 4 to sellout. 
Supper with Trish begins at 5. The menu is baked ravioli, side salad, garlic bread, dessert and drink for $5.
The Free Kids Supper, a Sloppy Joe, a veggie side and milk, is served from 5 to 6:30. We’re really excited about the response. We’ve averaged over 90 kids each Tuesday and are aiming to break 100. The Kids Supper is free to anyone 18 or younger.

We’re looking for some kids to help with the Kids Community Garden. We meet from 9 to 10 on Wednesday mornings. There is still some planting to be done, but there’s also harvesting. New potatoes are ready to be dug and taken home and we’ll soon have tomatoes. All children are welcome. Those under 11 need to come with an adult.

Oh, yes, it’s high season. Don’t miss it!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Webb City Sentinel column - 6/25/15



Got Books?  The Friends of the Library are collecting gently used books for their traveling library project. Twice a year, the Friends take collections of books to area nursing homes and retirement centers for residents to enjoy. The market will be collecting books for the project today, tomorrow and Tuesday. Bring your books to the information table and we’ll see they go to eager readers.

Those summer crops are beginning to arrive at the market, but, except for the tomatoes, in small quantities. So I won’t start a food fight by naming names. Hint, hint - the good stuff is coming!

We have a good supply of tomatoes and with this heat they are coming on fast and fabulous. You know they taste good and that all veggies are good for you, but did you know that several research studies show that a tomato a day will help keep cardiovascular disease away?  In fact, one study showed that individuals who consumed more than seven servings a week (with a serving being a cup of chopped tomatoes which equals about one tomato) reduced their risk of that disease by 30%. One more reason to feast on the season.

So come for the tomatoes, but don’t forget the cornucopia of other fruits and vegetables. (Oops, did I say fruit?  Yes, I did.)  Here’s a recipe from the Minnesota Food Association. I’ve placed an asterisk next to what you can buy at the market right now:

Refrigerator Dilly Beans

1 Jalapeno*, seeded and finely diced
2 cups of green beans*
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
2 cloves of garlic*, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1/2 medium onion*, sliced thinly
2 sprigs of fresh dill*
1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1/4 to 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you want them)

Make the brine by combining water, vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Take off heat and cool down to room temperature.

Trim the beans (you can leave the pointy end if you like).

Bring a saucepan of water to a full boil, dump in the beans and boil for thirty second. Drain and dunk them in ice water. That will stop the cooking and fix the bright color. Drain and set aside.

Add onions, dill, red pepper flakes and peppercorns to your jars (which should be glass with a lid. Since this is a refrigerated product, the lids do not have to be suitable for canning. You can actually reuse jars and lids for this.).

Add beans to jars. If you want to put them in upright, lay the jar horizontally to load them in.

Pour in the cooled brine. Fill the jar to 1/2 inch below the top of the jar, completely covering the beans. 

Leave the jar(s) in the fridge for at least two days before eating. They’ll keep in the fridge for up to six months but I bet they’ll be long gone before that.

Today, we enjoy the traditional music of the Sours. Lumpy’s Express will have ribs, barbecued beef, pulled pork and smoked chicken. M & M Bistro will have market fresh gyros, chicken pita wraps, hummus and tabouleh plates. 

Tomorrow, the Mayfields are playing bluegrass and gospel. Breakfast benefits the Friends of the Webb City Public Library. Biscuits and gravy, sausages, sliced market tomatoes, coffee or orange juice for $3.50. Add two farm fresh eggs cooked to order for $1.

If you come early tomorrow, you’ll probably see a fellow in a University of Missouri Extension shirt getting produce before the bell rings. No need for outrage. That’s Patrick Byers, weighing and recording for a research project he’s conducting. All that produce is going right back to the farmer for sale. Patrick is conducting the project at Webb City (his version of a small market) and Farmers Market of the Ozarks in Springfield (his version of a large market) to gather information on how prices are set. I’m guessing they’re less in Webb City, but we’ll have to wait for the report which should be out this winter since this is the second year of a two-year project. In Webb City, the management (that would be us volunteers) are careful to avoid price fixing. Every farmer and vendor sets their own price. Even when asked, what’s the going rate? by a new farmer, we say “you’ll have to check that out for yourselves.”  We give absolutely no price advice except you need to price your product at a fairly, one that will allow you to make the profit you need to stay in business and one that allows your customers to afford it.

Tuesdays are thriving. We may rename it Family Night. Over 90 kids ate with us again last week.
The Free Kids Supper is from 5 to 6:30. Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza is served from 4 until sell out. Trish with Supper begins at 5. 

The Pommerts are playing (they’ve added kids songs to the playlist). Joplin Little Theatre is sending over their cast from Forever Plaid to tempt us with some of their wonderful close harmonies from 5 to 5:20.

It’s going to be another wonderful week of markets. Don’t miss them. And get ready – we’ll be open Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4. It’s always our biggest weekend of the year!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Webb City Sentinel column - 6/19/15

OK, I admit, I get excited about things at the market, especially the good things. And I had reason to be excited Tuesday night. We, the volunteers and vendors, have been working for years to improve the Tuesday market. It was the slowest market of the week, almost not worth coming for the vendors. We tried to lure you in by saying it was uncrowded, easy parking, no lines….. Not last Tuesday. What a crowd we had. Some came for Supper with Trish – she served 95 meals in 45 minutes. Some came because we now have a food stamp match on Tuesdays so our neighbors in need can get up to $15 per week in extra produce. And some definitely came for a free supper for the kids.
We had hoped to attract 75 kids. We served 94. Despite the crowds and the lines, folks seemed happy and we got lots of thank yous, a few even accompanied by tears of gratitude. Our team of volunteers from Central United Methodist Church worked seamlessly.  (photo, in red volunteers Nancy and Alice, in white state monitor Susan, in blue staffer Pam)

Some of the kids turned their noses up at the sliced cucumbers, while others loved them. (We’re required by the state to put everything on the plate our first year. Next year we can honor a child’s request to not take some part of the meal.)  But even though they might have thought otherwise, everyone got their veggies thanks to Tami Fredrickson and Karen Latimer. Tami is an experienced mom. You’ll often see her kids Kallie and Katie at the market. Karen retired as director of food services at the Webb City school district. Both are advisors on this project and both said, “hide the squash and zucchini in the spaghetti sauce”. So that’s what we did. Every serving of sauce not only was filled with tomatoes and meat, but also minced veggies.

There are certainly some kinks to work out. Because of the rain we had to move the tables inside and serve inside which made for a crowded pavilion and lines covering up vendors tables. The vendors were patient but eager to learn how we would solve the problem next Tuesday. Our hope is to move the Kids Supper north of the pavilion under a tent and if we’re able to secure a big enough tent, we’ll even be able to do it in rainy weather (surely, this rain can’t last much longer). We also need to figure out a way that children can get their meals and parents can buy their supper at the pizza place or with Trish without someone ending up with cold food. Suggestions are welcome.

The state supervisor was at the market to observe it all. Her suggestion?  Raise your goal. So we’re gearing up for 125 kids next Tuesday. We’ll need help. If you want to serve or clear tables, stop by the information table. We’ll sign you up!

The Free Kids’ Supper are scheduled to continue through the third week of August.

Today, we should have a full pavilion with an extra addition. Terrell Creek is coming today and taking tomorrow off. It’s a rare chance for our Friday customers to buy some award-winning goat cheese.
Granny Shaffer’s will be at the market today with catfish and fried potatoes for $3. Lumpy’s Express will have barbecued beef, pulled pork and smoked chicken. The Granny Chicks will liven up the market stage.

Tomorrow Carl Junction Bright Futures runs Cooking for a Cause. They’ll serve biscuits and gravy, sausages, farm fresh eggs cooked to order and juice or coffee. Come out and support the CJ kids. William Adkins will play. Music and breakfast runs from 9 to 11. The market is open on Saturdays from 9 to noon.

On Tuesday, we’ll do a repeat on our token match program and on the Kid’s Free Supper, which will be the same as last week – spaghetti and meat sauce (with lots of veggies hidden inside), sliced cucumber, probably with a few fresh from the farm tomato slices and milk. Trish is taking the week off, so the market is hosting a benefit for Webb City’s Bright Futures program. Ham and beans, with one free refill, cornbread, dessert and drink for $5. Extension will demonstrate Dilled Green Bean Salad. The Pommerts will play.

It’s going to be another fabulous Tuesday market. No, we can’t promise it won’t be crowded, but we can promise it will be community at its best. Come savor the fruits of our farmers’ labor, the pleasure of a child enjoying a nutritious meal, the chance to eat well and support Bright Future, pleasant music and so much more. The Tuesday market has finally arrived!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Webb City Sentinel column - 6/12/15



The big news this week at the market is blueberries and kids.

It’s blueberry season and Robertson Family Farm brought over 100 pounds of them on Tuesday. We’ll be seeing more this weekend and it won’t be long till Braker Farm has blueberries as well. I got a sampling on Monday when I did the farm inspection at the Brakers. And it is true that I offered to share with the Extension guys, but I knew I could count on them passing. After all, they’d sampled plenty as they looked over the bushes for any pest or disease problems. No problems, but lots of berries missing.
 
Another stop we made was at Amos Apiaries.  Jann pulled out a frame, covered with bees, to show us.  We didn't get quite so close as we did to the blueberries.  In fact, Eric, who is barely visible in the black shirt, was keeping his distance.  He is a grad student from Kenya and you sure don't handle African bees like that.  These are an English variety that are relatively calm though Jann knows the signs well enough to know when he needs to put protective gear on.   Jann hopes to have honey at the market by mid-July if all goes well.

The other big news is Tuesday’s Free Supper for Kids. Anybody 18 years of age or younger gets a free supper between 5 and 6:30, so come on over. Stop by on the way to the ball field or just make a special trip. The set menu is spaghetti and meat sauce (with finely chopped veggies hidden in the sauce), sliced cucumbers and milk. We’re preparing for 75. Hope we run out, because we’ll have a backup meal of sandwiches, cucumbers, fruit cups and milk. Volunteers and cooks are lined up. Publicity is going out. We think this is going to be a win-win. Kids fed with local produce, farmers selling more produce, a few more folks employed, and adults can eat Supper with Trish for $5 each. That means a family of six can eat for $10. What a value!

Today we have the Sours playing traditional music. M & M Bistro will serve lunch – pita wraps, gyros, hummus and tabbouleh plates. Lumpy’s Express will have barbecued beef and pork and smoked chicken. We’ll have loads of fresh produce and other goods things at every market.

Tomorrow Cooking for a Cause benefits the Chert Glades Master Naturalists. They’ll be serving biscuits and gravy, sausage, slices of market fresh tomatoes, eggs cooked to order and coffee or juice.

Brown Moss plays their eclectic folksy music tomorrow.

On Tuesday, in addition to the Kids’ Supper, we’ll have Supper with Trish which is oven fried chicken, home-style mac and cheese, green salad, dessert and a drink. The Pommerts will play. Extension will be demonstrating and sampling a market fresh recipe.

We also start our food stamp match program in earnest Tuesday when our grant kicks in. We’ve done a trial run using market and donated money to make sure the system runs smoothly so we are ready to expand the program. Folks who swipe their food stamp card at the market get the amount of their swipe in regular SNAP tokens, plus up to $15 in match tokens good for produce only. Regular SNAP tokens can buy any edible product at the market except hot food and food eaten at the market, plus it can buy plants that produce food and culinary herbs. The match tokens are limited to produce purchases. More information on the program is available at the (you guessed it) information table.

The list of produce at the market is way too long to print, so just come on over and enjoy some local freshness. We’ll be looking for you!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 6-5-15

I had a moment of insight this weekSomeone called wanting to be a vendor at the market, but only for a couple of times, basically to clear out his stock of plants and treesI told him that we didn’t do that because if customers were to come back in three weeks for more information or with plants that failed to thrive, he would no longer be at the market to answer questions or replace the plantHis response – well, the market couldn’t be held liable so why did we care?  Insight – he was not the vendor for us and yes, the market would be liableOur customers expect the market to host vendors they can count onOf course, there is the occasional piece of poor produce that slips throughWhen you have tons of produce going through the market, that’s bound to happenBut the market takes responsibility for everything that is soldWe vet our vendors, we keep an eye on their products, we buy from them ourselvesWe want to be the best market we can be and that means hosting vendors that can be relied upon and vendors that will be there to respond to questions and problems.
The market has many valuable assets – loyal customers, hardworking and skilled farmers, vendors who care about our market and the well-being of our customers, volunteers who keep us organized and helpful, but perhaps our most valuable asset is our reputationWithout a good reputation, the market can’t take advantage of any of those other good things.
I love the people I work with, in part, because they understand that what is good for  market is good for everyone involved in the marketWe all rise together in the market boat.
And that market boat continues to have new delightsRedings Mill Bread Company will be at the market today with their artisan breadsIt’s their first time on a Friday in a very long timeI hope our customers will make it worth their while
On Saturday Jim Agee returns with his first fruits of harvest – pie cherries and rhubarb.
On Tuesday, Robertson Farm returns with blueberriesOh, yes, we love this time of year.
Today Granny Shaffers serves their catfish and fried potatoes for $3Lumpy’s Express has pulled pork and brisket sandwichesSonny Lau plays bluegrass and gospel.
The Extension crew is at the market to answer gardening and growing questionsWe’ll have three or four experts from University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension at your serviceThey’ll also touch base with all our farmers, checking for problems and offering advice.
I was on farm inspections last Monday when I had another insightHow many markets do you suppose have the benefit of four Extension specialists going along on farm visits to advise the market farmers?  I suspect that would be one in the entire USA and that fortunate market would be Webb City’sOf course, the specialists benefit by seeing what’s happening in the field and by working as a team, but we benefit tremendously because they look for issues and provide solutionsAt one farm, they noted signs of nutrient deficiencies, probably brought on by all the rain leaching the nutrients out of the soilRandy Garrett with Lincoln and Robert Balek with University of Missouri found a shovel and a bucket and took soil samples to send offWhen the results come in, they will go over the recommendations with the farmer and make sure she understands how to rectify the problem.
There is a reason that we often hear that we have the best produce in the areaIt is the combination of hardworking farmers who are always eager to learn and Extension experts who are eager to teach. What a wonderful combination.
Tomorrow Marshall Mitchell will performThe kids love him and his cowboy outfit riding hissaddle and pony on a sawhorseHe sings wonderful songs for adults, but let a child come near and he launches into kids songs immediately, drawing them in.
Breakfast benefits Greyhound Pets of America, an organization that places retired racing dogs in loving homes
The Carthage Business Women of Missouri will sell nuts on Saturday to benefit their scholarship program.
On Tuesday, the Pommerts will playCarmine’s Woodfired Pizza will bake up artisan pizzasSupper with Trish will be pork chops, stuffing, oriental coleslaw (using market cabbage), dessert and drink for $5Trish serves from 5 till sell outThe market is open from 4 to 7 on Tuesdays. And, don’t forget, Tuesday is the first day of blueberry season!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Webb City Sentinel Market Column - 5-29-15



This may be remembered as the year of the meal at the market. For the first time, the market added a second meal provider on Fridays. Lumpy's Express serves out of their food truck every Friday and the restaurant under the pavilion switches between Granny Shaffers (and their popular catfish and fried potatoes and a chicken salad sandwiches) and M & M Bistro with Mediterranean specialties. With more choices, we're seeing more than triple the number of folks eating at the market on Fridays than last year, proving that change can be a good thing.

Saturdays have seen growth too. Until the market kitchen is finished, we have continued to use the kitchen of Central United Methodist Church to prepare the breakfast. The church recently purchased two commercial convection ovens that make baking the biscuits quick and easy, so much so that we've been able to increase the number of meals available for sale. Our participating nonprofits have seen a significant increase in profits and more of our customers can enjoy a fresh and tasty breakfast. When the market kitchen is completed, we'll be able to do even more (we'll have SIX convection ovens right at the market).

Another excellent meal decision was made for Tuesdays when we asked former market caterer Trish Reed to do a weekly meal for us. She and her husband Jim prepare a delicious meal every Tuesday using as many market veggies as practical. Again, giving customers a choice has proven popular. Folks can choose Supper with Trish or an artisan pizza from Carmine's Wood Fired Pizza, which far from suffering from competition is selling more pizzas this year than last.

And we have more exciting meal news on the horizon. The market has partnered with the Methodist church to start a weekly free summer meal program for children under the age of 18. Funded by the USDA who also funds the free breakfast and lunch program at school, a free meal will be served to any child from 5 to 7 pm at the Tuesday market beginning in mid- to late-June. The church will take care of the paperwork, provide the kitchen until the market kitchen is finished and secure volunteers. Non-Methodist volunteers are welcome. If you have a heart for kids or love to cook, let us know!  The market will host the supper. The parks department is bringing over more picnic tables because we hope to have about 75 kids joining us for supper on Tuesdays. Trish Reed has agreed to be the head cook for the project so the kids can expect freshly prepared food featuring lots of local fresh produce.

Food, food, food. We have it in abundance. The farmers' tables are loaded and the number of farmers is on the increase. We don't have space to add new farmers to the market, but we do our best to find space for farmers who have sold with us before. This year we welcome back the Troyers who have been away for several years and the Agees who had, for the most part, fruit crop failures last year. Both will make the market even better. And we hear the parks department is exploring ways to add customer parking and more pavilion space to the market. Now, wouldn't that be nice?
Today, we have Lumpy’s Express and M & M Bistro serving lunch. The Loose Notes are playing.
Tomorrow, Tony Bergkoetter graces the market stage. Cooking for a Cause benefits the General Mills Relay for Life team. Breakfast and music run from 9 to 11. The market is open till noon on Saturdays.
On Tuesday Supper with Trish (which begins at 5) is meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, side salad, chocolate chip cookies and drink for $5. Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza will bake from 4 to 7, our regular Tuesday hours. Rob Pommert will play.

Good food, good music, good company – be a part of it at the market this week.