Friday, January 29, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 1/29/16



We’ll have a couple of vendors tomorrow we don’t often see. Sandy Robinson will be there with her exquisite handcrafted jewelry. And Hillside Farm will be at the market with green garlic!  

Hillside specializes in a variety called elephant garlic. The reason for its name is obvious. It’s really big!  It’s also milder than the smaller garlic varieties.

Because it’s so big and because the crop grew very well during the mild fall, Craig (the garlic guy) finds that it’s already time to do some thinning of the rows so the bulbs don’t get too crowded as they mature.  That means green garlic for us.
Green garlic is just the immature version of regular garlic. It’s milder and it won’t cure so it should be treated like fresh produce – refrigerate it and use it within a few days. The whole plant is edible at this stage, bulb and leaves, and it can be eaten raw or cooked. 

This may be a one-time appearance at the market for Hillside until the more typical time to sell green garlic which is usually May and June. Of course, the regular garlic won’t be in season until close to late-summer or fall. So you garlic fans need to be at the market tomorrow. Any really, who is not a garlic fan?  Well, I guess Dracula but he rarely makes it to the market anyway.

Also at the market tomorrow – Mabel with Harmony Hill Farm is serving stuffed acorn squash for $3.50. It’s stuffed with pork, veggies and spices and is, no doubt, yummy. Phil and I will be taking some home for supper. Next Saturday Mabel is switching things up and serving biscuits and gravy.
Scott Eastman returns to the market stage. He made his debut earlier this month and we were so pleased with the type and quality of his performance that we knew he was a keeper. We hope he’ll be at the market often this year.

We expect three farms with fresh local produce, plus jams, jellies, fruit butters and pecans from Fairhaven, and chicken, beef and goat meat from Penn Acres. The Red Tamale will be there with frozen tamales and King’s Kettle Corn with their wares. There’ll be eggs (but they’ll sell out fast), raw food bars, baked goods, frozen blueberries and blueberry syrup. In the non-food department, we expect Rebecca with glass and metal art and Garden ’n Goats with their very popular goat’s milk soap.

Market Lady Jordan Nichols will serve samples of Tex-Mex Scramble (eggs, cheese & veggies).

We’ve expanded our food stamp matches through March – SNAP customers can swipe their card for up to $15 in regular food stamp tokens and receive up to $30 in match tokens good for fruits and vegetables. Normally we do a 1:1 match but the grant year ends in March and we want our local folks to get all the benefits available. We heard from many of our food stamp customers that the match program has dramatically increased the amount of fresh produce in their families’ diets. We know the extra sales are good for our farmers and we expect the improved diets are equally good for those customers.

Fresh produce is more expensive than cheap processed food, but there is a health and medical care price to be paid for a poor diet. The match program is actually a national research project to determine whether this small investment will result in improved diets for low income people which in turn should result in healthier people requiring less medical care. At Webb City, it looks like that investment will pay big dividends.
 
Between hosting two conferences and the opening of the kitchen last week, plus interviewing for and hiring a market manager, things were really hoping last week. I’ve been promoted to Market Master (a title I have resisted for years because it’s so high falutin’) but I will certainly still be around. However the market has grown so much that it needs a professional manager and we think we’ve found the right person. If all goes well, I’ll introduce him to you next week.

Having visitors from across the state and other states as well always opens our eyes to so many of the good things we experience every day. The other market managers were impressed with our town and the market. I think it would be fair to say they were even a bit in awe of the new market kitchen and the market in general. They were also impressed with the media coverage. Those from the cities like St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia hardly ever get the attention of their local media and those from the small towns have little media to attract so when they saw our Sentinel editor snapping photos at the farm tour and at the opening of the kitchen and saw all the television stations doing stories, they were blown away. Many said, “I’ve recorded the story that was on last night, do you want a copy?”  “Oh, no, thank you. It will be on line and they do stories often.”  Yes, we lead a charmed life. Come enjoy it with us tomorrow. We’re open from 9 to noon.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 1-15-16



The market is open tomorrow from 9 to noon. Mabel with Harmony Hills Farm is serving Chicken Spaghetti Casserole and side salad for $3.50. You can eat in or take out. 

We welcome Scott Eastman for the first time to the market stage. Market Dude Frank Reiter is sharing his chicken pot pie recipe. He’s preparing it in the market kitchen, our first demonstrator to do so.

We’re expecting four farms tomorrow – Braker Farm, Oakwoods, Harmony Hill and the Xiong Farm. There should be a bonanza of fresh salad greens, plus other goodies like turnips, cabbage, green onions, kohlrabi and more. And there’ll be honey!  Amos Apiaries will be at the market. Other vendors expected include Cottage Small Coffee Roasters, Red Tamale, Misty Morning Farm with pecans, Sunny Lane with beef, lamb and chicken, Kings Kettle Corn, and more.

We’re gearing up for a very busy week. On Monday we have three teams of interviewers meeting with applicants for the part-time market manager position we hope to fill in the next few weeks. Anyone interested in applying needs to send their resume to eileennichols@sbcglobal.net by 5 pm today. A job description can be found on the market website:  webbcityfarmersmarket.com.

On Thursday and Friday we host the Midwest Winter Production Conference. We still have a few seats left, so call me if you want to attend – 483-8139. Details are on the market web site. 

Then on Friday and Saturday we host the Missouri Farmers Market Association’s annual meeting. It begins with a bus tour on Friday morning to Amos Apiaries, Keltoi Winery and the Braker Farm. The cost is $20 per person and includes lunch provided by Harmony Hill Farm. There are just a few seats left but we can always caravan in cars if we exceed the capacity of the park’s trolley bus. We thought the out-of-towners would get a kick riding on the park bus that so loving re-creates the old trolley.   To see a slide show of the renovation, go to:  http://webbcitymo.org/streettrolley.html

They’ll also get a treat next Saturday morning when the real trolley is pulled out of the barn so folks can look it over. The track is not ready to run it around the loop, but I think folks will be pleased just to climb aboard. 

My market friends around the state believe we live a charmed life and I think they’re right. We have a lovely pavilion – with sides and heat in the winter - and a one-of-a-kind trolley right by the market. We have a county health department that is a pleasure to work with and a park department and city that goes the extra mile to make the market exceptional. We have wonderful volunteers and vendors who like, even love, each other. We have a school system that brings kids to the market on field trips and provides us ground (and students) for the community garden. We have terrific support from Lincoln University and MU Extension who provide what really has to be considered farmer training of national consequence. (How many markets have their own Winter Production Education Site?)  

Yes, life is good in Webb City. From the market’s standpoint, the city’s motto couldn’t ring truer – We Love It Here.

Next Saturday the trolley is just a part of the doin’s. The head of Missouri USDA Rural Development will be down to help us officially open the kitchen. Rural Development provided the seed money for the kitchen. After a few words at 8:30 from them and others like the city, the Perry Foundation and Cardinal Scale, all of whom made the kitchen possible, the kitchen will be open for tours until 10. Tami Fredrickson is using her new baking skills to give everyone a free muffin and Cottage Small is donating coffee beans for delicious coffee.

And, yes, the south pavilion will still be decorated for Christmas because a) it’s pretty and b) I’ve been out of town with my little grandson Wyatt – who is a sweetie. I promise to get it undecorated after all the conferences.

The state conference will have a growers track that may be of interest to local gardeners. Adam Montri of Michigan State will speak on organic pest control. David Yarrow of Columbia will talk about healthy soils. If you only want to attend a couple of presentations, let me know. I bet I can get you a deal! Details are on the association’s website:  missourifarmersmarkets.org.

Come start this memorable market week with us tomorrow – we’re open from 9 to noon.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Webb City Sentinel Column - 1/8/16



The market is open tomorrow from 9 to noon.  Mabel with Harmony Hills Farm is serving chili with cornbread for $3.50.  You can eat in or take out.  

We should have lots of pecans, in shell and picked out.  Misty Morning, Fairhaven and Luman Farm will all have pecans.  We’re expecting five farms with fresh local produce, plus there will be jams and jellies, eggs, raw food bars, frozen tamales, blueberry syrup and frozen blueberries, baked goods and a variety of meats.  Kings Kettle Corn will be popping by the north door.  

Edith Bayless will be at the market with her sewn goods, Rebecca will have her glass and metal art and jewelry and we’ll have soaps from Goat‘N Garden.  (Check our Facebook page for any changes that weather might cause.  If it’s icy some of our more remote farmers can’t get into town.)

Rob Pommert will play and Market Lady Carolyn Smith is demonstrating Sweet and Spicy Acorn Squash Quesadillas.

We’re upping our game on our food stamp matching program for the next couple of months.  When we teamed up with the national non-profit Wholesome Wave we had $10,000 of match funds available through March.   We had no idea how long those funds would last but here we are two and a half months from the end of the first year and we have enough remaining funds to double up our match.  So until the funding runs out, we’ll have $2 of match tokens for every $1 of food stamp purchase.  We can match up to $15 for each food stamp customer at each market.  The match tokens can only be spent on fruits and veggies.  The regular food stamp tokens can buy all the usual food stamp things including all kinds of food except hot food and food eaten on site.

We have funding for three years with Wholesome Wave’s matching program.  Then we may need to knock on some doors to secure additional funding.  It has been a tremendous boon for our lower income customers and our farmers this year and we hear all kinds of positive feedback from both.  We’ve also been able to provide a lot of research data to Wholesome Wave as to how the program affects the diets of participants – it has in a big way.  

We have a lot going on in the next month in addition to the Saturday market.  We’re hosting the Midwest Winter Production Conference January 21 and 22 and will have farmers and educators from all over Missouri and neighboring states earning how to extend growing seasons and farm through the winter.  On January 22 and 23 we’re hosting the annual conference of the Missouri Farmers Market Association.  There will be lots of learning there too, for both market managers and for growers.

On Saturday, January 23, we have the opening of the market kitchen.  The Missouri head of the USDA-Rural Development, and representatives from the city, the Perry Foundation and Cardinal Scale, all of which helped make the kitchen possible, will be there to help us celebrate.  After some brief words at 8:30, the kitchen will be open for tours until 9:30.  

We host our first workshop in the kitchen from 1 to 4 pm on Wednesday, February 3, when Dan Kuebler teaches how to ferment sauerkraut.  Dan, whose sauerkraut is very popular at the Columbia Farmers Market, will provide the raw cabbage, salt, quart jars and caraway, dill, and fennel seeds.  If folks want to add a little beet, carrot or garlic, they can bring it from home.  This is a hands-on workshop.  Everyone will take home a quart jar filled with salted, shredded cabbage and spices of their choice and watch it ferment on their own kitchen counter over a 3 to 4 week ferment time.  We are very pleased to bring Dan to Southwest Missouri.  He operates an organic farm, The Salad Garden, in Ashland, Missouri, and is also a state leader in the Slow Food movement.  The charge for the class is $25 per person.

Our last bit of news this week is that the market is hiring a part-time manager.  Our volunteer managers will not go away but the market reached the point some years ago that it really needed a professional manager.  We were just waiting on funding.  Thanks to a USDA grant, we now have funding for two years, after which we hope to either secure more funding or better yet, grow the market and the kitchen’s use to the point that we can support a market manager on our own.  We will interview candidates on January 18.  The job description is on the market’s website:  webbcityfarmersmarket.com

We’ll see you at the market tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

We're looking for a part-time market manager!

Do you love working with people? Are you self-motivated and organized? We're looking for a part-time market manager and will be interviewing on Monday, January 18th. (& yes, it's a paid position!)  We'd love to talk to you about it! For the job description and details, click
here!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Webb City Sentinel column - 12/18/15

So, winter is our slow time, right?  Apparently not!
The Saturday markets have been full, festive and productive and this Saturday is no exceptionSanta will be here – after all, his sister, Pat Johnson, lives in Webb City, is a big market fan and also Santa’s seamstressHis outfit (it’s not a costume he is very quick to point out!) is beautifulAnd his beard is a pleasure to behold too, as is the twinkle in his eyeSanta has a soft spot for animals so he’s hoping for lots of kids and lots of pets, tooAsk him about the boa constrictor he once posed with
Mrs. Claus will be on hand as well, and so will our scarecrows Suzy and SuzetteSuzette is so excited about Christmas that she’s all ready for Christmas Eve in her holiday pjs.  (That's my mom, Frances Nichols, with Suzette and Suzy.)
Harmony Hill Farm will serve chicken noodle soup and garlic bread for $3.50You can eat in or take outRed Bridge Trio will perform their Christmas show so you may want to eat in (AND take out).  Market Lady Jordan Nichols demonstrates and gives samples of turkey black bean chili.  The regular market and the Christkindlmarket will be packed with good things you won’t want to miss.
The Christmas Eve Market is on ThursdayWe’ll be open from 11 to 1 in the pavilionThat’s our last ChristkindlmarketBe sure to place your baked goods orders so you get just what you wantHarmony Hill will serve pizza casserole and a side salad for $3.50 for lunch. Rob Pommert will play.
We’ll be closed on Saturday, December 26, and reopen for the new year on January 2.
The market’s Winter Production Education Site is nearly set upThe seed starting structure and the two high tunnels are upWe’re just waiting for a calm day to pull the plastic on the tunnelsIt’s taken five full days of effort by our farmers and Extension but already we’re seeing lots of interest by our farmers in what they are learning.
The kitchen has been going full tilt with Hazel’s Bakery testing it for usWith dozens and dozens of cookies ordered for the holidays, the bakery is giving it a thorough trial
We had our first opportunity to partner with another organization in using the kitchenThe Carterville food pantry had an incredible gift of frozen chicken sandwiches – 8 pallets worthTheir on-site freezer wasn’t nearly big enough to handle it all, so the truck was redirected to the market kitchenWe fired up (or froze up) one of our 8’ x 20’ walk in freezersIt was to temp in about an hour and ready to accept the load. And it is almost completely loaded. The pantry will reimburse us for the power used and they’ll have thousands of meals to share with those in need.
Who would have guessed all this lay in the market’s future?  The future is bright and exciting – just like the market will be tomorrowCome revel in it!



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 12/11/15

I have to admit it. I’m a little tired and sore. I just spent most of the day, in glorious weather, helping put up two high tunnels at the market’s Winter Production Education Site. We got the seed starting structure up last week. Yesterday and today we started the two 30’ x 96’ high tunnels (below). We expect to finish them next Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so if you’d like to help, stop by the information table tomorrow for times and directions.

I would say at this point “just kidding” but I’m not. This is an education center so all are welcome to come learn. Unskilled as I am, I expect to be fully competent in high tunnel installation by the end of the week, and I know the 10 farmers I’ve been working with will be too. We’re learning from our Extension educators and the site mentor, Hector Troyer. As a bonus, Randy Garrett, Lincoln University’s local livestock expert, taught us how to deworm a cow and give a shot to a sick calf. Another bonus was that my Australian grandchildren called on Facetime and I was able to give them a tour of the high tunnels, and cows and chickens. It gave me major street cred, especially the cows. Madeleine, the four year old, in return sang a new song she had learned for a school performance – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – in Italian. In her previous performance she learned to recite from memory a long section of Shakespeare (All the world’s a stage…). Well, I, my dear, can deworm a cow!

But enough about me. The market tomorrow is well worth a visit. Santa will be at the market between 9 and noon and is hoping for lots of kids to sit on his knee. It’s free, but bring your own camera.
Harmony Hill is serving chili with cornbread for only $3.50 a serving. You can enjoy it in the heated pavilion or take it home. We have a quartet from MSSU’s music department caroling tomorrow.
Minerva Candy Company returns with handmade candy canes in a variety of flavors – peppermint, cinnamon, wintergreen and clove. Wonderful Things makes their first appearance of the season with their carved walking sticks, beaded pouches and other fanciful things. The Christkindlmarket will be full of handcrafted goods.

Market Lady Carolyn Smith is serving pecans seasoned with Cook’s Berry Junction Farm’s smoked salts. She’ll also have gift packaging ideas for giving the pecans to friends. And we should have plenty of pecans. Misty Morning Farm has cracked pecans in several sized bags. Fairhaven and Luman Farms have picked out pecans. It may be the best market of the year for pecans.

We should have nine farms tomorrow with lots of fresh produce, plus baked goods, jams and jellies (this may be Fairhaven’s last time at the market this year, so tomorrow is the day to shop for jams and jellies), eggs, freshly roasted coffee beans, frozen blueberries and blueberry syrup, raw food bars, goat meat, beef, pork, pheasant and chicken, eggs, raw food bars, freshly roasted coffee beans, honey, smoked flavored salts and frozen tamales. 

Wait a minute – did I say farms with local produce?  Yes, I did. You will see tables loaded tomorrow with lettuce, kale, microgreens, turnips, radishes, green onions, tomatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cut herbs, peppers – hot and sweet. Oh, yes, there will be fresh local produce. And with the all training from our Winter Production Education Site, plus our Midwest Winter Production Conference in January, we expect to have more farmers farming more successfully next winter which means more produce for us. Life is good all year long here in Webb City!

Next Saturday will have its charms as well. Our Santa next week loves kids, but he especially loves animals. His favorite story is when he posed with a very large boa constrictor!  Please don’t bring snakes to the market next week, but your more traditional pets would be very welcome.

You’ll want to eat at the market again, when Mabel at Harmony Hill brings chicken and noodles with garlic bread and the Mayfields from Ozark put on their Christmas show. That will be our last Saturday market until January 2, 2016 – we’ll be closed on December 26, but don’t forget the Christmas Eve Market from 11 to 1 on Thursday, December 24th.

I never would have guessed ten years ago that December would be one of my favorite months at the market. How about you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Webb City Sentinel column - 11/25/15



True to our word, our harvest decorations – scarecrows, straw bales, pumpkins and gourds – are in place for today’s Holiday Market because the holiday we’re celebrating is Thanksgiving!  What better time to load the table with food harvested or made by our neighbors?

This Saturday we’re switching gears, and holidays. The Christkindlmarket in the south part of the pavilion will be decked out for Christmas – garlands, lights, ornaments, tinsel – and Ms. Claus is visiting. Bring your camera for a photo with Ms. Claus. I guarantee you’ll not see a prettier smile or merrier eyes than those of our delightful Christmas lady. (She's at right.  photos below show just a peek of what we're looking forward to on Saturday)

The Pommerts will launch into their holiday music on Saturday so the market will look and sound festive. And thanks to our sidewalls and heaters you’ll be comfortable as well.

I was a bit worried about last Saturday’s weather. With a high of less than 40 and strong winds, I thought we were in for a cold morning, but not so. It was coat cool inside the pavilion. In fact, I shed my coat before the market even started and said a word of thanks to that friend of Webb City, the late Chuck Surface. When Chuck was in charge of the city’s economic development he scouted out a grant to pay for the market’s sidewalls. Parks director Tom Reeder took the project over after Chuck’s death. Tom designed and commissioned the sidewalls which have worked beautifully and he did it so economically that he had enough money left over to buy the two portable heaters. Frugal and effective - two of my favorite adjectives. The sidewalls and heat have made all the difference in the market’s ability to expand its winter activities. In a month or so, we’ll have even better climate control. The market received funding to double the size of the heaters and the park is installing flexible ducting in the ceiling which will push the heat throughout the length of the pavilion. Seems like we always have something going on to improve the market.
 
For example, next week we begin our Winter Production Education Center activities. On December 5, we build the seed starting structure at the center located on the Yang Farm just south of Rocky Comfort. Then on December 9, 10, 17, 18 and 19 we build the first of two high tunnels. This will be the heated tunnel. The unheated tunnel is slated to be built after the first of the year. If either of those projects interests you, or if you can lend a hand on one or more days, please stop and pick up a flyer with details at the information desk. We’re buying lunch! 

This spring we hope to begin seeing the fruits (actually vegetables) of the center as the Yang family start producing early tomatoes and peppers and cool weather crops like broccoli, cauliflower and greens.

Next fall we hope to see even more veggies as the farmers who participate in workshops at the center put their knowledge to work building and managing their own high tunnels, resulting in more produce for us and our customers and more income for our farmers.

Yes, it seems like we always have something going on to improve the market. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to keep up!

We have occasionally been complimented by customers and the organizations we work with on how organized the market is. That’s always lovely to hear because from our viewpoint it sometimes feels like chaos. But our chaos is really only lots and lots of good things happening at the same time.
 
We hope to see you at the market often this winter. We’ll be open every Saturday except possibly the day after Christmas and any Saturday that the roads are not safe to travel.

It’s a great place, not only to fill your plates with tasty, healthy food, but also pick up gifts. Why not tie a ribbon around a jar of honey or jam and put it at each place for your holiday meal?  Or tuck a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans in someone’s stocking?  And then there’s always bacon!  What a practical gift a cooler filled with frozen meats would be. There are lots of wonderful local gift ideas from our regular vendors and our Christkindlmarket artisans. Gifts that please both the giver and the recipient and bless the hands that made them possible.