Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-16-17

Don’t you love finishing big projects?  Me too!  I still have the close-out paperwork to do, but this week I finish two big projects.  One was the Free Kids Meal which we concluded yesterday.  Now admittedly, I certainly don’t do the lion’s share of the work on that project.  We had an amazing head cook, Syerra, who devised menus that the kids loved and made cooking for as many as 198 children look easy.  She was ably assisted by Kelly.  They have made such a great team that they will continue at the market as vendors – The Sassy Salad Gals.  Their Greek salad last Saturday was wonderful.

KB handled set up, take down and serving.  His sister Adrienne had her first official job as a server and his little sister Ashlynn was a regular volunteer.  

 Other volunteers, such as the Carl Junction Lions and Leos (above), the Brashear brothers, the Melton kids, Mike and his granddaughters, the Keller-Williams team and others made serving 5,000 meals to kids this summer a fun and happy experience.  Our thanks to all!  Including our growers who supplied hundreds of pounds of fresh produce for the kids.

The other project completed this week was the Missouri Tomato Conference.  This was a project of the market and MU and LU Extension.  We brought in one of the nation’s top tomato experts and one of the top pest experts.  We were hoping for 50 attendees, we ended up with 85.  The program Monday was excellent and as usual Granny Shaffers did a great job with the lunch.  Mike always tells his chef Alice that the menu is “market surprise” when we hold a conference there because I never know until about three days before what produce we’ll want included.  This time our farmers provided melons for dessert, which folks loved, and sweet peppers, tomatoes, sprouts and lettuce for the salad.

On Monday we had presentations all day.  During lunch one of the farmers asked me “how do you convince your customers that tomatoes grown in high tunnels are as good as field tomatoes?”  (Remember a high tunnel is like a Quonset hut covered in plastic with the tomatoes planted in the ground.) I replied “how do you like the tomatoes in your salad?”  “They are excellent.”  “Those are high tunnel tomatoes.  We don’t have to convince our customers because the tomatoes themselves convince them.”

Of course, the conference covered both field tomatoes and tomatoes grown under protection but it was clear that the experts thought the latter was the future of local food.

The farm tours yesterday morning were equally elucidating.  (Photo - Dr. Rick Snyder of Mississippi discusses support systems for tomatoes)  Our host farms, E & O Produce, Misty Morning Farms, and Braker Farm were incredibly generous to take time to get ready for folks to come traipsing through their farms during the busiest time of the year.  And we were rather a sight.  To prevent transmission of any soil born diseases, everyone slipped on blue plastic booties (they look a bit like wearing blue sacks on your feet.) which were replaced for each farm visit.  We also gave gloves to anyone who used tobacco because tobacco mosaic disease is easily transmitted to tomatoes.  This is the kind of thing you learn at a Tomato Conference!
We’re also probably wrapping up a third project this week, though I wish we weren’t.  I have to finalize the numbers yet but I expect we will deplete our funding for our partnership with Feed the Heart, the Carterville food pantry after tomorrow’s pick up of melons and sweet corn for 130 families.  It’s been a great partnership, allowing our farmers to sell surplus top quality produce to the market which we can then provide to those in need.

Meanwhile, the market continues to be a place for everyone to secure that same top quality produce from their local farmers. We have tons of produce – especially tomatoes, melons and sweet corn.
Tomorrow Stewart’s Bakery will serve pinto beans with ham, fried potatoes, & cornbread for $6, and fruit salad or chef salad for $5 each.  The Sours and the Young Geezers play.

On Saturday Stewart's Bakery will have chili with a mini cinnamon roll for $5/pint. Cooking for a Cause on Saturday benefits Eastmorland School children with autism - proceeds used for them to participate in Special Olympics and other activities.  Served from 9 to 11 - biscuits and gravy, sausages, market tomatoes and coffee or oj for $3.50. Two farm fresh eggs cooked to order $1.

Richard Hugh Roberts is on the market stage.

Tuesday there will be supper choices by Stewart’s Bakery and the fabulous Geriatrics take the stage.  
See you at the market!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-9-17

Last week I told you about our pilot WIC program. How it helped expectant and new moms and their children under 5 buy $10 worth of market fruits and vegetables, milk and eggs once a week. How the moms were tremendously appreciative and how response was so robust that we exhausted our funding from Empty Bowls in just two months. 

Well, the market WIC program is back. Soroptimist International of Joplin gave the market $2,000 yesterday to continue the program. The grant will add $2,000 to our farmers’ sales while improving the diets of young low-income families. 

Since 1937, Soroptimist International of Joplin has focused on improving the lives of women and girls in the community and throughout the world. This group of businesswomen raises funds for their projects by selling nuts and candies in the fall (want to order?  Just come by the information desk, you’ll likely see a Soroptimist member volunteering there) and by hosting a comedy event in the spring. One of their biggest projects is Camp Soroptimist which is a week-long summer camp for Jasper County foster children.

It’s been a funny year for corn. We were buried in it Saturday. So much so that Fredrickson Farm donated some extra to the market. We loaded the Free Kids Meal with fresh corn on the cob yesterday. My friend Edna brought two of her grandchildren visiting from Lee Summit to supper and as they left I asked how they liked it. The older granddaughter responded “I loved it!”  The younger grandson, “I hated it!”  “Oh,” I said, “you don’t like corn on the cob.”  “Yuck,” he responded. Then Edna said, “Good thing you told me. I was just going to buy some to take home.”  The grandson looked stricken. “I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean it!”  Proving once again that orneriness doesn’t also pay.

The melons have also been wonderful. I was at KSN yesterday doing a live cooking segment and also taping one for next week. Both featured melon recipes. One was a simple three melon dish, watermelon, cantaloupe and honey dew, with chopped mint and tossed in lime juice. The other, which will air next Tuesday, was fancier – honey dew and watermelon with lemon juice, diced jalapeno and thinly sliced onion, drizzled with a lime and honey dressing and topped with shrimp. 

Carol and I admitted to each other as we set up that we really preferred melon cut and chilled without all the fancy additions, but I have to say both dishes were delicious. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be asked back if I tried to do one cooking segment that consisted of just cutting up melons, much less two.
Don’t dally on picking your melons up. While they will still be in season for over a month, the best ones are being harvested now.

Tomorrow, the Free Kids Meal will be beef soft tacos, lunch box pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, a slice of watermelon, and milk.

The Webb City Police Department will hold their last free fingerprinting session of the year from 11 to 1.

Stewart’s Bakery will have barbecued chicken, potato salad and pasta salad for $6. The Pommerts will perform.

Big news for Saturday!  Amos Apiaries will be at the market with honey and SO WILL Marlee's Creamery!  

On Saturday, the Free Kids Meal is biscuit and gravy, market fruit, and milk.

Stewart’s Bakery is taking the day off. The Sassy Salad Gals will have smoked chicken on a green salad and fruit salad for $5 each.

Cooking for a Cause benefits CROPwalk which is a national hunger walk sponsored locally by area churches. One-quarter of the money raised stays local, supporting such organizations as Crosslines, Lafayette House and Children’s Haven. The rest of the funds go around the world to assist refugees and areas suffering chronic poverty. The breakfast is served from 9 to 11. As always, you can eat well while helping others.

Scott Eastman will play from 9 to 11.

Tuesday is the last day for the Free Kids Meal. It will be beef nachos, market fruit and veggies and milk. 

Stewart’s Bakery will serve something tasty. Just Jake & Corky will be on the market stage.

The market will move to its fall schedule in September which means that August 31 will be our last Thursday market. In the meantime, we’ll have tons of good things for you, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. See you at the market!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-2-2017

What a beautiful day, in many ways, yesterday was. The market was loaded with a bountiful supply of everyone’s favorites – sweet corn, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon and so much more. The weather was stunning, sunny but cool, and a blue, blue sky filled with gorgeous clouds. 

I’m a fan of clouds. Here in Webb City we don’t have grand mountains or spectacular sea shores, but we often have wonderful clouds and yesterday’s were breath-taking.  Case in point, I took the photo below while on a walk in King Jack Park to share that soccer practice was underway.  It was only after I took the photo that I noticed the magnificent sky!  Such scenes are every day occurences for us in Webb City.

Other reasons it was such a fine day – Richard Hugh Roberts filled the pavilion with classic songs from American musicals and movies of the 40s and 50s. The meals, both for kids and adults, were tasty, but of course they always are.

The real fun began towards the end of market when we began collecting produce for Feed the Heart’s distribution on Thursday night. Because the food pantry has a walk-in cooler we can begin after Tuesday’s market and then add more at Thursday’s market. We sent over a pickup load of melons, sweet corn, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and sweet peppers. (The two photos give you an idea)  We’ll add tomatoes and other goodies on Thursday’s market.

Supplying the pantry is possible because of a grant from Empty Bowls, the fundraiser hosted by Phoenix Fired Arts. The potters are already making bowls for this year’s fundraiser which will be held in November.

The other market program that Empty Bowls supports has been the WIC pilot coupon program which provided $10 worth of fruit, vegetables, meat or eggs to WIC recipients. WIC is a government program to improve the diet of low income expectant or new moms and children under 5. 

There is a Farmers Market WIC program but in Missouri it is only available in three counties. We are hoping our pilot program will encourage the legislature to expand the program to more counties, including ours. 

The pilot program has been well received with moms often telling us that fresh produce is a luxury they could not otherwise afford. It has been so well received, in fact, that we’ve used up all the funding in just two months and we thought we would have to suspend the program this week until one of our volunteers gave us $100 to keep it going a while longer. We are seeking additional funding and hopeful of receiving it, because frankly it makes a tremendous impact. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a program that gives more bang for the buck in terms of improving diets for some of our most vulnerable residents. 

Hopefully next week I will tell you that the WIC program at the market is continuing.
Until then – tomorrow the Free Kids Meal is turkey and cheese roll ups, market sweet pepper strips, cherry tomatoes and watermelon, and milk. For adults, Stewart’s Bakery will have fried chicken salad, fresh cut fruit salad and chef salad. The Sours will be on the market stage.

Extension will have two booths. The nutrition educators will serve Watermelon, Tomato and Cucumber Salad. The horticulture specialists will give advice on gardening and landscaping.

We will also have bailing twine available for free.  These artisically wrapped heavy twine were brought to the market by Dr. Conrad Gubera who saves them from his small bales of hay and wraps them together so you can pull one strand at a time.  They're really rather lovely and so useful.  Help yourself.

On Saturday, the Free Kids Meal is breakfast casserole, market blackberries and melon, and milk.
We welcome “new” vendors – The Sassy Salad Gals. I put quotes around the word new because those gals are our head and assistant cooks for the Free Kids Meal, Syerra and Kelly. The kids meals have been exceptional and I expect the same from their new business at the market. Their daughters will be selling for them in the market until the Kids Meals conclude August 15. Selections include a mixed green salad with smoked chicken, croutons and your choice of dressing for $5, fresh mixed fruit salads for $5, and fresh fruit mocktails for $2. (Mocktails is a play on cocktails – without any alcohol.)

The Granny Chicks will liven up the market stage on Saturday.

Cooking for a Cause Breakfast benefits the Friends of Camp Mintahama, the Girl Scout camp.
Tuesday, William Adkins performs and there will be a Free Kids Meal and Stewart’s Bakery will have several supper choices.

Our last Thursday of the year will be August 31, so just five more for the year. Then we go to Tuesdays and Saturdays. Summer is just whizzing by. Every season at the market has its charms, but summer is the most bountiful, don’t miss it. See you at the market.  And when you come, look up and you may be rewarded with the view I had today at the market.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-26-17

First things first. It’s watermelon season!  The market has many delights, but for me nothing tops watermelon. While I didn’t do an official survey yesterday, I’m pretty sure we have at least five different kinds of watermelon right now. I chose for my first one an Orange Crisp. As the name implies, the “meat” is orange, and it has a lovely firmness, but I love it because it is so sweet and seedless. I’ll have worked my way through it by tomorrow so I can try another variety then. Luckily for me, my husband Phil isn’t much of a watermelon eater so I don’t have to share. And, yes, I do like it so well that I can go through a medium sized melon in three days – easily.

We also have truckloads of cantaloupe, plus canary and honey dew melons. It’s pretty much melon heaven at the market.

The sweet corn has come in as well, and the field tomatoes, the sweet and hot peppers, the eggplant. It may be hot, but the produce is well worth frequent trips to the market. 

And if you get too hot, just run through the kids’ sprinkler. The park’s new splash pad is so popular that we stole the idea, as well as the sprinkler from the kid’s garden and set it up on the fenced lawn north of the kids’ tent yesterday. From the squeals and laughter coming from that direction, I’d say it was a big hit.

Tomorrow we have Scott Eastman on the market stage. Stewart’s Bakery is serving bacon lettuce and tomato on Ciabatta bread with fruit salad for $6. There will also be fresh cut fruit salad and chef salad at Stewart’s. I am writing this Tuesday night and just finished the chef salad. It was delicious.

Along with our usual excellent vendors, MoBlooms is coming to the market tomorrow with their beautiful locally grown bouquets.

The Free Kids Meal, which is served from 11 to 1 on Thursday, is turkey and cheese cubes with crackers, corn on the cob, watermelon and milk. Yes, that would be market corn on the cob and watermelon.

On Saturday, the Pommerts will play. Cooking for a Cause benefits Webb Cares, the school – community collaborative that makes sure kids in need get basic necessities like school supplies, a bed to sleep on or clothes to wear. The Latimer family is supplying all the volunteers - that’s Karen and Jim and two of their daughters’ families, the Millers and the Parkers. Breakfast is served from 9 to 11.

The Free Kids Meal on Saturday is baked oatmeal with market blackberries and milk. 

Stewart’s Bakery is serving vegetable soup with crackers for $5 for eat in or take away.

We had some visitors from Columbia this week. Two students from the MU journalism school were in town to do a documentary on the market’s work with our Hmong farmers. 

We learned the market was featured in last month’s Feast magazine, the food magazine based in St. Louis, for our work with the Hmong. And Fue Yang who manages our education center has become something of a media star.  He was recently featured on the web site of the national Farmer Market Coalition and by the University of Missouri Extension news service.

We have so much good going on for us as a market and a community –  stellar growers, a fun splash pad, AND it won’t be long before the street car is back on the tracks. And some of the best produce of the season – all waiting for you at the market. See you there!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 7-19-17

OK, folks, it’s that time of year when we need you to bring your friends and neighbors to the market, especially to the weekday markets. We actually sent a bushel of peaches home yesterday!

On the bright side, we had enough cantaloupe left over yesterday to supply all 150 families expected at Feed the Heart food pantry distribution tomorrow night. It’s all stored in our walk-in produce cooler at the market for the pantry to pick up.

What wonderful results we have had from our collaboration with the pantry and with the annual fundraiser Empty Bowls. Thanks to the generosity of many the potters who made the bowls, the restaurants who filled them with soup and the donors who bought them, we were able to add $600 to our farmers’ sales yesterday (even with them selling to us at wholesale bulk prices so you know that adds up to a LOT of food) and to add cantaloupe, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes to the diets of our neighbors in need. We will add blackberries from the market’s research plot in Mt. Vernon so it will be quite a feast for folks who rarely get to enjoy fresh produce.

So next November when Phoenix Fired Arts holds Empty Bowls again, we hope you will consider buying one of the beautiful bowls. Just this week, the potters began making the first of the 1,000 bowls planned for the event.

Tomorrow, William Adkins plays on the market stage. The MU Extension educators will serve samples of Watermelon, Cucumber and Tomato Salad (yes, watermelon - Owen brought in the first of the watermelon yesterday!).

The Free Kids Meal will be soft beef tacos, cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper strips, cantaloupe and blackberries. It is served from 11 to 1 on Thursdays. MU Extension will lead water games for the kids just north of the tent.

Stewart’s Bakery is serving chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes and a vegetable for $6.
On Saturday Cooking for a Cause benefits Inch at a Time, which a community project to improve the athletic facilities of the Sarcoxie schools. There will be biscuits and gravy, sausages, eggs cooked to order, farm fresh tomato slices and coffee or orange juice.

Stewart's Bakery will have burrito bake for $5 to eat-in or take out.

The Free Kids Meal will be egg casserole and market fruit and veggies and milk. The Webb City Police Department will do free fingerprinting at the kids tent from 9 to 11. The parents receive their children’s finger print cards.

Red Bridge Trio will keep the market hopping with their high energy bluegrass and gospel.

On Tuesday – remember we’re open on weekdays! – we’ll have the free kids meal and a couple of meal choices from Stewart’s Bakery. I will have the menu posted on the market’s website,, and on the market’s facebook page on Sunday.

The fabulous Geriatrics will play on Tuesday. That alone is worth coming to the market.
If you are a gardener or a grower be sure and check out the grower training page on the market’s web site.

We have two trainings coming up. On Wednesday, July 26, from 1 to 4, we have a blackberry workshop at the Mt Vernon Research Center, 14548 State Rd H. Patrick Byers, MU Extension, will share information about transitioning primocanes to the rotating cross arm trellis and blackberry insect and disease management. You will get to see our research plot which is producing hundreds of pounds of berries right now. The registration fee of $10 may be paid at the door.

On Monday and Tuesday, August 14 and 15, the market is hosting the first ever Missouri Tomato Conference, in collaboration with University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Co-operative Extension. We expect it to be exceptional. Our presenters are nationally-known experts in their fields. The conference will be held at the Continental Banquet Center, just behind Granny Shaffers, from 8:45 am to 5 pm on the Monday and there will be farm tours with in-the-field education from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm on the Tuesday. The cost is only $30 per person. Details and a registration form are on the market’s web site.

We are able to bring this together because the Missouri Department of Agriculture allowed us to use funding left over from our Winter Production Conferences. We always try to get the biggest bang from any funding we receive whether it’s from a grant or from our farmers’ fees and we have gotten such a bang from our conferences that now we can embark on a completely different area of learning. We love our winter produce and love that the supply is increasing both in quality and quantity in the winter, but who among us doesn’t love tomatoes too?  Tomatoes are the top selling vegetable in Missouri but they can be very challenging to grow. After August we hope farmers from across the state – and in nearby states – are better equipped to grow and sell the best tomatoes ever. Because we love our tomatoes – and our farmers. And we want the best for our customers, too.

Now back to my first point –Tomorrow would be a great day to see you at the market!