Thursday, May 19, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5-18-16

It’s crunch time at the market, when I start moving the vendors around on my layout sheets like so many pieces of a puzzle. This vendor needs a space and a half, that one can get by with a partial space. The new vendor is going to have to move into the middle aisle. Everybody’s going to have to cozy up!  Saturday is the big challenge because that’s when we have the most vendors, but the weekday markets won’t be far behind in filling up with vendors. To make it even more interesting, all the spaces (post to post) aren’t the same. One is over 11 feet long, most are about 9 and a few are only 6 feet long. I’m not sure why the pavilion was constructed that way but it sure does make it interesting to lay out. 

With the produce rolling in and more and more of our vendors ready to sell, I must admit I sometimes worry how on earth we can fit them all in. It’s a good problem to have and I’m hoping we can solve it, in part, by spreading to the north under tents or canopies. In the long run, the solution is an extension to the pavilion, but honestly that might only be a temporary solution. We just keep growing. Last week we received an application from an Amish family wanting to do fried pies right in the market kitchen for sale on Saturdays. Fresh fried pies?  I can’t say no to that!

We have a special treat at the market tomorrow. Robert Bruce Scott is passing through on his Midwest tour. He lives in Indianapolis and we get to host him whenever he does a tour on the way to visit his parents in Oklahoma. He stays over at our house and he’ll be sailing in late Friday night after his two gigs in Springfield. He is incredibly versatile and has treated us to renaissance music, opera (including some Klingon opera), a whole show of Bob Dylan music, Broadway. You name it and Robert can probably do it. This time his show is centered on Songs for the 12 String Guitar. He will also play his harp and mandolin. It will be a treat.

Cooking for a Cause benefits Webb City’s senior Girl Scout Troop #26433. They will serve biscuits and gravy, sausage, farm fresh tomato slices and cooked-to-order market eggs. Both music and breakfast run from 9 to noon.

On Tuesday we’ll be serving the Free Kids Meal from 4:30 to 6:30. The menu is spaghetti and meat sauce, fresh market salad, raw sugar snap peas, a bread stick and milk. The Pommerts will play. Carmine’s Woodfired Pizza will bake to order and Stewart’s Bakery is serving meatloaf.

On Thursday, William Adkins is playing. The Free Kids Meal is served from 11 to 2. The menu is oven roasted chicken legs, sweet potato fries, tomato and cucumber salad, biscuit and milk. Harv’s BBQ and M & M Bistro will have lunch for the grown-ups.

Don’t forget that Thursday night the Winter Production Education Center will host its fourth Thursday Twilight Tunnel Walk. It starts at 7 pm at the Yang Farm, 1213 Route U, Rocky Comfort. I’ll serve a walk-around supper of hot dog or brat, chips and drink for $4 and $5 respectively. This time of year our farmers rarely get to eat before 10 pm. Hopefully having a supper available during the walk will make up for pulling them off their own farm for some education during such a busy time. The walk, however, is open to everyone interested in learning about high tunnels or learning about where their food comes from.  (That's actually Sam Craig's tunnel at Center Creek Farm but it was too perfect not to use for our Twilight Walk publicity!)

It’s a busy time of year, but the learning never stops at the market. Come join us.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5-13-16

Do you ever start a project with a thrill AND trepidation?  Remember last week when I said the Saturday before Mothers Day was expected to be a big day?  When I left home a few minutes before 7:30 Saturday, it was a cool, crisp morning. I stepped up to the car and took a deep breath. The feeling was just like that I had back in the day when I stood on a mountain top preparing to hit the slopes on skis. A sense of both trepidation and thrill swept through me. And then I was off! To the market.

Saturday was $5 short of matching our biggest sales day in 17 years. Over 150 people enjoyed breakfast and raised $450 for the local Salvation Army. Truck and trailer loads of produce and plants headed to homes throughout southwest Missouri – and Kansas and Oklahoma. The Granny Chicks regaled us, so much so that I have booked them again for this Saturday (5/14). And, as it turned out, there was no need for trepidation. But it was pretty thrilling to me to have 1,500 people come enjoy the market and find so many things that they wanted.

Tuesday we’re open from 4 to 7 and Stewart’s Bakery and Carmine’s Pizza will serve supper. The Pommerts will play.

On Thursday we start our Free Kids Meals. It is funded by the same USDA division that funds free school lunches.  The meals are organized and hosted by the market. On Thursday it is served from 11 to 1. On Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30. This Thursday the menu is hamburger, roasted new potatoes and strawberries and cream. And, yes, the potatoes and strawberries will be fresh from local farms.
There are no income or residency requirements and anyone 18 years of age or younger is welcome to eat.

Adults can enjoy a meal from Carmine’s Pizza and Stewart’s Bakery on Tuesdays and from a variety of vendors on Thursdays.  This Thursday will be SWEET! with gourmet hot dogs, cupcakes and ice cream and Granny Shaffers with catfish and potato wedges and Thai wraps.

We have a professional team of cooks lined up to prepare the meals but are looking for volunteers to help with set up, serving and take down. If you or your organization would like to volunteer, please give me a call at 417 483-8139. We’ll be serving on Tuesdays and Thursday until school starts again in mid-August.

Another fun activity coming up will be on Thursday, May 26. At 7 pm the market will host its first Twilight Tunnel Walk at the Winter Production Education Center. Extension experts and experienced farmers will lead walks through the center’s two high tunnels which are planted with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant and peppers. Folks can also take a peek at the fields of the Yang Farm where the center is located. We’ll have a “walk-around” supper available:  hot dog, chips and drink for $4 and brat, chips and drink for $5. The Center is located at 1213 Route U, Rocky Comfort. Give me a call if you have trouble finding it. Sometimes GPS has trouble locating it.

We welcome a new farm to the market tomorrow – Roffmann Farms of Oronogo.  That name may ring familiar to long time customers. Roffmann Farms near Carthage was for about our first five years a core vendor at the market and Pete Roffmann is son to that farming family. Pete has his own farm and has two special qualities the market was looking for. He farms as chemical free as possible and hopes to go completely organic and both he and his wife speak Spanish. We have been looking for eight years for a Spanish-speaking vendor so that is a big bonus for us. But frankly, Pete is such an excellent farmer with a heart for quality, healthy food and for feeding the community that I would have found a way to bring him into the market even though space is very limited. And he was so eager to get in that he agreed to set up in the middle aisle if need be. You might say we’re a bit of a mutual admiration society, Pete and the market.  (That's Pete on his first day at the market on Saturday.) 

I’m told by people who know that we have the highest quality produce and best growers in all of Southwest Missouri. Life is good, folks. Come enjoy it and support these farmers who work so hard to bring their best to our community. See you at the market!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5/6/16

We’re gearing up for one of the best Saturdays of the year. What fun tomorrow will be!  The pavilion
will be packed with almost 40 vendors, an amazing amount of produce and flowers from end to end. Since Mother’s Day is Sunday, folks will be snapping up those beautiful hanging baskets and handcrafted planters overflowing with flowers. Others will buy something sewn like tea towels and hot pads from Edith or jewelry or other pretties from Rebecca. We’ll have baked goods, jams and jellies, freshly roasted coffee beans, kettle corn, Rada utensils and much more to please Mom.

The Granny Chicks will be playing and the Webb City chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star is serving breakfast. All profits will go to the local Salvation Army. Meal and music run from 9 to 11, while the market is open from 9 to noon.

It’s the first Saturday of the month, so that means the streetcar will give free rides during market. Board at the depot west of the pavilion.

Produce at the market?  Well, it is strawberry season and we’re expecting several hundred quarts of local strawberries tomorrow. We also have loads of greens, broccoli, high tunnel tomatoes, green onions, kohlrabi, beets, radishes, carrots, green garlic, cut herbs, and more. There’ll also be milk and goat cheese, eggs, and raw food bars, frozen tamales and vanilla. 

The fun continues on Tuesday when we’re open from 4 to 7 pm. Stewart’s Bakery will serve Chicken and Noodles with mashed potatoes and green beans for $6 or chili with beans for $5. Carmine’s Woodfired Pizza will bake to order. The Pommerts will play. 

On Thursday Scott Eastman plays. Harv’s BBQ and M & M Bistro serve lunch. Extension will create and serve Fruity Kale Smoothies. We’re open from 11 to 2 on Thursdays.

Next Saturday we celebrate Birds, Bees and Butterflies with the Audubon Society. Our farmers have been growing plants that butterflies love to give away to our customers. Hopefully the endangered Monarch butterflies will find refuge as they wing their way through Jasper County in the coming years. We’ll also have seeds for folks for folks to plants as well.

My queen of crafts, Lisa Sweet, is creating all sorts of photo props – butterfly head bands, blue bird wands, no telling what fun things she’ll come up with. You’ll want to pose the kids among the birds, bees and butterflies.

Of special interest to many – Amos Apiaries will be at the market with honey next Saturday!

It’s time to make the market a habit if you haven’t already. We promise you an experience worth your time, rain or shine. See you at the market!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 4/29/16

If you follow the market’s facebook postings, and I hope you do because they take a lot of time for us to do, you would have noticed photos of tomatoes the last few weeks. And if you are an experienced grower you might have thought “No way are they selling local tomatoes in April!”  But it’s true, thanks to our farmers planting the high tunnels several months ago and remaining patient until the sun became intense enough to ripen those tomatoes that have been hanging green on the vines for what seems like weeks and weeks. The sun is finally strong enough to redden those tomatoes and they are appearing in delicious piles at the Braker and Harmony Hill tables. Yes, they are local and, yes, we’ve been hearing a lot of raves about the tomatoes.

We may not have enough to handle all the Saturday crowd, but we’ve had more than enough tomatoes on Tuesday and Thursday – one more reason to shop the weekday markets. We had asparagus for the whole market yesterday and strawberries for 2/3rds of it. No doubt the weekday markets will liven up once the free kids meals start on May 19, but until then you can look forward to easy parking and good selection. Of course by May 19, most of our growers will be back at the market with tables loaded high with produce. It is astounding what they manage to coach out of the earth this early in the year.

It’s a bit like time lapse photography. I’ll be at a farm in March and see bare fields that have been planted but no sign of life, some covered with a cloth barrier on small hoops to protect from frost. The next month, there are little rows of green, and then a few weeks later, with some sunny days and rain, they seem to go into high gear, spreading and growing into mature plants. By the end of April, the fields are thriving.

Many years ago, someone in the market business told me that farming is a learned skill. I guess I’d never given it any consideration. I’d grown up among farmers and we’d all helped on our family farms but as I have worked with the market farmers, the truth of that statement has rung clear. For example, it’s sure not a matter of intuition when it comes to evaluating soil fertility. Reading a soil sample result and implementing the recommendations takes all sort of reading and math skills. Knowing when to plant what, what to watch for, how to set up irrigation, whether and when to fertilize all take knowledge and record-keeping ability. I think that’s why our farmers are so keen on the training we provide. It’s not that they are yearning to be students, rather they are intent on being successful farmers and they know that the better their toolbox of knowledge, the better their chances of success.

What brought this to mind was Mr. Lee, patriarch of the Lee Family Farm, meeting with Lincoln University Extension folks today to begin plans for his first high tunnel. The Lee Family Farm is among our largest, most productive farms but had not yet ventured into winter production. It is a prudent step that could provide income throughout the year. The Lees have three years of winter production training under their belt and good resource people for guidance. I look forward to enjoying the fruits of that knowledge next winter.

Tomorrow at the market, Cooking for a Cause benefits the Ronald McDonald House. Biscuits and gravy, sausages, eggs cooked to order, orange juice or coffee are served from 9 to 11.
Mabel at Harmony Hill is serving her last lunch of the season – ham and beans with cornbread for $3.50, eat-in or take-out. Rob Pommert plays.

Hazel’s Bakery is a bit under the weather so Stewart’s Bakery is filling in for her tomorrow. We should have a wonderful selection of hanging baskets, local produce and other goodies.

On Tuesday, we’ll have lunch by Stewart’s Bakery and Carmine’s Pizza. Both Pommerts will be with us Tuesday.

On Thursday, be sure to bring the kids if you can. Marshall Mitchell is making a rare visit. He has become such a star that he’ll only be able to make the market a few times this year so don’t miss a single one. Great cowboy tunes from a cowboy dressed to the nines atop a sawhorse pony. It just doesn’t get any more cowboy than Marshall. On Thursday, we expect Granny Shaffers with catfish and potato wedges and Tac-o the Town with Mexican style food for lunch.

Finally, this Monday we have an informal class for anyone interested in learning how to operate the commercial equipment in the market kitchen – that includes convection ovens, griddle, tilt top skillet and steam kettle (that would be a 30 gallon skillet and a 40 gallon steam kettle). There is no fee or reservation required. Just show up at 10 am on Monday and Jason Miller, chef of Instant Karma, will bring us all up to speed.

Bonus news – the Kids Community Garden is up and growing. The kindergarteners’ potato plants are peeking through and the middle schoolers, with the help of one little brother, planted tomatoes, peppers and broccoli this week. We meet at the garden on Wednesdays at 3:10 (unless it’s raining).
See you at the market!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 4-22-16

What a treat it has been watching the streetcar moving across the park beyond the sea of grass where the pit once was. Before it was not possible to see the trolley on most of its route because of chat piles. Now it is an enchanting sight. The trolley will be running tomorrow from 9 to noon. Then it will run again May 7 and on every first Saturday during the regular season.

Tomorrow is a double celebration. It’s Let’s Plant a Garden Day when every child (through college) receives a free tomato plant along with instructions and fertilizer. Grown by Tim Green of Green’s Greenhouse and Garden, these are beautiful stocky plants. Master Gardeners will teach the children how to plant and care for them.  (Tim's beautiful tomato plants will also be available for sale tomorrow for $2 each - they are in 4" pots.)

It’s also The Bard Lives at the Market day!  We’re observing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with readings from his work. Jim and Ann Liles, Rachel Stanley and Todd Manley will perform. Crofter’s Gate will play music from the 1600’s.

Chef JT Amos creates dishes featuring spring produce and chicken from Sunny Lane Farm from 9 to 11. Chef Amos is sponsored by Arvest Bank.

Mid-Missouri Bank will hand out seedlings of a variety of trees and shrubs (as long as they last). One of our customers mentioned this week that the redbud she received at the market five years ago is now over 6 feet tall and blooming for the first time. 

Breakfast benefits the Carl Junction Bright Futures program – biscuits and gravy, sausages, coffee or orange juice, farm fresh eggs made to order served from 9 to 11.

Mabel at Harmony Hills Farm serves Ham and Potato Soup with a roll for $3.50. Next week Mabel will serve ham and beans with cornbread and that will be her last lunch until fall. They are getting very busy on the farm with planting and tending their crops. In fact, they are cutting back on their baked goods as well. They will continue bringing their country breads, cinnamon rolls, sugar free banana bread, healthy oatmeal cookies and biscotti, but no more pies and cakes. But you know what they say – one door closes and another opens. Hazel’s Bakery is back tomorrow with pies, cakes, fruit breads and many other goodies. On Tuesday and Thursday Stewart’s Bakery is stepping up with pies, cookies, dinner rolls and other treats. Oh, I don’t think any of us are going hungry.

Next Tuesday, Stewart’s Bakery will have roast pork loin and dressing with a veggie side for $6 and ham and beans with cornbread for $5. Carmine’s Woodfire Pizza will make artisan pizzas to order. Rob Pommert will play.

On Thursday, Harv’s Barbecue and M & M Bistro are back. Extension will demo a good-for-you-recipe. The Sours will play.

Wednesday we plant tomatoes, peppers and other warm weather crops in the Kids’ Community Garden. We gather at 3:10 between the middle school and kindergarten to work for about an hour. All are welcome.
Speaking of community gardens, Central United Methodist Church is starting a community garden at the corner of First and Pennsylvania. If you’d like to participate, call the church or stop by the garden tomorrow where they will be working beginning at 9.

We received some exciting news this week. You may remember that last year we partnered with Central United Methodist to serve free kids meals at the market on Tuesday evenings when school is out. The program is underwritten by the USDA does the free and reduced meal at schools and realized that kids eat all year, not just when they are in school. The USDA also has a big push to increase the amount of local fresh food kids eat and who would do that better than a farmers market?  This year, we’ve been approved to serve the free kids meal on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 and on Thursdays from 11 to 1. We’ll be using the market kitchen which is equipped to turn out loads of food and we’ve hired Syerra Conklin, who handles catering for Cloud’s Meats. She seems a perfect match for us. She didn’t blink an eye at feeding 150 kids twice a week and immediately started thinking of ways to entice kids to eat fresh, local veggies – how about Taco Tuesday?

Sounds good to us!  This program serves many purposes. While it has no income or residency requirements, we determined last year that at least half the kids eating were from low income families. It gives us a chance to introduce all children to a variety of fruits and vegetables. And it brings LOTS of people to the market. We are really looking forward to May 19 which will be our first Free Kids Meal of the year.