Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sentinel column - 7-3 We're open Thursday this week!

I’ve always heard that, in our area, a good gardener will have tomatoes for the Fourth of July. Well, not this year. Our Spring was so cold and wet that most field produce is a good two weeks behind schedule. What that means is that you won’t see a lot of tomatoes at the market today. But in another couple of weeks, we should be buried in them.

Our growers have planted literally thousands of tomato plants to be sure we have enough, but the weather has delayed the harvest. The up side is that we should have produce a little later than usual this year, but to take advantage of that folks will need to continue coming to the market as summer turns to fall – not much consolation now, I know.

Hector Troyer hosted a field day for our growers last month and I think most were amazed by the number of tomato plants in his fields. Hector’s goal this year is to come home with a few of boxes of tomatoes after every market, in other words to have tomatoes for the late shoppers as well as the early ones. According to his research it should take 240 man-hours each week to harvest the number of tomatoes he has planted. That’s a few more hours than Hector has and I don’t think his son Lance is going to be much help. Lance has a great smile and can stand on his tipy-toes now, but at 8 months he’s not much of a field hand. I expect Hector will be putting in long hours this summer, like most of our farmers.

The market is blessed with growers who make the market’s well-being part of their plans. Hopefully, Hector will profit from his massive tomato planting, but his primary motivation was to be sure the market had plenty.

Another grower, Tim Green, is already looking to double the size of his high tunnel next spring. He has hated that some of his customers waited in long lines for tomatoes only to see the last ones sold before their turn.

That experience has been far too common for our customers lately because of high demand and delayed harvests. Most have been very kind and supportive and we really appreciate that because we know it’s disappointing. Stick with us – the bounty is just around the corner.

We’ve had lots of beautiful onions at the market this year, something we were short on last year. We’ve also had a much-improved supply of green beans, potatoes, kohlrabi and cabbage.

The first of the Asian cucumbers were at Helen Cha’s stand Tuesday. I’m not a cucumber fan, but my friend Claudette Brown says the Asian ones are wonderful. Raspberries and blackberries are coming into season and can be found at several stands – Fairhaven, Pates, and Orr to name a few.

Lunch today is a barbecued beef sandwich, baked beans, potato salad, cake, and drink for $6. The Plainsfolk will play Irish music. We host our big bake sale to benefit Crosslines today.

Cooking for a Cause on Tuesday also benefited Crosslines and raised over $450 for our regional food and clothing pantry. We had a bevy of volunteers from Central United Methodist and First Baptist churches, both of Webb City, manning the grill and serving tables.

On Saturday, we’ll be open from 9 to noon under the pavilions. The Missouri Mountain Gang from the Springfield area will play bluegrass.

Jann Amos will have a demonstration hive at the market Saturday. You, and the kids, can see a cross section of a living, working beehive without the usual risk.

Hazel’s Bakery will serve a full breakfast. Jamie Smith will have cooked-at-the-market pizzas and stuffed mushrooms, as well as specialty sandwiches on his artisan breads. I had his Hillbilly BLT last week and it was delicious. It’s piled high not only with the bacon, lettuce and tomato that you’d expect but also shaved ham. And for $4 you get a sandwich that is plenty big for two people. It’s a real buy.

Next Tuesday is our Pestofesto. The Urban Gardeners will have pesto kits for sale and several of our growers will have basil for sale. Darryl Alton will give a pesto making demonstration at noon. You won’t want to miss that. He’s quite the showman, plus you get to sample.

Remember, we’re open rain or shine – last Saturday should prove that. Despite an absolute downpour during most of the market we had 14 vendors and over 300 customers. What a crazy bunch! Can’t help it, we love our market.