Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sentinel column - 8/30

As one of my farmers said yesterday, “there are no holidays during the growing season. Farming is 24/7.” Actually, for that farmer it’s 24/6 1/2 because his family always saves Sunday morning for worship.

So the market will not take a holiday either. We’ll be open on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday as usual despite the Labor Day holiday.

No doubt about it, this has been a strange year. With two major ice storms, floods and heavy rains all the way to July and now a relatively cool spell in August, it’s been hard to know what to expect.

Another unusual but welcome difference over previous years at the market has been our customer count during the last couple of weeks. Always before, our numbers dropped drastically once school started. Not so, this year. Saturday continues to grow and the weekday markets are holding strong. That’s really good news for our growers because they planted for a crowd this year.

Now you may say, if you planted so much, how come you're out of (peaches, corn, green beans, heirloom tomatoes – insert your favorite) by the time I get there? It’s not because we don’t want to sell it to you, but rather because of limitations on production or transportation. And, to be honest, sometimes because the growers just can’t believe they need to bring as much as they do.

I’m hoping I’ve finally convinced Pate’s Orchard to bring a gigantic load of peaches this Friday and Saturday. Every market day except one this year John shook his head in wonder at the numbers of people lined up for his peaches and said “I could have brought more…” So Friday he is bringing a TRUCKLOAD. And if it’s raining and he has to bring the smaller truck to keep the boxes dry, the Pates are bringing TWO vehicles. That’s quite a commitment considering they have to drive all the way from Stockton. I just hope our customers buy every single peach to encourage him to keep it up.

Marilyn and I were by the orchard yesterday on our second inspection visit of the season. I had never seen the orchard before in late August. It is heavy in leaves, with deep shadows under the trees. So different from the spring when the flowers are in bloom, but beautiful in its own way.

The orchard should be producing peaches almost to the end of September and then the apples will be ready for harvest. The Pates also have fall tomatoes planted in their high tunnel (photo below) that should take us all the way to the end of market (which is usually the last Friday in October).

Our growers are already making plans for next year. We probably had an increase in production this year of over 50%. If all goes well, our growers plan a similar increase next year. We have more high tunnels going up over the winter and more fields going into production. We’ll be hosting training sessions again to help our growers, as well as any of the public who care to sit in, farm and market smarter and better.

During our drive yesterday (Marilyn and I covered over 300 miles visiting 6 vendors), I told her that I could hardly believe the season had flown by so quickly. We’re down to the last two months and it will soon be time to plan for 2009. But the end of summer doesn’t mean the market’s abundance is over. Turnips, radishes, and new green beans are in the ground. Pumpkins, gourds and winter squash are ripening. In fact, Tuesday, the market was bursting at the seams with produce. We still have the best of summer and a hint of fall with the first sweet potatoes, mums, corn stalks, Indian corn and decorative gourds. (That's a pumpkin growing at Fairhaven at the top of the article.)

Lunch today is BBQ beef sandwich, baked beans, cole slaw, brownie & drink for $6. The Sours play traditional music between 11 and 1.

On Saturday we’re delighted to have Paul Rowden & friends back for a Market Jam. If you’re a musician, you’re welcome to join in, if not just have a seat and enjoy the music. Breakfast is served till 11.

On Tuesday, Gary Kyger will entertain us during lunch with music from the 30’s and 40’s, gospel and classic country.

CROPwalk benefits from Tuesday’s Cooking for a Cause. This annual hunger walk sponsored by more than 10 area churches raises money for local feeding programs and for poverty-fighting programs around the world. It’s a great cause, so put a big red circle around Tuesday and remember that having Monday off doesn’t push the market back a day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Complaints or Suggestions

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Farm visits

We had a customer today ask if our farmers were growing all they sell. As it happens, we are in the process right now of making our second round of farm visits this season to verify just that.

We visit all our full season growers twice during the season - once shortly after the season begins, then again in August. Our short season growers, like blueberry growers, we visit as the fruit comes into maturity.

Last week Marilyn and I visited our farms to the southeast - the McLaughlin, the Lee and the Yang farms, plus Fredrickson's in Carl Junction. Above is a photo from the Fredrickson visit showing some of their mums which will soon be at the market.

At each farm we take notes as to the crops currently in production and the quantity of both the plants and the harvest. We also look for food safety issues, pest problems and other opportunities to share solutions and improve operations. (Marilyn & I don't claim to be experts, but we know the people who are!)

Tomorrow, Marilyn and I head west and east, visiting our new birdbath maker in Chetopa, as well as farms in Galena, Bronaugh, Sheldon, Harwood, Stockton and Jasper. It will be a long day, but ensures the integrity of the market. (photos at supper right from Shoal Creek & Pate's Orchard are from the 8/27 visit)

Next week, we'll finish up with our farms to the southwest, which include the Troyers, Agees, Eichers, Ka Yang and the Chas.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Inside News

Hazel's Bakery and Sunnylane Farm (chicken & beef) are taking Tuesday off. They'll be back on Friday.

Inside News

Fairhaven will have sweet corn at the market all this week.

Mao Her from Noel will be at the market for the first time this Tuesday. Those who remember her from previous years will recall the lovely cut flowers she grows. She says she has LOTS of pickle cucumbers - so if you're pickling this year, but sure to stop by her place.

Agee Farms, of heirloom tomato fame, expects to be at the market this week on Saturday only.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Inside News

The kids from the Kids Community Garden will be selling at the market on Saturday (August 23) for the first time. They'll be in the north pavilion on the northeast side right by our honey lady who we expect back at the market on Saturday after a brief holiday.

Another new vendor on Saturday - Made of Clay - potters, of course. They plan to demonstrate their craft as well as sell their pots.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Inside News - New Vendors

On Friday - look for Chuck's Aquatic Garden Supply at the market with koi and water palnts.

On Saturday - look for Sherida Wittum with handcast bird baths and our own Kids' Community Garden who are making their first sales at the market.

Inside News

The Palmers at Fairhaven tell me that they'll have Ambrosia sweet corn at the market on Friday and Saturday. Josh Orr will be at market with his tomatoes on Saturdays only now that school has resumed.

Senitnel Column - August 22

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got till you’re gone (to take a little license with one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs). I returned to the market Friday after a two-week absence. I’d been in lovely Scotland which was beautiful, wet, cool and full of wonderful sites. However, I really missed my fresh produce. Constant cool and wet is great for flowers but not for vegetables, something all our local growers and gardeners learned last spring. Friday after market I went straight home, sliced my Brandywine tomato from Agee Farm, doused it with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a bit of honey from Amos Apiaries, and sprinkled on some fresh basil. Paired with Redings Mill’s wonderful tomato and basil bread, it made a feast.

Scotland was lovely, but the food was lacking and the cost was amazing. A typical meal that would cost $12 here, cost more than $30 there and filling the tank of our rented car cost more than $200! Sure glad – for many reasons – that I live here.

Marilyn Thornberry and I are making our second round of farm visits this month. I’m glad to report that, though some crops like summer tomatoes and egg plant are winding down, fall plantings are well underway. We should have cool weather crops of pac choy, lettuce, radishes, pumpkins, mums and such, plus fall plantings of green beans, onions and tomatoes.

The market is committed to continuing our Saturday markets as long as the produce and customers keep coming. It looks like we should last well into September. Our Friday and Tuesday markets, barring an early hard freeze, should continue through September. During October we usually do Fridays only.

Can we really be talking about October already? This cool weather really puts us all in the mood. In fact as September approaches, we find ourselves toying with the idea of doing a very mini Mining Days type celebration at the market. Since it will be mostly farm-related activities we’d stick with our Fall Roundup name, but add some special music, kids’ games and such – on September 13th or 20th. If you have ideas or would like to help, please give me a call at 673-5866.

We have found that small celebrations work well at the market. In fact, we consider every market a small celebration – of community, of the arts, of the small family farmers and artisans, and of good food. This Saturday we add to the celebration by hosting our annual It’s a Peachy Day at the Market. I say annual but last year we had to cancel Peachy Day when virtually every peach in Missouri was frozen over Easter weekend.

Starting at 9:30, volunteers will be serving free samples of peach cobbler and ice cream. You can also try a slice of the two varieties currently in season at the market – the yellow-fleshed Cresthaven and the white China Pearl. Servings will continue till we run out. There will be a coloring table for kids in the north pavilion. Coyote Pass will entertain in the south pavilion and breakfast will be served till 11.

Today lunch will be chicken salad, potato wedges, corn salad, white cake with lemon icing and a drink for $6. Baled Green and Wired Tight will play Appalachian mountain music from 11 to 1.

We’re finishing up our last obligation for last year’s grant from Project for Public Spaces with a customer survey today and Saturday. The one-page survey will be on a table in the north pavilion on clip boards. Please take time to fill one out and drop it in the survey box. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete and will not help us wrap up the grant but give us good information to improve the market.

Next Tuesday, Cooking for a Cause benefits NALA, our local adult literacy council.

Marilyn Thornberry commented just yesterday that until she broke her wrist (at the market) last Friday, she hadn’t realized how much she depended on both hands. But imagine if you couldn’t read. Missing this column would be easy, but how about filling out a job application, or understanding the operational instructions on your car, or any number of other things we do every day that depends on the ability to read? NALA does important work that benefits not only their clients but our community as well. Even if you don’t want to eat, come by to learn about NALA and make a small donation to their efforts.

Education is a great thing – unless it takes our excellent Tuesday musician away. Rob Pommert who has entertained all summer with his guitar and voice has returned to his “real” job teaching guitar at Ozark Christian College but he has promised to come back to us next summer. So we’ll have to fill the pavilion with engaging conversation on Tuesdays for the rest of the season. That shouldn’t be a problem!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Update on D & J Lemonade

Dalton tells me that he has already met his goal of selling enough lemonade and tea at the market to buy a new bicycle. In fact, if you stop by you'll probably see his new bike because he pulls his supplies down to the market in a wagon and then runs back home so he can ride his bike and display it by his stand.

He also made enough profits to buy all his school clothes!

Dalton plans to continue selling at the market on Saturdays now that school is started and is already thinking about hot chocolate and cider for the cooler months. He's quite the entrepreneur.

What's at the Market & What's Not

We have a new grower at the Market - Agee's Fruits & Vegetables. James & Dee Agee have a farm in Fairview and are bringing heirloom tomatoes, speciality melons, apples and other goodies. Their tomatoes include Cherokee Purple and Brandywine. The Agees will be at the market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Friday was the last day for Urban Gardeners for a while. This Tuesday will be the last day for Circle E Farms. Our other growers are going strong and expect to have produce for quite a while. In fact, Pates Orchard and Shoal Creek Gardens have fall tomatoes planted and several of our other growers have fall green beans in the ground. We already have pumpkins coming to market at Steve McLaughlin's stand and more will certainly be following as fall approaches.

We're missing one of our market wagons. It disappeared on Friday. If you see a Red Flyer with natural wood slats, please give us a call at 673-5866. The wagons get a lot of use and we'd hate to have to pull them out of service to keep them from straying away from the market.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday's & Saturday's meal & music

Friday - Sliced ham with pineapple raisin sauce, picnic pasta salad, peas, butterscotch pudding & drink $6. Gospel Strings play.

Saturday - The Wilkins Family of Oronogo play.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sentinel Column August 8

Which is your favorite tomato? Yours may be different from mine, though I think we could all describe the qualities we’re looking for – the right texture, the right flavor, and the right combination of meatiness and juiciness. Opinion diverges though on what is “right”.

Our judges Saturday came up with the following “right” winners at the TomatoFest:

Best Red Tomato Dee Ogle, of Webb City, Missouri.

Best Other Color Tomato - Carole Palmer, of Fairhaven Berry Farms, Harwood, Missouri.

Best Small (cherry, grape) Tomato - Deanna Agee, from Fairview, Missouri.

The heaviest tomato weighed in at 1.63 lbs. and was grown by Deanna Agee of Fairview, Missouri. The smallest was the size of a marble and grown by Ava Smith of Reddings Mill. And the crowd selected Hector Troyer‘s of Stark City as the weirdest.

Our thanks go to Mike Pound, Chef Scott Teal, and Mike Shaffer for judging and to Granny Shaffer’s and the Richardson Law Office for underwriting the prizes.

Tomatoes have been in the news this summer with the salmonella outbreak. It looks like the FDA is finally coming close to identifying the source of the contamination. Unfortunately many commercial fresh tomato growers in the US who were completely innocent in the affair have suffered tremendous loss. I can’t help but think there is a better way to deal with a contamination outbreak and no doubt the FDA is working to improve their systems. Let’s just hope they concentrate on commercial production rather than creating broad regulations that put small farmers selling locally out of business. Tracking local sales shouldn’t take much of a paper trail.

Smithsonian magazine recently had an article on tomatoes. Among other things, it noted that big tomatoes are usually less flavorful than medium or small tomatoes because “you’ve maxed out the plant’s ability to produce sugars and other flavors.”

Jay Scott with the University of Florida is researching how to increase the flavor in the big tomatoes grown by Florida’s farmers. Florida is the largest US producer of tomatoes, most of which are “picked as hard and green as Granny Smith Apples, packed in boxes, warehoused and exposed to controlled doses of ethylene gas, a ripening agent, so they turn red just in time for sale.” That turning red may be the primary difference between a commercial tomato and a local one. “The flavor of tomatoes, Scott says, comes from sugars, acids and volatile chemicals. Photosynthesis generates sucrose, or table sugar, which is broken down into glucose and the sweeter fructose during ripening.” Ethylene gas turns the tomato red, but photosynthesis can only happen on the plant and in the sunlight.

But, of course, I’m preaching to the choir. Just know what you want when you visit the market because we have lots of choices – big tomatoes, medium and small ones, ones that have never seen a chemical, others that were regularly fertilized with a chemical-based fertilizer like Miracle Grow, hybrids, heirlooms, ugly, beautiful. You’ll find red, yellow, pink, even striped. Just ask the grower for details and sample around until you find a favorite variety – or two.

Lunch today is stuffed pepper, squash casserole, 4-bean salad, fruit fluff and a drink for $6. The Missouri Mountain Gang plays.

Tomorrow we have a home town group singing – Ninth Hour, four young men who specialize in gospel but will no doubt throw in some golden oldies. Matt Holt is their director and pianist. You may have seen them at the Forever Plaid performance at the Route 66 Theater. They’ll be singing between 9:30 and 11:30 and I guarantee you’ll enjoy hearing them.

Tuesday Joplin Little Theater puts on Cooking for a Cause and Rob Pommert will play guitar from 11 to 1.