Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sentinel column - 10/31

I have just returned from a conference in Kansas City on refugees and agriculture. Watoua (Scott) Yang and I presented information on Webb City’s market and the market’s work with immigrant farmers. It was a little intimidating to find our presentation titled on the agenda as “Farmers Markets: Preparing refugees to participate in a high performance Farmers Market”. We have a nice market, but “high performance”?

Frankly, I’m not sure that description fits our market, but I do hope that our market is a good fit for Webb City. Unlike national franchise businesses, markets need to vary according to the needs and desires of the local community. Farmers markets should be the epitome of local – local produce, local farmers, local customers, and in our case, local non-profits and local musicians. It’s always fun to have visitors from distant places, but we are here to serve local folks. So when I give presentations, I emphasize that our market isn’t a template for any others. Steal a few good ideas, but make your market your own. Communities are different, and their markets should be different, as well.

Some things that seem to catch the attention of audiences:

Cooking for a Cause and our engagement of so many non-profits in the community as well as the support of our customers for those non-profits. I think it’s probably the only program of its kind in the country and we couldn’t do it without the help of our super volunteer Donna Krudwig and the availability of the certified kitchen at Central United Methodist Church.

Donna once ran the senior center in Joplin and received extensive food safety training for her responsibilities there. With new volunteers coming in each week, often with no background in health department regulations, Donna’s supervision is critical in making sure that Cooking for a Cause operates safely.

Our music and the support we receive from the Missouri Arts Council. We are the only market in the state that has, to date, received grants from MAC in support of live traditional music. Our vendors think the music is so important that this year we budgeted about one-half of our annual income to supplement that grant so we can have music at every market. (We budgeted another one-quarter to subsidize Cooking for a Cause.) You might ask why the arts council and the vendors would commit funding to music at a market. It is because we believe it contributes significantly to our atmosphere, that it brings a real sparkle to the market and that it helps us reach our goal of being a community gathering place. We also think it makes us stand out from other markets that don’t have music or only have casual street performers. The music makes every market an event.

It also provides musicians a venue to perform and some small compensation, which makes for a stronger arts community. We are very fortunate in this area to have some very talented musicians. It is important that they have a place to perform, as well as gas money to get here.

Our education program is far more extensive than that of any other market I have come across. We work closely with University of Missouri Extension to provide training and workshops to our growers and to the public. Our work with our immigrant growers has drawn national attention, but I think all our education efforts from the Kids Community Garden to our five workshops last year on such topics as attracting and protecting pollinators and improving soil fertility have been valuable. Most of our growers have participated in workshops on food safety from field to market. (That seemed to catch the attention of the folks from USDA at the conference.)

Our installation of wireless EBT, debit and credit puts us among a handful of markets nationwide. Installing EBT (electronic benefit transfer, the new term for food stamps) in farmers markets will be a major push in the next few years by the USDA. Increasing access to fresh, local produce, often at a lower price than otherwise available, is seen as promoting good nutrition and as a wise use of public funds.

Plus to my way of thinking, it makes a lot of sense for everyone’s pocket book. After all, literally millions of dollars go through EBT to purchase produce in the state of Missouri. When spent at a farmers market, those dollars go directly to local growers and are spent again in the region. When spent at a grocery store, much of the dollars go to the grocery store which may not be locally owned and almost all of the dollars that go to growers selling through grocery stores go either out of state (to places like California) or out of the country. I’m a firm believer in sending our dollars around locally as many times as we can before we send them off to other parts of the country or world.

I could go on about what a good partner the schools are, our small business incubation program, the great support we’re given by the media, including this paper, the wonderful sense of family among our vendors (which is apparently relatively unusual at farmers markets), and our great group of volunteers, but then I wouldn’t have room to tell you what you really need to know which is what’s happening at the market today!

Lunch is chili with all the fixin’s, brownie and drink for $5. The Loose Notes will play during lunch. The market has commissioned Hazel’s Bakery to make a Halloween cookie for every child that visits today, and the Lions Club will have their drawing at 1 p.m. for their 3-wheeler.

Today is the last day of the regular season. Next week we become the Winter Market. It will be the first and third Friday of each month from 11 to 2.

It’s been a great season. Thanks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sentinel column - 10/24

At the start of the market season last spring Paul Jackson asked me if I knew anything about a drawing the Lions Club was having on the last day of market. He’d seen it advertised. I didn’t know a thing about it then but it wasn’t long before we heard from the Lions Club and sure enough they planned to do a drawing on our last day. Now that day is approaching. Next Friday, which is our last regular market day, the Lion’s Club will hold their drawing at 1 p.m.

Until then you can still buy tickets for $1 at their market booth today and next Friday. The prize is a street-legal electric three-wheeler and battery charger. It’s a one-person vehicle with storage in the rear and it travels up to 18 miles between charges.

It was a pleasant discovery that the Lions thought the market a good place for their project. One of our goals is to be a community gathering place. A friend in the Audubon Society once described the market as grand central station for local non-profits which is just what we want to be, but before your organization goes too public with plans to be at the market, give us a call so we can help your project be successful.

I continue to be surprised at the abundance at the market so late in the season. We are still loaded with green beans, peppers, squash, zucchini and a host of other veggies and we have a passel of growers.

It’s supposed to be chilly today. You may find me hovering around the chili roaster at Broken Wire’s stand. It’s warm and the peppers smell wonderful as they’re roasted. Owner Tom Lewis did a brisk business last week and I expect he’ll do the same today. It only takes a few minutes to get a gourmet treat unavailable at any other farmers market in the state.

Lunch will be just right for the weather – all-you-can-eat ham and beans, plus cornbread, fruit cobbler and a drink for $5. There will be both brown beans and white beans (that’s pinto and Great Northerns to you discriminating diners) and the beauty is that you don’t have to make a choice. You can have a mixed bowl or a bowl of each if you’re hungry enough. Actually, I’m not absolutely certain the white beans aren’t Navy or limas, personally I go with pinto every time.

If you’re a huge fan of ham and beans like my husband, you might want to bring a food storage container to the market at about 12:30 and see if there’s enough for you to buy some to enjoy this weekend. And there’s almost always plenty of cornbread to buy for taking home.

We’ll enjoy the music of Jack and Lee Ann Sours during lunch today. I hope you will take time to thank them for playing. They have entertained us as a duet, as part of a trio with Bailed Green and Wired Tight or with the quartet called the Plainfolks two or three times each month this season. The Sours drive up from south of Neosho and the musicians that play with them come from Pineville and Springfield. They know that we really appreciate them, but I’m sure they’d like to hear it from our customers as well.

Next Friday will be our last regular market day. Lunch will be chili with all the fixin’s, brownie and drink for $5. The Loose Notes will play gospel and bluegrass. It will be Halloween and a perfect day to bring the kids in their costumes for a photo with the scarecrows. The Loose Notes are such fun people, I won’t be surprised if they show up in costume, too.

We’ll soon be planning for 2009 and welcome your comments and suggestions and, of course, would also like to hear your favorite moments from this season. If you have something to share, please drop me a note at PO Box 1, Webb City, or email me at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sentinel Column - 10/17

Something new to the market, the area, and for that matter, the state, will be at the market today – fresh roasted peppers. Broken Wire Ranch will fire up a roaster at the market and roast peppers to order. It takes about five minutes to roast five pounds of peppers. The cost for roasted peppers is $2 a pound. Unroasted peppers at Broken Wire cost $1 a pound.

Broken Wire raises both sweet peppers, like Costa Ricas and Big Daddies, and hot peppers like Anaheims, New Mexico Sixes, Big Jims and Sandias.

Roasted peppers can be substituted in any recipe that calls for peppers. I’m told that roasting adds a smoky flavor and intensifies the flavor of the pepper. Pepper roasting is hugely popular at markets in the Southwest and on the West coast. We think it will be a treat for us, too.

Once the peppers are smoked, you will need to remove the skin, stem and seeds prior to using. Don’t wash them after roasting or you’ll lose the smoky flavor. Roasted peppers are best used immediately, but will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

The regular market season will end on October 31, but that doesn’t mean the end of local food.

The Holiday Market will be held, as usual, on the day before Thanksgiving at the Clubhouse. Baked goods, honey, jams and jellies, peanut brittle and possibly even some tomatoes and other veggies will be inside the building. Our meat vendors will be on the parking lot. Participating vendors are taking orders now from folks wanting specific items like pumpkin rolls, artisan breads or defrosted meat. Just stop by your favorite vendor at the market to place your order. The vendors will have extra items for customers who do not pre-order.

I love the Holiday Market because it seems so appropriate that our Thanksgiving table be loaded with the bounty from our local farms, ranches, bakeries and kitchens.

It will be from 11 to 1 on Wednesday, November 26, at the Clubhouse, 115 North Madison. The Clubhouse is the old health department between Broadway and Daughtery, now owned by the Historical Society. While you’re there be sure to look over the new exhibits on the cartoons of Nic Frising and the book by Jerry Pryor, Southwest Missouri Mining. The book had been unavailable for several years but is now reprinted and for sale at the Sentinel and the Genealogy Room at the library.

But wait! as my daughter Cora would say. There’s more!

There will be a Winter Market this year. Every first and third Friday from 11 to 2 throughout the winter, our meat vendors (and possibly other vendors) will be selling at the market. Of course, we won’t have music or meals, but many of our customers will be happy to know they can still get market products that are available in the off season.
The Winter Market will be under the north pavilion in King Jack Park. The parks department is planning to do some work on the pavilions this winter so the exact location may vary depending on what section is being repaired, but just look for those giant trailers that our meat vendors bring. They’re hard to miss.

In the meantime, the regular market will continue to be open on Fridays from 11 to 3 through October 31. We have pumpkin painting for kids, lunch and music, as well as a good supply of produce, baked goods and fall decorations.

I’ve recently been inspired by fall decorations. I just returned from a quick trip north of Sedalia to visit several small historic towns and saw some wonderful decorations. The small one-story buildings of Blackwater were decked out in fall colors. (see photo below) At each old fashioned lamppost was a pile of straw bales, corn stalks, flowers, pumpkins and a scarecrow. It was only a three-block downtown, but it was delightful. The size of the downtown and the scale of the buildings allowed the decorations to make quite an impact. I wonder if we could do the same as our small old-fashioned lampposts are installed in downtown Webb City.

Lunch at the market today is chicken potpie, garden salad, carrot cake and drink for $6. Pumpkin painting. Gospel Strings plays during lunch.

Next Friday we’ll have all-you-can-eat ham & beans, plus cornbread, fruit cobbler, and drink for $5.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sentinel column 10/10

It’s been school time for us lately. Friday before last the third graders from Eugene Field walked over for a visit. They had four stations: one with Mayor Biggs, one with our musicians Bailed Green and Wired Tight, one with me and a scavenger hunt.

It’s always fun to see what they remember to include in their thank you cards. Clearly the pumpkins were a big hit – especially the fact that Steve McLaughlin gave each of them a mini-pumpkin. I didn’t get to see the mayor’s thank yous, but I’m sure the kids were impressed.

I was pleased to see they remembered the many varieties of eggplants I showed them. Who would have thought eggplant would get their attention? But then who would think the same vegetable comes in a large purple size, a skinny green shape, a small green and white ball and a tiny but tasty tidbit?

The scavenger hunt is always fun. And was especially so that day because Resa Amos was demonstrating wool spinning and Rudi Long had buffalo skins and skulls and elk horns out for sale.

I have to wonder, though, if the music wasn’t the best. I always book Bailed Green and Wired Tight for our third grade visit. They are wonderful musicians and equally good teachers. They play lively traditional music, but they also stop to show and demonstrate the individual instruments – especially the banjo. The thank you notes were full of “awesome”s and “great”s and even one “you were my very favorite thing at the market (but don’t tell the others).”

It’s hard for eggplant to beat Appalachian mountain music.

This week has been Webster School’s turn. Their class scarecrows all came to the market on Friday.

On Wednesday I was Webster’s guest luncheon speaker. They have a guest speaker every week. I took Sammy Scarecrow, our life-sized market scarecrow, along as backup. He leads the singing at the end of the program.

It’s always a pleasure to visit Webster. The staff and teachers treat the students with such courtesy and respect and the students respond in kind. One lunch period came in and sat down so quietly I didn’t even realize they’d arrived until Mrs. Dykens complimented them on their manners. Now, when was the last time you’ve seen 120 children so well behaved? Go to Webster School where it happens every day.

I took a variety of pumpkins and squash from Frederickson Farms to show the children. I had the standard pumpkin, one that looked like something from Cinderella, a green one and one with a long neck. It’s easy to come up with something eye-popping at Fredrickson’s. They grew over 60 kinds of pumpkins and gourds this year.

Fredrickson’s sells at the market in the spring and summer, but come fall they’re busy fulltime with their business at the farm.

Steve and Tami Fredrickson are donating all the proceeds from their hayrides this weekend to the Ronald McDonald House. They hope to restock the pantry for the Joplin charity, which provides a "Home Away From Home" for the families of seriously ill children and ill expectant mothers staying at nearby hospitals. The rides are $1 each and will take place at the farm between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and between noon and 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Fredrickson Farms is located in Carl Junction just off Z highway at 303 North Grimes. The farm also sells mums, pansies, straw, and corn shocks and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm and Sundays from noon to 6 pm. For more information, call 417 649-7462.

Lunch at the market today is spaghetti & meatballs, garden salad, garlic bread, brownies and drink for $6. Bailed Green & Wired Tight play during lunch. There will be paints and brushes on two tables for kids to paint pumpkins. And, of course, Suzy and Sammy Scarecrow will pose for pictures.

The market is still loaded with all kinds of produce, including tomatoes, so come on down every Friday in October.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pretty as a fall picture

This young customer is sporting a dahlia from Urban Gardeners. The Gardeners tell me that their flowers have never looked so beautiful. Pick up a bouquet at the market.

Winners of the Scarecrow Contest

Our customers chose their favorite scarecrows & they are:

1st place - Mrs. B. Fowler's class
2nd place - Mrs. Hunter's class
3rd place - Mrs. Harter's class

Our thanks to Webster School students and staff for brightening our day!

Fall Schedule

Don't forget - during October the market is open only on Fridays from 11 to 3.

Above, Mor Xiong explains how to prepare bitter melon.
At left, we expect peppers, green beans, tomatoes, squash, etc., at the market, but Circle E Farms even has fresh peanuts and lima beans!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sentinel Column 10/3/08

It’s Scarecrow Day at the market today. Every fall each class at Webster School makes a life-sized scarecrow as part of their Fall Hoe Down, an evening when their families come to celebrate fall by reading and learning. All the teachers wear country clothes like overalls and a few of our market vendors even set up to give it an authentic harvest feel.

Today, the day after the Hoe Down, the school loads up the scarecrows and brings them to the market to share with the community. So come to the market to see the scarecrows and vote for your favorite! The winners will be announced at 2. This year every child in the winning class will receive a mini-pumpkin courtesy of McLaughlin-Logan Farms.

The market will be open every Friday in October (barring a hard freeze) from 11 to 3. The market is still loaded with produce like apples, greens, peppers, zucchini, squash and much more.

Countryside View Greenhouse will be at the market today with mums. They are big and beautiful and a very good price. We’ll also have our pork, beef, chicken, buffalo and elk vendors, as well as our jam and jelly makers, and bakers.

Lunch today is barbecued beef sandwich, pasta salad, peas, pudding and drink for $6. The Wild River Band is playing during lunch.

We’ll have the painting tables set up each Friday so folks can bring or buy a pumpkin and paint it right at the market. We often hear a word of thanks from parents and grandparents for this service. It’s one less opportunity for the furniture or carpets to end up painted. We cover the picnic tables – and the children – so most of the paint goes on the pumpkins.

Suzy and Sammy Scarecrow are at the market, ready to pose for a fall photo. We think of this as something for children, but every year we have a few adults who pose with the scarecrows as well. Sammy and Suzy even appear on television occasionally. This week they did a thumbs up for KSN, as did many of our vendors. As I watched Mor Xiong, who grew up in Laos, give a bright smile and two thumbs up, I was struck by the turns that life takes. What were the odds that Mor, who grew up speaking an unwritten language in a part of the world without radio or cars, would end up half way around the world on television giving two thumbs up?

I was interviewing Scott Yang this week in preparation for a panel he, Tim Green and I are doing in Kansas City later this month. Scott moved to the United States in 1979. In Laos, which is humid and tropical, the low temperature in winter is about 65 degrees. Imagine the shock Scott was in for when he moved to Missoula, Montana, where the winter temperatures can go below zero degrees, way below. Small wonder that he eventually made his way to Missouri.

Something that seems to be common among our immigrant farmers is their courtesy, cheerfulness and eagerness to learn and improve their skills. I guess most of us could trace our own roots to similar immigrants who took a risk and found opportunities to create a better life for their families. It continues to be a privilege for us at the market to work with these relatively new citizens, to learn from them as they in turn learn from us.

Next Friday lunch will be spaghetti and meatballs, garden salad, garlic bread, brownies and drink. Bailed Green and Wired Tight will provide the entertainment.

Going to one day a week enables us to pack the pavilions with vendors and produce. It’s harvest time!