Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sentinel column - 5-1-09

Today’s opening day and we’re looking forward to a great season. The spring weather thus far has been mild compared to the remarkably bad weather of the previous two years. Some of the strawberries were nipped by two late frosts, but we still expect a good crop to begin in a couple of weeks.

The peaches, likewise, were touch and go with those frosts, but Pate’s Orchard reports that it didn’t dip below 27 degrees and John, with the typical farmer perspective, said that the frost did some of his thinning this year.

Pate’s peaches are not big and juicy by accident. John and his crew knock most of the little peaches off the trees so that the remaining peaches can pull in all the goodness the trees have to offer. The peaches should be ready for the market by the middle or end of June.

But let’s focus on the present. We have about 12 growers coming today. There should be a variety of spring crops like spinach, lettuce, asparagus, green onions, and radishes. We’ll also have a bunch of plants. A new grower, Sue Henson from Neosho, will have some 30 varieties of heirloom tomato and pepper plants. Countryside View Greenhouse will have their wonderful array of planters, baskets, perennials and bedding plants. Fairhaven Farms will have handcrafted planters and lawn furniture. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg on our plant selection.

Why buy your plants at the market? They’re locally grown and already acclimated to our climate. You’re buying from someone who can tell you all about the plant and how to grow it. You’re recirculating your dollar locally. The money you spend at the market will likely be spent again right in southwest Missouri. And you’re supporting your local growers.

And many of those reasons hold true for any purchase you make at the market whether it’s jams and jellies, honey or baked goods, beef, pork or buffalo.
We’re opening with a bang this year. Dr. Jon Hagler, the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture, is doing the honors at 10:45. He is announcing the state’s 2009 Farmers Market of the Year (wonder who that would be?). And we are indeed honored that he and Sarah Gehring of AgriMissouri and Tony Anderson of the direct marketing division of the Ag department are driving so far to be part of our opening.

We’ll follow up at 11 (or a little later depending on the speechifying) with the ribbon cutting, the opening bell, free hotdogs and chips, free birthday cake (it’s our tenth season), and a free dogwood for each customer until we run out. Bailed Green and Wired Tight will play from 11 to 1.

Hopefully, you’ll see lots of media at the market on opening day. One outlet is coming all the way from Jefferson City. The Department of Agriculture has hired Learfield Communications to film a video to be broadcast from the department’s blog at

Speaking of the Internet, I encourage you to check out the market’s blog. It has insider’s tips (when we have a product coming in, but not enough of it to publicize, I’ll put it on the blog). In fact, there’s an insider’s tip on the blog right now.
During the market season, the blog is updated four or five times a week with photos of the market and the farms, the occasional recipe, and other market related information. The site name is too long to put here. Just Google Webb City Farmers Market and our web site and blog should come right up.

Next Tuesday, Cooking for a Cause benefits the Ozark Gateway Audubon Society. On Friday, we’ll have the Granny Chicks serenading us during lunch, which is ham and beans, cornbread muffins, brownie and drink for $5.

On Saturday, May 9, we’ll have our annual Mother’s Day Market. It will be at the pavilions from 9 to noon and will be a great time to buy a plant, some honey or baked goods or any number of other good things for the special women in your life. May 9 will also be our Let’s Plant a Garden Day when every student (all the way through college) and child receives a free tomato plant.

As I said, it’s going to be a great season. See you at the market!

Inside News

Been longing for asparagus? Shanks Farm will be at the market Friday with that epitomy of spring - fresh, local asparagus.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Twitter me some market news

If you'd like to know via twitter what's at the market, just email me at and I'll send you an invitation. Then when we get a new product at the market, I'll send you a tweet.

Inside News

We're opening Friday and there will be spinach, lettuce, green onions & - you'll only see it here - tomatoes and green beans. John Pate says he'll have about 40 quarts of his high tunnel tomatoes and a few boxes of green beans also grown in his high tunnel. They'll go fast so you may want to start at his stand just north of our new central pavilion.

There should also be an abundance of plants (including 30 heirloom tomato varieties) - perennials, veggie and flower plants, planters, baskets, even pond plants, along with koi.

More details in the Sentinel column. Read it here on Thursday!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Last day of the conference - on my way home to lovely Webb City

I'm waiting for my connection in Phoenix - three cheers for them - free wireless internet access.

The conference already seems a distant event, and by 3 am as I pull into Webb City it may seem like ancient history, so let me just jot down my thoughts now.

The conference gave me much to think about both on the nuts and bolts level of market management and on the big picture ideas of food policy, but I think the most helpful part for me was the closing talk by Fred Kent, the founder of Project for Public Spaces. His passion is, not surprisingly, public spaces - parks, squares, markets that draw people to meet, converse, relax and create community. He reminded me of how important that component is for our market. It is a continual challenge and opportunity. As we begin the new season with some major changes to our facilities, those of us who manage the market will be looking for ways to make the market more welcoming for everyone. If you have suggestions, or want to help (like our wonderful market cart driver Duane Hunt), please let me know.

See you Friday!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 2 - Public Markets Conference

It was field trip day and I took the Napa Valley tour. We started out at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. As I walked toward the market I saw lots of people walking my way with loaded bags and smiles. This market is so well known and popular that condos advertise their location as "just a short walk from the market". And what a bargain - a nice 1-bedroom for only $300,000.

Lots of shoppers had their own bags or baskets. The Ferry Plaza Market is deeply committed to reducing waste. They post staff by all the receptacles to be sure folks get waste in the right bin because everything is recycled - even the food waste is composted. At the end of May, the market will ban their vendors from using plastic bags unless they're biodegrable so there are large signs warning customers - 28 days till the end of plastic bags so start bringing your own bag or basket.

Frankly most of our farmers aren't keen on the canvas bags we sell at the market because they are afraid their produce will get smashed in them. Customers almost have to buy their produce in order of weight and fragility to keep from having to repack with each purchase. But the farmers appreciate the concept and were, in fact, the ones that asked us to stock the bags because they just hate picking up plastic bags out of the fence rows and ponds. So bring a bag or basket to the market, just be careful how you pack it. Also - our meat vendors will continue to insist on wrapping their products in plastic bags to prevent contamination of any fresh produce that might be sharing the canvas bag or basket.

But, back to the tour. We drove north to Vallejo where a market was underway on their main downtown street. Purchase - organic strawberries. California strawberries are really good when bought from a California strawberry farmer!

Next we drove up to the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Not my kind of market, too posh, too permanent, too much like an upscale food court.

Then we stopped at the Folio Winemakers Studio for a bit about winemaking and, finally, my favorite stop, Green Gulch Farm at the San Francisco Zen Center (left). When asked about wildlife problems, the head gardener Sarah said she didn't have any problems with wildlife and when pressed said that the songbirds generally took the 20' nearest the tree line but the hawks kept them from coming further out. She called the blue heron stalking through the field her gofer patrol. All very Zen.

We topped off the day with a tasting at the Ferry Terminal with tidbits from some of San Francisco's best restaurants. Yum.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's a beautiful day in San Francisco, so why am I inside blogging?

This is going to be short because fabulous as the view is from my hotel room, the City calls. Lane McConnell with Missouri Department of Agriculture insisted that you all would want to know what's happening at the International Public Markets Conference this weekend so here goes:

So far we've heard from some of the lead people in USDA, managers and market folks from Portland, OR, New Orleans, Seattle, the California FM Association, London, England, Barcelona, Spain, and Webb City. Yes, all along Jeff & Lisa Montgomery have said Webb City is the greatest in the world. Apparently, at least at this meeting, it's right up there!

The consensus is that we are in a golden age of farmers markets in the US and I have to agree. More people are eating locally, more growers are selling locally. And we're all better off for it.

More tomorrow - a reception at the Ferry Plaza Market beckons right now

Monday, April 20, 2009

On the Road Again

The market managers are visiting farms this week and next. 7 farms near Fairview are already inventoried. Above, Mor Xiong shows off some of her newly plowed garden to Paul Jackson. ("Smile, Mor!") Mor has been mentored by Hector Troyer and Tim Green, two experienced market growers, and by Jay Chism with Extension for about 18 months. One of their suggestions was creating a second garden on high ground near her home. Her original garden is very near Shoal Creek and subject to flooding. She was so pleased with last year's experience that she has quadrupled the size of her house garden and converted her river garden to rice.

Tomorrow, Marilyn and I will visit 8 farms to the north of Webb City.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pates Orchard in the News

Go to
to read about saving the peaches from the freeze.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


OK, it's not exactly a thing of beauty but for those who have tried to navigate the market in wheels - wheelchairs, wagons or strollers and for those of us who had to watch, a concrete floor is indeed a beautiful sight. Putting in a hard floor that wheels could traverse was our vendors' number one request last fall and now, thanks to a grant for materials from the Perry Foundation and installation funding from the park board, it is a reality. The project should be finished this week and cured to perfection by the time market opens.

And a special thank you to park supervisor Tom Reeder who as I write is guarding the wet concrete from pranksters.

Friday's Market

This just in from Isadora's Wonderful Things:

Friday's offerings will include:
Avocado Sandwich
Hummus Salad
Ginger Carrot Soup
Brushetta Sheets
Hearty Seeded Spelt Bread
Sesame 'Parm'
Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Nuts over Peachy Granola


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

So far so good on peaches

John Pate of Pate's Orchard just called to say the orchard made it through the latest freeze with minimal damage - it got down to 26 degrees which mean some of the crop was lost but, ever the optimist, John says that will just save them a lot of thinning time and result in bigger peaches.

We don't have the full report on strawberries yet. Several of our smaller strawberry growers report no damage. Fredrickson Farms lost all their blooms in the freeze last week and haven't uncovered the plants yet to see what this week's freeze might have done. As long as the plants are not damaged (and they should not be), the berry harvest will just be be shorter than usual.

The high tunnel tomatoes are thriving. John Pate and Tim Green report fruit on the vine and Hector Troyer said his weathered the freeze fine despite an outside temperature of 23 degrees.

Photo at top by Barb Pate. Below, John Pate shows Resa Amos his high tunnel during the spring market inspection in March.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Winter Market - Friday, April 3

We'll have produce on Friday! Troyer's Vegetables should have loads of tender young spinach and possibly some lettuce, as well as tomato plants. (above - Extension agronomist Jay Chism demonstrates tomato pruning at Hector & Louis' farm last year) Fredrickson Farms is bringing lettuce, herb plants and cabbage and broccoli plants. We expect Amos Apiaries to be there with their local honey and honey products. Fairhaven will have their jams and jellies and handcrafted lawn furniture. Their gliders are proving to be a big hit. & don't forget the baked goods, meats, eggs, plants and cut spring flowers.

Isadora's Wonderful Things will serve black bean chili and have added chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies to their selection.

The market will be open 11 to 2 just west of the Kneeling Miner. Additional parking is available east of the Kneeling Miner, in front of the Chamber of Commerce.