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!