Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Webb City Sentinel column - 9/25/09

Fall fell on us with a vengance Tuesday. Cold, wet and dreary all day. It felt like winter, but I can’t help hoping for better. Hanging around with farmers forces me to be an optimist so I expect our brilliant fall weather to kick in soon.

It’s a favorite time of year for me – crisp air, crisp apples, colorful leaves, colorful pumpkins, heaps of green beans and winter squash, and the approach of quieter, calmer times.

Next week, with the arrival of October, the market goes to its fall schedule of Fridays only from 11 to 2. That means that tomorrow is our last Saturday market for the season.

I think I can safely say that Saturday markets have been well received and will be sorely missed. Many of our customers simply can’t come to market during the week so Saturday is their only option. However, as fall approaches, the fields and gardens are producing less and our customers begin to dwindle as well. Going to one day a week allows us to maintain a substaintial supply of both produce and customers. Customers want the former and vendors need the latter. Unfortunately for our Saturday customers, Friday continues to be our biggest day of the week by far. Typically, our vendors sell 50% to 100% more on Friday than on either Tuesday or Saturday. As long as Friday is our big day, that’s the one we have to stick with when we go to one day a week.

But if you can only come on Saturdays, be sure to stop by Organic Way tomorrow. They are hoping to organize a CSA in the Webb City area. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and I think is currently only available in the Columbia and Kansas City areas. Farms that operate a CSA sell shares in their crop in the spring. Then as harvest arrives, members of the CSA receive a box of produce each week, usually at a single off-farm distribution point. In our case, that would be somewhere in or near Webb City. CSAs help farms by literally providing seed money in the spring and spreading the risk. If a crop fails, the CSA members share the loss. On the other hand, CSA members reap the rewards of bumper crops, can count on a box of produce each week from a farm they know and don’t have to worry about the farmer being sold out before they arrive. Organic Way currently has a CSA program that distributes in Kansas City so they can tell you all about how it works.

Just a note about the name, Organic Way was named before the federal government legislated a certified organic program. Organic Way does not participate in the federal program, but does use organic, chemical-free methods on their farm.

We’re expecting a crowd of students from Eugene Field today. Each year the students walk to the market, visit with the mayor, do a scavenger hunt at the market, learn about fresh veggies and local farms, listen to the music and enjoy one of Hazel’s cookies on their walk home.

This year, Jerry Fisher, mayor-pro-tem, is stepping in with a talk about city government while the kids enjoy a ride on the streetcar. The streetcar will be running from about noon to 1:30 and you are welcome to take a free ride and learn about Webb City along with the students.

The scavenger hunt is always fun. Each class receives a list of things to find out, like why there is dark honey and light honey or how far does the furthest farmer come. They interview customers and vendors to find out why they come to the market. It is always a fun experience for us and for the students.

In past years, we’ve also had Greg Estes with his sheep dogs when the students visit, but Greg is currently without sheep dogs. He’s been through three puppies this year, but hasn’t found one with the right temperment for herding. He has to wait for the right dog, so we will have to wait, too. Maybe next year.

Today’s lunch is chicken and noodles, corn, roll, yellow cake and drink for $6. Jack and Lee Ann Sours play traditional music.

Tomorrow the Webb City High School Choir Boosters serve breakfast and also host a bake sale. Breakfast has become a real hit at the market and a good fundraiser for local good causes. It’s our last breakfast of the season. Don’t miss it.

Another great reason to come tomorrow is that the Missouri Mountain Gang is playing from 9:30 to 11:30. They are a terrific bluegrass group from Ozark. They will also be playing at 4:00 pm over at the Carl Junction Bluegrass Festival. We have flyers at the information table with the Festival’s schedule.

Tuesday is our last Tuesday market of the season and, hence, our last Cooking for a Cause of the season. Stain Glass Theater will serve the meal and receive the profits. William Adkins will perform from 11 to 1.

Since it’s our last Tuesday, it will also be the last day for Lorraine Yoder, our new Tuesday baker. I bought her cinnamon rolls last week and they have been terrific. My only complaint is that they disappear too fast. I will definitely be stocking up on cinnamon rolls and sticky buns Tuesday – unless you beat me to them.