Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sentinel Column - 10-30-09

So what is it with Fridays in October this year? The forecast, as I write this column, indicates that yesterday’s high was 70 degrees and today’s 56! And that’s probably the warmest Friday we’ve had all month.

Well, at least we have the right meal for chilly weather today – all-you-can-eat chili, plus cornbread, cookies and a drink for $6. And if it’s just too cold to consider al fresco dining, you can always get it to go and enjoy it in your warm kitchen while you think of me bundled up at the market. The Loose Notes are scheduled to play from 11 to 1.

We’re transitioning at the market. Winter Market starts next Friday but, except for the lack of music and a meal, it will look much the same to our customers. I, however, have started wearing some different hats – not that you won’t see me at the Winter Market running the token machine. I’ve been working on the market’s training program. That means organizing seven different workshops, plus helping with the state’s workshops. Luckily I don’t have to run the latter, just help select locations and topics.

A couple of weeks ago I told my husband, Phil, that I was savoring the fact that I had no presentations scheduled. During the past year, I ended up in about five different towns in Missouri, and in several other states, doing presentations on various market topics. The very afternoon I was savoring all this free time, I was called about doing two presentations in St. Joseph and two in Wichita (which, of course, I will do because I’m a big believer in sharing information). Then last week, I got a call from the board of the new O’Fallon farmers market asking if they could drive over to Webb City to get some pointers. That’s a four-hour drive each way! Yesterday, I provided information a North Carolina market wanting to know how we got our non-profit status (all those training workshops probably has something to do with it) and today I communicated with the manager of a market in Houston, Texas, about our meals at the market. Their health department requires a $70 special permit every time they serve a meal at the market even though their vendor has a certified kitchen and caterer’s license. It reminded me how thankful I am that we have a health department that facilitates our activities, while providing the guidance and training needed to make sure the public is safe. My advice to her was to move to Jasper County.

We are fortunate in many ways to be in our neck of the woods. Most of our market workshops are the result of our great relationship with the University of Missouri Extension. The first market workshop, on Tuesday, November 2, will be on irrigation, with an emphasis on low-tech systems and will be on the Crowder Neosho campus. You may think that’s an odd location for a Webb City Farmers Market workshop, but we try to move the workshops around. Many of our farmers are located in Newton and McDonald counties, so Neosho will be a great location for them. Plus we invite the farmers of all the area markets to attend our workshops, as well as the general public. It’s our way of sharing the (knowledge) wealth with the whole region that gives us support.

Then we have a workshop on Monday, November 9, at the Southwest Research Center in Mount Vernon. It will be a farmer/rancher grant-writing workshop. Details on both workshops are on our blog:

Speaking of grant writing, we just received word that Webb City is the only market in the state to receive a 2010 Specialty Crops grant from the USDA (and we might be the only market in the country to receive the grant two years in a row!). The grant will allow us to work with Extension to put on regional workshops on high tunnels and on food safety.

This is the final market column of the season. News about the Winter Market and Holiday Market will appear in the news briefs. So it’s time to say thank you – to our wonderful volunteers like Marilyn Thornberry, Don McGowan, Duane Hunt, Sharon Nations, Donna Krudwig and Rick Ford. To our great non-profits who run Cooking for a Cause and the Benefit Breakfast. To General Mills and Schreiber for their generous food donations to the same. To the dozens of volunteers who help during various special market activities. To the Missouri Arts Council for their support of our music program and all the musicians who play at the market. To Tom Reeder, the park workers and the city for all they do and have done to make the market better. To Rochelle DeLucia and the master gardeners who supervise the Kids’ Community Garden. To the school for letting us share with students about local food and local farmers. To the area media who keep the community informed as to what’s happening and what’s in season at the market, especially to the Sentinel and Wise Buyer who go way beyond the call of duty. And, of course, to our vendors and customers to whom, in the end, the market owes all its success. We wish for you a wonderful winter, made all the better by the local produce, baked goods, honey and other goodies at the Winter Market. See you at the market!