Friday, January 29, 2010

Americaners for Haiti

Bert Ott, our Bavarian baker, is planning his own tasty fundraising event at next Friday (February 5) farmers market. He will have a tray of Americaners and ask that customers make a donation for each Americaner they take (he'll have about 40). All funds donated will go to Haiti relief through the Salvation Army and Red Cross.

So what's an Americaner? It's a small flat cake - like a pancake - that is iced on one side. & if Bert makes it, it's yummy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It looks immodest but...

the most recent post to the Institute for Social and Economic Developement's Remarkable Women series does capture many of the good things about our market:

Eileen Nichols: A Remarkable Woman in Agriculture
Submitted by Daniel Krotz on Thu, 01/28/2010 - 11:20
in Refugee Agricultural Promotion Projects BlogNews

Eileen Nichols, Director of the Webb City Farmers Market in Webb City, Missouri, had been pondering the idea of a farmers market in Webb City for a while, although she says, “I didn’t know anything about farmers markets; I just thought they happened organically.” At first she imagined that her involvement would be simply opening and closing the market Little did she know how her vision would grow into the thriving market it has become (including winning the Missouri Market of the Year award in 2009), and Eileen’s work is resonant in nearly all aspects of it’s success. Since its inception ten years ago, the Webb City Farmers Market has grown from 3 vendors to 54 last season, including 30% immigrant growers. It has become a community center, a place where customers and farmers not only interact but also become invested in one another.

When Eileen thinks about the market’s success, she says the “best thing we did when we started” was asking for a mentor from a neighboring town’s market, the Greater Springfield Farmers Market. The mentor attended an early organizational meeting in Webb City and suggested that the market should limit its vendors to producers only, which Eileen says has been critical to its success. Eileen’s experience working with media has also been an asset; the local newspaper supports the market with free advertising. Another successful component has been site visits: in a policy developed by Eileen, every long-season vendor is visited twice yearly by an inspection team of managers and board members, while short-season vendors are visited once. This practice not only promotes food safety, it gives growers an opportunity to learn about different techniques and for the market managers and board to better know the growers.

The visits were helpful when Eileen met with Hmong farmers eager to sell at the market. Four years ago Eileen was not aware of the Hmong farming community; they now make up 75% of the produce growers at the market. However when they began selling she noticed that the Hmong farmers were taking a lot of their traditional Asian produce home, unable to find customers. After a site visit to learn about their practices Eileen found funding for a project with five Hmong families, including workshops and a farm field day where farmers learned about caging tomatoes and peppers. Eileen has witnessed trust grow between the farmers and mentors as new techniques are implemented, as well as customer education, such as recipes and tastings at the market of traditional Hmong vegetables. “One farmer,” she says, “implemented everything beautifully. I was so pleased when she called and asked where she could buy more tomato cages.”

When asked what she likes about working with farmers, Eileen says simply that farmers impress her. “They have a clear understanding that what is good for the market is good for their bottom line.” For example, the farmers decided to allocate 20% of the market budget to Cooking for a Cause, a weekly meal prepared by market volunteers, the proceeds of which go to local non-profits, from the Humane Society to Friends of the Library. Additionally, farmers voted to allocate up to half of their vendor fees to the market’s music budget, allowing for live music at every market. The farmers understand how important both programs are to building the community spirit and atmosphere around which the market has grown. When asked in a survey about problems they wanted to address, farmers spoke first about making the market more accessible to customers through better management of parking and traffic, as well as installing a hard surface under the pavilion (which was completed in the 2009 season) to ease access for wheelchairs and strollers. An appreciation of everything the market brings is shared by farmers and customers who value access to local produce and view the market as a community resource. “Even in scary economic times,” says Eileen, the market is mutually beneficial for the community and growers.

With the success of the Webb City Farmers Market, Eileen receives many calls from others wanting to start farmers markets in their towns and seeking advice. While she is happy to discuss Webb City’s unique successes and challenges, ultimately Eileen believes that “farmers markets are the essence of local. If you could clone it, it would lose the value. You can take ideas from others, but it needs to reflect each individual community. What works for your community is what you need to be aiming for.” Fortunately for Webb City, Eileen has helped to create a market that reflects the needs of farmers and customers while growing community.

To learn more about the Webb City Farmers Market visit:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Maybe we won't be swimming by the alley this year

Remember the downpours we had last year?

Thanks to our nice concrete floor we were high and dry, but the vendors who park and work on the east side of the pavilion were in a pool and even when it wasn't raining they often were unloading on wet ground, getting both their shoes and the concrete muddy.

The city is working to correct that problem this week, recontouring the drainage and installing gravel.

Three cheers for Webb City!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Call for Friday Meal Vendor

The Webb City Farmers Market is accepting proposals for a Friday meal vendor.

The Friday lunch at the market, served between 11 and 1, is a set menu, changing weekly. Typically between 70 and 100 meals are served each week. The meal cost last year was $6 and usually included the entrée, two sides, dessert and drink.
The market is open from May through October.

Persons interested in submitting a proposal for the 2010 season should contact Eileen Nichols at 673-5866 or email

The call for proposals may be found at:

Proposals will be accepted until February 5.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blueberry Recipe - Let me know when it's ready and I'll be right over!!

Frozen blueberries work as well as fresh for cooking. Here’s a recipe to try:

Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. In a small bowl, beat together egg and milk. Stir milk and egg into flour mixture. Mix in the butter and fold in the blueberries. Set aside for 1 hour.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot with butter and syrup or brown sugar.

Phil and I made this recipe for our Sunday school class and it was REALLY good. My only complaint about the blueberries - I bought 1 gallon on Friday and three days later the gallon is half gone! It'll never last two weeks at this rate. Next time, I'm buying two gallons.

No Redings Mill Bakery Tomorrow

Redings Mill has a water leak and everyone in the village will be without water for the next couple of days while repairs are made. That means the Bakery won't be able to operate and we'll be without our wonderful wood-fired brick oven breads at market tomorrow. Bummer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Frozen Blueberries Anyone?

Double J Blueberry Farm of Fairland, Oklahoma, plans to be at the market this Friday with their gallon bags of frozen blueberries. The berries are grown on about 5 acres without chemicals and are frozen without washing (freezing without washing is recommened by blueberry experts). The very full gallon bags sell for $15 each.

At right -
a photo taken of one of the farm's freezers full of berries during today's farm visit.

Marlee's Creamery

There's a nice story in the Globe today on Marlee's Creamery at
Marlee's will be at the market this Friday.

In the photo above, owner Mark Robinson shows us his sparkling clean dairy operation during the market inspection.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Black Forest Bakery on Friday

We just got word that Bert fell on the ice and broke his wrist so he won't be baking for a while. He and Daffol hope to be at the Winter Market on February 5th.

A Remarkable Farmer

The Institute for Social and Economic Development recently featured Mor Xiong, one of our growers, on their web site. We are sad that Mor has moved back to Minnesota. Her husband, who speaks very little English, has health problems. The Hmong population in Minnesota is so large that all hospitals have Hmong translators which is necessary for Mor's husband to understand his treatment. We will miss her.


Mor Xiong. a farmer near Ritchie, MO sells at the Webb City Farmers Market above.

Farmer Mor Xiong grows produce for market in two gardens, and also raises chickens and cattle for her family’s consumption. She grows traditional Asian vegetables such as bitter melon, as well as a broad range of locally popular vegetables like tomatoes, onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, and lettuce. Born in Laos, Mor and her family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand in 1983. On October 29, 1986 (she remembers the date instantly) she and her family moved to the United States: first to Colorado, then to Wisconsin due to the large Hmong population there, before settling near Ritchie, Missouri in 2006 to be near family and to move away from the cold.

It was then she met Eileen Nichols, Director of the Webb City Farmers Market, where Mor is now a regular vendor from May through October. Eileen calls Mor “highly motivated, not only working hard in her gardens but taking advantage of learning opportunities as well.”

Since arriving in Missouri she has participated in workshops and mentoring provided by the Webb City Farmers Market and has incorporated many of the best practices she has learned. One of her greatest leaps of faith, at the suggestion of her market mentors, was her decision to install a new farmhouse garden. Originally, Mor worked one river garden near Shoal Creek, which has deep, fertile soil, but flooded the banks five times in 2008 alone, causing her to lose many plants. Mor’s market mentors urged her to consider adding garden space away from the river as insurance, but Mor was skeptical because the new garden site near her house has rocky soil. After the mentors described methods for improving soil, she began to believe the new site could be successful. As of the 2009 season, Mor is significantly expanding her farmhouse garden and moving her Shoal Creek garden further from the water.

Mor reflects on both the benefits and challenges of farming and selling at the Webb City Farmers Market. First, she is grateful for the tangible benefits: money to provide for her family. When asked what she likes about her work, she first responds, “Everything!” She then says she likes days selling at the market the best because it is easy work compared to farming (which is largely done by hand in very hot weather). Secondly, Mor likes the market because she gets to see everyone, and there is “lots of laughing.”

Getting to know her fellow farmers and customers has been a tangible benefit of joining the farmers market, particularly the family of one of her mentors, Tim Green. Happy to help a fellow farmer, Tim has made several trips to Mor’s farm (an eighty-mile round trip) to discuss farming techniques. As Eileen says, “The Greens have, in some ways, adopted Mor, providing change, making signs, and generally watching out for her.” Tim, who owns a greenhouse, even grew some of her Asian produce and saved seed for Mor, knowing the risk she took with the river garden. When the river flooded and Mor lost all of her plants, she had seeds from Tim to try again.

Flooding is a big challenge Mor faces, and, ironically, so is drought. Although her farmhouse garden is irrigated, her river garden has no access to power so she must haul water from the creek to keep plants alive in August (there is often no rain from mid-July through September.) With this limited method, she can only keep a small fraction of the garden producing. Another challenge for Mor is language barriers and math literacy. While in the past her daughters helped her to overcome language barriers, they no longer live nearby. Asked who helps her now, she tells Eileen, “you, only you.” Eileen explains, “As market manager, and as her friend, I help her with her sales tax records and forms, as I do with most of our Hmong farmers and several of our native-born farmers.” The Webb City Farmers Market is planning to offer English as a Second Language instruction to immigrant farmers.

“I am a huge fan of Mor’s,” says Eileen. “When she first came to the market, she made a terrible impression on us volunteer managers. She seemed bitter and demanding. But then the true Mor emerged. I think we got the first inkling when she came up to the information table holding a flower bouquet for each manager and shyly said ‘Will you marry me?’ Mor has a wonderful sense of humor, works incredibly hard and is always dependable. We are very glad she is one of our market’s growers.”