Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sentinel column - 4/30/10

Today’s the day – the first day of the regular season and, though not all of our farmers are ready, our customers sure are. I was in Lowe’s at Carthage yesterday and upon checking out the cashier noticed my credit card said Webb City Farmers Market. “Oh, when is the market opening?” Followed by many questions on hours, days and what’s in the fields. The same thing happens everywhere – at Fed Ex, the post office, on the street. We’re excited that you’re excited.

So what will be at the market? Radishes, and pea tops, lettuce (photo is of Nhai Xiong's lettuce in the field) and green onions - both baby and mature - baby spinach and boc choy. At least that’s what we saw last week when we began farm visits. There will probably be more choices by now.

There will be lots of plants. I know of at least 40 varieties of tomato plants, plus other vegetables, herbs, flowers, hanging baskets and perennials.

We’ll have baked goods, raw milk, jams and jellies, honey, frozen blueberries, pork, beef, chicken, lamb, elk, buffalo and eggs.

Jack and Lee Ann Sours play their fiddle and guitar from 11 to 1. The streetcar, weather permitting, runs from 11 to 1. We have free hot dogs and chips beginning at 11 and free redbud seedlings and blackberries starts as well – one to a customer, please, so we can take care of 350 folks.

At 10:45, we have a special presentation, then Tom Reeder will cut the ribbon for the 2010 season. Tom is our Champion of the Year, chosen by the board for the exceptional work he’s done throughout the park system. On Friday you will see the latest improvement completed by his team. The brown barn is gone and the park folks have cleared and leveled the site and laid in gravel for parking. We should be able to park an additional 20 – 30 cars right across from the pavilion and have an extra 10 feet or more for traffic. Hopefully this year, it won’t feel like a demolition derby at opening.

Other improvements you’ll see at the pavilion that were undertaken by the market itself – a new building to the north for storage of the cooking and eating supplies. We’ll be flipping the food to the north end and moving the meat trailers to the south end this year. The pavilion trim has been painted, as well as the ceiling of the south section. As time allows, we’ll get all the ceilings painted. We’ve also painted all the benches and picnic tables. Our wonderful volunteer Rick Ford painted our wagon and the highway sign just this week.

Marilyn and I have been visiting vendors. It’s still early for many, but most have a good start and some took a chance on the weather, planting very early. This year, that paid off and you will see an abundance of spring produce at the Xiong and Lee tables. We were surprised to find two farms way behind in planting and at both farms the reason was the same. An elderly grandmother had been ill and the family was devoting their time to her care. It was endearing to hear Zoua Hang speak of his grandmother’s love of gardening and how she inspired him to be a farmer. It was also endearing to see him walking hand in hand beside the field with his four-old-daughter who was such a pretty child in a bright pink summer dress with perfectly new pink shoes. Suddenly he whisked her into his arms and cried out for my benefit “snake!” as a very large black snake slithered by. Harmless but not something Zoua intended to come close to his daughter or guest.

We’ve done a lot of training this winter and we are seeing the fruits of that on our visits. But that will wait for later. After all, we have 26 weeks of columns coming up.

In the meantime, come to the market today and help us celebrate a new season of abundance and community.