Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sentinel Column - 5-14-10

At Tuesday’s market we had strawberries! Today we should have hundreds of quarts of local strawberries bursting with flavor.

Other new produce at the market Tuesday included broccoli, peas, new potatoes, head lettuce and garlic. Add all the other spring produce in season (and the items I don’t even know about yet) and you’ll find loaded tables at the market.

Today we have Irish music by the Springfield group Reel Greene between 11 and 1. Lunch is barbecue chicken breast, stuffing, corn, cake and drink for $6. The Reed’s have added a green luncheon salad to the menu for $4 for those who want to eat light or vegetarian. For an extra dollar, dessert and a drink can be added to the salad.

Next Tuesday, Cooking for a Cause benefits Crime Stoppers. This organization is new locally, but has operated nationwide since 1976. The community-based organization offers rewards of up to $1,000 for anonymous tips that solve crimes. Nationwide since 1976, Crime Stopper tips have resulted in 524,755 arrests and in 862,460 criminal cases being cleared. Stolen property worth $1,087,244,449 has been recovered through the tips and $2,973,998,403 in drugs have been seized. You can take a “bite out of crime” and a burger on Tuesday. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that.)

Now for a complete change of topic - my aching body reminds me why I manage the market and don’t grow the food. I just finished a three-hour stint in the Kids Community Garden on Aylor Street. The kids planted flowers and then I stayed to put down straw mulch in hopes of keeping the weeds in check. We try to have the students do most of the work, but tender young plants need to be mulched gently and with care and that can be pretty challenging for 15 very active kids. I did have three students mulch the sturdiest of the newly planted flowers – the giant sunflowers. The other children will get their chance to mulch later after the plants have grown a bit and can stand up to a bit rougher treatment.

We’re devoting a major part of the kids garden this year to cutting flowers in hopes that they will be able to sell them at the Saturday market throughout the summer. Violet Green from Shoal Creek grew the plants for us in her greenhouse. There will be zinnias, asters, cosmos, and sunflowers of every size. Just for fun, the garden is lined with marigolds. The students are, of course, very interested in selling at the market. They see dollars, we see experience in working with the public and in marketing and business skills.

Market growers Tim Green and Dale Mermoud are working with us at the garden. Fredrickson Farms in Carl Junction serves as our outdoor laboratory, hosting the children for behind-the-scenes farm tours.

Tami and Steve Fredrickson have a passion for passing on their love of farming to students. They have worked with the Carl Junction FFA for many years and have developed an internship program at the farm, combining a summer job and extensive training for up to four students.

Fredrickson Farms was one of two farms at our market that received grants from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education). That’s a federal program that awarded small grants to fewer than 50 farms in the entire Midwest. We were pleased that two of our farms had projects deemed worthy of selection.

Fredrickson Farms will expand their internship program, using two older, experienced students as mentors to two younger at-risk students this summer. The grant will help with the salary expenses for the mentors. You will see the Fredrickson mentors and interns at the market this season.

Sunny Lane Farm received a grant to capture and reuse rainwater through gravity and solar power. The water will be directed away from the barn pens where it created a muddy mess to watering troughs in the various pastures through which their cattle are rotated.

Both projects will serve as models for other farmers and ranchers throughout the United States.

Strawberries and spinach salad is the essence of seasonal eating. There are only about three weeks of the year that we can enjoy that combination of local produce. This easy recipe is from the University of Missouri Extension Family Nutrition Education Program:

2 cups sliced strawberries
9 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
Mix berries and spinach in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, mix dressing ingredients well.
Pour over salad and serve.