Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Webb City Sentinel Column 6-25-10

We should have loads of sweet corn today (Friday). Troyers, Wells and Fairhaven are all bringing corn. Wells and Fairhaven plan to be at the market tomorrow as well. There will be plenty of choices. Want spray-free? Go to the Wells Farm at the central entrance. Want bi-color? Troyer’s the place. Like your corn pre-shucked? Wells and Fairhaven will have some ready for cooking. (That's Ron Wells stripping some corn during the market inspection last week.)

Panhia Vang returns to the market today and tomorrow with her lovely green beans. Pates will have the first early peaches. Broken Wire tells me that he has 140 green bell peppers ready for today’s market. Blueberries are still coming in and blackberries are entering into full harvest. In other words, it’s a great time to come to the market, but do try to get there in the first two hours because we can’t count on supply meeting demand.

Hazel’s Bakery won’t be at the market today. The Webb City High School Choir Boosters are filling in with a bake sale. They’ll be set up in Hazel’s place right next to the information table. On Saturdays, that space is filled by Lynette Rector who owns Freda Mae’s in Pierce City. Her meringue pies, granola and breakfast pastries are proving to be very popular.

The Kids Community Garden returns to the market with bouquets of flowers tomorrow. We had our first two “kid” vendors Tuesday and received many compliments on their deportment. Tim and Zach were eager sales people and clearly thrilled when making a sale.

Gardening is an important learning opportunity for the children. They learn about plants, about harvesting, about weeding – a lot, and the benefits of mulching to cut down on that weeding. But just as importantly, they learn to stay on task and to work cooperatively. They learn that results sometimes take time. You plant, you care for the plant and then two months later (if it doesn’t hail and bugs don’t invade and if the weather cooperates), you harvest.

When they sell at the market, each child takes a walk through the market with a manager who points out different styles (how many vendors do you see sitting down? None.), display methods (how do the vendors use color?), and products. The young vendors, like all our vendors, set their own prices, make their own price cards, select and arrange their bouquets, restock their table, engage the customers, make change and prepare the bouquets for travel. Each Tuesday and Saturday a different couple of kids will harvest and sell at the market. They divide their sales in thirds, each child gets a third and the market takes a third to pay their sales tax and cover some of the plant purchases – because we also want them to learn that running a successful business requires an investment.

I need to say a thank you to a couple of customers who gave us some important feedback. One was about the ingredients in the baked goods. The customer pointed out that people with food allergies or who are vegan or vegetarian might hesitate to buy baked goods since the ingredients are not always listed. At the market, the seller is also the baker. Like in a bakery, the baker can tell you exactly what is in each item and even how it was prepared. So we have put a sign by each baker inviting customers to ask about ingredients if they have special dietary requirements. That way they can get it straight from the baker’s mouth.

Another customer asked what our Asian farmers used for fertilizer. Apparently he had been overseas and seen farming practices that were not safe. I had wondered why some folks steered clear of the Asian growers and that explains it. So this gives me the chance to say that all our growers, Asian included, have gone through food safety training, which includes training on the safe use of fertilizer. When we make farm visits, we always review food safety practices including fertilizer and irrigation sources. In the case of our Asian farmers, that’s a lot of visits since last year University of Missouri Extension received a grant, which enabled a horticulturist to visit each Asian farmer once a week all summer. And what the horticulturist found was not a fertilizer safety problem, but a lack of fertilizer. So Extension and the market spent a lot of time and effort making sure our Asian farmers know how to safely and correctly apply fertilizer in order to improve their productivity.

I really appreciate the customer bringing up this concern so it could be addressed. Food safety is a top priority at the market and we want our customers to know that every grower has been trained and inspected to make sure that we are fresh, local and SAFE.

Lunch today is lasagna, tossed salad, garlic bread, cookies and drink for $6. There will also be a luncheon salad for $4 for vegetarians and light eaters. Bailed Green and Wired Tight will play.

Tomorrow Crimestoppers serves breakfast and the Loose Notes play.