Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Webb City Sentinel column - 8/7/10

We have a special occasion today (Friday) from 11 to 1 – the retirement reception for Bill and Kay McLaughlin of Hazel’s Bakery. Kay and Bill have sold at the market for a decade. At one time they were baking for both Tuesday and Friday and preparing and serving the Friday meal. During Kay’s first years she usually baked through the night prior to market, going some 33 hours without much rest. Over time, she and Bill became more efficient at baking a vanload of pies, cakes, cookies and breads and getting a little sleep too. For the last couple of years, they sold only on Fridays.

We are certainly going to miss their goodies. Kay was well known for her pies and cakes, and Bill for his fruit breads and cookies. They don’t plan to abandon the market entirely. Bill helps his son, Bill, Jr., sell corn on Fridays and Kay plans to continue as a market customer and hopes to volunteer some at the market.

As famous as Kay is for her baked goods, I am equally famous for grabbing volunteers. I think it was two whole days after Kay told me she wanted to volunteer that I put her to work. A Globe reporter called needing a source for a story on relish. I called Kay and told her that her first volunteer job was to be featured on the Globe food page. We’ll have the article at today’s reception, along with photos of Kay and Bill from past markets, cookies from Trish Reed who took over the Friday meals, and a card for customers to sign (or better yet – bring your own card).

Today (Friday) is special for a couple of other reasons. Marlee’s Creamery is back with their raw milk after an absence of several weeks. They will be at the market on Tuesdays and Fridays and hope to eventually get back to Saturdays, too.

Also the market will conduct a “dot survey” today. It’s quick, easy, and – dare I say it? – fun. There are only four questions, each with several answers to choose from. We had 210 customers participate in the survey on Saturday and their responses told us that a majority (65%) of our Saturday customers travel 10 miles or less to the market, a quarter of our Saturday customers come to the market at least once a week while 33% of them come two or three times a month (19% were at the market for the very first time), most of our Saturday customers learned about the market through word of mouth, and most customers planned to spend $10 or more at the market.

This information will provide a baseline for a grant project that the market submitted to the USDA’s specialty crop program. If we get the grant, and we think we will, the market will organize a publicity program for about 25 markets in south Missouri. It will provide a daily cooking show featuring one of the markets and a crop in season and will be aired on a Joplin television station and a Springfield television station. There will also be a major internet presence as part of the project.

Webb City is providing the baseline information for the Joplin viewing area. I was at Fair Grove Wednesday doing the survey at their market to provide the baseline for the Springfield area.

If we get the grant, we’ll conduct the surveys again next year at the two markets. A successful project will show increases in numbers of customers, in the amount spent by customers and in customers identifying television and the internet as their introduction to the markets. Grantors are big on hard data and this survey will give us a firm foundation on which to build our data, so I hope you will take three minutes today to participate.

Also, happening today – lunch is spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, chocolate cake and drink for $6. Bailed Green & Wired Tight play from 11 to 1.

Tomorrow (Saturday), breakfast is served from 9 to 11 by volunteers from Lafayette House, our regional domestic violence shelter. The Missouri Mountain Gang livens up the market from 9:30 to 11:30 with their joyous bluegrass. There will be free streetcar rides from 10 to noon.

On Tuesday, Cooking for a Cause is served by the Webb City High School Choir Boosters.

I want to end with a thank you. With the incredible heat we’ve been experiencing, I half expected our customers to stay home in air-conditioning. I have to admit, had I the choice, I might have stayed in. But we had over 700 customers at the market Tuesday, even though our thermometer read 104 degrees. NALA had a profitable day serving lunch and the growers sold a good amount of produce. That kind of customer loyalty makes all the difference to our vendors who work hard to grow and gather produce regardless of the weather. So three cheers for our wonderful customers. Thank you.