Thursday, April 28, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 4/29/11

We’re loaded with spring produce at the market. I always find it remarkable that some of our farmers have such early crops when I haven’t even managed to get the market’s Kids Community Garden tilled, much less planted yet. (Don’t give up hope, kids, just as soon as the ground is dry enough, we’ll get started – maybe by July. No, really in the next couple of weeks.)

When we made farm visits two weeks ago, we saw fields full of young spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, boc choy, radishes, and more. There were seedlings of the warm weather crops like eggplant, squash and zucchini sprouting. Many of our farmers raise their own tomato and pepper plants and already had them in the ground. That is always risky because of late frosts and spring deluges. Hopefully, they have survived but I noticed that the farmers had more plants in their greenhouses in case they had to replant.

We found that many of our farmers had considerably expanded their planting fields this year. Several have doubled their fields. Hopefully that will mean more produce at the market. (The Lees have increased their fields by 30% - above, cabbages were well underway at the Lee Farm a couple of weeks ago.) Last year was our first year ever that sales didn’t grow substantially. We think two factors cut our typical 30% – 60% growth – difficulty of parking and lack of produce. If the weather cooperates even a little, we should have the latter problem solved. We continue to work with the parks to solve the traffic and parking issues.

Another expansion we’ve seen this year is in the egg department. Joe Palmer of Fairhaven Gardens keeps a careful eye on what the market needs. Joe has been on our board for several years and really goes the extra mile to make ours a good market. He noticed that we didn’t have a good supply of eggs so went out and bought 200 chicks! When we visited this spring, we found three new chicken houses all crafted by Joe with special features like exterior doors to the nesting boxes so eggs could be collected and nests could be cleaned without disturbing the hens.

We found the hens enjoying the great outdoors – in good weather they always get a couple of hours to range the grassy areas outside their large penned chicken yard. On Joe’s covered front porch is a large pen with chicks hatched right on the farm and a brood hen. That way Joe’s wife Carrole can keep a close eye on them and spoil them rotten.

So for the first time since we opened, we have plenty of eggs at every market.

Today (Friday 4/29) we have two fundraisers. The Freedom Shamrocks football and cheer team will sell English ivy and vinca transplanted to pots from the yard of one of the team grandmothers. How’s that for local and loving? The money raised will help buy equipment and uniforms for the 13 to 18-year-olds involved in the team.

The Viper traveling baseball team will sell chances on a handmade quilt (surprise – it’s made by a team member’s grandmother – what would kids do without their grandparents?). The quilt has a Route 66 theme. Chances are $1 per ticket or 6 tickets for $5. The Vipers are 7, 8 and 9-year-olds.

Lunch today (Friday 4/29)is all-you-can-eat ham and beans, plus cornbread, cake and drink for $6. The Granny Chicks from Neosho play from 11 to 1.

On Tuesday, one of our local PEOs serves Cooking for a Cause. The funds they raise go to college scholarships. Bill Adkins will play from 11 to 1.

Next Friday (and Saturday on our first Saturday of the season) the Carthage Family Literacy Council will sell ferns to support their efforts in teaching adults to read and to speak English.

If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, we’re looking for a few good volunteers. With two of our wonderful volunteers on jury duty for the next two months and me being gone for most of June for the birth of my first grandchild, it would sure be nice to have some extra hands available. Call me at 483-8139 or stop by the market information table if you’re interested. And for those who know our family, the expectant mother is Cora, our oldest daughter. Very exciting!