Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tomato Contests - Saturday, July 30

Enter the tomato contests between 8:15 and 8:45.

Two tomatoes per entry in the Quality categories: Best Red, Best Other Color and Best Cherry/Grape - First place in each category - $25 in market tokens courtesy of Granny Shaffers.

One tomato per entry in the Fun categories: Biggest/heaviest, Smallest, & Weirdest - First place in each category - $10 in market tokens courtesy of Granny Shaffers.

Winners will be announced at about 10:30.

Customers vote on the Weirdest tomato. The other contests are judged by market volunteer.

Webb City Sentinel column - 7/29/11

If this 100+ degree weather is our future, we’d better start enjoying egg plant and okra in a big way. Resa Amos and I made 10 farm visits last weekend. Most farms are keeping their plants alive through heavy irrigation, but water can only do so much in this heat – except when it comes to okra and egg plant. Everywhere I saw thriving stands of those plants. The sweet corn won’t make without rain, the tomatoes won’t set if nighttime temperatures are too high, but okra and egg plant seem unfazed by this weather, which is good news because you can make some mighty good food with those ingredients.

One farm we visited was our new Saturday lamb farm, Green Elm Farm. The farm is near McCune and it’s sure a lot greener in McCune than here. Farmer Daniel is building up his herd, having purchased ten pregnant ewes earlier this year. He kept the female lambs for breeding. The male lambs you’ll find at the market, in the form of chops, ribs, roasts, and ground lamb. (Sorry, boys.) Daniel said that if his first Saturday at the market is any indication, he’ll be out of lamb by the end of August. He was pretty thrilled by his reception. And I’m sure his reception was improved by our other lamb vendor, Nancy Rasmussen, who also raises chicken and beef and does not come to the Saturday market. Nancy, like many of our vendors, knows that when customers are happy we have a better marke.’ Nancy’s response when she learned we had found a farm to compete with her on Saturday - “wonderful! I’m out of lamb for a while. I’ll tell my customers to be sure and stop by Saturday. Get me his product list and I’ll share it with my customers.”

We’re expecting vendors with new products at the market today. LOMAH Dairy is adding two new cheeses (I think Colby and Mozzarella). Hazel’s Bakery is adding Friday to their schedule. Kay, who named the bakery in honor of her mother, returned to the market two weeks ago on Saturdays and when our regular Friday baker, Freda Mae’s, told us last Friday that she was pursuing another career, we were thrilled to have Kay step in without even a single Friday without pies and cakes. We sure don’t want to do without our pies and cakes.

On Saturday, in addition to our new lamb vendor and our many other regular vendors, we’ll have our annual tomato contests. Once again, Mike Wiggins of Granny Shaffers (who is a huge tomato fan) is sponsoring the prizes - $25 in market tokens for the best red, best other color and best cherry/grape tomato. The biggest/heaviest, smallest and weirdest tomatoes receive $10 in market tokens. Entry is free and open to any grower or gardener. Just bring your tomatoes to the market and enter them between 8:15 and 8:45 Saturday morning. Winners will be announced at about 10:30. Entry details are on our blog – The Weirdest Tomato is selected by customer votes. The other contests are judged by market volunteers.

I am once again on the road – my little Madeleine likes sleeping in 20 minute naps and her mommy needs someone to do the night shift so she can get some rest. When I asked the market board if they could manage without me, they said to a person and immediately – Go! Each of my vendors has taken on a job to help set up and take down the market. I love my vendors. Not only were they happy to help, but almost all gave me a goodbye hug at the end of market on Tuesday.

Several good friends are pitching in, too – but they’ll be new at monitoring the peach line, so please be kind to them. Actually folks in the peach line – and other lines – are generally patient and kind. In fact, I find almost all the people associated with the market to be very generous. I received a call today from a lady in Carthage looking for canning tomatoes. I suggested some possible vendors but was pretty discouraging because the heat is reducing tomato production. Despite my less-than-helpful information, her last words to me were “you folks in Webb City have a fantastic market!” Those are always wonderful words to hear, but when you’re tired, hot, and frustrated by difficult growing conditions, those words really hit the spot.

Lunch today (Friday) is meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, green beans, cake and a drink for $6’ Center Creek Bluegrass plays.

Tomorrow (Saturday), the Carl Junction Order of the Eastern Star serves breakfast. They’ll use the profits for one of the many charities they support like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. Greg Krutsinger makes his musical debut at the market tomorrow.

On Tuesday, Joplin Little Theatre serves lunch and Rob Pommert plays.

Hopefully, the weather will break soon. For me, it already has – it’s winter in Australia – 60 to 65 degrees, sunny with a light breeze. I’ll be thinking of you in August!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-22-11

It’s been over a year since we had a meat vendor serving Saturdays, but tomorrow we’re expecting Green Elm Farm of McCune, Kansas, with lamb. It’s their first day at our market – or any market. So we hope you’ll give them a hearty welcome. They raise pastured lambs that are processed at Golden City Meat. Like our Friday meat vendors, their cuts of lamb will be sold frozen.

Green Elm, which may not be their final choice of farm names, they’re still thinking about it, is owned by Daniel and Kayla Devereaux. Kayla hails from Southeast Kansas, but Daniel will be expanding our international flavor. He grew up near Oxford, England, and came to the United States about nine years ago to train as a ferrier in Lamar, Missouri. He married a local girl and the rest is history - from Oxford to the Webb City Farmers Market. When he was superintendent, Dr. Lankford was fond of saying about our school system “you can go anywhere from here.” Apparently you can also come from anywhere to here!

Another new, but very familiar, vendor at the market this week is Hector Troyer. Hector, whose farm is located near Fairview, is only selling field tomatoes this year and since the spring was cold and wet (ah, we miss the good old days…) the tomatoes have been late ripening. He arrived Tuesday with over 300 pounds and I’m expecting even larger loads from him today and tomorrow.

In fact, it is tomato season at the market. Many, if not most, of our produce growers have truckloads of them. And that means two things – time to can and time for the annual tomato contests.

We’ve got all sorts of help if you want to can, freeze or dry tomatoes. First, talk to your favorite grower. Often they will sell you a large quantity of tomatoes if they have surplus. You might also ask about buying seconds if you’re making salsa or sauce. Looks don’t affect the finished product and the cost would probably be lower.
Stop by the Canning Table just south of the pavilion center for discount coupons for jars and canning starter kits and for free stickers, sample mixes and recipe booklets. You can enter a drawing that we hold weekly for Saving the Seasons, a wonderful book on food preservation from the Mennonite Press. We also sell the book for $25 at the information table. You can bring your pressure gauge to the information table to be checked for accuracy.

We have all these good things because our market was one of 50 nationwide to receive a grant from the Ball jar company. In addition to all the free and discounted things on the canning table, the market can supply a door prize for anyone holding a canning party. Just stop by the information table for details.

Next Tuesday, Tammy Roberts, nutritionist with University of Missouri Extension will give salsa demonstrations at 11:30 and 12:30. She’s also a great source for information on food preservation, whether canning, freezing or drying.

Our annual tomato contests are next week on Saturday, July 30th. There’ll be prizes for the biggest/heaviest, the ugliest and the smallest tomatoes. Those are our fun categories. Our quality categories are rated first by taste, then by texture and finally by appearance. Quality categories are Best Red, Best Other Color and Best Cherry/Grape Tomato.

Entries are free and can be submitted between 8:15 and 8:45 on the morning of the 30th. We need two tomatoes for each entry in the Best Red and Best Other Color. Six tomatoes for each entry in Best Cherry/Grape. And one tomato for each entry in the fun categories.

First prize in each of the contests in the quality category is $25 in market tokens. First prize in the fun category contests is $10 in market tokens. Plus all the fame and glory of winning.

Today we welcome back the Plainsfolk who will play traditional music during lunch, 11 to 1. Lunch is ham or tuna salad sandwich, oriental Cole slaw, chips, cookies and drink for $6. A vegetarian luncheon salad is $4.

Tomorrow, breakfast is served from 9 to 11 and benefits Big Brothers, Big Sisters. The Green Earth Band makes their market debut from 9:30 to 11:30.
On Tuesday, lunch benefits Crime Stoppers and Rob Pommert plays.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-15-11

Almost every market has something special, new crops, special foods or special events. This weekend is no exception. Today, at 10:45 right before the market opens, the Missouri Department of Agriculture will present our grower Tim Green with the Missouri Market Champion of the Year award. The Champion of the year is selected for their contribution to a local farmers market and Tim certainly is deserving. He mentors our new growers, helps with our Kids Garden, serves on our board, supplies tomatoes for our benefit meals and helps in a host of other ways.

And the big news about tomorrow is that Hazel’s Bakery is coming out of retirement. Owners Kay and Bill McLaughlin retired from the market last year after supplying us with pies and cakes and other baked goods for 9 years. Kay needed to take care of some medical issues.

Last winter Kay took care of the medical problems, but sadly Bill died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Kay with a terrible hole in her life. We at the market missed Hazel’s and we got the feeling Kay missed being at the market, so we encouraged her to consider returning. And she is!

Hazel’s will be at the market every Saturday. Tomorrow she’s planning to have pies (pecan, rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb, peach, cherry, blackberry, and apple), cakes (carrot, chocolate, coconut and red velvet), cup cakes (plain and fancy), cookies (cranberry oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chip, coconut whispers, snicker doodles, and chocolate no-bakes), quick breads, banana nut, pumpkin and zucchini), fudge, pecan divinity and scones.

Kay will be in her old spot by the information table.

Folks at the market Saturday saw that the children with the Kids Community Garden are back. I was gratified upon returning from a month’s absence to find the Kids Garden still growing, although plenty weedy. We had to suspend work in the garden while I was gone. The supervisor I had lined up to keep it going lost his house in the tornado and had his hands full, so other than occasional watering by market volunteers, the garden was on its own in June. I expected a disaster upon my return, but amazingly almost all the plants survived. The rows had been mulched in adequately so all I had to do was till between the rows to get the garden back in pretty good shape. A friend gave me a hard time about my tilling the weeds instead of having the children do it, but I’m not too keen on 12-year-olds operating dangerous machinery! And it would have been a mammoth project to pull all those weeds by hand.

The children have been back in the garden this month, weeding around the plants, laying in more mulch and learning about harvesting the flowers. Two children will sell at the Saturday market and another two at the Tuesday market. At the market, the children learn business skills – pricing, display, making change, and interacting with customers.

They also learn about overhead. Two children sell, but the sales are split three ways. Each child receives one-third and the market receives one-third to pay their sales tax and cover some of the costs of the garden. That way the children understand that in pricing their flowers, they need to consider the costs.

Today, the Loose Notes will play from 11 to 1. Lunch is chicken salad sandwich, potato salad, spinach salad, fresh fruit cup and drink for $6. A vegetarian luncheon salad is also available.

Tomorrow, the Granny Chicks play from 9:30 to 11:30. Breakfast is served from 9 to 11. Profits from the breakfast tomorrow support the PEO scholarship program.
Next Tuesday, Rob Pommert will perform and lunch will benefit the Webb City High School Band Boosters.

See you at the market!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 7/8/11

We have lots of good things happening this week at the market, but first I want to get on your calendar for next Friday, July 15. We are honoring one of our market champions who is such a champion that he has been chosen as one of two market champions for 2011 by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. At 10:45 on Friday, in the center of the pavilion, the state ag department, the state farmers market association and our market will honor Tim Green of Shoal Creek Gardens.

Tim is a long-time grower who loves to grow growers. In 2004, Tim went with me to an Extension workshop for small growers. We spoke on selling through farmers markets. A young boy, about 12, approached Tim and thus began a fruitful relationship. Under Tim’s tutelage, Josh began growing tomatoes and blackberries. By the time Josh graduated from high school, he was growing 1,000 tomato plants and had paid for his pickup.

In 2007, when Tim was president of our market board, I received a complaint from a vendor who thought one of our Hmong vendors was reselling produce and the accuser went on to say that none of the Hmong were growing their produce. I knew they were. I’d been on their farms many times for inspections but I wanted to nip this unfair generalization in the bud. So I asked Tim, as board president, to go with the accusing vendor and visit all the Hmong farms.

They did and they found loads of produce being grown and realized that the accusation was completely unfounded. Tim also realized that the Hmong growing techniques were limiting their success. The farmers were incredibly hardworking, but were using techniques unsuited to our locally-popular produce, to our soil and to our weather conditions.

The next week, at Tim’s request, he and I revisited the farms with a professional Hmong translator to discuss with the growers their interest in training. That's Tim, the translator and one of our farmers discussing strawberry cultivation on that visit.

Tim became their mentor and still serves in that capacity. He has visited their farms many times and led training workshops and field days for them and for other growers. It has taken several years, but we are beginning to see real improvements on the farms.

Tim is still on the job. Just this week, he talked to the growers, Hmong and otherwise, about his discovery that with the heavy irrigation underway at his farm, the water ph has dropped significantly. Without correction, that could adversely impact production.

Tim also serves as my mentor (he is back as the market board’s president) and has helped me organize many workshops, including a high tunnel series just completed. It was at his suggestion and under his leadership that the market adopted the requirement that all produce growers complete a food safety course.

Tim has worked with the Kids Community Garden, showing the children how to plant and securing materials for the garden. He and his wife Violet grow most of the plants for the garden as well as for our annual Let’s Plant a Garden day.

We consider Tim, and his family, to be market treasures and are delighted that the state will recognize him next Friday. Please plan to come.

Today we’ll have lots of sweet corn. We’re expecting at least three truckloads. We’re still a bit shy on tomatoes. The season seems to be running about 10 days late. The field tomatoes should come in full force next week. This weekend though you should probably come in the first hour of market to be sure of tomatoes.
By the way, our annual Tomato Day will be Saturday, July 30, so start babying those biggest, best and weirdest tomatoes in your garden.

Today, lunch is Italian stuffed big shells, side salad, garlic bread, cookies and drink for $6. Gospel Strings performs from 11 to 1.

Tomorrow breakfast benefits our local American Red Cross. Bill Adkins performs Golden Oldies (What? Music playing when I was a teenager is Golden Oldies? Shocking!).

There will be free streetcar rides on the hour and half hour from 9 to 11. It’s the second Saturday of the month, so that means we’ll have an Art Market at the market. And it will be the first day for the Kids Community Garden to vend at the market. We’ll have a young gardener right by the information table with bouquets of flowers for sale, flowers that were started for us by none other than the Greens of Shoal Creek Gardens.