Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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!