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.