Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 10-21-11

This time of year we are still doing a lot of marketing, but we’re also evaluating the year and planning for next year. So, first and foremost – we are OPEN on Fridays and Saturdays through October. And we have lots of produce. Of course, the melons and sweet corn are a fond memory but the green beans overfloweth, as do the peppers, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, radishes, greens and lots of other goodies.

In November we go to the winter market – first and third Fridays from 11 to 2 at a new location – the Clubhouse at 115 North Madison. On pretty days, we’ll be on the parking lot, but on not-so-pretty days we’ll retreat to the warmth and dryness of the Clubhouse. When we approached the Historical Society board about hosting the market, they responded enthusiastically. Julie Riley’s response was typical: “The Club House is ideal for the ‘Winter Market’ and it will provide an excellent service to the community and area towns. It is a yea vote!”

This is where planning earlier in the year pays off with a warm location that will allow us to sell and you to buy in comfort. And also thanks to that planning we expect to have fresh produce in addition to our baked goods, cheeses and meats.

Since beginning Winter Market three years ago, we have longed for fresh produce. After all, what is a market without that? And this year we have three farmers who planted specifically for winter. John Pate and Tim Green planted tomatoes in their high tunnels – we’re already seeing the Pate’s tomatoes in the market. (That's Tim's wife Vi in the photo above - drawfed by the high tunnel tomatoes.) Tim expects to bring tomatoes soon and to harvest through December. He’s already bringing huge bell peppers and two varieties of burpless cucumbers from his tunnels to the market and will have green beans next month. Tom Lewis of Broken Wire has tomatoes planted as well, plus some cool weather crops like broccoli. So when the frost decimates the field crops, we’ll still have fresh veggies for you at the market – thanks to our farmers’ planning and our pestering them into taking a chance and giving up some of their winter down time.

Until a hard freeze, of course, we’ll have a wide variety of fall produce including boc choy. You may not be familiar with this vegetable that is almost always available at the market. I started eating it regularly while visiting my daughter Cora in Australia this summer. She eats a lot of veggies (and fish – one of the bonuses of living in a coastal area). Boc choy is often on the menu. I find it makes a great side with sweet potatoes and salmon and works with almost any menu as a nice touch of green. Besides adding color to the plate and flavor to the palate, it’s packed with nutrients. In fact, “nutrient-dense” is how it’s often described in medical literature – it’s high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and calcium. And a cup of shredded boc choy contains nine calories! Count ‘em – nine calories!

And talk about easy to prepare. Slice off the end, rinse well, slice cross-ways into strips and prepare to your taste. I like to keep it simple and just steam it till tender. I put the stems in first and then add the leaves. When wilted to my taste I transfer it to the plate and season. If you want to go the extra mile, try the recipe below. Phil created this recipe for Cora while she was home last month and she declared it the best way she’d ever had it. Coming from someone who eats boc choy at least twice a week, that’s saying something.

Boc Choy

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger root, about 1/8 inch each, minced
5 bunches baby boc choy, sliced across into strips 1 1/2 inches
La Choy Stir Fry sauce

Sauté garlic and ginger root in peanut or vegetable oil. Add boc choy. Sauté until the boc choy is reduced by one-half (about 5 minutes). Add sauce and sauté until cooked to your taste (one or two more minutes). This recipe serves 2 to 3 people depending on their enthusiasm. (Cora could eat the whole recipe by herself.)

Lunch today is your choice of Irish corn beef dinner soup or white cheddar chicken leek soup, plus crackers and cobbler for $5. Webb City’s own Gospel Strings performs.
Tomorrow breakfast benefits the Webb City High School Band Boosters. Bill Adkins will play golden oldies.

I mentioned at the beginning of the column that we’ve begun our evaluation process so let me share the results of our survey that we conducted with our Tuesday and Saturday customers back in August.

That market day about a third of our customers planned to spend $5 to $10 and another third planned on spending $11 to $20. Most of the remaining planned to spend more than $20. Those numbers are probably a bit low because we all know from personal experience that we almost always spend more than we plan – which is why the market is happy to turn your checks and credit/debit cards into market tokens.

Most customers traveled nine miles or less to come to the market, though several folks came more than 20 miles on the days we surveyed.

Almost half the customers surveyed come to the market every week. Over 10% surveyed were at the market for the very first time – yes, there are lots of folks who haven’t visited the market yet, which brings me to the last statistic. The vast majority of customers said they first learned about the market through word of mouth which means that most new customers come because of recommendations from old customers – that would be you! So spread the word, the market is open now and through the winter.

It was a tough growing season this summer but we’re looking forward to our best fall and winter markets yet. But it can only be the best if we have lots of customers, so see you (and your friends) soon at the market.