Thursday, October 27, 2011

Webb City Sentinel column - 10-28-11

It’s hard for me to believe that this is the last weekend of the regular market season and that this is the last column for the year. We’ll still keep you posted about Winter Market happenings in the Sentinel’s Neighborhood section.

Perhaps the reason the season’s end has crept up on me is the fact that I was gone two months of the high season, enjoying my new granddaughter (how could that not be a pleasure? Just see the photo of Madeleine with me and my mother taken last month!). That’s also the reason I can’t go through my usual thank yous this year. So many people stepped in to help while I was gone that I’d surely miss someone. But you know who you are – how can our volunteers forget with their market experience seared into their memory by one of the hottest summers on records?

And a hot summer it was. June was over 6 degrees hotter than usual with an average high of 91 degrees. Then came July with an average high of 100, 11 degrees higher than normal. August cooled off with an average high of 96, some 5 degrees higher than normal. Amazingly our farmers and customers soldiered through the heat, presenting a remarkably full market when other markets, especially to the west, were withering and closing.

Of course, our total sales for the year will be impacted by the weather. Losing most of our corn crop dramatically reduced sales for a couple of our farms and almost every farm was touched by reduced tomato sales. (Tomatoes just won’t set their fruit in that much heat no matter how much water you pour on them, and I can tell you from our farm visits that our farmers were running their pumps constantly.) Still when the numbers are in, it looks like our total market sales will only be down about 6% from last year. We had less produce to sell, but market sales were boosted by the return of Hazel’s Bakery and the addition of LOMAH cheese.

What looks to be the most significant factor in sales in 2011 was not the heat and drought, but another weather event that we hope never ever comes again – the May 22 tornado.

Sales in June were down 25% over the previous June. That’s not a surprise with so many of our Joplin customers homeless or in severe distress and no doubt many others caring for friends and relatives and helping with the recovery efforts. So at the market, we tightened our belts and sent excess produce over to Joplin. Our farmers continued that effort through much of the summer and geared back up last week to help Suzanne’s health food store feed the vegetarians involved in the Extreme Build effort. The opportunity to help was a silver lining that we were glad to grasp in such hard times.

Lest you think the season is over because of all this review, let me tell you about this weekend. Today, lunch is a choice of chicken noodle soup or turkey with wild rice soup, plus crackers and cobbler for $5. Bailed Green and Wired Tight play.

Tomorrow we’ll serve our last Saturday benefit breakfast of biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs to order and juice or coffee. All the profits go to the Andy Brown Memorial Scholarship. His scholarship goes each year to a graduating senior in the Webb City school district who is in need of financial assistance to continue his or her schooling at a college, university or trade school. The scholarship is administered by the R-7 Foundation. Andy graduated from Webb City High and MSSC. He died in a motorcycle collision on September 26, 1998, at the age of 22. Andy was one of my kids at Central United Methodist and I really miss him. I’d consider it a personal favor if you’d support his scholarship by joining us for breakfast tomorrow.

Andy’s scholarship provides an apt end to this season which has been a time of joy, striving, generosity and success, tinged with great sadness. I hope you can join with us in celebrating this year despite the sadness. We look forward to a happy season of Winter Markets, supplying your needs for the table and for holiday giving.
The Winter Market begins next Friday at the Clubhouse, 115 North Madison. We’ll be open from 11 to 2, rain or shine.