Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sentinel column - 6/29/12

We’re entering the biggest week of the year at the market – when our customers bring out those grills and gather with family and friends to celebrate the 4th of July.

This Saturday, the market will celebrate the holiday by hosting its Cooking for a Cause breakfast to benefit Crosslines, our regional food and clothing pantry. For the last 10 years, it’s been our biggest fundraiser of the year. My husband, Phil Richardson, who ramrods the Saturday breakfast, is gearing up to cook extra quantities of farm fresh eggs cooked to order, biscuits, gravy and sausages. Lisa Sweet has organized friends and members of Central United Methodist church to prepare and serve the breakfast. I’ll be getting out the donation jar so we can all demonstrate one of the best things about our country and citizens – generosity towards our neighbors in need. America has a big heart and we see it every year when it comes to supporting Crosslines.

(Last week's Cooking for a Cause volunteers for Crimestoppers.)

And this should be the best Crosslines year yet because the Saturday market has come of age. We added Saturdays to the market schedule about four years ago. Saturday is far and away the most popular market day nationwide, but we were a bit slow on following suit. When we opened in 2000, Carthage had the only other farmers market in the area and they were open on Wednesday and Saturday. We thought it wise to be open on different days. At the time we thought we would be competing for customers. That shows what novices we were. Actually, farmers are usually in far shorter supply than customers for markets. We’re lucky here in southwest Missouri that there are so many small farmers. In many other parts of the state, markets are searching for farmers. We have for several years directed farmers to other markets unless they have a product that’s missing at ours.

Five years ago we realized that none of our farmers sold at Carthage. Adding Saturdays was an opportunity for our farmers to increase their sales, though it also meant more hours for our volunteers. But it was time. We had way too many customers and vendors coming on Fridays and it was our hope that we could bump some into Saturday. And, too, we had many folks who could not come to a weekday market because of their work schedule and we didn’t like leaving them out almost as much as they didn’t like being left out.

The first couple of years our Saturday market was small. Word was still getting out to the customers and we didn’t have a lot of produce on Saturdays. Last year Saturdays had grown to the point of being similar to the Tuesday market in terms of sales and customers which meant it was about half of Friday.

As I began reviewing vendor applications this year, I still was in the mindset that we needed to build Saturdays. I should have considered a little more carefully because we are absolutely packed now with vendors on Saturdays. It’s often as full or even fuller than on Fridays. And sales are way up. Saturdays have been running at about 80% of Fridays and are continuing to increase. I don’t think it will be long before Saturday surpasses Friday as our biggest market of the week.

Saturday has a lot of other pluses from the market’s standpoint. Because it’s hard for some vendors to do two days in a row, we have been able to bring in new vendors on Saturdays. Hazel’s Bakery is a Saturday-only baker. Several of our small egg ranchers are Saturday only. Certain types of crafts are currently allowed on Saturdays.

Saturday is our day for nutrition education when we demonstrate a healthy, easy recipe using market produce. Tomorrow Trish Reed, who catered our Friday meals for several years, will demonstrate (and you can sample) Chilled Cucumber Soup. Now doesn’t that sound good in the midst of this heat we’re experiencing? (photo: Trish teaching folks at the market how to make sugar-free freezer jam.)

On Saturdays we can book bands unavailable weekdays. And on Saturdays we’re seeing lots and lots of young families.

Saturday is also a relatively calm day compared to Friday. Last Saturday we did have well over one thousand customers but they didn’t all come through in the first half-hour. Instead they filtered in throughout the morning, making for a much more pleasant experience than the “search and secure” approach many of our Friday customers take when market opens.

Luckily, this year we’re experiencing such abundance that there’s no need to brave the crowds at opening. Folks can come at 11:30 on Fridays and still get everything we started out with (excepting for blackberries, which are nearing the end of their season). By then, the lines are usually short or non-existent and the traffic and parking much easier. In fact, we’ve been sending home some sweet corn and tomatoes at every market lately and even sent peaches home a couple of days. The market is just loaded with produce.

Today we have Center Creek Bluegrass playing. Granny Shaffer’s at the Market is serving meatloaf and mashed potatoes for lunch ($6). And, in keeping with the season and the market setting, they also have boiled and buttered sweet corn from Wells Farm for $2 an ear.

Tomorrow, Red Bridge Bluegrass will keep your toes tapping with their high energy style and four-part harmonies while you enjoy breakfast and shopping.

Tuesday, July 3rd, should be a big day for the market. Just as Black Friday on the day after Thanksgiving is a big day for retailers, the day before the 4th of July is typically our biggest day of the year. We might call it our Red, White and Blue day for lots of reasons. Small businesses, which are the backbone of our nation’s economy, incubate and flourish at the market. We’re a tossed salad of American citizens ranging from those with Native American roots to first generation immigrants. The market is full of small farmers and ranchers following in the footsteps of the independent, self-sufficient farmers and ranchers who settled this country. The American Dream? Most of our market folks feel they’re living it. We love what we do.

Zoua Hang Yang shares the market experience with students from the Webb City school district - everybody gets a cucumber!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Webb City Sentinel Column - 6/22/12

It’s time for peach and blackberry cobbler. We’ve got loads of both fruits and their season doesn’t overlap for long. It’s also the season for other favorite pairings like green beans and new potatoes and cucumbers and onions.

But let’s talk peaches and blackberries. Did you know that peaches are thought to have originated in China but that blackberries hail from many parts of the world, including America? In fact, new blackberry varieties with names like Apache, Navaho, Arapahoe, Ouachita, Kiowa and Chickasaw honor Native Americans, who used the berry for food, medicine and dyes. And are blackberries ever good for you. So good that the Center for Disease Control suggests incorporating them into yogurt and blending them with low-fat ice cream or topping hot or cold cereal with them and adding them to spinach salad, plus lots of other ways that we’ll have at the cooking demonstration table on Saturday and on our web site (

The CDC has a list of ways to add peaches to your diet as well and we’ll have that list at the market. Frankly, I could eat half of the recommended daily five servings of produce just in fresh peaches. But the CDC list will give you lots of other ways to use peaches – salsa, fruit leather, sautéed, grilled, in drinks.

And because of the incredibly abundant season we are experiencing this year, we should have plenty of peaches, especially on Fridays.

For the first time ever, Pate’s Orchard is bringing two truckloads of peaches to market today. Add Agee’s peaches and we should have a good supply until about 1:30. So there is no need to panic about peaches running out. By the same token, we’re going to need a bunch of peach customers to encourage the Pates to bring two trucks every Friday. John has said that if there is customer demand, he’ll bring two trucks every Friday through the season. Let’s hold him to it.

Note to peach eaters – I find the best way to keep the peaches fresh is to put them in the fridge and remove those I plan to use the night before, or a little earlier if they need ripening, so they come to room temperature – and perfection.

Now for the best of both worlds. This recipe is from the July 2007 Light and Tasty magazine.

Blackberry and Peach Cobbler

12 medium peaches, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh blackberries

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon coarse sugar

In a large bowl, combine the peaches, flour, honey, lemon juice and salt; let stand for 15 minutes. Fold in blackberries. Transfer to a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray.

For topping, in a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until crumbly. Make a well in the center; pour in buttermilk. Stir just until a soft dough forms. Drop by tablespoonfuls over fruit mixture; sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake at 400° for 40-45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted in topping comes out clean. Serve warm. Yield: 12 servings.

Nutritional Facts 1 serving equals 263 calories, 6 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 15 mg cholesterol, 286 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein.

Today at the market, in addition to an amazing amount of fresh local fruits and vegetables, we’ll have Spaghetti Red for lunch, as well as chef salad. Jack and Lee Ann Sours and Bruce Harvey play for us.

Tomorrow Crime Stoppers serves breakfast from 9 to 11. Ask this group of dedicated volunteers what they’re doing to make our area safer.

Mark Barger plays Native American flute music for us tomorrow. It’s quite a treat, don’t miss it.

Saturday is our day for nutrition education when we demonstrate a healthy, easy recipe using market produce. Susan Pittman, diabetes educator with Freeman Hospital, is demonstrating Green Beans and Parmesan with Garlic tomorrow. Learn a new dish and try a sample.

Next Tuesday, we welcome Rob Pommert back to the market with his lovely combination of popular tunes from the 60’s and 70’s with a little classical and jazz guitar thrown in. Granny Shaffer’s at the market serves up freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, chicken salad sandwiches and chef salads. Our last group of students from the Webb City school district visits the market and rides the streetcar at noon.

It’s a busy week, but we might as well get in practice because the Fourth of July is upon us and we’ll be entering our busiest time of year. Luckily we should have plenty of produce for everyone as they celebrate the season and our nation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Webb City Sentinel column - 6/15/12

I just have one question for you – is your carrot planted? You may have noticed large plastic “carrots” at the information table. The carrots can be used beside your driveway to mark the entrance or just “planted” in a flowerbed or with a potted plant. We hope to see them popping up in yards all over the area as another way of saying “We love our market”. And, what a deal, they’re only $2 each. They’d also make a fun gift, especially with a $5 market token.

The information table sells $5 tokens good with any market vendor. They’re treated just like five dollar bills and at the end of market, we give the vendor $5 for each one. Customers can buy them with checks, credit or debit cards. We’ve even had folks buy them with cash when they buying them for gifts. We also sell $1 tokens for our food stamp customers. The rules are a little different for food stamps. The vendor can’t give change but the customer can combine the token with change to come up with the exact amount. They are good for any food except hot food and food eaten right at the market. They can also be used to buy edible plants, like culinary herbs, and plants that produce food like tomato and pepper plants (Frederickson Farms has all of those). Our market was the first in the state to accept food stamps and plastic money market-wide. We’ve been doing it about five years now and have seen use grown hugely. It allows our low income neighbors with food stamps to take advantage of the many cost-savings available when a crop is in abundance (for example – squash and zucchini are usually a great buy) plus increase their consumption of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. It allows our other customers who either carry little cash or forgot to bring enough to buy what they need. And it allows our farmers to sell more, which this year will be especially important because there is a lot to sell.

Most the crops have been coming in about two weeks early and very abundantly this year due to the mild spring. Peaches arrived last week and next Friday, Pate’s Orchard is planning to bring two truck-loads of peaches. They’re bringing a truck and a carload today. If you’re in the market for a lot of peaches, like a peck which costs $16 or a 1/2 bushel, $26, call the orchard the day before market and place an order - 417 276-3297. Otherwise, the peach line moves quickly and is usually short within 20 minutes of opening.

Yes, it’s that time of year when we have lines – lines for peaches, lines for the fruit at Agee’s Garden, lines for Black Forest House (we always open market with lines at Black Forest House regardless of the season), lines for sweet corn. Sometimes I wonder how folks know which line they’re in as they seem to converge on each other. Luckily the lines move quickly and supplies this year are so abundant that hopefully customers won’t have to choose between securing one special crop over another. In fact, the fields and orchards are just bursting with produce this year. You’ll probably hear me say this way too often – but after last year’s abysmal weather we deserved a good year and so far we are getting the best year ever.

And did you catch that mention of sweet corn lines? Yes, the sweet corn has arrived. We’re expecting five farms today with sweet corn and at least three tomorrow. And the field tomatoes are not far behind. There should be some today and tomorrow. And, don't forget the flowers - I got these Tuesday (that would be two days ago) from Abby Vang and blooms are still opening.

Today Granny Shaffer’s at the Market serves chicken enchilada, beans and rice, dessert and drink for $6. They’ll also have chef salads. Gospel Strings performs.

Tomorrow Cooking for a Cause is served by volunteers from the Carl Junction chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. They’ll serve breakfast starting at 9. The Green Earth Band performs. Eden, on the south end of the pavilion, is serving a grilled Madewell Meat smoky ham and Swiss panini on Black Forest French bread with chips and a homemade chocolate chip cookie for eat-in or take-out - $6.

Our MSSU intern, Lindsey Rollins, demonstrates Summer Squash and White Bean Sauté in the center of the pavilion tomorrow. Filled with zucchini, summer squash, and fresh tomatoes, this quick, easy, and very good-for-you recipe can also incorporate eggplant, peppers and corn, all of which are in season right now. Stop by the demonstration table to give it a try and pick up information on eating healthier.
At every market you can pick up coupons, food preservation mix samples and recipes and enter a drawing thanks to our grant from Jarden, makers of Ball jars.

On Tuesday, William Adkins performs easy listening classics. Granny Shaffer’s at the Market grills up hot dogs and hamburgers and also serves chicken salad sandwiches and chef salads. And we’ll have a ton of produce. Easy time to shop? Tuesday at 11:30ish. Great selection, small crowds. See you at the market – and don’t forget to pick up your carrots – the real ones and the fun ones.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sentinel column - 6-8-12

While visiting my daughter in Australia this spring I noticed many differences between the Perth area and ours. The price of eating out was at least 50% higher in Perth, the number of cyclists and pedestrians on the roads and pathways even higher. Energy consumption was less with many houses, including my daughter’s, sporting solar hot water heaters and having no clothes dryers (Perth’s sunny climate makes the first practical and the second unnecessary). Many families have only one car in Australia and they often park them on the grass in their yards and on the medians. I asked why 3-foot stakes had appeared stuck along the curbs of yards near where a new house was being built. “So the construction workers don’t park in their yard.” Apparently unless you take measures to keep people off your yard, it’s fair game. The people in Perth seemed a far healthier weight than our population and that probably goes back to the high number of cyclists, walkers and active people, as well as a diet that includes a lot of produce. In fact, in Perth there are more produce stores than grocery stores. The Aussies are big on their veggies. And, according to the Center for Disease Control, we need to follow suit.

Particularly alarming are the CDC’s statistics on children:

• Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years.

• The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.

• In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

That does not bode well for our children’s future, not that we have any room to talk. Missouri is one of 10 states with the highest percentage of obese adults – over 30%.

So what’s the big deal over a few pounds. Well, a long list of chronic diseases is associated with obesity and there’s the loss of quality of life. Let’s face it, those extra pounds make it hard to get up out of the chair and get moving, which in turns causes us to pack on more pounds. The CDC calls it a health crisis, so does the Missouri Foundation for Health which is stepping up to give us a hand in creating better health here in Webb City. MFH is providing the market with a grant that will allow us to do nutrition education at the market, through cooking demonstrations, recipes and dietary advice. Last week our market intern demonstrated grilled zucchini roll-ups at the Saturday market. Packing only 20 calories each, the roll-ups are quick, easy, satisfying and tasty. This Saturday, Trish Reed, who was our Friday caterer last year, demonstrates no-sugar freezer jam. It’s full of the goodness of blackberries without the added and empty calories.

We’ll be sharing tools to make better food choices. Tools like, the nutrition tool of the United States Department of Agriculture that replaces the food pyramid. And it makes a lot more sense than the food pyramid. At each meal, you can just look at your plate and compare it to the USDA’s recommendation. Is one half of it fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on vegetables? Should be. Another tool we’ll share is the CDC’s “More Matters – Fruits and Vegetables” program which encourages increased consumption of produce and provides motivation and recipes to make it happen. And it suggests making your choices colorful. Red, green, yellow fruits and veggies – lots of different colors give us a variety of nutrients. Again, an easy way to make good food choices – go for a colorful plate. Here’s the recipe we did last week for the green and very abundant zucchini -

Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups

3 medium zucchini
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
3 ounces goat cheese
1 Tablespoon finely minced flat parsley
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Fresh baby spinach
Fresh basil

Slice each end off the zucchini and slice lengthwise into ¼ inch strips. Brush both sides with olive oil. Grill each side for 4 minutes.

Mix goat cheese with parsley and lemon juice.

Remove zucchini from grill and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Place about 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture about ½ inch from the end of each zucchini strip. Add 2 spinach leaves and 1 basil leaf and roll up with end at bottom of roll.


Today, Granny Shaffer’s at the Market serves ham & beans, fried potatoes, cornbread, dessert & drink for $6. The Plainsfolk play Irish music.

Tomorrow’s Cooking for a Cause is breakfast served by volunteers of Greyhound Pets of America. Since opening its doors in 1987, Greyhound Pets of America Chapters have worked together to adopt over 80,000 Greyhounds into loving homes. Breakfast, served from 9 to 11, includes biscuits and gravy, sausage, farm fresh eggs fried or scrambled, with all the fixings and coffee and orange juice.

Jim Graham plays from 9:30 to 11:30. The Art Market featuring the work of local artists runs from 9 to noon. Old No. 60, Webb City’s restored streetcar will give free rides from 9 to 11 just west of the market. It’s another fun weekend at the market.