Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sentinel column - 7/27/12

(That's a photo of Kay McLaughlin "taking" a cookie from an image of her late husband Bill at the mural celebration. See this week's Sentinel for more photos)

We’ve been doing farm visits the last few weeks and, of course, we’re finding the fields and gardens stressed by the heat and drought. Fortunately for those of us who shop at the market, many of our farmers have irrigation and are able to keep their plants alive and producing even in this brutal weather. If you’ve been at the market lately, you may have noticed that the produce is not as pretty as it was a couple of weeks ago, but the taste is still excellent and the abundance is amazing. In fact, our farmers were bringing in so much from their fields that on Tuesdays, our slow day, they were taking way too much home. So much, in fact that steps had to be taken. Of course, I continue to urge our customers to put the market on their to-do list for Tuesdays. We have all the produce that we have on Fridays, but not nearly the crowds, lines or parking challenges. But even with more customers, we still have surplus produce so I contacted Crosslines, our regional food and clothing pantry. Crosslines is supported by about 60 area churches. It is very effective in serving those in need and has checks in place to prevent those who would take advantage from doing so. Folks who get help at Crosslines truly need the help.

Our surplus comes at an opportune time for Crosslines. Demands on their food pantry have almost doubled in the last two years. Most food donations are canned or processed foods, so when I contacted their director about sending a truck to the market on Tuesdays for fresh produce, the answer was quick – when do we start? Last Tuesday a big box truck with the Crosslines logo splashed across it backed up to the market at 1 pm. Farmers had been advised of the gleaning program last week so they were ready with their donations. Box loads of eggplant, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and especially tomatoes appeared until the entire bed of the truck was covered. Crosslines volunteer Mike Tamburrino was thrilled. He said “it would have been worth coming for one of these big boxes of tomatoes, but this is wonderful.”

The Crosslines truck is scheduled to come to the market every Tuesday between 1 and 2 until the surplus dwindles. And the gleaning program is open to everyone. If you’d like to buy something at the market for Crosslines on a Tuesday or bring something from home, you can leave it at the information desk and we’ll load it when the truck arrives. They always welcome fresh fruits and vegetables, canned food, staples, and other products like toilet paper.

Today at the market, Granny Shaffer’s is serving spaghetti red, drink and dessert for $6. Webb City’s own Gospel Strings is performing from 11 to 1.

Saturday, as always, is packed with activities. Trish Reed, who catered the Friday meals for several years and is an experienced canner, will be demonstrating how to make and can salsa and how to can tomatoes. It’s all part of our healthy-eating program to encourage folks to eat more fruits and veggies.

Mark Barger returns to play his Native American flutes.

MSSU’s Educational Talent Search serves our Cooking for a Cause breakfast. This program identifies qualified students, grade 6 through 12, with the potential for success in college and encourages them to complete high school and pursue higher education. The program is sponsoring an all-community service day on Saturday for the students involved. Some will be at the market, while others will visit residents at Spring River Christian Village, work at the Salvation Army Thrift Store or help build a community garden in Joplin. The money raised at the market provides lunch for the kids Saturday and rewards like school supplies for participating. Most of the kids in the program are members of families with very limited resources so school supplies are a strong encouragement to them.

On Tuesday, Rob Pommert plays, Granny Shaffer’s serves lunch and the Crosslines truck will visit. Our market intern Lindsay Rollins will demonstrate a good-for-you recipe at the market cooking table. She did Greek Salad last Tuesday – delicious, cool, refreshing and full of nutrition.

Greek salad

1 sliced cucumber, seeded
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, dices
Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 pound feta cheese
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted


2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and onion in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together all vinaigrette ingredients except olive oil. Whisk in olive oil.

Pour vinaigrette over vegetables, add cheese and olives and toss lightly.

Lots of endearing things happen in and around the market. To introduce one that happened this week, I want to quote a column from 2010:

I started my day off right this morning. My friend Carol Ott called to tell me a “Nickyism”. Her son Nicky is a young man with a huge heart but limited mental abilities. Nicky goes to church with many of the market volunteers and we can always count on an enthusiastic hug whenever we see him.

Carol said she always begins the day by asking Nicky what he’d like to do. Tuesday his immediate response was “I need to go to that market.” Carol wasn’t sure what Nicky meant, so she asked what market. “That friendly market where everyone says hi to me.” Do you mean the farmers market? “Yes, I need to go to the friendly farmers market.”

Nicky has been ringing the opening bell for me on Fridays this year and we received the following message from a customer on the market Facebook page in regard to that:

So I was at the market this morning and the young man who gets to ring the bell ran up to me and gave me a big ol’ bear hug. It took me by surprise, I was not expecting that at all....but I have to say it made my day!!! I didn't even care that we were both sweating bullets. He was so excited to ring the bell and I just wish we could all have that zest for life!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Webb City Sentinel Column 7-20-12

Choices – there’s lots of them at the market. Not only choices in selecting the vendor you patronize and in which type of product you buy, but choices in varieties. It’s cantaloupe season at the market and there are at least three varieties available – the perennial favorite – Athena, and two new melons, Sophie’s Choice and a French melon. I’ve only tried the latter so far, but it was delicious. In fact, my husband Phil said it was as close to a perfect melon as he’d ever tasted.

Choice is one of the market’s strengths because those three melons represent the offerings of just two farms out of several growing melons. Of course, we have even more choices when it comes to tomatoes. I think there were over 20 varieties when I last counted, from cherries to 2 pound giants, and from hybrids to heirlooms. (Love this photo that volunteer Rick Ford took of one of our customers selecting tomatoes)

We’ve been seeing lots of canners – tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini – going out of the market. Last week, Fairhaven offered Brandywine Pinks for canning. Now, that’s a rare opportunity to get an heirloom at bulk rates. I’ve been told that the Pinks make a wonderful juice.

Canners are typically less than perfect produce, what you might call ugly, but perfect in freshness and in taste. And, as one of my farmers said to me in June, the more abundant the harvest, the better the canners get. Currently the harvest is extremely abundant so you can expect some good-looking canners.

All this is a nice change from last year when the harvest was so lean that our farmers didn’t have any surplus, and frankly, pretty much everything was ugly. That made it tough to succeed with our food preservation education program funded by Jarden, the makers of Ball and Kerr. We had the requisite number of canning demonstrations, but nothing for folks to can.

This year, after receiving the grant again, we’ve doubled our demonstrations and the interest created among our customers has resulted in lots of sales for our farmers, as well as a lot of local produce being put up for winter use. My favorite canning story thus far was from a customer who stopped by to say that his mentally challenged son had thoroughly enjoyed putting up pickles this summer after learning how at the market. I expect he’ll enjoy serving and eating them this winter even more.

Tomorrow, Susan Pittman, one of our market nutritionists, will demonstrate peach freezer jam, both regular and sugar-free. It’s super easy and, with local peaches, bound to be delicious, but that you can check for yourself because she will have samples. Our market intern, Lindsay Rollins, will be testing pressure cooker gauges as well so bring your gauge if you would like it checked. The tester will be available at every market through September.

We’ll also have an information table from George Washington Carver National Monument. You may think only of peanuts when you think of Carver, but he was very strong on tomatoes as well, writing many pamphlets exploring a multitude of uses for tomatoes.

In his pamphlet, How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare it for the Table, Professor Carver not only has the 115 recipes but also detailed instructions on growing and storing tomatoes. I’ve reprinted one of his recipes below. It doesn’t exactly fit our good-for-you recipe category, but I expect you could substitute Splenda for the sugar and reduce the calories considerably. Just remember that Splenda substitutes for sugar by the cup, not by the pound.


7 pounds green tomatoes
4 pounds sugar
1 pound of seeded raisins
3 quarts vinegar
Cinnamon, spice, ginger, and cloves to taste

Cut the tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices, and soak for 24 hours in a water bucket of cold water, in which is 3/4 of a pint of lime; then soak in cold water for two hours or until there is no taste of the lime. Drain thoroughly, add to the vinegar and spices, boil in the syrup two hours, seal in well sterilized glass jars.

Another special activity tomorrow is a demonstration hive from Amos Apiaries. The hive is sealed so there’s no risk of stings but the glass panels allow an intriguing look into the workings of bees.

The ever-popular Granny Chicks perform tomorrow. The breakfast, which is served until 11, benefits NALA, which teaches reading and math skills to adults and English to immigrants.

Today, Granny Shaffer’s at the Market serves chicken enchilada, beans and rice, dessert and drink for $6. It is a very substantial meal. The Sours play traditional music.

Tomorrow night we celebrate the market’s community mural. We begin at 7:30 with a very little bit of speechifying and then enjoy the music of Center Creek Bluegrass and look at those busy bees in the Amos demonstration hive again while we all munch on some market treats. Hazel’s Bakery is bringing cookies in honor of Bill McLaughlin. Bill is the only officially identifiable person in the mural, although it’s easy to spot others who were used as models by the artists.

Bill was the cookie baker at Hazel’s and husband to pie baker Kay. He was known for his ready smile and propensity for giving every child who came by their table a free cookie. That’s what he’s doing in the mural.

So come eat a cookie in Bill’s memory and celebrate the mural and the market. Art and the market go together like tomato and basil.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-13-12

And the tomato contest winners are –

Best Red Tomato – Fairhaven Berry and Produce, Harwood, Mo

Best Other Color Tomato (in this case, yellow) – Green’s Greenhouse and Gardens, Galena, Ks

Best Small Tomato (the chocolate cherry won for the second year in a row) – Fairhaven again!

Heaviest Tomato, weighing in at 2.35 pounds – Frederickson Farms, Carl Junction
Weirdest Tomato – Fairhaven one more time.

Fairhaven wins Weirdest every year because Carrole Palmer takes her contests very seriously. She always keeps an eye out for a curious tomato with a “face” and decks it out with a little straw hat or some other prop that makes it stand out. The Weirdest Tomato contest is always customers’ choice and this year Carrole’s tomato won every single vote.

Our thanks to judges Mike Wiggins of Granny Shaffer’s, Chef Scott Teal of the Holiday Inn and tomato connoisseur Bill Perry. (that's Bill on the left, Scott on the right.)

Now that Tomato Day and 4th of July are over we can get back to our every day routine at the market. Routines like William Adkins playing and singing easy listening favorites along with his original songs today. Bill has only been playing the guitar for about four years but sounds like he was born with one in his hands. Lunch today is ham and beans with fried potatoes, cornbread, drink and dessert for $6. As always, Granny Shaffer’s will also have chef salad and slices of pie available.

The main event today will be the crowd. We’re expecting a big one with the Globe food feature Wednesday on Lady Abigail’s pies and with a cooking segment on KOAM yesterday featuring peaches. I made John Pate promise to bring me LOADS of peaches this weekend before I was willing to even mention the word “peaches” on air.

So I expect it to be very busy for the first half hour of market today. After that hopefully the parking and the crowds will ease.

Tomorrow has even more going on, beginning with free streetcar rides from 9 to 11. Be sure to say thanks to the driver and conductor. They are volunteers and have put in an enormous amount of effort in bringing this delightful Webb City treasure to life.

Trish Reed, who catered the Friday meals last year, will demonstrate how to make and preserve pickles. She’ll also have samples of that cool summer dish, cucumber and onions. The reason for two dishes is that the food code doesn’t allow us to give samples to the public of privately made pickles. Training at a special school and a canning permit is required. But we could hardly have a cooking demo without samples, so we’ll have a related dish that we can sample legally.

Tomorrow is also our Art Market and the Joplin Business Women will be on hand selling their all metal knives and spatulas. I loaded up on them last time they came. Don’t tell anyone, but all my nieces and nephews are getting knives and spatulas for Christmas this year. How great is that – already done with some of my shopping!

Center Creek Bluegrass will play tomorrow and while they take their break Sadie’s Dollar will make their market debut. This young foursome sings gospel and contemporary pieces. Center Creek is generously providing their sound system along with guidance. It rather mirrors the market’s attitude as a whole.

We encourage mentoring. The market has partnered with our most experienced and successful growers and with Extension for over five years in training our less experienced farmers in best agricultural practices. Last year on farm visits I began to see many farms incorporating the training into their fields. But this year has been even better. Last week our inspection team visited three farms and saw, for the very first time, drip irrigation in action on those farms. Previously they either had no water in the fields or were trying to use small sprinklers. In the summers we’ve been having lately, the former was a disaster and the latter was extremely inefficient and ineffective. An added disadvantage is that getting the plant wet can lead to increased pest problems. It’s far better to water the root zone.

At all three farms, we saw high value crops looking remarkably good despite the drought and high temperatures.

There’s plenty more training to be done and we’re already working on this winter’s program, but it was wonderful to see everyone’s efforts bearing fruit.

Another market project, the mural, is bearing fruit downtown at the intersection of Broadway and Main. The market mural celebration will be Saturday, July 21, at 7:30 pm. Center Creek Bluegrass will play. Refreshments will include cookies like those Bill McLaughlin enjoyed sharing with children when he was at the market. Bill is the only officially recognizable figure in the mural. Kyle McKenzie, our lead artist, actually used photos provided by the family to capture his profile. All the other figures are supposed to be generic, although the bee keeper is a dead give-away and a couple of others are pretty easy to spot.

Kyle has been given a hard time by some because he didn’t include me in the mural. I told him not to, but have since reconsidered. I’m claiming one of the bees as my image because I like to stay busy. Be sure and bring your camera to the celebration and capture your image “in” the market.

Tuesday we’ll have our usual menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken salad sandwiches and chef salads. Rob Pommert will play. Vickie Fuller, culinary arts instructor at Monette, will demonstrate a good-for-you recipe on Tuesday.

If all these things don’t tempt you to come to the market, let me just mention – the melons are in!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Webb City Sentinel column - 7-6-12

Summer always seems to race by, but never so much as this year. In the past we have celebrated tomatoes at the end of July when we are overflowing with them. This year, that would be this week, a full two weeks early. Even the heirlooms, always the last to harvest, are coming in by the basketful.

All of which means that Tomato Day is tomorrow. Entries should be turned in at the information table between 8:30 and 9 am tomorrow. Winners will be announced at 10:30 and displayed until 11:30. Bring 2 tomatoes each to enter the Best Red and Best Other Color categories, and bring four for the Best Small category. Only one tomato is required for each entry in the Largest/Heaviest and the Weirdest tomato categories. Props are allowed in the Weirdest category. Market tokens are awarded as prizes.

Tomatoes will also be the star at the cooking demonstration table. Susan Pittman, diabetes educator, will demonstrate Cucumber, Tomato and Red Onion Salad throughout the morning. Visitors can sample the salad and another dish, Fire & Ice Tomatoes, as well as a few of the tomatoes at the market.

As always, we have many varieties for sale at the market, the perfectly red and round hybrids, the colorful and many-sized heirlooms, and for the first time, a mix of the two. Tim Green of Green’s Greenhouse planted a brand new variety that is purported to have the look and taste of an heirloom Brandywine, but the reliability and productiveness of a hybrid Better Boy. Tim wasn’t too sure about it initially. He loves the perfection of the hybrid and was put off by the shape and look of this new tomato. It’s big and lumpy and a kind of pinkish color. But we did a taste test and it passed with flying colors. Look for it in the contests. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t place well.

Another reason we moved up Tomato Day is that we don’t know what the future holds. My farmers tell me that the tomatoes are still setting fruit but if the heat continues we may see a substantial drop off in supply by the end of July. In the meantime, we have farmers selling canning tomatoes by the box, especially on Tuesdays when sales are a bit slow compared to Friday or Saturday. Just ask at your favorite stand if they’re selling in bulk. They may have it right then and there or they may take an order for pick-up at a later market.

If you’re looking to do major canning in the fall, see if your farmer won’t plant you a couple of rows of beets, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers or whatever you fancy for fall harvest.

Don’t know how to can? Next Saturday, Trish Reed will be demonstrating pickling at the cooking table. She’ll also have dill mix samples, coupons and recipes to get you started in food preservation.

Tuesday was a challenging but good day. As always, it was a banner day being the day before Independence Day. Lots of people were eating fresh for the Fourth. In fact, well over a thousand. But there were some down moments, like when an obstacle was thrown in front of me that a little cooperation would have eliminated, but that cooperation was not forthcoming. After some gnashing of teeth I called on a friend who is a real problem-solver. Problem solved. Then I noticed that the market’s hose and hose reel had been stolen. Really, we knew it was bound to happen someday and should perhaps be thankful that it stayed in place by the market’s hydrant for more than three years. Guess I’ll have to get a reel that can be rolled into the storage shed after the floor is power-washed.

But for every down moment there always seems to be a high one. Saturday we mistakenly charged someone 20 cents instead of $20 for tokens. I didn’t know the lady, but found her address and dropped her a note. The next market she came by and paid the difference though she was under no legal obligation to do so. She is so much more typical of our community than the person who stole the hose.

We had a young helper at one of our farm stands pass out in the heat a week ago. By the time I got back from the cook shack with ice, cold water and a towel, one of our customers who was clearly a nurse had taken over and stayed with the young woman until she recovered. The nurse left without my even getting a chance to say thank you, so if you’re reading this “Thank you SO much.”

Friday I had a mix-up with scheduling the streetcar for visiting school children. In a panic I called the streetcar volunteers and before the children had even finished their scavenger hunt in the market, Jim Dawson and Lee Englert had the car ready to go.

Tuesday De Hunt, our Friday volunteer cart driver, appeared. He realized that it would be a busy day and perhaps his services would be needed though we don’t usually run the cart on Tuesdays. Forty-two passengers and one dog later, De had also made four trips hauling just produce.

Tuesday, another unexpected volunteer, Janet Taylor, appeared. We are so lucky to have such a competent and cheerful volunteer. She will be running the tomato contests for us on tomorrow. Frankly, I think she could take on any project we throw at her.

And on Tuesday a young man came to the market hoping for some kind of work helping one of the vendors load their trucks. No such work is available, but I talked to a vendor who has quite a few people working for him. He agreed to talk to the young man who left with a smile after their visit. I don’t know whether he had a job or just good advice, but whatever he received, it was apparently what he needed.
I am so fortunate in the people I meet and work with at the market. It confirms my faith in the goodness of people.

Today we have the horticulturists with University of Missouri and Lincoln University at the market to give advice on garden and lawn problems. The Sours will play traditional music.

Granny Shaffers at the Market serves home-style chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, bread, dessert & drink for $6. There is also chef salad and a drink for $6.

Tomorrow, the Green Earth Band plays. Be sure to ask them to play “The Market Song” written especially for our market. It is just one more example of an unexpected lovely gift.

Breakfast benefits the college scholarships that PEO awards.

Next Tuesday, we have our usual hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken salad sandwiches and chef salads. Rob Pommert plays.

We’ll see you at the market.