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!!!