Thursday, August 2, 2012

Webb City Sentinel Column 8-3-12

As we’ve watched our home gardens wither and blow away, I expect many in our area think there is no local produce at the farmers market. But actually we’re still overflowing with a wide variety of produce.

The Kids Community Garden, sponsored by the market on school grounds just east of the middle school, tells us why.

Our honey vendor tilled a large unplanted section of the garden Tuesday after market (in 100+ degree weather) and mentors Tim Green and Dale Mermoud worked with the young gardeners raking out the weeds. There were lots of tilled-up weeds because we’d been using sprinklers which “rain” on the planted and the unplanted ground. Those weed seeds were just laying in the fallow ground waiting for some moisture. We’ve since switched to soaker hoses that only water the crop rows.

It seemed like the kids were ankle-deep in dust as they raked. The soil is so dry. But upon closer inspection of the rest of the garden, we found the crops growing well. The kids picked five quart boxes of tomatoes. The okra and sweet potato plants look great even though they haven’t been watered in a couple of weeks. With a weekly watering the green bean, bell pepper and squash plants look good too. (The rows are mulched with straw to keep the weeds down and to retain moisture.)

We have found the same situation on our farms that have irrigation. Despite the heat and drought the crops continue to produce. Most of our farmers have to pick and choose what to water. Their fields are too big and their water supply too limited to water everything even though they use drip-irrigation which is the most efficient method.

The heat-loving, or should I say, the heat-tolerating plants like okra, peppers, melons and egg plant continue to thrive in this hot weather. Many of the other summer crops continue to produce but not at the quantity that we’d see with normal temperatures and some rain.

While cherry tomatoes do not seem to be affected by the heat, regular tomatoes need the night time temperature to drop to the 70 degrees or below for their fruit to set on well. So far, we continue to have a good supply of tomatoes. They are a bit smaller and not as pretty but they sure taste good. In fact, I think the ones we got at the market last week were the best-tasting we’ve ever had at the Nichols-Richardson table.

The market continues to connect our farmers with the expertise to cope with these conditions. Tim Green, of Green’s Greenhouse, is an expert tomato grower. As the market’s board president, he often goes with me to inspect our farms and I always love to have him along because he readily shares his tricks of the trade – like pinning row cover to the west side of tomato rows to reduce sun scald. Tim is one reason our farmers have so much to bring to market despite the weather.

Tim knows, as do most of our growers, that better farmers make for a better market and a better market is good for everyone who sells and shops there.

So what’s happening at the market besides loads of produce? Today we have homemade chicken and noodles for lunch and the Plainsfolk play traditional music.

Tomorrow, nutritionist Theresa Dohm demonstrates Farmers Market Potato Salad. Pick up the recipe and try a sample at her table by the central entrance. The Chert Glades Master Naturalists serve breakfast from 9 to 11. They are a group of volunteers who promote awareness and preservation of natural resources in our area.
Hawthorne plays traditional music and music from the Civil War era.

On Tuesday, our market intern continues our good-for-you recipe program with demonstrations on making Pesto and Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Stacks. Those are both treats you won’t want to miss! But if you do, all our recipes are posted on

Also on Tuesday Rob Pommert will play and Granny Shaffers serves hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken salad sandwiches and chef salads. And don’t forget the Crosslines truck which comes every Tuesday between 1 and 2 pm. Over the last two Tuesdays our farmers have donated over 400 pounds of fresh produce to feed their neighbors in need and several customers have brought by canned goods. Let’s keep it up!

See you at the market where you can eat well and do good, too.