It finally feels like the market season has begun. We had big turnouts for both Friday and Saturday, new growers and products are showing up all the time, and we’ve started the Kids Community Garden in earnest. (photo below - Granny Shaffer's strawberry/spinach salad is served on Tuesdays and Fridays. It can be served without the cheese making it a good vegan choice)
Middle school counselor Karen Brownfield did a great job of recruiting gardeners for us this year. We have about 20 kids working in the garden. That can be a challenge with only 50 by 60 feet of space, but there was plenty to do on Wednesday. The garden was tilled on Tuesday. It was grown up in wheat about three feet tall so was quite a challenge to till. I’d like to claim the wheat as a cover crop but it was just accidental. It seeded from the wheat straw that we’d used last year for mulch. Still it made an excellent cover crop and it was so thickly planted that, had we the time to let it mature, we could have harvested enough to bake some bread. But it protected the soil from erosion all winter and it made an excellent green manure for the soil when tilled.
Garden volunteers Dale Mermoud, Nancy Carlson and myself divided the kids up. Nancy took the bulk of them, showing them how to pull and gather the stray wheat plants that didn’t get completely tilled under. Dale placed the potted plants where they were to be planted and I took the children, two at a time, and showed them how gently remove the plant from the pot, how to dig the hole and to what depth, the type and amount of fertilizer, how to gently press the soil around the root ball. Everyone got a turn planting tomatoes, peppers or herbs. One young gardener worked with Dale in planting a row of green bean seeds. Then we all pitched in and mulched the plants with straw (I see more wheat cover crop in our future). The children always tend to be very conservative about mulching, carefully sprinkling a bit here and there. None of that for me. “Take a quarter of the bale and peel off layers of 3 to 4 inches and place them around the plant.” I have no interest in weeding if I can beat the weeds down with a thick layer of mulch.
Then Mother Nature blessed us with a nice rain.
It was an excellent beginning, but only possible through the generosity of our market farmers. Green’s Greenhouse and Garden, Frederickson Farms and Fairhaven Garden supplied us with the plants so the kids will be harvesting the same good produce that our professional farmers bring to the market.
Education is a key component of the market’s mission. The market invests considerable time and money in the kids garden, but we don’t neglect our area professional and hobbyist growers.
This winter we sponsored a Winter Production conference held at Granny Shaffer’s that exceeded all our expectations. Not only did we have over 150 people attend, but the conference received rave reviews from the participants. The best responses that we have received were from growers that have already implemented much of what they learned at the conference. Of course, we had an ulterior motive in organizing the conference. We want a better winter market. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see substantial improvement next winter as a result.
We partnered with Extension on the winter conference as we have on many education projects for almost ten years. Patrick Byers and Nashon Bishop, with University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Extension respectively, will be at the market today to visit with folks about their gardens and fields. We are very fortunate to have their expertise once a month during the growing season at the market. They’ll also visit with all our market growers about challenges they may be experiencing. So even if you’re not a gardener you’re benefiting from their expertise in getting better produce at the market.
Another of the market’s education programs benefits our customers even more directly. Beginning next Friday, Extension will do cooking demonstrations weekly using fresh local products from the market. On Saturdays, one of our market ladies will demonstrate good-for-you recipes. Tomorrow Trish Reed demonstrates Easy Spinach Salad. You may remember Trish from several years back when she was our Friday lunch caterer.
Today, in addition to gardening advice, you can enjoy the traditional Irish music of the Plainsfolk. Granny Shaffer’s is serving homemade chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes, strawberry/spinach salad and chicken salad sandwiches. Kenney Farms will be at the market for the first time today (yes, you remember them – they specialize in strawberries!).
Tomorrow volunteers from the Ronald McDonald House serve breakfast. They’ll also serve each customer a sample of maple syrup sausage from Madewell Meats. Doesn’t that sound good? Madewell’s is at the market on Friday.
Currykorn will play at the market for the first time in several years. This fun family group from Columbia is normally beyond our budget, we can’t afford the mileage, but we were able to book them on their way home from a festival in Oklahoma.
Rocky Horse Ranch returns to the market for the first time this season tomorrow. Rocky Horse uses all-natural growing practices and expects to have asparagus, and some broccoli, strawberries and rhubarb.
On Tuesday, Granny Shaffer’s serves freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as their strawberry/spinach salad and chicken salad sandwiches. Rob Pommert, with his gentle rock, jazz and classical guitar is back for our Tuesday music.
It’s shaping up to be another great week at the market.
Here’s Trish’s recipe that you can sample at the market tomorrow.
Easy Spinach Salad
10 ounces of fresh spinach
Red onion, sliced and separated
6 boiled, peeled and cooled eggs, cubed
8 ounces chopped cooked bacon, drained and cooled
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup miracle whip
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup sugar or equivalent sugar-free sweetener
In a small bowl, mix together ketchup, miracle whip, oil and sugar. Mix well and refrigerate. In a large bowl, combine spinach, red onion, cubed eggs and bacon pieces. Toss well. Drizzle dressing over salad mixture and toss well.
Go to our Market Lady web site (themarketlady.com) for weekly recipes and tips – Trish’s tip this week is how to dry lettuce and spinach.