Thursday, May 30, 2013

Webb City Sentinel column - 5-31-13

I expect I’m not alone in wishing I could sometimes turn back the clock and handle a situation differently. Seems like I can come up with the perfect response – about five hours later.

That happened toward the end of Tuesday’s market. I was chatting with Carrole Palmer at her stand, Fairhaven Gardens, when a man came up to Carrole complaining bitterly that, “I feel like I’m in a foreign country. This place is full of foreigners.”

Carrole just looked down, but I had to respond – “And we’re lucky to have them.”

As a market manager, I feel very fortunate that we have lots of growers, including our immigrant growers. Without them, our market would be significantly reduced both in produce variety and in produce quantity – and in smiles.

At my response, he pretty much exploded and stormed out of the market.

Instead of responding like a market manager, I should have more directly addressed his comment, perhaps by telling him that if he were referring to the Asian vendors, that every one of them at market that day was a U.S. citizen just like me, and, I guess, like him. But I didn’t and I regret it.

I am, of course, assuming that he was referring to our Asian vendors and not our vendors from Germany, France and Great Britain.

I wish I’d told him – not only are most of our Asian vendors U.S. citizens, but pretty much all of the younger ones were born in the U.S., and most of the others are naturalized U.S. citizens. They are all legal residents of the U.S.

I should have told him:

– That our older Asian growers lost their homes, their lands and many family members because their people allied with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

– That many of these very people he disparaged lost mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles because when we (the U.S.) left Vietnam, the Viet Cong massacred their people in retribution for befriending us.

– That many of our older Asian farmers spent years in refugee camps in Thailand until our country welcomed them because of their service to our country.

I should have told him that while these farmers may not have personally sheltered and guided our airmen to safety, they and their families bore the consequences of that aide.

Frankly, I expect that neither this man’s family nor mine has sacrificed as much as our Asian farmers have for supporting the United States.

And had he given me the opportunity, I should have told him that I have never met a more generous and hard-working people than our Asian farmers. Obviously generalities can’t be applied to a whole people, but I am blessed to know and work with these farmers who, though they suffered extreme loss, are positive and productive members of our community.

I have to admit that my reqret at being inarticulate and unresponsive was almost matched by my dismay when told by Carrole that, “It happens more often than I’d like to say. I just don’t respond to them.”

I noticed Carrole also didn’t ask him if he wanted to buy anything. The Palmers are as kind as they come and have taken the Asian vendors into their hearts and often have taken the younger ones into their arms, giving them a hug whenever they meet. They were proud as punch when Mina, a young woman who had helped at her parents’ stand since high school, graduated from college this month.

So bless the good souls like the Palmers and the other native-born farmers at our market who have befriended our immigrant farmers.

And bless our immigrant farmers who try so hard, load me down with gifts of produce and pitch in to help clean tables and take down the umbrellas at every market.

And especially bless our dear customers who treat all our vendors with respect. Thank you.

Perhaps next time, I’ll be better prepared to respond, and I hope you will be too. Some folks are justifiably leery, having seen very questionable farming practices in other countries.

You can assure them that all of our farmers are trained in safe food production. Interestingly, our immigrant farmers are the most trained. All the farmers are required to take the workshop given by the Missouri Department of Health and University of Missouri Extension every five years. Most of our immigrant farmers retake it every year.

You may have noticed an abundance of a new product at the market, particularly on the Asian farmers’ tables – green (or fresh) garlic. Storage garlic must be dried and won’t be ready until the end of summer, but green garlic is ready now. Lindsay Supplee, nutrition program associate with the Jasper County University of Missouri Extension, will have samples of garlic croutons at the market today and explain how you can use the market’s green garlic to make your own.

Tomorrow, you’ll get the rest of the story when Market Lady and nutritionist Susan Pittman teaches how to make Raspberry Vinaigrette and Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing.

The salad fixings at the market are fabulous right now. There must be more than 10 varieties of lettuce and other salad greens. I found a new one at the Lee Family Farm stand Tuesday – about 6 inches across and 4 inches tall with the curliest little leaves I’ve ever seen on lettuce. I loved the way it looked in the salad and it was tasty too.

Plus, we’ve got a wonderful selection of extras for salads like strawberries, sugar snap peas, snow peas, green onions, cucumbers and radishes. And, of course, tomatoes! We should have three farmers with high-tunnel tomatoes on Friday and two on Saturday.

On the market stage today will be the Gospel Strings. We shall miss terribly Treva Dawson, one of the Strings players. Treva died unexpectedly last week. We’ll miss not only her music but her gentle smile, her calm competent manner, her kindness and generosity. Webb City is a smaller place without her, but she would appreciate and encourage her fellow Gospel Strings musicians to continue sharing music of faith and patriotism with the community.

The Granny Shaffers at the Market menu today will be chicken and noodles, chicken salad sandwiches and strawberry/spinach salad.

Tomorrow, NALA volunteers will serve breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m. NALA teaches adult literacy, English as a second language and GED classes (allowing dropouts to complete their high school education). The Josh Jennings Band will play.

On Tuesday Granny Shaffers at the Market will serve lunch, and Drew and Rob Pommert will play. The Joplin Business Women will be back selling their Rada knives as a fundraiser for their scholarship program.