Thursday, June 20, 2013

Webb City Sentinel Column - 6-21-13

I have a wish list for the market – mushrooms, cheese, pasteurized milk, ice cream, more kinds of fruit (sweet cherries!), fish, more eggs and, of course, a great supply of local and fresh produce all the time. I get to check something off that list today. We had to go outside our usual radius to find it, but we finally have goat cheese at the market. Terrell Creek Farm is about 30 minutes drive on the other side of Springfield. 

They’re going to start out on Fridays but hopefully will add Saturday if demand is sufficient. That’s important for our market because many of our Saturday customers can’t make it to the market during the week.

Terrell Creek hand crafts Chevre, Cheddar, Crottin de Ozarks (that’s made in the style of the traditional French Crottin de Chavignol), Finley Feta and Gouda. Their Nubian herd has unlimited access to pasture, browse and artesian spring waters. Grazing is supplemented with local hay, organic materials and herbs, and a custom blended organic grain mix. In other words, these are well-treated kids.

So stop by the south end of the pavilion today and say welcome to our newest vendor.

I went with Extension ag experts Patrick Byers and Shon Bishop yesterday on farm visits. The market requires that all our farmers be visited once a year and it is a real plus when I can take Patrick and Shon along to offer our farmers advice. Most plantings looked quite good. One couple was advised to cut back on their watering, at another farm something strange was happening to one plant which Shon pulled up and will have analyzed. A third farm had some blight beginning in the tomato field. They could have used a spray to control it, but that particular farm uses all-natural practices so Patrick showed them how to prune off the affected parts of the plants and dispose of them. That method is more labor-intensive but should keep the plants healthy through the growing season.

Our friends at Extension have been a huge help over the years. When we first started the market, most extension agronomists rolled their eyes at the mention of organic. They seemed convinced that conventional farming was the only way for a professional farmer to go. But within a year or two, I noticed a complete reversal as Extension began promoting Integrated Pest Management (pest being their word for any bug, weed or disease). The “integrated” means using all the tools available, both conventional and organic, and the first choice is always the most benign, the organic. There are, of course, times when only conventional chemicals will save a crop but the emphasis now is on healthy soil, healthy plants, and vigilance in spotting problems early. The approach has proved successful for our farmers who find they do better when their farm, their land, and their plants are healthy. And it’s always a plus when they don’t have to expose themselves or their families or workers to hazardous products.

A particularly challenging part of the IMP approach for me is learning to identify the beneficial bugs. On every farm, I’d spot a bug on a leaf and ask “good bug, bad bug?”. Every time it was a good bug. Love to see those good bugs. One more reason to avoid those chemicals, they kill the good bugs along with the bad – and the honey bees.

We’re beginning to make plans for what is typically the biggest week of the year for us – the week of the Fourth of July. We will be open from 11 to 2 on Tuesday, July 2, Wednesday, July 3 and Friday, July 5, plus from 9 to noon on Saturday, July 6th. It’s going to be a busy week for our vendors and volunteers.
Sadly, since much of the produce is running a couple of weeks behind because of the wet, cold spring (remember the snow in May?) we won’t have the abundance of tomatoes and sweet corn that we usually expect for Independence Day, but I have a couple of farms reporting tasseling so, cross your fingers, there may be some sweet corn!   And I think we’ll have a good supply of high tunnel tomatoes then though the field tomatoes may still be scarce.

Today we expect a lot of tomatoes and green beans, along with potatoes, onions, zucchini, squash and tables piled high with  other good things. Tomorrow we may not have as much in the tomato and green bean department but we should have a better supply of blueberries. Thompson Orchard is planning on bringing as much as 150 pounds.

Today our Extension nutrition specialists are preparing and sampling Honey Glazed Carrots. William Adkins is performing and Granny Shaffers is serving lunch.

Tomorrow Market Lady Theresa Dohm is demonstrating and giving samples of Warm Green Bean and Potato Salad and a refreshing summer drink, Cucumber Limeade. The Green Earth Band plays. Big Brothers, Big Sisters provides the volunteers for breakfast, served from 9 to 11. A big thanks to Karen Latimer for ramrodding the breakfast for the market while our usual supervisor Phil Richardson is out of town.

Don’t forget the Tuesday market, when you can enjoy the music of the Pommerts (father and son) and lunch with Granny Shaffers at the Market. We have pretty much all the produce available on the weekend, but not nearly the traffic, parking problems and lines.

Whenever you come to the market, Welcome!