Thursday, August 22, 2013

Webb City Sentinel Column - 8/23/13

I’m holding my breath – can you tell?  We’ve survived the beginning of school without the precipitous drop in sales that we have always experienced in the past. The next hurdle is Labor Day weekend, another date that has signaled a steep drop in customer attendance. 

Those drops are always hard on our vendors’ bottom line, but this year they could be even more critical than usual. Produce at the market doesn’t really dwindle dramatically until freezing weather arrives, though the type of produce changes. Typically in September we still see summer produce like tomatoes coming in and add the cool weather crops like spinach, peas and lettuce. The green beans flood in along with the winter squash – we’re expecting a lot of butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash this year. But because the summer harvest is running two to three weeks late, we’ll see a big supply of peaches, peppers and other crops that normally start to fade out next month. That means we need to hold onto our summertime crowds. Let’s consider it a bonus time for our customers who had to wait weeks longer than usual for their favorite crops to mature.

And now that I think of it, why not just stay in the market habit all year long. Our winter market is well-established and growing. Our farmers are already planting their high tunnels with tomatoes, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, carrots and other tasty treats to sell during the winter. We now have more than ten high tunnels scheduled for winter production. And we have farmers who are also planting for winter production in the fields, using row cover and crops that weather the cold well like turnips and beets.
For those of you who have shopped at the Clubhouse during the Winter Market, you may wonder where we’re going to put all these farmers and their produce. Well, the answer is, right at the pavilion. One of Chuck Surface’s last projects was to write a grant to buy sidings for the pavilion and portable heaters. Chuck was a real friend of the market, as well as the city’s director of economic development.  Tom Reeder took over the project after Chuck’s death and designed and ordered the roll-down sidings. They will allow us to use as much of the pavilion as we need and we expect to use at least half of it. In other words, we expect to more than double our Winter Market this year. I’d like to add a Christmas market season this year too, a place where folks can buy locally crafted gifts. It would be held during the Winter Markets, I’m thinking from mid-October through mid-December. Wouldn’t it be fun to have some church choirs singing carols after Thanksgiving?  If you have ideas or suggestions, let me know – 417 483-8139. 

Tom Lewis, of Broken Wire Ranch, is planning to bring loads of Big Jim peppers to the market today and tomorrow. They are a mild hot pepper, perfect for stuffing. I see a lot of folks having them roasted in the Broken Wire roaster. Tom will also have his other specialty peppers, as well as his pretty bell peppers.
We welcome a new musician to the market today – Marshall Mitchell. He was recommended by one of our regulars, William Adkins. They’re both from Bella Vista, though Marshall does mostly cowboy music. Should be fun.

Granny Shaffer’s at the Market will serve homestyle chicken and noodles, chicken salad sandwiches, and a fruit plate.

Extension is back and will demonstrate a super easy Butternut Squash recipe. 

Tomorrow, the Webb City High School Band Boosters will serve breakfast from 9 to 11. It features biscuits and gravy, sausage and farm-fresh eggs cooked to order. I’m really pleased to be offering those farm-fresh eggs. We’d had such a short supply earlier in the year that our customers were buying them all, but now we have a good supply, especially on Saturdays – enough for our customers and the market, too.

The Red Bridge Trio will perform and Market Lady Trish Reed will demonstrate and give samples of Watermelon Refresco.

Tuesday Gospel Strings plays and Granny Shaffer’s at the Market serves lunch.

I want to say thank you to the Webb City Parks Department for quick action. I noticed on Tuesday that there were car tracks coming off the alley on the east of the pavilion and a new post on the pavilion. Monday morning the park workers found a post had been knocked out, apparently by a driver who had neglected to leave a note. They jacked up the side a bit, set in a new post, cemented it in and had it all ready for us in one day. Impressive.
And kudos to our volunteer golf cart driver. De Hunt drives on Fridays and Saturdays for the first hour or so of market when cars are still parking a considerable distance from the pavilion. I try to drive on Tuesdays if the parking lot is full so I know how important the task is. I always have several passengers who tell me that they just couldn’t come to the market if the cart was not there. They are physically unable to walk a distance and certainly unable to carry a watermelon and all their other purchases. This week, De told me that in his last nine days of driving he had 355 passengers, an average of about 40 per day with 62 being the biggest day. So thank you, De, for making this service possible. And thank you Perry family for buying us new cart batteries this year. The market blooms and prospers because of the people and organizations that play a part.