Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Webb City Sentinel 5-30-14

It’s one of those special times at the market when crops come in that folks are eagerly anticipating. These particular two crops make a dish that holds dear memories for many and a special place on the table – green beans and new potatoes. (OK, the photo is not green beans and new potatoes - but I thought you'd enjoy seeing the cool colored cauliflower at Xiong Farms stand.)

In the past, there was only a short window to enjoy these two favorites together. New potatoes harvest in the late spring. Green beans in early summer. But thanks to the adoption of winter production techniques by several of our growers, green beans arrived this week at the market, weeks earlier than usual. They were planted early and protected from the late frosts by row covers and high tunnels and now we can enjoy the fruits of our farmers’ learning and labors.

And I do mean “our” farmers. That is one of the pleasures of the market – knowing the people who grow and make your food. The USDA has a campaign called “Know your Farmer, Know your Food” with the tag line – “every family needs a farmer”. Well, long before the USDA campaign, for the last 15 years in fact, we in Webb City have known our farmers – and ranchers – by name. And our families have lots of farmers. 
When the market started in 2000 we had so few farmers that we barely filled a quarter of the north pavilion. Now we’re bursting at the seams. 

Back then there just weren’t many professional farmers and would-be professional farmers growing for farmers markets around here. I think one reason we have so many more farmers now is the success of the market. Folks see farmers succeeding at the market and think they’d like to give it a try. And, let’s face it, it is the dream of many to have a small farm and one of the things farmers markets do best is provide a venue for start-up businesses like small farms. Another reason is probably all the training the market has done. We have trained hundreds of people in good agricultural practices and visited many, many farms with Extension giving advice. You might say the market works hard at growing growers and, for that matter, growing markets. We’ve mentored dozens of new markets across the state and the country. We’re only paying it forward. We were mentored by a Springfield market when we began.

In fact, there are so many farmers in our area now that every week I send a list of other area markets to farmers asking about setting up in Webb City. We just don’t have room for any more right now. Several of our vendors from last year were not returning this year so we accepted four new farmers but we’ve pretty much hit the limit, especially since a number of our regular vendors have decided to try their hand at farming – like Apple Road which previously only did eggs and Marlee’s Creamery who formerly only did milk and Flagger Greenhouse who had always before only grown spring plants….. We may have to start using a shoe horn to get everybody in. 

We had two more of our regular farmers start coming this week. I’m expecting blueberries in the next couple of weeks and another four or five returning farmers with field crops. What a contrast that is to our first year when we had one large farmer, two occasional small farmers, a bee keeper and a baker. Our baker became ill midway through the season, so I ended up baking till we shut down in September that year. Good thing we have professional bakers now. I don’t think my ten zucchini loaves and 14 pies would last long on a market day now.

Enough reminiscing about our beginnings. 

We’re open today from 11 to 2. The Granny Chicks are playing. Whether a polka, a traditional song or rock ‘n’ roll, these ladies will get you tapping your feet. Granny Shaffers serves chicken salad sandwiches, spinach/strawberry salad, and homestyle chicken and noodle for lunch. Mary Ann Pennington with University of Missouri Extension demonstrates and samples Broccoli and Red Pepper Salad. (Have I mentioned that the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage at the market are beautiful?)

Tomorrow we’re open from 9 to noon and Tony Bergkoetter plays. Cooking for a Cause benefits the Heartland Opera Theatre. Their volunteers will serve biscuits and gravy, sausage and cooked-to-order eggs till 11. Food blogger Frank Reiter will demonstrate Garlic Scape Pesto. 

On Tuesday we’re open from 4 to 6 pm. Drew Pommert will play and Dogs on the Roll will serve hot dogs, chili dogs, chili cheese dogs and Frito pies. Tuesdays continue to be a great day to shop – not crowded but with a full selection of produce, meats and other good things.  And because of those smaller crowds and because of the shorter hours on Tuesday, the selection stays good pretty much through to the end (except on eggs – I’m working on that!) 

It just keeps getting better and better with each week – see you at the market!