Thursday, June 26, 2014

Webb City Sentinel market column 6-27-14

You’re going to see a little different layout at the market starting today. We’re trying to plan for the dreaded peach line. The first peaches should arrive in a week or two. More on that below. 

Those who remember a certain Friday in early July of last year know there’s got to be a better way. That Friday there was a perfect storm at the market. The peaches, the sweet corn and the field tomatoes all arrived on the same day and we had an incredible mass of customers. Because the line at Pate’s Orchard went north up the middle but had to curve into their stand on the west side, folks walking south on the west side of the market were trapped. I had to stop the peach line to let customers pass through to the south and then bring the peach line back into Pate’s tables over and over again. It was a mess.

So we’re experimenting with running the line straight down the middle from the center space on the north end. The Wells Family Farm, coming today for the first time this season, is filling that space today as a trial run. I’m not at liberty to reveal their product (and it’s not peaches), but there will be a line for sure. If it goes well, Pates will be located there when the peaches arrive and the music will be moving closer to the center of the pavilion. 

Now about those peaches. Sadly the local peach crop failed this year. The buds that produce the peaches set on in July and August and sit on the tree all winter until the spring weather triggers them to swell and bloom. The remarkably low temperatures of last winter killed most of the buds and the late frost took care of the few that survived.

The market board has given our largest orchard, Pates, permission to bring in peaches from the boot heel. They’ll be from an orchard that John Pate knows well and that he is confident will gives us a top quality peach. It was a hard choice for the board to make. Being producer-only is a defining quality of our market and though many markets have mile limits that would consider the boot heel local it won’t be producer-grown. It will be resale and that’s just not who we are. 

The board would appreciate your feedback on the topic because the peach crop will fail again one of these days and they’ll have to make a decision again as to whether we stay true to our producer-only mandate and do without any peaches at all or whether we make an exception.

For this year, however, the decision is made. There will be a sign at the Pate’s stand that names the orchard and location so folks know where the peaches were grown. Of course, the Pates will also have their own tomatoes, onions, berries and other crops that they grow up in Stockton. Just the peaches will be from outside our normal range.

That range changed this year. Since we opened in 2000, we had set 70 miles as the crow flies as our limit. That’s been changed to 50 miles with already established growers grandfathered in. As manager, I have the authority to go beyond our mile limit for products that we need. Our goat cheese, for example, comes from Fordland which is the on the other side of Springfield. 

That vendor, Terrell Creek will be at the market today when we’re open from 11 to 2. I was there yesterday for their annual inspection. It is such an impressive place. Well managed, lots of space, grass, shade and water for the goats, a pristinely clean cheese making room.   

Brown Moss will be playing both today and tomorrow. It’s their first time at the market in their current combination though they’ve played many times with us as the Green Earth Band. I promise you’ll enjoy their funky folksy original music.

Granny Shaffers at the Market is serving a fruit plate and chicken salad sandwiches today.
Tomorrow Cooking for a Cause benefits the scholarship program of PEO. Their volunteers will serve farm fresh eggs cooked to order, biscuits and gravy, sausage with sliced local tomatoes as a side.

Market Lady Trish Reed is doing a food preservation education extravaganza on Saturday. (We’re open from 9 to noon on Saturday.)  She’ll make fresh salsa with market tomatoes and then show folks how to can or vacuum seal it. She’ll also vacuum seal some fresh produce and cut herbs. We’ll also have recipes, coupons, and drawings for Ball Jar products.

On Tuesday when we’re open from 4 to 6, Market Lady Carolyn Smith will do a cooking dmonstration. Supper is variations on the hot dog, Frito pie and pulled pork. The Pommerts will perform.
Don’t forget, unless you want roasted coffee beans or goat cheese, we have pretty much everything on Tuesday as on any other market day. It starts out a bit crowded but eases up very quickly making it pleasant to park and shop. Of course, if you ride in on the bike path, parking is always easy. We have a bike rack under the tree just west of the market that doesn’t get nearly enough use. However you get to the market, we’ll see you soon.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Webb City Sentinel column - 6-20-14

Oh my, as my mother would say “I’ve been as busy as a cranberry merchant!”  One of the benefits of writing this column is that it makes me do my homework. I’ve always wondered why cranberry merchants were so busy but never enough to actually research it until now. I googled it and Mother left off the ending (or I never paid attention to it) “in November”. Aha!  Now that makes sense. And that’s how busy I’ve been. And I’m not alone, the farmers have been even busier than me which is very evident when you visit the market. Have you ever seen such an abundance of produce?  Tables piled over two feet high with beets, carrots, turnips, bok choy, onions, cabbage. Tomatoes and blueberry boxes spreading across the table tops. And always loads more produce in boxes and crates behind the tables. Greg Braker already has so many tomatoes that he’s selling 20 lb boxes for canning.

And speaking of canning, we’re loaded with green beans! It is definitely time to enjoy those green beans and new potatoes and can your green beans for the winter. We’ve even got the canner for you. As part of our grant from Ball Jar, we’ll be giving away a full sized canning kit once a month in June, July and August. So get your name in, we’re drawing next week for the June winners. The drawing jar is on the Ball Jar table near the information table. Ball Jar would love to have your email address on that drawing slip so they can send you coupons and offers, but you can just put down your phone number if you want. We don’t require an email address for you to enter the drawing.

Carolyn Smith is one of our Market Ladies again this year and she has taken on the Ball Jar challenge with zest. We have lots of products from them that we’re using for demonstrations and drawings. Carolyn’s been experimenting with them. So far she’s tried the infuser – that’s a clear plastic device that screws on to the jar (or onto the Ball jar that has a handle turning it into a mug). You fill the infuser with mint or produce to flavor the water. There’s a spout on the top that you can drink through. Last Tuesday Carolyn shared three infused drinks with our customers – tea flavored with apple mint and honey, water infused with cucumber, lemon, lemon balm, rosemary and lemon basil and a drink infused with blueberries, lemon, spearmint and stevia. The tea was my favorite. Another Ball product she’s been experimenting with is the Herb Keeper. So far she’s been impressed with the staying power of the cut herbs she’s held in the fridge using the keeper.

Look for Carolyn most Tuesdays demonstrating various ways to enjoy and preserve the harvest.

Speaking of Tuesdays, our new hours are helping. In fact one of our regular customers stopped me right after opening and said “you’ve done it again. You’ve created a monster on Tuesdays now.”  And it was crowded when we first opened but quickly cleared out. So much so that at closing only two of our farmers had sold out. Another two had sparse looking tables, but nine farmers still had tables loaded with produce. This is not because they hadn’t sold produce, they had. We just have a lot of produce on Tuesdays, just as much if not more than what we have on Saturdays. So if you’re running late and can’t get to the Tuesday market at opening, don’t despair, we’ll probably have plenty to choose from right up until we close at 6 o’clock. We can’t declare the Tuesday market a success until we almost double the sales and we’re a long way off from that.

Today the market is open from 11 to 2. It is Jim Agee’s first day selling this year. In addition to vegetables, he’ll have raspberries, rhubarb, infused vinegars and fruit wood for smoking meat. Mary Ann Pennington with Extension will demonstrate and sample chicken wraps made with Sunny Lane Farms pastured poultry. If you haven’t given the farm’s all-natural products a try, this is your chance.  And we welcome smoothies back to the market today.  Lauren Deleurer, who several years ago grew and sold bean sprouts at the market, opens "It's a Blenderful Life" with lovely cool smoothies and specialty drinks a the market today.

The Plainsfolk will play Irish and other traditional music. Mike Wiggins tells me that Granny Shaffers at the market is serving “Webb City’s Best Spaghetti Dinner with homemade bread” which costs $5. They’ll also have chicken salad sandwiches, chips and drinks for sale.

Tomorrow, Tony Bergkoetter performs. Cooking for a Cause benefits the families with small children program of the Salvation Army. Volunteers from the Joplin Exchange Club will serve farm fresh eggs cooked to order, biscuits and gravy and sausage. While the music and food stops at 11, we’ll have plenty of good things to buy until noon when we close.

On Tuesday the market will be open from 4 to 6 pm. The Pommerts will play and Dogs on the Roll will serve variations of hot dogs, and Frito pie, pulled pork sandwiches, chips and drinks.

Blueberries are in season. Robertson Family Farm has u-pick. You can get directions, hours and prices from them at the market. You can also buy the berries picked, boxed and ready to eat at the market. I’m passing on the heat and enjoying the flavor.  See you at the market! 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Webb City Sentinel Column - 6-13-14

Tomatoes & Basil - yum!

Ticks and tomatoes!  Come to the market today to find out how to avoid the first while you load up on the other. On farm visits this year I have come back every single time with an unwelcome hitchhiker despite spraying repellent on my pants cuffs. There are few things that creep me out more than finding a tick on me – especially after it’s latched on. And I think ticks are going to be bad this year since I rarely came home with ticks after farm visits in previous years. It alarmed me enough that I contacted the Jasper County Health Department to see if they could educate my farmers who are exposed all the time to ticks. I know disease from ticks is rare, but it can be devastating – and if lyme disease is so rare why do I know two people who have it?  And then there’s a new disease, the Heartland virus, that’s making the rounds in Oklahoma so, yes, I’m a bit concerned. Luckily for me, the health department takes such concerns seriously and Steve McKarus will be at the market today from 11 to 2, hopefully to put our minds at ease, and certainly to tell us how to avoid ticks, how to remove them and what symptoms to watch for. I am super impressed with the health department’s quick response. Please stop by and while you’re there you can ask about other services at the county health department.

Now on to a much happier topic – tomatoes!  We have five farmers bringing in hundreds of gorgeous tasty ‘maters each market day. All those high tunnels are paying off – we can have tomatoes with the beautiful spring lettuce still in season and we can have BLTs a full month earlier than usual. What a luxury. 

You know, honestly we do live the good life here in Webb City – at least when it comes to fresh local produce. How fortunate are we that three days a week we can pick up all the veggies we need, plus extras like meats, eggs, baked goods….?  (And even in the winter, we can do it once a week.) Before the market opened in 2000 that wasn’t possible. And since about 2009 when we really started working hard at farmer education and when the farmers began adopting best agricultural practices and techniques, we have had an explosion of high quality produce.

A technique that is new at the market this year should bear fruit in a big way this summer. We’ll have lettuce in the heat of summer. All the field lettuce will start disappearing from the market in the next couple of weeks. It bolts and becomes bitter in hot weather. But thanks to 417 Produce and their hydroponic operation near Mount Vernon, we should have Bibb, Oakleaf, Loose Leaf and Romaine lettuce, year-round. That’s because 417 has a “water wall” that will keep the lettuce cool and in prime condition. I’m looking forward to sitting down to a tender, fresh green salad for the first time ever this July. See what I mean – luxury!

Today at the market, in addition to learning about ticks and loading up on fresh produce and other goodies, you can enjoy the foot-tapping music of the Granny Chicks. Granny Shaffers at the Market is serving homestyle chicken and noodles, chicken salad sandwiches and spinach/strawberry salad.

On Saturday, we’re open from 9 to noon. William Adkins is playing hits from the 50’s and 60’s. Cooking for a Cause will be served by the General Mills Relay for Life team. We are really pleased to be working with them. General Mills has donated biscuits since we began the benefit breakfast. They have put hundreds of dollars into the coffers of the nonprofits who benefit from Cooking for a Cause.

Since Relay for Life is Saturday evening, the team is going to have a very full day but they’re hoping their efforts at the market will take them over their $1,000 goal. They’ve been fundraising for months and will have a table with all sorts of clever things like drinking cups and t-shirts for sale. Let’s help them get WAY over the top!  Breakfast is served till 11 and includes farm fresh eggs cooked to order, biscuits and gravy, and sausages. 

Tuesday’s market is from 4 to 6 and we’ll have supper – hot dogs in several variations and Frito pie – sometimes we have pulled pork too. Ten percent of sales go to the Golden Paws Animal Rescue Shelter. The Pommerts will play.

Come to the market for good produce, good food, good music, good causes and a good time. See you there!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Webb City Sentinel column - 6-6-14

The market last Saturday.

We’re going into a week of learning at the market. Every market day we’ll have a cooking demonstration. Today Mary Ann Pennington with University of Missouri Extension will make and serve samples of Radish Cucumber Salad. Tomorrow Carolyn Smith, who was the Webb City High School family and consumer sciences teacher before she retired, will prepare and serve samples of Quick Confetti Pickles.

 And on Tuesday we have the renowned pesto maker Bob Foos pounding the pestle to turn out that delicious basil-based dish. It’s be a perfect time make pesto because a) there are basil plants for sale at the market and b)Green’s Greenhouse is bringing armloads of cut basil on Tuesday. They planted a whole row in the greenhouse this spring that is now three feet tall, for Mohaska Farmhouse. With the Farmhouse slated to close next week, we can look forward to a very generous supply of basil. Place an order with Tim or Vi Green and they will bring what you need to the market. Pesto freezes very well and you can stock up for the whole year. Freeze them in ice cube trays and then transfer the frozen blocks into freezer bags. Then you can just take out one or two to flavor pasta or other dishes.

While we’re sad that Mohaska is closing, we’re delighted to have a good supply of basil and even more delighted that Redings Mill Bread Company is being reincarnated and will be returning to the market at the end of June. Baker Jamie Smith plans to be at every market with his artisan breads, pizza kits and other tasty treats he perfected while operating Mohaska. (Here’s a teaser about another returning vendor – we heard from Hector Troyer last month and he plans to return to the market next spring. Those of you who remember Hector – he’s the young very tall Mennonite with the fabulous tomatoes who left three years ago for a stint running a boys home in Stockton – I know you will be as happy at the prospect as we are.)

We’re venturing beyond cooking demonstrations this week. Today Shon Bishop and Randy Garrett with Lincoln University Co-operative Extension will be at the market to answer gardening and plant question.
Next Friday Steve McKarus with the Jasper County Health Department will be at the market to hand out information and answer questions about ticks. I decided, after going on three days of farm visits and coming home tick-laden each day that my farmers who deal with ticks every day need to be well-informed. Add to the abundance of the creatures this year yet another tick-borne disease in our area – the Heartland virus – and I decided our customers might want to know more about how to avoid ticks and what to do if bitten. 

Now there are some, including many managers at other markets, who would run screaming from the room at the suggestion of inviting the health department to their market, but I have always considered the health department to be partners with us in keeping the public healthy. We all about improving health and so are they. So today come to the market and learn how to keep your plants healthy and next Friday come find out how to keep yourself healthy!

I have to admit that the ticks are pretty much the only down side of the farm visits. Our farmers are always so welcoming and have amazing sights to share. Those sights being plants, plants and more plants. If you have been to the market lately you may have been a bit overwhelmed by the quantity of produce on display. It’s beautiful in the market, but it can be breathtaking in the field. 

Today we’re open from 11 to 2. William Adkins plays hits from the 50s and 60s. Granny Shaffers serves lunch.

Tomorrow we’re open from 9 to noon. Marshall Mitchell plays his original music with a cowboy flair. Marshall really loves playing for children and they love hearing him, so be sure to bring the kids tomorrow. Marshall plays from 9 to 11 – or later. Most of our musicians stay past their booked time if they have an appreciative audience.

Greyhound Pets of America serve breakfast in the morning. Their mission is finding responsible loving homes for Greyhounds – most of which are retired racing dogs, to acquaint the public with what great pets they made and to inform them about the availability of greyhounds for adoption.

On Tuesday we’re open from 4 to 6 pm (Bob will demo pesto from 4 to 5:30. He has to leave early to take care of the Wise Buyer.)  Rob Pommert will perform.

 Remember, the market is open rain or shine – in fact when it rains is probably the best time to come because we really love you then!  And we’re sure not going to complain about the rain. It’s been a dry, dry spring and we need every gentle drop we can get. See you at the market!