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!