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.