Dale Mermoud, our master gardener, and I thought the fall season for the Kids Community Garden was a bust. Garden time is from 3 to 4 on Wednesdays, right after school. At 3:10, not a child had appeared though the buses were gone and the line of cars picking up kids had vanished. Then I looked up to see school counselor Karen Brownfield leading a troupe of children from the middle school. Twenty-five of them!
Luckily we had plenty to do and just enough tools and work gloves. I had them partner up. Five teams were assigned to Dale to rake the straw mulch off the potato field in preparation for tilling and seeding of cover crop. To another eight I gave bags and set them loose harvesting the tomatoes. And the last seven started breaking off and tearing out the giant sunflower plants that had grown throughout the garden. We’re getting the garden ready for winter.
Halfway through we took a water break, a new group took on the mulch and I took the rest of the children through the garden, exploring what was still in season, telling them about the different varieties of tomatoes and finishing up the sunflowers.
For our final task we split up the harvest with every child taking home a few tomatoes, five won the guessing game that awarded them a mess of fingerling potatoes and a few brave souls took home hot peppers – after a thorough warning to wear plastic gloves when cutting them.
They were a great bunch of kids to work with and Ms. Brownfield tells me we’ll have even more next week when we’ll have more mulch to move and more tomatoes to harvest. We won’t be planting a fall crop like many of our farmers. Instead we’ll work for the next month or so getting the garden in shape for winter and then call it quits until next spring. All of which means that we’ll be doing more than gardening since a 50’ x 50’ garden doesn’t really need 25 kids to put it to bed.
So for the next month, the kids will put in about half an hour gardening, then we’ll have a lesson – about bees or compost or some other aspect of gardening or a cooking lesson. Next Wednesday we’ll be exploring tomatillos, a vegetable used in Mexican cooking. We have two plants in the garden and the kids were fascinated by them with their papery shells. We’ll sample Tomatillo Salsa Verde. Fredrickson Farms usually has tomatillos at the market. I’ll put the recipe at the Fredrickson’s table so you can give it a try.
Since the Kids Garden is winding down our quantity of produce is waning. And with 25 children that takes quite a bit of produce to make sure everyone gets enough to serve something to their family. Never fear, our farmers are here. Our market farmers are donating produce to share at the garden. It’s perfect. During the summer the kids had more produce than they could use so surplus was sent over to the CP Center or the Senior Center. While generosity is its own reward, it’s nice to see some of it returning to the children.
You’ll still find very generous tables at the market. I stopped by the Lee Family Farm today and was amazed at the quantity of produce, bushel baskets of peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, rows of Swiss chard and eggplant. The Lees sure know how to farm. And they’ve got the fall crop planted so we should be seeing the cool weather crops soon – and hopefully we’ll get weather to match.
Today we have special guests. University of Missouri Extension food safety and nutrition experts will be here to teach us about food safety and nutrition. Londa Vanderwal Nwadike, PhD, State Extension Food Safety Specialist, and Lydia Kaume, Nutrition and Health Specialist from Barton County, will have an activity for all ages showing how easily germs can spread, as well as handouts with food safety and nutrition information.
The Sours will play traditional music. M & M Bistro will served chicken and beef/lamb pita wraps, as well as taboulleh, hummus and baklava. We welcome a new egg farm, One Tree Farm of Seneca. That means we’ll have LOTS of eggs on Fridays, the best supply we’ve had in years.
Tomorrow, Market Dude Frank Reiter will wow us with his food demonstration – Cherry Tomato and Bacon Jam on a Crostini schmeared with Chevre. I think we’re going to have to start calling him the Market Gentleman, he’s so fancy. He’ll have samples too!
William Adkins will be singing popular tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. The Civil Air Patrol will serve breakfast from 9 to 11. This is a club of high school kids who hope to join the Air Force. We love working with them. They know how to follow orders and are extremely polite. It bodes well for our country’s future.
On Tuesday, Market Lady Trish Reed will demonstrate making stew and sealing it in the Food Saver. She can also teach you about canning.
The Pommerts are playing. Dogs on the Roll and Carmine’s Woodfired Pizza will have supper ready.
There’s a tremendous selection at the market these days so come on out and load up! Time to get that canning done.