Thursday, August 27, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-28-15

The seasons are changing at the market. The apples, sweet potatoes and winter squash have arrived and the fall greens won’t be far behind. It’s that happy time when the seasons over lap and we get the best of both so there are still melons galore this weekend and lots of other summer produce, as well as much of the fall produce.

What a fun day we had at the Kids Community Garden this week. Last spring about 200 kids from the kindergarten planted potatoes in the garden (photo below). This week the same children, plus a few new to the district, walked from their first grade class in Webster to watch those potatoes being harvested. It would be hard to have a garden better located for working with students. It is within easy walking distance of the kindergarten, the first and second grade and the middle school.

The children were so excited and we were too. You just never know what you’ll find when you start digging potatoes. Did they grow, did they spoil, how many will there be? Well, they grew and there were a lot and only a few spoiled. We had four excellent master gardeners there to talk about the process, reminding them that in the spring they planted just a small piece of potato, talking about how potatoes are root crops because the crop grows underground and telling them about some other root crops. The children settled onto the big tarp we’d laid since the garden was still damp from the weekend rains and the master gardeners unearthed the treasure. When all nine classes had visited the garden, the potatoes were donated to Watered Gardens, a homeless shelter in Joplin.

The middle schoolers will be invited to help put the garden to bed after school on the next two Wednesdays. The master gardeners will sow a cover crop and the garden will then wait for the next batch of kindergarteners in the spring.

Another wonderful thing that happened this week was during the downpour on Saturday. It rained buckets from beginning of market till a half hour before closing and yet, hundreds of customers came. Of course, many thought they’d be able to park close because who goes out in such weather and many were soaked getting from their car to the pavilion (bring an umbrella!). The pavilion and the concrete floor are a godsend in such weather, and at other times too when otherwise we might be melting in the sun. We are so fortunate and the envy of many other markets forced to shut down in such weather. So thank you Parks Department and Perry Foundation who provided the facility and improvements and thank you customers who braved the weather and made Saturday a profitable day for our farmers and other vendors and a good day for our Cooking for a Cause cause - Camp Mintahama.

Saturday was also the perfect day to wonder why on earth we always block off the best parking right next to the pavilion. It’s for your safety and ours. There have been numerous accidents at farmers market caused by drivers plowing through the market. The worst was in 2006 when a man plowed through a California market, killing 10 and injuring 70. Since 2006 only vendors and volunteers park against the pavilion because they will not be moving during market.

Today Lumpy’s Express and M & M Bistro serve lunch. The Sours are playing.

Tomorrow we have Red Bridge Trio taking the market stage. Cooking for a Cause benefit’s the Inch at a Time campaign at Sarcoxie High School. Supporters began the campaign in September 2012 and have raised $230,000 of the $500,000 needed to resurface the football field and track. The track is in such bad repair now that the team must practice out of town. You may ask why we would support their cause. Because they are our neighbors and we are inspired by our Little League team newly returned from the World Championship where they received the Best Sportmanship Award. Sure, Sarcoxie is not “our” school, but those kids need a good place to play and if we can help, we should. So here’s to wanting the best for everyone, not just our team, and here’s to the kids who gain skills during their time in high school sports that will benefit them and the community for a lifetime, skills like good sportsmanship.

Tuesday the market is open from 4 to 7. Carmine’s will bake artisan pizzas to order. Supper by Trish will feature a full meal for $5. Extension is giving samples of Herbed Baby Eggplant.

The world can be such a wonderful place, come taste it at the market!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-21-15

This column is about a couple of hidden happenings at the market.  In other words, some of the things that help make the market what it is but are not normally visible to our customers.

The market received a large packet this week, filled with thank you notes written by students at Eugene Field who had toured the market.  They loved the music and all the veggies.  They especially loved the baby goats and chicks that Penn Acres had brought for them to see.  Their cards included lots of colorful pictures and more than a few "you're awesome"s which, of course, we don’t believe.  But there were a couple that really caught my eye.  Alissa wrote "Thank you for letting E.F. tour the market.  You showed us that healthy food is a way to a healthy life."  She then added a drawing of the USDA's My Plate which shows how much fruit and veggies, grain and meat and dairy we should eat each day for a healthy diet.  My, now, there's a third grader who knows more than most of us.

The second card was from Destiny and was directed to me personally "I hope you will keep the farmers market forever, and you could pass it down to family members."  The thing is, Destiny, that is my hope too, but for the market our family is our community of the vendors, volunteers, customers, supporters, the city and parks and many others.  The market is a legal entity recognized by the IRS but its future depends not on my children - which is a very lucky thing indeed - but on the on-going health and vision of our market community.  That future is very much on the minds of our board who are vendors and community members.  Hard to believe it's already time to start making plans for next year but it is, and not only for next year, but also for this fall and the holiday season and ten years down the road.  The board is especially aware of the need for good planning as the kitchen nears completion, as we end this summer's Free Kids Supper and think about expanding it next year, and as we see the clay cap being applied to the large open area just west of the market.  The opportunities opening up in the next few months could be transformational.  It's an exciting time to be part of the market and part of Webb City.

Something else exciting for me was a vendor asking if she could “deep clean” the bathrooms.  Nancy is a professional house cleaner who, with her husband, also gardens and raises chickens and a few hogs.  They sell at the market under the name Harvest Hill.  Naturally my answer was “please do!” and so when you visit the market this weekend you will find the bathrooms deeply cleaned.  I hope you don’t miss those historic cobwebs.

At almost every market I have some kind soul tell me what a wonderful job I have done with the market.  Please, keep those compliments coming because I love a pat on the back, but the reality is that the market benefits from the efforts and support of many, many people.  We may not be a village but we are certainly a community. (Case in point below - our little volunteer guitarist who literally fronted a charmed William Adkins for much of his gig on Saturday)

It’s going to be another good week at the market.  Today The Granny Chicks liven up the market stage.  They are always such fun!  Lumpy’s Express will have their smoked and barbecued meats, plus sides.  Granny Shaffers serves their catfish and fried potatoes for $3.  With the rain and cooler weather we expect to see the fields perking up and loads of good local fruits and vegetables.

Tomorrow, The Rebecca Hawkins Project plays.  Cooking for a Cause benefits Camp Mintahama, our local Girl Scout Camp.  The volunteers serving breakfast rallied around the Camp in 2013 when the regional council decided to close it.  These former girl scouts wanted it to not only remain open but be improved.  It was a important part of their childhood and of their Girl Scout experience and they wanted today’s Girl Scouts to have the same experience. The camp is 180 wooded acres offering hiking, nature activities, service projects, swimming, canoeing, paddle boating; archery with a wide variety of camping options. It’s a big project, but these ladies are pulling it off with style.

On Tuesday we have a benefit supper for Bright Futures featuring the sloppy Joe recipe that has received raved reviews from the Free Kids Supper diners.  Sandwich, two sides, dessert and drink for $5.  All profits go to help our schools help kids in need.  It runs from 5 till sell out.

Carmine’s bakes up artisan pizzas from 4 to sellout.  Rob Pommert will take the market stage.

The market is open from 4 to 7 pm on Tuesdays, from 11 to 2 on Fridays and from 9 to noon on Saturdays.

Yes, we’re looking forward to another good week at the market, both behind the scenes and on the stage.  See you there!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8/14/15

OK, I give up. Where has the summer gone?  School’s back in session and fall is not far behind. And though I feel like I’ve been playing catch up all summer, I think I’ll just admit I’ll never catch up and be glad to see pumpkins, sweet potatoes and fall leaves. Maybe things will slow down (though with both of my daughters moving and renting or selling their houses and me being the official family house painter, I have a feeling I’m going to be pretty busy this fall. In case you’re interested, Cora is moving from Perth to Brisbane, Australia, which are about 5 hours apart by air, and Emily is moving from Indianapolis to Denver).

But what you really need to know is that even though school has begun, the market produce is still rolling in and we’ll need lots of customers to buy it. So don’t abandon your healthy, delicious diet and your farmers now. (photos are of the charming helpers at Harmony Hill Farm)

Last week I wrote about the market being a “third place”. Ironically, I received a call this week from Project for Public Spaces. They are an international nonprofit based in New York that promotes great public spaces (in other words, they specialize in creating great third places) and works with cities and towns to develop them. Our market received its first big grant from PPS and it was transformational. It was 2007 and marked the beginning of our extensive farmer education efforts, the expansion and improvement of the pavilion, the structuring of our organization, putting in place a fee structure to make us sustainable and securing our 501(c)3 status with the IRS. We’ve had little contact since 2008 but I get their digital newsletter and apparently they’ve been keeping track of us. 

PPS is developing materials and technical advice for the National Main Street Center which works all over the country helping towns revitalize their downtown districts. The Webb City market is to be one of PPS’s model markets for the program. During our conference call I described various programs and aspects of the market and Kelly, the PPS contact, commented over and over again that our challenges and subsequent successes mirrored exactly what their national consultants had identified as the characteristics of a high-functioning market. Nice to be doing it right, even by accident. It is, however, no accident that the market has tremendous support from members of the community and the market who give solid advice and help us accomplish our goals.

So what are we doing this week?  Today the Sours play traditional music. Lumpy’s Express and M & M Bistro serve lunch.

Tomorrow Cooking for a Cause is served by the local chapter of Bereaved Parents of the USA. Bereaved Parents of the USA was founded in 1995 by a group of bereaved parents from across the country. Their sole purpose was to offer support, understanding, encouragement and hope to other bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents after the death of their children, brother, sister or grandchildren. 

I think most of us would agree that the death of a child is probably the worst thing a parent could face, even if that child is an adult. My own parents lost my older brother, Bobby, the week before he was to enter college. They never faced anything harder and though they went on to lead full productive lives, it was a loss that was always deeply felt.
So, come support this group of people who have faced the worst life can throw at them and who, to paraphrase their web site, celebrate the lives of their children, share the joys and the triumphs as well as the love that will never fade, and offer what they have learned from each other to every more recently bereaved family.

Bill Adkins will play. Music and meal run from 9 to 11. The market is open on Saturdays from 9 to noon.

Tuesday is our last Free Supper for Kids. We’re sticking with the popular menu of sloppy Joes, melon, cherry tomatoes and milk. It’s served from 5 to 6:30 in the Kids’ Tent.  The Tuesday market itself will continue until the end of October.

Carmine’s Pizza is baking in their portable wood fired oven and they’ll be ready for a crowd because the Globe is doing a story on them Sunday. Trish is serving meatloaf starting at 5. Rob Pommert is playing in the pavilion. Cowboy Marshall Mitchell will entertain in the tent.  

Here are a few other things coming up. On Thursday morning, August 20, the first graders at Webster School will walk down to the Kids Garden to dig the potatoes they planted last spring as kindergarteners. Adult volunteers are welcome to supervise as they dig for treasure.

On Saturday, September 19, we celebrate Arts in the Park. We are looking for individuals and organizations to lead children’s arts activities, as well as artists to demonstrate or sell their work. We’re also looking for volunteers to help with Cooking for a Cause that day. It will benefit our own Webb City Parks. If you’d like to take part, stop by the information table or email me at

See you soon at the market!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 8-9-15

It’s national farmers market week and we’re celebrating by giving away $25 in market tokens today, Saturday and Tuesday. Enter your name at the information table. We also have “I love farmers markets” temporary tattoos - and no, you don’t have to be a kid to get one. The National Farmers Market Coalition is encouraging folks to take a photo of themselves with their tattoo and post it to Instagram with the hash tag #MoretoMarket. Maybe now I’ll have to finally figure out Instagram.

In celebration of the week the Coalition provided reasons to support markets. Some of my favorites:

They provide financial security to beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, learn and grow.

Farmers selling at markets receive more for their product. Most selling through wholesalers receive less than 16% of the final purchase price of their product. At our market, the farmer receives as much as 98 cents of every dollar of produce they sell. (In other words, the market charges them 2% to sell at the market - & that 2% goes to pay the musicians, the transaction costs of the credit, debit and food stamp card charges and other shared costs.)

And more successful farmers means more farmland is preserved from urban sprawl and more food is grown and consumed locally and we get to know the people who grow and make our food.

To those reasons, I would add a few more. I like to think that the market also makes us a better community and I love that more and more children know where their food comes from.

I think for many of us, the market is an important “third place”. Third places have been around for centuries but the term was coined in 1991 by Ray Oldenburg in his book “The Great Good Place.” The “first place” is home, the “second” is work or school. The “third” is a community gathering place. It could be a church, a community center, a coffee shop, or in our case a market. Where I grew up, it was the tiny general store where folks would gather round the pot bellied stove in the winter for a game of checkers or to catch the local news from the owner, Miss Pearl. Speaking of which, I’m bringing out the checker and chess sets this week. The high season crowds have thinned a bit and with the addition of our Kids Tent we have room (and time) to play a game or two.

As the EPA finishes their work west of the market filling in the pit and creating a large open lawn, the park board will be exploring improvements in the area. I hope you will share any thoughts you have that would further the market’s role as a third place. What would make it a better gathering place and what would make it a better lingering place - for all ages? What would make it a Great Good Place?

Today we have Granny Shaffer’s serving their popular catfish and fried potatoes for $3. Lumpy’s Express should have pulled pork, brisket, ribs and smoked chicken and sides. Cliff Walker is playing. Extension will be at the market to answer your gardening and landscaping questions.

Tomorrow the Radley’s return to the market stage. Cooking for a Cause benefit’s the Webb City Girl Scout Troop 26433. They’ll serve biscuits and gravy, sausages, eggs cooked to order and orange juice or coffee. Music and meal run from 9 to 11. The market is open from 9 to noon on Saturdays.

Apple Road Farm brings their first harvest of honey tomorrow. I expect it to sell out fast. Owners Mende and Brad Staggs spent the early summer rescuing honey bee swarms. Swarms happen when a hive becomes too large and splits into two colonies, one of which must depart for a new home. Unfortunately their idea of a new home is sometimes problematic, like when it’s on the side of your house or in the tree by your front door. This year, rather than destroying the swarm, folks could call the Staggs who would gear up and lure the bees into a swarm hive. Once secured, the swarm was placer in a new hive at Apple Road Farm.

In the “it’s a small world” category, Brad is the nephew of Resa Amos, co-owner of Amos Apiaries, long-time honey vendors at the market. This spring the Amos’ honey crop failed and they have been sorely missed at the market. We hope to see them again by fall.

On Tuesday, Marshall Mitchell returns to the supper tent. The Pommerts will play in the pavilion. Carmine’s Wood Fire Pizza will bake artisan pizza to order from 4 to 7. Supper with Trish begins at 5 – spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, brownie and drink for $5. The Free Kids Supper runs from 5 to 6:30 and will be sloppy Joes, cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes and milk.

I hope we’ll see you this week at our “third place”. (You’ll look good in a market tattoo!)