Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 10-30-15

I’ve got a Halloween treat for you - something by a talented new writer!

One of our young vendors, Mabel Brubacker, recently sent me this remembrance of the 2015 growing season which I think you will enjoy.  (She wrote this while on a trip out west - that's her at the Grand Canyon.)

It might be hard to create a clear picture with a blurry mixture of planting, weeding, harvesting and selling in my memory, so maybe I'll just write about each activity, which repeated itself throughout the summer and is mostly all we did!

We had a wet year which made planting hard and gave the weeds the upper hand, but all in all we had a pretty good year for produce. Every few weeks we started another setting of 3-4,000 plants. David and Matthew did most of that, filling the trays with dirt and planting a seed in each pot, then Dad kept the plants watered till they were ready to be transplanted into the plastic mulch in the produce field. That was a long job for the whole crew! One person would punch holes in the plastic, some would plant the seedlings into the holes, others followed up with water, and then finally a large handful of dirt went around the plants.

Weeding seemed never ending and a losing battle this year with all the rain, and the weeds did get the upper hand, despite the hours upon hours we spent trying to subdue them. Often it was so wet they just transplanted themselves after we hoed them out and continued growing. Then produce picking days...morning to night days, busy with picking the veggies, washing them and packing them into crates. We had the whole nine yards at one time or the other. 

Market days are work and kept us hopping too: three days a week each to Springfield and Webb City... but selling is the rewarding part of raising produce - piling the fruit of your labors on the tables and watching happy customers choose what's most appealing to them and walk away with a bagful!  The market in Webb City is my favorite! 

And we girls also do some baking...I enjoy baking and started off doing it myself and selling in Springfield. We prefer to use whole wheat flour and started off with mostly that kind of baked goods, but when the main baker in the Webb City market retired we started baking for that market. My sisters began helping since I couldn't do it all anymore. We also decided to make things with white flour since the many of the customers seem to prefer that. I still make whole wheat bread and that sells more by far than the white bread. I also use whole wheat flour in the cinnamon rolls and cheese breads I make. Ruth has mastered the cookies, Sarah makes pies and quick breads, and Mary does the cakes, bars and pumpkin rolls. Those sell like hot cakes! 

So that's what we've been busy with, in addition to daily housework, canning and freezing fruits and vegetables.

In October produce season was slowing, but we stayed busy getting ready for our long trip to the west coast for the wedding. (Mabel’s brother Lloyd was married last week.) It feels good to have most of the things wrapped up we'd been hoping to. 

The winter squash are all harvested and most of the produce patches plowed down. We worked up some Concord grapes the other week, mostly into juice, then last week we got our yearly apple order from Waverly, and put up 75 gallons of cider, some applesauce, and pie filling.

Mabel is part of Harmony Hill Farm near Wentworth. Like our other farmers, the Brubackers work very hard but love what they do. Many of us will be happy to see them tomorrow after their two week absence for the wedding.
Another vendor we’ll welcome back tomorrow is Cottage Small Coffee Roasters. We’ve been missing Josh and Genevieve Moore and their excellent coffee beans most of the summer while they secured a new roaster. Finally, they’re back!

Tomorrow is our last Cooking for a Cause of the Season. It benefits the Joplin Humane Society. Pancakes, grilled ham and eggs to order.

The Mayfields from Ozark are playing. AND it’s Halloween so everyone who shows up in a costume gets a free mini-bag of kettle corn!  (Alright, even kids in regular clothes are going to get a bag too.)
Don’t forget that Tuesday markets are done for the season. Next Saturday we start our Christkindlmarket so expect to see lots of  gift ideas, as well as many of our regular vendors loaded with produce, baked goods, eggs, meats and other goodies. We’ll also have a new vendor with cracked pecans that she’s harvesting just for you this week. Watch for details in next week’s column.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Webb City Sentinel market column - 10/23/15

I’m back and it’s a little disorienting. I wasn’t gone that long, just 5 weeks. It was summer when I left and it’s full blown fall now and this coming week ends the regular season at the market and we begin the winter market. Things are moving way too fast. (It doesn’t help that I spent those five weeks enjoying a tropical Australian spring so basically I’m experiencing a full year in 6 weeks. Ah, life in the fast lane.)
(All photos are from this week.)

Next week is our last Tuesday market of the year so if you love the evening market, it will be your last chance to enjoy it until April.
Tuesday has been the market step-child for years with much lower sales than we saw on either of the other two market days. We tried all sorts of ideas to improve sales - special activities, sampling (remember Tasty Tuesdays?), changing hours, extra publicity. Finally this year, we found the magic combination. The vendors decided to change the hours from 4 to 6 to 4 to 7. (That being said, we’ll only be open from 4 to 6 this Tuesday because it’s getting so dark so early. It’s not fun packing up the market in the pitch black.)
The longer hours made a lot more sense for serving meals and the vendors thought three hours would be more convenient for customers than two.
This year, since we received some funding for food stamp matching, we decided to do that program on Tuesdays. That allowed us to learn the system on a quieter day and draw a few more customers as well. We were not sure how long the funding would last so doing it one day a week rather than three gave us some feel for numbers. By August we were confident we’d have funding for the full year, especially since we had joined a research project that dramatically expanded our funding, so we expanded to all three market days.
Our wonderful nutrition educators from Extension asked if they could do their cooking demonstrations on Tuesdays. It meant they had to put in after work hours but since their mission is in part to educate low income people on how to incorporate more fresh local produce into their diets, it made a very good fit with the food stamp match.
And then we started the free kids lunch and, wow! Tuesdays had arrived.
Next year we’ll need to think about Fridays, which seriously slumped this year. I wonder how our customers would feel about us going to just Tuesday and Saturday or to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday? The vendors and the board have not discussed a change, but we always welcome customer input. Let us know what you think. And if you have ideas to perk up Fridays, let us know that too.
Tomorrow we have two favorites:
The Mayfields are playing. We expect them as a duet, but sometimes there are more and they magically turn into Red Bridge Trio. Whatever configuration appears you can expect lots of high energy bluegrass and gospel.
Cooking for a Cause benefits our regional food pantry, Crosslines. Breakfast will be cooked to order pancakes, grilled ham and farm fresh eggs. Both music and meal run from 9 to 11. The market is open till noon on Saturdays.
Speaking of eggs, we are finally getting a good supply. Those hens apparently love fall and we’re seeing over 100 dozen at each market. Enjoy them while the hens are happy.
The Radiology Club from MSSU will have a bake sale on Saturday (and yes, they will be baking in the traditional manner, not zapping the baked goods).

Jim Oxley will be at the market Saturday with his lovely hand-made dresses for little girls.
On Tuesday, the Pommerts will play and Carmine’s will bake artisan pizzas to order. Jordan Nichols, who is a dietician with Mercy Clinic Endocrinology, will demonstrate and share samples of Carrot Apple Harvest Salad. Jordan specializes in recipes for diabetics but I think we’ll all enjoy this regardless of our dietary restrictions.

We’ll have lots of fresh local produce, so come celebrate our last Tuesday and feast on local fresh produce this wee