Thursday, February 18, 2016

Webb City Sentnel market column - 2/19/16

Well, let’s talk eggs, folks. Hens can be notoriously fickle when it comes to laying eggs. If it’s too cold – or too hot – they don’t lay. They can become broody, which means they stop laying and start nesting to hatch the eggs, which is why those eggs have to be collected every day. They molt, usually for several weeks or months each year. Losing feathers and laying eggs apparently are not compatible. They stop laying as the days shorten. Commercial operations avoid this by keeping the days “long” with artificial light. That works if the hens are confined and never see real daylight. That’s not how our egg ranchers operate. Their hens always have access to natural light and the ranchers wouldn’t artificially extend it anyway because they figure that’s nature’s way of giving the hens a break.

And sometimes the hens just go on strike for no apparent reason.

But right now, the hens are on the job. No molting or brooding, no mysterious lack of eggs, and the days are lengthening. We have lots of eggs – even more so because we brought on another egg rancher during the lean winter months to help fill the gap. You will find a good supply of eggs at Penn Acres, Oakwoods Farms, Fanning Egg Farm, Garrett Egg Farm and, our newest egg rancher, Rush Egg Farm. Yep, that’s a lot of eggs but we’ll be happy to have them when we have to split them among three days a week come April and our customer numbers shoot up. But we may not have them if they can’t stay in business till then. So this is my personal plea to you to ramp up your egg purchases for the next six weeks. Pick up some for the neighbors and relatives and get them hooked on farm fresh eggs. Start celebrating Meatless Mondays. (below - Penn Acre's mobile hen house - it's moved every day or two so the hens always have fresh pasture - and bugs)

And remember when you compare prices, the eggs at the market are from hens that are not fed food or water laced with antibiotics. These hens are not crammed into cages or barns (the commercial egg industry considered eggs “cage-free” even if the hens are jammed into barns and never see the light of day.)  In other words, you can find cheaper eggs elsewhere, but not better eggs or frankly a better value for what you get. So come buy some eggs!  (Plea over)

Tomorrow Mabel with Harmony Hill is serving chicken and gravy over rice paired with a green salad. Mabel will buy the fixin’s at the market as soon as the growers pull in and then prepare it in the Market Kitchen. Now that’s a fresh green salad. The cost is $3.50 for eat-in or take-out.

Jordan Nichols, tomorrow’s Market Lady, will be in the kitchen too, chopping up lettuce, radishes and green onions for her Butter Lettuce, Radish and Avocado Salad with mustard dressing. Be sure to stop by her table for a sample and a recipe.

Scott Eastman will be on the market stage.

If you’re a regular Sentinel reader you know that in addition to an abundance of eggs, we’ll have tables loaded with lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, boc choy, green onions, radishes, turnips, pea tops, cabbage, winter squash, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and other surprises.

If you want to know about the more than 14 kinds of lettuce at the market right now, and the many other greens, sign up for Taste of Green, our tasting class from 6 to 7:30 on Tuesday (February 23) at the Market Kitchen. It’s only $15 per person and you can sign up at the information table tomorrow or call me at 417 483-8139.

King’s Kettle Corn will be back after an absence of several weeks. Ed Grundy returns with his scrolled bookmarks. He’s not a regular so if you have a gift need coming up, catch him at the market tomorrow.

It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day at the market tomorrow. I’ll see you there (buying eggs!).