Thursday, March 31, 2016

Webb City Sentinel Market Column - 4/1/16 - No Foolin'

You’ll see unmistakable signs of spring when you come to the market tomorrow, starting at the turn off the highway. Susie Scarecrow who stands by the highway sign has her new spring outfit on. Well, new to her since she shops at the second-hand shop. Susie has a secret name. De Hunt, our volunteer cart driver and a market board member, calls her “Our Lady of Perpetual Marketing.”  I know some media folks who would call me that, too, but it’s easy to tell us apart. She’s the one with the dress and apron on.
Another sure sign of spring – the return of Terrell Creek Farm. Every winter Terrell Creek disappears from the market. Their goats are busy making babies and there is no milk for cheese. Come spring the farm is awash with baby goats and the milk is flowing again. So come to the market Saturday for some of the best goat cheese in the state.  (above - One of Terrell Creek's kids)

And finally, what would spring be without flowers?  The Greens will be at the market with bedding plants – petunias, dahlias and red salvia – and with vegetable plants – tomatoes and red onions and candy onions. 

Another sign of spring – we’re opening up the south portion of the pavilion. We expect each week to fill it further south until we’re packed – probably about when we open for the regular season April 19 – and then as we hit the high season to spread up the center aisle and out onto the grass!

Tomorrow, we’ll be loaded with produce. We had some gorgeous carrots, beets, leeks, onions, radishes and amazing greens – lettuce, chard, micro-greens, spinach, boc choy and more last Saturday.  (left - Xiong Farm table last Saturday)  Cottage Small will be back with freshly roasted coffee beans. We’ll have LOTS of farm fresh eggs. Sunny Lane will have chicken, beef and lamb, Penn Acres, goat meat. Redings Mill Bread Company (below) and Cottage Vanilla return after a brief absence.

Mabel’s breakfast was a big hit last Saturday so she’s doing it again – biscuit and gravy for $2.50 and an egg fresh from the farm cooked to order for 50 cents. William Adkins will perform.

Spring is taking hold at the Kids Garden too. Monday morning volunteers will help some 200 kindergarteners plant potatoes there. Next fall they’ll return as first graders to see the result. On Wednesday, middle schoolers interested in gardening will meet at the market to plant onions. Tim Green is giving us lots of his beautiful red onion and candy onion plants to put in the garden. Then at the end of April, we’ll start gardening in earnest when Tim provides us with some sturdy tomato plants. We’re excited about getting the garden in a bit earlier this year. Usually we’re waiting on the soil to dry enough for tilling now. I’m hoping for a very good year, for the kids garden and for our growers. Heaven knows, they deserve it.

Come to the market tomorrow and enjoy the bounty of a promising year. See you there!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Webb City Sentinel - 3/25/16

If you think Missouri’s weather is wild, come with me to the foothills of the Rockies in Colorado. I’m making one of my last off-season visits to my daughter Emily who lives near Denver – let’s face it, the real attraction is her little Wyatt who turned three months this week. On Monday, the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. The same on Tuesday. On Wednesday we woke up to over a foot of snow and blizzard conditions. I was sure glad I ran my errands on Tuesday and that I could delay my return to Missouri until the roads cleared.

In Missouri we have had our own fair share of weather swings this spring. The swing I watch for most carefully if it gets below 28 degrees for more than four hours. That dooms the peach crop once it has bloomed out. So far, so good. 

Until this year, the market board allowed our primary peach vendor to bring in peaches if the crop was lost. That’s happened twice since the market opened and, while the peaches brought in have been good, sometimes very good, they can’t match a local peach which can be so good that superlatives are not adequate. However, the board has decided from here on out, there will be no re-selling of peaches when the crop fails. We are a producer-only market and we will no longer bend the rule for any crop.  When the sweet corn crop and the tomato crop fails, as each has done at least once, we do not allow those to be brought in from other areas. The same will apply to all crops no, even our beloved peaches. So we are certainly hoping for a good year for all crops and between me and you, I think this will be an exceptionally good year, for which we are long overdue.
Our growers are prepared, trained, equipped and committed to bringing you the best of what they grow. And the weather looks promising. If all holds as it has, we’ll have peaches ten day early this year, and asparagus two weeks early. And, yes, that means we’ll see asparagus very soon!

We still have an abundance of eggs. The longer daylight hours and milder weather puts them in an egg-laying mood. And we have loads of beautiful greens, and in smaller supply watercress, radishes, green onions, beets,  carrots and more.

Mabel with Harmony Hill Farm is getting us ready for Cooking for a Cause which begins on April 23 by fixing us breakfast for the next four Saturdays. She’ll have a biscuit and gravy for $2.50. A cooked-to-order farm fresh egg is an additional 50 cents.

Drew Pommert graces the market stage tomorrow with his soft popular tunes and classical guitar.
Master Gardeners Debbie Fedie and Eric Osen will help each child plant a large peat pot with either green bean or sunflower seeds. After the seeds sprout and grow for about six weeks by a sunny window, pot and all can be planted outside in the garden. This is free for all children.  (photo - from last week's activity - planting fingerling potatoes)

The market board, main volunteers and manager meet tomorrow afternoon to do the first long-term strategizing in the history of the market. We want to set goals for the market for five and ten years out, what should it look like, why, and how do we get there?  It’s an ambitious agenda and we don’t presume that it’s more than a beginning. We’ve gotten where we are by planning year to year, sometimes month-to-month. In year 16, it is time to acknowledge the market is here to stay. If you have thoughts on the subject, share them with us at the information table at the market or on Facebook.

We’ll see you at the market tomorrow!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Webb City Sentinel 3-18-16

You won’t want to miss tomorrow’s market – Amos Apiaries will be there with local raw honey.
Debbie Fedie and Eric Osen of the Ozark Gateway Master Gardeners will host a kids gardening tableChildren can plant a fingerling potato in a peat pot which they can grow inside and watch sprout and then plant, pot and all, in their garden or a large pot.
Market Dude Frank Reiter is making his Guinness Lamb Stew and sampling it with Irish Soda BreadHe was scheduled for last week but couldn’t make it, so lucky for us, we’ll still be wearin’ the green tomorrow.
Scott Springer makes his market debut with acoustic guitar tomorrowMabel is serving a biscuit and gravy for $3.
We expect six farms, including Xiong Farms who had leeks the last time they cameThere’ll be loads of greens and other good produceCottage Small is back with freshly roasted coffee beans and our happy hens have been busy laying eggs – we’ll have over 100 dozen for saleIt’s going to be another fine market.

I love working with the farmers marketI love that our new manager is always willing, almost always available and has a pickup!  That sure came in handy when Wednesday morning the city manager mentioned it would be nice if the market moved its stuff out of the public works buildingOver a year ago, the Quonset hut near the market had to be taken down to make room for the kitchen and city workers were kind enough to move the things we don’t use regularly over to the public works buildingWe were way overdue getting our things back to the market and how nice that our manager, David Hill, was available that very day to help me relocate itWhat a pleasure to send an email within 6 hours saying mission accomplished
Then Thursday we located a gently used commercial dishwasher near CarthageThe young man selling it was a former Webb Citian and perked right up at the market’s nameHe cut the price by 70% because it was for the marketBy evening it was relocated by David’s truck and in the kitchen ready to be hooked up.
Meanwhile I received an email from a friend who thought he might have located some funding for the Free Kids Meal which we hope to serve on Tuesdays and Thursdays when school is out
Last Friday we had our seed starting workshop at the market’s education center south of Rocky ComfortThe English session was good, but the Hmong session was even betterOur small structure was jam packed with our Hmong farmers who were so interested that they asked if next year we could begin earlier and have a weekly workshop on seed starting and caring for young plantsIt is so satisfying to work with farmers who want to improve their skills and are willing to put in the time and effort to do so.
I am a big believer in sharing the joy so I want to extend an invitation to you to be part of the marketWe will soon be training new volunteersand with all the expansion at the market this year, we’ll have lots of opportunities whether working with the kids garden, helping at the information table, volunteering at the free kids supper or any number of other projectsYou can download a volunteer application at or stop by the information table.
Our new tent is up by the soccer fields ready for the park’s egg hunts tomorrowIt’s white and yellow and going to look great when it is set up at the pavilion for the free kids meal in late May. What a great relationship we have with the parkTheir workers will put up and take down the tent (saving us hundreds of dollars in set up charges) and we make it available for the hunt (saving them hundreds of dollars in tent rental fees). Everyone winsEspecially the kidsThe schedule for the egg hunt tomorrow is:  
1 pm – kids up to 4 years old
1:30 – kids from 4 to 6 years old
2 – kids with special needs
2:30 – kids 7 years old and up
See you in the park!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Webb City Sentinel column - 3-11-16

Tomorrow's market will be filled with fresh and local.  We're expecting six farms with loads of lettuce, spinach, boc choy, chard, green onions, radishes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, garlic, leeks, micro-greens, pea tops and more.  Madewell Pork will be there and we'll have lots of eggs, raw food bars, kettle corn, vanilla, tamales, beef and goat meat and crafts (that's a photo from last Saturday)

Mabel of Harmony Hill will have ham and pinto beans with cornbread for $3.50 – eat-in or take-out. William Adkins is playing. The Market Dude Frank Reiter will demonstrate and sample Guinness Lamb Stew with Irish Soda Bread.

This morning we are holding our first classes at the market’s Winter Production Education Center located on the Yang Farm south of Rocky Comfort (photo below). It’s a new and ambitious step in our grower training. Open to all growers, whether professional or hobbyists, it will host classes taught in English and then repeated in Hmong. That is one reason for the location. It is centrally located among our Hmong farmers and it is on a Hmong-owned farm so when our three year project is complete we will have a very well trained group of Hmong farmers who will be a resource to the larger Hmong community. We expect the center to continue to function after the three-year grant period is complete so it will continue to benefit the region by growing farmers who in turn feed our community.

I think the value of such training is evident. Just think back five years when we were lucky to have any produce at all during the winter time and compare it to the abundance that we now enjoy all winter long. That abundance represents significant income to the farmers during a time when before they had no winter farm income and it represents better diets for us, year-round. They say education is power and we have certainly found that to be true – the power to be more financially successful and the power to eat healthier – and better.

Our class today is on Seed-Starting and I’m looking forward to bringing home a flat planted with seeds (which I will immediately turn over to one of my farmers to grow for me). Once ready those plants will go into the Kids Community Garden. We’re hoping to get it tilled next week and soon children will be planting potatoes.

Other classes are taking shape as well. More are scheduled for the Education Center, as well as for the market’s blackberry demonstration plot at the Southwest Center in Mount Vernon. And classes are in the works for the kitchen. Some ideas we’re tossing around – a children’s class where they make a supervised shopping trip to the market and then prepare the recipe in the kitchen, classes on mushroom growing, dairy food - how to make yogurt, butter and simple soft cheeses, making art with melons and berries, baking pies and cookies, using fresh herbs, 101 things to make with summer squash, cooking with and preserving blackberries. Oh, the list goes on. We hope to have the schedule up on the market web site by April.

I visited with Tim Green of Green’s Greenhouse and Garden this week. He’s already eating asparagus!  He says it’s three weeks early. Hopefully he’ll have enough to share soon. And I spoke to John Pate yesterday. The peaches on the verge of blooming two weeks early. We are all hoping the weather stays mild because a late freeze will doom the peaches.   (Let's hope instead for a harvest like 2010 pictured here)

Maybe this will be one of those amazing years when the weather is perfect and the harvest amazing. In the 16 years the market has been open, we’ve had one year like that. I’m hoping 2016 will be the second.

In the meantime, we KNOW the market will have lots of good things to offer tomorrow. I’ll see you there!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Webb City Sentinel column - 3-4-16

As we near the beginning of the regular market season, we’ll be seeing more produce, more farmers, more vendors and hopefully, more customers.   The regular season starts Tuesday, April 19.   More about that later in the column.

Tomorrow we’re in for a treat as soup-lover Chuck Lonardo prepares Vietnamese Vegetable Soup.   Be sure and stop by his table for a sample.   William Adkins takes the market stage with golden oldies.   Mabel with Harmony Hill Farm serves Pizza Casserole with Italian Cheese Bread.   You can eat-in or take-out for only $3.50 a serving.

We continue to have a wonderful supply of greens – I counted 10 different kinds of lettuce, plus spinach, chard, micro greens and boc choy last week – plus radishes, carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, winter squash and green onions.   We’ll also have eggs, freshly roasted coffee beans, vanilla, raw food bars, baked goods, frozen tamales, beef, lamb, chicken and goat meat.  Crafters will have goat milk soap, glass and metal art and jewelry, and sewn goods.   It’s sure to be a good day at the market.

Now back to the upcoming season.   The big news is that we are dropping Friday and adding Thursday.  Thursday’s market will be open from 11 to 2 (the first Thursday will be April 21).   The market members made this rather drastic change primarily because it is very difficult for the farmers – and the bakers – to do two days in a row.   Five years ago Friday was our biggest day and Saturday was only half as big.   But now Saturday is by far our largest day in terms of sales and customers.   To have market on both Friday and Saturday meant the farmers.  After returning home about 4 pm on Friday, they must unpack and then do their biggest harvest of the week, clean and pack their harvest and be back at the market by 8 am the next day.

With a day between markets now, we can look forward to more abundant tables on both market days and better rested farmers.   I say “better rested” rather than simply “rested” because our farmers tend to work from before sunup to after sundown during the summer and you know how long the days are then.   Rest will come in  the Fall.

Come April 19, the market will be open on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 pm, on Thursdays from 11 to 2, and on Saturdays from 9 to noon.   We expect it will be hard to remember the new day so we’ll have fridge magnets with the days and hours by the end of March at the information table.   In the meantime, start practicing – supper at the market on Tuesday, lunch at the market on Thursday and breakfast at the market on Saturday.

Speaking of meals, the market has released its Call for Meal Proposals.   Anyone interested in becoming a meal provider at the market can get information on the market’s home page – or just click here.

You can also check out our upcoming grower classes on the web site or by clicking here.   A week from today we offer our first class at the market’s Winter Production Education Site south of Rocky Comfort.   The class will be on seed-starting.   Participants will be able to see a simple inexpensive seed starting structure and learn about equipment and supplies, sanitation, seed sources, and planting and growing techniques.   The cost is $10 per family/farm which includes a tray planted with veggie seeds to take home.   

There is also information on the blackberry growing classes at the market’s blackberry demonstration plot at the MU Research Center in Mount Vernon  (click here).  We’ll have flyers on all the classes at the market information table.   The classes are open to anyone interested.

Tomorrow’s market is just the next in an expansive list of activities come up.   See you at the market!

The Webb City Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 9 to noon in the pavilion just east of the Kneeling Miner statue in King Jack Park at Main and MacArthur.  Come to the information table to swipe your debit, credit or SNAP cards for tokens good at the market.   For information, call 417 483-8139.  Market offerings are posted on Facebook the day before and day of market.