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!