Friday, April 29, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 4/29/16

If you follow the market’s facebook postings, and I hope you do because they take a lot of time for us to do, you would have noticed photos of tomatoes the last few weeks. And if you are an experienced grower you might have thought “No way are they selling local tomatoes in April!”  But it’s true, thanks to our farmers planting the high tunnels several months ago and remaining patient until the sun became intense enough to ripen those tomatoes that have been hanging green on the vines for what seems like weeks and weeks. The sun is finally strong enough to redden those tomatoes and they are appearing in delicious piles at the Braker and Harmony Hill tables. Yes, they are local and, yes, we’ve been hearing a lot of raves about the tomatoes.

We may not have enough to handle all the Saturday crowd, but we’ve had more than enough tomatoes on Tuesday and Thursday – one more reason to shop the weekday markets. We had asparagus for the whole market yesterday and strawberries for 2/3rds of it. No doubt the weekday markets will liven up once the free kids meals start on May 19, but until then you can look forward to easy parking and good selection. Of course by May 19, most of our growers will be back at the market with tables loaded high with produce. It is astounding what they manage to coach out of the earth this early in the year.

It’s a bit like time lapse photography. I’ll be at a farm in March and see bare fields that have been planted but no sign of life, some covered with a cloth barrier on small hoops to protect from frost. The next month, there are little rows of green, and then a few weeks later, with some sunny days and rain, they seem to go into high gear, spreading and growing into mature plants. By the end of April, the fields are thriving.

Many years ago, someone in the market business told me that farming is a learned skill. I guess I’d never given it any consideration. I’d grown up among farmers and we’d all helped on our family farms but as I have worked with the market farmers, the truth of that statement has rung clear. For example, it’s sure not a matter of intuition when it comes to evaluating soil fertility. Reading a soil sample result and implementing the recommendations takes all sort of reading and math skills. Knowing when to plant what, what to watch for, how to set up irrigation, whether and when to fertilize all take knowledge and record-keeping ability. I think that’s why our farmers are so keen on the training we provide. It’s not that they are yearning to be students, rather they are intent on being successful farmers and they know that the better their toolbox of knowledge, the better their chances of success.

What brought this to mind was Mr. Lee, patriarch of the Lee Family Farm, meeting with Lincoln University Extension folks today to begin plans for his first high tunnel. The Lee Family Farm is among our largest, most productive farms but had not yet ventured into winter production. It is a prudent step that could provide income throughout the year. The Lees have three years of winter production training under their belt and good resource people for guidance. I look forward to enjoying the fruits of that knowledge next winter.

Tomorrow at the market, Cooking for a Cause benefits the Ronald McDonald House. Biscuits and gravy, sausages, eggs cooked to order, orange juice or coffee are served from 9 to 11.
Mabel at Harmony Hill is serving her last lunch of the season – ham and beans with cornbread for $3.50, eat-in or take-out. Rob Pommert plays.

Hazel’s Bakery is a bit under the weather so Stewart’s Bakery is filling in for her tomorrow. We should have a wonderful selection of hanging baskets, local produce and other goodies.

On Tuesday, we’ll have lunch by Stewart’s Bakery and Carmine’s Pizza. Both Pommerts will be with us Tuesday.

On Thursday, be sure to bring the kids if you can. Marshall Mitchell is making a rare visit. He has become such a star that he’ll only be able to make the market a few times this year so don’t miss a single one. Great cowboy tunes from a cowboy dressed to the nines atop a sawhorse pony. It just doesn’t get any more cowboy than Marshall. On Thursday, we expect Granny Shaffers with catfish and potato wedges and Tac-o the Town with Mexican style food for lunch.

Finally, this Monday we have an informal class for anyone interested in learning how to operate the commercial equipment in the market kitchen – that includes convection ovens, griddle, tilt top skillet and steam kettle (that would be a 30 gallon skillet and a 40 gallon steam kettle). There is no fee or reservation required. Just show up at 10 am on Monday and Jason Miller, chef of Instant Karma, will bring us all up to speed.

Bonus news – the Kids Community Garden is up and growing. The kindergarteners’ potato plants are peeking through and the middle schoolers, with the help of one little brother, planted tomatoes, peppers and broccoli this week. We meet at the garden on Wednesdays at 3:10 (unless it’s raining).
See you at the market!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 4-22-16

What a treat it has been watching the streetcar moving across the park beyond the sea of grass where the pit once was. Before it was not possible to see the trolley on most of its route because of chat piles. Now it is an enchanting sight. The trolley will be running tomorrow from 9 to noon. Then it will run again May 7 and on every first Saturday during the regular season.

Tomorrow is a double celebration. It’s Let’s Plant a Garden Day when every child (through college) receives a free tomato plant along with instructions and fertilizer. Grown by Tim Green of Green’s Greenhouse and Garden, these are beautiful stocky plants. Master Gardeners will teach the children how to plant and care for them.  (Tim's beautiful tomato plants will also be available for sale tomorrow for $2 each - they are in 4" pots.)

It’s also The Bard Lives at the Market day!  We’re observing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with readings from his work. Jim and Ann Liles, Rachel Stanley and Todd Manley will perform. Crofter’s Gate will play music from the 1600’s.

Chef JT Amos creates dishes featuring spring produce and chicken from Sunny Lane Farm from 9 to 11. Chef Amos is sponsored by Arvest Bank.

Mid-Missouri Bank will hand out seedlings of a variety of trees and shrubs (as long as they last). One of our customers mentioned this week that the redbud she received at the market five years ago is now over 6 feet tall and blooming for the first time. 

Breakfast benefits the Carl Junction Bright Futures program – biscuits and gravy, sausages, coffee or orange juice, farm fresh eggs made to order served from 9 to 11.

Mabel at Harmony Hills Farm serves Ham and Potato Soup with a roll for $3.50. Next week Mabel will serve ham and beans with cornbread and that will be her last lunch until fall. They are getting very busy on the farm with planting and tending their crops. In fact, they are cutting back on their baked goods as well. They will continue bringing their country breads, cinnamon rolls, sugar free banana bread, healthy oatmeal cookies and biscotti, but no more pies and cakes. But you know what they say – one door closes and another opens. Hazel’s Bakery is back tomorrow with pies, cakes, fruit breads and many other goodies. On Tuesday and Thursday Stewart’s Bakery is stepping up with pies, cookies, dinner rolls and other treats. Oh, I don’t think any of us are going hungry.

Next Tuesday, Stewart’s Bakery will have roast pork loin and dressing with a veggie side for $6 and ham and beans with cornbread for $5. Carmine’s Woodfire Pizza will make artisan pizzas to order. Rob Pommert will play.

On Thursday, Harv’s Barbecue and M & M Bistro are back. Extension will demo a good-for-you-recipe. The Sours will play.

Wednesday we plant tomatoes, peppers and other warm weather crops in the Kids’ Community Garden. We gather at 3:10 between the middle school and kindergarten to work for about an hour. All are welcome.
Speaking of community gardens, Central United Methodist Church is starting a community garden at the corner of First and Pennsylvania. If you’d like to participate, call the church or stop by the garden tomorrow where they will be working beginning at 9.

We received some exciting news this week. You may remember that last year we partnered with Central United Methodist to serve free kids meals at the market on Tuesday evenings when school is out. The program is underwritten by the USDA does the free and reduced meal at schools and realized that kids eat all year, not just when they are in school. The USDA also has a big push to increase the amount of local fresh food kids eat and who would do that better than a farmers market?  This year, we’ve been approved to serve the free kids meal on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 and on Thursdays from 11 to 1. We’ll be using the market kitchen which is equipped to turn out loads of food and we’ve hired Syerra Conklin, who handles catering for Cloud’s Meats. She seems a perfect match for us. She didn’t blink an eye at feeding 150 kids twice a week and immediately started thinking of ways to entice kids to eat fresh, local veggies – how about Taco Tuesday?

Sounds good to us!  This program serves many purposes. While it has no income or residency requirements, we determined last year that at least half the kids eating were from low income families. It gives us a chance to introduce all children to a variety of fruits and vegetables. And it brings LOTS of people to the market. We are really looking forward to May 19 which will be our first Free Kids Meal of the year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 4/16/16

Things are hopping at the market.  Tomorrow we have our first Cooking for a Cause of the year.  The Carl Junction Archery Team will prepare a breakfast of biscuits and gravy, sausage, farm fresh eggs cooked to order, and coffee or juice - $3.50 without eggs, $4.50 with eggs.  Tami Fredrickson’s daughter, Katie, is on the team so we’ll be seeing a lot of Fredricksons, as well as many other volunteers.  Never one to let folks sit idle, Tami has back-up tasks like cleaning up the market’s new used double door fridge and installing the kitchen’s new emergency exit if all hands are not needed for the breakfast.  (above - a couple of champion archers, who also happen to be market kids - Jeremiah Jones and Katie Fredrickson)
One family member will be unavailable for Tami to order around.  Her grandpa, Jim Oxley, will be in the pavilion selling his dresses.  Grandpa makes delightful frilly dresses for little girls, complete with hairbows and decorated socks, but it is his sundresses I always stock up on.  They are charming, perfect for every day and easy on the wallet.  They are also my granddaughter Madeleine’s favorite clothes to wear.  Winter, summer, spring or fall, which admittedly are all pretty mild in Australia, she’s wearing one of Grandpa’s dresses in all the photos I get.  If it’s on the chilly side, she just wears it over a long sleeve shirt and leggings. (Above - I'm never one to pass up an opportunity to post a photo of a granddaughter - Madeleine in one of Grandpa's dresses)

Another rare visitor tomorrow will be Craig Hansen from Hillside Farm.  Craig specializes in elephant garlic which won’t arrive at the market in full force until late summer, but Craig is thinning his fields and he will have green garlic tomorrow.  It’s used the same way as mature garlic for cooking but should be refrigerated and used within a week.  Green garlic is a bit milder than dried garlic.  You can use the green stalks as long as they aren’t woody.

We are going to have over a hundred hanging baskets tomorrow.  The Detweiler’s will be back on the north end and Greg Braker will have his in the middle of the pavilion.  (there will also be bedding plants - both flowers and tomatoes)  And to make those plants thrive, let me introduce you to our newest vendor – Sprout Faster soil supplements.  They sell locally produced worm castings (yes, that’s a fancy word for poop).  Recommended uses?  Apply to planting holes and seed furrows, to perennials, potted plants and hanging baskets, to roses, trees, shrubs and berries, even to lawns.  Because the pavilion will get crowded with farmers by June, we will probably only be able to host Sprout Faster for about six weeks so buy a bag tomorrow and check it out.  That way you can restock while they’re still at the market.

Mabel of Harmony Hill Farm will serve ham and pinto beans with cornbread tomorrow for $3.50 – eat-in or take-out.  William Adkins takes the market stage.

The sides are off the market (thank you, Park workers!) and that means we’re going into the regular season.

Next week we will be open on Tuesday from 4 to 7 pm, on Thursday from 11 to 2, and on Saturday from 9 to noon.  Weather permitting (sprinkling is ok, pouring rain is not) the street car will run during every market next week!  It’s been three years since it last ran at the market, it’s free and it’s fun!  Don’t miss it.

Mid-Missouri Bank will give away seedling trees and shrubs at every market next week, as long as they last.  Pick two from four choices: redbud, witch hazel, American beautyberry and river birch.  MU Extension horticulturist Robert Balek will be on hand Tuesday to advise on where to plant and how to care for the seedlings.

On Tuesday, Stewart’s Bakery makes their first appearance at the market.  Linda will offer a comfort style supper and baked treats for dessert.  Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza returns with their New Jersey style pizza.  Rob Pommert plays.

On Thursday, Granny Shaffer’s returns with fried catfish and potatoes and their delish Thai wraps.  Tac–o The Town makes their market debut with Latino foods.  They both will be at the market every first and third Thursday.  Scott Eastman plays.

And Saturday The Bard Lives at the Market!  We’re observing the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth (really? sure, why not, of all the places around town the market would probably seem most familiar to him).  Jim and Ann Liles, drama professors at MSSU, will recite sonnets of the bard.  Rachel Stanley and Todd Manley, also of MSSU, will perform.  Crofter’s Gate, who will seem a lot like the Plainsfolk with the addition of an Irish harp, will play music from the 1660s.

We’ll also have a chef demonstration you won’t want to miss.  Chef JT Amos will demonstrate one of these market fresh recipes every half hour:

Spring Power Salad
Chicken with Marlee’s Creamery Milk
Bok Choy & Asparagus
Grilled Beets

Our thanks to Arvest Bank for arranging this demonstration.

Next Saturday breakfast benefits the Carl Junction Bright Futures program.

Yes, we expect it to be another great year at the market.  See you there!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 4-8-16

The market begins its transformation into a wonderland of flowers tomorrow when Owen and Esther Detweiler arrive with a trailer load of flowering hanging baskets and bedding plants. Last year they raised quite a few hanging baskets on their farm near Lamar and were blown away by our customers’ support. More than once they brought close to 100 and went home with an empty trailer. Yes, the Detweilers have very nice baskets. Owen also noticed last year that we didn’t have many flowering bedding plants – and we didn’t because the farmer who usually grew them decided to opt out without giving the market notice. With both Owen and Tim Green stepping up, we should have loads of beautiful plants starting tomorrow.
Copperleaf Pottery also returns tomorrow after a long absence. Their pottery is delightful and their soaps lovely.

You’ll notice some of your regular vendors in new places tomorrow. We’ve begun shifting to regular season positions. If you can’t find someone you’re looking for, just ask. We’ll point you in the right direction.

Folks sometimes ask why we don’t just give vendors an assigned spot all year. There are markets that do that. The Ithaca, NY, market actually lets vendors build their own space with shelves and other accessories in place. I guess it works for them but it wouldn’t for us and spring is a perfect example of why. Plants take a lot of room. We are able to give our plant growers lots of space this time of year because many of our produce farmers won’t bring in their harvest till the end of May, which is also close to the end of plant season – except for the herbs, of course. That means in April and most of May we can double the space available to the plant growers but come summer, their space is cut in half to make room for others.

In other words, the market is an organic creature that in effect grows and transforms according to what is in season. It can be a challenge to arrange the vendors at each market to optimize the space available and secure as much space, and success, for each vendor as we can. It does take patience from our customers and understanding from our vendors but we think in the end it makes the market better for everyone.

My farmers will tell you that few things make me crazier than to have carefully slotted in every vendor and then to have one – or two – not show up and end up with an empty space that someone else could have put to good use. Sometimes it can’t be helped – a flat tire on the way or a sudden bout of flu (and no, we don’t want anyone coming to the market sick), but if it happens more than a couple of times, there are some serious discussions. We’re a team and we need everyone’s eye on the ball. Luckily, I work with an amazing group of people who understand their responsibilities and how what they do – or don’t do – affects the market. I got an email just yesterday from a friend who manages another market. She had a grumpy vendor who made everyone miserable on their opening day. She had heard how congenial our vendors are. “How did you get so lucky?  Or are there rules?”  Oh yes, we have rules, three pages of them, but we’re also lucky to have a community of vendors who like each other and want the market as a whole to thrive.

So what’s the fun at the market tomorrow – in addition to the flowers and produce from SEVEN farms, plus eggs, meat and other good things?

William Adkins takes the market stage tomorrow with golden oldies. Mabel is serving her last breakfast of the season – biscuit and gravy for $2.50, plus a farm-fresh cooked to order egg for another 50 cents. Next Saturday she goes back to lunch – ham and pinto beans with cornbread for $3.50. That’s because our first Cooking for a Cause is next Saturday, benefitting the Carl Junction middle school archery team. They are soon headed to nationals in Kentucky and need to raise some road trip money. 

It’s that time of year when the market and the market’s offerings get more varied at every market. Want the details?  Friend the market’s facebook page and you’ll see a listing of who’s at the market and photos of what’s on offer.