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.