Friday, June 24, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 6/24/16

Blackberries at the Agees

We’re expecting a full house tomorrow – full of vendors and full of good things. Just between you and me, the peaches are here – but still not enough to last the full market. The field tomatoes are just beginning to come in and I saw a few cantaloupe at yesterday’s market!  Yes, good times are ahead.

We’ve been making farm visits the last few weeks and my, things are dry. It is amazing to me how we can be too wet and then too dry in just a week’s time. The spring was so wet that it was hard for the farmers to get in to plant. Walter of Harmony Hill said they finally just planted the onions in the mud. The onions didn’t mind, but I bet that was no fun. In fact, if size is any indication, I think the onions liked it. Mabel brought in some enormous ones this week. Sadly it doesn’t always turn out that way. Owen from E & O Produce said he missed at least one planting of melons because it was just too wet to get in the field so he’ll have a gap in harvesting, probably in August. 
High tunnel tomatoes at Harmony Hill

Owen must have been pretty pleased on Tuesday, though, because he told me twice that he had picked his first three cantaloupe. I asked him after the second time why he hadn’t brought them and he gave me that mischievous look of his and said they weren’t making it off the farm. I hope he’ll be willing to part with a few tomorrow.

Tomorrow Cooking for a Cause benefits Greyhound Pets of America. This is a group that finds homes for retired racing dogs. Breakfast is biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs cooked to order and coffee or orange juice, plus slices of market tomatoes. Tim Green donates the tomatoes; he calls them his “not-ready-for-prime-time tomatoes”. In other words, they’re not pretty, but they sure are tasty.

Larry and Mary Mayfield play on Saturday. They do high-energy bluegrass and gospel. You’ll be tapping your toes for sure. Music and meal both go from 9 to 11. The market is open till noon.
On Tuesday Tony Bergkoetter returns to the market stage with his folksy tunes. The kids meal on Tuesday will be baked tacos, cherry tomatoes and bell pepper slices. 

On Thursday, the Pommerts return with their soft pop, jazz and classical guitar. The kids meal is sloppy Joe and market veggies (or maybe fruit if the melons start rolling in big time).

We are continuing to serve about 150 kids at each meal. Our volunteer crews have been fantastic, including kids working with a parent or junior high and high school kids volunteering on their own. Special thanks to the wonderful Ann Foos who rounds up folks to help when I’m short on a full crew.

As we do the kids meals, the kids are learning about new veggies and we’re learning more about what they like. Thursday’s meal went over like gangbusters – rice (that good for you speckled kinds not the white rice), chicken, and the cherry tomatoes and slices of green bell pepper was a favorite. Almost none ended up in the trash. On the other hand, spaghetti and meat sauce has not proved to be a favorite, perhaps because it’s so hot. In any case, we’ll be putting that menu aside. The July menus will go up on the market web site ( on Wednesday.

And speaking of meals, Stewart’s Bakery has been feeding us well on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a full meal and a light meal each day. On Tuesdays we also have Carmine’s Wood Fired Pizza baking to order. On Friday, Granny Shaffer’s will be back with catfish and potatoes and Thai wraps.

We continue our blackberry classes next week. On Tuesday the class starts at 7 pm and the topic will be “Slow Cooker Blackberry Recipes – Jams and Cobbler”. On Thursday, the class starts at 2 and is on Preserving Blackberries. Market Lady Carolyn Smith is leading the class which costs $8 per person. To reserve a spot, call 417 483-8139 or just stop by the information table at the market.
We’ll hold classes for the next three weeks – hopefully the blackberry season will last that long. Seems like the fruit is gone much earlier than we want. In fact, blueberry season will be ending in a couple of weeks so don’t delay in stocking the freezer.

We have had workers getting the market’s walk-in freezer and coolers ready and reliable. I dread receiving the bill (at $75 an hour and they’re on their third day. Yikes!), but I sure enjoy checking on their progress – 35 degrees is very refreshing after working a few hours in the heat. 

The moral of that story is, come out and buy lots of good things at the market. Most of our revenue comes from a percentage the vendors pay on their sales. The more our vendors sell, the more the market makes and the market is going to have to make a LOT to pay that bill. When you shop at the market you not only support the vendors, you also support the market and we thank you.

See you at the market!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 6-17-16

We are on the cusp of high season at the market. With everything ripening a week or two early this year, we’re going to be bursting at the seams soon with summer produce. We saw the very first of the sweet corn this week. Pete Roffmann did one planting in black plastic mulch which absorbed the heat from the sun, warmed the soil and jump started the corn. The rest of the sweet corn shouldn’t be far behind.

A crop we haven't seen in several years is back at the market.  Joe Palmer of Fairhaven asked me last winter what gap he might fill and I said Shallots!  He planted them and is bringing beautiful shallots very reasonably priced - only $2.50 for a box of big beautiful shallots.  Use shallots where ever you might use onions but want a richer, milder flavor.  They are a delicious addition to spaghetti sauce and many other dishes

The berries are coming in fast and plentiful. We’ve had an abundance of blueberries and we’re starting to see the blackberries. Watch the market facebook page and web site for blackberry cooking classes starting next Thursday at 2. Carolyn Smith, retired Webb City High School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher will lead a series of classes focusing on sweet and savory blackberry dishes, as well as preserving blackberries. Each class will cost $10 per person or $50 for all seven classes.

We love working with Carolyn.  She is knowledgeable, creative and a big market fan.  She did cooking demonstrations for us last winter which we were able to pay for through a grant.  She saved the money and used it to buy a CSA share with Oakwoods Farm.  Now that’s a great example of keeping your money local.  (CSA is Community Supported Agriculture.  At the beginning of the season you can buy a share of the farmers production and you get a box of produce every week through the growing season.)

We’re hard at work in the kitchen getting the walk-in freezer and cooler operational. The freezer has been in use for several months but we need to take it from 10 degrees above zero to 10 degrees below zero. Once that’s done – hopefully by next Thursday - we will be able to offer freezer space for folks interested in freezing bulk purchases of berries. Once frozen you can use our vacuum sealer to package them for later use. Check by the information table for more details and to reserve a time.
Tomorrow we welcome the Green Earth Band back to the market. One Inch at a Time will serve breakfast. That’s a community project in Sarcoxie raising funds to renovate the school athletic complex. This ambitious project led by school board president Debby Royce has already met much of their goal. Last April nineteen schools participated in the One Inch at a Time Classic on the new 400-meter track. It was thought to be the first track meet in Sarcoxie since 1993. I hope you’ll enjoy a tasty breakfast and give your support to these folks who are making a difference for the kids of Sarcoxie.

Speaking of kids, we continue to host an average of about 150 kids at the Tuesday and Thursday markets. This Tuesday, the kids will get a chicken tenderloin, green beans and new potatoes, a breadstick and milk. On Thursday, they can expect fried rice with lots of tasty market veggies and chicken, and milk. The Tuesday meal is served from 4:30 to 6:30 and the Thursday meal from 11 to 1.  (photo below - Lance Smith volunteering at the kids lunch Thursday)
Special thanks to the Keller Williams team who volunteered to serve the kids this Tuesday. If you or your business would like to help, give me a call at 417 483-8139.
On Tuesday the Granny Chicks will get our toes tapping as they take the market stage. On Thursday the Sours return with Irish and traditional music.

Next Thursday we are expanding our food stamp matching program. For the past year, we have been able to match up to $15 in food stamp purchases with $15 in fruit and veggie tokens. This has been funded by Wholesome Wave, an east coast organization that secured funding for about 40 markets across the country, including ours. It’s part of a national research project to determine what will encourage food stamp customers to make healthier eating choices. In addition to encouraging low income folks to increase the amount of fruits and veggies they eat, it also increases sales for our farmers. Healthier customers, healthier farms. We are pleased to be part of that equation.
The catch is that funds are limited and will run out in another 18 months. 

Enter the Fair Food Network, an organization similar to Wholesome Wave but based in Michigan. FFN was looking to expand into Missouri and Eastern Kansas and they sought our market out to partner with them. With their additional support we will be able, starting on Thursday, to increase our match to up to $25 per market day – and the best part is that they are committed to fully funding the program after our project ends with Wholesome Wave so it looks like we’ll be able to match food stamp purchases into the foreseeable future.

Some more good news. We received a call from Phoenix Fired Art in Joplin this week. That’s a teaching pottery studio with a heart for ensuring everyone has enough to eat. They organize and host Empty Bowls, a major fundraiser in November which supports Crosslines and the Salvation Army, among others. And they’re adding the market to that list in 2016!  We’ll be able to spend the funds as we see best – which will probably be on the food stamp match program and/or the kids free meals. I love getting calls like that!

Eating well, living joyfully, supporting our community (and Sarcoxie’s), that is what we are all about.  Join us at the market!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 6-10-16

Mmmmm, I just finished my first bowl of blueberries this year. Yes, I could get used to this, but I won’t because blueberry season is fleeting. Anytime there are blueberries left at the end of a market day, I load up to gorge on them fresh or freeze them for snacking later. I think I like frozen blueberries even better than fresh. A word to the wise, there were blueberries left on Thursday so you might want to make a trip to the market on Thursdays. Almost all our growers come to the weekday markets as well as to Saturday’s but traffic and supply is better during the week – even with an average of 165 kids enjoying their lunch in the market tent.  That's Zack Lee saying hi before he enjoys his meal (he said the salad would be great - the lettuce was donated by his family farm).

The growing season is moving fast, in part because we had such a mild spring. It seems like everything is coming in early. This week I saw bell peppers, even a few red ones. The first of the eggplant has arrived and, of course, we have a plentiful supply of zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers. The new potatoes and green beans are coming in by the bushel. Mabel with Harmony Hill just messaged me to say they were harvesting six rows of green beans for the Saturday market. Their rows are verrrrry long. We should have LOTS of green beans Saturday.

We expect see the first of the sweet corn next week and that’s very early indeed. Normally we hope for sweet corn by July 4th. This year Pete Rothmann did an early planting on black plastic mulch which warmed the soil and the corn really took off. 

Jim Agee brought in a good supply of black raspberries on Tuesday and we’ve seen some blackberries too. My farmers tell me that it should be a banner year for blackberries this year and they should start pouring in about 10 days. And that fruit which shall not be named should start appearing in the next week or so.

You will notice tomorrow that Cooking for a Cause has changed locations. We are so packed with vendors on Saturdays that we have put up a canopy on the north end of the pavilion and moved Cooking for a Cause into it. That bumps Kings Kettle Corn a little further north so be sure to look for them. 

Why are we so packed?  Well, we’ve brought in two new farmers for the first time in a couple of years. It’s hard for us to find room, but it was time. The market already has a reputation for being very difficult to get in to, for good reason, but we don’t want to be seen as an exclusive club. Our goal is to be the best market we know how to be, not to horde the business for only our current vendors. So we’re crowding in to make the market better. We’re also making room for a few non-farm vendors, because who can say no to fried pies and fruit smoothies? The fried pies we have on Saturdays have sold like gang busters and, honestly, they are delicious. We have a new vendor, B Kool Frozen Fruit Whips, who just started this week. Owner Kristine McCulley tasted these frozen fruit “smoothies” in Hawaii and knew they would be perfect for the market. She ordered the special machine that whips them from frozen fruit to smoothie, called the market and set up shop yesterday. Made of 100% fruit, they are a good-for-you guilt-free refreshing treat.

Another treat for tomorrow?  Amos Apiaries will be at the market with local raw honey!

Tomorrow Cooking for a Cause will benefit Lafayette House, our regional domestic violence shelter. JR Sampson and Friends perform on the market stage.

On Tuesday, Marshall Mitchell performs kids songs and he’ll even have a coloring table to them to enjoy while they sing along. Marshall is a wonderful entertainer, so wonderful that he’s rarely going to be at the market this year. He’s just gotten too popular!

The free kids supper on Tuesday is mac ‘n’ cheese, ham, tomato & cucumber salad with fresh dill and milk. Parent Link will have children’s activities at the tent. Parent Link is a University of Missouri project whose goal is to effectively engage families in reducing adverse childhood experiences and to promote optimal development. In other words, to promote healthy families with children.

Carmine’s Pizza is taking Tuesday off but you can be sure that Stewart’s Bakery will have some tasty choices for supper.

On Thursday the free kids lunch is smoked pork tenderloin, market veggies, biscuit, and milk. Granny Shaffers will be on hand with their fried catfish and potatoes and with their Thai wraps. Stewart’s Bakery will have lunch available too. Scott Eastman will play. University of Missouri Extension will have a good-for-you recipe to share.

I’m pretty sure it’s time for you to put the Tuesday and/or Thursday market on your weekly schedule. You know you’re going to eat your way through those blueberries and need to restock!  See you at the market.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Webb City Sentinel Column - 6/3/16

 If there’s not something in this column to perk your interest, well, we’d better check your pulse.

First, the streetcar is running tomorrow from 9 to noon. This free ride in Old No. 60 is a treasured experience for those of us claiming Webb City. Board at the depot west of the market kitchen. And if you have a special heart for the streetcar and time to give, talk to the volunteers running it about doing some volunteering yourself. They are planning a training session soon, even teaching how to drive it. I was pretty excited when they let me handle the brake, but to drive?  What a treat. They are hoping to train enough volunteers that they can operate the streetcar more often, perhaps even on a Tuesday or Thursday so some of the hundreds of kids coming for their meal could take a spin around the park.

Second, new faces and new products are just around the corner. Hector Troyer is expected at the market tomorrow. Of course, he’s not a new face, having sold at the market for about seven years, but this will be his first time this year. We’ve been seeing a lot of Hector at the market’s Winter Production Education Center where he is serving as mentor to center manager Fue Yang. Hector has been very generous in sharing his expertise with Fue and also advocating for Fue, making sure others with roles in the project do their part on schedule. (That's Hector on the tractor preparing the beds in one of the Center's high tunnels.)
To see some of the results of the project, stop by Fue’s table in the center of the pavilion and ask him which are the tunnel zucchini?  Those are the first fruits of the project. We’ll have to wait to see the ultimate fruits, or rather vegetables, of the project. That will happen this winter when we have tables loaded with plentiful and high quality produce, in part, because our farmers received training at the center.

Third, brace yourself. Blueberries are due on Tuesday!  Blackberries aren’t far behind and sweet corn and peaches are about two weeks away!

I would remind you that Tuesday and Thursday are still easy days to shop. Parking is close and the pavilion uncrowded. We have most of our same vendors during the week that we have on Saturdays.  (And we have pies from Stewart's Bakery on Tuesday and Thursday!)

Speaking of crowds, now might be an opportune time to explain why we have a rule about no sales or setbacks before the bell rings. It is a matter of safety. If we allowed sales or setting back purchases while we were still setting up, we could have hundreds of people, including little children, crowding the pavilion, walking through parking and in the entry road when we’re bringing in the big trucks, trailers and loaded vans. The traffic can be hairy enough after we open with all the cars in the parking areas, we sure don’t want to add trailers and trucks to the mix. 

And, of course, there are other practicalities, like it being virtually impossible to back some of the trailers into place if the customer parking is already full. And, believe me, if you could buy peaches an hour before we opened, the parking would be full, and the folks who came at our opening time would be disappointed. 

And on the topic of parking, you may have noticed that the market manager’s red truck and my red Prius have been parked on the grass immediately west of the Kids Meal tent on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We park there even if the ground is soft with rain, for safety. We have parking off the entry road west of the tent. If, for some reason, a car should get out of control there, it will have to drive through our vehicles before it can get close to the children. 

The worst accidents at markets in recent years have been from out of control cars. A driver thought he was braking, but his foot was actually on the accelerator. The harder he pushed to brake, the faster he went. In California and in Florida almost a dozen people died as a result that kind of accident. That’s the reason we also block off the pavilion so there is no coming and going of cars pointing the pavilion’s direction.

We also no longer allow cars to park north of the kid’s tent for safety reasons. But that opens up the space for other opportunities. Last week we had many families bring blankets to spread on the grass north of the tent to enjoy a picnic. Thursday we had some kids playing pitch. A couple of little girls only had a rock to throw to each other. I’ll be picking up a bunch of balls and other lawn toys (no darts, of course) to set out for kids to play. If they want a quieter activity, they can borrow a book to read after they eat. The library has given us a whole box of books which we station under the shade of a tree.

Tomorrow the Chert Glades Master Naturalists serve breakfast. The Granny Chicks liven up the stage. Music and meal run from 9 to 11. Don’t forget the trolley is running from 9 to noon.

On Tuesday, Stewart’s Bakery and Carmine’s Pizza serve supper. The Free Kids Meal Tuesday is smoked sausage, new potatoes and green beans, a biscuit and milk. (The plate photo is of the kids meal last Tuesday.) The Pommerts will play.

On Thursday, M & M Bistro and Stewart’s Bakery serve lunch. The kids meal is Frito pie with market veggies and milk. The Granny Chicks return for another round of foot-stomping fun.

Now, if there was nothing in the column that sounded good to you, well, call me and I’ll come check to see if you’re breathing!

Just kidding. Instead, I’ll see you at the market where the living is good.