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!