Friday, July 22, 2016

Webb City Sentinel market column - 7-22-16

Yesterday when the streetcar was running, the Joplin Globe came by to do a story on the streetcar’s 100th anniversary. The Globe put a slide show on facebook of some of the riders with Abe Norvell on the cover. Abe is in town with his mother Katelyn visiting his grandparents Alan and Kathy Casella. I figured he would win the longest distance award because Abe and his mom are from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But no, in going through the slides I came across a photo of Patrick Walls with his son Nathan who are in town visiting Nathan's grandmother, Mary Jane Walls James. (Patrick is pointing out landmarks to Nathan in the Globe photo)  Patrick and Nathan live in Kenya. So Nathan, you win the longest distance award for this week!

Another distance story - De Hunt, our Saturday volunteer cart driver, is attentive and engaging as he shuttles customers (and their purchases) from parking to pavilion and back. Last Saturday ne noticed a customer’s car had Texas license plates and commented on it casually. “Visiting family?”  “No,” the customer replied. “I drive up just for the market every five weeks.”  Even more surprising, she drives through much of Texas to do it. She lives near San Antonio. My, De, there must be more to that story.

This week she sure didn’t come up for cool weather. What a scorcher it’s been. Thankfully it looks like the worst is behind us for now. Weather-wise, it’s been a screwy summer for farming. Our farmers near and north of Webb City have been dealing with downpours that have made it hard to get in the fields to plant and cultivate. Our farmers to the south have had the opposite problem – barely a drop of rain. Weather is one of the real challenges of farming.

We’re looking forward to another bountiful week at the market despite the crazy growing conditions. The summer crops are in full force – cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, onions, and tons more. Now is the time to buy canning tomatoes. I saw 20-pound boxes yesterday for between $10 and $12.50. Now that’s a deal.

Tomorrow we welcome back Red Bridge. This high energy duo and sometimes trio will have your feet tapping to their bluegrass and gospel.

Cooking for a Cause benefits the Boys and Girls Club. Breakfast and music run from 9 to 11 while the market is open from 9 to noon on Saturdays. 

On Tuesday, Stewart’s Bakery will serve supper. The Free Kids Supper will be nachos with market veggies and fruit. Rob Pommert will play.

On Thursday the streetcar will give free rides from 11 to 1. All aboard at the depot west of the market! The Free Kids Meal will be a hamburger and market fruits and veggies. Stewart’s Bakery and M & M Bistro will serve lunch.

The Kids Meal continues to be a feast for the eyes and the tummy. (photo - chicken salad and market cantaloupe, lunchbox peppers and cherry tomatoes were served Thursday)  What a great job our head cook Syerra Conklin does with the help of her assistant cooks, Theresa White and Jo Provance. KB Hardesty, a senior at Webb City High, joined the team this week after serving as a volunteer for most of the summer.  

Our professional team is ably assisted by a bevy of volunteers, including Braxton Melton, a student at the Webb City Junior High (the photo is of him on his first day). He handed out milk on his first day of volunteering, then quickly graduated to filling plates and now has a top responsibility as the greeter and head counter. Braxton always brings his honor society volunteer sheet for me to sign. Honor society members are required to do a certain number of volunteer hours every year. When I asked Braxton for the sheet yesterday he replied that he’d already done all the required hours and now he was volunteering just because he enjoyed it. What a kid!  Let’s clone him.

Just as we have customers who come a long distance, we have programs that gather attention from a long distance. I received a call last week from the USDA.  They are featuring the market’s Free Kids Meals as one of their national success stories. It will be featured in a variety of USDA publications as well as in power point presentations by their staff. We’ll also be featured as one of three model programs nationwide in the annual Summer Meal guide of the Food Research and Action Council, an anti-hunger non-profit that works closely with USDA advocating and educating about programs to fight hunger.

It’s nice to get the national attention, but we remain focused on being local. Local food, local farmers, local community, local causes, local kids. And even though a friend of mine would dearly love for us to have a Webb City residents-only shopping day, no matter where you’re from, you’re part of the family when you are at the market.