Thursday, February 23, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 2/24-17

Yes, this crazy weather is supposed to dump frigid air on us this weekend. Thank goodness for our enclosed market and big heaters. (Thank you, City of Webb City!) We’ll be firing the heaters up early tomorrow so the pavilion is comfy when we open at 9.

The Kids Garden Club is back in action tomorrow and they are planting tiny gardens with tiny seeds.  Master Gardeners Eric and Debbie will lead the children in making egg carton gardens, planting radish, spinach and lettuce seed. You will be amazed at how small those seeds are. The club meets in the center section of the pavilion and it will be come and go throughout the morning - and free.

Breakfast is biscuit and gravy, eggs, hash brown casserole, and a choice of sausage or bacon. Coffee or juice is 50 cents. Stewart’s Bakery will have spaghetti and meat balls with a hot roll for take away or eat in for $5.

Richard Hugh Roberts will perform from the Great American Songbook, favorites from the great musicals and performers of the past.

We’ll have seven farmers tomorrow, along with bakers, jam and jelly makers, and lots of other excellent vendors. We’re expecting four farms with eggs so we should have plenty. (Shhh, this is a bit of a secret, but Penn Acres is bringing duck eggs. Supply is limited now but should grow as all the ducks begin laying.)

We’ve had four full days of workshops and conferences in the last two weeks. And it’s been hard to sit inside with the weather so nice. In fact, I had a two hour planning meeting with my horticulture friends from Extension on Wednesday afternoon and we held it outside!  It really only needed an hour and a half but it was so beautiful we lingered. Our topic was developing a grant application for an idea inspired by George Washington Carver’s Jessup Wagons. Carver designed a mini-Agriculture School that traveled  (pulled by a horse) to the farms. If successful, we’re going to be relying on our trucks and cars, but the concept is the same. We want to build kits themed on protected growing (low tunnels and caterpillar tunnels), irrigation, pesticide/spraying, and on technology – yes, we want to teach our farmers how drones, and other technologies, can save them time and money. The kits will go on farm visits and also be used in workshops.  (Completely off the subject, that's a photo of Joe Palmer's birdhouses.  He has them at the market for only $8 each.)

I know you’ve heard it before, but University of Missouri and Lincoln University Extension have been essential partners in training our farmers to be successful growers of top quality products. These kits, if funded, will provide tools to continue and expand on those efforts. Much of the training we do is in a classroom. That’s a beginning but hands-on training will solidify the knowledge shared. 

There was a time not so long ago that small and medium sized farms seemed on the way to extinction in our country. That trend has been reversed – partly because many in today’s generation are keen to be farmers, partly because there is a much stronger demand for local foods and support for local farmers and, in our case, partly because Extension and the market has teamed together to provide the best agricultural knowledge to our farmers. 

And when I say the best, I mean the best. We are fortunate to have a tremendous team of educators/mentors in Extension in southwest Missouri and also we have brought in some of the top experts in winter production and food safety. Even now we are working on a tomato conference with the one of the country’s top tomato experts for this summer. So three cheers for Extension and for our farmers who are always ready to learn more – even when it takes them from the farm in beautiful weather.

Brave the cold tomorrow. The sunny days have made the high tunnels exploded with beautiful produce that you can enjoy all week. It is amazing how long the market greens, when properly stored, last. If you buy enough they should take you clear through the week. 

See you at the market!