Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5-31-17

We’re looking at another week of rain which is just one more reason to be thankful for our pavilion – originally built by the Mining Days Committee and refitted by the Parks Department and the Perry Family Foundation. And for our big tent for the Kids Meals given to us by the Joplin Area Food Action Network.

And for all the high tunnels supplying our market – 27 at last count. This dreary weather can really wreck havoc on the field crops but while the protected crops may be slowed down a bit but they still produce.  And as you can see from photos of this week's markets, our farmers are bringing beautiful produce.

I finished up the final report for our Winter Production Conference grant yesterday and the results were impressive – at least to me.  We used our market to examine project results because that’s the market we have data on. So the results don’t include the farmers who serve other communities and who made up 75% of the conference attendees.

When we began the conferences in 2013 our market was served by seven farms with a total of nine high tunnels. Now we have 13 farms with a total of 27 tunnels. Total sales during the winter market season of 2012 -2013 were $36,640. Total sales during the 2016 -2017 winter season were $130,860. Those figures tell us that the project funded by the grant resulted in more successful farms and more fresh local produce for our community.

Like most effective projects, the conferences did not operate in a vacuum. During the same time, the federal government had a program in place to help farmers secure high tunnels and the market worked with its partners to improve the winter facility and winter activities (we would be remiss if we didn’t say here “Thank you, Santa!”).

And here we are in June still benefitting from what started out as a winter production project because our farmers learned very quickly that high tunnels have value year-round.

On Thursday, as you delight in buying high tunnel tomatoes, you can also enjoy lunch with Stewart’s Bakery – hamburger stuffed shells in sauce with green salad for $6. 

The Free Kids Meal will be beef nachos. Eden Stewart with MU Extension will be near the tent with activities for the kids to get them moving after a good meal. 

The Sours & Teen Foggies will take the market stage. 

Extension experts from both MU and Lincoln University will be on hand to provide advice on landscaping and garden questions. The Fresh Ground Seed Library will hand out free seeds.
On Saturday, the Free Kids Meal is biscuits and gravy with farm fresh tomato slices. Cooking for a Cause benefits the local chapter of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. Your meal will be prepared and served by people who have faced the worst life has to offer and now use that devastating experience to help others dealing with the loss of a child.

The fabulous Granny Chicks will be on the market stage Saturday. 

Braker Farms sold out of their hanging baskets last week and Owen tells me he’ll probably be out after Saturday, so if you want a basket be sure to come on Saturday. (Owen doesn’t come right now on Thursdays.) 

Just a note to remind parents of children enjoying the Free Kids Meal. Our funder, the USDA, requires that we be able to monitor meals which means the kids have to eat in or near the tent. They also require that only the children eat their meal so parents can’t sample, even the leftovers.

I had a very proud little fellow at the information desk Thursday who informed me that he tried all the vegetables on his plate at the free meal. That’s what volunteer Marilyn calls a “No thank you bite.”  The little guy asked me “Did you know there are PEAS inside that shell?”  I said, yes, did you just eat the peas?  “No, I ate the whole thing. It was good!  And the carrot was even better!”  And that, friends, is what we’re trying to do – build healthier kids one bite at a time.

See you at the market!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5-24-17

This is the week we plunge into the full market schedule, when we start the Free Kids Meal and look forward to several hundred children joining us under the big yellow and white tent to eat at every market. And we are ready!

Tomorrow the kids will enjoy market tomatoes, carrots, sugar snap peas and smoked hamburgers (it pays to hire the catering manager at Cloud’s Meats – Clouds generously lets their caterer who is our head cook use their equipment to prepare parts of the market meal). The Kids Meal on Thursdays is served from 11 to 1. And, in case you missed it, the meal is free to anyone aged one through 18, regardless of where they live or what their income.

Yep, you're seeing cucumbers & new potatoes!
Stewart’s Bakery will service a hot pork sandwich with mashed potatoes for $5. The Pommerts are performing.

Tomorrow we also welcome the American Legion Auxiliary who will be giving away poppies in honor of Memorial Day. Donations received go to help local veterans.

On Saturday, the Kids Meal is breakfast casserole with a biscuit, market veggies and milk. Stewart’s Bakery is serving broccoli chicken rice casserole for $5 for eat-in or take-away. Cooking for a Cause benefits the Webb City High School Choir Boosters. JR and Corky will be on the market stage.

Tuesday the kids will have soft tacos, more market veggies and milk. No word from Stewart’s on their menu, but it will be tasty. The Comments return to the market stage.

Braker Farm has baskets!
Off site activities this week include the Kids Community Garden. We met for the first time last week and got all the plants donated by Fredrickson Farms put in, and some seeds sown. We meet on Wednesdays at 3 pm for an hour regardless of whether school is in session. We have more seeding to do and lots of mulching. In fact, we’re pretty much out of straw so if you know of any old straw that we could buy cheaply, let me know! I think we need either two large rounds or probably 20 small bales. Call me at 417 483-8139 if you have a lead.

Tomorrow we have our second Twilight Tunnel Walk of the year. The walks are part of the Year-Round Growing Education Center located on the Yang Family Farm at 1213 Route U, Rocky Comfort. It’s a mile south o the intersection of State Highway 76 and Route U. This month extension experts and experienced growers will be leading the walks with a focus on tomatoes in the heated tunnel and transitioning from cool weather crops to summer crops in the unheated tunnel. 

High tunnels were first developed to extend the growing season by a few months in spring and fall. It was not long before innovative farmers found ways to grow all winter and now we have found the tunnels can be very useful for summer growing as well. The crops are protected from many pests in the tunnels and the farmers can control the amount of rain and sun, which can result, in tomatoes, in less loss due to cracking and sun scalding. However it is very much a learned skill which is exactly why the market established the Center.

E & O still has hundreds of gorgeous baskets!
 The Twilight Tunnel Walks are free and open to everyone, including folks who just want to learn more about how their food is grown. No reservation is required.

Whether at the market or far afield, we are doing our best to build a healthy community and a healthy supply of food and farmers. See you at the market!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5-17-17

Our farmers are putting in long hours and will do so until late fall. Some are even busier than normal because they lost plantings in the heavy rains and are now replanting. Others escaped the floods but are still busy with their usual sequential plantings. Some of our farmers do eight plantings or more of sweet corn, usually about two weeks apart. That doesn’t mean they’ll harvest two weeks apart. Sometimes the weather or some other unknown force causes several plantings to ripen at the same time regardless of the schedule. While we love having plenty of corn, we don’t want to see any of it going to waste and we really don’t like those gaps in supply!  Here’s hoping for a steady supply of produce throughout the summer. If there are gaps, it sure won’t be for lack of the farmers’ efforts.

The market will be open tomorrow from 11 to 2 pm. Stewart’s Bakery is serving chicken fried steak sandwich with potato salad for $5. The Hairy Vetch String Band will be on the market stage. Thursday is a great day to enjoy a leisurely few hours at the market with many of our usual vendors without the hustle and bustle (and traffic) of Saturdays.

Saturdays, however, are worth the trouble, especially this Saturday when we have our annual Birds, Bees and Butterflies Celebration. Amos Apiaries will be there with their demonstration hive and with HONEY!  The supply is limited now that they have downsized so come at opening if you want to stock up. Wildcat Glades Audubon Center will
be on hand with learning activities. Our farmers will have signs indicating what produce depends on pollinators like bees and butterflies. Find out what you would miss if we didn't have pollinators. Moth and butterfly collector Rae Letsinger will be on hand with several trays of his butterflies. The Kids Garden Club will plant a variety of zinnia loved by the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The kids can color a butterfly mask while adults can get pollinator friendly gardening tips.

Cooking for a Cause will benefit the Relay for Life team of General Mills. The biscuits we serve are donated by General Mills and, as you can guess, that adds up to a very generous donation each year so we hope our customers will turn out in droves to say thank you by supporting their team. Biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs cooked to order and a drink are served from 9 to 11.

And even though it may be a bit cool and rainy, you must not miss The Geriatrics. We discovered this band last year and we love them!  Made up of professional musicians retired from the USO tours, they are top notch musicians and play favorites from many eras.

On Tuesday, Catalyst debuts at the market. 

We’re expecting a crowd because we are hosting our city employees in the big yellow and white striped tent (that's where the Free Kids Meals will be served starting Thursday, May 25). It’s a long overdue thank you for all the many kindnesses the city extends us. The parks department and public works comes to our aid on a regular basis, city hall helps with grants and other support, the water department always gives us a call if someone has left the water on at the kids garden, the police department has come to our rescue more than once, the fire department advised us on how to keep the kitchen safe, and the list just goes on. I doubt there is a department in the city that has not helped us out. So Tuesday, supper’s on us when it comes to city employees. Everyone else can get a great meal Tuesday from Stewart’s Bakery. 
And, of course, you’ll find lots of fresh local produce, baked goods and other delightful things at every market, because, while the music, meals, and activities are fun, our primary reason for existing is to connect farmers and the community.

It’s going to be a great week at the market. See you there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Webb City Sentinel market column - 5-10-17

We are officially an open-air market this week. We love our sides during inclement weather but with 80-degree days forecast for the week, we’ve rolled the sides up for the season.

It’s plant time at the market. We have so many beautiful flowering hanging baskets we feel like we’re in a garden. This Saturday is our Mother’s Day market and that means we will be buried in flowers!  E & O Produce has all sorts of flowering bedding plants and beautiful baskets filled with a variety of flowering plants full of color and texture. Braker’s has baskets loaded with wave petunias which grow large and hang over the sides making a brilliant splash of color.

Fairhaven has handcrafted cedar planters filled with flowering plants. Every year Joe tries to design a new planter and this year he really hit the mark with his choo-choo train planter – an engine with three cars. It’s only $50. That’s just $12.50 a car. What a deal and so charming.

Of course, if trains are not your thing, you might try a birdhouse planter or the bentwood chair planter or any of the many other designs that Joe has come up with over the years. Last week a customer got a one-of-a-kind. It was a basket planter. The handle was made of twined wisteria from Carrole’s garden.

Saturday is also notable because Pate’s will be back. But hold your horses!  It’s too early for peaches, though it was good news when John Pate told me the peach crop is looking good despite the weather. John will have tomatoes and cucumbers from his tunnel, and Barb’s. Yes, Barb is quick to point out one of those tunnels is hers.
Fue Yang will also be back. Fue manages the market’s Year-Round Education Center located on his family’s farm. We hosted a field day there last Friday for high school horticultural students. It was a pilot for a full-blown field day we want to do in the early fall and it went really well. 

Our Extension specialists took on various topics such as pest control, sequential planting, seed starting and tunnel equipment. The student evaluations of the event were all positive but the most positive were for Fue’s presentation. He told them how his family came to become market farmers and how since he was fluent in both English and Hmong he ended up going to all the farm trainings to translate. Finally, after resisting a career in farming he decided to embrace it. He is getting his degree in Ag Business from Crowder in December.

He told them about his father’s initial uneasiness with having high tunnels on the farm. His parent’s are traditionalists and new technology was unwelcome – until they saw the benefits it could bring. Fue’s father was so impressed with the produce raised in the tunnels that he wanted to expand. So when Hector Troyer said his was for sale, he snapped it up. You could say the market’s two tunnels have had a baby, though it sprung forth full-grown being the same size as the first two.
Hector, who is moving to Pennsylvania to be near his parents, even helped Fue put the tunnel up.

It was wonderful to see Fue speaking to the students. He was confident, accessible, and well-informed. A year ago he knew almost nothing about high tunnel management. Though he confided later that he was very nervous, it did not show. He is ready to not only manage the Education Center but serve as one of its educators.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Thursday the Granny Chicks are playing. Stewart’s Bakery serves goulash and a hot roll for $5.

On Saturday Cooking for a Cause benefits the Ronald McDonald House. Their volunteer gardeners will staff the breakfast which runs from 9 to 11. They use the profits to buy plants, fertilizer and other things needed to keep the house’s landscaping in top shape. Ronald McDonald House provides free housing for families with children in one of the hospitals.

Richard Hugh Roberts plays the music of the Great American Songbook. Stewart’s Bakery will have chicken and noodles with a roll for $5 for eat-in or take-out.

On Tuesday Scott Eastman plays. Stewart’s Bakery will have two tasty choices for supper. 

It’s our first week as an open-air market and we’re celebrating!