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!