Sunday, February 25, 2018

You know when I start updating my blog that spring is not far away, thank goodness. What a long cold winter we had this year. In January and February, I spend much of my time working on vendor contracts, attending conferences and sitting through lots of meetings. Wednesday was a nice change of pace and a good day for a little road trip.

We have already started receiving new applications for the 2018 farmers market and a few of the vendors in the Farm Category have products ready to bring to market. Jake Fowler who operates Halo Farms in Hughesville, Missouri is my first stop today. Jake grows microgreens in a large green barn located on his family’s farm. At one time his family operated a greenhouse on this site and continue grow row crops across the street. I have had a few vendors over the past few years who apply to sell microgreens but have not been able to sell every week due mainly to lack of product.

Microgreens are the seedlings of vegetables and herbs. Once the seed of an herb or vegetable begins to grow, it is considered a sprout. Once the sprout begins to grow, the baby plant is considered a microgreen. The flavor of microgreens depends on the plant they comes from. It can range from mild to tangy, spicy, or peppery. Jake grows radish, sunflower, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, mustard, kale, pea, cress, beet, spinach, romaine and kohlrabi.

Jake has been growing assorted microgreens for some time and plans to expand his operation a little closer to Kansas City in the near future. He currently sells at the Saturday Columbia Farmers Market and delivers to various stores around the area. Jake has struggled this winter keeping the facility warm with all the extreme cold snaps we have had and the crazy winds. The day I visited with him his plants looked super healthy and he was working on adding another growing bench, all he has left to do is add the lights. Halo Farms plans to sell at the Sunday market starting in March; he is working on a new website which he hopes to have up and going soon.

I am starting off very slow this year so only visited one more vendor on my way back to Kansas City. Nick Villanveva has been a vendor at the City Market since 2003 and was one of the first Artist Crafter vendors I approved when I started managing the farmers market. Nick’s stall always seems to stand out at the Market since his items are unique and always made from materials collected from nature. Such as, stones, shells, wood, leather, copper, feathers and bone. Nick’s stall is mainly made-up of one of a kind jewelry pieces, dream catchers, leather purses and stone and woodcarvings. I was amazed to find out that Nick makes all his items using only a very few small hand tools. Nothing is made in batches, each item is well thought out. The material determines the design.

Nick has started taking orders for custom pieces, which has become an important element of his business. You will find New Village Arts at the City Market most Saturdays and Sundays year round. On Saturdays April through October Nick is in stall 143 on the north side of the Market Square.  During the winter months and on Sundays you will find him in stall 19 located on the south side of the Market Square.

We are inching closer and closer to March so we should see more and more weekend vendors returning to the Market. If the weather warms up significantly by the last week of March we should start to see a few greenhouse vendors appear which is a sure sign spring has arrived.  Just a reminder, the Saturday and Sunday farmer market hours November through March is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Our permanent stores are open every day year round.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What's here in the Winter?

Sarah here! With winter and the holidays bounding towards us, people often forget the farmers' market is still going on all winter! From November to March we pull the garage doors down on the north and south pavilions and lightly heat the interior to keep some of that winter chill out.

"What is there at the market in the winter?" confused faces often say when Deb and I tell them we're still open.

Right now there's still some lingering produce that the farmers have kept in coolers to stretch their season just a few more weeks. We also have several farmers with hoop houses, high tunnels, or greenhouses which allow them to fend off frost just a bit longer.

While this photo is from back in June, it shows one of our farmer's high tunnel. The side vents are able to go up and down to allow air flow and help control the temperature a bit. I am sure those side vents are definitely up right now to keep the cold air out!

Most fall crops will last several months if stored properly. I recently bought my winter's supply of sweet potatoes which I nestled in clean old towels in boxes after I made sure they were cured. These should last me all the way into February or March depending on how hungry my family gets this winter!

The most important part for winter storage is curing, which typically requires a little under 2 weeks of warmer temperatures with good air circulation. (Exceptions to this are root veggies like carrots and beets, which you can store in your fridge!)

If you have a favorite fall crop, search the internet for some guides on how to store them properly! You can also check out the Missouri Extension Office's Seasonal and Simple App for some guides on storage and find out what you might be able to find at the market!

While it is true there is produce, all of the farmers with bakeries, meat, honey, eggs, and other fantastic individuals are still at the market each weekend and waiting to see your smiling faces! Be sure to stop by the City Market this winter!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I have been holding off going to Lost Creek Farm until Sarah could go with me; Sarah Chorney is the Assistant Farmers Market Manager for the City Market. Darrel has given his farm a total makeover; he is looking towards the future for sure. In the past Darrel grew mainly vegetables, in his search to simplify and grow something that takes a little less work Darrel decided to grow elderberries.

Elderberries are small, dark berries that grow in clusters on elder trees, also called elderberry bushes, and are very common throughout Europe and North America.  Elderberries are used to make wine, pies, cobblers, extracts, juice, jams, jellies and syrups. In the spring, you can use the white elderflowers to make jellies, teas or stir them into muffins to add a nice sweet flavor.   Elderberries are high in vitamin C, potassium, betta-carotene and calcium. I never knew anything about elderberries but will certainly give them a try.

Darrel has put in 11,000 plants (that is right 11,000) and we found him busy snipping off flowers and berries from the newer plants to ensure they develop a good root system. In the spring, each bush produces the Elderflower, which then produces the berries. Each cluster of berries s removed and put into bins. Darrel has a great system set up for washing the berries and purchased a destemming machine which saves them a great deal of time. Once the berries are washed and destemmed, they are put into large bags and frozen.  Some of the frozen berries are then sold to a processor who makes elderberry juice.

Darrel has not given up totally on growing vegetables; he still has a few smaller plots where he grows  squash, okra, peas, tomatoes, beans and cabbage.

In addition to the farm, they have a metal pole barn that contains their licensed kitchen. Donna was busy baking sweet breads to bring to the market on Saturday, and had just finished baking cookies and brownies. I am sure we will see the addition of elderberry products in their stall next year, I cannot wait.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Hmong Vaj Farms is located in Kansas City, Kansas just off I- 70. They have been farming this property since 2011 and take advantage of every inch. Over the years, they have added more cut flowers and some peach trees, which started to produce a little more this year. Many of the items they grow are finished for the year since it is late in the summer. Can you believe it is the first day of fall? 

 As I walked through their fields, I could see that they had recently replanted items for the fall since they continue to come to the market into November if we do not have a heavy frost before then. There was an abundance of eggplant, okra, peppers, squash and long beans and a variety of flowers. You will see greenhouse tomatoes, watermelon and pumpkins in Chiong’s stalls on the weekends, these are grown locally and are purchased at the Central Missouri Produce Auction in Versailles, MO or the 4 County Produce Auction in Windsor, MO. Hmong Vaj Farms is contracted for four stalls at the Saturday and Sunday farmers market.  Two of these stalls, each day, are in the markets supplement category which means beside the produce they grow they can supplement up to 50% of the produce sold in that stall as long as it was harvested within a 500 miles of the City Market. You will find Hmong Vaj Farms located in stalls 90, 91,108 and109 on Saturdays and stalls 70, 71, 90 and 91 on Sundays.