A couple of weeks ago Gina and I did an all day road trip to the Joplin area. The City Market, farmers market, allows farmers to attend the market as long as they farm within 500 miles of the Market. Our vendors who travel from southern Missouri travel the farthest with the exception of Great River Maple; their farm is located 391 miles from Kansas City. I am not sure everyone realizes how many hours our vendors put in to get their produce ready to bring to the Market every Saturday and Sunday and then you tack on a three hour drive each way, I don’t know how they do it.
We always start with the farmer who lives the farthest out, in this case that is Nhia and Ying Xiong. The Xiong’s add something new every time I visit, this visit they added another high tunnel. To get to their farm we had to drive down a lane and through two cattle gates. The first time I visited them back in 2008 I was sure I made a wrong turn.
As always, Nhia and Ying were busy working in the fields. Nhia told me their day starts at 1 a.m. that is right 1 a.m., his day ends around 4 p.m. and they do this every day until the first frost. I always love walking through Nhia’s fields; he grows unique items and it is so interesting to hear how each thing is used. Gina and I tried an Asian cucumber while we were there and it was great. These cucumbers look more like a small melon and are ripe when they turn yellow. The key to eating them is to remove the skin and seeds; it has a sweet and sour taste at the same time. It reminded me of cucumber salad with vinegar dressing. Nhia and Ying grow a variety of vegetables and set up at the Market every Saturday in Stalls 83-86 located in the middle pavilion.
It was a bit of a challenge getting to the Lee’s farm. Anderson and Seneca Missouri received a heavy rain four days before we arrived which washed out culverts and a bridge in downtown Anderson. Our GPS took us down a gravel road that runs along the Buffalo River, trees were down and you could see how far over the banks the water had been, I must admit it was a little unnerving.
The Lee family also started vending at the City Market in 2008. With the help of grants, they have been able to add a high tunnel for growing tomatoes and a much needed well. The Lee’s take such pride in the vegetables they grow. You can see this as they walk you through their fields pointing out each row and telling us what it is.
This area is very rocky and I am always amazed how well things grow in this condition. In addition to the area located next to their home, they also farm a plot of land located on the county line a few miles down the road. Like many of our vendors, they have a designated place for washing and storing the produce when getting it ready to bring to the market.
The Lee’s, in addition to other vegetables, grow long beans, if you have not tried them you should. They taste like a traditional green been but are 12 to 18 inches long and grow on trellises. You will find the Lee’s in pavilion three stalls 116-118 every Saturday throughout the spring and summer.
Our last stop in this area is in Granby, Mo located southeast of Joplin. Ma and Teng Yang have a beautiful farm and sell at our Sunday market in pavilion 3 stalls 141 and 142. Like the Xiong’s and Lee’s the Yangs children have all grown up and moved away from the area or have gone off to school. This is a lot of hard work for two people to do.
Teng walked us through the field while Ma was busy getting the vegetables they picked earlier in the day into the walk-in coolers. The Yang’s grow a wide variety of items including luffa. Before working at the Market, I never knew that loofa was an edible fruit. I always thought of it as a scrubbing sponge you use in the shower. Luffa is a subtropical vine in the cucumber family and is very popular in India, China and Vietnam. The fruit must be harvested when it is very young to be edible, when fully ripened it becomes very fibrous. I have yet to try eating loofa but it is on my must try list.