Webb City Farmers Market, Missouri
Posted On: June 28, 2018
Year Founded: 2000
Market Season: mid-April to October, Tuesdays (4 pm- 7 pm); Thursdays, (11 am- 2 pm); Saturdays, (9 am- noon); October- April, Saturdays (9 am- noon)
Mission Statement: To sustain, nourish, and enhance our community while providing a venue for success for our farming neighbors.
NFMW Plans: “We’re going to have a free Melon Feed during NFMW. It’s hot in Missouri that time of year – makes us wilt but it makes those melons SWEET. And we love our melons!”- Eileen Nichols, Market Manager
About the Market: The Webb City Farmers Market began in 2000 under the umbrella of the Webb City Chamber of Commerce. The first year we had four vendors – a large farm, a small farm, a baker and an apiary. The baker became ill mid-season so the volunteer manager became the baker (thankfully just for the remainder of the season). That first year we were super excited to have 20 customer cars at the market at one time.
Nineteen years later on a typical summer Saturday we can expect to open with hundreds of customers in the pavilion, and several thousand during the three hours of market (we are a town of 10,000). We have live music at every market, as well as several meal choices. At each Tuesday and Thursday market we host two cooking and tasting tables to encourage folks to try new recipes and new market products. When school is out we host free summer meals for kids and now in our fourth year, we are averaging about 175 kids at every meal (which is always loaded with fresh, local produce). From the end of May through mid-August, we offer kids aged 1 through 18 supper every Tuesday, lunch every Thursday and breakfast, followed by lunch every Saturday.
The market opened its commercial kitchen two years ago. It was acquired and installed with funding from Rural Development – USDA, a local family – The Perry Family and their company Cardinal Scales, and the city. It had previously served as the FEMA kitchen for the Joplin high school after a devastating tornado. With it’s six convection ovens, stove, large grill, 30-gallon tilt top skillet, 40-gallon steam kettle, 40-foot hood, blast freezer, two 8 x 20 walk in coolers and one 8 x 20 walk-in freezer, it serves as an incubator for small businesses, is used by the market farmers and ranchers, and allows the market to produce over 700 meals each week during the summer. In addition to the kids meals, the market puts on Cooking for a Cause, a hearty breakfast of farm fresh scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, sausage, hashbrown casserole, local tomato slices and coffee or juice, every Saturday morning from mid-April through September. Each week a different local nonprofit helps prepare and serve the breakfast and keeps the profits – usually between $500 and $700. For many it is their biggest fundraiser of the year, plus they introduce their cause to hundreds of people.
This year the market created the event Clickety Clack – We’re Reading down the Track. Once a month a team consisting of market volunteers, Friends of the Library, the local model railroad association and the Streetcar Association put together a craft for kids, an operating model train and a reading of a children’s book (like Peppa Pig and the Big Train, a Thomas Train book or The Little Red Caboose) on the city’s restored streetcar that rounds the park right next to the market. Started three months ago, the free rides are now “sold-out” and a big draw for the market. The streetcar also runs every first Saturday of the month, giving a free, unscripted ride around the park once every 20 minutes.
The market sponsors and manages a Kids Community Garden on school grounds that involves more than 200 children in learning about planting and harvesting. A volunteer master gardener organizes, funds and staffs a Kids Garden Club at about 20 markets each year.
The market has worked with Extension to organize many grower training events including local workshops on all topics as well as regional conferences featuring national experts on Winter Production and successful tomato growing. The market has a Year-Round Production Center which includes two high tunnels and a seed starting structure where both native and Hmong farmers are trained in protected growing. It also has a research plot at the Mount Vernon University of Missouri Research Center planted with new more winter hardy blackberries using an innovative rotating cross arm trellis. The market’s growers are considered some of the best in Southwest Missouri in part because of all this training, plus mentoring and general mutual support between our farmers.
The market began Winter Saturday Market in 2009 (October through mid-April). It was an outdoor market selling primarily baked goods and meat. The winter market has expanded since that time, acquiring heavy canvas sides for the pavilion and large portable heaters. Farmers have trained in protected growing and the market is supplied with abundant fresh local produce from more than 20 high tunnels. During November and December the market adds a Christkindlmarket which draws holiday crowds. Winter market sales have gone from $16,800 in 2009 with average market day sales of $1,500 to winter market sales in 2017 of $130,700 with average market day sales of $5,500.
The market was the first market in the state to accept SNAP using a centralized POS. This was part of a transformational grant received from Project from Public Spaces using Kellogg funding in 2007. In 2014 the market partnered with Wholesome Wave to offer SNAP incentives and now we are one of Fair Food Network’s Double Up Bucks markets.
The state of Missouri does not participate in FM WIC so last year the market partnered with Empty Bowls to fund our own market WIC coupon program which is perhaps the most deeply appreciated program we’ve ever sponsored. Each week until funding is depleted WIC moms can bring their folder to the information table to receive two $5 coupons good for fresh uncut fruits and veggies, meat and eggs. The first two moms to be offered this program literally cried at the information table when they learned of it. Churches, individuals, organizations and businesses have chipped in to cover the almost $500 a week needed this year for the program.
The market has benefited from a strong relationship with the city, the park, police and fire departments, and the schools. It has received tremendous support from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the USDA, the Missouri Council for the Arts, as well as local individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations. It has a close working relationship with both University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Co-operative Extension.
Statistic or Market Accomplishment: “This year we are averaging about 175 children eating our Free Kids Summer Meal at every market.”- David Hill, Market Manager
Market Widget Report: