Watching the slideshow at the Webb City Farmers Market Harvest Dinner.

See ya at the market

Harvest of gratitude

Rachael Lynch

Let me take you back a few weeks to November 1st. This is when I got the honor to recognize a few special people whom I work alongside most every Saturday (every Saturday because we are open year round). I got to do this at our Harvest Dinner, an annual event which hadn’t taken place since the pandemic. So that’s what this is about. In the next few paragraphs I would like to share what we were up to at the Harvest Dinner of 2022.

For those unfamiliar with the market’s history, Webb City Farmers Market welcomes vendors, volunteers, donors, and staff and families to a potluck style dinner every fall. The last Harvest Dinner was hosted in 2019. This year the Market Kitchen provided a Honey Glazed Chicken and some fixins, and our attendees provided fresh salads, Mama Jojo’s Pasta (now affiliated with Famos Grill of Carterville), and of course Sunflower Bakery and CountrySide Bakery killed it on the desserts. The sunset was lovely, although it made me wonder if the slideshow would ever be visible with the rays of the setting sun pointing directly at the screen.

The plan was to open the Harvest Dinner with a slideshow featuring the pictures we take at the market that have nothing to do with produce. It’s the pictures of the farmers and bakers, of the beekeepers, and talented prepared food vendors and craft folks. Pictures of this incredible group of people who work hard providing for us every week and letting WCFM do the work of providing a place for exchange.

Each slide was of their smiling faces manning the various booths, or the snap shots of the activities in the garden. We had pictures of devoted volunteers like Rick, Bob, Karen, and others. I was truly floored when I put this little project together because when I sat down to make it I figured it would be 18/20-ish pictures long but it ended up over double that and it was stinking fun! Pictures of vendor kids splashing in rain puddles during that one rain shower that one time this summer. Indira, the market’s assistant, toasting hotdog buns for the kids meal. (I will have the slideshow scrolling at market soon for anyone who wants to see it.)

So thanks to the waning west sun, instead of that presentation we began by enjoying our feast and each other’s company. Finally the sun ducked behind the green metal kitchen, the congregation quieted, and we watched. It was really special.

It commenced and we moved on to awards! Yes. At the Harvest Dinner we bust out some recognition for outstanding members in our community who aid WCFM’s efforts in an impactful way. First, I called David Woodmansee to his feet. Dave operates DnD Smoked Spices with his wife Debbie in Oronogo. Dave and Debbie sponsored the market’s Cooking for a Cause food costs when it was our turn to raise money in efforts to Grow and Retain Our Wellbeing. Thanks to the Woodmansees sponsorship of Cooking for a Cause, our fundraiser kept 100% of that day’s proceeds. Then late this summer this sweet couple commissioned a custom base to be made to replace the faulty information table cart. Check it out when you come next, it’s purple! Random, love it! Myself and the others who’ve experienced this will agree, we will not miss chasing rolling tokens down the parking lot after a wheel collapses again, causing the cart to flip. It was, and is now again, my honor to announce that David was this year’s recipient of the coveted Golden Washrag award.

We had two Market Champions this year, Karen Scott and Stefanie Thomasama. These two ladies have served multiple terms on our board of directors, helping shape the sustainability of our community’s gathering place. They have given countless hours to troubleshooting budgets, creating lovely marketing tools, and other necessary gritty things that no others have the time, or gumption to complete. These women are part of the reason the market opens, they are our champions.

Marketeer Rick Hamilton

Another person of importance has been in our presence for almost three years. I shook his hand for the first time as I passed him a cooler full of hot breakfasts that were heading to the free kids meal line we opened during the first quarter of 2020. COVID had kick started that year’s Summer Food Service Program early. Since all the kids were out of school we jump started our efforts. In less than a month our site hired, stocked, and joined other emergency SFSP sites in distributing wholesome meals to children, many of whom would normally have free or reduced lunches. The demand on our kitchen doubled overnight for weeks before it settled out to about 480 recipients each time we served. In the height of need we were handing out over a thousand meals. The need to move large amounts of food quickly was important, but we had to move it across the park to an open parking lot to serve a drive-thru line. We needed trucks.

Then one day, a black truck backed in front of the kitchen and Marketeer Janet tells me her friend, Rick Hamilton, was here to transport coolers to the parking lot. Rick and I and countless others will remember forever moving thousands of coolers over the next several months. He has also repaired picnic tables, moved trash, and showed up for our customers to help with information. Rick Hamiltion, hands down, is Webb City Farmers Market’s Marketeer of 2023!

And that’s how it ended. The illuminated Harvest Pumpkin, which is presented to the Marketeer of the Year, shined brightly when it was passed off to Rick in appreciation for him keeping us shining bright. We took down tables and chairs, carted off leftovers and wished each other happy weeks. We went home.

When I got home, a wash of gratitude reminded me what a charmed life it is, the “market life.” I am grateful and I can speak confidently saying we all at WCFM are so grateful to the incredible many who have spent hours serving with our activities and programs as volunteers during 2020-2022. We are thankful for our vendors who are our foundation, for our board of directors and our volunteers who sacrifice freely the man hours it takes to ring the opening bell every Saturday year round from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. We are so grateful for you, a community who show up to keep our local commerce thriving, reducing transportation and other waste. A community thankful for the strong agricultural presence you can find in our region. This is the life, the market life. It’s one that has changed me forever and I know I am not alone.

Over the next month or two the market will set out surveys. We want to hear from you. Our world has changed and we are excited to share the things coming in 2023 to increase the availability of locally grown produce and Missouri produced products.

The pavilion is now enclosed and heated thanks to the strenuous work of the Webb City Parks Department, yet another thing to be thankful for on Turkey day. 

Thank you to all who came out to our annual Thanksgiving Market that happens every Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Please remember we are closed this Saturday, Nov. 26, to soak up a little time our families this Thanksgiving.

See you at the market!

  • Christkindlemarket vendors will be at every market through Christmas Eve.
  • Santa will be at the market Dec. 17 and 24.
  • Hot coffee, hot breakfast, and all locally produced and grown goods.
Rachael Lynch for author

Rachael Lynch

Rachael Lynch is the manager of the Webb City Farmers Market.  For more current updates, visit the market’s Facebook page.