Home grown tomatoes were in high demand and short supply at the Neosho Farmers' Market on Saturday.

Home grown tomatoes were in high demand and short supply at the Neosho Farmers' Market on Saturday.
The number of vendors and variety of products continue to increase each week. Garden fresh vegetables available also included green beans, cucumbers, carrots, new potatoes and more. Herbs were also available along with farm fresh eggs, honey and more.
A new item this week was tilapia, farm raised and still swimming, offered by Happy Joe's Fish Keeping and Aquaphonics. Proprietor Joseph Madson has been breeding and raising tilapia for three years, the past year in the area and near Branson before that. The fish he sells are F2 or two generations removed from the wild. He started with just four fish and now has raised over two thousand.
Tilapia is a white fleshed, mild flavored fish that is low in calories but rich in protein.  It's one of the most popular varieties of fish in the United States and around the world.  Recent news reports have claimed tilapia is unhealthy but according to Madson, it's not the fish but what they're fed is the issue.  
Madson's fish are grain raised without any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on a high protein and vegetarian diet.
Although Saturday marked the first time for Happy Joe's Fish Keeping and Aquaphonics at the local farmers' market, Madson sells his product to customers in an area ranging from Tulsa to St. Louis to Kansas City.  There's no doubt that the fish are fresh - they were swimming in a fresh water tank at Madson's stand.
His tilapia sell for $5 each and buckets (to take the fish home) for those who come unprepared are $3. Customers who bring their own bucket get an additional fish free, whether they buy one or four.  Cleaning and dressing the fish is up to the customer but according to Madson, it's simple to do.
The tilapia range from 5-10 inches in length and weigh up to 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Most average around 8-10 ounces.
Business appeared brisk on Saturday.
"I encourage people to make pre-orders," Madson said. "That way I will have enough fish for everyone who wants them."
Madson said his tilapia are much better than any found at a supermarket.
"They're all nice," he said. "There's no GMOs and no toxic material."
His fish are also pampered.
"They listen to classical music in the morning," he said. "And they listen to heavy metal in the afternoon."
In addition to the tilapia, Madson hopes to get into raising shrimp in the future.
He also is starting growing vegetables using Aquaponics, which is a combination of fish and plant production using aquaculture and hydroponics systems.  Madson indicated some tomato plants he brought along.
"Aquaphonics doesn't use soil," he said. It does, however utilize fish water in the process.
Although he did not yet have any Aquaponics tomatoes for sale, he grew cherry tomatoes last season with the method. And, he did have some fresh herbs including basil grown the conventional way, for sale on Saturday.
The tilapia have proven very popular, especially with Hispanic and Pacific Islander residents.  "They think these are small fish," Madson said. "They're used to huge fish from the ocean."
Happy Joe's Fish Keeping and Aquaponics now has a Facebook page and can be contacted for pre-orders through it.  Madson can also be reached at 417-350-3280.
He'll be back at the Neosho Farmers' Market next Saturday as well, along with a variety of other local vendors.  Tomatoes are ripening and there should be more available on Saturday but the early shoppers gain the best selection. The Neosho Farmers' Market  is held at the corner of Spring and Jefferson Streets in downtown Neosho each Saturday morning from 10 a.m. until noon, May through October.