Apples and oranges

Farmers markets produce more than ever

By Paula Johnson

Did you know you can pet an alpaca and do yoga at Dayton farmers markets? Talk to the guy who baked your bread this morning and the folks who made the honey you just bought? Pick up a handmade ceramic piece or a painting? Hear live music while you munch an amazing sandwich made from local organic ingredients you bought at a food truck?

Farmers market season is in full swing in Southwestern Ohio, and quite a few of our local weekly stops are hitting home runs. No longer are markets simply umbrella-covered card tables selling cucumbers and tomatoes.

Just as in larger food culture, the word “artisanal” has permeated the new world of the formerly humble fruit and vegetable stand. And it’s not just food anymore. These weekly events feature everything from classic car cruises to yoga classes. You can interact with an alpaca while you peruse a hand-woven shawl make from that very animal. These are must-see weekly events. It’s not your grandma’s farmers market anymore!

Community cash in

The benefits of these little economic engines are myriad. A manager of California’s McClintock Fountains Farmers Market reported that 90 percent of the money gained at farmers markets stays in the community. This money also stays in the community longer than money spent at large corporate food stores. Farmers markets strengthen civic engagement by reducing the social distances between urban and rural communities. With fewer intermediaries, the support of independent growers by local community members can enhance local economic opportunities and health and wellness in poor communities.

The 91 percent

Evidence shows that overall prices at a typical farmers market are lower than prices at a supermarket. The process of production is more concise; there is less distance to travel and fewer middlemen. Based on a figure shown in Farmers Markets of America, the prices at a farmers market are lower than prices at a supermarket 91 percent of the time.

On a personal level, it boils down to this: Who doesn’t want to:

Reduce overhead: driving, parking, etc.?

Access fresher, healthier foods?

Find a better variety of foods, e.g.: organic foods, pasture-raised meats, free-range eggs and poultry, handmade farmstead cheeses, heirloom produce, heritage breeds of meat and many less transport-immune cultivars disfavored by large grocers?

Experience a place to meet neighbors, chat, etc.?

Enjoy an outdoor walk while getting needed groceries?

So now we know we can eat healthier, save money, support local farmers and artisans, preserve heirloom meats and veggies, get more variety, reduce driving and parking costs and help the environment. It means that shopping at farmers markets basically makes you a superhero. As cookbook author Gabrielle Langholz writes, “Participating in a human-scale food system adds richness to life.” We all win here, people!

Start me up

A small but burgeoning market in the Springboro Elementary School parking lot begs the question, how do these markets start? This one was begun by Springboro resident Lori Kershner. This market operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I visited on the market’s third week of operation and met up with market coordinator Kershner. I asked her how she came up with the idea, and once she had, how she made it happen.

“I came up with the idea of a farmers market after visiting several around the region. It occurred to me that our community would support the opportunity to buy local and support our local farmers and other vendors.

We decided early on that we wanted this to be a truly community-based market. That is how we formed our partnership with the schools. It is important to us that we give back to the community as much as possible which is why we have invited school and other community groups to participate in the market so that we can help support each other. We have hosted the high school robotics team, Hannah’s Treasure Chest, Hope Community Gardens, Princess of Ohio Olivia Lorenz as she sold goods to benefit Dayton Children’s Hospital, the high school band boosters, and we have events scheduled with Gem City Greyhounds and Dayton Humane Society.”

She continues, “We are also doing some fun free events like a cruise-in car show every third Saturday. And yoga on the grass weekly at 9:15 a.m.

“We chose the location because of its close proximity to downtown historic Springboro which is in the center of town. We wanted it to be easily accessible to everyone. Plus with the large space, we have plenty of room to grow! We have been working very hard to reach new vendors from the market and we are excited to have had many new products join the market recently. Much of the outreach is word of mouth and simply getting the word out that we are here and open for business.”

For more information, please visit springborofarmersmarket.com

Market maven

Pegge Hein Bellamy knows all about running a market. She is the market coordinator for both the Miamisburg Market and another new addition, The Austin Landing Market. After touring local markets, the developers of Austin Landing zeroed in on her to start and coordinate their new market effort. Bellamy has a professional background in marketing and she worked for the city of Miamisburg, but she’s also a vendor herself. Her company, A Bit Of A Bite Salsa, features all natural, non-GMO ingredients.

She explains a little about how the markets work.

“I receive a stipend to coordinate everything. The vendors pay a fee to participate ranging from $10 to $20 per week to participate. That money goes to pay for market management, print fliers, signs and promotional materials, hire musicians, [and pay for] garbage collection and maintenance fees.”

Bellamy strives to curate the right mix of vendors. She notes, “I work hard to be sure it’s a good fit. We really feel like a family. And we try hard to make our customers feel like an extension of our family.”

As to the space, Bellamy points out one huge advantage this location has over other outdoor markets.

The Austin Landing market, along with great vendors, is an all-weather market. The week I visited happened to be during one of Dayton’s all too regular torrential rainstorms. “We move the vendors indoors under a covered parking lot, conveniently allowing you to remain dry by parking and shopping in one place.”

For more information, please visit ABitOfABiteSalsa.com, austinlanding.com/themarket and exploremiamisburg.com/miamisburg-farmers-market.

Booth dreams

As I wandered by booths and tables at Austin Landing, I wondered: just who are the people who staff them? How do you get to be a vendor? What are these people’s stories? I asked a few and got some interesting answers. So many of the vendors described a family tradition that evolved into the product they were selling. Many said they were urged on by friends and family and never intended to be entrepreneurs selling their wares at a farmer’s market.

That was the case for both Kathy Reid of Perfect Pecans and Marcie Calvert of Raphael’s Pizzelles. Reid made her pecans as holiday gifts with a recipe handed down from a previous generation. After years of people saying, “You should sell these!” she finally decided to do just that. Calvert’s grandfather Raphael is pictured on the label of every package of her authentic Italian pizzelles. This was a mid-life career change for her, allowing her to combine a love of baking and honoring family traditions, making cookies just the way her immigrant grandparents did.

For more information, please email PerfectPecans@yahoo.com or visit raphaelspizzelles.com.

Nuts for Mutt’s

Charlynda Nyenke never dreamed of heading up a condiment company, but a dream is what prompted her to start her company, Mutt’s Sauce.

“It’s named for my grandfather,” she says. “His nickname was Mutt because he got along with everybody. He started making ‘The Sauce,’ as we called it, because he wanted something to go on everything. It’s like, he got along with everyone and his sauce goes along with everything!” She explains how she’s using it in various recipes, and has recipe cards available at her booth.

So how did it all start?

“When Mutt died, no one in the family knew how to make The Sauce, and we all missed it,” Nyenke explains. “Eight years later after I had grown up, my mom gave me his old wallet with the recipe tucked in the back. She said he wanted me to have it, and that she had been saving it for me until the time was right. That night I dreamed of standing in a supermarket aisle surrounded by bottles with Mutt’s face on them.”

Nyenke is now producing more than 2,000 bottles of Mutt’s Sauce monthly since starting in 2013. Mutt’s is in five local grocery stores with plans for expanding. (And there’s a bottle in my fridge.)

For more information, please visit muttssauce.com

Catering to canines

If you’ve got your own mutt—the four legged kind, that is—the markets have you covered. Xenia-based Our Family Soap features a great smelling, all-natural mango blueberry bar soap to wash your pooch. (I washed my squirmy pup and loved it—so much easier than shampoo).

For a post-bath treat, Yuppy Puppy Biscuits’ Teresa Mullen can help. Her eight-year-old miniature pinscher Zeena aids her with selling all-natural, no preservatives, no salt or sugar canine treats.

She also works with dogs that have special dietary needs, gluten free, etc. “I make soft treats for a dog with no teeth,” Mullen says. She plans to have an artist join her at her booth to sketch visitors’ pets (Austin Landing’s market welcomes pets on leashes).

For more information, please visit ourfamilysoap.com or YuppyPuppyBiscuits.com.

Though not exactly a pet, Purdy Lil’ Suri Alpaca Farm has an alpaca they’ll pack up and bring to the various markets they participate at.

“Her name is Meri, and she’s the most social of all our alpacas,” explains Collene Miller, who owns Purdy Lil’ Suri Alpaca Farm in Huber Heights. “We’ve been coming to markets since starting the farm in 2011. What we sell raises money to run the farm. We just love teaching people about the animals!”

For more information, please visit purdylilsuri@earthlink.net

I ran into a lot of the vendors I mentioned from the Austin Landing market at many other of the markets I visited. Most vendors have websites or Facebook pages listing their market location schedules, so if Austin Landing isn’t convenient, it’s likely you’ll be able to find these folks at a market near you!

What the truck?

It’s great to take home goodies to prepare, but don’t miss the food trucks that now congregate at all the markets. From BBQ to tacos, there’s an array of choices to tempt. One of my favorites is at The Webster Street Market across from the indoor year round Second Street Market. The Wicked ‘Wich offers made to order eclectic and basic build-your-own sandwiches. You’ll find great combinations of sweet and salty on delicious homemade bread with options for meat lovers and vegetarians. And you can feel good about eating because they donate a portion of sales to various local charities.

For more information, please visit thewickedwichofdayton.com

And also superheroes

As for charity, remember when I said shopping at farmers markets makes you a superhero? I encountered some real superheroes on a trip to West Carrollton’s Tuesday afternoon market. Super Heroes Closet is a donation service for local families who are in need due to tragedies such as illness, house fires or natural disasters.

Alicia Payne-Howard, aka Wonder Woman, was posing for pics with kids visiting the market when we spoke. She explains the purpose of having a booth is to let the public know who they are and what they do, and offer a chance to donate.

“We have a whole group people who love to do this,” she says. “Our costumes are custom-made and are just amazing. Kids think we are the real thing!” The excitement of the kids when they saw Wonder Woman and Bat Girl had me convinced.

For more information, please find Superheroes Closet on Facebook, or call 937.270.7220

Finally, look for a new market to start in the parking lot of recently opened Whole Foods in Centerville. Store manager Lauren Romansky reports that plans are underway, so check for an announcement of dates and times soon. You’ll be able to support local farmers and vendors in the same place you can pick up some fabulous oysters. Now go save the world and get your farmers market party started!

PAULA’S PICKS 

Our Family Soap’s blueberry mango dog soap (and people soap too) (Miamisburg Market, ourfamilysoap.com)

Blue Oven Bakery’s delicious English muffins made with butter so you practically don’t need to butter them, and their round ciabatta loaf (it looks like a giant doughnut) (Centerville Market, blueovenbakery.com) 

The kounaman at Boosalis Baking—they are caramelized little flaky crunchy pieces of heaven. “Get here early if you can—we always run out of them!” Mindy advises. Also try the candied ginger butter scones. (Centerville Market, mboosalis@yahoo.com)

Chef JC’s specialty vanilla extracts and citrus infusions (Austin Landing Market, chefjcs.com)

Meat from Morning Sun Certified Organic Meats (Centerville Market, contact: Dale Filbrun 937.787.4885)

 

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Paula Johnson
Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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