Category Archives: OEFFA in the News

Things to Love About the 2017 OEFFA Conference

By Claire Hoppens, Edible Columbus
Illustrations by Kevin Morgan

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association has been hosting their annual conference for the farming community for over 35 years. This year they celebrate their 38th gathering in Dayton from February 9 – 11. Read more about highlights for this year’s conference, and purchase tickets at oeffa.org.

From Granville to Dayton

This year’s move to the Dayton Conference Center allows for growth and added amenities, but won’t sacrifice any of the charm or programming that have become synonymous with the conference. “We’re excited to have new partners and reach a new part of the state,” says OEFFA Communications Coordinator Lauren Ketcham. The conference, previously held in Granville, will celebrate its 38th year with the theme “Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.”

Convenience and Comfort

Even a late winter optimist can appreciate the tunnel connecting the Dayton Conference Center and all OEFFA activities to the on-site hotel, the Crown Plaza Dayton. Parking is complimentary, and be sure to ask for the special OEFFA rate when booking.

For Farmers and Advocates

Workshops cover a wide range of topics including organic and sustainable agriculture, food policy, home cooking, business tactics and certification. Whether you’re a farmer seeking organic certification or a local food advocate, there are topics suited for all interests and occupations. All workshops are 1½ hours long and feature prominent leaders, teachers, authors or instructors.

Family Friendly

The OEFFA Conference offers unique programming for kids ages 6–12 and teens ages 12–15, in addition to on-site childcare for children 5 and under. Teens may adhere to customized programming or overlap with the main sessions as they wish, and kids will have opportunities to get their hands dirty, take on a project and learn on a level that best suits them.

Three Days of Trade

Exhibitors participate in a trade show from Thursday to Saturday, offering a chance for attendees to connect and research sustainable businesses, products and farms. Explore the trade show during schedule breaks or between sessions to learn about innovative new products and tools of the trade, sample food and beverages and meet individuals from all over the state.

Foods’ Erin Brockovich

This year’s keynote speakers are Robyn O’Brien, former financial and food industry analyst and author of The Unhealthy Truth, and Jim Riddle, an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst and activist. Robyn founded and served as the Executive Director of the AllergyKids Foundation, and advises companies making changes in the food industry. She’s been called “foods’ Erin Brockovich.” Jim served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board from 2001 to 2006. He remains engaged in organic issues and operates Blue Fruit Farm, a five-acre farm in southeastern Minnesota.

Local Meals Made with Love

Conference attendees have the choice to include lunch and dinner options on their ticket. Meals are made from scratch and feature as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible, some from the farms of conference sponsors or attendees. The meals offer a chance to mingle and connect over food prepared lovingly and in the spirit of the conference.

Dayton is Worth the Trip

Dayton is home to vibrant neighborhoods, historical explorations and family activities in every season. The 2nd Street Market is a year-round farmers market open Thursday–Saturday in close proximity to the Dayton Conference Center, RiverScape MetroPark opens a seasonal ice rink to the public and microbreweries, like Warped Wing Brewery, are scattered across the city.

Community Connections

Gathering diverse and passionate people for a food and farming conference makes for abundant networking opportunities. Newfound farmers can garner wisdom from their more experienced counterparts. Interns might connect with future employers. And throughout the conference, OEFFA will host designated networking sessions and a reception.

Guide Highlights Food, Farm Issues for Ohio Candidates

By Mary Kuhlman, 10/6/16, Ohio Public News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The future of food and farming in America affects every Ohioan, and it’s an issue that advocates of sustainable agriculture maintain should be a higher priority for those running for office in November.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) says state and federal policies shape local food systems, and sustainable farming policies benefit public health, economies and the environment.

She contends it would be wise for candidates to pay attention.

“Clearly, food and farming issues have not risen to the top of the presidential race,” she concedes. “But we’re working to make sure state and federal candidates know what Ohioans think.

“It is an important issue. It’s kind of an ultimate sustainability issue.”

OEFFA’s “Food and Farming Questions for Candidates” guide contains key policy points and background information for voters as they attend debates, forums and other pre-election events.

The guide, along with responses from candidates who answered the group’s online survey, are available at oeffa.org.

Lipstreu says the guide covers major issues related to sustainable agriculture and farming in Ohio.

“Whether it’s investment in local and regional food systems, whether it’s looking at the impact of fracking and wastewater injection wells, climate change, federal crop insurance, or even the issue of algal blooms and water quality,” she explains.

Lipstreu hopes elected leaders learn to see the potential for sustainable agriculture, and she encourages Ohioans to be informed and engaged.

“This election is a real window of opportunity for voters to ask questions, make informed decisions and get to know the candidates who may be their future leaders,” she states.

Besides a new president, Ohio voters will select 16 U.S. House seats and one U.S. senator. At the state level, there are 99 House seats and 16 Senate seats up for grabs.

Ag breakfast speaker notes sustained growth of organic certification

Growing vegetables and crops organically continues to grow in demand each year.

On Thursday, Eric Pawlowski, a sustainable agriculture educator with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association was the featured speaker at the monthly Ag Business Breakfast Forum.

In addition to being an organic farmer himself, in his OEFFA role Pawlowski helps other growers enter into the organic growing circle and receive organic certification.

“We are a nonprofit organization by farmers for farmers,” he said of the organization.

Not all members of OEFFA are organically certified and of those who are, not all of them are 100 percent organic as many have some standard crops as well as their organics.

During his presentation, he often reminded those interested in achieving organic certification to pick up the phone and call with any questions.

“We want to help. It will save you time and money in the long run,” he said.

Pawlowski outlined the five steps necessary to become a certified organic operation. First, complete and submit an application. Second, undergo initial review. Third, have an inspection. Fourth, have the post-inspection review. And finally, get a decision on certification.

He said the certification is essential to assure the highest level of standards are being met. “Certified organic is the gold standard.”

During the program he ventured away from the OEFFA policy and expressed his personal frustration with growers who choose not to certify but claim their operation goes “beyond organic.”

“Personally that offends me,” he said. “How can you go beyond a standard if you are not willing to verify you meet that standard?”

He explained those who claim to be organic and are not diminish the power of the certification and the high standards they set for the organics. He suggested they develop their own name for it. This is necessary he said “to uphold the integrity of the label.”

He said those wishing to be organic not merely get in it for the premium price being paid for organics.

“I found that if you are in it for the price premium, you’re not going to make it. You have to be in it with your heart and that will show in your business,” Pawlowski said.

He offered descriptions of requirements such as buffer zones and the three-year time frame needed to transition a field to organic. He also stressed the importance of keeping detailed records of all action in the field and with the harvested crops.

By doing the right things and documenting what is being done most growers can avoid the dreaded “noncompliance.”

He also offered some of the top reasons people are deemed non-compliant. The reasons include problems with record keeping, use of prohibited substances, incomplete organic systems plan, incomplete or inaccurate organic system dates and statistics.

He stressed the need for proper communication, including being sure to read any correspondence from their office.

For more information, contact Pawlowski at 614-262-2022 or through www.oeffa.org

Visitors to Hirzel Farm view high-tech ag systems

By Bill Ryan

Sentinel Tribune, 8/23/16

Visitors from across Ohio gathered at Hirzel Farm in rural Luckey on Friday for a tour of the farm. After meetings, lunch and the tour there, they traveled to the company’s composting facility in rural Pemberville to see that operation.

The tour was part of the 2016 Farm Tour by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

At the Luckey site, the visitors were shown the grain movement, grading and storage facility which uses state-of-the-art equipment, which maximizes the value of the crops to food buyers.

Hirzel composting

The movement of grain uses no augers, but rather paddle conveyors, which minimize damage to the beans, for example.

It was explained that a split bean loses all its nutrient value and lowers the value of the entire lot of beans. The conveyor moves the crops slower but the speed of traditional augers is what can damage them and lower the commercial value to food buyers.

The organic crops carry a higher price tag, but also require a higher standard of quality to be met.

The visitors also were able to see a new sophisticated optical scanner that can grade the beans, even down to subtle differences in colors. Again, it is all part of the commercial grade needed to sell to the buyers for the optimal price. The equipment also provides for full traceability of each lot.

From the farm, the group visited the composting facility.

Mike Chandler is the site manager of the facility. He explained he is a geologist by trade and works the composting as a scientist.

One of the primary sources for their compost is scrap vegetables, including cabbage and tomatoes from their own farms as well as cucumbers from Hartung in Bowling Green.

Joe Hirzel Sr., though somewhat retired, is still active in the operation and was on hand for the tour.

Though there was initial resistance to the composting as well as switching over the processes to organic, he said the success has “proven how wrong we were.”

His sense of humor showed when he talked about the work involved in maintaining a healthy compost facility. He said, “I love work. I can watch people work all day.”

Chandler explained, “Compost is an art form. It’s a living organism and needs attention.”

He added that the changing weather along with the high moisture content in the food waste used provides challenges.

“For me, it’s a lot of trial and error, but he said by maintaining the proper mixture of carbon and nitrogen in the materials used, they can have the “compost cooking” to 160 degrees within two to three weeks.

Aside from the food waste, they also include bulking agents such as manure, grinding hay and fodder, along with such odds and ends as coffee, and egg waste from Hertzfeld Poultry.

Hirzel said they are proud of their Class 2 certified organic facility.

“It’s very costly to develop and maintain such a facility,” Hirzel said, noting for the permit it is $2,300 a year compared to $100 a year for a canning facility permit.

He noted the stack of paperwork required, not as a complaint, but rather as a warning device.

“These are the laws and we simply must follow them,” Hirzel said.

Clay Hill brings kale and more to farmers market

The Sentinel Tribute, 8/16/16

Today’s Downtown Farmers Market vendor profile comes to us from Kristy Buskirk of Clay Hill.

Clay Hill is located just north of Tiffin and specializes in produce and flowers. This is the third year Clay Hill has appeared at the Clay Hill Farmsmarket.

“We are a certified organic vegetable and cut flower farm. We specialize in greens, bring lots of kale to the market every week,” Buskirk said. “We are certified organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association.

“We are a small family farm in its third year of production. We have gone through the organic certification process to show our commitment to providing the healthiest food for you, your family and the environment. We take care to bring the highest quality products to market every week.”

Buskirk said she loves that the market is in downtown because it “makes it feel like part of the community.”

When asked if she shops from other vendors while at the market, Buskirk said, “Absolutely! I mainly pick up fruit from Haslingers, since fruit is something we don’t grow yet. I also get bread from Bella Cuisine and if there is an item I don’t grow, I generally pick it up from Rheims.”

Buskirk said there are many reasons people should visit the Downtown Farmers Market.

“Attending the farmers market is a weekly celebration of food and community. I believe that supporting local farmers is an important part of citizenship. The food and goods available at the market all stream dollars into local businesses and are the freshest and generally tastiest available. The prices are comparable to what you find in the grocery store and can be more affordable, not to mention superior in quality.”

“There is always music at the end of the market, which is an enjoyable way to spend summer afternoons,” Buskirk said.

The Downtown Farmers Market is open rain or shine every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. through Oct. 12. A variety of vendors bring fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, flowers, home-baked goods, artisan crafts, and more. The market is in the parking lot on the corner of Main and Clough streets. Keep in mind that metered parking is enforced until 5 p.m. Visit the website at bgfarmersmarket.org.

 

USDA awards more than $1 million in grants for beginning farmers, aquaculture boot camp

By JD Malone

Columbus Dispatch, 8/18/16

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded grants to Ohio State University and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

The grants, part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, are meant to help farmers start and sustain businesses. The USDA hopes these programs encourage the growth of younger farmers as the average age of America’s farmers has reached 58 years old.

The OEFFA will use $566,000 over three years to train farmers starting out in organic and sustainable farming. The organization hopes to help people not only make the leap into organic farming, but to also build a profitable business that can last for years.

Ohio State plans to use its $599,000 grant to fund the second part of an aquaculture “boot camp” to help farmers start sustainable aquaculture and aquaponic businesses. The first phase was funded last year through the same grant program.

In Memory: Gene Logsdon

By Wendell Berry

Gene Logsdon was the first friend I made away from home who loved farming as much as I did. In 1970 I published a book of poems, Farming: A Hand Book. A copy went to the office of Farm Journal where Gene was then working, where he and my book were about equally misplaced, and where he and my book came together perhaps by mutual attraction. Gene, anyhow, read the book and came to see me.

https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50235/images/Gene-and-his-wife-Carol-signing-books-at-the-2014-OEFFA-Conference.gif
Gene and wife Carol, OEFFA Conference 2014 book signing table

He drove in here on a bright morning in, as I remember, late spring, after my garden was well started. As I would eventually know, he was almost a perfect gardener. He also had been properly brought up and had good manners. He noticed politely that my strawberries were not quite as good as his. But as we stood looking and talking at the row-ends, I deduced easily that he was in general a better gardener then I was. He was in fact a better gardener than I was ever going to be. Like all the incidental differences between us, that hardly mattered.

From the garden, we went down to the rockbar by the river, sat down, and talked a long time. Our conversation revealed further differences, for we had grown up in different places and different cultures. But we had grown up farming, and with close to the same old ways of feeling and thinking about farming, ways that had come to Gene, I believe, mostly from his mother, and to me mostly from my father. And so our talk that day was full f the excitement at discovering how well we understood each other and how much we agreed. That was the start of a conversation that lasted 46 years and was for me a major life-support. It involved much talking face-to-face, much letter-writing, and phone-calling. It dealt with farming, gardening, our families and histories, other subjects of importance, but also unimportant subjects, and it was accompanied always by a lot of laughter. I have needed his writing, and have been especially delighted by his late-coming fiction, but I have needed even more his talk and his company. Gene was a great companion.

I have always enjoyed especially my memory of one of the trips we made together. It was another fine day, and we were driving in northeastern Ohio, looking for a land-restoration project we both were much interested in seeing. But we fell into our ongoing conversation as we might have fallen into a river that just carried us along. We talked intensely on and on about our urgent-as-usual agenda of subjects. When it finally occurred to us to wonder where we were, we found that we were a good many miles inside the state of Pennsylvania. It was a good day.

Gene’s last days were spent at home in the care and company of his family. His participation in this life ended on the morning of May 31. Not long before, when we lasted talked on the telephone, we were still in our conversation, telling our news, remembering things, thinking together, laughing. I’m sure it would be wrong to wish Gene had lived longer, for that would be only to wish him a longer illness. But for me, as I am sure for many others, his absence is large. I won’t cease to miss him. But I’m glad to think that my missing him will always remind me of him.

This article originally appeared in OEFFA’s summer newsletter, with the following editor’s note:

Prolific writer, farmer, and OEFFA member Eugene (Gene) Logsdon, age 84, passed away on May 31 at his home. Gene was born in Tiffin, Ohio and lived the majority of his life in his beloved Wyandot County with Carol, his wife of almost 55 years.

He inspired and entertained many readers and farmers through his collection of written work. He wrote more than 30 books and countless magazine articles on small-scale farming and sustainable living. Beginning in 1974, he wrote a weekly column for the Progressor Times and more recently began a popular blog called The Contrary Farmer.

OEFFA was privileged to have Gene as a supporter, advocate, and member; an annual guest of the conference, and a newsletter contributor. We’re deeply grateful to novelist, poet, activist, and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry for generously sharing memories of his friend Gene.

Correcting organic misinformation

Rural Life Today, 5/4/16

By Carol Goland, Ph.D

OEFFA Executive Director

COLUMBUS — Don “Doc” Sanders’ question (In his April Rural Life Today column) —“So, what’s better, organic or traditional farming”— is the wrong one to ask. Instead: “What do consumers want?” and “What will benefit farmers?” are the relevant questions.

Dr. Sanders brought up rbST; however, this issue has been decided in the court of consumer opinion. Consumers don’t want milk from cows injected with this drug. Arguing the merits of its benefits is beside the point. When grocery stores such as Kroger and juggernaut dairy processor Dean Foods state they don’t want to buy milk from farmers who use this product, it’s time to acknowledge the marketplace has spoken.

And the marketplace continues to speak: consumer demand for organic products has grown by double digits every year since the 1990s, with 84 percent of Americans now reporting they purchase organic food. Fresh produce and dairy are in the highest demand.

Consumers want what organic delivers: farming practices that maintain and improve the soil and water resources on which we all depend; eliminating the reliance on synthetic fertilizers that run off fields and pollute our waterways; enhancing biodiversity; animal health care practices that emphasize prevention; allowing ruminants to forage on grass and exhibit their natural behaviors; traceability from farm to table, and a prohibition on genetically engineered seeds and feed.

It’s unfortunate that Dr. Sanders’ column shared some misinformation about organic dairy production, such as the idea that antibiotic treatment is denied to cows that need it. The National Organic Program regulations require that “all appropriate medications must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production fail.” If antibiotics are needed, they must be used; the animal must then be removed from the organic herd.

Organic is not about substituting an unacceptable input for an acceptable one. Instead, it’s about managing a system. It is that production system – in which a variety of clever and effective natural practices are used – that allows organic farmers to avoid using synthetic pesticides that, in turn, remain as residues on food.

Organic farmers have access to 25 synthetic active pest control products which have been evaluated for their environmental and human health effects and which are only allowed under a restricted set of conditions; over 900 pesticides are registered for use in conventional farming. It is these contrasts in production systems that produce the demonstrable differences in what Dr. Sanders calls “quality, purity, and nutritive value of organic versus conventional food.”

An organic livestock system relies on preventative health practices to reduce the risk of common diseases, and to ensure animal welfare and productivity.

We need veterinarians like Dr. Sanders to help organic livestock farmers understand what they can do to reduce risks in their farming operations, and help them manage those animals if they do get sick. This approach to livestock farming, and the systems used in organics, can benefit all herds— whether the farm is organic or conventional.

For more information about organic certification and livestock management, go to http://certification.oeffa.org/.

Carol Goland, Ph.D, is Executive Director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Consumer Demand Pushes Cage-Free Egg Production In Ohio

By Sam Hendren • WOSU • 5/31/16

Ohio is the second largest egg-producing state in the U.S., and that means big industry changes as consumer demand pushes more retailers to move to cage free hens.

Several months ago, McDonald’s joined other retailers that want their eggs produced by cage-free hens. The fast food chain has considerable clout – they buy 2 billion eggs every year. Why the shift? Lauren Ketcham of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association says they’re responding to consumer demand.

“The more the public knows about how their food is produced, the more that environmental and animal welfare concerns are brought into the spotlight and industry is forced to change,” Ketcham says.

Hens that live in cage-free operations are fortunate. They live in larger enclosures, feasting on insects and and plantlife they can find.

Most hens used in ‘industrial’ egg production never go outside. Millions live out their lives in cages with about 60 square inches of space. Their warehousing is directly linked, say experts, to consumer expectations for low food prices.

“We have the richest country in the world but yet we pay the least amount of our per capita income for food. And so a lot of our management practices per se have really been driven by what consumers expect or are willing to pay for food,” says Michael Lilburn an Ohio State University animal science professor..

But now it seems consumers are willing to pay more if their eggs are produced under different conditions. In response, egg producers want the Ohio Department of Agriculture to allow them to make changes in their operations. The department’s Kevin Elder.

“There are several facilities that are asking to change their permit to allow them to go construct or remodel to newer styles for the cage free,” Elder says.

Elder says that converting to cage-free egg production will be expensive. Fewer hens can be housed in cage-free buildings so additional housing has to be constructed.

“It will cost a lot of money. The cost is tremendous. Many of these buildings, just to remodel, are millions of dollars for 100,000 birds. So as you get more and more numbers and more buildings and new facilities the investment is pretty amazing,” Elder says.

Those cage-free hens need more heat and eat more feed than their caged counterparts, says OSU’s Lilburn, who says the price-tag for all of this is a mystery.

“I don’t know that we really know what the cost of the cage-free systems are going to be over time,” Lilburn says.

On its website, Versailles, Ohio-based egg producer Weaver Brothers ‘crows’ about building new organic, cage-free farms that will house several million birds. Repeated phone calls requesting an interview went unanswered. I asked the Ohio Poultry Association’s Jim Chakeres about that. He told me, “Mr. Weaver will not be talking.” I asked Chakeres if producers are reluctant to speak.

“Maybe reluctant’s not the right word. They’re just not sure how all of this is coming together and so there’s just not a lot to discuss at this time,” Chakeres says.

It’s unclear what the cage-free conversion means for Ohio’s economy. Ohio produces approximately 9 billion eggs a year.

Cage-free is also not a panacea says the agriculture department’s Kevin Elder.

“The cost per bird is a lot higher with the cage-free. The loss of eggs is higher because there’s more of a chance for damage. There’s potentially more exposure to Salmonella and other diseases because of those changes,” Elder says.

Experts say the cost of cage-free produced eggs will be more expensive, but still affordable.

Canal Market could be game changer for county farmers

By Anna Jeffries, 5/24/16, The Newark Advocate

NEWARK – The last few weeks have been busy on Janell Baran’s farm.

She’s working to get hundreds of logs ready for mushroom season while also harvesting new crops of shiitakes. As she prepares to plant her next crop of herbs, she’s also working on drying plants and organizing her inventory.

She loves what she does. But there’s nothing cute or whimsical about it. It’s hard work, and it’s how she makes her living.

A regular vendor at the Granville and Worthington farmers markets, she’ll start selling her herbs, teas and mushrooms at the Canal Market District in a few weeks.

She’s hoping new clients will increase her bottom line. If the market is a success, it can make a big difference for her business, Blue Owl Garden Emporium, and many other small businesses in the area.

“Licking County is one of the largest agriculture counties in the state, and we have a lot of small farmers, especially in the eastern part of the county,” she said. “I see small farmers (at the market) having the opportunity to get their foot in the door.”

An opportunity for smaller farms

Licking County has strong roots in agriculture, which is a major driver in the local economy. But in a more urban area such as downtown Newark, that isn’t always clear, said Jeremy King, sustainability coordinator for Denison University and a board member for the Canal Market District and Enterprise Hub.

“It’s a huge industry here, and I don’t think people always fully comprehend that,” he said.

But the current economic system focuses on large farms growing commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans.

Smaller farms have to diversify their crops to stay afloat. And the Canal Market gives those businesses a chance to get their products directly to consumers, said Carol Goland, executive director of Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association and a member of the Canal Market board.

“Farmers markets are a great outlet for small scale farmers who have relatively small volumes of produce, compared to an enormous distributor,” she said.  “I think it potentially helps people stay in farming. But the economic benefit goes beyond the farms and farmers themselves.”

There’s a perception out there that farmers markets are quaint experiences or tourist attractions. But Bryn Bird, director of the Canal Market, said the vendors at the market have a different perspective.

“(Farming) is our lives, and with this market, Newark is putting local food as a leader of economic development,” she said. “We want people to see us as small businesses.  A lot of citizens act like farm markets are ‘cute.’ We are saying this is going to revitalize Newark.”

Benefits beyond the market

The success of the Canal Market will do much more than just increase the availability of fresh food, Bird said.

Permanent markets have many “spinoff benefits” for their communities, including job creation and increased revenue.

A 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture study on local food marketing channels found that farms that sell some of their produce locally offer more full time jobs than farms with no local sales.

Another study by Arizona found that farmers markets and other forms of “agricultural tourism” generate $1 million a year, which lead to additional economic activity of $900,000 in each county studied.

And those positives don’t include the benefits to other downtown businesses near the Canal Market.

Goland cited a 2003 study from the Project for Public Spaces, which surveyed 800 farmers market shoppers across the country

About 60 percent of the people surveyed said they visited nearby stores the same day they visited the farmers market. Those shoppers said they visited those stores only on the days they went to the market.

Harder to measure, but equally as important, is the ability for small farmers and businesses to come together at the market, Goland said.

“A farmers market is low risk, almost like an incubator for an entrepreneur or farmer to grow their business and test out new products,” she said. “They learn from their customers and they get feedback.”

When Baran was just starting out, going to farmers markets helped her realize she wanted to continue to grow her business.

“It’s a tough economic decision to decide to expand,” she said. “(A market is) a great place to figure out if they want to do that. They can make connections and figure out what’s involved and see if they want to do this for a living.”

Focus on the future

Another reason Baran was drawn to the Canal Market was its board’s commitment to thinking about the future.

“They are thinking the right way of making it a local food economy, not just a tourism economy. The tourism economy is going to come if they do it right,” she said. “They are making it about people.”

The first priority is to get the Canal Market up and running. But the district also is focused on long-term planning through its enterprise hub, Bird said.

She’s hoping to add a bulk market for people looking for large quantities of produce. She also is working toward starting a wholesale market so local restaurants can do their shopping downtown.

The board is working on a feasibility study to try to open a food processing facility in Newark that would include cold storage and equipment to package and process produce, King said.

That would be a game changer for local farmers in many ways, he said.

Large buyers, such as schools or hospitals, need lots of produce every day to meet their needs. Most small farmers don’t grow enough on their own to fulfill those requests.

But if 10 farmers each sell 100 pounds of potatoes to the processing hub, they could be combined there and made in to hash browns to sell to a larger business.

That’s just one example of how the hub could be a win for the farmers and local businesses, King said.

“You can set up relationships with other farmers or a large entity,” he said. “You can set up a business relationship between farms.”

Access to a processing facility would help Baran expand her inventory. She could start making new dehydrated items, mustards, oils, vinegars and other items that her customers would be excited to buy.

“Right now I can either build my own (facility) or go to one in Columbus, and for me that’s too far,” she said. “It’s not really cost effective, and I can’t make forward progress.”

But first, she’s looking forward to setting up her booth at this year’s market and seeing how things progress through the season.

“They are focused on evolution, on innovation and change,” she said. “That’s what our markets nowadays need to be doing.”