Farmers markets take root across U.S.

If you own garden fails, you can still get fresh

By Lisa Abraham
Beacon Journal food writer

Published on Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

I bought some zucchini and yellow squash the other day.

This may not seem like a big deal, but this is the first summer I have actually purchased those items in about nine years.

I proudly grow my own squash each year, and no matter how many come, there never seems to be enough to satisfy the eating habits of my family and friends and the baking habits of my sister, who relies on me as her zucchini supplier.

I wish people would leave them on my doorstep.

Things started out well enough with a late May planting. Everything was progressing nicely. Then, just as all of the blossoms were arriving and tiny squash starting to form, we went away for the July 4 weekend and the garden didn’t get watered for several days of scorching heat. I figured it would rain and didn’t arrange for anyone to water for us.

It didn’t.

We arrived home to some crispy leaves, but I was confident in a comeback. They did, sort of. But after that, something seemed to happen to the zucchini, yellow squash, and even a few of the cucumber plants. I suspect some type of blight took hold when the plants were stressed from no water. It didn’t help that the heat made me less inclined to weed regularly.

After producing two zucchini and one yellow squash, the plants literally withered. My husband made the official pronouncement of death and yanked what was left of them from the ground.

”Who can’t grow zucchini?” I wailed one evening, lamenting their fate.

My feelings were assuaged a bit by the fact that other parts of the garden were doing all right, even better than all right. The green beans have gone wild. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were taking steroids.

The patch of basil is larger than it’s ever been and the tomatoes are doing fine. The peppers, which had a strong showing early on and then faded, are experiencing a resurgence, and I think we’ll be eating peppers into October.

But no zucchini. No yellow
squash. And only a smattering of cucumbers where basketsful typically grew.

The upside of my failed squash crop is that I actually have a reason to go to farmers markets. Much as I love farmers markets, I usually leave with corn and bread, secretly priding myself that much of what’s on sale I can find in my own backyard.

Things are different this year. I have more to shop for. The good news is, I have more places to shop for my zucchini and yellow squash, too.

As someone who types the long list of local farmers markets for the paper each May, I don’t have to be told that more and more of them are opening up. But now, I have a government report to back me up.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 National Farmers Market Directory lists more than 6,100 farmers markets operating in the United States this year. That’s an increase of 16 percent over 2009, when there were just under 5,300.

What’s more, Ohio is helping to lead the way.

Ohio ranks seventh in the nation with 213 operating farmers markets. And Ohio’s ninth in the nation in percentage increase in number of markets over 2009.

Nationally, 886 farmers markets are open in the off season, between November and March, and since the Countryside Conservancy operates its Cuyahoga Valley markets in the winter at the Happy Days Lodge, we can be pleased to be part of that trend as well.

But when the markets come to an end, there’s a whole group of local farmers out there who will continue to sell products directly to consumers. You can find a list of them at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Web site, http://www.oeffa.org. Click on the link for the Good Earth Guide and you can search by product or by location. Many of the farms in the association are certified organic or follow organic practices.

Our vibrant farms and farmers markets are a great reason to be proud Ohioans. Which is good, because this summer, I’m certainly not a proud gardener.

Until next week, have fun in the kitchen, cooking some zucchini, no matter where it came from.


Lisa A. Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or labraham@thebeaconjournal.com.

This article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal:  http://www.ohio.com/lifestyle/food/101461734.html