Guide highlights local farm products

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

These days, it’s not enough that food taste good. Consumers want local products or those that are grown organically or using animal- and earth-friendly practices.

Now, shoppers can find such food purveyors in their area with the click of a mouse.

The latest edition of the “Good Earth Guide” is available online – and in print, as well – and provides information on more than 315 Ohio farms and businesses that sell produce, meats and other consumer goods, said Renee Hunt, program director for the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, which publishes the guide.

Included in that number are 150 certified organic farms and businesses and 70 community-supported agriculture programs, she said.

The guide not only benefits consumers but also helps Ohio’s farmers promote their wares.

“We help consumers make the connections they need to find quality local foods and to help ensure the future of a vibrant and sustainable food system,” Hunt said. “Buying locally and directly from the farmer also helps keep our food dollars in the local economy, which in turn helps our rural communities.”

That’s an advantage for small growers such as Shepherd’s Corner Farm and Ecology Center, operated by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. The farm, at 987 N. Waggoner Rd., in Blacklick, sells its vegetables, eggs, honey and maple syrup at the farm and at farmers markets, said Sister Rose Ann Van Buren, an administrator at the nonprofit organization.

She said the guide has helped increase awareness of their operation.

“We aren’t a large farm. We have about 2.5 acres this year,” Van Buren said. “Other than the small sign we have outside our door and our Web page, we don’t do any other advertising. So being in the guide is an important piece for people looking for what we have to offer to know who we are and where we are. It’s a good magazine for us to be in.”

The directory identifies sources for a variety of products, includingfruits, vegetables and flowers and seeds.

Now in its 17th edition, the guide has more than tripled in size since its first printing in 1990, Hunt said.

“The demand for locally sourced and sustainably produced foods is reflected in the tremendous growth the guide has gone through from the dozen or so farms listed when we began,” she said.

“We’ve gotten a significant increase in the number of page views of the guide online, and we get calls all the time for people looking for a product or farm. The demand has just exploded.”

The online guide is searchable based on numerous criteria, including product and location, and it includes maps, Hunt said.

The guide is also a good way for growers to network and find help, said Trish Mumme, who operates Garden Patch Produce, a community-supported agriculture farm in Alexandria.

“I’ve gotten a lot of customers who’ve come out to the farm after finding me in the guide,” Mumme said. “I’ve even had some intern and apprentice farmworkers come here looking for a place to work after reading about us in the guide.”

The guide can be accessed free online at www.oeffa.org/search-geg.php. A print copy can be purchased for $7.50 through the same website.