Of all of the end of year requests for support for food system work that have been in my inbox this week, this is only one of two that I am going to post about.
If you are not aware of the work that ACEnet does in their region and shares across the continent, then I am happy to be the source for your introduction. I originally connected to them through the legendary Athens Farmers Market (AFM), through the legendary ACEnet staffer/AFM partner, Leslie Schaller. I saw firsthand how they incubate micro enterprises in the region and because of that work, actively support outlets like markets that offer a step up to those businesses. Since then, I have also learned about the 30-mile meal project, the great regional work around towns such as Athens, Nelsonville and Newark and, of course, the state and system-level policy work they do on behalf of all of their constituencies.
As a native Northeast Ohioan who did community organizing in this region 30 years ago, I am constantly impressed by the visionary work now being done and I know that ACEnet is a proud partner to most if not all of it. It is important to note that this corner of the Appalachian corridor has some very deep problems when it comes to economic opportunity and land use and yet is one of the most vibrant market farming centers in the country, and famous for the number of worker-owned businesses thriving in it.
If you are driving through Southern Ohio (maybe to get to SSAWG conferencein KY in early 2016), I’d recommend that you see if you can tour their facilities or at least visit one of their projects.
And you can help ACEnet see another 30 Years: Join ACEnet’s 30th Anniversary donor drive at http://www.acenetworks.org/support.
Source: Wrapping up 2015 with ACEnet!
Check out a new book about one of the old fruits, the pawpaw. I grew up in Ohio hearing about pawpaws but only seeing them in fruit butter form. Sightings of fruit was and still is rare, except at farmers markets and festivals in places like Southern Ohio. The pawpaw was once grown in 26 states and so one can hope for an expansion of the fruit’s availability down here in Louisiana.
Pawpaw fruits often occur as clusters of up to nine individual fruits. The ripe fruit is soft and thin skinned. When ripe, it is soft and yields easily to a gentle squeeze, and has a pronounced perfumed fragrance. The skin of the green fruit usually lightens in color as it ripens and often develops blackish splotches which do not affect the flavor or edibility. The yellow flesh is custard like and highly nutritious. The best fruit has a complex, tropical flavor unlike any other temperate zone fruit. At present, the primary use of pawpaws is for fresh eating out of hand. The ripe fruit is very perishable with a shelf life of 2 or 3 days, but will keep up to 3 weeks if it is refrigerated at 40° – 45° F.
Back in 2009, I even picked up a super cool postcard for that year’s festival that still hangs on my desk.
The festival has been going on since the late 1990s and is an equal parts camping, music and educational rural Ohio festivity.
Researchers at OSU are working to find out more about its health benefits and possible marketing potential. And now, Andy Moore has finished this lovely book , having raised money through Kickstarter. It is my evening reading this month and then I’ll be sharing it with other pals of mine who are also interested in reviving old traditions. Ask for it in bookstores near you.
Hello from Ohio! I am in the Midwest to visit markets, talk to organizers and market advocates, all of the while depending on the kindness of friends with extra rooms and air mattresses during this long visit.
In between two Saturday visits to the Chillicothe and Athens markets respectively, I traveled up to Cleveland to visit other Ohio food and farming leaders. I have written about the innovative and inclusive approach that Cleveland and its region has taken to food organizing on this blog before. Today, I sit in my hometown of Lakewood in a place that I admire deeply and that I come back to on every visit. I use it daily to recharge my local food energy and to note how Lakewood continues to lead the way in the revolution in food and civic work in the area: The Root is a vegetarian cafe and coffeehouse which evolved from the owners’ earlier fair-trade storefront located a few doors down that was called Phoenix Coffeehouse. I found Phoenix in the days after Hurricane Katrina when I evacuated to the area and felt renewed and comforted by the care the owner showed her customers and her workers.
I wrote many of my Katrina articles there and used the Internet to reach out to my friends and neighbors to decide what to do about a new home and not least of all, to decide what to do about our beloved farmers markets that that lay dormant while we recovered.
The coffeehouse was always full of different generations that represented the many levels of affluence from none all of the way to too much that Lakewood has in its 50,000 people. The culture is welcoming, indicated by the headphone-wearing young uns mixed with the moms and toddlers to the daily domino-playing men at the back table. It was clear that the values were transparent and deep and unlikely to be shoved aside for added money. The new place is exactly the same in tone but with more seating, larger menu and added staff.
Why this should be important to my public market audience is that when I talk to market leaders I find that many of them isolate themselves from people who could be peers and support their efforts and their plans.
There are business that now exist that share our commitment to community and regional wealth which includes social and human capital and we should build deeper relationships with those folks. It’s not all about funding either; it may be a job share program, or a marketing campaign or just a coffee check in once in a while. Remember: We are not alone.
The Root was manifested from the desire to create a familiarity among all people. A common foundation for diversity to exist peacefully is the root of our community. We create this foundation by sharing culture, music, art, coffee, tea, food and all energy in Lakewood, Ohio.
Many local craftspeople, friends and family put their skills to work to make our cafe a warm, organic and enlightening place to be.
We are dedicated to sourcing ingredients that are local and organic. We get produce from local farms when in season. Some of our veggies even come from community gardens and farms in Lakewood. Look for dishes using in season heirloom vegetables.
Our vegan and vegetarian baked goods are made with love, in small batches, using whole wheat flour and organic and local ingredients when available.
As some may know, I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio and follow the food systems and community organizing work there with great interest. I grew up in one of the inner ring west side suburbs, often visiting the West Side Market and various small butchers and bakeries but the only “farms” I saw were the historical sites around Akron or when spotting an Amish farmer as we headed south on vacation at 65 mph. Farming was clearly the past for most modern Buckeyes, and we thought huge factories and transportation hubs were our only possible future. Or so it seemed for most of my early life since, like many Cleveland children, any trip through the Flats would include open car windows allowing in the soot and smoke of the factories and a proclamation: “smell that, kids? That smell is JOBS.”
However, the decline of manufacturing along Lake Erie in my lifetime has sent its great cities in search of other answers, and I am very proud of Cleveland’s new dedication to sustainable infrastructure and value-based employment for its citizens. A powerful example is the city’s Sustainability 2019 plan that was born from one of our most shameful moments-the fire on the Cuyahoga River in 1969, caused by the chemicals and pollution we allowed to be dumped into it.
Since the global media descends on Cleveland every decade or so to revisit that fire, it is likely they will come at the half century anniversary with renewed gusto. In preparation, the Sustainability 2019 initiative was born to reply with evidence of Cleveland as “one of the greenest cities in North America” as the city’s Director of Sustainability put it at one of their conferences. Because of that focus, I believe that Cleveland is moving faster to a hybrid model of creating post-industrial sectors that can thrive with the vestiges of whatever manufacturing that it claims (wind power anyone?).
I found this out on one of my trips home when noticing that the food system there had a slightly different hue than many others that I regularly visit. Often, when I dig to find the beginnings of citywide or regional food work, I find that it stems primarily from the cultural sector as seen in my other home town of New Orleans, or from a deep need for a new entrepreneurial answer, a la Detroit, or from a public health crisis of lack of healthy food access as in the Bed-Stuy area of NYC, or all of those needs at once, such as many First Nations and too many others. It seemed to me that Cleveland’s food work came from the deep awareness of the destruction heaped upon it from that industrial framework that had now mostly fled to warmer and less regulated places. That strong environmental underpinning was also present because of the first-rate organizing done by many 1960s-present activists including the Ohio Public Interest Campaign, where I was trained as a community organizer and worked for almost a decade.
Maybe because of that industrial vacuum, the need for jobs there seems tempered by the caution for real answers that allow workers stability and skills and not just a paycheck handed to them by a new corporate overlord. The cooperative movement afoot there seems to rise from this and from the professionally run, long-standing community development organizations embedded deep in the neighborhoods, east and west. And of course, credit must also be given to other areas in the region that started cooperative development such as Athens Ohio.
So, because of the hard work done by generations before, the development of the food work seems relatively balanced and quite ambitious. It seems to still lack regional cohesion but it is not ignoring that need either. I found a deeper awareness of the inequities and the need to work with existing both the corporate and informal sectors than in many other places that I visit and work. There is much to do there and mistakes will be made on the road to this new face for my old city, as I mentioned in a piece for Belt Magazine. Still, I am proud of the work being done there and hope you find time to read their new Roadmap and to visit too.
The City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Ohio State University Extension, Cuyahoga County,and the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition have developed a sustainable food cluster roadmap in Cuyahoga County, with a core objective to increase regional jobs, revenue and sustainability by supporting local food and beverage businesses.
Whenever I get to farmers market conferences, I learn a few new things: this time, I learned about signupgenius.com from Jaime Moore, Columbus area market manager, Ohio Farmers Market Management Network Board member AND “Central Ohio’s Agricultural Queen” with farm Wayward Seed.
Jaime uses it to manage her three area farmers markets volunteers and based on her to-do list, she needs it…
It looks like a great tool to use (and is free) for market organizations of many sizes and types.
A commentary from yours truly on the food system found in my first hometown of Cleveland Ohio. Whenever I return to it, I am struck by the unusual underpinnings of their food work, being as it is deeply embedded within the community organizing/social justice strategy that is alive and well in many of their neighborhoods, as well as in the larger reality of figuring out what to do with their post-industrial inner core. Combine that with enthusiastic corporate greening, municipal support and the awareness of the need to combat the foreclosure crisis with innovative small business and residential reclamations and you get a dynamic little system coming to maturation there.
Farmers Market Coalition Board President Bernie Prince visits Ohio to support their state association and to promote FMC’s work.