Every September, Mantua, Ohio, has a potato festival. The town of about 1,000 residents used to be the capital of a thriving mini-region of potato-growing, but now only a few active farms remain. And a short drive away in Cleveland, people walk into grocery stores and buy bags of potatoes that come from 2,000 miles away.
Many urban dwellers would rather eat food produced closer to home, especially if it helps the regional economy and preserves our beautiful countryside. The farmer needs a market and Heights residents are hungry for good local food. How do they find each other? Well, where do you find anything these days? The Internet! Numerous area groups are aggressively taking advantage of its potential to put local consumers in touch with local farmers.
For example, Abbe Turner and her husband moved to an old farmstead on Hankee Road, outside of Garrettsville, five years ago because “we wanted our children to understand that our food comes from the land, not from the grocery store.” But a working farm with 40 goats produces more than a small family can consume, so Lucky Penny Farm now has a website (www.luckypennyfarm.com), produces goat’s milk soap, and will be certified to sell artisan cheeses this spring. “Our website helps people find us,” says Turner, “but it also helps people sense that connection with the land.”
That connection is a key point behind the local food movement: By living off land that’s close to home, we not only save resources, reduce pollution and eat better; we also help sustain a mutually beneficial relationship that preserves working farmland and enhances the quality of life in the city. Below are a few resources that can help Heights residents connect with regional farms. More are showing up all the time, so keep looking, and when you find something great, tell your friends and neighbors – and your local grocer.
This series of downloadable guides was developed by the Cuyahoga Valley-based Countryside Conservancy. Find guides to and directories of such things as regional producers of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy products, honey and eggs; restaurants, grocers and caterers who use local farms and producers; and farmers’ markets (including North Union Farmer's Market at Shaker Square).
An online social network for everyone who is passionate about growing a sustainable local food economy and culture.
This nonprofit program of the New Agrarian Center (NAC) is a volunteer-driven organization that improves access to fresh, locally grown food and increases marketing opportunities in the city for local farmers.
Fresh Fork Market provides a supply chain for restaurants to purchase directly from local farmers. The website offers a list of most recent customers, so people dining out can see which restaurants are relying on local farmers. See our web site at www.heightsobserver.org for direct links to these and other regional farming resources.
Greg Donley is a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights.