Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Daytrip to Wyoming Farmers Market

Yesterday, our Farmers Market & Buy Local Food Coordinator Dessie Buchanan and I took a daytrip to Wyoming, OH, a northwest suburb of Cincinnati that operates one of the best weekly farmers markets in the region. The weather was sunny and nice, if a little hot, and we were excited to visit and shop at another local market.

One aspect of Dessie's service as a VISTA is researching regional markets and bringing back any insight or advice to ours in Clinton County. There are about 20 markets in our region, but Wyoming consistently ranks among the top of those, so we started in Cincinnati.

Along a quiant, store-lined street in downtown Wyoming, eleven vendors were set-up in a small parking lot adjacent to a railroad track. Fifteen or so shoppers were already filling bags with fresh food at 3:10, ten minutes after the 3:00 start time of the market.

Becky from Walnut Ridge Acres in Clarksville, OH.

Ralph from RJ Veggies out of Fayetteville, OH.

The Wyoming market vendors, like most markets at this time of the growing season, featured some of the usual staples: squash, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, greens, et cetera. But there were a few unique vendors which immediately stood out. Chuck Pfahler and his La Terza coffee booth was one of those. Espresso machines are not exactly typical at farmers markets, but Pfahler had a line of customers waiting for his iced coffee, espresso and tea for most of the day. What's more, Pfahler roasts his own beans in a method he created, and customers say they can taste the difference.

A couple other unique vendors were Blue Oven Bakery from Williamsburg, OH, Debbie of Blackbird Pond soaps, and Andy's Backyard Honey (who were so nice and enthusiastic, and gave Dessie and me free bottles of fresh honey after talking about our VISTA experience!).

Brad from Blue Oven Bakery.
Sandy Ashmore from That Guy's Family Farm in Clarksville, OH.

We were excited to see some familiar faces at the Wyoming market, specifically Sandy Ashmore from That Guy's Family Farm. Sandy and her husband Guy operate a 48-acre, certified organic farm in Clarksville, OH, right down the road from Wilmington. Another Clarksville farm, Walnut Ridge Acres, was also selling yesterday afternoon. Jon Branstrator of Branstrator Farm, another Clinton County farmer, is normally a staple at the Wyoming market, but he was unable to make it yesterday.

Along side the growers' booths yesterday was a demonstration cooking tent, where Julie Francis, chef/owner of Nectar in Mt. Lookout, was busy sauteing squash and eggplant for a ratatouille dish. She scrambled some fresh-farm eggs, sliced a ciabatta bread bought across the alley from Blue Oven Bakery, and topped it off with the sauteed veggies. A garnish of capers and fresh parmesan completed the bruschetta-like dish, and the collective moaning and sighing from the crowd who was eating it summed up how it tasted.

Julie Francis from Nectar

The most important thing that Dessie and I took away from our trip was some learned information from a conversation with two of the market's managers, Penny Shore and Britt Hedges. They were the recipients of a $1,000 grant to set up the infrastructure required to process food stamps at their market. That is our biggest priority as VISTAs working in the local food movement: making fresh, nutritious food available to the people who otherwise are unable to afford it. The Wyoming market also processes credit cards, which is a HUGE benefit to the market.

Dessie and I are staying in contact with Penny and Britt, and we hope to soon start implementing some of the strategies that make Wyoming's market a success.

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