Last Friday was a perfect day for a VISTA roadtrip, so I tagged along with Ms. Dessie as she made her weekly rounds to area farmers' markets for outreach and general food mingling. This trip, though, was a bit different. She had planned on visiting a few specific growers in Xenia, OH, which boasts a very nice weekly market and a handful of on-site, farm markets.
Our first stop was L&P Ison Produce (formerly S.P. Mallow & Sons Produce) on Bellbrook Ave in Xenia. After turning down the farm's gravel drive, past the apple, peach and plum orchards, we were greeted by the toothy grin of 82-year-old John Mallow, one of the farm's proprietors. He gave us a brief history of the farm and talked about how times have been hard in recent years.
"There's never two years alike. You get one peach crop every three years," he said. This year was better than last, he said, because they got a few trees of white peaches.
The apple and plum trees looked great, despite Mr. Mallow's insistence that this year wasn't the best. I guess a farmer is his biggest critic.
After Dessie bought a pound of the lucky white peaches, he told me to take one free of charge after he caught me eyeballing them. I obliged, of course, and thanked him greatly as we made our way out of the aging building at the back of the orchard where the Mallows sell their produce.
Our next stop was Anderson Farm Market, ten miles up the road on the outskirts of Yellow Springs, OH. The Anderson's have a very nice farm on Clifton Road where they grow sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and just about every other farm market staple.
We talked to Doug Anderson, the farm's owner, and his two kids who help their parents at the market and at the farmers' markets where they sell. Doug also talked about how the economy is starting to affect business on the farm, and how some specific markets are trying to combat this lag in sales with new business practices, like accepting credit card and food stamp transactions at the market.
Visits like these, while fun for us, are also extremely helpful in our day-to-day tasks at the office. They help us get a pulse on some of the problems and issues facing the local food economy, and allow us to look into the possible solutions to those problems. Sometimes, just talking can be the best way to address a concern, and I think we're becoming good talkers.