For many Edible Ohio Valley readers, purchasing locally grown and raised food is so ingrained in our value systems that we can hardly remember when we didn’t shop and eat this way. But this region is still fairly new to the local food ethos. Historically, of course, all food was local. But the local food ecosystem as we recognize it today, with a network of farmers’ markets, small growers and artisan producers, and farm-to-table restaurants, is a pretty recent phenomenon.
According to A Cincinnati Farming and Food History, a report produced by Alan Wight and John Metz and published on GreenUmbrella.org, the 1980s saw the rise of cooperatively organized “tailgate markets” such as the ones at Nativity Church in Pleasant Ridge and at Lunken Airport in the East End. Local food pioneer Bonnie Mitsui first cultivated Indian Hill’s Turner Farm in 1991 and opened its on-farm market stand two years later. Findlay Market’s Saturday farmers’ market debuted in 1998.
Contributor Hannah Purnell set out to explore the current state of local food in the Ohio Valley, and in speaking with several growers with varying years of experience, she discovered that farming is still a tough way to make a living. That may not be entirely surprising: A look out my window on this gloomy February day has me (and the farmers I know, I’m sure) concerned about flood conditions, too-early warm snaps, and other meteorological challenges that can disrupt a farmer’s plans and yields. What did surprise me about Hannah’s story is that farmers still have to work hard to convince us consumers that their products are worth paying extra for. Perhaps it’s our Midwestern practicality and frugality, but we’re less likely than folks on the coasts to spend on local food.
In bringing you the stories of local farmers, chefs, artisans, and purveyors, we aim to further our community’s understanding about the perseverance, love, and flat-out hard work that goes into producing food for our tables. Local food is still in its elementary school years in our area. It’ll need our help to reach maturity.
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Bryn’s long career in publishing took a left turn sometime around 2010, when she discovered the joy of food writing. Since then, she’s found professional nirvana as the editor of Edible Ohio Valley, author of The Findlay Market Cookbook, and occasional instructor at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s. Find her seasonal recipes at writes4food.com.