Do you know where that's been?

As more of us become aware of our collective environmental impact, the “buy local” movement is a green concept that’s gaining in popularity throughout the region. Turns out that little bowl of cherries can lead to a big carbon footprint when you factor in the cost of growing, harvesting and transporting the tiny fruit cross country, or in some cases, overseas.

Cynthia Brown, the Outdoor and Farmers' Markets Manager for Findlay Market, is proud of the fact that they procure produce from within a 150-mile range of Cincinnati. She helps farmers understand her definition of local by telling them, “If it’s on the truck more than four hours, it’s not local.”

Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market, Findlay is one of the area’s largest suppliers of local and organic food. It also serves as a gathering place for perhaps the most socially, economically, racially, and ethnically diverse crowds found anywhere in Cincinnati. On a recent tour of the market, Ms. Brown announced plans for an “Eat Fresh, Buy Local” campaign in September.

So why emphasize local?

“If we don’t make it easier for our farmers to farm, they’ll stop (farming) and the land will be developed” says Brown. Buying local is also a boon to the local economy while reducing our reliance on imports from other countries to bolster our food supply. “Every dollar spent on local food generates twice as much economic impact; the money tends to stay in the local economy longer.”

It stands to reason that the fewer hands our food moves through, the greater benefit to our local farmers, retailers and economy. One of the area farms that sell their vegetables and fruits at Findlay Market is Turner Farm, a 60-acre certified organic farm located only 15 miles from downtown. A recent visit revealed fascinating insight into how connected we can be to the local food we eat. The twenty minute drive is worth it to see what a diversity of products one farm can produce. A blackboard lists the going price for your favorite fruits and vegetables and consumers are encouraged to choose, weigh and bag their selections, as well as make their own change from the money till, themselves.

Turner is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm which means members pledge to support anticipated costs of the farm operation in exchange for shares of the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season. This serves as a convenient and equitable arrangement for consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops. By selling directly to a consistent consumer base, growers can earn twice as much as they would selling through supermarkets. Shareholders receive the benefit of an amazing array of locally grown organic produce for roughly half what they would pay in a store.

To environmentally conscious consumers, “safe” food is synonymous with “organic,” or produce grown without pesticides or livestock raised without artificial growth hormones. And to most of the rest of us, organic usually means that really expensive section in the grocery store. Not the case when you buy local. Organic produce purchased through farmer’s markets or directly from farms are almost always less expensive than grocery outlets. Factor in reduced packaging and the fact that it feels more fun picking that giant zucchini out of the bushel basket and you’re suddenly feeling pretty great about your weekly shopping experience.

Grailville Farm on Obannonville Road in Loveland is another local farm that utilizes a certified organic garden. The 300-acre farm also specializes in the art of compost. Steve Edwards, the grower of Grailville, sees a relationship to our food and where it comes from. “The idea is to have healthy soil, not just dirt. Our soil is as alive as any ecosystem.” Grailville offers             programs throughout the year related to organic and local farming and gardening.

Greenacres Farm in Indian Hill has publicly sold its farm products since 1996. Originally purchased by Louis and Louise Nippert in 1949, the land has been preserved according to their wishes for the “education and enjoyment of future generations.” In addition to instructional classes including water quality initiatives, and horse and gardening programs, you can buy seasonal fresh produce, farm fresh eggs, raw honey, pastured poultry, Greenacres lamb and Black Angus beef.

A new online resource developed and maintained by the Central Ohio River Valley Local Foods Initiative. The site is an excellent who’s who of the local farmers’ scene. The site encourages would-be consumers to get to know the growers, what they grow, and how. Another valuable resource is the Localvore’s blog by Valerie Taylor which is updated frequently and has the inside scoop on all things healthy in the region.

Of course, the ultimate in a local food experience is to start your own garden. It need not be as difficult as you think and you don’t need 3.5 acres - or even a yard for that matter. The Over-the-Rhine green oasis, Park + Vine can outfit you with your own compost tubs and rain barrels while, only a few doors down, there is no better place to get advice on starting your own urban garden than from Lisa Yunker at City Roots.

If visiting local farms seems inconvenient and your thumb is more dingy grey than green, there’s no need to worry as Cincinnati offers a veritable smorgasbord of neighborhood area farmers’ markets in addition to Findlay.

Eat local/buy local-- you’ll benefit from the great flavor, the ties to your community, contributing to a healthy environment, to a healthy economy, and the connection to those who raise your food.

Soapbox picks for our favorite local farmers’ markets:

Nativity Church- Tailgate Market, 3:30 p.m.- 6:15 p.m., June-October
5935 Pandora (Pleasant Ridge), Cincinnati, OH 45213

Whole Foods Farmers’ Market, 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. May-September,
2nd & 4th Tues. of the month
Rookwood Commons (Whole Foods lot), Cincinnati, OH 45212

Northside Farmers’ Market, 4:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m., June-October
Corner of Hamilton Avenue & Lingo Street, Cincinnati, OH 45223

This year, the Northside Farmers' Market is offering free booth space for any nonprofit, community organization or environmental group.

Farm Market of College Hill, 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. June-September
5742 Hamilton Avenue (at Llanfair), Cincinnati, OH 45224

Findlay Market Saturday & Sunday Public Market 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., farmers’ market season April-November
117 W. Elder Street, Cincinnati, OH 45210

Newport-Campbell County Farmers’ Market, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
709 Monmouth Street, Newport, KY 41071

Northern Kentucky Regional Farmers’ Market, 8:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m. May-October
Sixth Street Promenade (Mainstrasse Village behind Goose Girl fountain), Covington, KY 41011

Hyde Park Farmers’ Market, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
3424 Edwards Road (US Bank lot), Cincinnati, OH 45208

 Photography by Scott Beseler

Produce at Findlay Market

Local herbs at Findlay Market

Findlay Market shopper

City Roots

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