There’s no excuse for anyone not eating their vegetables now.
This summer there will be more than 30 farmers markets operating in the five-county area surrounding Akron.
Some already have opened, plenty more will hold their kickoffs over Memorial Day weekend, and some will get up and running a little later in June or early July when an abundance of local crops are being harvested.
With healthful eating and supporting local farmers a priority with many, the Akron area’s farmers market scene has gotten stronger every year over the past two decades.
Even small communities have seen their markets survive and grow over the past several years.
In Mantua, market manager Dean Olson said although his market has only five vendors, this year they expect to sell nearly 95 percent heirloom vegetables, older varieties of vegetables that are not commonly grown in today’s large-scale agriculture.
Olson said he knows there is a push for heirlooms among folks who are rejecting the declining choices being made available through conventional farming. Olson, himself a grower, said his own decision to grow only heirlooms is behind his push to offer only heirlooms at the Mantua market.
The small Mantua market is a contrast to the market that takes over the square in Medina every Saturday. Market manager Susan Hirsch said the market has more than 70 vendors this year and she actually has had to turn some away due to space constraints.
The market opens Saturday with a sheep shearing demonstration, and will feature cooking demonstrations throughout the season.
Also in Medina County, the Seville Farm Market on Saturday mornings opens for its fifth season, and already has its popular Zucchini Smackdown cooking contest scheduled for Aug. 17.
The market, sponsored by the Seville Lions Club, is a “producers only” market, stressed market organizer John Gladden. “Other markets in our area permit vendors to buy produce or goods wholesale, then resell them. At Seville, we insist our products be grown, baked or made by the person who is selling them. This keeps us a small, but mighty group of vendors focused on what we believe the farm market movement is all about: Connecting producers and consumers through fresh, locally produced food,” he said.
The Haymaker Farmers Market in Kent, the oldest farmers market in the region, opens for its 21st season on Saturday.
Market manager Kelly Ferry said there will be weekly cooking demonstrations with samples and recipes provided by the Campus Kitchen at Kent State University. There also will be live music, monthly children’s programming, health screenings and gardening clinics.
Ferry also has taken on the duty of serving as market manager for the Downtown Ravenna Farmers Market, which will offer similar programming.
The newest attraction at the Ravenna market is Market Bounty, a combined community supported agriculture program. The CSA costs $400, and shareholders will receive a box of produce each week for 16 weeks, which they can pick up at the market. The 17 vendors who sell at the market will combine their crops to fill the boxes each week, from May 30 to Sept. 19 (closed July 4). Pickup is in the big tent from noon to 2 p.m. unless evening pickup at Ravenna City Hall is arranged in advance.
To sign up for a share or for more information, contact Ferry at 330-472-5801 or email email@example.com for more information or an application.
The Ravenna market opens Thursday with new hours, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the municipal parking lot at Cedar and Meridian streets in downtown Ravenna. The market accepts Ohio Direction cards, and this year beginning in June, the market will offer Ohio Direction Card users who spend at least $10 an additional $10 in coupons that they can use at the market. The coupon program also is available at the Kent market.
Perhaps the most well-known of the local farmers markets are the two sponsored by the Countryside Conservancy, which take place on Saturday morning at Howe Meadow in Cuyahoga Falls and in Akron’s Highland Square on Thursday afternoons.
More than 60 vendors have signed up to take part in one or both of Countryside’s markets.
There are plenty of activities at the markets this year, including programs on learning how to can and preserve food.
For the second year in a row, Countryside was chosen as one of 30 markets nationwide to participate in the “Discover You Can — Learn Make Share” canning education program, sponsored by the Farmers Market Coalition and Jarden Home Brands, a subsidiary of Jarden Corporation that makes Ball brand fresh preserving products and canning jars.
On select market days, customers will learn techniques for canning and canning recipes using fresh local produce.
Canning demonstrations will be held on the first Saturday of each month during June, July and August at the market at Howe Meadow. Classes begin at 9:30 a.m. At the Highland Square market, canning demonstrations will be held on the third Thursday of each month during those months, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
For an in-depth tutorial, those interested can sign up for the Countryside class, Preserving Your Bounty, taught by Heather Walters of Basket of Life Farm on Aug. 13. For more information visit www.cvcountry side.org.
Beginning on June 1, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad will be making stops at the Howe Meadow market. The train will drop customers off at 10 a.m. and pick them up an hour later. Find the train schedule at the conservancy’s information booth at the markets or visit the website.
Many markets will offer cooking demonstrations throughout the summer, and look for local food trucks to be parked at many markets, too, so shoppers can enjoy a prepared meal while they browse vendor tables.
This year, some markets have adjusted their hours or calendar dates, so be sure to check out the 2013 Farmers Market list that is included with this article for the exact dates and times of your local market.
Two markets that won’t be coming back this year include markets in Orrville and Peninsula.
Peninsula had been holding its market at Heritage Farm, but market manager Karen Walters said the spot and the Sunday time slot weren’t working. A new spot at the intersection of state Route 303 and Riverview Road, in front of the GAR hall, had been selected for the market, but Walters said organizers weren’t able to get their plans together fast enough to try to put on a market this year.
Plans are to bring back the Sunday afternoon markets in 2014.
Orrville’s Thursday afternoon market had been sponsored by Main Street Orrville, but market manager Shelby Winning said the market had no choice but to close when the Main Street organization was no longer able to offer the market liability insurance.
Many of the Orrville market’s vendors have found a home at the Copley Creekside Farmers Market, also on Thursday afternoons, which begins its second season on May 30.