Farmers markets recall a time when we knew who grew our food. Summer offers the chance to go there again.
These five longtime favorites are just a glimpse of what is available throughout our state.
Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow | Peninsula
Located within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow offers fresh air along with locally grown food. The weekly market boasts more than 60 vendors. None travel more than 75 miles, and for several, the location is especially convenient.
“For [those] in the Countryside Initiative program … it’s right down the road,” says Heather Roszczyk, education and marketing manager for the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy. “Some of them are 2 miles away, which is about as local as you can get.”
The Countryside Initiative oversees 10 small working farms throughout the national park, and many of them sell their goods at Howe Meadow on Saturdays. The market site is also a popular picnic spot for people heading out to explore the surrounding 33,000 acres.
“It really gives visitors an opportunity to create an entire day of activities,” Roszczyk says. Sat. 9 a.m.–noon through Oct. 25; 4040 Riverview Rd., Peninsula 44264, cvcountryside.org
Findlay Market | Cincinnati
Built in 1852, Ohio’s oldest continuously run public market is known for its red wrought-iron construction. Located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Findlay Market is open year-round with vendors selling meats, fish, cheese and other necessities Tuesday through Sunday.
“It’s Over-the-Rhine’s downtown grocery store,” explains market manager Rebecca Heine.
The seasonal farmers market operates two days a week April through November, offering in-season, fruits and vegetables and locally produced goods. Customers frequently find farmers selling right out of their trucks on the street outside the market, and there’s a steady lineup of special events, ranging from live music to cook-offs.
“Everybody gathers around food,” says Heine. “So, we were able to give the community a place [to do that] and educate them.” Findlay Market hours: Tues.–Fri. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., closed Mon. The Farmers Market hours: Sat. 8 a.m.–2 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. 1801 Race St., Cincinnati 45202, findlaymarket.org
Athens Farmers Market | Athens
Launched with just three vendors in 1972, the Athens Farmers Market had more than 100 by the 2013 season. That growth has been due in part to advancements in food cultivation, says Kip Parker, the market’s site manager and treasurer.
“There are greens available year-round that we didn’t used to have,” he says. “People are starting to get a lot smarter about how to grow things.”
Located in the heart of Appalachia, the market sets up shop in an Athens parking lot Saturday mornings throughout the year and Wednesday mornings April through December.
Parker says the Athens Farmers Market provides a large portion of the food served at restaurants in the area. It’s also part of the 30 Mile Meal, an initiative created by the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks and the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau that challenges local restaurants and residents to serve and consume food grown and produced within a 30-mile radius.
“It cuts down on fuel consumption,” explains Parker, “and keeps jobs and money local.” Sat. 9 a.m.–noon year-round, Wed. 9 a.m.–noon April–December; 1000 E. State St., Athens 45701, athensfarmersmarket.org
Clintonville Farmers’ Market | Columbus
Located two miles from The Ohio State University campus, the Clintonville Farmers’ Market brings fresh food to bustling downtown Columbus every Saturday morning from late April through late November. During the peak of growing season, the market also opens for a few hours on Wednesday evenings.
What began as a grassroots gathering of six vendors in 2003 has since grown to more than 10 times that size. “We look for niche producers that are maybe doing something a little bit differently or doing a different product that maybe we haven’t seen before at the market,” says market manager Michelle White.
That’s why shoppers shouldn’t be surprised to find sunchokes, edamame, bee pollen or quail eggs from local producers among the offerings. As the weekly market has grown, White says it has evolved into a community event where foodies can mingle.
“Everyone who comes to our market is pretty serious about food,” White says. “They love to try new things.” Sat. 9 a.m.–noon through Nov. 22, Wed. 4–7 p.m. through Aug. 20; N. High Street between Orchard Lane and W. Dunedin Road, Columbus 43214, clintonvillefarmersmarket.org
Toledo Farmers’ Market | Toledo
With a nearly 200-year history that saw a number of venue changes, the Toledo Farmers’ Market is now located in the city’s historic warehouse district, not far from its original 1832 location. Over the years, the market has blossomed from simply a place to shop to a destination built around locally grown food.
“We’ve really developed more of a family of vendors,” says Dan Madigan, who has been market manager for 12 years. “The vendors all look out for each other, and they’re working together.”
The market’s 50 vendors, which range from flower and produce sellers to beef purveyors and candle makers serve on committees that brainstorm advertising strategies, educate new vendors and oversee maintenance. That work pays off on Saturdays, when visitors can watch canning demonstrations, taste cooking-contest entries and introduce kids to the historic market.
“It’s that neighborly feel that’s so often lacking in our society,” Madigan says. “It’s that downtown feeling from years ago.” Sat. 8 a.m.–2 p.m. year-round; 525 Market St., Toledo 43604, toledofarmersmarket.com
PERFECT PRODUCE: What are you looking for? Check out this guide to what's in season when.
The chart was adapted from the Ohio Farm Bureau’s “What's in Season Calendar” found at ourohio.org. Fruits and vegetables typically grown in Ohio are listed on the calendar. Their availability varies according to growing conditions, time of year and growing location. Many fruits and vegetables are available beyond the indicated harvest periods through modern storage techniques and facilities.
10 tips for navigating farmers markets … from those who know best.
“For a first-timer, I would say definitely walk through the whole market because each stand is typically a different business. They might have different produce or different pricing. That way, you can get what you want once you see everything that’s there.” — Emma Anderson, general manager at North Union Farmers Market (Cleveland), northunionfarmersmarket.org
“Go early, especially when the produce starts to come in. If you sleep late on farmers market day, you’re going to miss the first strawberries or the first asparagus.” — Stuart Zanger, president of the board at Montgomery Farmers’ Market, montgomeryfarmersmarket.org
“Ask questions about the products. Sometimes some of the vendors may have other products that they didn’t bring to this particular market but they might bring another time.” — Trish Newcomb, vendor and owner of Granville Gourmet Whoopie Pies, granvilleoh.com/pages/farmersmarket
“Ask vendors how long they’ve been a member of the market, how often they bring their produce and what kind of pesticide or fertilizer they may or may not use.” — Christina White, market manager at Gallia County Farmers Market, visitgallia.com
“Shop at the same market every week instead of going from one market to another to another. The more you consistently go to one market, the more you get to know the growers.” — Peggy Outcalt, director of operations at North Market (Columbus), northmarket.com
“Shoppers [should] bring cash. A lot of the markets do the SNAP program, where you can get food assistance, too.” — Sandy Dinkins, market manager at Cambridge Main Street Farmers Market, downtowncambridge.com
“Bring your own bags because a lot of the vendors don’t have them or they’re very small.” — Bill Bakan, owner of Maize Valley Market (Hartville), maizevalley.com
“Bring your kids to the market. When they help pick out the food and learn about how their food was grown, that really helps them be encouraged to eat items that they maybe wouldn’t be interested in.”— Mary Hutten, co-manager at Lettuce Eat Well Farmers’ Market (Cincinnati) lewfm.org
“Have a plan for what you’re looking for, but also keep your options open because a lot of the producers will have things that you may not have been expecting. With the producer right there in front of you it’s easy to ask, ‘What do you use this particular vegetable for? Do you know any recipes that will work?’ ” — Joel Miller, executive director of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce (Henry County Farmers Market, Napoleon), visitnaphc.com
“Go big. If something you love is at peak season and it’s really fresh, go ahead and get a lot of it if you can preserve it.” — Barbara Ruland, executive director at Downtown Bowling Green, downtownbgohio.org/farmersmarket