More than just a destination for locally produced food, farmers markets offer handmade wooden items, candles, soaps and other finds for the home.
The more unusual the wood is, the more woodworker George Cannon respects it. Cannon has chosen wood with distinctive nail holes from trees that were tapped to make maple syrup. He appreciates wood with nontraditional grain and rebellious color streaks. All the better, Cannon says, to make his unique handcrafted bowls, cutting boards, rolling pins and utensils.
Cannon makes his wooden items in The Clubhouse, his workshop in Warrensville Heights, and sells them at the North Union Farmers Market at the historic Shaker Square in Cleveland. Cannon, a retired educator, sets up his stand among those selling seasonal oyster mushrooms, fat leeks, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, ethnic-inspired sausages and brown eggs laid by free-range hens. While a fiddler plays in a corner of the market on Saturdays, shoppers can’t resist rubbing their hands over Cannon’s smooth bowls.
Nonedible products such as Cannon’s are a minority at Ohio farmers markets. Some markets allow only locally grown produce or homemade baked goods. But others are more flexible, offering products for the home or personal use, usually handmade by nearby vendors from natural ingredients or materials. “Make it, bake it or grow it,” explains Vicky Crist, coordinator of the Newark Downtown Farmers Market, who wishes to “keep out the flea market things.” At Shaker Square, for example, Morning Song Gardens in Auburn Township sells smokeless, 100 percent pure beeswax candles that burn up to three times longer than paraffin candles. Vendor Judi Lambert’s business, Hummingbird Creations, sells Herbal Sleep Pillows made from lavender blossoms, rose petals, peppermint leaf and other ingredients, as well as aromatherapy sprays with names like “Romance” and “Balance.”
Amy and David Rzepka of Bedford bring their natural products to the Geauga Fresh Farmers Market in South Russell in Geauga County. Most of the soaps, lotions, shower gels, conditioners and lip balms they make under the Beecology name contain honey. But several products are honey free for vegan customers. Most of the honey that beekeeper David Rzepka’s bees produce goes to products for family and friends. To meet the demand of his market and online customers, Rzepka buys “100 to 200 pounds of honey at a time from local beekeepers.”
“Farmers markets are a wonderful way to test my products,” says Rzepka. “We get great feedback and I really like talking to everyone.”
At the Canton Farmers’ Market, shoppers will find a gentle and septic-system-friendly laundry soap, as well as soap bars, lotions and cold creams in scents like peaches and cream, cucumber melon and iced cranberry, offered by Pheasant View Dairy Goats farm in Hartville. Owners Brian and Kathy Jeffers established their hand-milked dairy goat farm in 2007. The couple started with two goats; the herd now numbers 16.
Goat products are also popular at the Clintonville Farmers’ Market in Columbus. Dennis and Angela Adams, owners of Cota Farms in Cardington, raise Jacob goats, one of the oldest goat breeds in the world. The couple sells yarn (coveted by hand spinners), wool blankets and lamb pelts for wall, floor or furniture covering. They will attend the market once or twice a month this season.
Pike County Farm is also represented at the Clintonville Farmers’ Market. Vendor Randy Sanders is a retired environmental administrator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Now the manager of a sustainable forest and family farm, Sanders creates pictures of trees, with frames handcrafted out of the species’ wood. Other products may include stools, benches and composting bins. Sanders also sells native plants during the first half of the year.
“[On] the tree farm, I dig my plants, mill my logs and try to set an example for other woodland landowners,” says Sanders, a biologist and woodland and stream management consultant.
Kip Parker, site manager for Athens Farmers Market, says the southeastern Ohio market “does not sell craft items…but several vendors sell plants, trees, wreaths and dried flowers.” Beeswax products are also available from Cantrell Honey & Candles in Athens and Crowing Rooster Farm in Rockbridge.
Ohio Valley Farmers’ Market has two locations — Bellaire and Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville. Vendor Lauren Norton of Bridgeport sells handmade totes at her Happy Threads by Lauren booth. The reusable shopping bags are adorned with “peace signs and green messages.”
Maggie Barno, executive director of the Granville Farmers Market in Licking County, says “shoppers come from all over central Ohio” to buy flowering plants and fresh flowers, meet for lunch and enjoy the historic and beautiful community of Granville.
Southern Ohio farmers and gardeners are known for bringing fresh-cut flowers to local markets. The Yellow Springs Farmers Market sells them from Peach Mountain Organics in Greene County. Vendor Leslie Garcia is the company’s “flower lady,” selling her blossoms alongside the certified organic veggies grown by her partner, Doug Seibert. Bath and body as well as home and health products are also sold at the market by a variety of vendors.
Hyde Park Farmers’ Market in Cincinnati offers fresh cut flowers to grace a formal dining room table or a sunny breakfast nook. The annuals and perennials are grown mostly chemical free. Some vendors also offer dried flower arrangements. Blooming vendors include Running Creek Farm in Mt. Healthy, offering colorful zinnias, celosia and other flowers.
And yes, there are also more goat-given products at Hyde Park. Milk from the contented animals at B & D Goats in New Richmond is made into soaps and lotions. The company has received national awards in the American Dairy Goat Association Bath and Body Product Competition. The goat farm’s owners can thank their seven goats, including the sweet-faced Molly.
Wyoming Ave. Farmers’ Market in Cincinnati sells potpourris made primarily from the herbs and flowers Debbie Fowler grows on her Blackbird Pond property. She combines lavender, rosebuds, globe amaranth, yarrow, chamomile and jasmine with roots and bark (think sassafras and ginger), woods and grasses (sandalwood and cedar) and uva ursi leaves, rosemary, cinnamon and other natural essential oils from plants.
“I like selling at farmers markets,” says Fowler, who also makes natural soap. “I like meeting the customers, hearing their stories and getting their feedback.”
For a list of Ohio farmers markets, visit Ohio Proud’s website, ohioproud.org/markets.php, which allows you to search by market name, county, product or type of market. The site also features an interactive map and directions to Ohio Proud markets.