By Linda Dillman
At the farmers market in Canal Winchester, the person who planted, nurtured and harvested your vegetables is likely to be the same person who staffs the stand.
While the farm-to-table local produce “movement” was once a standard way of life, the growth of cities and the proliferation of supermarkets found more produce trucked in from ever-increasing distances.
The trend started to reverse itself in the 1960s and 1970s with the desire for fresher foods, healthier lifestyles and a desire to shop and support locally. Today, farm-to-table has fostered a pursuit of locally grown produce and is a common buzz phrase in the restaurant industry.
In Canal Winchester, the 20-year-old weekly farmers market, held in Stradley Park in the city’ downtown, attracts vendors and visitors from across central Ohio. Westerville resident Carrie Metzker said she frequently visits farmers markets and her Aug. 4 trip was her third visit to the Canal Winchester market.
“I like fresh flowers. I like fresh vegetables and I like supporting local businesses,” said Metzker. “It gives you a real sense of community. I shop here because you know where it’s grown and you can talk directly to the people who grow the flowers and vegetables. I do most of my own cooking and base my menu a lot on what I buy at the farmer’s market. I love Canal Winchester.”
Groveport resident James Pritchard is a frequent visitor to the market and likes the variety of produce available—such as his favorite, beets—because it is fresh. He said you never know how long vegetables sit around before being sold at a supermarket.
“I prefer to cook with fresh vegetables,” Pritchard said. “I’ve been coming to this market for many years. I know the farmers and know what they do in growing their produce.”
Kim Black and his wife, Pon, operate Black Thai Farm, located aboutseven miles south of Canal Winchester. This is their 15th year participating in the farmers market and their vegetables and flowers are grown without the use of pesticides.
“It’s hard to keep the weeds under control just by cultivating,” said Kim as the couple stocked a variety of tomatoes, corn, beets, potatoes, okra, peppers and bright sunflowers for the Aug. 4 market.
The original Black family farm dates back to 1896, but the parcel Kim and Pon farm was purchased by Kim’s dad and uncles when his father returned from World War II. His mother, Jeanne, still owns the property.
With help from their daughters, they spend the entire day before the farmers market picking produce and flowers
“We farm part time to make a living,” said Kim. “We want to offer a variety of vegetables, starting with strawberries and asparagus in the spring and then pumpkins in September. We started doing sunflowers after someone suggested we start growing them because they’re easy and people are fond of them. In addition to selling in Canal Winchester, we also go to markets in Pickerington and Upper Arlington.”
Market Manager Karen Stiles said the market is a member of Ohio Proud, which means everything sold at the market must be Ohio grown or homemade.
“That means no Georgia peaches or watermelons before the season,” said Stiles. “People like to talk directly to the grower or the shop owner. It is important to them. One of the things we do for the market is work really hard for a large variety, such as bee vendors and pork vendors, so you can come to the market and get your entire meal, from food to flowers.”
The farmers market, operated by Destination: Canal Winchester, is open every Saturday in Stradley Park—except for the Labor Day Festival weekend—through Sept. 29 from 9 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.