Sunday afternoon I traveled to Amesville. This small Ohio village of 185 people has a colorful past that includes serving as an Underground Railroad stop and the unusual way its library was funded more than 200 years ago. In 1803 settlers wanted books, but had no money to buy them. Used to a barter economy, residents collected pelts from the surrounding forest’s fur-bearing animals (mostly racoons) and sent two townspeople east to secure the much desired reading material. Fifty-one books – mostly on religion, travel, biography and history – were purchased for $73.50 and in 1804, the Coonskin Library opened.
My destination was Green Edge Garden’s 2012 Open Farm Day potluck lunch at the Amesville Grange Hall. For those not familiar with the Grange movement, it is the nation’s oldest agricultural organization with a long history of encouraging farm families to band together for their common economic and political well-being.
Green Edge Organic Gardens is the passion and livelihood of Becky and Kip Rondy. Their 120 acre farm employs 13 people, with four interns arriving in a few weeks, making the Rondys the largest employer in Amesville Township. Their farm, primarily tended by hand, offers a wide selection of vegetables, including micro greens and specialty mushrooms. When I visited their farm in late January, I was stunned by the volume of vegetables they were growing in unheated high tunnels and their skill at making their operation year-round.
Sunday’s event was an opportunity for their Athens Hills CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members to share a meal, meet the farm crew and take a tour of the farm to see, as Kip and Becky say on their website, “how and why we grow your food the way we do.” CSAs bring together farmers and individuals who pledge support to a farm operation to share the risks and benefits of food production.
CSA members invest in advance to cover the anticipated costs of farm operation and, in return, receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season. Through direct sales to community members, growers receive better prices for their crops, secure money up front for seeds and other production needs, and are assured of a market for these crops. Athens Hills offers both winter and summer shares and attracts members nearby and beyond our 30 Mile Meal region.
I spoke with a mother and daughter from the Columbus area. Both were delighted to meet the people growing their food and planned to tour the farm after lunch. They love the freshness and diversity of the food they pick up each week in Columbus. The Rondys partner with other 30 Mile Meal producers, expanding what members can opt to receive. These include Christine Hughes and Bob O’Neil who offer Village Bakery bread, Warren and Victoria Taylor’s Snowville Creamery milk, Neil Cherry’s Cherry Orchards fruit, Michelle Gorman and Chris Chmiel’s Integration Acres cheeses, Jack Cantrell’s honey, and Sticky Pete’s maple syrup made by Laura McManus-Berry.
After plenty of time for socializing, the crowd headed for the kitchen where the counter was overflowing with delicious food. The desserts required their own table. Soon every seat and plate in the hall was claimed. Special Green Edge Farm coloring books and crayons kept the little ones amused. Becky and Kip shared their story of growing Green Edge Gardens and Athens Hills CSA.
Leaving Amesville, driving past the fields and Bartlett pears, redbuds and forsythia glowing in the afternoon light, I felt the goodness of a place where food production, people and community are co-mingled and remind us of the power of mutual support.