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Posts Tagged ‘Chesterhill Produce Auction’

This afternoon, Jenna, Emily and I walked up Athen’s West Washington Street to Restaurant Salaam – our 30 Mile Meal lunch destination. Once inside, the day’s hellish humidity gave way to cool air wafting about a room a riot of vibrant colors. We were hungry and ready for a lunch showcasing local ingredients.

Once we opened the menu, we discovered two 30 Mile Meal specials…

Menu

Black Turtle Bean Dal made with beans from Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. and vegetables from Shade River Farm and the Chesterhill Produce Auction. Wild raspberry iced tea.

Mediterranean Spelt Salad, a lovely cold dish of spelt berries from Seed & Mill Co., goat cheese from Integration Acres, spinach and microgreens from Green Edge Organic Gardens, fresh herbs from Salaam’s rooftop garden, and summer squash and other seasonal vegetables from Shade River Organic Farm and the Chesterhill Produce Auction.

We also ordered soup and salad from the usual menu…

Gazpacho with an orange, greens and nut salad - with some locally sourced ingredients

Later this week, Salaam will be offering another 30 MM special: Rustic Tomato Stew, a lovely Tuscan-style dish, packed with flavor from local tomatoes from Chesterhill Produce Auction , their own roof-grown basil, and croutons of house made bread. You can learn more here.

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Nearly there

Yesterday was a hot, steamy day – perfect for getting out of Athens and heading into the hills of Morgan County.  The approach to the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA) was marked by a tiny barn wearing a painted quilt square. The sun was shining as we pulled into the already packed parking area around 3:15pm. Ahead stood the auction pavilion, its open side doors catching any breezes.

the crowd examines lots of color and vegetation

CPA is now managed by RuralAction;  its mission to bring people to a rural site to buy quality produce and to provide Chesterhill with a rural food destination and economic hub. In 2010, The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs published a report on the development of the CPA which offers a detailed history of CPA’s beginnings and evolution.

At the far end of the barn several tables nearly groaned under the weight of pot luck food and drink. Cold water with fresh mint, an array of salads (Shagbark Seed & Mill Company’s spelt berries were spotted in one), focaccia from John Gutekanst’s Avalanche Pizza, and plenty of cookies and other sweet nibbles. Just behind the pot luck tables, I stepped up to the window to register for a bidding number and was ready to survey the auction’s goods.

awaiting the ride home

Off to the left side of the building, I could see some of the horses and buggies used by the Amish farmers to bring their produce to the market.  While the auction sells produce from non Amish farmers (known colloquially as English),  any producer can be part of the auction.

Brandon Jaeger

The region’s food-focused community was well represented: Leslie Schaller from ACEnet, Community Food Initiatives‘ Ronda Clark (and her daughters),  Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaeger, owners of Shagbark Seed and Mill Co., and someone who has become a major customer of CPA, Matt Rapposelli, the executive chef at Ohio University.

Rural Action's Bob Fedyski

Many of Rural Action’s staff and board were on hand including those charged with working on sustainable agriculture and the CPA – Bob Fedyski and Tom Redfern.

Not surprisingly, the heat gave way to a heavy downpour and flashes of lightning and the large pavilion doors were pulled down. But by the time the auction began at 4 pm, the sun returned and the bidding began. Lots of lots…asparagus, rhubarb, maple syrup, bird houses, popcorn (unpopped), wood shavings, garden stakes, and plenty of garden seedlings and hanging flower baskets.  My favorite items were some beautifully made apple crates (which I didn’t get), but I happily came home with some sweet potato starts.

heirloom tomatoes ready for the garden or porch

I highly recommend a trip to the CPA. It’s colorful, there’s a real feeling of community, and you can get some great deals. Auctions take place every Monday and Thursday through October 22nd, with the doors opening at 3pm, giving you plenty of time to check out the various lots.

Before heading back to Athens,  I said goodbye to the patient horses.

see you soon

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The crowd checks out the auction offerings

Next Thursday is the opening day of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA) and you are invited.  Morgan County (OH) is home to this well-known local foods destination, with auctions scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays through October.  Each event offers the opportunity to buy seasonal produce, plants, crafts, and more, in a wide variety of lot sizes, for both the home and business.

Children enjoy the fruits of local farmers

The May 12thfestivities will begin at 3pm with a community potluck and speakers, followed by the auction at 4pm. Children are invited to take part in planned nature activities. This year’s opening day celebrates the unique combination of public and private investment that has made this regional local foods hub possible.

The auction is owned by Rural Action, a membership-based organization promoting economic, social, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio.  After working for five years with the founders of the CPA,  in 2010 the organization brought together stakeholders throughout the region to secure the future of this community-based economic infrastructure. Financial support came from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), as well as a core group of local community investors, farmers, and supporters, and a loan from the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Berea, Kentucky.

Won't be long before the auction has an abundance of tomatoes

In 2010, ARC –  a regional economic development agency which represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government – announced funding of $50,000 in support of CPA, as part of its economic initiatives in Appalachian Ohio. The mission of the commission is to be a strategic partner and advocate for sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia.  According to Louis Segesvary, ARC’s Public Affairs Officer, “The member states of the Appalachian Regional Commission are funding more and more food-related job creation projects to take advantage of Appalachia’s resources.”

Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, Tom Redfern, notes, “With the increased emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables as a way to improve health, initiatives that support the local farm production necessary to capture those markets allow us to win at both the economic and health level.”

For more information on the Chesterhill Produce Auction, contact Tom Redfern by calling 740.767.4938, or by emailing tomr@ruralaction.org. Information on the Chesterhill Produce Auction is available here.

The Produce Auction takes place at 8380 Wagoner Road in Chesterhill, Ohio.

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Eco Cafe time

Despite yesterday’s sunshine and outdoor pull of spring, the Front Room at Ohio University’s Baker Center was abuzz with students, faculty and members of the larger community. Over 70 people attended the Eco Café, an on-going series of presentations on social, economic, and environmental issues impacting southeast Ohio, sponsored by Rural Action and OU’s Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies.

Ann welcomes everyone

Ann Brown, a volunteer with Rural Action and the series’ organizer, welcomed the crowd and introduced the panel.

David Holben, professor and Associate Director, Nutrition at the School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness, began the conversation, framing the topic for the next hour and a half.

David Holben

He noted that while the term ‘food security’ is often confused with food safety issues such as post 9/11 fears that our drinking water could be attacked with a substance like arsenic, it is really about universal access to food that is healthful, nutritious, safe, and culturally acceptable. David observed that the panel represented the depth and breadth of the region’s local foods advocates.

Tom

Up next was Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, Tom Redfern. Tom explained that RASA supports established farmers markets in the region, and works with communities wanting to establish their own marketplaces. Since 2003, Rural Action has also been leading the way in bringing local foods into institutional systems, including Ohio University. Passing out the ever-present-in-his-briefcase, beautifully designed, Chesterhill Produce Auction brochures, he described how this market aggregation of Amish and other farmers in the area around Chesterhill increases earnings for growers and adds vitality to our regional food economy.

What about access to healthy, fresh foods for those who may not know how to grow or preserve them or are unable to afford them? Ronda Clark, executive director of Community Food Initiatives, told the crowd how her organization serves low and moderate income populations in the city of Athens and in some of the highest poverty areas of Appalachian Ohio – rural Athens and Morgan counties. CFI assists people in growing, cooking and preserving their own food through their Appalachian Foodways workshop series. The organization has also created and supported several community gardens, including the expansive and beautiful Westside Gardens in Athens.

Ronda's homegrown and heirloom seeds

One of CFI’s most far-reaching efforts is the Donation Station, located at the Athens Farmers Market each Saturday from 10 am to 1pm. Staff collect produce donations from both farmers and the public. Collected cash is used to purchase additional fresh foods from the market’s vendors. Hundreds of pounds of local food are distributed across the region each week to food pantries and other feeding sites. Ronda ended her presentation by pointing to several Ball jars filled with colorful seeds on the table before her. Harvested from her own garden, she offered to share them with anyone interested in trying some heirloom beans and squash.

I had the opportunity to speak next about the 30 Mile Meal Project and to encourage the audience to take even small steps to increase their use of local foods and to support businesses that source their menus locally. Here’s a video I made for the occasion.

Leslie

Described by Tom Redfern as the region’s most long-term and knowledgeable local foods activist, Leslie Schaller, Director of Programming at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet), concluded the program. Much of ACEnet’s work has centered on building, aggregating and supporting a local food-based economy. Its kitchen incubator has launched hundreds of local food businesses. Able to trace the region’s embrace of local foods back three decades or more, she noted the incremental development of the resources and networking that make this economy so robust. She described the typical farm ‘commodity to mouth’ supply chain – one with no possibility for interaction between the distant producer and the consumer and how different it is when the chain is locally-based. She also shared a visual presentation of the many people and places that make our food, real local, and real good!

Following the talk, there was plenty of time for questions and to pack up a few of Ronda’s seeds to plant.

Going for the seeds

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Like an eight course meal (local, of course) 30 Mile Meal Week (September 17-25) was packed with tasty offerings – something for everyone to enjoy! True, our week had more than seven days, but that’s how much time we needed to showcase the depth and breadth of our local food-ness. Here’s a look back.

 

Power to the Pawpaw!

 

Held on the shore of tranquil Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio , the 12th Ohio Pawpaw Festival gave us a celebratory three day start to the week. The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) was declared the state’s official native fruit in 2009, thanks largely to the efforts of Chris Chmiel and Michelle Gorman, owners of Integration Acres. The festival draws thousands from near and far and features all things Pawpaw – music, food, contests, art, history, sustainable living and other workshops, and activities for kids. Vendors abounded, many of them offering appropriately themed concoctions – everything from Pawpaw beer (Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery) to Pawpaw ice cream (Snowville Creamery).

 

The crowd lines up at Crumbs Bakery's stall

 

The Athens Farmers Market is more than 35 years old, the largest Farmers Market in the state, and a much loved part of Athens’ food and social scene. The market is open from 10 AM to 1 PM year round on Saturdays, and on Wednesdays, from April to December. Many of the Market’s farmers are 30 MM partners and provide an amazing array of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, baked goods, condiments, plants and flowers, herbs, and much, much more! Three market dates fell within our30MM Week. On Saturdays, you’ll find music, demonstrations, and the Market Cafe, a great place to catch up with friends while enjoying local fare! And some Saturdays, there are Junior Chefs workshops for kids.

 

Making spring rolls

 

 

auction abundance

 

Another reoccurring event during the week (Monday and Thursday) was the Chesterhill Produce Auction. This seasonal market offers produce, often in large quantities, to a range of buyers. Produce is usually brought in on horse drawn buggies and laid out on pallets for customer inspection. The auction is fast-paced and exciting and draws many who enjoy the atmosphere and sense of community while purchasing the high quality farm products.

 

An Athens Favorite

 

The week was full of ‘local eating’ opportunities, as the some partners featured menu items incorporating local foods throughout the week: Catalyst Cafe, Della Zona, The Village Bakery, Casa Nueva, and Busy Day Market. During our Friday 30 Mile Meal Day in Nelsonville, Rhapsody and Fullbrooks Cafe offered locally sourced fare. Heaven’s Oven participated on Saturday during the 30 Mile Meal Day at Eclipse Town in The Plains.

 

Fran preparing a 30 Mile Meal

 

There were two opportunities to learn about how to make delicious food with local ingredients. Community Food Initiatives sponsored a homemade sour cream and cheese cheese workshop, led by Liz Florentino, the Village Bakery’s dairy expert. At the Grover Center Atrium Cafe (and sponsored by Wellworks), Fran McFadden and his team from the Ohio University School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness presented a hands-on local food cooking class and meal.

 

the farmers keep the harvest coming

 

On Wednesday, September 22nd, the Athens Farmers Market pulsated with the oranges and yellows of fall, pumpkins and squashes among the bounty offered by over 25 vendors. Over at the 30 Mile Meal tents, the crowd gathered for our public event. Leslie Schaller, representing ACEnet welcomed the crowd and introduced Jack Cantrell, Athens Farmers Market president and co-owner of Cantrell Honey and Candles.

 

Frances Strickland, Leslie Schaller and Paul Wiehl

 

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl delivered a proclamation declaring 30 Mile Meal Week and then introduced Frances Strickland. The First Lady, a long time supporter of local foods and Ohio agriculture, spoke about the importance of this project as a model for other parts of the state. She was delighted to receive a huge canvas bag of local foods. You can watch a brief clip of Strickland’s comments here.

 

Sarah Slater

 

 

Christine Hughes

 

Other speakers included local business owners, Christine Hughes, co-owner of The Village Bakery, Della Zona and Catalyst Cafe and Sarah Slater, a Casa Nueva worker-owner.

 

Angie Starline

 

 

Chris Chmiel

 

Two farmers shared their support for the project: Angie Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics and Chris Chmiel, co-owner of Integration Acres. Paige Alost from the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau concluded the program.

Nelsonville's Public Square

On Friday, 30 MM activities were evident in two towns – Trimble’s Township Farmers Market took place and in Nelsonville, several shops on the Public Square offered local foods tastings during their final Fridays festivities.

 

Eclipse Company Store

 

The week concluded with Saturday’s Local Foods Dinner at the Eclipse Company Store, drawing 130 people to enjoy chef David Lopez’s fabulous meal and live music.

A big thanks to all who made the week so much fun and to those that joined us for the launch of this exciting initiative!

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