North Union Farmers Market Opens

Shaker Square: Sat 4/3 & Crocker Park: Sat 4/10

“Buy local” is a popular slogan, but what’s the BIG deal? When it comes to the fruits and vegetables you put into your mouth, this is a big deal. In this area, the best quality food comes directly from Ohio farms – fresh, nutrient dense, and delicious.

Over the winter months, grocery stores are filled with imported produce: grapes from Chile, tomatoes, asparagus, and berries from Mexico, and melons from Guatemala and Honduras. While traveling great distances, the produce has been sitting in crates on trucks, trains and cargo ships rather than growing in the ground and ripening under the sun. That’s why local foodies can rejoice in anticipation of the grand opening of the North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square on Saturday, April 3, and at Crocker Park, the following Saturday, April 10. This year they are operating at seven market locations: Shaker Square, Crocker Park, Chagrin Falls, Lakewood, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland State University, and Hillcrest Hospital.

Donita Anderson, executive director [pictured], described farming as really “the oldest profession.” It is historically documented that early master gardeners brought their fresh produce to villages. Markets provided reason for people to gather together and in the process, created cities. The North Union Famers Market (originally named after the North Union site where Shakers settled in 1822), acting as a catalyst, is rebuilding neighborhoods in Cleveland. Smart shoppers, realizing the difference Ohio farm-grown produce can make, numbered close to a half million visits to the Shaker Square market last season. The winter indoor market, presently running in its eighth season, operates in Shaker Square’s northeast quadrant, just west of the CVS store.

“The North Union Farmers Market first opened in July, 1995, at Shaker Square. We are a non-profit organization providing the infra-structure for farmers to be successful,” Anderson explained. “We have re-introduced the right way to run a farmers market, not undercut by food brokers or middlemen. We only have certified producers – 65 farmers at Shaker Square and 45 farmers at Crocker Park. We certify that these farmers own the land and bring their own produce to market.” She’s been mentored along the way by NYC Green Market and Certified Producer Only Markets of San Francisco.

Twenty-five years ago, when Anderson moved from Michigan to Shaker Heights she had difficulty finding high quality fresh food for her family. Her background includes working as a biologist and a professional chef so it was a natural progression to start talking with Ohio farmers. She is committed to the local farms believing that buying local is more important than buying organic. “They are growing organic produce in China now, but I don’t want my salad to travel thousands of miles to reach my table,” she explained. “At North Union we celebrate the local gifts of harvest.”

Over the years, the North Union Farmers Market has gone on to serve as a business incubator for 300 small businesses – farms, bakeries, craft studios, and performing music groups. North Union partners with the Cleveland Botanical Garden sponsoring the “Time to Grow” event each year bringing in expert speakers about a variety of topics including teaching farmers marketing skills. There is a lot more growing here beside apples and flowers and tomatoes. New in 2010, North Union is running their outdoor downtown market at Cleveland State University and a new pilot site at Hillcrest Hospital for July. North Union has changed the “Lets Get Fresh” fundraiser to a new grassroots, local food celebration of garlic. Anderson said some of the best garlic is grown right here in Ohio. Shaker Square will host the Garlic Festival on Saturday, September 11, and Sunday, September 12. Food aficionados and locavores unite! Visit the North Union Farmers Markets and celebrate the incredible bounty harvested right here from Ohio soil.

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From Cool Cleveland contributor Susan Schaul, who says the act of writing is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The challenge lies in getting the pieces to fit together and make sense.

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One Response to “North Union Farmers Market Opens”

  1. Whitney Bohan

    The following excerpt is from the Mar 25, 2010 edition of Fortune Magazine. My point in sharing it is that this is a point that is rarely discussed — and because it is counter-intuitive, I would never have guessed it. Just food for thought.

    Myth: Buying local food is better for the environment.
    Reality: It depends on how your food was produced and delivered.

    While eating food grown locally helps small farmers, it may not necessarily be the most ecologically efficient.

    According to a recent Oxfam International report called “Fair Miles — Recharting the Food Miles Map,” a tomato trucked from Spain to Britain may be more environmentally friendly than a tomato grown in a greenhouse in Britain because that process needs energy-intense farming techniques and more fertilizer and could degrade the soil.

    Says the report: “Food miles are not always a good yardstick.” — D.T.

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