Thursday, September 23, 2010

FRESH VEG IN THE CITY

I've written here many times about trips to the Countryside Conservency Farm Market in Peninsula or heading north to visit Kreiger's Market in Cuyahoga Falls to supply myself with good, fresh produce, but this week I stumbled over a way to pick up a whole batch of fresh, organically raised produce less than a mile from my own home in Firestone Park.  It's brought to my own neighborhood by an organization called City Fresh.

City Fresh is a Cuyahoga County nonprofit program supporting the creation of a sustainable local food system in Northeast Ohio.  Their goal is two sided.  One is to improve access to fresh, locally grown food for people in urban areas that normally would not have easy access to it, and two, is to increase market share in the city for local farmers who normally could not reach those customers.

Bringing together local farmers and local customers with a network of volunteers, local farmers, youth and community members, City Fresh provides produce from area farms to neighorhood food centers called Fresh Stops throughout their target neighborhoods. 

Similar in nature to a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) that generally allows a person, or family, to purchase shares of a single farmers' garden over the course of a summer, City Fresh simply multiplies the number of farms to create a broad range of produce and then disburses based upon the number of people (shares) sold for that week.  

City Fresh operates by organizing many farms together to generate a share that is open to anyone wishing to buy in during the summer.  Originally working only in Cuyahoga County, City Fresh has grown to over 22 supplier farms in 5 counties providing produce to 16 stops in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Summit counties.

Creating a direct money link between a farmer and his customers is close in concept with the 3/50 Project that I've written about before.  Keeping our food dollars local helps to maintain our regional food providors.  The squash or beans I bring home aren't from Mexico or Chili - they're sown and harvested within a 75 mile radius of home.  My money goes to support a family close by who is working to maintain a local business, not a half a world away with portions of my dollar being dribbled to distributors, wholesellers and resellers.

LOCAL FRESH STOP
In Summit County there are 4 Fresh Stop locations.  Highland Square, Goodyear Heights, North Hill and Firestone Park.  Each Thursday, June 17 thru October 21 between 4:30-6:30 you will find friendly volunteers handing out bags of produce to share holders.  The Firestone Park stop has been difficult to reach this summer due to construction along South Main Street, but you will still find the table set up in front of Ms. Julie's Organic Kitchen at 1809 S. Main Street.

A family share (for 3-4 people) costs $28, a single share (for 1-2 people) is $14. They offer a 50% discount for income-qualifying customers and they accept Ohio Direction Cards, WIC FMNP vouchers and WRAA Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program Vouchers.

LATE SUMMER SINGLE SHARE
Tonight I picked up my share of produce from Kim (our friendly Fresh Stop volunteer).  I was actually pretty shocked at the amount of produce I ended up putting into my bag (they ask that you bring your own bag, preferably recyclable).  I had to repack a time or two to make sure it all fit without squishing the tomatoes.  When was the last time you were able to bring home a bag completely packed with food of ANY kind for $14?

Here is the list of all the goodies in my share this week:  2 1/2# apples, 1# zucchini, 1/2# yellow squash, 1 1/2# tomatoes, 1/2# red pepper, 1/2# green beans, 1 head boston lettuce, 1# new potatoes, 1# collards, 1# pie pumpkin, 1 1/2# acorn squash, 1 1/2# beets, 1 head broccoli.  I'm a bit jealous, last week when I stopped to purchase my share, they were handing out jams and sweet potatoes in the share....ah well...the luck of the local harvest!

By my simple figuring, if I had gone to the market to buy these items it would have cost about $19.  This means that I not only saved $5, but the goods were delivered nearly to my door.  And these are organically grown, not all available at my local grocer.  This really may be more vegetables than I can eat in a week, but I will certainly find a way to make sure none of it goes to waste.

Let's see....salad of Boston lettuce and homemade buttermilk ranch dressing...fresh roasted beets...baked acorn squash with maple syrup and brown sugar...green beans cooked with onions and a bit of bacon grease (get over it, it's DELICIOUS)...pork chops with apples...broccoli salad....maybe a small pumpkin pie or some muffins......  Oh gosh, I've to get into the kitchen!  See ya!

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