Our buyers’ club is an answer to the reality of our local food movement that has troubled me for several years.
First, each season beginning in May and lasting through October folks can buy seasonal products at their local farmers’ market. At the end of October the exhausted vendors disappeared until the next May when the market reopened and customers were expected to return and pick up where we left off. Just where do we expect consumers to go for their food? Now we can go off on the tangent about seasonal eating, preserving food etc., and to be clear; we have a room dedicated to the storage of vegetables, another for our canned products and several freezers full of the seasons’ bounty- but that’s non reality for most folks today. On the other side of that coin is the development of an environment in which you can buy nearly anything from anywhere in the world whether it is in season or not locally.
Second, farmers’ markets are designed for a vendor to bring a specific product- for example, vegetables. Our farm and many like it produce much more than the one specific product that could be sold and is available beyond the dates that an open air market in Ohio makes sense. Our farm is not a hobby or something we tend on the weekends. It is a living breathing organism that requires care and attention and in exchange yields a bounty of benefits. We raise cattle, chickens, grow an orchard, fruits and berries, all sorts of vegetables for ourselves, why not share these with our local community. There is also technology available to us that allows us to extend our growing season to nearly 12 months here is Ohio, why aren’t we using it? I am enjoying fresh salad greens and carrots harvested today, January 29th. It was as cold as -10 degrees during this past month, yet in an unheated structure we brought them through just fine.
I decided we have a responsibility to do everything we can to support our local community using the resources we have and the buyer’s club was born.
The club is designed to make available meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables from our farm and locally sourced products that we do not grow such as honey. We have developed relationships with other local vendors over the years and are proud to partner with them. Most of the products we sell are not as seasonal as our fruits and vegetables. Most meat, eggs and specialty items will be available 12 months a year.
The following timeline covers mostly vegetables. Using our season extending techniques we will deliver fresh produce about 50 weeks per year. The growing season is broken up into 2 very distinct growing cycles, summer/fall and winter/spring. Most folks are familiar with the summer/fall harvest of popular favorites like green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. These crops are grown during the frost free part of our season, usually May 15 – October 15. Although many of these crops can be successfully stored for use in the winter, once we have a frost the growing window closes. This is usually the “growing season” most folks are familiar with.
Probably more exciting is the winter/spring growing cycle. Now to be clear, planting for this time period begins in early July and last until early December before taking a break until mid February. Crops will be harvested outside until mid December then most harvesting will come from plants grown under cover.
Winter, the time period after November 15, will have the storage items such as onions, potatoes, winter squash and many root vegetables. Fresh harvest will be broccoli, salad mixes, kales, spinach, baby carrots and many other cold hardy varieties. This period last until early April when early spring plantings begin to mature. It has been our experience that crops harvested this time of year are of higher quality and much more flavorful than when we grow them in warmer conditions. The limiting factor in this season is the harvest window. Crops must be above 32 degrees to be harvested without damaging them. Since most are inside under cover there aren’t many days when this happens, but it can and sometimes harvest may be delayed. Since we don’t ask for your money up front you don’t risk not getting something you paid for, the responsibility is ours to be sure things are available.
It is our hope that the Farm Club will help bridge the gap for those of you who want to eat local food all year, not just during farmers market season.