Ravenna  – There’s something fresh and new on Main Street this summer. The Downtown Ravenna Farmers Market opens under the green and white tent starting Thursday, May 17 in the City Parking Lot at the corner of Cedar and Meridian streets. The farmers market will be open every Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. through summer and fall until November 1.
All of the produce made available at the Downtown Ravenna Farmers Market will be grown by local farmers, traveling less than 100 miles to get from farm to table. In addition to just-harvested greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini, radishes, peas, carrots, corn and other vegetables, there will be fresh berries, apples, peaches and other fruits as they ripen in season. In addition, you will find maple syrup and maple candy, just-baked bread and from-the-oven pastries, as well as other home-made treats.
There is space for 15 fresh food vendors altogether. So far, Bittnerbees, D&A Maple Syrup, Deluxe Pastry, Breakneck Farms, Brugmans, Shari’s Berries, Bonnie’s Breads, Baked in the Village Cafe, Emily’s Soaps, Mike May’s Farm, Nitty Gritty Farms and Chaykowski Farms are already committed, said Market Manager Sally Kelly, a consultant who is developing the program for Ravenna.
Vendors interested in the few remaining spaces should contact Kelly at (330) 687-9501. Booth fees are $150 for the entire season (25 weeks) or $10 per week. There is also a half-season rate available. Vendors must agree to certain rules and regulations, including GAP and Cottage food sanitation guidelines.
Throughout the course of the summer, watch for a schedule of educational sessions, community service information and entertainment to be offered along with fresh food selections. Every other Thursday, the OSU extension service will provide educational sessions to help individuals understand how to prepare the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available that week. On alternate weeks, health clinics or live entertainment will be available.
The city received a two-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish the market. Kerry Macomber, Ravenna’s’ Economic Development Director, wrote the grant and now serves in a supervisory role for the program. The grant became available as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s health initiative to improve American diets, especially among young people and low income families. The Downtown Ravenna Farmers Market is located in a neighborhood identified by the U.S. Census where there is a 20% poverty-level income.
The neighborhood is also considered a Food Desert, a term that describes geographic areas where mainstream grocery stores are either absent or inaccessible to low-income shoppers. Though the grocery stores may be located in the vicinity, they remain unavailable to low-income residents because of high prices on healthy, fresh foods. Food deserts create significant negative health impacts from a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat and fish… most notably, obesity, which is linked to serious illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. While healthy food may be hard to afford in food deserts, fast food restaurants and convenience stores specializing in junk food are within easy reach.
“Unfortunately, people have become so reliant on the dollar menu, they don’t cook from scratch much any more,” said Macomber. “It’s convenient to eat fast food, but the nutritional content isn’t there.”
The Downtown Ravenna Farmers Market will now be within easy reach too. Hopefully, its convenience will appeal to people unaccustomed to the availability of fresh food. The farm market will be equipped with an EBT machine, so Direction cards from the Food Stamp Program will be accepted.
“This opens the market up to many more folks,”Kelly said.
The new farmers market will help to reverse the Food Desert trend, bringing nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables to the entire community. In the process, it is designed to help small farmers and vendors gain greater visibility, increase their markets and boost their incomes. As an added bonus, the market is expected to draw more traffic to downtown Ravenna, helping to revitalize the business district.
To learn more about The Downtown Ravenna Farmers Market and to keep current with its special events, log onto www.downtownravennafarmersmarket.com or follow on Facebook.