Art by Hiram farmer Ryan Lind

Garrettsville – Last summer, Garrettsville Farmers’ Market was a fledgling project driven by “a group of artists, business owners, farmers and neighbors who want to celebrate Garrettsville’s history of farming, friendship and community.” This summer, it is focused on access and education, so more people can enjoy and appreciate the fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, meats, baked goods and other prepared foods offered by local food producers.

Opening Day 2019 for the second season of Garrettsville Farmers’ Market is Thursday, June 6, 4-7pm. Located on the grassy Buckeye Block along Main Street, it is organized by market manager Sara Hill, Whitney Podboy (Cellar Door coffee shop) and Rusteen Shelley (The Tiny Jelly Company). These entrepreneurs have combined their respective talents and collective passion for community to maintain Garrettsville Farmers’ Market, to be held every Thursday, 4-7pm through August 22.

This year’s focus is “to feed, educate and increase access to nutritious and local food products in our community.” Accordingly, organizers are making it easier for more local residents to enjoy the abundance provided by the farmers’ market, says Hill.

In particular, anyone with USDA’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits can trade in benefit values for wooden tokens that can be used at Garrettsville Farmers’ Market to purchase food stamps-eligible food products to build a meal. For instance, people can use the tokens to buy fresh produce, meat, eggs, bread, etc., but not ready-to-eat items like pizza or kettle corn.

In addition, the farmers’ market is participating in Produce Perks, another program funded by a USDA grant. This matches SNAP benefits — dollar for dollar up to $20 at a time — with special metal tokens that essentially double the value that can be spent to purchase fresh foods at the market.

These new efforts are largely the result of survey responses from the community, Hill explains. “When we asked customers how we could improve our service, they let us know how they or their family members would love to be able to use their SNAP benefits at the market so they could gain access to our fresh, local food and sense of community here. These are our friends and neighbors who need and deserve this access. We are committed to bringing everyone to the table.”

Existing customers will appreciate the return of 17 vendors from last year, plus a handful of new ones, including a butcher and dairy farmer. All are located within 10-20 miles from the market (except for Ohio City Pasta), bringing locally-sourced, fresh farm goods to your table. CopperHawk Farms from Hiram will expand its offerings to include cantaloupes and watermelons. Next Generation Farm in Garrettsville now offers fresh-laid eggs. And Birdsong Farm’s organic co-op in Garrettsville has changed its CSA (community-supported agriculture) pick-up location to the farmers’ market for customers’ convenience.

Looking back on their first season of the farmers’ market, Hill says, “It went better than we’d ever hoped or imagined. My heart is so full from the relationships we’ve built and the community goodwill we’ve enjoyed along the way. Truly, it takes a village to pull this off, and people have been so generous with their donations of time, talents and resources to make the market successful. Our sense of community is strong; it just needed a gathering place like this to thrive.”

Live music, instructional demonstrations and other presentations from local business and community representatives promise to continue making Garrettsville Farmers’ Market an interactive experience to feed and educate every generation. Learn more on their website, garrettsvillefarmersmarket.com. You can also follow the latest developments on their Facebook page.