We have teamed up with the Courtney at the Community Harvest Food Hub to bring you information on how to eat local and to connect our readers with local farmers. Check them out on Facebook or on their website.
Over the last decade, Northeast Ohio has seen an explosion in interest in local food – Ashtabula County is no exception. There have been county-wide efforts to increase access and education surrounding local foods, ranging from cooking classes to new farmers markets.
What is local? The USDA doesn’t have a strict definition for local foods, and the strictest guidelines consider local to be products grown within 30 miles of where they’re consumed. Ashtabula County is a big place – encompassing over 700 square miles. To travel from Conneaut, our furthest point in the northeast, to Windsor, the furthest point in the south-west takes 47 minutes and covers 43 miles.
The most typical range seems to be 100 miles. For our county, this gives us access to a huge portion of our region, stretching west of Cleveland, east of Jamestown, NY, and just south of Pittsburgh, PA. There’s a lot of food in that 100-mile radius, and it comes from every category of the USDA’s agricultural census. Within our county’s borders, you can find locally-grown vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, honey and maple syrup. Using season extension techniques, growers are able to produce fresh foods a full ten months of the year.
Why buy local? The reasons to buy locally are as varied as the products that can be purchased! Purchasing locally grown foods benefit our economy by putting money directly into the pockets of local farmers. Foods are fresher, taste better, and are more nutrient-dense because they’re harvested at peak ripeness, and travel significantly less distance to your plate. Most importantly, buying local food allows you to know more about how your food was produced, from the seeds used to the harvesting techniques.
How can we buy local? Our favorite expression is “Friend a farmer!” There are more than 60 growers in Ashtabula County producing local food, and they love to connect with local customers. Our county features several farmers markets, a food hub, and restaurants that purchase local ingredients for their menus.
In the coming months, we’ll be sharing the best of Ashtabula local foods, from seasonal ingredients and recipes to growers that produce the best food you’ll ever taste.
-Courtney Johnson, Community Harvest Food Hub