At nine o'clock on Saturday morning the cowbell rings. Within seconds, a stampede of visitors rushes into the market and customers greet farmers at their favorite stands. The farmers' market is one of the best ways for small-scale, local farmers to earn a living and gain publicity. Countryside Farmers' Markets bring area farmers together to sell and promote locally-grown food, and were one of the first of these markets within a national park. Visit one of the Countryside Farmers' Markets to sample a diverse selection of delicious produce grown by Cuyahoga Valley farmers and other local farmers. Don't buy food from strangers!
“So, a day in our Saturday farmer's market is pretty early. We get to the office around six o'clock or so, and we head out to the market site. We're usually there by six-fifteen or six-thirty depending on the time of the season and how many vendors we have coming. And we set up our own tents, you know. We have a couple of booths for information for customers where we accept the tokens or use the cards to . . . for customers to purchase tokens. We set up our cooking demonstration stand, a musician's stand, and then once the vendors start coming, usually around six-forty-five or seven, it's a matter of making sure that they're setting up. We often have a lot of volunteers who help them with that. And um, just making sure everybody's arriving on time and getting where they need to go. At nine o'clock, we actually have a cowbell that we ring ~laughs~ to open the market, and we actually make our customers wait until nine o'clock which gives the vendors enough time to finish setting up and getting ready. And if they're there early enough, the vendors are . . . you can see the vendors walking around the market, doing their shopping really quick before ~laughs~ all the customers get there. But at nine o'clock we ring the cowbell and in go the customers. And that's actually really a fun thing to see, just the rush of customers, and they all disperse and go to their favorite stands, and then it's just a lot of hustle and bustle."
Tomato Tastings and Salsa Competition
Beth Knorr, Local Food Programs Coordinator / Markets Manager, describes the tomato tastings and salsa competitions.
“The past coupla years we've had tomato tastings in the summer, where people can taste upwards of thirty different varieties of tomatoes at a single go. That is probably folks' favorite, is the tomato tasting.
"And we have worked with Chef Jonathon Sawyer, who's up at the Greenhouse Tavern in downtown Cleveland, and he and a number of his chefs come down and they have a competition between themselves. A salsa competition, you know. They give themselves thirty minutes time to shop and make the salsa, and then the customers decide whose is their favorite.
"But I think it's really nice for people. You know, we print out a list of all the tomato varieties that are being offered at the farmer's market that summer, and last year I think we about 130 varieties being grown between all the vendors. But on that given day, you know, whatever's ripe is what we'll taste, and it's usually around thirty varieties. So people can just take a little slice off, you know, learn the name of that item and it tells them what farms are selling that, so if they like it, they know exactly where to go to get it. Or if they want to grow it in their own garden the following year, they know what varieties they like.”
Selling at the Market
Pamela Neitenbach, of the Neitenbach Farm, shares some of their farmers' market experiences.
"It's always nice to talk to other vendors and see what they're selling, and see what they're growing, see if they have any problems with pests, ~laughs~ you know, and what they do about that. But the people that come in are always excited, especially if they see if you're a Conservancy farm. They ask a lot of questions, you know. And I enjoy it because, when they come to our stand and they see, like, the tinctures or something that I'm selling, they always say, 'Well, what's this?' you know, and so then you can start educating, get the word out that there's other options besides, like, pharmaceutical drugs to help treat something. But it's always nice to get the word out about medicinal herbs and that these plants that we're growing to produce these tinctures and, you know, stuff like that are native and it just shows people that there's, I don't know, like conservation-type, you know, like looking at plants that should be here as opposed to going to a nursery and buying foreign plants from someplace else that could become invasive.”