By Burton Speakman
A desire from consumers to know where their food comes from has created an increased demand for local produce.
Farmers and farm markets, along with roadside produce stands, continue to grow in number and size to serve the local community.
Southern Mahoning County and northern Columbiana County have always had a vibrant community of farm markets and roadside stands where people could purchase local produce, said Eric Barrett, extension educator for Mahoning County. Many people who live in Mahoning don’t realize the number of places available to buy local fruits and vegetables.
The Poland and the Northside farmers’ markets are two that Barrett said have been successful.
“The reason these [markets] are successful is people are realizing that the produce they can buy locally doesn’t taste anything like what they buy at Walmart,” he said. “They also find the prices are comparable.”
The growth of farmers markets, farm markets and roadside stands also is attributable to people’s growing interest in eating more local produce, said David Marrison, extension educator for Trumbull and Ashtabula counties.
“A lot of consumers are demanding and interested in local food,” he said. “The growth in these types of markets has been spectacular to see.”
Carl Angiuli, co-owner of Angiuli’s Farm Market in Canfield, said he has seen his sales increase the last few years.
“There are more people coming in who are interested in canning,” he said. “They also want to make their own salsa and sauces.
“A lot of people tell me it’s the taste. They know what’s in it because they made it themselves,” he added.
The higher cost of food in grocery stores also has led to more consumers going to a farm or farmers markets, Angiuli said. Rising produce costs in stores have aided local producers.
It’s not just consumers driving the efforts. Producers have the ability to make more selling their products themselves. Farmers receive a better price for products sold at these local markets as opposed to wholesale, Barrett said.
But the farmer also takes on additional risks to try and secure a higher profit.
They have the expense of building a stand and paying to rent space in a farmers market. They also either must work the stand themselves or pay someone to staff the stand or market booth, he said.
The issue with the Northside Farmers’ Market on Elm Street in Youngstown initially was to try and get farmers to come to the market, said Jim Converse, marker operator.
“We had to convince them that it would not take away from their farm sales. They would rather sell at their own stand,” he said.
The farmers market provides a way to promote their products and helps them to sell more at their own location, Converse said.
The popularity of cooking shows also has resulted in many people having their own recipe and seeking new or different ingredients.
More people are buying herbs such as fresh cilantro and parsley, Angiuli said.
The growth of the markets also has resulted in more local production of crops such as berries, heirloom tomatoes and peppers, Barrett said.
There has been a growing interest in products for the last five to 10 years, including grass-fed beef, poultry and turkey, Marrison said.
Purchasing meat directly from the farmer is one of the areas with strong local growth.
Local companies can offer a grass-fed beef product that is lower in fat and has a better taste, Converse said.
“One of the things becoming more popular is microgreens. These small greens can be grown inside during the winter,” Converse said. “They started being grown by people interested in health food.”
The microgreens have expanded because people want to have fresh greens all year long, he said.
Eddie Lou Meimer, a maple syrup producer and part of the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Farmers’ Market Management Network, said she sells her products at four farmers markets, but expects the current interest to die down over time.
“These small ones try to get off the ground, but eventually most come back to earth,” she said.
The challenge in the farmers markets is trying to find enough products to get consumers to come, while at the same time having enough shoppers to make the market attractive to sellers, she said.
“It’s really hard to get both,” Meimer said.
That’s why she said she sells her products at larger markets that have more sellers.