Vindy grows — gardens, dining and golf

We have some exciting tweaks ongoing at The Vindicator that I’d like you to know about.

New to you:

We’ve been fortunate to find some valuable content partnerships over the years to bring a better newspaper to you.

We’ve partnered with Youngstown State University’s journalism department to bring more local stories. We’ve partnered with Ohio newspapers to bring you the best in Buckeye coverage. We’ve linked up with local folks such as Mike Costarella, Jeff Dick and Louie Free to bring their expertise to a broader audience.

This week, we partner with the many great green thumbs of the Ohio State Extension to bring you “Valley Grows.”

Of the many new pastimes that engage us every so many years, the growing bug certainly has blossomed out of the landscaping and home- makeover movement.

Home-grown, fresh-grown, local-grown ... Now Vindy-grown.

Every Thursday, we will offer you a page-plus of growing, gardening and green.

It comes at the hands of Eric Barrett, extension educator for Mahoning County, and his crop of co-workers and volunteers.

In the arena of growing, there is not much that does not wind its way through the hands of this group. From the most traditional gardeners and growers in the backroads of the county ... to the newest neighborhood growers in Youngstown, Barrett’s team kneads it all.

Starting Thursday and every Thursday after that all year long, you can have that expertise at your fingertips in The Vindicator.

Joining the page will be some key local merchants equally successful in making your garden grow.

We’re just getting started. You’ll like how we grow this page.

Turning 1:

We hope that “Valley Grows” catches on like “Valley Food.” It just turned 1 year old this month, and it’s been a fun project for us.

Acknowledging above that the gardening bug has bitten us, so too has the foodie bug. We’re all culinary experts, it seems, because we watch enough “Man vs. Food” and “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

Last year, we launched “Valley Food” to satisfy those cravings. In 12 months, we’ve brought you enough quality dining places, great signature dishes and supreme wines and beers to last you another 12 months.

And don’t forget about those burgers. Our idea actually started from my first chats with Jerry “JT” Tranovich and his burger mafia.

We start Year Two with some new faces. We welcome Mike Vallas and Mark Smesko. When they’re not saving the world one toe at a time (that’s foot humor; oh, those crazy podiatry people), they are avowed foodies. And pretty funny at it, too. They will be hitting the Valley’s best eateries and profiling the best, craziest, hottest, biggest and exotic dishes.

We’re taking in the full restaurant-dining experience with longtime Vindy writer Rebecca Sloan, and will have another foodie joining her soon.

Better and bigger:

And wait till you see what we’ve done with Greatest Golfer of the Valley presented by Farmers National Bank.

It tees off May 25 at Pine Lakes for the first of six junior qualifiers. The adults tee off in their usual spot at the end of August — the 23rd, 24th and 25th — when high-school football season starts.

The calendar is on

I’ll profile the Greatest next Sunday in this space.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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