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That’s How Food Moves

It was just past 8am as we rumbled along country roads through the rolling hills of Amish country south of Oberlin. The humidity index was already pushing 80% as thunder clouds hovered above treetops. It was going to be a hot and muggy day. We would spend the better part of the morning visiting seven Amish farms and picking up vegetables for Northeast Ohio’s progressive CSA program, City Fresh. And that’s just for today. Four days a week, collections are made from a pool of 25 farms which supply shares to over 800 members throughout City Fresh’s three counties. it progressive because…scaled pricing helps more privileged neighbors subsidize the cost of a share for low-income neighbors. Pick-up locations are called “Fresh Stops” which basically puts a farmers market where a farmer’s market would not normally exist…in the inner city. It is just one way that NE Ohio is striving to improve access to healthy, quality, local food especially in economically deprived, urban areas where availability is the weakest..

Pictured here is the farm of Reuben and Mary, our first pick-up. Dogs barked and kids peaked around barn doors as we entered the yard. Never had I had cause or reason to enter the property of an Amish family. I felt honored and humbled. Honored to have the opportunity to visit and meet members of this private community at their home. And humbled by their sustainable lifestyle and the culture they have preserved amongst modern-day temptations.

I approach modestly after climbing down from the truck making eye connect with a cheerful smile. While reserved, their reception is warm and genuine.The little ones stare wondering, “who is this person?” I wink back hoping to catch a closer glimpse of their beautifully, uncomplicated life. Reuben was rinsing and packing the last of the eggplant order with the help of his two eldest daughters. He lingered after by the truck talking with me and the driver, Roger. roger hands Reuben a letter from his brother, Joe, across town….mail delivery! He gives us something to take back. We go there next. Reuben and Joe look like brothers with their big, blue eyes and curls which roll up under their straw hats. Joe and Rachel are part of a certified organic, Amish co-op called Greenfield Farms. They’ve been organic pretty much from their start in 2005. And were one of City Fresh’s first suppliers. They farm 11-acres testing their soil throughout the spring and summer for what organic fertilizers they need to input. But they plan to wean themselves off any applications and just go with straight manure and compost. Rachel nods and confirms, “yields are higher and the produce is bigger and tastier when we amend with manure in the fall and no organic fertilizers in the spring.”


Our last stop is David’ farm. He is a shrewd businessman. He keeps Roger on his toes as they discuss prices and next week’s order. When appropriate, I introduce myself. He asks if I work for City Fresh. I tell him about my independent study and interest in helping local, organic food to move better through a regional, distribution system. I wasn’t sure if he got what I was saying. But a little while later, he asks Roger and I if we would like a watermelon to take home. He had extra. He hands it to me and says, “that’s how food moves.”

Pictured to the left…A City Fresh Stop near a vacant lot in Cleveland. Love the mischievous grin of the little boy exiting the frame. I think he just ate a Sungold, cherry tomato 🙂