Farm fresh: Farm markets offer value, variety

SANDUSKY Nothing beats the first bite. Whether it's sinking one's teeth into a juicy
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Nothing beats the first bite.

Whether it's sinking one's teeth into a juicy plum, crunching into a tart apple plucked straight from the tree or nibbling on a ripe green pepper, people crave the experience of eating farm-fresh food year-round.

Judging from the steady stream of cars lining up along the lots, local farm markets are in the peak of their season.

Dave Mulvin of Mulvin's Market says he and his employees are busier than ever.

"This is the first year we grew seedless watermelon and seedless yellow melon -- those did really well," Mulvin said.

On their vast farm at 1706 Perkins Ave., the family is best known for growing 60 acres of sweet corn, 30 acres of tomatoes and a variety of other fruits and vegetables.

During his busiest production months, Mulvin hires more than 40 employees to help.

Rain or shine, he's up before the sun most mornings to pick sweet corn with his staff.

"I enjoy all the people here, being able to train folks in farming," he said. "We have a lot of younger kids who work here, and it gives them a sense of work ethic."

Like most farm markets, there's no middleman, shipping or packaging fees -- allowing Mulvin to pass the savings on to his customers.

He admits he's had to raise prices slightly this year due to the higher costs of production. Fertilizer more than tripled in price -- from $300 per ton last year to $950 this year -- while diesel fuel skyrocketed and seed costs doubled.

Still, because most of his produce is wholesale, it tends to be less expensive than purchasing the same items at the grocery store.

Tammy Hinman, a national agricultural specialist, said farm market prices depend upon the product. Citing national price comparison studies, she said most customers on average will pay a bit more for farm-fresh foods -- but they don't seem to mind.

"They're actually getting more for their money because of the quality of the product -- it lasts longer, and they don't throw food away," Hinman said.

Within the past 10 years, there's been about an 18 percent increase in the number of farmer's markets nationwide, Hinman said. (Farmer's markets are venues with a variety of farmers, while individual farm markets may consist of everything from a roadside stand or pick-your-own produce to a year-round operation.)

Pick-your-own produce venues are becoming especially popular.

"I think a lot of people are more interested in becoming acquainted with how their food is produced, and the farmer's market is such a tangible way to do that," she said.

At the Enderle Family Farm in Huron, berries are the staple of a more than 30-year business.

Todd Enderle and his brothers, Scott and Ed, allow customers to pick their own strawberries and raspberries.

"Locally grown certainly is a big advantage because they're ripened on the plant, not picked when partially ripened and artificially ripened for the store," Todd Enderle said. "The nice thing about picking your own is you pick what you want -- not only volume-wise, but also quality-wise ... you can taste what you're taking home."

He also provides guests with a glimpse of how their food is grown. Strawberries are planted in the spring and covered with straw through the summer. By the following spring, they're ripe and ready. Raspberries are more difficult -- typically yielding a good crop only every third year.

At Burnham Orchards, Joe Burnham IV said the seasonal nature of business requires patience.

Right now, the peaches are in their prime.

But due to the dry weather, they were a little later than usual.

"We're very dependent on weather," Burnham said. "It's been dry this past month, so we're trying to irrigate some of our peaches. We also get real busy in harvest time and work a lot of hours, so family has to have an understanding ... but overall, it's been good to us."

Burnham is the sixth generation of his family's 230-acre fruit farm, best known for its apples.

In the fall, they'll harvest the bulk of their apples and invite families to come to their festivals for corn mazes, hay rides and fresh-picked fruit.

Julie Fox, direct marketing and tourism specialist for the Ohio State University Extension Office, said farm markets and farmer's markets continue to spread their seeds.

There are now 157 farmer's markets listed in the Buckeye State and more than 600 farm markets.

In times of stiff competition, diversity is key.

"One of the reasons we're seeing growth is more interest in buying locally ... and agricultural land is close to a lot of people," she said. "Ohio is so diverse that there's a great opportunity for people to go direct to the farm ... and the more the diversity in Ohio changes, we can reflect more of the experience people want."

In Lake County, for instance, she said a high Croatian population is driving more farm markets to produce a wide variety of peppers and ethnic foods.

For customers like Sandusky resident Debbie Fisher, who stopped to shop at Mulvin's on a recent afternoon, the attraction lies in the quality and freshness she can't find in a store.

"There's no comparison," she said. "I buy everything here ... I can never wait till they're open."

Burnham Orchards Inc.

Lily Burnham

8019 State Route 113

Berlin Heights

Telephone: 419-588-2138

Open all year, 12:30-5:30 p.m. February-April; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. May-January; Bakery open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. July-December. Apple cider vinegar, Amish noodles, crafts, books, hanging baskets and mums. Educational tours, senior and group tours, Fall Harvest Festivals last weekend in September through end of October. Wagon rides, corn maze, pick-your-own apples, peaches, and pumpkins. Full-scale bakery, apple fritters, antique tractor toy display, novelty candies, and cider slushies.

Enderle Family Farm

Todd Enderle

756 River Road in Huron

Telephone: 419-433-4856

tenderle@ccnorwalk.com

Open May-September, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Features: asparagus, black raspberries, blackberries, honey, red raspberries, strawberries

Hermes Farms

Hayes Avenue

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week

Features: Sweet corn, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, brown eggs, melons

Mulberry Creek Herbfarm

Karen Langan

3312 Bogart Road, Huron

Telephone: 419-433-6126

Open April-July, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday (May only). Annual Herbfair the fourth week of June with workshops, vendors, food, garden tours, and plant sale -- all revolving around herbs.

Annuals, bedding plants, certified organic, eggs, herbs, perennials

Mulvin's Farms

Dave Mulvin

1706 E. Perkins Ave., Sandusky

Telephone: 419-656-1229

Open July-November, daily 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Field corn, whole ear.

apples, beans, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherries, cider, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, greens, honey, melons, onions, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, pumpkins, red raspberries, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, zucchini

Novotny Farm Market

Brian Novotny

1809 St. Rt. 60, Vermilion

Telephone: 440-967-5757

Open all year, Monday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Features: Pick-your-own concord grapes, annuals, apples, asparagus, beans, bedding plants, beets, black raspberries, blackberries, Blue Spruce, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, Canaan Fir.

Quarry Hill Orchards

Bill Gammie

8403 Mason Road, Berlin Heights

Hours: Open July-December, daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Winery open April-December and January-March, Saturdays only Winery with tasting. Pick-your-own apples and peaches.

Strawberry Hill Farm LLC

8606 Hayes Avenue, Sandusky

Telephone: 419-359-1019

Hours: Open all year, daily for 24 hours

Apples, asparagus, baked goods, blueberries, carrots, cauliflower, cider, cucumbers, grapes, honey, melons, onions, peaches, pears, peppers, pumpkins, red raspberries, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon

Schmidt's Farm Market

Market location: Ohio 4, just north of the Ohio Turnpike

Hours: 12-6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 to 6 p.m. weekends

Features: Strawberries, corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions and melons. Also accepts WIC and senior discounts.

OTTAWA COUNTY

Beehaven Farms

Bob Schraidt

5084 Weyhe Road

Port Clinton

419-797-4207

Bergman Orchards

Barry Bergman

708 Bridge Road (Ohio 269)

Lakeside

419-734-2870

Bergman Greenhouses and Market, LLC.

Donna Bergman

4562 E. Bayshore Road

Port Clinton

419-734-4272

Limerock Orchards and Roadside Market

Tom Anslow

1266 North East Catawba Road, Port Clinton

Telephone: 419-797-2452

HURON COUNTY

Butts' Corner

Ohio 61 and West Main Street, Norwalk

Telephone: 419-668-5119

Hours: Open June-October Monday-Friday noon-6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Features: Pick-your-own strawberries in June and raspberries in September

Kramer's Farm Market

5273 Whittlesey Road, Norwalk

Telephone: 419-668-0111

Hours: Open April-December, Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Features: Variety of jams and jellies, fir trees and produce

Livengood's Berry Patch

1/2 mile south of Milan, on Ohio 601, Norwalk

Telephone: 419-668-9811

Hours: Open May-August, Daily 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Features: Asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, red raspberries, strawberries

Wiers Farm

4465 Ohio 103 South, Willard

Telephone: 419-935-0131

Hours: Open July-August, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Features: Beans, beets, blueberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers

For a complete listing of area farm markets in all counties, visit here.