The name says it all: Locally Harvested For You. The closer you look, the truer it is. With vendors from Blanchester, Montgomery, the Miami River Valley, and Preble County, the residents of Loveland, Ohio know their food doesn’t have a long way to travel before it graces their tables.
You want apples? The nice folks at Backyard Orchards sell you varieties with wonderful names like Gold Rush, Black Twig, Enterprise, and Northern Spy, along with favorites like Empire and Jonathan.
Got a hankerin’ for bratwurst or kielbasa? Cedar Lane Farm can help you out.
Like your honey fresh? The bees are hard at work at Carriage House Farm. Eggs, micro-greens, ground beef, organic spinach, winter squash, fresh-baked desserts, locally-roasted coffee, cow milk herdshares … all fresh, all produced by thoughtful people who work with their environment, instead of using it up.
I’m one of the fortunate few who live in Loveland, Ohio. A northeastern suburb of Cincinnati, Loveland is at the forefront of re-localizing food. Not that there was any kind of master plan in place; it’s just kind of worked out that way.
It all started with Grailville. The Grail is a religious community of and for women. Begun in Holland in the 1920’s, it spread to 20 countries, with three locations in the United States. Loveland is home to the American headquarters of The Grail.
Located on farmland, Grailville has incorporated an agricultural aspect from the beginning. As concern for the environment, and then interst in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) took off in the United States, it was only natural that Grailville would become involved. In 1994, Grailville’s CSA opened to the public. Known today as Earth-Shares CSA, the certified organic operation has a long waiting list.
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
Community Supported Agriculture originally took shape in Japan, Germany, and Switzerland back in the 60’s. The European efforts were, oddly enough, independent of what was transpiring in Japan, but there was a common theme: concern about food safety, and the urbanization of farmland. Farmers wanted to continue farming, but with the rising costs associated with conventional farm methods at direct odds with the simultaneously rising value of their land, hard choices were looming in the not-distant future.
CSA skips the middleman, which results in a one-on-one, farmer-consumer relationship. Consumers pay a subscription, which entitles them to weekly portions direct from the farm they’re helping to support. The farmer can do what s/he does best, without the worry of “what about next year?” The community that has formed around the idea of buying directly from the farmer stands ready to support him in good harvests and bad; the farmer thrives on knowing he is supplying his customers the freshest food, grown responsibly with sustainable methods of farming. This is a relationship not only of consumer exchange and market opportunity, but of faith in the essentials, and in community.
Roberta Paolo, that’s who!
A lady with a love of gardening, Paolo began Granny’s Garden School in 2002. Situated on the 25 acre campus of Loveland’s primary and elementary schools, it consists of more than 100 raised garden beds. Come late summer, it is a sight for sore eyes to see the literally hundreds of sunflowers nodding their glorious heads in the breeze!
The students of the two schools take care of the gardens during the school year; volunteers from the community step in during the summer. In addition to the gardens, Granny’s Garden includes a nature trail, along with standards-based lesson “guides” that facilitate the learning experiences afforded when growing a garden. The largest school garden program in the Midwest, Granny’s Garden School has served as an example to over 100 institutions that have stopped by to learn more about what has developed over the years since its inception.
Granny’s Garden is a tremendous community asset, because it not only provides the schools with food for their cafeterias, but also makes its harvests available to community members. The vegetarian restaurant across the street, The Veg Head, is another satisfied customer, whose owner has been known to avail himself of the treasures that come to hand so readily for his vegan-friendly and vegetarian dishes.
That brings us full circle, back to the newest member of the local foods scene. The brainchild of Stacy Egan, Locally Harvested For You (LHFY) started as a concept when Egan became a mom.
Once I started my family, eating healthy was even more important, but getting good, healthy, local food was very challenging with everyone’s schedules.
A mother of four, Egan says she decided that the version of CSA she learned about from her sister, who lives in Richmond, VA, was the way to go.
CSA with a New Twist
Egan, who is originally from Dayton, Ohio, has lived in Loveland for 20 years. She and her husband, Kevin, live on the 7 acres which make up a remnant of Jubilee Farm.
The present-day site of a developed subdivision, Jubilee Farm was once home to Kevin’s bother. While the Egans are eager to realize the full potential of their land, their family responsibilities come first. In fact, it’s hard for Egan to talk about LHFY without bringing up her children. It’s true that she takes great satisfaction in knowing that CSA’s provide numerous benefits to their subscribers, but her greatest motivation is derived from knowing she is passing along values and skills to her children that will serve them in times to come. Egan dreams big, holding visions of her four daughters living in a better world, in tune with the seasons and in touch with their wholesome food.
LHFY went live in late 2009. As a longtime resident of Loveland, Egan has established connections with various local farmers over the years. Her involvement with CSA’s, her family’s chickens, and her frequent patronage of farm markets have all led her in the direction of this very logical next step: running her own CSA venture.
LHFY, however, is not your typical CSA. Rather than customers having to buy an entire share from one farm – something which can run into hundred’s of dollars – LHFY offers membership for $35.00. Membership entitles participants to then select from a cornucopia of products offered by a number of farms in the area. Stacy explains:
The LHFY business concept is NOT to buy wholesale and sell retail, but to put a minimal facilitation fee onto a nearly retail price, so that the farmer is making what they deserve, and the consumer is not paying any more than it would cost them to drive all over town to get these great local products.
There are two pick up locations, one in Dayton, the other at Egan’s home in Loveland. Since Egan literally lives “right down the street,” a couple of miles from me, selecting LHFY as my vendor of choice where local foods are concerned was a no-brainer. With “transition time” getting closer with every passing year, LHFY promises to play an important role in my family’s future, too.
Are Lovelander’s even aware of peak oil, climate disruption, or Transition? This is a pretty conservative area, and Cincinnatian’s have a well-earned reputation for constantly being about ten years behind the rest of the country. However, when it comes to the availability of great local food, Loveland has – quite naturally – taken the lead. And whatever brings folks together for local food seems to transcend political, social and cultural predispositions.
Loveland. What a great place to live!