(Originally posted over on the Ohio Civic Tourism blog. Sometimes, I get to do awesome fun stuff for work. This is my original before it had to be cut down.)
Aside from honoring our fallen war heroes, Memorial Day is traditionally the beginning of summer. The beginning of summer means different things to different people: if you’re a kid, it means school is (or is almost) over; if you’re a boater, it’s time to head to the lake; if you’re a camper, the wilderness is calling; if you’re a motorcyclist, you get to take your road beast out of storage. For Leon and me, California transplants to Columbus five years ago, it’s the start of Farm Stand and Farmers Market Season!
This weekend, we decided to head south out of the city on 23. We have friends who live near Chillicothe, and on the drive down there (usually in the late fall, winter, and spring) we pass several farm stands and always say, “We need to visit those this summer!” We finally did. Fully aware that this is the beginning of the season, we were in no way under any illusions that there would be mountains of fresh, Ohio-grown produce. Keep that in mind as you read.
Our first stop was barely outside of the 270 loop. For a lot of Columbus residents, it seems that this is akin to saying, “We put on diving helmets and went to the moon.” There are a lot of great things about the city, but there are a whole lot more things to do within about an hour or two drive from Columbus. Just south of where 23 meets 317, about 10 minutes south of Columbus, there is a place near Scioto Downs called Lombardi’s. (Side note: between the junction and Lombardi’s is a place called Fox Run. It’s a tiny little shack of a place that their sign claims is “featuring Go-Go Dancers.” Leon looked at the sign, snorted and said, “More like Went-Went Dancers.”) It’s attached to an ice cream shop, and they carry all manner of sauces, dips, preserves, and dressings, as well as butter, cheese, and sweets. They had some onions and potatoes for sale, but it looks like they will really green things up later in the season.
Our next stop was Peter’s Farm Market. We started seeing more green here, mostly in the form of garden plants and flowers, though inside there were some more veggies for sale. They also had their own line of homemade jams, preserves, sauces, and dressings, but for us, their shining star was their bakery. There was an amazing array of fresh-from-the-oven pies and breads. We picked up small loaves of strawberry bread and blackberry bread, as well as a full-sized loaf of the softest sunflower whole wheat bread I’ve ever felt from a small bakery. We also learned from one of the folks there that the strawberry season, due to the quick rise in heat, will sadly be a little short this year. It seems that the prime time for strawberries is coming very quickly this year and won’t last as long. Get ‘em while they’re good!
Our final stop was Bambi’s Farm Market, who open on May 1 and close up for the season on Halloween. They’re about five minutes north of Circleville, and they were stocked with a great array of produce, most of it imported from climates where the growing season starts earlier. They did, however, have a great selection of local jarred goods and honeys. The produce they did have, though, was at a good price and looked and smelled fantastic.
Farmers markets all over the city started this weekend, and while they’re nice and convenient, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city as well. There are a ton of places to see within a very short drive of the city. Our adventure – one that will be repeated a few times throughout the summer – was less than a 45-minute drive from our home in Whitehall. These places, and dozens like them in all directions, are closer than you may realize. Check out Local Matters, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and the OSU Extension Service for more possible farm stand possibilities.