By: Katie Sobiech
With documentaries such as Food Inc., and TV shows like Food Revolution, organic options seem to be growing in stores. This movement is to educate and inspire healthier lives.
For two years, husband and wife Phil and Mindy Bartholomae have enjoyed their own farm in Homeworth, Ohio. Once a large dairy farm, it’s been cut down to 23 acres with a beautiful view and a driveway lined with apple trees.
“We’ve had a chance to live in Europe and we love to cook; we’re foodies. We realized not only did we prefer to grow food ourselves, but that we could get such a variety and learn so much about the whole food system,” Mindy said, on starting their farm.
Importance of Local Farmer’s Markets
“Knowing who grows your food is important. When you have the huge, mega-industrial farms or distribution centers that collect food from anywhere basically and package it and send it out, you have a high risk of contamination with E-coli and things like that,” Phil explained.
Farmers all across Ohio gather weekly at the Countryside Conservancy at Howe Meadow, making it easy for consumers to become well acquainted with those who grow their food.
“The Conservancy is a great market. It’s had a great turn out, a ton of people, and at a beautiful location,” Phil said.
The Countryside Conservancy has an organic certification; they also do a thorough background check on their vendors.
“A good farmers market should go out and check their vendors, and the Conservancy does. It’s strict, you have to have liability insurance – and they should be strict,” Mindy said.
“A farmers market is hopefully about getting to know your farmer, getting to trust them, and not just buying from anybody that sets up a card table with a bunch of produce,” she continued, “It’s about developing a relationship because you are giving them stuff that they put in their bodies, so I think that’s important.”
“The farmers markets are so great for building that community and keeping contact with the customer,” Phil added, “The other thing that’s been great for us is meeting the other farmers, learning from them and finding out what they’re doing.”
Benefits of Local Food
One of Phil and Mindy’s biggest sellers is their fresh-picked salad mix which is organically grown and free of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals.
“When you go to the grocery store and buy pre-packaged lettuce it’s actually been packaged at a facility where humans can’t even live. They have to purge all the air out because it can’t have any oxygen in it, and they package it under nitrogen or some gas and more than likely put chemicals on it to make sure it doesn’t get spoiled. It’s a whole different product,” Phil said.
With the local farm markets you won’t find any of that.
“What you’ll find in some of these small (farm) towns is most of the people have grown up here and have been here all of their lives. We’re the out-of-towners, but they are wonderful people; so resourceful and helpful. If we need something for the tractor they’ll bring it right over,” Phil said.
The couple has leased part their pasture and barn to a neighbor who has six dairy cows.
“Neither of us grew up on a farm. A lot of the people around here inherit that knowledge from their family. We are more academic about it; we do a lot of reading. A man named Elliot Coleman has been a big resource for us and has a number of books,” Phil said.
Starting Your Own Farm
For those interested in starting their own farm, Phil, who worked for BP for 25 years, says “We work pretty hard. I spent my life in front of a PC in a cubicle. It’s much different from having to work with your hands all day.”
“Farmers markets have been sky rocketing,” Mindy added, “We can’t begin to keep up with the demand. We’ve gotten such a response, which is great, so it’s certainly an invitation for more people to get in the business.”
“You can’t be afraid of hard work. Its hard work but it’s wonderful. We love it, it’s very rewarding. We love our life right now, it’s great,” Phil said.