North Union Farmers Market Champions Local Foods Year Round
by Donita Anderson
North Union Farmers Market carries on the traditions of the North Union Shakers by championing local foods and operating authentic, certified, producer-only farmers markets. The market offers programming that teaches consumers about the taste and health benefits of eating fresh and locally grown seasonal produce, improves the regional economy by creating vibrant community spaces, and enhances the environment and economy by enabling small farms to sell directly to consumers.
In 2011, there were more than 95 farmers, 40 artisans and 50 food purveyors that participated in the six markets run by the North Union Farmers Market. North Union has incubated more than 300 small businesses in Northeast Ohio since its inception in 1995.
More than ten years ago it became clear that our dedicated shoppers were craving local farm products in the winter months and local farms were beginning to store their abundance and produce from hoophouse operations, greenhouses and high tunnels year round and needed an outlet for their products. This was the beginning of the North Union’s Indoor Winter Farmer’s Market at Shaker Square in Cleveland.
Fortunately, several other important factors came together to make this indoor market a reality. The developer/ owner of Shaker Square provided the market space to use. A large enough group of farmers agreed to participate and drive to the market through winter’s unpredictable and sometimes wild weather conditions. And, through a survey to our customers, we were confident that the farms would “sell the whole truckload” if there was a winter market.
In 2011, farmers encountered huge challenges with record rains in Northeast Ohio that broke the 1871 record of 78.5 inches of rain in one year. Many of the farms in our program lost acres of crops and couldn’t attend markets. Farms that were starting for the first time this year just dropped out, because they didn’t have the ability to control the damage from the tumult of rain, hail and tornadoes.
We were fearful we wouldn’t have enough product to have the Indoor Winter Farmers Market in 2012. Luckily many of the farms were able to plant late crops and grow for this market to hopefully recoup losses from the 2011 season. We are extremely happy with the farm participation and shopper turnout so far this season, and hopeful even more people will come out this winter to buy our farm fresh products.
Throughout the three months of the winter market, 30 farms will be represented. The winter market is doing so well that in 2013 we will have a winter market on the west side of Cleveland as well.
At the winter market you can find more than 12 different types of dried beans, Gold Rush apples along with six other varieties, delicata squash, acorn squash, hubbard squashes, artisan goat and sheeps milk cheeses, butter, unhomogenized milk, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, turnips, beets, lettuces, tatsoi, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, spinach, kale, mushrooms, sunchokes, herbs, eggs, grassfed beef, pasture raised pork, lamb, free range chickens, along with local foods, bakeries and artists.
This market is not only a great way to access local farm fresh foods in the winter, but it is a gathering place that has a direct effect on the local retail district of Shaker Square. Deweys Coffee Cafe is packed with shoppers sipping hot beverages and noshing on baked goods and popcorn. CVS employees say it’s the busiest time of the week for their store. The local restaurant Yours Truly is filled with market shoppers. Farmers markets are an excellent way to help establish economic vitality to local areas.
Winter farmers markets create stronger farms by helping farmers make mortgage payments in the winter, having more dollars to invest in their business and keeping the relationship with their customers going all year round.
Be sure to experience this community building indoor farmers market every Saturday until March 24 from 9 a.m. to noon in the two storefront spaces between Deweys Coffee Cafe and CVS on the Northeast quadrant of Shaker Square.
For more information, click here.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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