Celebrate Summer Exploring Ohio’s Farmers Markets

When it comes to a leisurely day of strolling and shopping for the season’s freshest produce and homemade baked goods and treats, there’s nothing better than a visit to the local farmers market.


With its seasonal climate, and ample agriculture, Ohio yields a bounty of bustling farmers markets, making these businesses a statewide shopping destination. Some of these markets enjoy a storied history, serving their communities for multiple decades or even centuries, but market staff and vendors all seem to agree that these markets play an integral role in their communities’ culinary cultures.


The Toledo Farmers’ Market was founded in 1832 in downtown Toledo as a central shopping and wholesale hub. More than 190 years later, the year-round downtown market is still a favorite Saturday attraction, with a seasonal second location operating on Wednesday afternoons, said Laura Rufenacht, Toledo Farmers’ Market vendor and former board member.



Rufenacht and her husband, Doug, own Majestic Oak Winery in Grand Rapids, Ohio, and have been market members since 2017. She said the market has had a huge impact on their winery business and offers an alternative venue for wine tastings which attract additional customers. “The energy is just so amazing. It’s a great cross section of northwest Ohio’s community. We have such a great mix of vendors. We have everything from mushrooms, wine, micro greens, regular produce, baked goods, sauces and jams, popcorn, and even dog treats,” Rufenacht said.



Bauman Orchards, located in Rittman – near Akron – also enjoys a long history dating back to 1929. The farm now spans more than 250 acres with nearly 100,000 apple trees in 25 different varieties. The market is open year-round and hosts annual family-friendly activities, including a 5K race, yoga in the orchards, and apple, strawberry and blueberry picking, said Jessica Bert, Bauman Orchards’ marketing and promotions manager. www.baumanorchards.com


In Central Ohio, the Worthington Farmers Market, near Columbus, was recently named one of USA Today’s “10 Best Farmers Markets Across the Nation.” The market was formed in 1987 by Old Worthington Businesses to attract traffic to Worthington’s historic district. It’s one of central Ohio’s largest farmers markets with more than 100 area vendors, said Chelsea Kayse, Worthington Farmers Market manager. www.experienceworthington.com/worthingtonfarmersmarket


In Southeast Ohio, the Athens Farmers Market was named one of America’s favorite farmers markets – and ranked Number 1 in Ohio – by America’s Farmers Market Celebration and the Famers Market Coalition in 2022. The year-round market has been a part of the Athens community since 1972 and showcases local artisans and fresh, local foods from more than 60 vendors, most of which are located within 50 miles of Athens, said Tanya Hire, Athens Farmers Market manager. “It’s like an outdoor supermarket. You can basically get anything you can get in the store, but it’s all here. It’s nutrient-dense and direct to the consumer,” Hire said.



Emma Visnic, director of communications and marketing at the Cleveland-based North Union Farmers Market, said farmers markets offer a unique and intimate opportunity for guests to interact with the farmers and vendors and serve as a natural business incubator. “At the market, you are talking to the farmers who grow the food. You really get a chance to talk to them and hear about their food and maybe get a favorite recipe. A lot of successful businesses have come from the market, and we are really glad to share their stories,” Visnic said.


The North Union Farmers Market network includes nine locations in the Cleveland area, with the largest year-round market on Saturdays on Shaker Square in Shaker Heights. www.northunionfarmeresmarket.org


The North Union Farmers Market is a “certified producer only” market, meaning the market staff is trained to ensure each vendor is selling foods they have raised or prepared themselves. Each vendor is subject to a rigorous inspection process that includes an onsite farm or vendor visit. Each participating farm submits a crop list and site plan after their farm certification. Certification requires lease or ownership records, seed receipts, number of acres under production, site location, and approximate harvest.


Now in its 29th year of business, the market is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and features nearly 300 vendors in its network, including fresh produce, fruits, meats, poultry and even specialty items like buffalo meat, fresh turkeys, mead, and pickled vegetables. The market also features arts and crafts curated from local artisans, and appearances by local chefs, Visnic said.


Tom and Wendy Wiandt, owners of Killbuck Valley Mushrooms, Ltd. of Burbank, Ohio, sell hundreds of pounds of their homegrown mushrooms each week at the North Union Farmers Market. Their mushroom business has become so busy, it has enabled Tom, a former engineer, and Wendy, a former medical lab worker, to redirect their careers to full-time farming.


Tom said he loves the opportunity to interact with guests weekly, sharing samples of freshly prepared mushrooms and stories about his “fungal green thumb.” “It’s fun to teach people about these organisms and their educational aspect. When people learn about mushrooms, you get so much enthusiasm. I have kids that come back years later that say they remember me,” Tom said.



Billy Ritter, a Cleveland-based ceramic artist and potter, has been a vendor at the North Union Farmers Market for nearly eight years. The market is a “visual spectacle” that provides an opportunity to interact with guests and other local farmers and business owners, he said. “I have great respect for the farmers and businesses that take to the street. The great meaning of finding the town you are in is finding the eco source and finding the habitat. The way the world started is with farmers and artisans, and that’s what this (the market) is,” Ritter said.



This summer, make it a point to stop at one – or a few – of Ohio’s abundant farmers markets to experience the colorful flavors in their full seasonal splendor. You – and your taste buds – won’t be disappointed, and it can be a fun and social way to support the local economy.

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