Ashtabula Local Food focuses on three distinct areas of local food work: Community, Growers, and Policy. In 2015, we worked primarily to “get off the ground”. We established an online Local Food Guide for Ashtabula County, hosted a Growers Summit, began a Food Hub Feasibility study, started Geneva Farmers Market, held a Local Food fundraising event, hosted a summer film series, and held a canning workshop for Ashtabula County Community Action Agency’s My Neighborhood.
In 2016, we emphasized community education efforts, took further steps to increase food access in Ashtabula County, cooperatively marketed area farmers markets, and hosted a series of farm tours.
In 2017, we broadened our Ashtabula Cooks! programming and continued our summer farm tours. We also incubated Community Harvest Food Hub, an aggregation service designed to serve the unique needs of Ashtabula County. We also supported increased local food market access by fundraising for a SNAP matching program at Geneva Farmers Market, and hosted County Canning Week.
To launch 2018, we hosted a local food forum to kickoff the Ashtabula County Local Food Policy Audit, a project coordinated with Ashtabula County Community Action Agency. We are also adding 3 classes to our seasonal eating course, creating a Cooking 101 series, and designing a curriculum for youth in Ashtabula Cooks!
2020, and the onset of Covid-19, brought on a host of local food access, public health and racial concerns. We asked ourselves, what can we do as a community at this time that is proactive? We decided to start a webinar series to improve community resilience and food security through home gardening. The series, Ashtabula Grows! an online community garden with weekly classes with instruction from local NE Ohio experts on Zoom, a private facebook group where we can share weekly progress, concerns and insights and, through a grant from The Pollination Project, give away free garden kits (we gave away 27 such kits) which included plant starts, seeds, organic fertilizer and soil. The series has included classes on starting seeds, soils of Ashtabula County, composting, worm bins for compost, what to do with weeds, time banking as a means to improve community resilience, herb growing, “putting your garden to bed,” and a host of others. We have collaborating on the webinar series with the Ashtabula Master Gardeners, OSU extension, the Ashtabula Local Food coordinator and with Community Counseling.
Every food system has a series of vital parts, but we consider it our highest priority to focus on the growers that produce our food and the communities they serve. Ashtabula County has a proud heritage of food, and we hope to celebrate and expand that great tradition.