As my husband and I begin a new adventure in the Cincinnati area, I have found myself
navigating in search of tasty local foods, restaurants, and artisans. In my former life, near Madison, Wisconsin, I was already established as a known patron and locavore. I had a vast knowledge of area growers, dined at restaurants where the chefs were my friends, and knew where to purchase the best of the best at the market for my Sunday dinner. Now as I immerse myself into the Central Ohio River Valley culture, I am in search of those same local greats in my food selections and dining experiences.
Prior to moving to Ohio, a good friend offered the advice, “Try not to compare the new to the old, rather look for positives in both.” I take this advice. (*I feel I must offer a full disclosure, I am missing the cheese) and recommend doing the same while establishing your new community. Celebrate the unique offerings of your area.
“Do you like pawpaws?” “Excuse me, what?” How have I, a self-proclaimed fruit aficionado, never even heard of this wonderful fruit? If this unique offering isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is!
My love of quality local food coupled with my love of learning has been my proverbial
cheese-laden comfort food in this serving of uncertainty in an unfamiliar territory. In
other words, my research into the local food scene has brought me a sense of comfort and
appreciation for this area. It is because of this, that I provide my experiences and advice for others who may also be in search of new food experiences, or interested in learning more about the local markets.
Below are a few kernels of advice for navigating your local:
Do a little research
Start with a simple online web search, and use social media to find groups, organizations, and business that support your local food movement. Once you find a few good sources via social media, additional helpful suggestions often show up in your feed, and many local entities support and promote each other online. Frequently, regions have print or online resources. Our local area is fortunate to have the annual CORV local food guide available. It contains the areas markets, farms, and artisan producers.
Keep your eyes open
Always be on the lookout for events featuring local items. Often upcoming events will post signage in the area. I recommend snapping a photo to get the details down. Later, make a plan to visit your find. Many local restaurants and businesses proudly promote their local proprietors. Take note of the producers they feature, and try to find out where those products are available to you. Lookout for those businesses that wave their local flag proudly!
Farmers’ markets are an amazing opportunity to have the local bounty available at one central location. Each area farmer’s market has its own unique offerings. The booths filled with the season’s best are any locavore’s dream. That being said, there is also something personalized about going to the source.
To satisfy my annual autumn craving for fresh apples, my husband and I ventured out to Midland to A&M Farm Orchard. A&M is rustic and charming with friendly people, several varieties of apples, pumpkins, homemade jams, jellies, and cider, all in a quaint country setting. Whenever given the opportunity to spend time at a farm, you should do it. Seeing first-hand the faces, passion, and work that goes into producing a harvest instills a greater understanding of the value of buying local. When you are able to look your producer in the eye, chat with them, and take something home straight from the source, it can truly be an affirming experience.
Learn and take advice from those within your community whenever afforded the opportunity. If you want to learn about what’s available locally, ask. See what your neighbor, co-worker, or friend recommends. Ask your local grocer what they sell that was locally produced. Often times when a store sees demand for a product or category, they are more inclined to offer it. If you can’t stop thinking about the jalapeno hushpuppies you had at Cozy’s, ask your server for more information about them. You’ll be delighted to learn you can locally procure your own Carriage House cornmeal, and attempt this tasty recipe at home.
So now you found a local gem. Awesome! Spread the word to anyone who will listen. The more successful your favorite local farms, markets, restaurants, etc. are, the more likely they can be sustainable for the future. When you are fortunate enough to find a quality establishment, patronize them and encourage others to do the same. Making the connection of local food producers and artisans encourages one to root into the new area. You can really learn a lot about a place based on its food. Food can be a glimpse into the culture and history of a region. Investing in items offered locally, demonstrates a deep degree of respect for the area. When you keep your money in the area where you choose to live, it provides a statement that you value your community and what it has to offer.
In the end I still have much to discover about the bounty the Central Ohio River Valley has to offer, but I am optimistic about what is to come, and the opportunity to navigate my new local.
Haley Shutter recently moved to the Cincinnati area from southern Wisconsin, near Madison with her husband Chase. Professionally, she has worked as a director of a childcare center, developing the nutrition and children’s garden programs. She enjoys volunteering for the leadership board of Granny’s Garden School in Loveland, OH. Her passions and hobbies include: gardening, cooking, and traveling.