Two century-old agri-businesses in Seneca County have teamed up to provide the community with convenient access to locally-grown fruits and vegetables - and flowers.
Mark and Sally Wagner of Wagner's Floral Co. and John and Diane Riehm of Riehm's Farms are working together to provide a pickup point for Riehms community supported agriculture shares - better known as CSA.
The partners invite people interested in learning about the CSA program to a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Wagner's Floral, 907 Greenfield St.
PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON
Local business owners (from left) Mark Wagner, John Riehm, Diane Riehm and Sally Wagner pose in the Riehm Farms display at Wagner’s greenhouse. For information on buying food locally through a CSA, attend a meeting at Wagner’s at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"The public is invited to come to the greenhouse to learn more about CSAs and learn how we're working together - and learn how to eat healthier," said Diane of Riehm Farms, SR 53 near Old Fort.
The families began getting the idea for a cooperate effort when Mark and Sally's daughter, Andrea, was in charge of a fun run at Riehms farm two years ago.
The run raised money for a local food pantry, and Sally worked with her daughter on the project.
"And that is when I met John and Diane," Sally said.
When they started talking, John and Mark discovered they could work together to get seedlings started and the conversation continued to becoming a CSA pick-up point for Riehms.
The arrangement provides a Tiffin location for residents to pick up weekly CSA shares of fruit and vegetables, and it will increase potential customer traffic at Wagner's.
"It's a convenient place right here in town," Sally said. "They have a place to pick up their food and get some flowers too."
CSAs are shares of seasonal fruit and vegetables grown by Riehms that customers pick up once a week. A sampling of the items included in the weekly "grocery bag" at various times include asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, dill, eggplant, green beans, heirloom tomatoes, herbs, kale, lettuce, melons, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, squash, sweet corn and zucchini.
The four have placed a display in Wagner's greenhouse to encourage people to shop locally.
"We're trying to get the kids more involved," Sally said. "Getting kids involved also gets parents involved."
The display includes a simulation where children can "milk a cow" and learn where milk comes from, and they can "pet the pigs."
"There's a potting bench where kids can plant their own little plant to take home," Sally said. "This is one place they're allowed to get dirty. God made dirt and it don't hurt."
"For us, it's basically just to get people into the idea of where their food comes from," Mark said. "It starts in a greenhouse, goes to the field to grow. From seed to fruit."
For example, tomato seeds grown by Riehms are started at Wagner's. When they're ready, the plants are taken to Riehms to be planted. They then grow and produce tomatoes.
"And they end up back here for distribution," John said.
For the rest of the community to enjoy," Diane added.
"It gives people an idea of what plants are available too, if they want to grow their own vegetables," Mark said. "How can we serve this community a little bit better? How can they know what we do?"
"Believe it nor not about 10 percent of CSA members are home gardeners," Diane said. "They have a couple of things in their gardens, but they want to eat a variety."
The partners cited recent studies that show less than 1 percent of food dollars spent by Ohioans remain in Ohio.
"We're not buying from our local farmer," Diane said. "That's kind of the concept behind CSAs."
Locally-grown vegetables can be ripened in the field instead of harvested green so they can survive being shipped thousands of miles from California or Mexico.
"Vine-ripened fruits and vegetables have more nutritional value and more flavor," John said. "I think the people need to be aware of it."
He said people should also be aware that food grown in other countries isn't held to the same standards as food grown in the United States.
"We haven't implemented the country of origin labeling laws," he said. "Some countries are still using chemicals that were banned in the United States 20 years ago."
The same philosophy carries over into other food products, Mark said.
"See that 'brown eggs' sign that sits out by the side of the road?" he said. "Stop in an buy those."
Supporting local businesses supports other local businesses, they said. Business owners then can buy the supplies and services from other local businesses.
"It's about how we can keep more of those dollars here," John said. "And how can we shorten the chain from the farm to the table."
For more information on Riehm's CSA, visit funacres.net, call (419) 992-4392, email riehm