Monday, April 9, 2018

Farmers Market Turns Ten and Moves to New Home



The Fort Thomas Farmers Market has a new home for its tenth year - the Living Hope Baptist Church at 1080 Highland Avenue next to the library - and good things are growing.

The most notable will be that there will be more vendors than ever selling an array of handmade and farm grown goods. There won’t be any food trucks, but there will be food available courtesy of the church. There is plenty of parking at the church and the library next door.


When asked about the value of having a farmers market, Debbie Buckley, the Economic Development Director for Fort Thomas said, “It’s quality of life. Especially in a suburban community. We bring the farmers to the people so that folks can have fresh, local,  healthy produce and meats without driving to the rural areas to find it.”



This is Leigh Gorman’s third year as the Fort Thomas Farmers Market Manager. She says, “Our first market, June 6th, will have a ‘Happy Birthday Fort Thomas Farmers Market’ theme. We have a bouncy house donated by Maxwell Jump for the kids. Plus, every kid that comes to the market should stop by the FTFM booth for a gift in honor of our 10th birthday. We will have even more surprises, but people will have to come to find out.” 


And what should shoppers expect? “Don’t worry, everyone, Blue Oven Bakery is coming back! Currently I have 19 of our old farmers market vendors secured for this season, plus I have about ten new vendors trying to get into our market.” 


This will be Eric Keefe’s second year at the market. He owns SpringCreek Farm. Eric’s story is as entering as his products. He is married and has three kids; one is a Navy helicopter pilot, one is in graduate school, and another is in college. Having “two kids in college means I need to sell a lot. My wife is a physician’s assistant and I'm retired Army. We bought this farm in 2003, but didn't move onto it until mid-2004.  We call it Springcreek due to a spring here that has been reported to never go dry, and it hasn't in the 15 years we have had it. I started selling produce 6 years ago at the Mason County farmers market.  I have always had a small garden and over the years have stopped using chemicals on anything I grow.”  


SpringCreek Farm display.

Keefe adds that they will “make several value added products, relish, jalapeƱo jelly, cowboy candy, apple butter, and a few other things. This year I am adding an old fashioned pepper sauce that is excellent for seasoning greens or beans, and a fruit infused vinegar dressing to my lineup.  We are also starting a CSA this year. We are only looking for 15 members our first year just to get our feet wet.” 

This is the third year for Ryan Raised Beef at the market. Cody Ryan said, “My wife and I are both educators, living in Walton.  I grew up on the family farm, she is from Fort Thomas, but we decided about 6 years ago to try to make the farm something a little more productive.  We started out buying bull calves from a local dairy farm, not exactly sure what the end result would be.  We are both very passionate about food and sustainability so we decided to move in that direction, raising grass-fed and finished beef. 

Our cows are moved through temporary pastures every day or every two days during the summer months.  Chickens are similar in that we move them daily out on pasture so they can eat bugs and grass, scratching for their food and enjoying sunshine and fresh air.  Bottom line is we want to provide great quality beef and chicken, raised locally, raised sustainably, and raised humanely.  

Ryan Raised Farm has a commitment to creating sustainable, local, fresh food while maintaining and respecting the integrity of the animals we raise.  We strive to care for the land and raise truly happy and healthy animals. Toward the end of last year we were able to start providing whole chickens to our customers but numbers were very limited.  We are increasing our numbers this year and are excited to be able to offer whole chickens starting at the beginning of the market season!”
Ryan Raised Beef in the field

Anna Rains of Rains and Sun Hilltop Farm says, “We just started selling at Ft. Thomas last year (2017) and it was such a great experience!  It's a well-run market with great vendors and customers. We also like that it is a mid-week market, since there are so many markets on Saturdays.”

“My husband Steve and I started our farm in 2013. Farming is my full-time job, along with caring for our three children (luckily I have a lot of grandparent help with that too!).  Steve works full-time off the farm, but helps out plenty on nights and weekends.  I have a background in nutritional science and Steve in plant breeding.  I grew up in this area, but we met in grad school in Madison, WI.  We were inspired by all of the farmers' markets and local agriculture that was happening in that area.  


Roofing, gutters, siding, painting. 


When we moved to Northern KY to begin our own farm we knew that we wanted to be a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm.  In the CSA model, our members share in some of the risk and reward inherent in farming.  They pay for their shares ahead of the season, giving us much needed capital early in the year to buy seeds and supplies.  They then receive shares of our best vegetables each week (or every other week) over a 26 week season from May to November.  We love getting to know our CSA members and really enjoy the challenge of growing a nice mix of veggies to fill shares throughout the season.  The farmers' market has also become a really big part of our farm income in the past couple of years.  I love working markets and meeting the folks who eat our veggies.  Our best sellers at the Fort Thomas market are lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and beets, but we like to bring a bit of everything that we grow.’


Rains and Sun Hilltop Farm display

“We are growing more varieties of heritage tomatoes and lettuces this year.  We are also going to try to keep production of our popular salad mix going into further into the summer this year.  We've added more plantings of our super sweet carrots and beets to the crop calendar since we often sell out.We still have CSA shares available for this season and you can pick up your share at the market.”

The Fort Thomas Farmers Market was a great springboard to success for Lil’s Bagels. Gorman says, “We hate to not have Lil’s Bagels return, but we are very proud to have been a part of launching them into a permanent brick and mortar location in Covington.” 

The market opens the first week of June. Music will be provided by Antonio Salerno.

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