I have a passion for exploring local agriculture when I travel, and that passion started at home here in Ohio. Today I share local farmer’s markets to visit in Southwest Ohio, my favorite stops between Dayton and Cincinnati. Whether on a farm, side of the road, or smack dab in the city, these places are full of local quality and charm.
When I think about summers in Ohio, the first thing that comes to mind is corn. Yeah, I know. It may not seem that exciting to most. But when I see a cornfield, it’s like home. I grew up surrounded by these fields, and I can’t help but think they are beautiful. The way an orangey sun hits the slightly grassy tops at sunrise or sunset, or how the precise corn lines faintly shift in the breeze…it’s all simply breathtaking. If you don’t believe me, you’ve probably never watched Field of Dreams. And if you’ve never watched Field of Dreams, you’ll want to get on that.
Cornfields have always provided a marker of sorts for the progression of summer. For instance, by the end of May, the fields fill with tiny baby stalks, a signal to the start of summer. By mid-June, you’re ankle-deep in green. It’s around this time you’ll hear us local folks making bets on whether the fields will make it to “knee-high by the 4th of July,” which, by the way, they almost always do. By August, the corn is well over your head, and for kids, the dread of returning to school soon kicks in. Soaking up summers in the midwest means appreciating those cornfields. And you don’t wish the stalks to grow any quicker.
Now that I’m an adult, the fields aren’t signaling the end or beginning of summer break, but time in general, which seems to move a little quicker every year. Here we are in August, and as fast as the month goes, it’s as sweet as a latticed fruit pie. It’s definitely my favorite month at the farmer’s markets. All that colorful produce, at its peak and abundance, is a feast for the eyes.
Rows of sun-ripened watermelon, corn, peaches, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers… Baskets of jewel-toned cherries and berries… Bouquets of candy-colored wildflowers, sunflowers, and zinnias…
Some of the love I share for Ohio’s agriculture is a bit of nostalgia, I presume. I grew up around farms and homegrown gardens. (Legend is I’d gnaw on green onions straight from the ground before I had all my baby teeth.) Summers were spent shucking, peeling, slicing, crunching. Whatever our family gardens lacked, the local farms made up for it. I knew which familiar fields we’d be visiting by July for a bagful of freshly picked sweet corn, peaches, and watermelon. At least every other week, we’d be driving up a dirt road towards a barn or stand holding our fresh picks.
And now, every summer, I return to these familiar farms and downtown markets between Cincinnati and Dayton, seeking out the freshest bounty Ohio’s soil will grow. Some have changed a bit, dressing themselves up over the years. Others have remained unchanged. Regardless, the list of quality suppliers only grows. Here are my favorite farmer’s markets in southwest Ohio and the highlights that keep me coming back!