On an eight-acre farm at the edge of Plain City, Barry Adler flips conventional notions of farming upside down. Fueled by a lifelong passion for horticulture and penchant for sustainable agriculture, Barry operates RainFresh Harvests, Central Ohio’s only greenhouse powered by a wind turbine and solar panels and heated with solar thermal collectors. It’s a dream realized through years of tireless work, widespread technological advancements and his own farming experience and, now, it’s one viable enough to supply more than a dozen local restaurants and businesses with fresh produce and herbs.
It was a brush with Northstar Café founder Kevin Malhame nearly 10 years ago that motivated Barry to make RainFresh a reality. Barry recalls Kevin mentioning “he was from Columbus and thinking about starting a restaurant that featured locally grown crops and I mentioned that I was thinking about growing herbs organically year-round in a small greenhouse and field operation. When he said he would be willing to buy all the herbs that I could grow, that was enough to get me motivated.” To this day, Barry grows greens and produce for Northstar Café, along with Third & Hollywood, Tucci’s, Matt the Miller’s and Columbus Whole Foods Markets, among others.
Barry had, prior to the fateful meeting, taken a close interest in the 1970s organic growing movement in California, studying biodynamic farming at the University of California, Santa Cruz before earning a master’s degree in Horticulture from Virginia Tech, which ultimately segued into a 22-year career at Scott’s Company in Marysville.
When land, time and an outsourced job at Scott’s provided an opportunity to implement his vision, Barry began a year and a half of research into bio-integrated greenhouses.
“I was also fortunate to be volunteering at Green Energy Ohio... when grants through the state of Ohio became available to reimburse expenses for developing renewable energy projects. This helped, along with a family loan, to get me into business growing in a renewable energy greenhouse of my own design,” Barry said.
From a distance, RainFresh Harvests and surrounding scenery are not unlike other nearby farms, on land no less bucolic. A large, barn-like structure anchors the property, a greenhouse sits close by, land is tilled for summer planting and a small pond reflects golden light. And, perhaps, this is a more marvelous component to Barry’s work—that powerful technologies and growing potential lie in unassuming spaces.
The largest, and arguably the most advanced, structure at RainFresh Harvests is the RainFresh green bio-shelter, which contains facilities for year-round growing, worm composting, aquaculture, rain water collection, herb drying and food processing. The green bio-shelter has operated off the grid since 2005, harnessing energy from solar panels on a south-facing roof and from a wind turbine onsite. Powered by the same alternative energy sources, radiant floor heating keeps temperatures steady through unpredictable winters.
Just beside the bio-shelter sits the passive solar green house, an unheated glass structure with ground insulation to take advantage of streaming sunlight and wintertime soil thermal mass.
In addition, Barry raises fish in an outdoor aquaculture pond.
“Right now I’m growing food fish,” Barry said of the pond stocked with blue gill and perch, though mosquito fish and koi have been farmed in past years.
Barry is able to extend the growing season for chosen crops utilizing the bio-integrated greenhouse year round and planting outdoor crops around late May each year. Quality crops, he said, “start with good varieties of seeds.” Healthy growing media and temperature regulation, and properties in the vermacompost (worm composting), help fend off diseases and give plants a nutritional advantage.
Herbs, including basil, spearmint, oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme, are picked young and washed three times before making their way to restaurants. Barry grows arugula and mizuna all year long, along with tomatoes, peppers and berries when seasonally viable. Despite the visibility in Whole Foods and on menus around town, Barry maintains a focus on meeting his current demands, and does not attend farmers markets or run a community supported agriculture program. The quality of his products, delivered in reusable containers to restaurants, depends on delivery within 24 hours, strict sorting standards and young, unmarred harvests.
What makes Barry’s operation so unique and environmentally viable is an interdependence that persists among all the elements on the farm.
“There is interaction between biological systems so that waste from one system is fertilizer for another system,” Barry said. Collected rainwater soaks the root systems of basil and other herb roots, before draining into fish tanks. Overflow water from the fish tanks is used on grass fed to ducks. Leftover grass is mixed with mulch and fed to worms, which in turn creates healthy compost and serves as food for fish and ducks. The processes are cyclical and efficient, eliminating a great deal of waste from each step of the growing process.
“There are advantages to using natural resources efficiently,” Barry said. “It’s a little more complex to do that. The challenge is to design things to stay in balance.”
RainFresh Harvests, structurally and logistically, stands to set an example for the future of farming in Ohio.
“The true advantage of growing this way is growing as efficiently as possible,” Barry said. “using as few non-renewable resources as possible.”
RainFresh Harvests: 9559 Industrial Parkway, Plain City, OH 43064; 614-738-9559; rainfreshharvests.com.
On Friday and Saturday May 10-11, Ohio State University's Chadwick Arboretum will host their annual Mother's Day Plant Sale, an opportunity to take home annuals, perennials and herbs from Ohio nurseries and support the gardens, which span 60 acres on the south side of Lane Avenue, just west of the Olentangy River. The two-day plant sale is Chadwick Arboretum's largest source of revenue for the year, and will host 19 visiting vendors, including native plants from Scioto Gardens and flower baskets, ideal for Mother's Day gifts. Look for compost bins, garden art, soaps, crafts and other artisanal items. Garden tool sharpening will be offered on site.
A childhood spent on 120 acres of land outside Granville, Ohio imbued Evelyn Frolking with a passion for uncompromisingly fresh food and the kind of self-sustaining lifestyle encompassed in farm life. Most recently, a fascination with small operation farming families led Evelyn to publish a book called, Homegrown: Stories from the Farm, which celebrated an official release on February 21 at the Granville Inn.
Evelyn's book delves into the nuances, struggles and beauty of local food production through the perspectives of six Ohio farming families: Ann and Tom Bird and their family of Bird's Haven Farms in Granville; Tom and Emma Stout of Osage Lane Creamery in Pataskala; Erin Harvey of The Kale Yard in Granville; Kathy and Rich Harrison of Skipping Stone Farm in Utica; Mike and Laura Laughlin of Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown; and Warren and Victoria Taylor of Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy.
Sheila Campbell, owner of A La Carte Food Tours, calls herself a "food tourist." She believes that in Columbus, a restaurant and market-rich city, there are always intriguing flavors left unturned. After working for three decades as a dietician and managing medical nutrition communications for a pharmaceuticals company, Sheila decided to funnel her passions for exploring and eating into A La Carte, which operates group food tours covering districts, markets, flavors, ethnicities and ingredients. Though private and customizable tours are offered through coordination with Sheila, regularly scheduled tours can accommodate up to 10 people.
The 2013 tour schedule is posted on A La Carte's website, and includes upcoming visits to gluten-free bakeries, a wide swath of ethnic markets, a "Tasting Tour of German Village" and, for a bit more indulgence, a week long culinary tour of Costa Rica, happening this November, when every one of us will be ready to escape from the cold.
Below, Sheila shares some pearls of wisdom from her experiences leading tours, and encourages everyone to visit their local ethnic markets for new and exciting ingredients.
How long have you owned the business?
I have been taking foodies to Costa Rica for the past four years. But I have been leading 3-hour, Columbus-area tours only since May 2012.
What do you like about running a business in Columbus?
Columbus is a tremendous town for food, so there are always new venues and providers to investigate.
What's the oddest request you've ever received?
"Can I bring my dog?" Of course, this is not so strange when the name of the A La Carte Food Tour of interest was "Doggie Delights." (http://www.alacartecolumbus.com/doggie-delights-a-gourmet-food-tour-for-columbus-canis-lupus-familiaris-lovers.html)
Brent and Melissa Jenkins saw an opportunity in the snack market they were eager to fill: Combining gluten-free foods with hassle-free home delivery. Co-founders of Sprig, a "100% Gluten Free Monthly Artisan Food Subscrption," Brent and Melissa curate a wide selection of healthful foods produced by artisanal makers across the country. Each month, participants receive a box in the mail filled with unique, small-batch snacks, all of which are gluten-free, while a vast majority are organic and vegan. Sprig boxes make it easier to branch out, amp up lunch boxes, make smarter afternoon snack choices and enjoy unique products that might otherwise be hard to find.
A sampling in a Sprig box might include: Organic dried fruit, salt and pepper sunflower seeds, rosemary and orange pecans, raw maple almonds, non-GMO popcorn, organic cocoa nibs, raw trail mix, gluten-free cookies, raw sesame chocolate bars, organic macaroons, gluten-free carrot chips, vegan chocolate, organic tortilla chips and more.
To sign up for the membership, visit www.sprigbox.com, choose their level of snackage ("Snacker," "Mini-Snacker," or "Grand Snacker") and await a delivery, which are sent out on the 10th of every month. Below, learn more about the Jenkins, their business, some of the most popuar products, and enjoy a recipe for hearty Broccoli and Mushrooms with Wild Rice.
How long have you owned the business?
What do you like about running a business in Columbus?
Columbus is a great mix of consumers for starting a business as well as testing a business. Due to the diversity of our business and also the vortex the Columbus food scene offers, we found that our business will thrive just locally with our vendors and partners.
What's the oddest request you've ever received?
Can we cater an event with our snacks!
What advice do you have for potential business owners?
Take a leap as soon as possible to starting your own passion.
Dave Filipi is Director of Film & Video at the Wexner Center for the Arts, where the fourth annual Field & Screen series will commence this February. The series takes a closer look at topics surrounding our food and environment, screening a number of films throughout the month, entirely open to the public. This year's films include the journeys of foragers, the radioactive repercussions of the 2011 Japanese tsunami, a popular safari park in Quebec and a look into our global sushi obsession, among others.
Along with regular film screenings, a panel discussion organized by Ohio State's Department of Art's Living Culture will follow the February 7 showing of "Covenant", which peers into raising livestock and the complexities of human-to-animal bonds. Before the Valentine's Day showing of "Step Up to the Plate", Heirloom Cafe, located inside the Wexner Center, will offer a special menu.
We are looking forward to this year's intriguing lineup, and we're pleased to learn more from curator Dave Filipi about the process of film selection, the origins of Field & Screen and which films are on his radar this year.
As long as she's been crafting gourmet chocolates, Stacey Peters has incorporated the flavors of local purveyors into her truffles and bars.
Featured in an article from our winter issue, Stacy describes how intrinsic Ohio-sourced ingredients are to her products and home-based company, O'Chocolate. “Chocolate is the perfect medium for exhibiting local vendors’ products. I find a unique local product and design a bar or truffle to showcase it.”
Last fall, Stacy collaborated with a handful of local producers to create the 614 Bar, celebrating our capital city from the packaging to the ingredients. An organic, fair trade dark chocolate provides the base for the bar. Peanuts from Krema Nut Company are roasted and candied with Sticky Pete's maple syrup. Then, subtle heat is added with Scotty McHotty's hot pepper blend, grown in Plain City by Scott Wheeler, husband of our Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Tricia! The sweet and spicy nuts are folded into the dark chocolate and finished with a smattering of currants and sea salt for balance. The result is a snappy bar nicknamed the "Surly Buckeye with Currants."
In October, brew master Matthew Barbee, his mother Judy Smalley, and stepfather Dennis Smalley were extraordinary kind to join Edible Columbus in hosting a progressive dinner on the grounds of their brewery. Surrounded by peak foliage and rolling hills still flushed with green, Rockmill Brewery was transformed to welcome 65 guests for an a meal celebrating the autumn harvest, seasonal ingredients and delicious beer.
In 2011, Celebrate Local opened with intentions of temporarily "popping up" for the holiday season. With around 65 original vendors, the store's goal of supporting small, Ohio-based businesses quickly gained momentum and garnered support. Now, Celebrate Local is celebrating the announcement of a new, permanent space in Easton Town Center, and is finding creative ways to incorporate 220+ vendors - a testament to its success.
Through the Christmas holiday, Celebrate Local will remain open at its current location in Easton's North District, situated between American Eagle and Kay Jewelers. Transition to the new space, one just shy of 3,000 square feet, will begin in January 2013. Co-Creator Heidi Maybruck expects a seamless move to the newly renovated storefront, which is located between Panera Bread and Restoration Hardware across from Crate & Barrel.
When Janine Aquino purchased Camelot Cellars last year, the Short North winery received quite the makeover. Janine helped usher in a rustic and welcoming aesthetic, complete with a handsome wooden bar and floor-to-ceiling "wall of wine" flanking one side of the room. Options for enjoying wine at Camelot Cellars run the gamut from wine flights to tastings at the bar, all the way to crafting personalized wine varietals, including custom label design.
Artisan cheese and charcuterie plates can be paired with wine choices, and include wines made in-house and from around the world. Outside the winery, Camelot Cellars is available at dozens of stores around Columbus, and is being poured at a handful of area restaurants. (Find the full listing here.) Janine generously pairs a red and white wine selection from Camelot Cellars with featured menus at our evening cooking classes, currently held at MI Homes in Easton. Beyond that, she's extraordinarily busy! See the full Camelot Cellars calendar for upcoming tastings, happy hours, music events, and dinners, including some regular tastings at Celebrate Local in Easton.
What is your role?
I am the Proprietor of Camelot Cellars Winery in the Short North Arts District
How long have you been in the business?
I bought Camelot February 2011, but have been involved with wine my entire life. I’m a fourth generation wine professional.