Corridor Farmer's Market
This is where StarkFresh began. It all started with the Corridor Farmers Market in 2011 when the Stark Social Workers Network reached out for help with their fledgling farmers market in Northeast Canton.
The premise was that we were going to remove the barriers to participate and attend a farmers market and in doing so, remove the perception that farmers market are only for white, privileged customers.
We invited local farmers, backyard growers, home bakers to attend the market with a low entry cost and all they needed to bring were their wares as we would have their canopies, tables, chairs and payment processing all in place for them. The market was a great success, bringing food into an area that people don’t regularly think about having fresh, high quality food and creating a real gathering place within the neighborhood for a few hours each week.
In 2017, instead of continuing with the Corridor Farmers Market, we decided to focus our energy on expanding our Mobile Grocery Market initiative, which reaches far more community members than the stationary market was able to reach. The Mobile Grocery Market still sources product from some of these same vendors and we still have stops near to where the stationary market was originally located.
Backyard Gardening Program
In 2012, this program saw 50 families from the North East Canton area successfully learn how to grow their own vegetables right in their own backyards.
The success of this program is ongoing as many of the families from this program have gone on to teach others what they have learned at the Urban Teaching Farm and at other workshops throughout the area.
Monthly Film Series
In 2015, after hearing from Market attendees and community members, we started a monthly documentary film series. The evening consisted of a community discussion and film screening.
In 2017, instead of holding regular, monthly screenings at a central location, we decided to assist with hosting additional film screenings and discussion at partner agencies locations, tied to specific programs and events.
In 2016 we added a CSA component to our Veggie Mobile operation. Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) worked a bit different than other CSAs. A traditional CSA works like this, a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “subscription”) and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. The largest complaint we heard from traditional CSA members was that they received items in their box that they did not care for.
We thought that if we could remove that risk and provide options for people, that we could improve upon the traditional CSA model. From this, our Market CSA model emerged.
With our Market CSA, you still paid up-front for a share, but for that share you were given a set amount of “store credits” that you could use to purchase produce from any of our Veggie Mobile stops. There were no limits to what produce you could purchase with your credits, creating a better CSA experience.
In 2018 we discontinued this model in favor of simplicity. By this time we had made our individual Mobile Grocery Market stops more efficient and this program created longer wait times for all customers. Because our pricing was so affordable, the need for the CSA program was no longer needed.
In 2017 we added another offering to the public, the On-Demand CSA. The On-Demand CSA was similar to how the Market CSA operates in that consumers could choose the produce that they wanted. How it differed is that consumers received a weekly “menu” of produce offerings available that week and they shopped from that menu, paying online in advance of their scheduled delivery date. This program was discontinued in 2018 and has been reconfigured as our Misfit Market Box initiative, which although similar, is better suited for existing workplace wellness policies.
When we started our Mobile Market we realized that running a mobile farmers market was very different than a stationary farmers market in that we not only would be driving around and had to keep things refrigerated but how would we source the food that we were selling?
A typical farmers market is made up of outside vendors who sell their own products. We saw the need to engage local farmers to form a grower’s cooperative to tackle this problem.
The grower’s cooperative was made up of a mix of local farmers, community and home gardeners. This allowed the producers to earn extra money and keep the money being earned right back in the same community where it was being spent.
The StarkFresh urban farming locations also provided a good amount of produce to the grower’s cooperative.
In 2018, we started sourcing food for our Mobile Grocery Market from other, more traditional wholesale food channels. This was done for several reasons, the first being that the growing season in Ohio is only a few months long and we were looking at finding a way to have fresh fruit and vegetables available for the entire year, not just seasonally.
The second was that we found ourselves assisting the farmers we were working with to find other outlets for their product, in order to get them higher prices for their product than what we were able to pay for our Mobile Grocery Market, where we tend to have rock-bottom pricing.
In 2019 the formal structure of the Growers Cooperative no longer exists but has led to a more enriching relationship between the farmers that initially were in the Cooperative. We still work with many of them, and we continue to find new growers that we can help find retail and wholesale outlets for their product. This allows us to still be able to keep a variety of that same product on our Mobile Grocery Market, which ultimately ends up being consumed throughout the community in which it was grown. This is exactly what the intention of the Grower’s Cooperative was, and we are happy to see it’s legacy living on.
Urban Farm Vegetable Pick-Your-Own
In 2017 we thought we would add a pick-your-own option for people wanting to come visit our urban farm and really connect with the produce that they were purchasing. The pick-your- own option was available at scheduled times and open by appointment. We had two people contact us over the course of two years, with one person wanting to pick pumpkins, which we did not grow. We discontinued this program in 2018 and focused our efforts elsewhere.
JRC Learning Garden
In 2015, StarkFresh helped JRC’s Learning Center take an underutilized outdoor space and turn it into a Learning Garden. Built with volunteers and manned by students and staff, this space boasted native habitats, bird feeders, water fountain, a sensory circle and loads of fresh vegetables within a safe, vibrant space.
The garden was to be used in conjunction with their healthy eating initiatives and was created according to their guidelines, needs and approval.
After initially using our expertise in helping build the garden, and teaching the staff how to care for it, StarkFresh turned over the management of the garden to JRC to continue with.
Edible Park Oasis
In 2015 we were asked by our friends at Deli Ohio to assist with creating a pocket park using their unusable, damaged parking lot. We proposed not only creating a placemaking space, full of a artwork, and seating, but also to incorporate a way for people to snack on vegetables that they could pick whenever they were ripe. Thankfully, they agreed and the Edible Oasis was created.
Over the course of two fall weekends, over 100 community volunteers gave their sweat equity to build the Oasis, rendering the space virtually unrecognizable from what it was before.
The space has undergone a few changes since we installed the park and we are pleased to see it grow and adapt to the needs of the immediate community.
After helping design and install the Oasis, management and maintenance was turned over to Deli Ohio to continue with. Every year, volunteers grow vegetable seedlings from our Seed Library to plant into the Oasis, keeping it’s edible tradition alive.
Labyrinth & Edible Orchard
This was yet another placemaking project that we were asked to help in designing and creating, in 2015. StarkFresh helped the YWCA transform an empty lot into a space that could be used for their clients to grow some food, relax and have some joy infused into their daily lives.
Designed to the needs and desires of the YWCA leadership at the time, the space was fitted with a walking labyrinth, minimal seating and some fruit trees alongside a large mural telling people to “Be the Change”.
After initially using our expertise in helping build this pocket park out, the YWCA experienced leadership changes and their needs differed from the direction of the previous leadership. After finishing the space, management was turned over to the YWCA. Since then, the space has seen changes with the original seating and labyrinth removed and different raised beds installed.
The orchard was pared down during the initial build-out due to”safety” concerns by the changing leadership and was never fully realized.