In Columbus, Ohio, for example, where I spent a few days not too long ago, here’s what you can buy under one big roof: a mango habanero Bavarian pretzel, bubble tea, goat cheese made in Cleveland, a Vietnamese bánh mi sandwich, and cherry lambic sorbet. Granted, this is one special roof, belonging to the not-for-profit North Market, a 19th century wooden structure packed with 35 different vendors. Outside the downtown structure, an outdoor farmer’s market takes place every Saturday featuring the handiwork of 22 different farmers. It reminded me of Toronto's great St. Lawrence Market.
Quiver Full Family Farm Buckeye popcorn.Rick Harrison Wolfe, who came on as North Market’s executive director earlier this year, was surprised at how developed the locavore movements was here: “I couldn’t believe how into it people are and how much they care” about where their food comes from, he notes. Part of it that may be due to the fact that if you drive 45 minutes from Columbus in any direction “you’ll hit a farm."
Doug Denny's The Fish Guy's shop.Although North Market, which began in 1876, is the oldest farmer’s market in the city, the boom in the local foods movement has led to a mini-tsunami of markets. Up until probably ten years ago, North Market was the only game in town, says Wolfe. “Now," he adds, "just about every enclave has some sort of farmer’s market. There’s a full schedule for farmers."
Increasing diversity—in the form of large influxes of Somali, Vietnamese and Latinos—has added color and excitement to the once white-bread food culture of the city, too.
Mike Kast''s Curds & Whey.Wolfe, who returned to his Ohio roots after a career in the fashion industry and a stint as a food truck owner, has also been impressed with a revitalized restaurant and drinks scene. “I’ve been back for almost three years,” he notes, “and during that time at least a dozen super-interesting things have popped up close to downtown, some in neighborhoods that are being revitalized because of these restaurants.” Ohio residents receiving food assistance can shop at the market. Old-school Ohio pizza at Rubino's.
One place he likes is Chris Crader and Bethany Lovell’s Harvest Pizzeria and craft cocktail bar Curio in the city’s German Village. While the traditional Ohio pizza (see photo above) sports a crust as thin and crispy as a cracker and cut into party squares, Harvest makes a thick-crust, chewier pizza showered with local meats and produce, many of the latter produced at the owners’ small farm.
For more on the local craft foods movement, check out the Columbus Experience.
The North Market is just one part of this scene, and one that Wolfe plans to grow selectively. With a finite amount of space in which to expand, he’s in the position of sifting through hundreds of applicants and selecting the best of the best upcoming food businesses, making the market an incubator for start-ups. “From this point on, it has to be about what do our guests need, what don’t we have?” explains Wolfe. If it’s not in that stack [of applicants], then I need to seek it out.”North Market
- 59 Spruce St.
- Columbus, OH 43215
- Website: http://www.northmarket.com