Countryside Farmers’ Market Volunteer Opportunities

Heather Roszczyk, market assistant

Email me today to join our team of wonderful volunteers!

Volunteer Positions for Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow


Volunteer and Chef Brian Doyle shakes things up. Photo by Gary Whipple.

Set-up (6:30am – 8:30am): Early birds only!  We need one or two volunteers to meet us in the meadow at the crack of dawn, help us unload our market van, and set up some tents and booths.  This job is great for those who want to get a jump on their day, or like to run or bike early in the park.  Involves some listing.

Parking (8:45 – 11:45am, or a portion thereof):  Don a stylish orange vest and work with other volunteers to direct traffic, guide customers to empty spaces, and help pedestrians cross the busy lot.  This is a great job for people who don’t like to sit still.  Friendliness is important – you are the very first market representatives to greet our customers!

Tear-down (12:00pm – 1:00pm):  At the end of the market, we can always use a few extra hands to tear down tents and reload the van.  Parking volunteers often stay to help with this, but it’s not a requirement  Again, this involves some lifting.

Special Event (variable):  Every so often we hold special events at the market and need extra help to manage them.  It may be anything from helping children decorate pumpkins to organizing entries in a pie contest.  This is great for people who can only help out once in a while.

Market Photographer (most flexible):  We are always looking for beautiful photos of our market to use in our newsletters and, occasionally, in publication.  If you’ve taken some gorgeous shots, give them to us in .jpg format and we’ll be sure to give you a photo credit whenever we use them!

Demo or Sous Chef (occasional, 8:30am – 11:30am):  We often have food enthusiasts demonstrate their favorite recipes at the market.  Occasionally they ask for a sous chef – someone to help with chopping, distributing samples, etc.  Or, if you are an outgoing, seasoned cook who would be interested in demonstrating an easy recipe or two at the market, let us know that too!

Musician (9:00am – 12:00pm):  Each week we enjoy the sounds of a different volunteer musician.  We welcome all styles of music, provided that it’s appropriate for the location and all ages.

Volunteer Positions for Countryside Farmers’ Market at Highland Square

Children’s Activities (3:30pm-7:00pm): Do you have a good rapport with small people?  Share your local food enthusiasm as you execute planned activities like scavenger hunts, gardening, cooking, and comparative tastings.  Duties may also include set-up/tear-down of children’s tent.  Please note that this position may require a background check.

Demo Chef (occasional, 3:30pm-6:30pm):  We often have food enthusiasts demonstrate their favorite recipes at the market.  If you are an outgoing, seasoned cook who would be interested in demonstrating an easy recipe or two at the market, let us know!  You need not be a trained chef – confident home cooks are welcome.

Set-up  (2:00pm – 4:00pm): Give us a hand unloading our truck and getting the booths set up.  Then, stick around to help the vendors unload as needed.  A lovely way to get to know your growers better!

Tear-down (7:00pm – 8:00pm):  At the end of the market, we and the vendors can always use a few extra hands to tear down our tents and reload our trucks.

Save The Date!

We will be seeking volunteers for the 11th Annual Summer Solstice Wine, Art, & Music Festival at Sarah’s Vineyard.  The festival dates are Friday, June 21 through Sunday, June 23.  Volunteers are needed to sell wine sampling tickets during shifts ranging from 2-3 hours in length.  More details about specific shift times will be sent in late May.

Family Traditions – Katie Myers-Griffith

I am not sure when, how, and why certain activities become traditions, but what I am sure of is the fact that our family traditions are something that I look forward to every holiday season.  My sister and I were sitting at the table trying to think of some of our family’s traditions, and my brother-in-law reminded me that our family has so many traditions…

Since Thanksgiving Day is still fresh in my mind, I will begin there.  Early in the morning, the ladies rise to make sure the turkey is ready to go in the oven.  tableSimultaneously, the men and boys are rising and preparing to hunt.  Rabbit hunting, every Thanksgiving morning.  The funny thing is, for quite a few years, the boys were coming back home empty-handed.  We ladies started to wonder what is actually happening at these rabbit hunts – that happen to take place on the best Greek baker’s farm in Spencer, Ohio?  After talking to said baker, we discovered the truth to these hunting trips.

Yes, the hunters arrive early (dressed in orange game vests and camo) to look for rabbits, but after about an hour…they all head back to the homestead for fresh (and requested) pie!  Oh yes, this baker actually calls them ahead of time to make sure that she is baking the right kind of pies;  Apple, Cheery, Pumpkin, Peach and even the occasional Rhubarb!  As the years have passed, and now that the secret is out, ALL of the men in the family, hunters and non-hunters, go rabbit hunting Thanksgiving morning!

jj rabbits

This year, the young hunters did come home with rabbits – to be smoked for Christmas dinner!

Another tradition at our house is simple, but fun!  Personalized name cards.  Creating these name cards has always been the job of the youngest, but capable girl in the family.  This year, my 18 year old niece was passing the job and tradition down to her 6 year old cousin!  In addition to the name cards, we have drinking glasses (12 of them) depicting the 12 Days of Christmas, and we must designate a glass to a person.  Hours of laughter fill the desicion- making process.  Who will be the lords a-leaping? One last, but very delicious tradition that we enjoy…raising our own Thanksgiving bird and other dishes at the table.   I look forward to carrying down traditions and making new ones.

What are some of your family traditions?

Passing on a love of cooking

by Beth Knorr, Market Manager

Toasting baguette slices to go with dinner.

Toasting baguette slices to go with dinner.

I think it all started when Maggie and I began watching old Julia Child shows together.  We decided that we wanted to try to make those dishes together – they sounded so delicious, Julia made it look so easy, and Maggie was really excited to learn how to cook.  Some of the dishes, however, were not things that we would realistically make frequently (chocolate mousse, as fun to make and delicious as it is, isn’t something in our regular rotation.)  I really wanted to encourage Maggie to be in the kitchen on a routine basis to gain confidence in her skills. So,  I started teaching her how to prepare the dishes she really enjoys eating.  She mastered omelettes, and we focused on having everything at the ready (mise en place) since that process moves so quickly once you get going. She can now prepare a nice breakfast or a quick weekend lunch for her and her brother.  We then moved on to pancakes, something we have nearly every Sunday morning at our house.  There were some glitches with pouring the batter and flipping them in the very beginning, but she manages to do a great job with them now- she looks for the bubbles to burst on top before flipping, and does so decisively.  We are currently working on meat sauce for pasta.  She’s coming along nicely, although the onion dicing is still challenging, mostly because it makes her cry! Also, while cooking the pasta is pretty straightforward, the adults in the house still have to do the draining since the pot is too heavy for her to safely lift and drain.  After one or two more “coached” sessions, I think she’ll be able to make a go of it on her own.

Maggie mastering the delicate art of pancake-flipping.

Maggie mastering the delicate art of pancake-flipping.

Overall, this method of teaching her basic dishes that she loves is working very well.  I love the idea that she will, over time, be equipped to make all her favorite foods.  We aren’t using recipes- and I go back and forth over whether we should be setting them to paper – mostly because I want to convey to her how flexible each dish can be, but also because I rarely make something exactly the same way twice.  I think the methods and the processes are more important than the actual recipes at this point. Also, we’re not on any kind of time table for mastering a particular dish.  We take the time she needs, and do it when she expresses interest.

Learning how to trim strawberries for jam.

Learning how to trim strawberries for jam.

The biggest thing I have learned about trying to teach a kid how to cook is to just roll with whatever happens.  Having a no-big-deal attitude if something doesn’t go exactly as planned shows her that cooking isn’t stressful and that mistakes can be delicious.   Maggie does best when she is the primary person in control, and I act as the coach. Like most kids her age she likes to be hands-on, so limiting my participation to quick yet clear demonstrations of new techniques or reminders of past ones seem to be most effective.  These cooking sessions are also the perfect time to talk with her about why I do what I do, and why I think supporting local farmers is so important.  We talk about who raised the chickens for the eggs, and talk about our visits to this or that farm.  There are ample opportunities to convey the impact that good quality food has on our lives during this special time together.

Omelette pride! With ketchup flair!

Omelette pride! With ketchup flair!

As we approach the holidays, I’m feeling a bit stymied.  We don’t have a “signature” dish for this time of year or any traditional family must-makes.  We typically change it up from year to year.  I’ve already learned from my past mistakes with the kids in the kitchen at the holidays.  (My type-A tendencies come out in full force while making sugar cookies, which I learned very quickly the first time I attempted making them with the kids.  They now get their own batch which they can destroy…I mean decorate any way they see fit.  It works much better that way.)  While cookies are fun to make and certainly a holiday stand-by, I’m searching for that nourishing, comforting dish that will remind Maggie  fondly, in years to come, of the holidays of her youth.

I’d love to hear about how you get your kids in the kitchen – during the holidays or otherwise – and what your favorite dishes to prepare with them are. And okay, inspire me with some of your traditional holiday dish love!

Locally Grown Kids

By Heather Roszczyk, Market Assistant

How much dirt can a 10-month-old safely ingest?  These are the kinds of questions on my mind these days as I contemplate the summer ahead.  Having just turned 6 months old, my son is not yet old enough to truly enjoy the plethora of kids’ activities in the area.  Instead, I’ll be bringing him along on my grown-up adventures – hiking (we already have the backpack, though we almost gave him frostbite on the trial run…oops), biking (we’re scouting around for one of those great front-facing seats), day trips up to Headlands, visits to the market, gardening, etc.  The gardening is what has me contemplating soil consumption – the entire world is one big chew toy from his perspective, and I have a feeling that while I’m ridding the plot of weeds, he’ll be hoovering up dirt like it’s a French delicacy.

Nose to tail eating starts early in our house.

But for kids of older, wiser years, there are plenty of other places to get out, get dirty, and have some fun.  Pick up a copy of the Spring Schedule of Events for CVNP and look beyond the towpath for information on all kinds of kids’ activities, from Junior Ranger bird watching, to fishing, to a special Easter egg hunt.  Several Countryside Initiative farms offer excellent children’s activities like the Blessing of the Sheep at Spicy Lamb Farm, or berry picking at Greenfield Berry Farms.  And all of the farms are a wonderful place to teach kids about where food comes from.  The Hershey Childrens’ Garden at the Cleveland Botanical Garden is well worth the trip, full of winding little paths and pint-sized hidden treasures.  There’s nothing like hitting one of the beaches on a hot summer day – perhaps with a little old-fashioned ice cream afterward?  (For grown-ups, the deliciousness of the bananas foster ice cream with homemade caramel sauce cannot be overemphasized.)  And of course, the Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow is a wonderful weekend destination.  With opening day just a month and a half away, we are looking forward to a new season full of friendly faces, fun activities (like the return of last year’s popular pie contest), and of course loads of delicious, local food.

Finally, don’t discount the fun that a backyard, a neighborhood patch of woods, or a grassy field can provide.  If you haven’t read Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, I highly recommend it.  Sometimes all it takes to fill a summer day is a miniature patch of wilderness and the freedom to explore it.  And dirt.  Lots of dirt.

Gearing up for a New Garden

by Beth Knorr, Farmers’ Market and Local Food Programs Manager

It’s been years since I’ve had to plan a garden. I have relied on my husband to bring home fresh produce from the farm for the past many, many years. Now that he is taking a hiatus, we’re putting on our thinking caps about how to make sure we have access to the same high-quality food to which we’ve become accustomed.

Luckily, I don’t have to sweat it too much- working at a farmers’ market does have its benefits, you know. But getting our kids into contact with food as it’s growing provides a bit of motivation for us to do at least some gardening at home.

Our yard is tricky- as I’m sure many of you can relate. We live in Cuyahoga Falls and are surrounded by mature trees. We have only a small patch of sun, and are going back and forth about raised beds vs. digging up a small section.  Given our situation, how do we make the most of the space we have? We probably only have a 3×10 section in which we could realistically grow anything. And while I have grandiose visions of a beautiful lush garden filled with everything I love to eat (fresh shell beans! eggplants! dried beans! blueberries! melons, oh beautiful juicy melons!!) I know that won’t fit into our schedule right now, and it most certainly doesn’t fit into our space.

Now, I love a fresh tomato, but they take up an enormous amount of real estate, and one plant doesn’t really produce enough. So while cherry tomatoes are all kinds of crazy, I know the kids love to snack on them- so we’ll likely put in a single plant (or maybe two) to satisfy our tomato love.

Eating a salad of some sort is a priority (well, at least I’m trying to make it one) so growing some cut-and-come-again salad mix makes sense for us. Salad mixes are somewhat expensive to buy, and they don’t always hold up well in the fridge, so being able to cut what we need will be a benefit. These have a relatively high turn-over rate, too. Two months tops and they’re out (after that they start tasting a bit funky), so the succession planting potential is high. Radishes and cilantro will likely follow the salad mix. Again, items with a quick turnover to help maximize the productivity of our space. Radishes are great snacks and cilantro goes well with nearly everything.

We love to cook with greens, so I think Swiss Chard or a kale with a small habit (such as cavolo nero or as my son loves to say- “Dino kale!”) will likely find its way into the plot. These are fantastic since you only have to plant them once and get a regular return on that small investment. 3-4 plants should do.

A longer-term investment (but not too long) will be carrots. Nothing beats a freshly dug carrot! Mokum is the variety we like- sweet and crisp, and their roots are not as long as our other favorite (Sugarsnax) so they should be fine in our heavy soil.

We love cooking with chiles and one of our favorite dishes is chiles rellenos, so we’ll be making space for 2-3 poblano pepper plants. These are a long-term investment, but we’ll likely be able to get a crop of cilantro or lettuce in around them before they get too big and create a shady canopy.  And the rewards are high for this one- peppers are typically prolific, so we should be able to stuff and freeze many delicious treats.

Finally, we’ll put in a plant or two of basil and a few bulbs of garlic. And perhaps some shallots. (Ugh- who can stop when they get on a roll?!)

What do you plan to grow and in how much garden space? How do you plan for your garden? We’d love to hear all about it. And if you’re a newbie, check out the info on our upcoming gardening workshop where you can get some tips from a real pro!

Happy growing!

Kids and Agriculture

Beth Knorr, Farmers’ Market Manager

Many people believe that engaging youth with agriculture is a critical step in revitalizing our nation’s relationship with our farmers.  Too many children, it is claimed, are unaware of where food comes from or what it takes to get dinner on our plates.  I have, in fact, heard from kids that we don’t need farmers anymore because food comes from grocery stores, and that eggs do not come from a chicken’s derriere.  While from those statements it is clear we need to improve our biology classes, it also feels like we are faced with an insurmountable task.  However, there are many things we can do to counteract this trend.

Introducing kids to farmers by visiting farmers’ markets or joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a great first step.  By supporting an individual farm through a CSA share your kids can meet and talk with the farmer, see what they do throughout the season, and learn how the various seasons affect what crops are available.  Having co-managed a CSA with my husband for many years, it was always wonderful to hear the pride of “ownership” kids had after being with us for even one season.  Parents regularly commented on how excited their kids were to be eating sweet corn from ‘their farm,’ or how much the kids enjoyed being able to pick cherry tomatoes and peas.  Farmers’ markets, too, offer opportunities for youth to interact with a range of farmers raising different products.  Seasonality is also evident here, and over the past four years it has been fun to watch families develop relationships with various farms at our markets.

There are several camps available each year that encourage kids to get their hands dirty and learn first-hand how to grow some of their own food.  Organizations such as Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Crown Point Ecology Center host summer camps for kids that get them out into the garden or on the farm and learning how it works.

If summer camps don’t work for your family, growing your own in your back yard, on your balcony in pots, or joining a community garden are also superior ways to educate your kids about agriculture. Letting them choose the seeds and plant them in their own gardens – even if they don’t work out – is a learning experience they aren’t likely to forget.

If your kids are a bit older, why not upgrade the lemonade stand idea to a fruit, veggie or egg stand?  A great example of this comes from Michigan, where a 14 year old girl began a CSA in her back yard.  Who knows, in addition to encouraging an appreciation for our farmers, you may just be cultivating an entrepreneur, too!