Archives for October 2010

Vote for a Community Treasure

Election Day is only a few days away: I’ll get right to the point.

Voters in Champaign County, Ohio, have the opportunity to support a priceless community treasure by voting for one of the best—if not the best—returns on your tax dollar.Vote for the Champaign County, Ohio, Library

That is, the Champaign County Library tax levy. For the owner of a house with an appraised value of $100,000 the cost of the levy is only $24.50 a year.

I’m not knocking bookstores or other media stores…. Books, CDs and DVDs are worthy purchases and make cherished gifts. But if you walk into one of these establishments with twenty-four dollars and fifty cents, you won’t be leaving with a whole lot. Not compared to what you can walk out of a library with.

Let’s say you go to the library once and check out an adult bestseller, a DVD and a children’s book. Not much. Nonetheless, at a store you’d be exchanging those items for about $60.

At a library you just take them home, having opened your wallet or purse only to extract your library card. Then you return to exchange those items for more.

These days, when disposable income is limited, the library’s value has increased. People out of work or living on a tighter budget cut expenses like Internet service and newspaper and magazine subscriptions. But they can come to the library to read the papers or search job sites and check e-mails on public computers. In 2009 the Champaign County Library’s public computers were used 24,151 times.

Libraries across the state have come upon hard times themselves. As a result of state funding cuts, the Champaign County Library—which includes the North Lewisburg Branch Library—is  operating on $276,000 less state money than it did in 2008. More cuts are anticipated in 2011. Staffing has been reduced, raises eliminated, employees who resign are not being replaced, weekly operating hours have been cut from 60 to 52.

Just when people need libraries more.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, vote for a good investment. Vote for the Champaign County Library.

(In the interest of full disclosure, my wife, Kay, is on staff at the Champaign County Library.)

What services do you use at your public library?

Urbana, Ohio, Is on the Cover!

November 2010 Ohio Magazine cover features Urbana, Ohio, as Best Hometown for 2011.The November issue of Ohio Magazine is out, and Urbana is on the cover! Five versions of the magazine have been printed–each featuring one of the five regional Best Hometowns selected by the editors of the magazine.

Our cover features  Urbana University mascot Nitro the Knight and  Homecoming Queen Moriah Makarius.

Urbana, Best Hometown of the Southwest Ohio region, also will be featured in two issues next year.

University Reaching Out

A university can bring many practical benefits to a community – not just the aura of higher learning.

Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio, has been intensifying efforts to strengthen the town and gown bond and make its influence more apparent off campus. The University, in fact, is one reason Ohio Magazine selected Urbana as a Best Hometown for 2011. (By the way, the November edition featuring Urbana’s selection is just days from hitting newsstands and mailboxes!)

A couple of new examples of the University’s outreach were just brought to my attention.

Grant Resources for Nonprofits

This first example appeals to my role as coordinator of a nonprofit organization – the Champaign County Literacy Council. Like any charitable organization we’re always on the lookout for new sources of funding.

As a new member of the Foundation Center Cooperating Collection Network, the University is offering to the community-at-large free access to extensive online and print directories of grant funding sources. These are valuable resources that small nonprofits cannot afford on their own.

The University is offering a free training session on how to use the resources. It will be held at the University’s Moore Math and Science Building at 3 p.m. Monday, November 15. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 484-1409 or online at the Foundation Center. I’m already registered.

Participants will learn how to create customized searches to find foundations that match their organizations’ funding needs.

Civil War Art Series

Starting this Tuesday, October 26 at 7 p.m., at the Mechanicsburg Public Library (60 South Main St.—St.  Route 29), Urbana University professors will present a three-week series on the history represented in three pieces of art from the Civil War time period. The series is funded by a grant from the Picturing America project of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This Tuesday’s program is “Abraham Lincoln Photographs by Alexander Gardner.” Gardner was one of a team of photographers hired to make a visual record of the Civil War at a time when photography was still a new medium.

The program will be preceded at 5 p.m. by a performance of Civil War music by the Champaign County Dulcimer Club and from 6 to  7 p.m. by a display of  Underground Railroad photographs taken in Champaign County.

Learn more about the rest of the series on the University’s website.

Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling (937) 834-2004.

(In a previous post I highlighted the University’s involvement in the Champaign County Barn Quilt Tour.)

A 21 Homecoming Salute

Does your neighborhood have a theme song?

Here on Washington Avenue in Urbana, Ohio,  it would have to be “Fight on, Urbana,” or maybe “Hang on Sloopy.” One Thursday evening of the past 21 Octobers my family has stopped whatever else we were doing as these songs pealed past our house through the crisp autumn air.

In all that time we’ve lived two blocks from Urbana High School, in the home stretch of the school’s homecoming parade.  We’ve watched a lot of kids pass by on hay wagon floats, in the homecoming court’s caravan of convertibles, and, of course, in the band.

Backed by a driving drum cadence, it’s been a favorite fall tradition that’s helped us keep time. And it has offered an opportunity for family and friends to gather at our house.

While we’ve watched the parade together, time has marched on. As evidence, the photo above is of our son Alex and his friend LeAnn Harrigan (with Alex’s cousin Becca and Uncle Paul in the background) watching the big kids have their day in the homecoming parade. The photo at left, from a couple of weeks ago, is of Alex escorting LeAnn, this year’s homecoming queen.

What are your neighborhood favorites?

More About America’s Favorite Farmers Market

What do a radial tire and a radish have in common?

In Urbana you can find them both in the first block of East Market Street. That is, when radishes are in season.

Lonny LeFever, president of the Champaign County Farmers’ Market, told me recently that the folks at Clayton Tire have told him how grateful they are the market sets up across Market Street from their shop. Some people drawn by the market have discovered or become better acquainted with their business.

Lonny LeFever with Urbana Mayor Ruth Zerkle, a key supporter of the Farmers Market, at Saturdays celebration.

That’s the thing about new businesses: They’re not just competition for the existing ones. They create synergy, or in plain English, they attract new customers to the marketplace who end up discovering neighboring establishments that cater to their other wants and needs.

Farmers’ markets bring many other benefits to communities and the people who live in them. I covered some of these in a marketing brochure that local graphic designer Melinda Thackery of Sysbro Design and I (through Schenkel Communications) created for the Farmers’ Market—just before the market’s first season (2009) in its current downtown location. (Melinda also designed the market’s logo.)

This project was supported by an Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) program developed to fertilize the marketing efforts of  farmers’ markets. Dave Faulkner, then Champaign County economic development director, helped the markets’ board apply for the ODA funding. And other local officials and organizations saw the market’s potential benefits and supported it as well.

These include the Champaign County Community Improvement Corporation, Activate Champaign County (a coalition of the Champaign Family YMCA, local government, health organizations, education, nonprofits and businesses that advocate healthful living), the Champaign County Farm Bureau and the City of Urbana, which opened the way for the market to move from Trenor Motors on the city’s east side to its downtown venue.

Champaign County, Ohio, Farmers Market murals

The Farmers' Market enlisted art classes at Champaign County's five high schools to paint murals to cover windows of the old Urbana Creamery building, next door to the market. A few were already on display for Saturday's celebration.

With this nurturing support, which I alluded to in my previous post, the market has grown from a handful of vendors to 28 this season. That’s also due to the infectious drive of Lonny LeFever and the market board’s down-to-the-roots belief in the health and economic value of locally grown food. “It grew a lot faster than I ever thought it would,” Lonny told me. “My goal was 25 vendors in five years.”

This season the Farmers’ Market  broadened its customer base to include economically challenged families.   Participants in Job and Family Services’ food assistance program and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program can now use their benefits to purchase healthful, locally grown food at the market. “We’re very excited about that,” Lonny said. “It’s one of the reasons we located where we did, so we’d be easily accessible to people in need.”

In so many ways America’s Favorite Small Farmers Market is nourishing our community.

Many thanks to Tiffany Eckhardt for the photos in today’s post. I had to be out of town so had to miss the celebration. You can keep up with Tiffany on her blogs, Doing Life Being Tiff and Weekend ReTweat.


Celebrate at the Champaign County Farmers’ Market!

Like a garden nourished by good soil and the ideal balance of sunshine and rain, the Champaign County Farmers’ Market is flourishing from the support of an appreciative community.

Lonny LeFever, president of the Champaign County Farmers' Market, serves customers at his booth, Lonny's Green Acres.

In thankfulness, the market’s board and vendors are rolling out the green carpet.

Be sure to come out for this Saturday’s market day—October 9, at the corner of E. Market and Locust Streets in Urbana, Ohio—to help celebrate the market’s being voted one of America’s four favorite farmers markets in the American Farmland Trust “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™” contest.

As it does every Saturday, May through October, the market will open at 9 a.m.  Then, at 10 a.m., the celebration officially begins. Jon Schell, president of American Farmland Trust, will present the market its award.

Our local market pulled in 3,265 online votes (only one vote allowed per IP address) making it the most popular small farmers market (16-30 vendors) in the nation. That’s pretty impressive, considering about 1,300 participating markets received a total of 60,000 votes. And the Champaign County Farmers’ Market was just 400 votes shy of the total received by the winner of the large market division – the Rochester Farmers Market! (By the way, that’s Rochester, N.Y., population 219,773* vs. Champaign County, Ohio, population 38,890*.) Just another indicator of the community spirit that helped Urbana gain Ohio Magazine’s Best Hometown designation.

The celebration also will include music, excellent food, cooking demonstrations, tours of the Market Street Community Garden and other activities–and, I’ve been assured, brief remarks from market and community leaders (who, if they go long, will have fresh, not rotten, produce to dodge).

In addition, vendors from the Mechanicsburg and St. Paris farmers markets have been invited to set up booths—so there will be even more selection than usual. Also, the market will stay open past its usual 1 p.m. closing–as long as supplies and customers last.

If you haven’t been to the market yet, come out and see what you’ve been missing.

I’ll be back with more about the market in my next post.

In the meantime, what do you like about the Champaign, Mechanicsburg or St. Paris farmers markets?

*2000 U.S. Census