Beat It … to Freshwater Farms’ Drum Circle

Freshwater Farms of Ohio Drum Circle, Urbana, OhioFreshwater Farms of Ohio, host of the popular Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival, has come up with a new way to celebrate. And I’m looking forward to it.

The Freshwater Farms Drum Circle will be held Saturday, June 18, 5-9 p.m., and Sunday, June 19, noon-5 p.m. at the farm, 2624 N. U.S. 68, Urbana.

It’s a free event where guests like you, your family and friends are encouraged to bring drums, cowbells, a pair of sticks, spoons or any other percussive instruments you can find. I plan to bring my old, gold Slingerland snare, from the used drum kit I bought back in my high school days.

Everyone will join in a rhythmic jam session—a drum circle—encircled by beautiful countryside. And there’ll be dancing and hula-hooping to the ever-changing beat.

Freshwater Farms has invited some special guests:

  • The Asunameekw Singers Drum Group of Bucktown, Ontario, Canada
  • Lunaape blues artist Brock Stonefish of the Delaware Nation, Ontario, Canada
  • Storyteller Chief Cedarheart of Turkey Town Village in Cardington, Ohio

Also planned are kids’ activities that include drum making and hula hoop decorating.

And I can’t forget to mention there’ll be good food and drink for purchase: fish and chips, jambalaya, brats, hot dogs and a variety of nonalcoholic beverages, as well as craft beers and wine.

For more information, visit Freshwater Farms’ Drum Circle web page.

What’s a Drum Circle?

Drum circles are rooted in Asian, African, Native American, even American ‘60s, culture. And they’re widely used in music therapy and team building exercises.

In drum circles, participants improvise, creating an interplay of rhythms. There’s no wrong or right way. And it’s for everyone, regardless of musical experience and talent. The rhythms grow and change as everyone—young, old and in between—enjoys the shared experience.

Watch the following videos to learn more about the drum circle experience. And be sure to experience it yourself this weekend at the Freshwater Farms Drum Circle.




It’s Strawberry Time. Get Picking!

Rachel Klingler, sister of The Berry Patch owner, Steven Klingler, gets us started.

Gretchen Klingler, sister of The Berry Patch owner, Steven Klingler, gets us started.

Local strawberry picking is upon us. Beware, the season is brief. About three weeks.

So, Champaign Uncorked! visited two local strawberry patches on Memorial Day to help blaze your trail to the sweet freshness that awaits. (By the way, I have a bowl of strawberries in front of me as I write this. Soon to be just a bowl. Good news: Plenty more in the kitchen.)

First Stop: The Berry Patch, LLC 

Location: 2451 St. Rt. 245 W., West Liberty

Hours: Mon-Sat, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. (season ends about June 18)

Product: Pre-picked and U-pick strawberries by gallon bucket or quart

Contact: 937-441-0248;;; Facebook

The Berry Patch, LLC, West Liberty, Ohio

Steven Klingler in front of The Berry Patch, the strawberry business he started four years ago.

The Story: Steven Klingler, a 2014 Urbana University accounting graduate, started The Berry Patch, LLC four years ago. It’s sort of an offshoot of a berry farm of another variety—a raspberry farm. Specifically, the Champaign Berry Farm of Mike and Cathy Pullins, just outside Mutual. Steven worked seven summers for the Pullinses, from seventh grade through freshman year of college.

By his sixth season with Champaign Berry Farm, Steven knew he wanted to go into the berry business himself. The Pullinses recommended strawberries. Raspberries take two to three years to fruit after planting. Strawberries, just 12 months. Steven has 23,000 plants in fruit. With the help of a crew of 20 he planted 24,000 new plants this spring—for even more bountiful picking next year.

Steven also has received encouragement and support from his family and Jason Wish of Wishwell Farms of Bellefontaine. His father, Scott Klingler, loaned him money for equipment and is expecting Steven to get back to work, at the end of strawberry season, to support his business, Countryside Heating & Cooling. (We have, indeed, entered the cooling season also.)

Strawberries at Folck Family Farm

Cindy and Bob Folck of Folck Family Farm.

Second Stop: Folck Family Farm

Location: 6842 St. Rt. 54, Mechanicsburg

Hours: Call the farm at 937-869-2240 for hours and updates

Product: Strawberries (pre-picked and U-pick) in season now through June 21. Other produce: peas, red raspberries (to be ready mid-June), blackberries, Vidalia onions, tomatoes and sweet peppers. Also honey, jams, as well as pork products from pasture-raised purebred Chester White pigs. (The Folcks had the 2015 Champion Chester White Gilt at the Ohio State Fair Junior Show.)

Contact: 937-869-2240;

The Story: Bob and Cindy Folck have operated their family farm for about 15 years. Bob describes himself as “a stay-at-home farmer” since a job layoff. He also breeds and sells show pigs. Cindy is program manager of The Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program.  And their daughter, Amanda, studies sports turf at Ohio State. Bob said their produce business began with pumpkins, “and one thing led to another.” They’ve become one of Ohio’s largest grower of peas, picking and shelling about two acres a year.

How Sweet It Is….

Locally grown strawberries, Chammpaign County, Ohio

Some of our day’s delicious bounty.

As I wrap up this post, my wife, Kay, just set down in front of me a slice of toast spread with strawberry jam she made from some of today’s pickings. Ummm … now, what was I writing about?

Anyway, get out and discover for yourself the locally grown goodness that is all around us in and around Champaign County. We’ll be sharing more finds as the growing season progresses.

And please share: What are your favorite locally grown and produced foods?

Your Champaign Bucket List for October Fun

I hope you enjoyed the first Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List in September.

More important, I hope you got out to experience the blessings of Champaign County — those I recommended or others you found on your own.

So, here goes … the Bucket List for October. Click here for your printable October Bucket List.

Get into the Spirit of October!

Champaign County Historical Society Oktoberfest, Urbana, Ohio

Painted pumpkins by Debbie Loffing one of many Oktoberfest traditions.

Oktoberfest, Sunday, October 5: A 42-year Champaign County tradition, this year’s Oktoberfest marks the 80th anniversary of the Champaign County Historical Society, the event host. Oktoberfest features arts, crafts and food for sale by 100 artisans and vendors on the grounds of the society’s museum, 809 East Lawn Ave., Urbana. While there, be sure to check out the artifacts on exhibit in the museum.

Other highlights: listen to the Gettysburg Address delivered at 1 p.m. on the museum steps by Abraham Lincoln actor Stan Wernz, pose for a photo in period costumes at the museum’s Springhills Jail exhibit, enter the hourly door prize drawing, and enjoy music by a German band and the Champaign County Dulcimer Club.

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $2 for adults and free for children 10 and under with paid adult.

Pretty Prairie Farm, Urbana, Ohio

Site of the State of the Plate Local Food Dinner, the Pretty Prairie Barn of Todd and Jill Michael, 4440 Prairie Rd., Urbana.

State of the Plate Local Food Dinner, Sunday, October 12: Discover the deliciousness and diversity of locally grown food at this professionally catered dinner, served in a restored 19th century barn that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to enjoy locally grown food and meet some of the people who grow it. Call in your reservations by Friday, October 3 to the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, 937-653-5764.  Cost $15. Dinner will begin at 1 p.m., preceded by a social time and appetizers at 12:30 p.m.

Boo at the Bog, October 17 and 18: This non-scary, family-friendly celebration of Halloween will feature night walks and learning stations along the boardwalk of one of Champaign County’s natural treasures, the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, 980 Woodburn Rd., Urbana,  Also children’s activities, face painting, storytelling and food.

Admission: $6 for adults, $5 for children and free for children under 6. $1 discount for Ohio Historical Society and Cedar Bog Association members. Hours: 7-9 p.m. both days.

And plan a return trip in daylight to see this 450-acre natural wonder, formed thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers, and now home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals.

Beggars’ Night, October 30: Get your costumes and candy bowls ready, because October isn’t complete without trick-or-treating. The Champaign County Mayors’ Association has set Beggars’ Night for  6-8 p.m. Thursday, October 30 countywide.

My Old Ohio House, Monument Square District, Urbana, Ohio

Shops in Urbana’s Monument Square District, like my Old Ohio House, are getting in the fall spirit.

Decorate for the Season!

Downtown Urbana has taken on the colors of fall as merchants have decorated their businesses. I offer you a couple of suggestions for finding your own seasonal decor:

Circle & Sons Farm, 5001 Wallace Rd., St. Paris; 937-857-9616
Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m. to dark, and Sun., 1 p.m. to dark
Natural fall decorations: pumpkins, gourds, squash, Indian corn, straw, corn shocks and mums.

Mad River Farm Market, 7538 U.S. Highway 68, West Liberty; 937-465-2030
Sun., 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.-12 a.m.
A wide range of fall decorations and…

Sip & Paint Craft Pumpkin Center Piece class, 6 p.m., Tuesday, October 7. Make a fall centerpiece. All supplies and glass of wine, $25. Reservation required.

Also check out the Mad River Farm Market Corn Maze, open daily through October 26, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Savor the Pumpkin Spice!

Get a taste of the season at these Champaign County establishments:

The Depot Coffeehouse, 644 Miami St., Urbana — Pumpkin spice latte and two pumpkin house specials — the Harvest Blend, a combination of pumpkin, vanilla and caramel, and Autumn Leaves, featuring pumpkin, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. And the Depot invites customers to come up with their own concoctions. “We’ve seen pumpkin mochas, pumpkin steamers (steamed milk with pumpkin pie sauce) and even something closely resembling a pumpkin smoothie.”

Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, 22 S. Main St., Mechanicsburg — Pumpkin chai, pumpkin spice lattes and Hemisphere’s flavored coffee, pumpkin pie spice.

Madison’s Downtown Market & Cafe, 117 Scioto St., Urbana — Pumpkin spice chai latte, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin scones.

Spotted Cow Coffeehouse, 927 N. Main St., Urbana — Pumpkin spice smoothies and lattes.

Urbana Dairy Queen, 1047 N. Main St., Urbana — Pumpkin pie shakes, Blizzards and MooLattes.

What’s on your agenda for celebrating October in Champaign County?

Please share in the comments below.

See You at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival!

A fish and shrimp festival in Ohio?

Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, OhioYes, the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival does exist — and I look forward to it every fall.

And fish and shrimp are grown locally by festival host Freshwater Farms of Ohio, just north of Urbana at 2624 N. U.S. 68.

So, the fish and shrimp are fresh and mouth-watering good. The fun and deliciousness begin at 4 p.m. today, Friday, September 19, and continue through Sunday, September 21.

Shrimp at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

Featured attraction at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival: grilled, locally-grown shrimp.

Here’s what I most look forward to:

  • The fish and shrimp dinners served at Freshwater Water Farms’ food booth, prepared by The Food Smiths catering business of Gretchen Bonasera, daughter of farm owner Dr. Dave Smith. The festival also features several other food vendors, including other locally grown and produced menu items from Oakview Farm Meats and Cosmic Charlie Baking and Bread.
  • A fantastic lineup of bands, all three days. There’s something for about every musical taste — folk, alternative rock, New Orleans jazz, reggae, rock and country. One of the performers competed on American Idol, wowing judge Harry Connick Jr. in the auditions. And a couple of the bands have released new albums that have earned excellent reviews.
  • Being out in the country

Following are YouTube links to the bands I’m especially looking forward to:

Angela Perley & the Howlin' Moons perform at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons are returning after a successful debut at last year’s festival.

Here’s an excellent review of the Fish & Shrimp Festival published in Dayton City Paper.

In the interest of full disclosure: Freshwater Farms of Ohio hired me through my freelance writing business, Schenkel Communications, to promote the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival. This blog post, however, is not sponsored. It’s an extra, over and above my paid assignment.

See you at the festival!

What are your weekend plans?

Your Champaign Bucket List for September Fun

Welcome to the first monthly edition of the Champaign Uncorked! Bucket List.

Each Bucket List will feature my recommendations of what to taste, see, hear and experience that month in Champaign County – and a printable Bucket List to check off as you go.

We’re halfway through September already, but there’s still plenty to recommend.

Get outdoors!

Kiser Lake State Park, Ohio

Serenity on Kiser Lake.

Fall is in the air, the perfect time to enjoy the wonders of nature around us. Here are a few nature loving opportunities we are blessed with in Champaign County:

Kiser Lake State Park: The center of attraction here is the 2.5-mile long lake, with 5.3 miles of shoreline. What to do? Rent a paddle boat, rowboat or kayak at the marina (enjoy the peace – no motor boats allowed). Fish for largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, perch, carp and catfish. Picnic or camp — 118 campsites available. Hike and check out the Kiser Lake Wetlands State Nature Preserve. Camping and boat rentals will be available at least through the first weekend of October — longer if weather allows. Call the marina/camp store to be sure, 937-362-3565. For camping reservations, call 866-644-6727 or go online.

For the warmer months, there’s a beach. And this winter, keep the park in mind for cross-country skiing, ice fishing or skating.

Simon Kenton Trail, Urbana, Ohio

Bicyclists ride through Melvin Miller Park on the Simon Kenton Trail.

Simon Kenton Trail:  Here’s one of my personal favorites. More than 18 miles long now, this trail – built and maintained by volunteers for bicyclists, skaters, runners, walkers, dogs on leashes and babies in strollers – extends from the Champaign Family YMCA on Urbana’s east side and heads south at the restored Urbana Station Depot, at 644 Miami St., Urbana, to Springfield. It links with the Little Miami Trail, ending near Cincinnati.

A new 1.25-mile trail branch takes off north from the depot. It currently dead ends behind Grimes Field airport. However, the “trail ends” sign will soon be taken down, as a 16-mile extension north through West Liberty and on to Bellefontaine is under construction. (Patience, please. I’ll let you know on Champaign Uncorked! when the extension is open for use. Riding on the new trail before work is complete will damage the surface.)

Melvin Miller Park:  The Simon Kenton Trail goes through this beautiful, well-maintained park. Besides ball diamonds and soccer fields, you’ll find tennis courts, a skate park, picnic shelters, a pond for fishing, dog park and a disc golf course, featured previously by Champaign Uncorked!

Savor the season!

Champaign County Ohio apple orchards

Pick a date to visit an orchard.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc

Plan a family trip to a local apple orchard for a fun taste of fall:

Louden Family Farm, 576 N. St. Rt. 560, Urbana; 937-653-4558
Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
28 varieties (check the link above for approximate dates varieties will be ready); apple cider made Mon., Wed. and Fri.

Remerowski Orchards, 4035 Idle Rd., Urbana
Will be open Saturdays and Sundays depending on apple availability; call ahead – 937-362-3924.

Stevens Bakery & Orchard, 7344 Thackery Rd., Springfield; 937-788-2873
Honeycrisp, Cortland, McIntosh and Jonathon now ready for picking.
Plus, fresh-baked pies – apple and many other varieties.
Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., noon-4 p.m.; u-pick and wagon rides on designated fall weekends.

Also check out local shops for apple treats:

Braden’s Café & Sweets, 115 W. Main St,, Saint Paris – fudge-dipped apples, later this month.

Dairy Corner, 1472 E. U.S. 36, Urbana – cinnamon cider smoothies, caramel apple wedges and caramel apple sundaes.

Dairy Queen, 1047 N. Main St., Urbana – Apple Pie Blizzard.

Madison’s Downtown Market & Café, 117 Scioto St., Urbana – caramel apple latte, apple cinnamon scones and autumn apple salad with red wine vinaigrette and caramel sauce.

Celebrate fall!

The next two weekends offer fun festivals for the whole family:

Shrimp at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Urbana, Ohio

Featured attraction at the Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival: grilled, locally-grown shrimp.

Ohio Fish & Shrimp Festival, Sept. 19-21:  Not the typical Ohio harvest festival, this outdoor event celebrates fresh, delicious, locally-grown fish and shrimp, along with three days of music performed live by some of the region’s best entertainers.

The host is Freshwater Farms of Ohio, Ohio’s largest indoor fish hatchery, at 2624 North US Hwy. 68, one mile north of Urbana. Besides music and seafood, the 13th annual festival offers many other food choices, regional craft beers, Ohio wines, a shrimp peeling and eating contest (at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20), children’s activities, the farm’s sturgeon petting zoo, trout feeding, and displays of other fish and native animals. And don’t forget to visit Fluffy the alligator.

Festival hours: Friday, Sept. 19, 4-9 p.m. (music extended to 10 p.m.); Saturday, Sept. 20, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (music extended to 8:30 p.m.); and Sunday, Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

General Admission: $4; ages 3-12, $2; and 2 and under, free. Admission good all weekend. Parking is free.

Chili Cook-off, Urbana, Ohio

The Chili Cook-off runs the spectrum from hot to mild.
Photo Credit: svenwerk via Compfight cc

Simon Kenton Chili Cook-off and Hoopla Parade, Sept. 27:  The Chili Cook-off, in downtown Urbana, has been attracting a growing number of contestants since its beginning eight years ago. That means a lot more varieties of chili – from mild to hot – for the public to sample, beginning at 2 p.m.  Check here for the full event schedule.

The always popular Hoopla parade goes through the downtown beginning at noon and other features include live music, a salsa contest, corn hole tournament, beer garden, a pepper eating contest, children’s activities, and the intriguingly named  “Suck, Chew and Blow” contest. The cook-off and parade are planned by the downtown business organization, Monument Square District.

What do you have planned for the rest of September?

 For your printable September Bucket List, click here.


Celebrate Seafood and Covered Bridges

I’m looking forward to a festival-filled fall weekend in Champaign and Union counties.

I invite you to join me at the Ohio Fish and Shrimp Festival at Freshwater Farms of Ohio, just north of Urbana, and the Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival in Union County – both Friday through Saturday, September 20-22. Click on the links for details.Ohio Fish & Shrimp Frestival logo

Both feature a hearty selection of live music and good food — and lots of family fun.

Not Your Average Harvest Festival

An unusual fall harvest celebration for Ohio, the Fish and Shrimp Festival marks Freshwater Farm’s annual freshwater shrimp harvest with lots of mouth-watering locally grown shrimp, as well as trout grown on the farm, too.

Shrimp at Ohio Fish and Shrimp FestivalMusic on the outdoor stage includes folk, blues, country, rock, reggae — and steel drum. Other features include a shrimp peeling and eating contest, games, self-guided tours of the farm, displays of native aquatic creatures, a chance to pet Ohio’s largest native fish, the sturgeon, and the debut of a new habitat for the farm’s resident alligator, Fluffy, who made a surprise appearance at the festival three years ago, delivered by sheriff’s deputies after they caught her in a local pond.

A Festival That Has It All Covered

Covered Bridge and Bluegrass Festival

The Muleskinners Bluegrass Band will perform at the Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival.

Union County’s historic covered bridges set the theme for the Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival. One of  the bridges, the Pottersburg Bridge at 17141 Inskeep-Cratty Rd., North Lewisburg, will serve as the festival’s centerpiece and the setting for an elegant sunset dinner, a breakfast and a church service. The bridge also will serve as  the stage for a variety of bluegrass bands and folk musicians.

Other festival features include guided bridge tours, a pie baking contest and auction, a marketplace of antiques and local artists’ work, painting classes, a vintage fashion show, old-fashioned games for kids, horse drawn wagon rides, appearances by folk artist Billy Jacobs and a concert by Nashville bluegrass band the Banjo Cats.

See you out and about this weekend.

Your Guide to Fresh, Locally Grown, Champaign Goodness

You know those directories on supermarket shopping carts that tell you where to find the mayonnaise? Pretty handy for the shopping impaired like me.

Now the Local Food Council of the Community Improvement Corporation of Champaign County (CIC) has gone one better. It’s come up with a directory — a brochure, actually — that’ll guide you all over Champaign County, Ohio, not just down the aisles of a grocery store, showing you where to find the freshest locally grown and made food products.

This brochure includes a county map and corresponding list of growers, vendors and farmers’ markets, with address, contact information, hours of operation and products … fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, meats (even bison), honey, dried flowers, garlic, herbs, dog treats, maple syrup, artisan breads, preserves, handmade soaps, lavender, bedding plants, vegetable plants…. And that’s not all. Click on the image at left to see for yourself  all the local food treasures that are out there to be discovered and savored.

So, from now on when it’s time to write out the shopping list, consult this brochure — not just the grocery flyers and coupons. Take full advantage of what Champaign County farmers have growing. Discover the advantages of buying and eating locally grown food that’s at the peak of freshness … better taste, improved nutrition, a stronger local economy, and more.

It’s been my pleasure to assist with this project through the CIC and Local Food Council. And many thanks to Lisa Williams of Type by Design, who designed the brochure.

Use it in good health.

Updates will be made periodically. Email corrections or additions for future editions to

A New Hybrid: Locally Grown Food Meets Online Shopping

Online shopping’s a breeze – like popping a prepackaged dinner in the microwave. The trouble is: Internet sales keep taking a bigger bite from local business’ plates. (Similar to how frozen dinners shortchange our health.)

However, in Champaign County, Ohio, a fresh new, locally grown approach to online shopping will soon dish out more money to our local economy.

The new virtual farmers' market will bring the convenience of online shopping to the realm of locally grown food, but there's still nothing like communing with neighbors, farmers and fresh produce at one of Champaign County's open air markets.

Offering products that may look out of place among the clothing, electronics, media and imported gewgaws typically packed into online shopping carts, the Champaign County Virtual Farmers’ Market will allow shoppers to click and pick tomatoes, other veggies, fruits, meats, and value-added food products like baked goods – all grown or made in and around Champaign County.

The virtual market is an idea germinated and cultivated by the Local Food Council of the Champaign County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) and Activate Champaign County (ACC). And it’s being started with a Pioneering Healthy Communities grant obtained by the Champaign Family YMCA through the YMCA of the USA. (Sorry for the alphabet soup.)

Heather Tiefenthaler, a member of the CIC, Local Food Council and ACC, is preparing the virtual market for opening the first week of May (check back here for updates). She’s recruiting vendors to join the market. Vendors can register on the market’s website – (click on “create an account” near the bottom of the “Our Vendors” page).

If you have questions, you may contact Heather at A market manager will be appointed soon.

Does this mean traditional farmers’ markets are being replaced?

Not at all!

Champaign County’s three farmers’ markets, in Urbana, Mechanicsburg and St. Paris, will reopen for the season in May.

The virtual market is simply a convenience for busy shoppers who can’t always get to the markets. It will make it possible for more people to discover and enjoy the just-picked freshness and good taste of locally grown food – food that hasn’t grown weary from hundreds of miles in a truck.

The virtual market promises great advantages, but nothing can replace the neighborly, community-building charm of a farmers’ market, where people renew acquaintances, catch up on news, meet the growers, and thump melons.

How will the virtual market work?

Beginning the week of May 6:

  • Participating vendors will post their available inventory on the market website each Sunday.
  • Customers who register on the site will be notified by email when the inventory is posted and they can begin shopping. They will have until 8 p.m. that Tuesday to place their orders at
  • The vendors will prepare the orders and bring them on Thursday to the Champaign Family YMCA, where customers will pick them up between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Payment is due at time of pickup.

Next up at Champaign Uncorked!: I’ll offer you a look at a new brochure published by the CIC, Local Food Council and their partners – a guide to where you can find locally grown and made food products throughout the county. And as we lead up to the new farm market season, I’ll whet your appetite by featuring some local growers and the fruits of their labor.

And please take a moment, if you will, to share with me what your favorite locally grown or made food product is.

Coffee That’s One Hand Shake Away from Being Local

At a roadside stand or farmers’ market, you buy direct from the farmer. Middlemen are left out of the exchange, the farmer nets more from his toil, and you benefit from eating fresher food—and knowing where it came from.

Paul Kurtz and his son-in-law Hans Hochstedler display a bag of Cafe Diego, coffee they purchased directly from a farmer in Nicaragua.

You can experience similar advantages at Hemisphere Coffee Roasters (HCR) at 22 S. Main Street (State Route 29) in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. Obviously, the coffee that owners Paul and Grace Kurtz sell isn’t locally grown. Yet, in Hemisphere’s inviting, aromatic coffee shop and roastery, you’re much less removed from the people who grow and harvest the coffee than you typically are at the supermarket.

Shake hands with Paul Kurtz and you’re in the clasp of the man who shakes hands with Latin American and African coffee growers as they agree on fair, direct purchases of the many varieties that HCR sells.

Coffee with a Mission

“Coffee with a mission,” HCR’s slogan, is much less a marketing mantra than pithy creed. In 2004, HCR blossomed from Paul’s service as director of global mission for Rosedale Mennonite Missions in Irwin, Ohio.

Hans roasts coffee at Hemisphere Coffee Roasters.

In his extensive travels through Central and South America and East Africa, Paul witnessed struggling people and communities.

The economies of many of the communities had coffee in common, so Paul recognized an opportunity to offer the people a “hand up,” instead of a “hand out.”  Since then he’s been shaking hands with coffee growers, offering them a direct, fair price—considerably higher than customary—to sustain their farms, their families, their employees and their communities.

“We’re now seeing new roofs on houses and cement floors that were once dirt—and growers who are better able to support their workers and their families,” Paul says.

The direct trade relationships that the Kurtzes cultivate with coffee growers also benefit HCR’s customers. Before making any purchase, Paul “cups,” or taste tests the coffee to assure its quality.

Last year HCR roasted and sold 57,000 pounds of coffee, retail and wholesale, and is continually expanding its market.

HCR coffee is available in Champaign County, Ohio, at Everyday Organics, Freshwater Farms of Ohio and Yutzy’s Cheese House in Urbana, Mad River Farm Market, near West Liberty, and Preston’s IGA in Mechanicsburg. For more retail locations, a list of churches that serve HCR coffee, and online sales, visit HCR’s website.

HCR coffee shop, retail store and roastery
22 S. Main St., Mechanicsburg
Facebook: Hemisphere Coffee Roasters

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Bible study: 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday. All are welcome!

Farmers, Urbana Rotary Grow an End to Polio

When you sit down with family and friends Thursday, be sure to include farmers in your Thanksgiving prayer. For that matter, keep them in mind whenever you eat.

Karen and Bart Ward by their Acre of Corn.

And this year, keep in mind a group of about 35 farmers who have joined the Urbana, Ohio, Rotary Club in a project that’s using some of the fruits of their labor not only to nourish but also to save lives.

Through the club’s Acre of Corn project, each of the farmers is giving the gross income from one acre of their corn harvest to Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign.

Their donations will go toward Rotary’s $200 million pledge to match a $355 million gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The money is funding a massive drive to produce, distribute and administer oral polio vaccine to children in the last four countries where polio continues to paralyze and threaten the lives of children — Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Don Bauer of the Urbana Rotary Club developed the fund-raising concept. He’s happy to report that the international campaign has been highly successful since Rotary International became involved in 1985. Worldwide, incidence of polio has fallen 99 percent, from 350,000 cases a year in 125 countries to 1,600 cases a year in the four remaining polio-endemic countries.

And in just the last year the number of cases in India dropped from 498 to 39, as of October 26. In Nigeria, cases have declined from 382 to 8 in the last 12 months.

However, Don says, “As good as this news is, we can’t stop now. World health officials say that polio has to be eradicated completely or it will come back and could paralyze 10 million children over the next 40 years.”

Personal Interest

One of the 35 participating farmers, Bud Runyan of Urbana, has a personal interest in the campaign. The summer after graduating from Urbana Local High School, in 1953, he contracted polio.

Bud Runyan, left, honored as the 2010 Rotary Farmer of the Year Award by Rotarian Chuck Havens.

Today he’s thankful to live with no effects of the disease. After being diagnosed, he underwent three months of weekly electroshock treatments in Columbus, which left him nearly symptom free.

He credits his bout with polio for his 30-year career as a vocational agriculture teacher at West Liberty, West Liberty-Salem and Urbana high schools. He was on the fence about going to college, but since he couldn’t work while he was getting his treatments in Columbus, he decided he might as well take classes at The Ohio State University. He kept studying after the treatments were over and graduated in 1958.

“I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to come out of it without problems and that I can do something to prevent others from getting polio,” says Runyan, who was honored as the Urbana Rotary Club’s Farmer of the Year earlier this year.

For more  information on the Acre of Corn program, contact Don Bauer at 937-215-3100 or