Sunday, January 31, 2010

Local Roots Re-opens!

Local Roots reopened today -- but not as a farmers' market, as an honest-to-goodness store that features local foods. We received our Retail Food Establishment license from the Wayne County Health Department this week, thanks to all the hard work from our volunteers, so we're now ready to be a year-round store!

Producers didn't have to be on-site (though a handful were at least part of the time), and items for sale were arranged by general category (with shelves or tables for producers to display their products):

The new freezer and coolers housed locally-produced meats, cider, milk, butter, cheeses, and LOTS of eggs.

One row of display units featured racks of assorted baked goods...

...while the produce growers had the tilted tables in the middle of the floor loaded with potatoes, onions, squash, apples, and high tunnel roots and greens.

The new coffee bar does not yet have all the equipment needed for brewing freshly-ground locally-roasted coffee, but volunteers offered samples of these coffees throughout the day.

At the other end of the coffee bar, a glass pastry case allowed local bakers to show off their specialty items: muffins, bagels, German lye rolls, cupcakes, French pains au chocolat, and more.

While we didn't have as many people stop in to shop as we did at the holiday farmers' markets, the crowd provided a steady stream of activity throughout the day, and most people seemed impressed with the store design.

The new checkout area still needs some work, and volunteers are still getting used to the new checkout system, so lines were slow, but we are grateful that shoppers were patient with us! (It will get better, we promise!)

We also had a modest but enthusiastic turnout for our community garden discussion in the meeting room at 1 PM. Representatives from local gardens shared their experiences and answered questions, and others expressed their interest in starting other gardens or helping out where possible.

Local Roots Market will now be open on Saturdays from 9 AM to 3 PM. The online order system is now live, with the first pickup date scheduled for next Saturday, February 6. (The online system is open to members only.)

So what are you waiting for? Stop by Local Roots for your shopping, and become a member to make your shopping even more convenient by going online!

We're definitely taking Roots in the community!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Snow Ball a Success!

On Saturday, January 23, volunteers cleared the main retail floor in preparation for the Midwinter Snow Ball. Around 100 people showed up to dance to the lively music of Pocketful o' Gimmick and the calling from Susan English and Bill Alkire.

Squares or circles, lines or contras, no matter the style of dance, people of all ages jumped in and had a great time!

Susan and Bill took turns on the calling, and they chose dances that were easily learned by newcomers and familiar to more experienced dancers.

The floor was packed! And look at those smiles! Volunteers brought refreshments ranging from sweet to savory, so even when people weren't dancing, they could enjoy good local food and conversation with friends.

Several people said they enjoyed themselves so much, they'd like to do it again! So we'll be planning another dance for this summer -- and hope to make the Midwinter Snow Ball an annual tradition.

(In the meantime, you're welcome to attend the Wooster contra dance on the 1st Saturday of the month, October through May, from 7:30 to 10:30 PM at Valley College Grange on Rt. 226.)

Wouldn't you want to join in at a fun night like this?

Photos courtesy of Bill Boyer, who has a CD-ROM with more photos and video clips from the dance available to anyone who's interested. Catch him at the market and ask him about it!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saving Energy At Home

As part of Local Roots' mission, we want to provide community members with the resources they need to live a more sustainable life. That's why we support the work of the Wayne County Sustainable Energy Network, a local organization dedicated to promoting information on renewable energy, energy conservation, and green living.

Our friends at WCSEN have been busy this winter, finding ways to help homeowners reduce their energy costs. Now you can find out more, too:

What: Homeowner's Energy Clinic
When: Thursday, January 28, 7-9 PM
Where: Prentke Romich (PRC), 1022 Heyl Road, Wooster

This free clinic will give you the chance to ask a panel of local builders and energy experts your questions on how to improve the energy efficiency of your home:

"How do I choose an energy efficient home builder?"
"How do I know if my home is well insulated?"
"How can I plan to use renewable energy in my home?"
"What do I need to know about weatherizing?"
...and more!

WCSEN has also organized a group to perform home energy audits, and you can learn more about this service at the clinic.

Come and find out more!

A New Look for the New Year

If you've managed to stop by Local Roots lately to look in the windows, chances are you've seen a lot of activity. Since just after Christmas, our hard-working volunteers have given the market a whole new look:

In late December, volunteers pulled up the carpet in the meeting room and the main market retail space.

Once the carpet came up, volunteers scraped up any glue that remained, and a crew came in to grind the floor down to a beautiful dusky red concrete (not seen here) before refinishing.

After knocking down a wall to install new electrical wiring for our new coolers and freezer, volunteers replaced it with fresh drywall and laid a couple new coats of paint on the walls. We've also had a couple of experienced carpenters come in to build a coffee bar (seen in progress here).

The plumbers came in to install new plumbing for our commercial sinks. (Don't worry, this hole in the floor has been filled in, and the bathroom is functional once more!)

There's more work to be done this week, though, from finishing the construction of our coffee bar and checkout counters to catching all the little finishing details required by the county health department for inspection. If you're available and interested in helping, contact roots (AT) localrootswooster (DOT) com and let us know when you can come in to do your part!

And a very BIG thanks to all of our wonderful volunteers who have made this all possible!

Photos courtesy of John Anderson, Local Roots steering committee member.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Have a Ball at Local Roots!

Winter weather got you down? Looking for ways to stay warm? Local Roots has an idea to perk up your spirits -- and pick up your feet: an old-time dance in the market building.

This Saturday (the 23rd) from 7 PM to 10 PM, Local Roots will host the Midwinter Snow Ball, an old-time dance featuring contras, squares, and other set dances for all ages. Local callers (and Local Roots members) Bill Alkire and Susan English will call the dances, and local band Pocketful o'Gimmick will provide the lively music to set your feet tapping.

The first hour of the dance will feature "talls and smalls," dances designed to partner children and grown-ups -- a special treat for families! Every tall person must dance with a "small" one to share in the fun.

The remaining dances will encourage people 10 years and up to join in the fun. Each dance will be "called" or taught step by step, so no experience is necessary. Dress comfortably, wear rubber-soled shoes (they'll be much more comfortable on the concrete floor), and bring your energy!

Admission for the event will be:

$3 for Local Roots members
$5 for non-members
$1 for youth 10 and under

Refreshments will be provided by volunteers (including some of the fantastic foods from Local Roots!).

Come join us -- we're sure you'll have a ball!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Excuse Our Dust...

Things have been quiet here at Diggin' In, but Local Roots Market has been a hive of activity since Christmas! The renovations of the building continue, but we're making great progress. So far, our excellent volunteers and a handful of local contractors have worked on the following:

--stripped carpet from the main retail floor and the meeting room
--refinished the concrete floor in both areas
--took down the flimsy wallboard on one side of the main retail floor
--installed new electrical wiring for new coolers and freezer
--installed new drywall to replace the removed wall
--painted the main retail space and the meeting room
--replaced the furnace in the meeting room
--purchased the first equipment from our ODA grant: coolers, freezer, sinks
--relocated the bathroom door to make room for work sinks
--installed new plumbing for the new sinks and for the new coffee bar
--started construction of the coffee bar (with cabinetry and storage space)
--started cleaning up

More work needs to be done through next week, but we are still on track to hold our Midwinter Open House this coming Saturday from 10 AM to 3 PM. Stop by to see what's going on and to learn how to use the online order system.

(If anyone has photos from any of the work days that they'd like to share here on the blog or in the monthly newsletter, please send them to news (AT) localrootswooster (DOT) com and we'll be happy to post them!)

Producer members: Don't forget our producer meeting at the market tomorrow -- Thursday, January 21 -- at 8 PM. We'll talk about the online order system as well as how things will be set up in the market and get your ideas for how to make it all work smoothly.

See you soon!

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Midwinter Market's Dream

Have you been missing your local foods? We sure have!

But as volunteers wrap up the renovations at Local Roots over the next week or so, we're getting ready to reopen -- not as the indoor farmers' market you saw in November and December, but as a store, with areas designated for broad categories of food and producers' items grouped within those categories.

(If you haven't stopped by the web site lately, download and read our Market Update (PDF) to find out more about what you can expect.)

On Saturday, January 23, from 10 AM to 3 PM, stop by Local Roots to see the end results of the renovations: new (old and refinished) floor, new plumbing and electrical for store facilities and equipment, and a new wall (replaced after the electrical work was done). We'll also plan to have demonstrations of the online order system for members, so you should be able to place your first order!

At 1 PM on the 23rd, don't forget to stop by for our first Eat At Home discussion to share questions and ideas about eating locally and how we can all do more to support a local food system. Bring your lunch and your thoughts!

On Saturday, January 30, we will officially reopen Local Roots, the Market. Hours have yet to be decided, but you can expect them to be roughly what they were for the farmers' market. We'll be talking to producer members to find out what all they will have to sell -- we think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of local foods, even in winter.

We'll also have our new coffee bar open, so you can enjoy a cup of hot, locally-roasted, delicious coffee along with some very tempting local baked goods while you shop or sit and talk with friends.

Don't let cabin fever get you down this winter -- come to Local Roots!

Local Roots On Facebook

Did you know that Local Roots is now on Facebook?

Check us out! If you're on Facebook, get connected to us. We'll keep our events posted over there, too.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thinking About Local Food

Yes, things have been a little quiet here at Diggin' In. The market is closed for renovations, so we haven't had much to report (although the renovations are progressing nicely; can't wait to show you the end results!).

That doesn't mean we're not thinking about food -- good, healthy, delicious, local food. (Some of us are always thinking about that, really.)

In yesterday's L. A. Times, food writer Russ Parsons ponders the national discussion about food and farming -- why tensions sometimes run high between conventional and organic farmers and what we really should be talking about in common. It's a superb article, worth your time to click through on the link and read it, and it's something that really resonates here at Local Roots.

Local food, especially as you find it at farmers' markets and at Local Roots, tends to be produced by small-scale family farmers, many of whom use organic practices or at least ecologically sound, sustainable methods. It ties into the traditional image most of us have of Old MacDonald's Farm, with a variety of animals and plants in a harmonious ecosystem.

The reality, especially in a place like Wayne County, Ohio, is that "local food" also includes local farmers and local agriculture -- even when those farmers grow and harvest commodity crops (such as corn, soy, or wheat) or raise large herds of animals on large acreage. This form of local agriculture does play a significant role in our local economy as well as our local culture.

Where Parsons brings these two images and realities of agriculture together is in pointing out the shared goals: farmers are in business and thus have making money as a goal. Farmers on both sides of the equation produce food (as well as feed for the animals that become food for us). So we're all in this together, as long as we're part of the American food system.

But maybe that's not good enough. If you saw "Food, Inc." with us back in November, you know there are some critical problems with the American food system, many of which are making farming of any kind more difficult. So what can we do to change the system to support local farmers and get great local foods to market? How can we keep more of the money from those crops in the farmers' hands -- and in our communities?

Over at Grist, writer Steph Larsen emphasizes the need for community in the food system -- and in relocalizing more of the different businesses involved in bringing food from farm to table: butchers, meat lockers, grain mills, bakeries, drivers, as well as markets like Local Roots and community members like you.

Again, we're fortunate here in Wayne County to have some of those. Our meat producers can go to a couple of different meat processing facilities in the area. One of our producers grows grain and has the equipment to mill some of his spelt into flour. Several producers provide the market with baked goods.

Is it enough? What more can we do in this area to make better connections for local farmers and local shoppers? Local Roots has taken the first step, but we know there's still more work to be done in building a resilient local food system that serves many people.

We're starting a year-long discussion at Local Roots as a way to encourage people to make more local food choices. Join us the fourth Saturday of every month at 1 PM (during market hours) to discuss what we can all do to "Eat At Home." If you are just starting to put an emphasis on eating locally, come and learn from others how you can make it easier. If you have ideas and tips to share for growing, preserving, and eating local food, please share! If you want to talk about what more we can do as a community to support local food, be there.

Make this the year you really "Eat At Home."

Eat At Home discussion begins Saturday, January 23, 1 PM, at Local Roots -- during our Midwinter Open House