The young girl quickly hands off a large bag of apples and glances up at me. “What type of apples do you like, sweet or tart?” She stares at me, eyes wide, waiting for my response. When I don’t answer she skillfully produces an apple from the table in front of her, slices off a piece and hands it to me to sample.
It’s this type of personal experience that makes the Farmer’s Market in Oxford, Ohio a popular destination for students and locals.
Every Saturday morning from May to November, farmers, like the Downing family, who provided the delicious apple, neatly line up their booths full of colorful fruits, vibrant flowers, homemade cheeses, and a variety of other locally produced items.
And this year, Oxford’s farmers will be engaging with the community even further through their participation in the 7th annual Harvest Moon Festival.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will be hosting the Harvest Moon Festival. Founded in 1979, this organization consists of a group of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, researchers, and educators with the common goal of building a healthier food system while supporting local famers and preserving the environment.
Through the Moon Festival, OEFFA has provided an outlet where families and locals can see see calves, goats, and chickens, sip warm apple cider, listen to music, and participate in cooking demonstrations hosted by Oxford’s own Chef “Soupy” Steve Townsend, a well known cook at the local Moon Co-op grocery store.
“It’s just fun. There’s something for little bitty kids who want to play with the goats and cows, to people who just want to come into the park, listen to some music and watch the festivities,” says Sherri Berger, owner of Mary’s Plant Farm, and a regular participant in the festival.
This year’s festivities will be held Sunday October 13 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at Uptown Park in Oxford, Ohio.
In addition to providing foods from farms around the Oxford area, another focus of the festival is to educate people.
Harv Roehling, a kind-hearted lettuce farmer with rosy cheeks and a thick, white beard, and current president of the Oxford chapter of OEFFA says, “The whole point [of the festival] is to get the word out about food. It’s so important to know how your food is raised and to know your farmer.”
That’s why this event will showcase three different lectures. The Miami University Botany Department will speak first about seeds, followed by Roehling who will discuss the differences between raising local foods and raising foods organically. And lastly, the president of the Butler County Beekeepers Association will talk about honeybees.
Roehling hopes that these lectures will target those that need to change their eating habits.
“The audience is not necessary for the person who is eating correctly. It’s for Joe Public out there that just eats whatever he wants to. We’re saying you need to be careful what you eat and what you’re diet is,” he says. “How those vegetable were raised, that’s the important thing.”
Roehling isn’t the only member of the Oxford community who is passionate about the benefits of organic eating.
Glenn Platt, a Miami University professor of marketing and economics and a self-deemed “foodie” is excited about the larger impact the Harvest Moon Festival will have for the Oxford community.
“Supporting local farmers and local businesses is part of our responsibility in being part of a community. The food tends to be healthier, and it’s certainly healthier for the environment. Simply, as a foodie, it’s far higher quality foods you can’t get from traditional methods,” he said.
Others are merely looking forward to the festival as a means of entertainment and learning for the family.
“Starting a relationship with the people who are growing or raising [our food] is something that’s important to us a family,” says Robert Bell, Miami University’s project manager and a regular supporter of the farmer’s market.
“It’s important to us to teach our two young kids where their food comes from,” he said.
Whether it’s enjoying a shared apple from the Downing Family Fruit Farm, or educating yourself about the benefits of eating organic foods, the Harvest Moon Festival provides the perfect channel for some learning and entertainment.
The festival is “all about, eating well and supporting local famers who allow you to eat well,” while having fun, says Roehling.
Photos and story by: Catie Ewen