The Farmer’s Market Uptown is filled each Saturday with vendors selling their locally grown and cared for products to an educated and environmentally conscious Oxford community.
Downing Fruit Farms, run by Scott and Rachelle Downing, is one such vendor. The farm has been in business for 175 years and Downing is the seventh generation to work on the family land located in Darke County, two counties north of Butler.
The Downing’s grow 75 varieties of apples including their signature apple, coined ‘Downing Land’, which was created by Scott’s uncle in 1937. This tiny apple is a cross between a sweet golden Delicious and a crisp Red Beauty.
The farm also grows peaches, plums, strawberries, and almost any other kind of fruit imaginable, said Downing, but the Downing Fruit Farms’ local claim to fame is their apple cider.
Made always with different apples, the cider varies each time the Downing’s make a batch. In 1999, the last year the farm entered, they won Best Cider at a nationwide cider competition.
Downing Fruit Farms has been vending at the Farmer’s Market at Uptown for the last 7 years, selling their cider and fresh produce to the environmentally conscious residents of Oxford.
“When I came to this market, I learned people were concerned with pesticides,” Downing said.
His family used conventional farming methods that included the use of pesticides. According to Downing, the farmers would spray their produce “by the book”, whether they needed spraying or not. Once Downing realized the importance of sustainable farming to the customers at Oxford’s Farmer’s Market, he started experimenting with different methods to reduce his pesticide use.
For example, Downing started using an alternative method to plant strawberries involving plastic, and no longer needs to use pesticides.
He said he has since reduced his overall pesticide use by half.
Another vendor at the Farmer’s Market at Uptown says that the Downing’s are an example of how farmer’s markets cater to the needs of their customers in ways that big businesses cannot. Downing listened to the concerns voiced by his customers and worked to satisfy their needs, grow an improved product, and help the environment.
The Downing’s will continue to work on ways to reduce pesticides on their produce. Downing said he feels appreciated for his hard work when he comes to the Farmer’s Market at Uptown. The community, according to Downing, is educated about fresh produce, so they understand and are thankful for his efforts to move toward sustainable growing practices.