The major players of Cleveland's Green Scene organized this occasion. Entrepreneurs for Sustainability and Local Food Cleveland (an awesome social-networking site for everything food and local and in Cleveland) put together the event, while Great Lakes Brewing Company hosted. The event being "Meeting the Superstar Farmers of Northeast Ohio," turned out to be an introduction to eight separate farmers with mostly different wares and experiences, coming from as close as within the city of Cleveland (Blue Pike Farm), or as far as about 60 miles out from Cleveland.
I will basically report who or what stood out from the information smorgasbord. One thing I noticed in terms of standing out is that it is highly correlated with having product samples, though as you will see through examples coming up not perfectly correlated.
That being said, Abbe Turner and her Lucky Penny Farm, whose whimsical business card states "CEO, Cheesemaker, Entrepreneur, Optimist," really stood out. Obviously, Ms. Turner is all about the cheesemaking. With her own crew of goats, she makes a feta and a classic, scrumptious soft goat cheese. Her presentation was simple with ice cream-styled sample spoons made for dipping right into the cheeses, no cracker to adulterate the product.
Ms. Turner can now also substitute "cheesemaker" on her business card to "caramelmaker." Her goat milk caramel can be described in modern terms as "OMG!" OMG is right. This caramel was like none other, never have I had a caramel richer and smoother in texture with a color like some kind of gold-radiating, light mocha. The caramel was perfectly amorphous and runny, but thick enough that one twirl of the spoon was enough to contain the glob of wholesome goodness. I want to go out and help on Lucky Penny Farm.
Miller Livestock Company, Inc. also really stood out due to their subversive marketing ploy of sampling their grass-fed and pastured tri-tip. I've all but given up beef because of the lack of options like Miller Livestock. I like their grassroots selling style. Basically, their customers buy direct in some form or another.
Jeff Brunty and his Brunty Farms stood out just for sheer enthusiasm and what seemed like amazingly youthful energy. I'm not sure how old Mr. Brunty is, but his age seemed generations apart from the other Superstars. However, his wisdom did not follow this age gap. Chickens and turkeys are his specialty, but Brunty may be making the jump to beef or pork soon. Farming on 17 acres in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with his girlfriend, Brunty is part of the new school and is totally refreshing. I'd feel comfortable calling him "dude," especially since he forgot, like, all of his business cards. He left me with this sage-like advice, "you can just google Brunty Farm." El dude-a-rino, for sure.
Carl Skalak and his Blue Pike Farm left an impression not because of delicious samples, but rather because of Mr. Skalak's presentation style that seemed to chide and mock the event. He sometimes brought the crowd to an uncomfortable laugh (myself included). Perhaps, he's the Andrew Dice Clay of Cleveland Urban Farming. Aesthetically, I like his concepts, especially regarding open pollinated heirlooms, but his 500 acre-soy-farmer-about-to-lose-the-farm vibe sort of trumped his aesthetics to me personally. Does anybody know where to get this Polish Cleveland tomato that he was talking about? Or the name?
Lastly, a general theme of the event kept echoing throughout the night. That theme being, do the urban/small/micro farm thing only if you generally love the work and lifestyle, as it is not a get rich quick scheme, or even a guarantor of wealth.
Sorry no pictures this time, but you can eventually check out the whole event here:
Otherwise, you can probably just google any of the names, organizations, or companies mentioned in the article. Go Cavs!