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Our Food, Our Land, Our Culture, Season by Season

Summer 2017 • Issue No. 29

Water & Earth PRICELESS Member of Edible Communities


Contents 2017

At Freshwater Farms, an aquaculture business raising fish in Ohio for market. Read story on page 32.

DEPARTMENTS 4 6 8 10 12 14 20 24 28 32 37 54 57 64









A look at the relationship between Central Ohio’s watersheds and our food system By Nicole Rasul

The Big Lots Columbus-based national headquarters digs into community gardening By Claire Spurlock • Photography by Rachel Joy Barehl






REVIVING THE ROCK MILL Preservationists in Fairfield County restore a historic landmark for mill production By Teresa Woodard • Photography by Rachel Woodard

THE GIFT OF FRUIT A global art project dedicated to growing fruit parks takes root on the South Side of Columbus By Colleen Leonardi





9 10 11 30 31 37

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Beans and Cashews Watermelon Chicken Salad Stuffed Squash with Basil and Honey Spicy Avocado Hummus Mushroom Miso Ramen English Pea Risotto with Poached Shrimp

COVER Fresh watermelon as ripe as the sun is high. PHOTO BY © CAROLE TOPALIAN

To Our Local Food Community, This year we celebrate our eighth year in print. When Edible Columbus first landed in our city it was with the grace and vision of chef and owner of The Seasoned Farmhouse and Flowers & Bread, Tricia Wheeler. We would not have this beautiful publication in our midst if it were not for her faith in the local food community of Central Ohio and beyond. Her commitment to all of the burgeoning and established farmers, growers, food producers, entrepreneurs, chefs and innumerable talents in our city was the spark that lit the fire that is Edible Columbus. We’re grateful for her leadership, creativity and pioneer spirit as she continues to embark on exciting new ventures in Columbus. With our eighth-year anniversary arrives an exciting new partnership with Franklin County Farm Bureau. As a grassroots organization, Franklin County Farm Bureau works to support our state’s thriving local food and farm economy, a mission that lies at the core of the work we do at Edible Columbus. Franklin County Farm Bureau is a 15,000-member non-profit organization located in Columbus, Ohio. They are dedicated to pursuing policies and initiatives that will preserve farmland, protect the environment and promote local foods and agriculture. Together, we believe that we can amplify the voice of the agricultural community in Central Ohio and build a platform to connect consumers with the very best of Ohio’s farms, chefs and local foods. Thanks to this partnership, Edible Columbus can continue to tell the stories of our local food community. Our editorial commitments and direction remain. As a team, we’re future-focused on the issues, goals, solutions and celebrations that help unite all stakeholders across all sectors of the food chain. We believe wholeheartedly in this opportunity for an expanded community. And we’re thrilled to bring renewed growth and change for a sustainable synergy of all farming interests, big and small, across Ohio and the Midwest. Thank you for your support and commitment to local food in Ohio. We look forward to many more years of sharing the stories of our region with you and moving the local food movement forward.

Edible Columbus Franklin County Farm Bureau, Publisher Claire Spurlock, Associate Publisher Colleen Leonardi, Managing Editor and Editor




letter from the EDITOR


Franklin County Farm Bureau ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER




Doug Adrianson Susanna Cantor

And now I’m going to get philosophical on you for a moment. I know—it’s summer and the beaches are calling. Yet the main source of pleasure at the beach—the Mother Ocean—is what I want to speak to. It’s no secret our waters are in jeopardy, and our drinking water is not exempt from these risks. Before Aristotle, there was the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus, who developed a whole cosmology around water as the root of all matter, the source of all life. The indigenous people of our time, therefore, are not the only ones—our history shows water was revered and respected as the seeds of Western civilization were being planted. In a recent study by The Nature Conservancy, “80% of large cities could meaningfully improve their drinking-water quality and reliability by boosting land conservation and changing agricultural practices in the watersheds that supply them.” Water and earth are intimately linked. Our summer issue looks at this relationship by exploring water in Central Ohio, from our watersheds (page 38) to a growing market known as aquaculture that is dedicated to raising fish on farms (page 32). We also take a look at our soil and community garden efforts in Columbus. The story of the gardens at Big Lots’ corporate headquarters (page 42) and the fruit parks created in Weinland Park and the South Side of Columbus by Los Angeles artists David Young




and Austin Burns in collaboration with the Wexner Center (page 58) are beacons of inspiration for what is possible when communities build trust and come together to make beauty we can all eat. And then there is the eating. And for that we’ve dished up recipes from Mi Ae Lipe’s handsome cookbook, Bounty from The Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook, including Watermelon Chicken Salad (page 10) and Stuffed Squash with Basil and Honey (page 11). We also share stories about trailblazers in our community, from the artist Sarah Fairchild (page 20) to hiker Danielle Vilaplana (page 28), who shares her original recipes for dehydrated Spicy Avocado Hummus (page 30) and Mushroom Miso Ramen (page 31) for those looking to take in some long-distance hiking this summer. And then there is a day-trip, and for that we highlight some new eateries and food destinations down south through Hocking Hills and Lancaster (page 14). And back to history for one more breath. You must read about and visit the historic Rock Mill in Fairfield County (page 48). This amazing structure has been restored for mill production, an amazing accomplishment for our region and Ohio’s food traditions. Stay cool, eat some watermelon and enjoy the summertime sun!

Colleen Leonardi


Melissa Petersen CONTRIBUTORS

Rachel Joy Barehl Bambi Edlund Abby Hockman Maria Khoroshilova Colleen Leonardi Mi Ae Lipe Nicole Rasul Julie Bhusal Sharma Kristen Solecki Claire Spurlock Carole Topalian Danielle Vilaplana Sarah Warda Joshua Wickham Teresa Woodard Rachel Woodard CONTACT US

P.O. Box 21-8376 Columbus, Ohio 43221 Edible Columbus


@ediblecolumbus ADVERTISING INQUIRIES Edible Columbus is published quarterly and distributed throughout Central Ohio. Subscription rate is $25 annually. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used without written permission from the publisher. Every effort is made to avoid errors, misspellings and omissions. If, however, an error comes to your attention, please accept our sincere apologies and notify us. Thank you.



s Edible Columbus celebrates its eighth year in print, I’d like to welcome Franklin County Farm Bureau to our team. Their stewardship of our magazine and mission makes our continued publication possible.

Side Dish We’re sharing a glimpse of what summer in Columbus looks, smells and tastes like, through your eyes. Be sure to tag your next edible adventures with #ediblecolumbus. —Claire Spurlock

From left to right: Top: @flowerfarmette, @cheapeatscolumbus, @cbusfoodauthority Middle: @watershedkitchenandbar, @columbus_foodie, @comune_restaurant Bottom:, @sarahsbread, @neighborfoodie 6



local and in SEASON

What’s In Season* Peak Harvest: July to August Edible Flowers Fruits: Black, Purple and Red Raspberries; Everbearing Strawberries; Blackberries; Gooseberries; Peaches; Currants; Tomatoes; Cantaloupe Vegetables: Green Peas; Sweet Corn; Bell, Hot and Sweet Peppers; Cucumbers; Eggplant; Carrots; Garlic; Leeks; Okra; Lettuces and Greens; Potatoes

Late Harvest: August to Early September Edible Flowers Fruits: Apples; Everbearing Strawberries; Fall Raspberries; Blackberries; Peaches; Grapes; Tomatoes; Cantaloupe; Watermelon Vegetables: Sweet Corn; Bell, Hot and Sweet Peppers; Eggplant; Carrots; Garlic; Leeks; Okra; Lettuces and Greens; Potatoes


* Editor’s Note: Make some time at the farmers market to talk to your farmer and find out what’s growing this summer, and what’s not. Be flexible and learn what’s in abundance from the farmer who grows your food.

Nubia eggplant 8



What to Cook Our recipe for eggplant comes from Mi Ae Lipe’s cookbook, Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook. See our story on page 10 for more recipes and details. —CL

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Beans and Cashews Serves 6

2 medium globe eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided ½ pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 teaspoon curry powder ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ½ cup roasted cashews, chopped ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 475°. Toss the eggplant with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the coarse salt. Place the eggplant in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until it becomes golden brown. Cook the green beans in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until they become crisptender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain, and pat dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vegetable oil, curry powder, the remaining salt and pepper. Toss the eggplant, green beans, cashews and cilantro with the dressing and serve immediately. — Featherstone Farm, Rushford, Minnesota, as appears in Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm

Cookbook, by Mi Ae Lipe




edible READS

Bounty from the Box The CSA Farm Cookbook By Mi Ae Lipe

Watermelon and Chicken Salad Serves 4 Asian noodles come in all sorts of varieties. For this salad, it is best to use a thinner, more delicate noodle, like ramen, soba or rice vermicelli. Sweet-and-Sour Ginger Dressing 2½ tablespoons rice vinegar 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger ½ cup soybean oil


2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

hen Mi Ae emailed us about her cookbook

Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook we had no idea what we were in for.

Published in 2015, this kaleidoscopic book is everlasting with more than 350 recipes organized by season. Flip to summer, and you’ll find dozens of delicious propositions for your hungry soul tied right into what your local farmers are growing and bringing to market that week. Many of the recipes are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. We share three of our favorites for late-summer eating. Check out her recipe for a cooling glass of Agua de Pepino (Cucumber Limeade) on our website at —Colleen Leonardi

Salad 1 (3-pound) red watermelon 12 ounces Asian noodles, uncooked 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled 10 ounces seedless cucumber, thinly sliced with peel on 2 ounces green onions, thinly sliced Bamboo shoots, thinly sliced, for garnish Parsley sprigs, for garnish

To prepare the dressing, stir the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and ginger until thoroughly mixed; set aside. Combine the soy and sesame oils in a salad dressing shaker; gradually add the vinegar mixture until blended. Shake well before serving. To prepare the salad, remove the rind from the watermelon and cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Cover and refrigerate. Cook and drain the noodles; set aside. ¾ cup of cooked noodles. Place ¾ cup cubed watermelon and ⅓ cup sliced

To make an individual serving, arrange 1 sliced chicken breast on top of about

cucumbers beside the chicken. Sprinkle with green onions. Garnish with

bamboo shoots and parsley sprigs, and serve with the Sweet-and-Sour Ginger

—National Watermelon Promotion Board, as appears in Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook, by Mi Ae Lipe






Stuffed Squash with Basil and Honey Serves 4 to 6 2 pounds summer squash (4 to 6 squashes) Olive oil 1 small Walla Walla onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 1 tablespoon honey 1 teaspoon light soy sauce 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste) ⅓ cup fresh basil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Boil, steam or microwave the squash whole until it is tender. Drain and cool. Slice the whole squash so it can sit flat (either like a canoe for the zucchini and yellow squash, or like a chair for the pattypan). Scoop a shallow hole from the top of each squash. Set the shells aside, and finely chop the scooped pieces. Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat some olive oil in a small saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until they become soft, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped squash, honey, soy sauce, tahini and basil, and cook for 1 more minute. Place the squash shells onto an oven tray, spoon the basil mixture into the hollows, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Serve the individual squashes on their own plates. — Featherstone Farm, Rushford, Minnesota, as appears in Bounty from the Box: The CSA Farm Cookbook, by Mi Ae Lipe




Kitchens We Love

Inside the kitchen of Alex Homan & Tamara Howard in German Village


By Claire Spurlock





lex Homan and Tamara Howard made quick work of renovating their German Village home after purchasing it last September, navigating quirks and highlighting character that has endured since the building’s construction in 1885. “In terms of remodeling the kitchen, we really were inspired by similar small kitchens that really retained a sense of warmth and brightness,” says Alex. “By sticking with a lot of white and soft woods, we thought we could make it feel bigger than it actually is.” Original wide-plank wood floors stretch from the front door to the entrance of the kitchen, where Alex and Tamara reworked an old galley-style kitchen, narrow and dim, into an airy and efficient space flanked with large windows for natural light and, on temperate days, a welcome breeze. Tall ceilings and rich accent colors set off elements of the kitchen where personal touches shine: a window ledge for displaying fresh flowers or produce above the farm house sink, the striking navy-blue door leading to the backyard, custom grey cabinets and a bright white tile backsplash. “It was definitely a night and day difference from the way it was laid out,” says Alex. Having completed most of the construction work themselves with assistance from handy family members, Alex and Tamara lived through the top-tobottom transformation of their space, watching it open up (as wood paneling came down) and customizing it to their lifestyle. “We took it down to the studs,” says Tamara. The new counters, it turns out, are the perfect height for Alex and Tamara’s towering, 170-pound Great Dane, Charlie, to rest his head on during meal prep time. Charlie prefers to lie in the center of the kitchen and the action, or, in warmer months, on top of an original air conditioning vent in the middle of the living room. “We have to step over him,” says Tamara. In order to “Charlie-proof ” the kitchen “everything gets pushed to the back,” says Tamara, scooting a ceramic jar of dog treats to the far reaches of the counter, out of range of a most curious nose. And while Alex and Tamara have differing tastes when it comes to food and tend to cook their own meals, the couple agrees that the kitchen is one of the most loved and used spaces in the home, a gathering place during mealtime or for entertaining. “She’s a much more adventurous eater,” says Alex, with a smile. Despite that, Alex and Tamara’s styles meld seamlessly in the kitchen, bringing new life and purpose to a historic home.

Tag a kitchen you love @ediblecolumbus edible



worth the TRIP

Down South

Delicious day trip destinations and local eateries in Lancaster and the Hocking Hills region By Abby Hockman Photography by Sarah Warda





ith millions of visitors each year, Lancaster and the Hocking Hills region should be at the top of every Ohioan’s road trip list. Lancaster’s recently revitalized, charming downtown and the Hocking Hills’ awe-inspiring natural wonders lend themselves to a relaxing getaway that is enhanced by the abundant fresh fare found along the way.

I am bombarded on a daily basis with social media posts from friends about The Well in Lancaster, and for good reason. Its vegan/vegetarianfriendly menu is completely gluten-free, making it unique to the city. Co-owner Aaron Leu says, “Our menu is creatively wholesome, splashed with the best bounty of the local land, handpicked and often piled high on our countertops. We are inspired by the local growers’ produce.” Their direct-trade coffee grown in Kenya and South America is roasted in-house and perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or cozy meeting, accompanied by the option of organic milk or house-made almond milk. A block away is Keller Market House, a nonprofit marketplace with big plans for the future. The majority of vendors are local consigners with bakery goods, produce, meats, jams, jellies and salsas. Additionally, they carry milk, cheeses, craft beer and fresh cut flowers. Every product in the shop is from an Ohio business with 80% of vendors residing in Fairfield County and surrounding areas. “This is new for Lancaster and Fairfield County. It is developing as we go along. There has been a pent-up demand for local products. We have had a lot of community support,” states Brad Grywalski, general manager. Brad is passionate about the business, explaining that Keller Market House aims to be a food hub for the community, with community classes underway and future plans for a shared kitchen space for vendors. Long-time Lancaster institution Shaw’s Restaurant has been transformed into owner and

Opposite: From top left, clockwise: Lunch at The Well in Lancaster, Ohio, with Blood Builder Juice, Nourishing Bowl and Zesty Beet Orange Kale Salad. This page, top: The Well in Lancaster, Ohio. Middle, right and bottom: Inside Keller Market House, a local food market, in Lancaster, Ohio.







executive chef Susie Krutsch’s newest vision. Recent interior renovations changed the restaurant into a brighter, more casual atmosphere including a bakery, bar and restaurant. Susie shares her concept, “There is still American [cuisine] with global touches. We continue to feature our steaks, fresh seafood and awardwinning wine list. We wanted to make it more approachable with pastas, pizzas, veggie burgers and rice bowls with different proteins. The bar menu is a little bit different with more appetizers. The bakery has American-style pastries, including birthday cakes, cupcakes, cookies, croissants, caramels, brittles, chewing gum. The bakery has wine bottles to go and wine by the glass. Come with girlfriends!” The feminine Mable & Grace Bakery and Confections is named after her grandmother and great-grandmother and the rowdier Harry’s Bar after Harry Shaw, adding a distinctly personal touch to the additions. From homemade confections and affordable artisan breads in the bakery, a spirited bar and classic restaurant, Shaw’s continues to serve downtown Lancaster in an even greater capacity. From Lancaster, take a short drive down Route 33 to Nelsonville to visit the Rhapsody Restaurant. Owned by Hocking College, the restaurant gives students in culinary and hospitality programs real-world training alongside permanent restaurant staff. Executive head chef Jason Simon dishes, “Working with students is very rewarding. It is a great chance to give back and help young chefs on their journey like so many have done for me.” Rhapsody’s menu exposes students to flavorful Appalachian cuisine with produce from Chester Hill Produce Auction and local Amish growers, as well as Cleveland-raised proteins. Lake lovers need look no further than Lake Hope Lodge to dine on made-from-scratch dishes while overlooking the lake. Their core menu highlights meats smoked in-house, such as

Opposite: Seared Salmon on French Lentils with Cabernet Shallot Butter and Blistered Tomatoes at Shaw’s. This page, top: Dinner at Shaw’s Restaurant. Middle: Almond Crusted Chicken on Shaw’s Cheddar Mac and Cheese. Bottom: Garlic Grilled Colorado Lamb with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots at Rhapsody Restaurant in Nelsonville, Ohio.




their popular brisket, as well as pulled pork, prime rib and ribs on the weekend. Of the menu, chef/partner Matt Rapposelli says, “We do everything in-house and from scratch. We make our own rolls, breads, pizza dough, etc.” Even their spiced powders and herb mixes are made onsite. In the wake of last year’s tragedy, when sister location Hocking Hills Dining Lodge burned down, Lake Hope Lodge has extended its hours and is now open seven days a week, with a special brunch on Sundays from 10am–2pm. For upscale, health-driven dining in a laidback atmosphere, visit Kindred Spirits restaurant at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. Rustic wood cabins form the restaurant and owner Ellen Grinsfelder notes, “The original 1840s cabin is the heart of the cooking quarters. You’ll find executive chef Abby Cole behind the stove in an open kitchen.” Enjoy wine and organic beer pairings with the summer dinner menu that includes tantalizing items such as poached Arctic char and smoked duck ravioli. Always innovating, Kindred Spirits has added small plates, so diners can order multiple dishes to share. Reservations are required except for Casual Fridays, which feature a bistro-style menu and live music. Hocking Hills Winery, where I have passed many an enjoyable evening, is the perfect place to unwind after a day of hiking through the surrounding trails. Sample wines at the tasting bar made onsite from the property’s vineyard and grapes imported from Washington, California, Oregon and South America. Of the new 2017 wines, CEO Blaine Davidson exclaims, “One is a chardonnay, which is dry and buttery with a touch of oak. Our two new red wines are out on the floor—Hocking River Red and Rock House Rouge. Both are sweet wine blends and have proven very popular.” For a special treat, try one of their wine slushies served in mason jars that can be taken back for a relaxing summer evening in a nearby cabin.

Abby Hockman is a writer, speaker and marketer on a year-long round-the-world trip. Her current passion is tasting food in its country of origin. Follow her adventures at




The Well 203 S. Broad St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130 740-573-7011 Shaw’s Restaurant 123 N. Broad St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130 740-654-1842 Keller Market House 134 S. Columbus St., Lancaster, Ohio 43130 740-277-6305 Kindred Spirits 21190 State Route 374, Logan, Ohio 43138 800-653-2557 Lake Hope Lodge 27331 State Route 278, McArthur, Ohio 45651 740-596-0601 Rhapsody Restaurant 18 Public Square, Nelsonville, Ohio 43130 740-753-5740 Hocking Hills Winery 30402 Freeman Rd., Logan, Ohio 43138 740-385-7117

Opposite; Top left: Seared Duck Breast with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Blood Orange Reduction at Rhapsody restaurant in Nelsonville, Ohio. Top, right: At Kindred Spirits restaurant at The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls. Middle: Pan Seared Scallops with Butternut PurĂŠe, Sweet Peas, Pecan Butter with an Apple Chip at Kindred Spirits restaurant at The Inn & Spa. Bottom and this page: At Hocking Hills Winery.





edible CULTURE




A Woman’s Feast The phenomenal paintings of artist Sarah Fairchild and her electric approach to food and nature By Colleen Leonardi

“I hope to make work that is a familiar and delightful reminder of the beauty surrounding us,” says Columbus artist Sarah Fairchild, “and why it’s worth protecting.” One look at Sarah’s neon pink cabbages or sultry, midnight blue broccoli does leave you in suspense over how simultaneously star-like and essential peasant food can become in the eye of the beholder. We caught up with Sarah while she’s living in New York City, creating a body of work and exploring high fashion for inspiration. —CL

Q: Tell me about your childhood growing up in the garden. A:

My grandmother and my mother were both avid gardeners and would can and freeze their own food. We spent summers in the garden picking tomatoes and shelling peas. It’s just what I knew. We were always outside in the summer. It was a time when we grew our own food; we didn’t go to the grocery store to buy the majority of our food. That is something I find sad about how food has changed in this modern environment.

Q: Where do you gather inspiration? How often are you researching new images and ideas? A:

I love community gardens more than most any other location. Gardens and plants in general are time-based; when you see the corn getting tall you know summer is starting to wane. I find beauty in common vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower in all the stages of growth, when they’re brand new and then when they’re old, bug-eaten and imperfect, yet still beautiful. They have this sort of raw beauty. When I am in Columbus I always take time to photograph the Grandview community garden and the community gardens

at the Franklin Park Conservatory. I work from my own photographs. I try to connect to Columbus as much as possible. It’s my home, my friends and my community. But I’m also in the city now and it’s this visual overload. I’ve been really inspired by fashion, going into Barney’s, or other high-end retail shops, and looking at some of the clothes and really being inspired by the colors, forms and textures of these couture objects and thinking of art in that way. Like the hand-made versus the mass-produced because couture objects are very expensive, limited edition, and then you have art, which is an obsession, really, with these objects that take a lot of time similar to couture objects.

Opposite: “Blue Cabbage and Tomato Leaves,” 72 inches x 54 inches, acrylic and nylon flocking (velvet) on paper. Above: “Ferns and Fungus,” 59 inches x 59 inches, silkscreen, acrylic, metallic foil and nylon flocking (velvet) on silk.




around 200 people before noon. I had a very social life in Columbus, so this is more solitary. I’m also valuing the change that it is. Doing this full-time, the most gratifying part right now is being able to experiment and try new things.

Q: As an artist from Ohio now working in New York City, how do you connect to the earth, vegetables, the soil and growing food while living in the city? A:

I consider myself very lucky. I live in Jersey City and I have a front porch garden. I have four large pots and I grow herbs, some tomato plants and just a few basic things just to have something to take care of. It’s really important to me. It’s interesting, too, because we live on a busy street and people come by and are like, “Can I have some of your hot peppers?” And then they’re picking the basil and they’re sort of kind of stealing it but I don’t really care. You know, in big cities people don’t really talk. I’m used to Columbus, an easy, supportive environment. So, it’s kind of nice that people are like, “Oh, your flowers look so great, thank you for putting them out.” The plants have connected me with neighbors and the community that might not have been possible otherwise.

Q: What are some of the challenges and joys of living as a painter? A:


I work by myself now and I do the five days a week, eight to 10 hours a day and I’m by myself. I taught for 15 years and I was



being. It’s something I value more than anything. I like to be out in it. I like to scuba dive. I love to see things in their natural state. I watch for hawks. I’m always searching for what bird is in the area. I’ve been the nerdy girl looking for birds. It’s honest. There’s no judgment in nature. Everything just is. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad. It’s just nature. And there’s no ugly nature. What’s the ugly nature? Can you tell me? Only when man goes in and ruins it so it can no longer sustain itself.

Q: What projects are you working on now? A:

I have been working for the last year and a half, or two years, on a solid body of work to connect with more galleries and show more work. So, I’ve been working on paintings, larger works. I’ve been experimenting with new colors—blues, greens, oranges and turquoise. I’ve also been working on silk, so it’s bringing that couture fashion element back in. So, I might buy a yard or two of silk that was designed by Oscar De La Renta or Roberto Cavalli, and then I add my art on top of it, so it creates an interesting kind of play.

Q: What is your favorite summer vegetable? A:

Tomatoes. They are my favorite. Homegrown, simple, perfect, sliced, lightly chilled with a drizzle of nice olive oil, salt, served with a chunk of crusty bread. Learn more about Sarah’s work at, or visit Hammond Harkins Gal-

Q: Why is nature such an important connection for you? A:

It’s the most important thing. It connects you. It grounds you. It’s beautiful. It’s aweinspiring. I get super excited by a feather, by a rock. It’s just a part of who I am as a

leries in the Short North.

Colleen Leonardi is a writer and editor of Edible

Columbus. Find her online at

Above: “Jersey Wakefield Cabbage and Wildflowers,” 25 inches x 53 inches, acrylic, nylon flocking (velvet), Swarovski crystals, rhinestones and hand painted appliqués on paper. Opposite: “Mixed Vegetables and Chicken Wire,” 108 inches x 52 inches, acrylic, nylon flocking (velvet), silkscreen and Swarovski crystals on paper.






The Wellington School gardens stretch along the south side of a building just beside a playground—both receive their fair share of activity. A combination of raised and in-ground beds contains a wide variety of produce, depending on the time of year. Just this year six more raised beds were added and a new fence was constructed to enlarge the space where students can study or work in the gardens. The early-summer planting included butter crunch lettuce, Swiss chard, broccoli, peas and strawberries. “We planted some watermelon, which we’ll hopefully enjoy when we get back,” says Joya. “Same with zucchini and cantaloupe. “Once school starts back in August we’ll get to harvest the last of the summer crops before clearing it out and doing fall planting,” says Joya. Entering her second year as director of gardens, Joya’s approach is not to make gardening part of a specialized class, but instead to ensure all teachers at the school feel confident in their abilities to integrate the gardens into their own classroom curriculum. The gardens, ideally, act as a learning tool.

books deciding to focus on us as teachers first because we are the true models for students,” says Joya. “Now that we’ve had a year of focusing on us and setting the good example, next year will be a bigger focus on kids.” Students in all three divisions of the school work on wellness through gratitude journals and unique electives like happiness, which connects happiness to, among other things, time outside. “It’s cool to watch all of the stuff around gardening really grow,” says Joya. Students enrolled at The Wellington School range from pre-K, around 3 years old, to high school. Joya hopes to find a place for each grade to engage with the gardens. For students in the lower, or elementary, school, “it’s really helping them to connect back to their food source, giving them the opportunity to develop their own healthy habits,” says Joya. When visiting the gardens with students in the lower school, Joya will often assign tasks or projects. “Some groups do some investigation or writing in the garden,” she says. Sometimes Joya divides up the students to work in groups on mini-garden lessons like how to weed, water or transplant. Middle school students participated in an engineering project to expand the gardens. “They were very involved there,” says Joya. Upper school, grades 9–12, has a voluntary garden club in which students can sign up to be involved in the gardens.

“For me it’s always been about teaching teachers how to do it,” says Joya. In alignment with the school’s focus on wellness initiatives, “we read a couple

Opposite: Children learning about gardening as a part of the wellness integrative initiatives at the Wellington School. 24





garden is a classroom in and of itself. For Joya Elmore, director of gardens for environment-based learning at The Wellington School, the school gardens are a way to enrich the lives and lessons of students who interact in them. And, as students and teachers throughout the school focus on integrated wellness initiatives, the gardens offer opportunities for all to reconnect, observe and learn.




A fresh harvest of lettuce planted by the students at The Wellington School.

Eventually, Joya hopes to establish a “Budding Entrepreneur Program” where participating students could operate a farm stand and learn valuable skills pertaining to growing, harvesting, sales and customer service. “To me gardening goes beyond just learning how to grow your own food,” says Joya. “It’s a chance for kids to see that food can be a product.” “When things are ready to harvest, they’d be responsible for working with an adult to wash, weigh and package the product to sell at the farm stand at the end of the school day,” says Joya. “Someone can be doing accounting, keeping track of our records, what we’re selling, if it matches up with money and how much we made,” says Joya. Money raised would go back into the garden program toward tools, soil, seeds or improvements for the next year.

“It’s been nice to connect garden to dining room,” says Joya. “There’s a focus on having a colorful plate and making good healthy choices,” she says. Outside of cooking lessons and mealtime, produce is incorporated into science, math and other academic endeavors. Activities like, “scaling up recipes for a class, pulling in the math and science of massaging kale leaves and putting lemon with it, how acidity breaks it down,” are ways to bring the garden into the classroom and apply them to real-world learning experiences. “For me it’s all about that. Everyone needs opportunities to learn outside the classroom walls and the garden provides a full sensory experience.” “I just love the fact that there is so much awe in at all,” says Joya. “That’s magical.”

Before moving to Columbus Joya worked as the director of a “Gardens 2 Schools” program with the Druid City Garden Project in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There, she and her team partnered with area elementary schools, set up seven gardens and taught the schools how to use them as teaching tools. The impact in the community was great: researchers from the University of Alabama evaluated the program and found that overall body mass index decreased and test scores increased over time, among participants.

Claire Spurlock is now Associate Publisher at Edible Columbus after years as a

“It’s always been my passion,” says Joya.

Journalism at Ohio University, and now specializes in digital communications,

At The Wellington School, Joya is able utilize resources like the school kitchen to showcase produce from harvest to plate.

lington with her husband.

The Wellington School 3650 Reed Rd., Columbus, Ohio; 614-457-7883;

writer and admirer. She earned her degree from the E.W. Scripps School of community engagement and professional snacking. She lives in Upper Ar-











A Hiker’s Appetite What to eat (and not eat) while long-distance hiking for optimum health By Danielle Vilaplana • Photography by Maria Khoroshilova


’m sitting on a granite peak, watching the waves crash against a distant rocky coast. I drove here on impulse, 15 hours back to Maine. I’m nearly 200 miles from Mount Katahdin, but that doesn’t matter—I’m content to be back, eight months later, in the state where I started my hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Despite finishing the trail nearly four months ago, I find myself running back with the same restlessness that first sent me to it last June. The trail is familiar and novel, brutal and brilliant—a violent roller coaster where the only sure advice is “enjoy the ride.” It was a lifestyle so opposite of my former habits that I knew I could never go back to the way things were. I’d lost the path I wanted to be on, but the AT brought me back. A passion for hiking is mandatory to walk from Maine to Georgia, but the sublime moments stand out more than the landscape in retrospect. Watching the sun set and rise from McAfee Knob and the shooting stars in between. Eating half a gallon of ice cream at the AT’s midpoint. Sitting beneath a dual-headed shower and watching the warm water and dirt swirl around my feet. After spending so much time going without, the trail’s unexpected moments became overwhelming. During my thru hike, I subsisted on instant oatmeal, Pop-Tarts, ramen, Great Valu electrolyte powders and anything Little Debbie. Calories and weight took priority over health, and town stops were characterized by rapid intakes of fast food. This meal plan got me through roughly 25 miles a day, but the nutrient deficiency destroyed my body. “You’re burning an exceptional number of calories,” explains Kristen Arnold, a professional cyclist and dietician, when I talked to her about the best foods for hiking. “But you’re also using all of your bodily systems more than you are normally, so your need for micronutrients, vitamins and minerals is also higher.” “It is really important to stay hydrated and also maintain iron stores, preferably heme iron, which is from animal protein,” says Kristen. “Nonheme iron from plant sources is also okay, but the hiker would need to have a higher amount to make up for the fact that it is less absorbable.”

Several people I met on the AT dehydrated their meals and sent them in mail drops. By preparing food ahead of time they could incorporate more diverse and nutritious items into their diets. To stay vegetarian on my next hike, Kristen recommends focusing on whole grains and using quinoa or whole wheat couscous in recipes instead of the standard instant rice. She also advises a supplement or a multivitamin as a fallback. Getting enough protein and iron is easier for those with fewer food restrictions, as they can add a variety of animal sources to their meals. I plan to consume more legumes on my next hike, especially chickpeas. I frequently sat outside Walmart eating an entire Sabra container and wishing I could justify buying expensive dried hummus on Amazon. Hummus becomes a fine, lightweight powder when dehydrated, making it an excellent sugar-free, protein-rich lunch or snack. Adjusting to life after the AT is difficult, but coming back to Maine reminded me why I fell in love with this lifestyle and why it’s important to keep planning and preparing. Though most of my friends will be on the Pacific Crest Trail this year, I linked up with a northbound hiker I met in Connecticut and together we’re mapping a route on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Spanning an unfinished 2,600 to 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, the CDT is a vastly different trail from the AT and requires more gear and a different mindset. The endless hours researching, training and in the kitchen are a reminder to stay focused on the goal—the CDT. Thru-hiking is about what happens between each terminus but the finish line is what kept us going, with the knowledge that each step on the trail, and every hour spent in the kitchen, will get us closer to that final summit.

Danielle Vilaplana graduated from The Ohio State University with degrees in anthropology and globalization studies. She hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2016 and is currently walking from Canada to Mexico on the Continental Divide Trail. In the off-season, she works at REI and continues her hiker trash lifestyle.

"You're burning an exceptional number of calories,” explains Kristen Arnold, a professional cyclist and dietician, when I talked to her about the best foods for hiking. “But you're also using all of your bodily systems more than you are normally, so your need for micronutrients, vitamins and minerals is also higher." Opposite: Hiker and writer Danielle Vilaplana.




How to Cook Dehydrated Meals for the Trail By Danielle Vilaplana Grains can be cooked in a normal manner but double the serving size for a trail appetite. Leave out most oils or fats that a grain recipe may call for—a rule that is applicable when drying any food. Pasta should be made al dente, as it will cook some as it rehydrates. Vegetables that are normally cooked should be steamed before drying, but this is not necessary for those that are generally consumed raw. I intend to go stoveless for the CDT, so it’s best to steam the vegetables for eight minutes when temperatures do not reach a boil. Fruit is similar in that as it is consumed raw it does not need to be cooked, but choose mature fruits for better flavor. Backpacking dinners are more complex and can be made a number of ways, but most people dehydrate different elements separately. Not all foods rehydrate equally, so preparing them individually and assembling them after ensures a consistent outcome. Foods dry at different rates as well and may vary due to factors such as humidity and outside temperature. To rehydrate meals, follow a general 1-to-1 ratio of water to dry food. The most effective method for time-crunched thru-hikers is to let the meal soak for 20 minutes and bring it to a boil halfway through. For stoveless meals, simply mixing the food and water in a jar a few hours before camp is enough to adequately rehydrate dinner.

Spicy Avocado Hummus 3 jalapeños (or to taste) 4 cloves garlic 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed ½ avocado ¼ cup tahini 5 tablespoons lime juice 1½ teaspoons cumin 1 teaspoon cayenne 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon salt

Roast jalapeños and garlic for 20 minutes at 400°. Once cool, remove seeds and chop coarsely. Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth. Spread thinly on dehydrator trays and leave at 115° until completely dry and crumbly, rotating trays occasionally. Run the dried hummus through a food processor again to create a fine powder. On the trail: To rehydrate, add water slowly. A few drops of olive oil will boost the flavor and texture. Can be eaten alone, on a tortilla or with the rare vegetable.




Mushroom Miso Ramen 1 tablespoon red miso Assorted dried veggies 3 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1½ teaspoons ground ginger 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning (found at most Asian markets) ¼ teaspoon black pepper ½ teaspoon sriracha powder Wakame

Dehydrate miso: Spread very thinly on trays, roughly 1 millimeter thick, and set dehydrator to 115°. Once dry on one side, use a spatula to flip. When fully dehydrated, run through a very fine food processor or grind by hand. A coffeegrinder worked best for me. On the trail: Add assorted dried vegetables to water and bring to boil. Add noodles; the noodles absorb more liquid than traditional ramen so use extra water. Cook noodles for 6 minutes. Spices can be added at any point in the cooking process.

At left: Dehydrating spicy avocado hummus for the trail. It will be ground into a powder and stored in a Ziplock bag. Use extra water to rehydrate hummus.

Above: DIY mushroom miso ramen with dehydrated vegetables, mushrooms and spices; heats up easily with some water in a pot.




from the good EARTH




Deep City Fishing

A look at fish farms and businesses in Central Ohio—yep, Ohio By Julie Bhusal Sharma Photography by Rachel Joy Barehl


he ocean is like soil for seafood. Yet, just like our soils, the health of the ocean across the globe is changing, and with it, where our seafood will come from in the future.

Central Ohio, however, has increasingly cast a net on farming fish—a practice known as aquaculture—and reining in the effects of overfishing the oceans, or at least the taste of days-old fish.

In the United States, more than 90% of the seafood we eat is imported from other countries and oceans, with a significant portion of it having been fished by American fisherman, exported for processing and then “reimported” for consumption. Still, the global population of big-fish stocks has depleted by approximately 90% since the 1950s. For approximately 1 billion people, largely in developing countries, fish is their primary animal protein source, making the large percentage of imported fish in the United States even more problematic.

“See this filet? This fish was swimming this morning. When, virtually, the industry average for seafood—the stuff is about a week old.” That’s what Dr. Dave Smith, president of Freshwater Farms of Ohio, says he explains to his customers on a regular basis.

On top of that, a projected date of 2048 as the year there will be no wildcaught seafood left will cause more issues than a loss of menu options. The collapse of the ocean due to overfishing is expected to cause harmful algal blooms, coastal flooding and low-oxygen water, making sourcing seafood primarily from the oceans to meet the demands of the marketplace one of the most unsustainable and inefficient means of food production.

Dave and his wife bought the land and former poultry farm, where Freshwater Farms stands today, while he was a nutritional sciences graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s been 30 years since the farm’s first fish crop, but this year, the farm has plans to return to its beginnings—providing for Columbus restaurants, as it did when it was first established in the late ‘80s. When Freshwater Farms served local restaurants, Rigsby’s Kitchen and Barcelona were among its customers, as well as grocery

Freshwater Farms of Ohio, located on U.S. Highway 68 north of Urbana, is the state’s largest indoor fish hatchery. According to Dave, Central Ohio has seen a heavy influx of aquaculture operations in the past 10 years.

Opposite: Fresh catch at Freshwater Farms, an aquaculture business outside of Urbana, Ohio. Above: Ian Holmes of Costal Local Seafood making a delivery.







suppliers like Weiland’s Market. They delivered twice a week every week of the year to clients in Columbus and Dayton. Preparing to return to its original niche, Freshwater Farms will have some competition in restaurant delivery. Local restaurants have also found a catch in distributor Coastal Local Seafood. At Coastal Local’s helm and stern is the sole employee and owner, Ian Holmes, who doesn’t raise fish, but distributes seafood to Columbus restaurants. While Ian has large national competition, he typically delivers fresher seafood, and thus, has a proven conversion method. “I rarely make cold calls anymore, but if I do, I just show up with a gallon of scallops,” Ian says. Ian visits Boston about three to four times a year to maintain and find new business partners, but doesn’t limit himself to the East Coast. Ian visits Ohio fish farms and Lake Erie fisherman weekly to find product and build relationships. Ian enjoys searching for just about any seafood out there. All he needs is the customer to say the species and he’s on it. “I like to dabble. Get as much as I can for people. It’s kind of a challenge as well,” Ian says. And one fish Ian has dabbled in is monkfish. “It’s so ugly people have stayed away from it. It is wild-caught and cooks like lobster and has been on the rise lately,” Ian says. But, when customers are open to suggestions, Ian has his opinions. He is currently promoting lionfish from the Atlantic Ocean, to which it is not native. “It is a very invasive and harmful fish that we should be responsibly fishing for and eating,” Ian says. And since it is all about eating, Ian serves 25 restaurants a week. But next on his agenda is setting up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program due to high demand. “Branching out into retail with the CSA will be fun because I get emails on a regular basis saying, ‘Can you provide seafood for a home chef?’ And, it would be hard for me to take on one at a time, but to do the CSA would get me a bunch of customers at once.”

Kingdom Fish, located in Rushylvania, Ohio, was founded in 2007 and raises tilapia. Unlike Dave, raising fish began as a pastime for husband and wife Don and Lisa Jones. “We started out just as a hobby, sharing with friends and family and that’s how it began. It wasn’t something that we had any prior experience in at all. In fact, we never had had an aquarium. I knew nothing about how to raise fish, but it was just something that we wanted to try,” Don says. With only two options of sinking or swimming in their difficult hobby, the Joneses swam a little too well and family and friends urged them to get serious about raising fish. Despite never having had an aquarium, the Joneses now have nursery tanks filled with filtered water and lots of baby tilapia, also known as fry, that they get from Louisiana. While maintaining the tanks’ water temperature and quality, the most important nursery tank procedure is feeding time. Fed six to seven times a day in this case, size matters. “After six weeks we grade the fish out according to size, and then we put them in different tanks so they don’t all grow at the same rate. Some are going to be a bit larger than others, so it’s so important for us to maintain equal size when they go out into the grow-out tanks because we don’t use any chemicals at all, growth hormones, growth accelerators or anything like that,” Don says. “And, if there are different sizes in the same tank, the big ones will try to bully the small ones and they’ll get the food and the little guys don’t grow quite as well.” Once graded, the fish are put in grow-out tanks where they’ll live until harvest. With 10 1,700-gallon grow-out tanks, and four more in the pipeline, Kingdom Fish will be able to support approximately 4,200 fish in the grow-out tanks, with approximately 300 fish in each one. There, the fish will stay for 10 to 12 months, when they will then be harvested. After perfecting the farming process for each batch of fish, Kingdom Fish sells at Worthington Farmers Market, Logan County Farmers Market, Hilliard Farmers Market and Dublin Farmers Market, confirming that Central Ohio is a place for deep-city fishing—with good catch at markets and restaurants alike.

Coastal Local Seafood 614-302-1652

Central Ohio’s fisheries, however, aren’t staying clear of playing “home chefs” themselves. Freshwater Farms offers prepared foods such as smoked trout, smoked trout spread and smoked trout mousse, a garlic-based spread. “These are really things that are very popular in the holiday season, but also all year round, for parties and hors d’oeuvres,” Dave says.

Freshwater Farms of Ohio 2624 N. U.S. Hwy. 68, Urbana, Ohio 43078 • 937-652-3701 Kingdom Fish 6746 County Rd. 112, Rushylvania, Ohio 43347 • 937-539-2529

Apart from Freshwater Farms and Coastal Local, there are more fish in the sea when it comes to Central Ohio aquaculture. Julie Bhusal Sharma is a Columbus native and freelance journalist. She and her

Opposite; clockwise from top: Feeding time at Freshwater Farms; Dr. Dave, the man in charge at Freshwater Farms; The ubiquitous farm cat.

Nepali husband, Manjul, enjoy exploring each other’s country’s cooking and getting gardening tips from Julie’s new mother-in-law who is a born herbalist. Julie can be reached at




from the KITCHEN

English Pea Risotto with Poached Shrimp By Chef Joshua Wickham • Illustrations by Kristen Solecki For the seafood minded, we offer a simple risotto with fresh shrimp and peas. Risotto takes time, so plan ahead. It’s well worth it, though, once you sit back and enjoy your risotto with a glass of wine and good company. —Colleen Leonardi

Serves 4 For the Risotto

For the Shrimp

2½ cups English peas, cleaned and lightly

1 large yellow onion, large dice

blanched, divided

2 carrots, peeled, large dice

2 quarts chicken or shrimp stock, simmering in a

2 celery stalks

separate pot, divided

1 bay leaf

4 tablespoons butter

2 whole cloves

1 onion, finely minced

6 peppercorns

2 cups risotto rice

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup white wine

3 quarts water

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 pound 21–25-count shrimp, peeled and de-

As needed, pea shoots and finely diced red

veined with no tails

peppers In a large stockpot, combine all of the ingredients Purée half of the peas in a food processor with ½ cup of stock until smooth, set aside.

except the shrimp. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and bring to just a simmer. Allow to cook for up to 30 minutes.

In a large sauté pan melt the butter and add the onions; sauté lightly until onions are tender. Be

When ready, add the cleaned shrimp, and allow to

careful not to brown.

poach for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the shrimp is

Add the rice into the sauté pan with the onions

poach and hold warm for service.

cooked throughout. Remove the shrimp from the and toss. Increase heat to medium; allow to cook for about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir gently

To Serve Spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and

until all of the liquid is absorbed. Once the wine is

top with the poached shrimp, top with a small

absorbed, start adding the stock about 1 cup at a

amount of fresh pea shoots and red peppers and

time. Always let the stock absorb completely

drizzle a small amount of the reserved pea purée

before adding more. Continue adding stock until

around the plate.

rice grains are tender. Add the peas and pea purée (save ¼ cup for plate up), stir well to combine. Finish the risotto by adding the cheese and stir to incorporate. Joshua Wickham is an instructor and event chef at The Seasoned Farmhouse as well as a fulltime culinary instructor at Columbus State Community College. A Clintonville native, Joshua currently resides in the neighborhood with his wife, Jenelle, and daughter, Guinevere.




The Way of Water A look at the relationship between Central Ohio’s watersheds and our food system By Nicole Rasul Map courtesy of Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District


t the end of my street the Olentangy River rushes by, a refuge in my relatively urban Clintonville neighborhood. The sound of the water moving through the river’s banks is therapy, relished by onlookers on park benches, exercise enthusiasts on the Olentangy Trail and kayakers in the river. Gazing at the river, I am reminded how precious it is in the web of interconnected waterways in our city, our region, our state and beyond. The river faces constant threat from myself and my neighbors, yet it never ceases to provide and inspire.

What Is A Watershed? A watershed is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “land area that drains to a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, aquafer or ocean.” Watersheds come in a variety of sizes, irrespective of municipal, state or international borders. The dynamic interaction among humans, water and the land directly impacts the quality of waterways and the cost to treat water to ensure safe consumption.

In Central Ohio, the waterways in our region reside in the Scioto River watershed, which provides drinking water for more than 2 million people in the Columbus metro area alone. The watershed stretches through 31 counties in Central and Southern Ohio, incorporating more than 6,500 square miles. The northern part is dominated by rural land, while cities like Columbus and its suburbs, Chillicothe, Circleville and Portsmouth, dot the watershed. The Big Darby Creek, Walnut Creek, the Scioto and Olentangy rivers, amongst other bodies of water, are situated in the watershed. “In Franklin and Delaware counties, the biggest threat to our water quality is development, including impervious surfaces such as parking lots, rooftops and roads,” explains Ryan Pilewski, Watershed Resource Specialist at the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District. “Development continues to degrade our Central Ohio waterways due to a lack of stormwater controls that protect stream banks from erosion. Rural waterways are facing threats from agriculture and home sewage treatment systems,” Ryan notes.

The Upper Scioto River Watershed Basin where the city of Columbus gets its drinking water for more than 2 million people. 38






“We are not facing a science problem as we know what to do to make responsible ecological decisions. It’s actually a social problem. It’s a question of whether or not we are willing to do the things that we know that we need to do to keep our waterways safe.”

It All Begins in Your Backyard Our region has faced rapid growth in recent decades and, according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), from 2010 to 2015 Central Ohio added 115,000 people. MORPC estimates that by 2050 the region will add upward of 1 million people, making Central Ohio the most populous area in the state with more than 3 million residents. This influx puts strain on the water resources in our region, in particular in the form of new development that lacks ecological management of stormwater runoff. “In Central Ohio, we have the problem of people not valuing stormwater. We try to rush it away from our properties as soon as possible. It’s a precious commodity that we could be taking better care of,” says Laura Fay, the Science Committee Chair for Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW), a local nonprofit. “With development being the biggest threat to our watershed, we would like to see compliance or adherence to the concepts of balanced growth.” “We want to slow down stormwater,” Ryan adds. “It is being rushed through pipes causing erosion in our rivers. We want to slow it down in the uplands. That could be by protecting existing wetlands or mimicking wetlands by infiltrating water into the ground using rain gardens or storing it in cisterns or rain barrels.” Residents play a vital role in both threatening and protecting our region’s watershed. Backyard conservation efforts are crucial to the health of our waterways. Through the Franklin Soil and Water Conversation District’s Community Backyards Rebate Program, partnering communities work with the district to offer Franklin County residents a rebate for the purchase of rain barrels, compost bins and native plants or trees, in exchange for online or in-person education on stormwater runoff reduction practices. 40



“We use rain barrels as a gateway to get people interested in the topic—it’s a little carrot out front,” explains Kurt Keljo, Watershed Resource Specialist at the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District. “We encourage people to use a rain barrel to water their garden but in our workshops, we talk about how a rain barrel is just a first step and we introduce them to other conservation practices that can help infiltrate stormwater into the ground,” Kurt says. Cisterns are also encouraged. As are rain gardens, native plantings, drip irrigation systems and responsible lawn care maintenance. Additionally, the installation of permeable surfaces, green roofs and composting systems are tactics taught by conservation program educators.

Trees Play a Crucial Role “Trees make a big difference and planting them is a very good thing,” Kurt emphasizes. “Trees do a lot to reduce runoff by intercepting, infiltrating and transpiring rainfall.” Through its Branch Out Columbus program, the City of Columbus aims to plant 300,000 trees by 2020 in an effort to replenish the city’s tree canopy. In addition to helping to mitigate the heat island effect, which occurs when a metropolitan area’s air temperature is warmer than in surrounding rural settings, trees help to control stormwater runoff by capturing rainfall in the tree canopy and the deep root system of trees assists in water infiltration. Choosing to plant native varieties of plants and trees is important. In addition to supporting native birds and insects, “native plants have larger root systems, which helps to break up the soil and enables water to infiltrate deeper,” Ryan explains.

How Is This Related to Our Food? Agricultural runoff occurs when water from rain, snow or a farm irrigation event lacks absorption into the soil and travels to nearby waterways carrying with it excess nutrients, such as dissolved phosphorus and nitrogen, or animal manure from a farm. This type of pollution is a serious issue impacting our waterways, as was shown in the 2015 and 2016 nitrate advisories for a number of Franklin County neighborhoods due to farm runoff into the city’s drinking supply. On its website, the City of Columbus notes: “The Scioto River receives runoff from more than 1,000 square miles of land, 80 percent of which is agricultural, before reaching the Dublin Road Water Plant intake. Therefore, the Scioto River is more susceptible to nitrogen runoff than the other water sources in Columbus.” Additionally, our region’s watersheds feed into the Mississippi River and the health of our ecosystems greatly impact those downstream from us. Agricultural runoff from our area has contributed to the growth of an algal bloom the size of Connecticut in the Gulf of Mexico, making it impossible for fish and other aquatic life to survive in the affected zone. Supporting growers who farm sustainably is key. Shopping local also has an impact as vehicle exhaust contributes to stormwater runoff and the less food has to travel the better it is for the environment. “Encouraging local producers to use responsible practices is important,” Kurt says. “I don’t think that local agriculture is the enemy of streams—it all depends on how farming is done. The Big Darby is in great shape despite being surrounded by agriculture for many years. As agriculture has become more intensive, the impact on water quality and stream health has increased.”

“It’s the same with development,” Kurt continues. “We know how to do both of these in a way that’s less likely to impair streams. We are not facing a science problem as we know what to do to make responsible ecological decisions. It’s actually a social problem. It’s a question of whether or not we are willing to do the things that we know that we need to do to keep our waterways safe.” Combining food and good water management practices, FLOW has worked with partners around the region, including The Crest Gastropub and Stratford Ecological Center, to install edible rain gardens. Rain gardens feature shallow depressions that enable runoff to gather and infiltrate into the soil. Rain gardens are generally composed of native plantings due to their deeper root structure. An edible rain garden can be planted with any kind of plant or herb. FLOW has also partnered with the AnheuserBusch plant in Columbus to improve the ecological footprint on the company’s land. Laura notes that initially FLOW was surprised that a brewery would approach them with a partnership opportunity. However, since water is a

major resource used in beer production and, due to this, Anheuser-Busch is the second largest user of water in the area, this partnership in fact makes a lot of sense.

Get Involved A number of organizations in our area are working to preserve Central Ohio’s watersheds. These groups welcome volunteers for service events such

FLOW recently worked with AnheuserBusch to plant trees on the company’s property with the goal of intercepting excess runoff into Rush Run, a nearby creek. The two organizations have since developed a five-year plan to plant prairies, trees and a rain garden on the brewery’s lands.

as waterway clean-ups or tree plantings. Many also offer educational programs for the public, including training and support for backyard conservation practices such as the installation of rain barrels or cisterns, rain gardens and permeable surfaces, as well as education on responsible lawn care maintenance, amongst other topics. Some of the organizations working to protect our waterways include:

Nicole Rasul enjoys writing about food history, Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District

food culture and profiling our region’s brave

producers. She works for The Ohio State Uni-

Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed

versity as a program coordinator for the Ini-

tiative for Food and AgriCultural

Friends of the Ravines

Transformation (InFACT). Nicole lives with her family in Clintonville where they enjoy the

Friends of Alum Creek and Tributaries

farmers market and their backyard garden.

Olentangy Watershed Alliance

Follow her on Twitter @foodierasul or view her writing online at

To learn more about watershed groups across the

state of Ohio, visit the Ohio Watershed Network at







Big Lots’ Big Garden The Big Lots Columbus-based national headquarters digs into community gardening By Claire Spurlock • Photography by Rachel Joy Barehl


hat does it take to grow a garden? Soil and water. Sunshine. The right tools. Patience. For the Big Lots’ corporate team, growing a community garden at their Columbus-based national headquarters is well worth the collective effort. With some help from master gardeners and a determined group of volunteers, the garden continues to serve both the teams that cultivate it and a local community in need. A warm wind barrels down the side of the warehouse and through the fenced gardens alongside it, tousling young plants as Megan Mellquist and Jillian Koch, who call themselves garden co-captains, lead a walking tour between the raised beds. “That’s yarrow,” says Megan, pointing to a tall, stalky plant with tight bundles of yellow flowers. “It keeps the bugs away.” “This stuff that we have everywhere is bee balm. It’ll have these big vibrant pink and red flowers on it that attract the bees. It’s the big plant in every garden bed,” says Megan. Each bed is marked with a hand-painted sign denoting the team responsible for it. “You can see this one is IT Gardens,” says Megan, pointing to one of the 18 tidy beds. Nearby a sign reads “Store Crops,” and on another, distribution and transportation services have staked claim. “The garden pretty much touches every functional area in this company, which is great because when we get out here, people meet that sometimes have no interaction in the office,” says Megan. Time in the garden facilitates interaction through a common interest. And for a team of 800 associates at the General Office, some 175 of which volunteer in the garden, those efforts can have a noticeable impact on culture and morale. “We coordinate a group of 10 volunteers that help manage the garden and the 175 volunteers that participate. So there’s a small group of us that coordinate all of the activities and a much larger group that volunteers on a weekly basis,” says Megan. All of the food grown is donated, shuttled in regular Friday deliveries to the Lutheran Social Services West Side Food Pantry. After a sign-up in March, captains are chosen to coordinate various teams. Planting day, a flurry of activity among 50-plus volunteers, kicks off garden season in May. Local partners helped to found the garden and continue to play a pivotal role in its success. DeMonye’s Greenhouse and Oakland Nursery provide plant starters at wholesale cost. “Scotts has donated all of the soil. Some of the different companies donated the hoses and gloves. Because we have such a strong seasonal department that does lawn and garden, we have some great partners for that,” says Megan.




At right: Jillian Koch (left) and Megan Mellquist (right), "co-captains" of the Big Lots gardens.

Above: Each department at Big Lots has its own garden bed with a unique name and painted sign; each team takes pride and has humor in their choices. Right: A specific team asked for a group photo, proud of their work in the garden.




Below: Sue Simon and friend cleaning up right after all of the plants went into the ground and it started sprinkling, then huge showers came.

Master gardener, Sue Simon helps one of the youngest volunteers with planting tips.




And then there’s Sue Simon, master gardener, planner and volunteer. In the initial planning stages Megan and Jillian contacted The Ohio State University’s extension educator and associate professor Mike Hogan. “We reached out and right away he recommended Sue Simon as one of the gardeners to take the lead on the project,” says Megan. Sue had worked with a number of community gardens in Central Ohio but never with a corporation. “It was a challenge at first because I was really worried about the location, but then I thought, well, we’ll give it a shot and it worked,” says Sue. “It all kind of came together.” Sue, along with a rotating group of additional volunteer master gardeners, make themselves available to the Big Lots team on planting and harvest days to answer questions and assist. She also creates the yearly garden plan based on what grows successfully and what recipients at the food pantry request. “One of the major reasons I got involved,” says Sue, “is that it allows the employees to do something really good. It’s here so it gives them an opportunity to do something good for their neighbors and their community.” “Sue comes in and helps decide what plants should go in each bed. I would have never known to plant all of the flowers and herbs together to aid pollination and keep the insects away,” says Jillian. Sue rotates the beds and takes volunteer and extra plants to the Ohio State School for the Blind or Friends of the Homeless gardens. “She comes out and points out, ‘This is a weed, this isn’t a weed,’ because you know, a lot of people are interested in gardening but not many have experience. A lot of people have joined because they want to know. So the master gardeners have been a huge help for us,” says Jillian. One of the biggest challenges Megan and Jillian face is keeping engagement up throughout the year, especially during early summer months when there are more rogue weeds to pull than produce to harvest. Over the past three years they devised tactics to showcase progress and deepen connections to the community. “We did different things to keep people engaged,” says Megan. “We have a billboard thermometer toward our goal. People got more and more involved. Then last year as we started having people deliver food directly to the food bank, that increased engagement as well because they could truly see the impact that it has,” she adds. Every Friday during the summer, Big Lots team members drive their harvest a mile and a half down the street to Lutheran Social Services West Side Food Pantry. “When we bring it,” Megan explains, “it’s sometimes the only fresh produce available. There are a lot of shelf-stable goods, canned goods and cereal there but most of the time it doesn’t even make it in the building. People are coming out to grab it out of the cart and rifle through,” says Megan.




It’s not just tomatoes, eggplant and other seasonal produce that the food pantry recipients seek out. “We grow a ton of herbs in the garden in an effort to attract bees and detract the bad insects. We’ve gotten more comments about having access to fresh herbs than even some of the vegetables,” says Megan. Across the garden, thyme plants spread low and wide, occasionally cascading off the edges of the raised beds. Peppers, tomatillos, peas and potatoes are dispersed throughout the beds this year, along with radishes, basil and squash. The team planted dozens of tomato starters that will tower by midsummer. “They’ll be this tall,” says Megan, extending her arm well above her head, “and just massive.” Since the garden’s inception the goal has been to donate 2,000 pounds of produce to the local food bank each year. Each year the team has achieved or surpassed that goal. “On a full harvest day when we get to early August we’ll have 10 crates lined up full,” says Megan. “We maybe do 250 pounds a week. “ After an ample August harvest there’s “just enough time for us to get something else in,” says Jillian. “We’ll grow cabbage or spinach or something that can grow quickly into the cooler weather,” she adds. Next year the company will open a new office—and plant a new garden—in New Albany. The original property and garden will continue at the hands of dedicated team members. “At one of the first meetings where we introduced the new office to all of the associates, one of the only questions was, ‘Will we have a garden?’ It had already been planned out,” says Megan. The new garden will be roughly the same size as the original and will forge connections with a new community. “We’re learning and adjusting,” says Sue. “First of all, you’ve got a great team. We have volunteers. We have money. We have soil. And we have irrigation, so there isn’t anything this garden needs,” she says, surveying the sun-drenched garden. “We have beginners and we have really experienced farmers, so it’s fun and they get excited. They really do,” says Sue. They get excited about coming out and seeing what’s going on. They taste. It’s a lot of teamwork really. “ “It’s not just about growing vegetables,” says Sue. “It’s really about the community.”




Reviving By Teresa Woodard • Photography by Rachel Woodard




the Rock Mill Preservationists in Fairfield County restore a historic landmark for mill production







The historic gem is open this summer as a working gristmill to showcase an important chapter of the region’s agriculture heritage.


or decades, Fairfield County residents feared the towering Rock Mill might collapse into a rocky gorge of the Hocking River as the 193-year-old mill sat deteriorating on a cliff. Thanks to a team of preservationists led by Dave Fey, newly retired Fairfield County Historical Parks Commission Director, the historic gem is open this summer as a working gristmill to showcase an important chapter of the region’s agriculture heritage. “The mill changed the settlement of this village,” says Dave. “And, I hated to think my grandson might have to read about its history on a roadside plaque instead of seeing and smelling the place, hearing the grind of the millstones, tasting the flour dust and feeling the hand-hewn oak timbers. “Now, he can experience our heritage, first hand.”

What Makes A Mill As Dave offers a preview tour of the restored mill he shares its storied past, which begins in the late 1700s, before Ohio’s statehood. “Early settlers were drawn to the “fair fields” of Fairfield County,” says Dave. “Here, they planted wheat, corn and other grain crops in the rich topsoil left by glaciers.”

While the settlers’ fields produced bumper crops, their volumes were too great to process by hand. Instead, they loaded their wheat and grain into wagons and pulled them to faraway mills across rugged terrain and the Ohio River to Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. As so many trips failed and more settlers moved to the area, the need for local mills became more evident. Joseph Loveland and Hezekiah Smith recognized the opportunity. In 1799, a year before Ebenezer Zane laid out the village of Lancaster, the two proprietors announced their plans to build the first Rock Mill along the Hocking River and called for a log roll to generate lumber for its construction. “Once this mill and others were built, our county started to explode in agriculture and now continues the legacy today,” says Dave, adding the entrepreneurs eventually added a store, distillery and tavern. Dave explains many mills had such a “still house” to turn the corn they took as payment for their services into ‘liquid corn’ or whiskey. The whiskey gave them a second product for extra income. Rock Mill’s owners not only had a still house but also opened a tavern—The Blue Ball Tavern—on the other side of where Rock Mill Brewery stands today. A large, blue ball hung from a beam outside the tavern and signaled passing travelers to stop for passengers or packages.

Prior page: The Rock Mill in Fairfield County. Opposite; top left: Dave Fey, the newly retired Fairfield County Historical Parks Commission Director, sitting on the mill’s waterwheel; bottom: The milling floor and the two sets of milling stones. The stones are hidden.




Unfortunately, for Loveland and Smith, the available alcohol created disturbances among the Native Americans and settlers. Soon, the local community forced Loveland and Smith to leave.

While many may have considered the project hopeless, Dave saw its potential. He laughs, mocking himself as he recounts how naively he stepped into the massive project as the parks commission director.

In 1820, a flood took out Rock Mill. Four years later, Joseph Bookwalter built the present Rock Mill on higher ground—a durable blackhand sandstone cliff near the Hocking River’s headwaters.

“I was dumb enough to take it on,” says Dave. “We tackled it one stick at a time.”

Dave continues the story as he marvels at the craftsmanship involved in the building of the mill, which was a 15-month project. “Imagine hand-hewing a 65-foot corner beam then positioning it without any modern-day cranes—only levers, pulleys and animals,” says Dave. “The peak reached 100 feet from the gorge and climbed six stories with four above ground and two below.”

Running on Water The mill was powered by water from the Hocking River and strategically positioned by its headwaters where a 14-foot waterfall spills today. The millers diverted the river’s water to the mill via a 30-foot channel or sluice chiseled 18 feet deep through the sandstone. Water rushed through this sluice to a wooden flume that dumped it directly onto an overshot 26-foot wooden waterwheel. As the water propelled the wheel, its shaft turned a pit wheel and subsequently two sets of millstones. Dave says the dual millstones were unique to Rock Mill, since most mills only had one set. He explains these disk-like stones were carved with deep grooves and stacked atop one another. The bottom “bed stone” was stationery, and the top “runner stone” turned to grind the grain. For 81 years, the mill thrived as a grist mill and eventually converted to steam power near the turn of the century. In 1905, the mill closed due to a business conflict and remained vacant for nearly 100 years. In 2003, Robert and Rita Stebelton donated the mill to the Parks Commission, which started the extensive restoration. “The mill was in pretty bad shape,” says Matthew Barbee, owner of Rockmill Brewery, a craft brewery and tasting room that opened in 2010 on his family’s former horse farm that once was a part of the larger Rockmill Farms. Recalling the mill’s sadder days, he says “I’d pass the mill every day on my way to high school, as I drove across the covered bridge.” Today, Matthew couldn’t be more delighted with the transformation. “I’ve been so impressed to watch what’s been done,” he says. “It’s absolutely gorgeous!”

The first challenge was to stabilize the structure with steel supports, so he called upon the contractor who had helped the county restore several of its 18 covered bridges. The contractor agreed to donate his equipment and only charge for labor. Next, Dave started fundraising by speaking to groups— eventually making 1,400 presentations—about the mill preservation project and soliciting donations. As he accumulated a sum of money, another phase of work would resume on the project. In 2006, he organized a window campaign, collecting donations of $250 per shuttered window. In 2011, the community passed a levy to fund the parks commission and its historical projects. In addition, the project secured a $150,000 grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission to restore the lap-siding façade. In total, Dave estimates $1.2 million has been spent of the mill’s restoration, which includes $267,000 for the latest installation of the gears and grinding stones. In 2006, he first contacted millwright Ben Hassett of Louisville, Kentucky to discuss the project and eventually restore the mechanical parts, including the water wheel, pit wheel and millstones. Ben is one of only a few millwrights working in the United States today and has restored 60 mills in the past 20 years. He built and installed the water wheel in 2012 and the grinding units, last fall. The final steps of the renovation are the installation of a dam and grain handling equipment. “The wheel is 26 feet and weighs 20,000 pounds making it the largest wooden water wheel in the U.S.,” says Dave. The mill is expected to produce 300 pounds of flour an hour. When open, the mill will run 15 minutes every hour on the weekends.

Teresa Woodard is a freelance writer and couldn’t be happier about working with her talented daughter Rachel who is studying photography at the University of Cincinnati DAAP (Design, Art, Architecture and Planning Program).

Watch the Rock Mill in action as the grinding wheels resume after 112 years. Weekend demonstrations are Saturdays and Sundays, 1pm–3pm through the end of October. The mill is located northwest of Lancaster at 1429 Rock Mill Place, NW. Check Rock Mill’s Facebook page ( or website ( for details.

One Stick At a Time

Also, watch for Facebook updates on the Rock Mill Celebration in late

When Dave stepped into the mill for the first time in 2003, the structure was seriously deteriorated, with much of its exterior shell gone.

summer. At the celebration, local artisans will be demonstrating old-time crafts like tin punching and selling unique, one-of-a-kind items. The millwright will be on hand to explain the milling equipment and demon-

“There were no floors, no windows and no waterwheel—only an exterior frame that was patched with metal siding and tarps,” he says.

strate its operation. Since parking is limited, transportation will be provided from an off-site parking area. Round out a mill visit with a stop at nearby Rockmill Brewery and its tasting room at 5705 Lithopolis Road NW to sample its noted Belgian-style ales and saisons.







food for THOUGHT

From the Amazon to Ohio

A Q&A with environmental anthropologist, Nick Kawa, about healthy soils, agricultural production and biosolids By Colleen Leonardi • Photography by Maria Khoroshilova


hat does organic waste have to do with healthy soil? Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University and a member of Ohio State’s

Initiative for Food and Agricultural Transformation (InFACT) Nick Kawa is asking exactly this question, and finding remarkable results. Just as nutritional experts are discovering that human health is dependent on healthy flora in our gut, flourishing soils depend on complex communities of microbes to grow our food. Humanity demonstrates a history of using human waste as fertilization, and Nick is in search of projects stateside and as far away as Amazonia that are innovating uses for biosolids in agriculture to reclaim this resource and create solutions for our changing climate. —CL

“Healthy soil is soil that sustains an abundance of life.”

Q: From your perspective, what does it mean to be living ecologically and relating to local ecologies? A: For me, ecology is always about relationships. Oftentimes, I think about our relationships beyond just our human ones—so thinking of our relations to a much broader world. When I started research in the Amazon I was looking largely at soils that people had manipulated over long periods of time, known as Amazonian Dark Earths. I came to recognize how soils are quite literally the foundation of terrestrial life. And that got me thinking: What are the ways they sustain us? What do they demand of us to be able to continually provide in terms of agricultural production? And what do we do with our kitchen scraps and other forms of waste and how can those be useful inputs for local soils? Amazonian Dark Earths are highly fertile because indigenous peoples had contributed incredible amounts of organic matter over generations and generations of village living. In many contemporary urban settings, however, people don’t have the option of composting, so kitchen scraps are often diverted to a landfill rather than returned directly back to the soil. That was one thing that got me thinking about disruptions of local ecologies and our relationships to soil that are so foundational to life.

Opposite: Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University and a member of Ohio State’s Initiative for Food and Agricultural Transformation (InFACT) Nick Kawa. 54



Q: What does healthy soil look like from your work as an anthropologist? A: Healthy soil is soil that sustains an abundance of life. Right now there is a lot of concern about soil health, especially here in the American Midwest where we’ve developed technologies and techniques for producing incredible amounts of corn and soy and other commodity crops but perhaps lost sight of the needs of the soil. A lot of farmers today, however, are starting to notice that the soil is suffering and we’re starting to see that supporting soil microbiota is fundamental to agricultural production and that chemical fertilizers are not enough to sustain that. In my research in Amazonia, I found that Amazonian Dark Earths were the result of long-term composting and the deposition of a lot of organic matter and charcoal and other forms of waste from kitchens and village fires. Whether it was intentional or not, these practices of Amazonian indigenous peoples produced soils that offered incredible benefits for agricultural production. Some new research shows that the influence of historical management can still be seen in the distinct microbial communities that inhabit those soils today. This forces us to think about ecology on a different kind of scale, so it’s not just thinking about “Am I getting the crops that I want out of this soil?” But it’s also thinking about the microbial communities that inhabit the land. As one Midwestern farmer told me, “You know, you’ve got to feed the bugs.” You’ve got to make sure you’re also sustaining microbial life in those soils. And if you do so, that will benefit you.

Q: Your current research looks at the use of biosolids for energy production and agricultural fertilization. What are biosolids and why are they an important resource for agriculture? A: Biosolids is a term that was developed by the EPA, and I think in part to reframe a substance that, for many people, is not particularly attractive—sanitation sludge. After all of our waste gets processed, it [the sludge] is usually incinerated or sent to landfills. But if we look deeper into human history since the origins of agriculture, people have used human waste as a source for fertilization. In Japan and China especially, up until the mid-20th century, they achieved incredible agricultural yields largely based on fertilization using human waste. Today, there are lots of projects that are developing in this country, and in other parts of this world, to do precisely this. Right now, only 1%, I believe, of the biosolids produced in the United States are used for agriculture. That is starting to change. We have projects here in the state of Ohio in which biosolids are being used for conventional agricultural production and tree farming, and they’re also being used for other benefits as well. In the city of Columbus, we have a product called Com-Til, which is really just taking people’s yard waste in the city and sanitation sludge and composting it, sending it through a series of different treatments, and yielding a beneficial soil amendment. And just this past week I




“If we look at it as a global problem, it’s really hard for us as individuals to think about how we can make an impact. So what are the things that we can do locally?”

was working with students on campus and we were using Com-Til for a garden where we’ll produce popcorn, amaranth and sorghum. I think a lot of people initially hear this and are often disgusted or concerned, but this is a time-tested agricultural amendment that can be of real beneficial use.

Q: As an environmental anthropologist, what do you think is the biggest challenge humanity faces today in its relationship to the land and nature? A: I think it’s undeniable that we have to contend with this question of global climate change and the roots of climate change. And I think we have to start with little experiments, which can happen at a local scale, whether it be a neighborhood, or a city or a region. If we look at it as a global problem, it’s really hard for us as individuals to think about how we can make an impact. So what are the things that we can do locally? How can we start to develop broader networks of people with similar concerns and start experimenting with different ways of living that might help us contend with these challenges? We have to believe we can change the status quo and start developing models of an alternative way of living that can help wean us off fossil fuels and develop a different model of civilization, essentially.

Nick’s new book, Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests (University of Texas Press, 2016) looks at the history of preColumbian Amerindians and rural Amazonians today and how their relationships to the agricultural lands and the forests have impacted a place known for its wild, tropical nature. Learn more about Nick and

While it’s easy to be pessimistic, there are incredible numbers of opportunities for living better on this planet—forms of living that can be more equitable, more socially just, and also better for the global environment as well as our local ecologies.




his research at

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The Gift of Fruit A global art project dedicated to growing fruit parks takes root on the South Side of Columbus By Colleen Leonardi




“Fruit is one of the most unusual things in this world,” says Los Angeles-based artist David Burns as we talk, along with his artistic partner, Austin Young, about their ongoing arts collaboration, Fallen Fruit, “because it’s relatable to the smallest child and their great-grandparent, and they’re both experts on the flavor of a strawberry.” You may not be convinced of how strawberries and pear trees can remedy the ills of a city. It’s hard sometimes to believe in any remedy for the blight on the world these days and the poverty of spirit it creates. Yet artists like David and Austin, and leaders like Shelly Casto, director of education at the Wexner Center for the Arts, and Bob Leighty of the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association, have cast doubt and despair aside for a more noble truth. One of solidarity through food and art.

Above: Fallen Fruit (David Burns and Austin Young), “Columbus Wallpaper Pattern,” dimensions variable, 2017. Photographs taken along sidewalks and are used to create this Fallen Fruit custom wallpaper for the City of Columbus. The wallpaper was used for the background of the art installation called “Block After Block” for the Wexner Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of © Fallen Fruit.

Left: The community gathering at the South Side Fruit Park on the first day of the planting.








The Fruit Falls In October 2015, David and Austin landed in Columbus for an artist talk at the Wexner Center. Around the same time, Bob down on the South Side was percolating with ideas for an edible forest on unused property. Bob grew up around farmland in central Pennsylvania, and so has instilled within his buoyant, charismatic spirit a love of the Earth and her bounty, particularly the strawberries his Uncle James grew. Cut to Shelly, who, upon remembering formerMayor Michael Coleman’s charge to focus on developing the community on the South Side, was committed to cross-pollinating David and Austin’s work with an initiative in the neighborhood. Serendipity rained down, and Bob and Shelly were introduced, two star-crossed community advocates on a mission, and the South Side Fruit Park began. David and Austin travel all over the world installing their fruit parks, where they plant fruit trees and establish parks in cities. The hope: using fruit as a simple means for people to relate and enjoy each other’s company and their neighborhood—a seemingly innovative concept in an age of cellphones and screens, where we spend more time walling ourselves off on our Instagram accounts than connecting with the real people in our lives. “Fruit trees are a vehicle that we do our work with,” says Austin. “The fruit trees might not necessarily be the artwork, but they’re an in-


Opposite; bottom, right: Artist Austin Young and a volunteer plant a fruit tree at the South Side Fruit Park. Opposite; bottom, left: Bob Leighty of the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association who spearheaded the founding of the South Side Fruit Park.

Left: David Burns of Fallen Fruit and Lauren Williams planting fruit trees. Volunteers and neighbors helped plant 40 fruit trees and 23 grape vines in the South Side Fruit Park on April 29, 2017.




If a child is hungry and doesn’t want to endure the shame of facing the lines at the food bank, they can go pick an apple while no one is watching.

credible connector between people that create a new space for people to connect around in a neighborhood.” “As contemporary artists, we consider our art practice is bringing people together and making relationships and having an incredible experience with people, or creating space for other people to have that experience,” says David. “When we do a project in a city, that’s what we’re bringing to our work.” Originally inspired by a quote from the book of Leviticus in the Bible, David and Austin use the term “fallen fruit” for the meaning it suggested then—leave the remainders of fruit on the outsides of fields for the people passing by. Fallen Fruit takes on other forms, like Public Fruit Jams where people come together to make jam from the fruit in the fruit park, museum exhibitions featuring artwork “that explores the social and political implications of our relationship to fruit and world around us,” and curatorial projects where the artists reframe a museum’s collection around the context of local histories that often includes fruit. Here in Columbus, we’re graced with two fruit parks—one on the South Side by the Reeb Avenue Center, and one in Weinland Park. The first planting was in April of this year, and while the saplings on the South Side are scrawny, they are strong, set to bear fruit in three to five years.

Building Trust “The South Side needs a little hug,” David says, as we talk about its history and the challenges it’s currently facing. Shelly agrees, the South Side can be rough. She readily admits, however, that through her service to the community, “I fell in love with that neighborhood. I miss seeing those folks as much as I have been over the last year and a half.” The South Side harbors a history of steel and glass, with Eastern Europeans, African Americans and Appalachians, all working hard to raise their families and earn an honest living. It was a boom and then bust neighborhood, big industry




that then went the way of global commerce. During the housing market crisis in 2009, dozens of homes were vacated practically overnight, leaving not just huge factories to sit vacant, but humble homes, too. It’s this history that David and Austin researched when planning the fruit park. “We don’t want to parachute in and drop off a trinket,” says David, emphasizing how research-heavy their artistic process is. They spent time digging through city archives looking at newspaper clippings and diaries. “Every city has a little magic room,” David says. “Sometimes it’s in people’s homes. It didn’t make it to the institution yet.” “This park is at the site of the original South Side Settlement House, back a hundred years or so,” says Bob. “We actually are tapped into their old water line for our irrigation system. That history is important, almost as important as our present and our future.” Yet the more important engagement was with the community leaders and organizations. Both David and Austin and Shelly sat in on regular community meetings over the course of a year and a half to create relationships with people. “It was really interesting to learn Columbus’ history of taking care of each other in these communities,” says Austin. “We made a lot of friends in the community.” “The last thing that we want is to give something to a neighborhood that they don’t want,” says Shelly, when talking about why consistent, community engagement was so important to the sustainability of Fallen Fruit on the South Side. Shelly was dedicated to having a very clear idea of how the community could see itself engaging in the park, as the community members are now in charge of the park and will act as its stewards moving forward. “In all community work, there is a level of trust that needs to be established,” says Shelly. “David and Austin took time and got to know neighborhood leaders and community members and that was really, really important, and I know the community enjoyed it.”

And as Bob reiterates, “it takes a village,” noting how many organizations were key in spearheading and rooting this project for the South Side. From the Wexner Center to the Community Housing Network and the city of Columbus, to the Columbus Land Bank and the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association, to ReebHosack/Steelton Village Community Association and Paul Werth Associates, to The Ohio State University Extension and its master gardeners who selected all 40 fruit trees and 23 varieties of grapes, not one inch of the park belongs to any one person. It truly is a place for the community as well as the passerby or stranger.

The Gift “We don’t have a model for a park where nobody is in charge, and nobody harvests it, and nobody gives it away, and nobody is a gatekeeper,” says Shelly. “That’s the model we’re working with with these fruit parks, and that is an innovative idea. It’s something that no one has done before, so naturally, artists would come up with that.” While a community garden shares its fruits with the community that tends it, a “this-for-that” economy, and urban farms and other city parks rely on employees to cultivate the land, and then those people earn the right to reap its benefits, the fruit park on the South Side is a come-all-yefaithful economy. If someone wants to pick fruit and sell it, then that’s what needs to happen. If a child is hungry and doesn’t want to endure the shame of facing the lines at the food bank, they can go pick an apple while no one is watching. “No one is in charge and you can pick as much as you want,” Shelly said in one of the community meetings when people expressed nervousness over how the park would work. “I believe in your community. Don’t forget to believe in it, too.” “Columbus is one of the most amazing cities in America,” says David, “We visit a lot of cities. This really is one of the most fascinating cities as

far as the way it got organized and originally built, and how it thought about community as being part of the infrastructure of a city. It’s kinda great. That’s not normal.” Talking to a community leader like Bob, you understand the vitality that David points to about Columbus and what makes us a city of communities all bolstered by each other. “Our fruit park connects people with each other, and people with nature and healthy and delicious fruit. That’s good stuff,” says Bob. “The Kirwan Institute of OSU talks about the importance of Third Places for vibrant communities. We all have three places, the first place is where we live, the second place is where we work and the third place is where we meet and learn from other people. The nearby South Side Roots Café is a phenomenal inside third place. The South Side Fruit Park is a phenomenal outside third place. The park connects us, and we all need more connection these days.”

“The morning of our planting, four of the homeless men showed up to help plant,” she shares. “And we got rained out the first day, and all four of them came back the next day to see us through the planting. And then we didn’t get everything done, so we had to plant on an additional day, so they came back on that additional day and helped. They worked harder than anyone else.”

Learn more about the South Side Fruit Park at and the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association, which curates the park, at And learn more about David and Austin’s work around the world planting fruit trees and more at

“That says to me that it’s theirs and they’ll take care of it,” says Shelly. “And that was really important to me that the people who live there would feel like it was theirs.”

“Fruit trees last longer in neighborhoods than most people,” says David. “Columbus is changing so fast. It is not a city that is diminishing. It is a city that is transforming. And it’s important about how neighborhoods are a part of that.” And while the South Side is made up of a diverse population, all working hard like their neighbor to make a living and keep a roof over their heads, it’s the ones who have no roof or address to speak of that may prove to be the true stewards of the park. The other two-thirds of the acreage where the park sits will be a Community Housing Network facility for recently homeless folks to live in a supportive environment. When Shelly was meeting with community groups she talked with future tenants, now homeless, about the park. “Their problems are much larger than picking fruit on a tree,” she says, “so I didn’t know how meaningful this would be to them.” Then the first day of the planting at the fruit park came.




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edible COLUMBUS | Summer 2017 | Issue No. 29  
edible COLUMBUS | Summer 2017 | Issue No. 29