MECHANICSBURG – The local food movement is alive and well, in and around Champaign County. And new ways to make locally grown and produced foods a larger part of the daily diet will be cropping up in coming weeks and months.
That’s the message delivered recently by five local food and beverage business owners to 100 guests at the fourth annual State of the Plate dinner, hosted in the vintage barn at Brian and Elizabeth Smith’s Wren Farm, near Mechanicsburg. The Smiths offer the barn for event and meeting rentals through Wren Farm Events, LLC.
The State of the Plate was coordinated by the Champaign County Local Food Council, LLC, a collaboration of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, the Champaign Economic Partnership, and local food growers and producers. The dinner featured local foods and was catered by two of the event’s presenting businesses, The Hippie and the Farmer, LLC and In Good Taste Catering.
Businesses giving presentations included:
MAD Sweet Heat
MAD Sweet Heat, owned by Mark and Debbie Titus of Springfield, is celebrating two recent successes. MAD Sweet Heat (madsweetheat.com) Sliced Candied Jalapenos and Candied Jalapeno Relish won first and second place in the Best Hot Specialty category of Jungle Jim’s Weekend of Fire Fiery Food Show, Oct. 1 and 2.
The second success is that Whole Foods will become the 49th retailer to sell MAD Sweet Heat. Locally, the products are available at Yutzy’s and Oakview Farm Meats in Urbana and on the Champaign Locally Grown online farmers’ market (champaignoh.locallygrown.net).
Even as their business grows, Mark said they are dedicated to producing in small batches. “With small batches, we keep a handle on quality control.”
Quality is key to both Debbie, as a nurse, and Mark, as an aerospace quality engineer. As in those professions, there’s “no room for error” for food quality and safety, Mark said. He earned certification at The Ohio State University in the acidified canning process.
The Tituses, who have been canning their candied jalapenos for about 15 years for family and friends, decided to launch a business in late 2014 and began selling MAD Sweet Heat products in June 2015.
The Hippie and the Farmer, LLC
The Hippie and the Farmer, LLC (on Facebook) is a joint venture started early this year by Pam Bowshier and Mark Runyan of Urbana. Through their individual businesses, Bowshier’s Cosmic Charlie Bread and Runyan’s family business, Oakview Farm Meats, they have combined forces at festivals and farmers’ markets. The duo also manages the year-round Champaign Locally Grown online farmers’ market.
Now, through Hippie and the Farmer, they are introducing new ways for consumers to buy and enjoy locally grown food:
• Harvest Moon boxes, which customers purchase monthly. They’re packed with a variety of meats, produce, bread and other food products from various local sources, along with recipe suggestions. “If it’s in season and it’s local, that’s what you’ll get in your box,” Bowshier said. Some businesses have established accounts with Hippie and the Farmer, making the boxes available to their employees as part of their health and wellness initiatives.
• Event catering
• And next on the horizon, frozen dinners featuring local foods. Bowshier explained that they’ll offer a convenient, healthy alternative to fast food for those crunched for time.
Hemisphere Coffee Roasters
Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, the Mechanicsburg coffee roasting business (hemispherecoffeeroasters.com) of Paul and Grace Kurtz, started out 10 years ago, as they practiced roasting coffee in their basement. Now Hemisphere, with a roastery and store at 39 S. Main St., in downtown Mechanicsburg, roasts and ships 3,000 pounds of coffee a week.
They explained that their business grew out of a sense of mission. Specifically, they wanted to improve the lives of coffee growers, their employees and communities in struggling areas of the world, such as Nicaragua and Thailand.
“We wanted to create an easy on-ramp for coffee shops, markets and customers to help alleviate poverty,” explained Paul, who served as director of global mission for Rosedale Mennonite Missions.
The Kurtzes buy directly from coffee growers, eliminating the five to six middlemen typically involved in coffee trade. This enables the growers to earn twice as much for their coffee and assures a higher quality of coffee for Hemisphere customers.
St. Ives Winery
St. Ives Winery, established in 2014 by Heather and Ryan Hostetler, is nearing completion of a tasting room on the Hostetler property in Cable. In 2015, they started having tastings of their wines at Mad River Farm Market near West Liberty and at Hafle Winery in Springfield. Both carry St. Ives wines.
St. Ives (on Facebook) is planning a soft opening of the new tasting facility Oct. 22. In the future, the winery plans to host events with live music and food trucks.
Currently, St. Ives makes all of its wine from juice. However, the Hostetlers planted their first grapes this spring with the aim to make their wine from locally grown fruit. St. Ives also makes mead, using local honey.
St. Ives is the first winery in Champaign County, but is one of five within a 40-minute drive, Ryan said. “The more the merrier. The more you have in a specific area, the more people you’ll attract. People travel for their wine.”
In Good Taste Catering
In Good Taste Catering (ingoodtastecatering.org), was started about nine years ago by Amy Forrest at her fifth-generation family farm near Mechanicsburg. She said 80 to 90 percent of her catering jobs were in the Columbus area. Now she’s shifting her focus to catering events and meetings at Champaign County venues.
The local focus will grow as she’s joined in business by her daughter, Lyndsey Murphy, who recently moved back home to Mechanicsburg from Washington, D.C., where she worked for the American Farm Bureau.
Murphy is preparing for the December opening of The Hive, which will provide a wide range of cooking classes and meeting space available for rent. The Hive is opening in Hemisphere Coffee Roaster’s former location, 22 S. Main St., next door to In Good Taste Catering’s new commercial kitchen. Murphy said that The Hive will be open for Mechanicsburg’s Christmas in the Village on December 10.
From the new site, In Good Taste Catering will prepare carryout dinners that can be picked up or delivered. Forrest and Murphy also plan to host “pop-up dinners” at The Hive, which will feature ingredients from local farms.
The State of the Plate dinner was sponsored by the Champaign Locally Grown virtual market, Champaign Residential Services, Inc. and Krugh Insurance Agency.
Submitted on behalf of the Champaign County Local Food Council, LLC.