The Simon Certified Organic Family Farm was featured in an article written by Jennifer Mastroianni of the Canton Repository on Wednesday, September 2, 2009. To view the entire article on the Canton Repository website, click here. You can also make comments on the article at the bottom of that page. We would love to hear your feedback!
At Canton Farmers' Market, family sells produce that's grown with love
By Jennifer Mastroianni
CantonRep.com staff writer
Posted Sep 01, 2009 @ 03:39 PM
If you’ve ever visited the Canton Farmers’ Market, you’ve met the friendly vendors who bring their goods to town each Saturday morning.
What you may not know is how passionate these folks are about what they do. It’s not just about growing for profit. It’s also about cultivating with love.
Meet the Simon family, one of two dozen vendors at the market. Amy, Brian and their four children own an 82-acre certified organic farm in East Sparta. The whole gang is involved in raising grass-fed beef and veal, free-range chickens and eggs, chemical-free grains and heirloom vegetables and herbs. In addition, the kids, ages 8 to 14, are in charge of their own gardens — from planting, weeding and fertilizing to harvesting and selling at market.
"Some families fight over the TV or the clicker," says Amy, 41. "We fight over the cow manure."
The family wasn’t always so earthy. Brian and Amy met as students at Ohio State University, and after graduating with degrees in business and music, respectively, they moved back to Stark County in 1996 to raise their family.
"We were still eating hot dogs when we moved up here," Amy said with a laugh.
With growing children, Amy decided to research what she was feeding her kids. So many labels with chemicals and additives angered her.
"How could they pass this off as food?" she asked. "Then that turned into frustration when I went to go try to find good food."
So she decided to grow her own. She started out gardening and canning, then got a batch of chickens. That humble beginning nine years ago has blossomed into an organic enterprise that includes 45 beef cows and acres of crops.
For the kids, who are home-schooled, having their own gardens is far from a chore.
"One of our favorite things is when the seed catalogs come in the winter," said Luke, 14. "It’s like a candy book. We each pick out what we want to grow. We fight over the seeds."
This year, Luke chose a French-inspired theme.
"I grew Crapaudine beets. They are the oldest beets cultivated; they’ve been around for 1,000 years. They grow like carrots instead of round. They supposedly have a real beet taste, which is why they are the beet that French chefs try to get."
To grow his Christmas lima beans, Luke assembled a 15-foot, teepee-style trellis. "I like to think of it as my Eiffel Tower," he said.
Brice’s garden includes lemon cucumbers and mini melons, Hope grew albino beets, and Grace has Moon & Star watermelons. The petite round melons have dark green skins spotted with celestial markings.
"We don’t like normal stuff," Amy said.
Nor do customers, it turns out. At least, once they try things.
The family grows seven varieties of beans, many of which are downright freaky-looking. Hope’s Yard Long beans are purple and several feet long. Others are spotted, some are wavy.
"We took some of our green beans to the market, and they look like a big pile of chaos in a basket," Amy said, referring to the wavy beans. "But once they have a taste, they say, ‘Oh, I’ll have the weird ones.’ " To enjoy the bounty of beans now available, the Simons shared several recipes (see below).
It’s all about educating people, Amy said.
"People are used to seeing straight beans," she said. "Beans weren’t always that way. Farmers wanted to harvest them mechanically and being curly made it difficult. That’s what happens when scientists come on the farm."
Customers are embracing their foods, and their philosophy of a diversified farm, said Brian, 36. He wishes more agriculture was done as it was in the old days.
"That’s the way farming really should be," he said. "When you have a diversified farm, then you have organic fertilizer from your own cows."
Instead of pesticides, the couple utilizes companion planting, such as growing Pennsylvania smartweed next to the rhubarb patch to keep the beetles at bay, or using hot pepper spray on plants instead of commercial bug spray.
As their farm grows, so do their dreams.
"We’d like to have a farm store right here," Brian said.
That’s because their goal isn’t just about getting fresh foods to people.
"It’s about getting people," Amy said, "to connect to the farm."
The Simons bring a variety of products to the market each week. To order beef, veal, poultry and other products directly, visit www.simonorganics.com or call (877) 588-4727.
The Simons also operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a community of folks who share the Simon summer garden. Prices for the 2009 season were $600 for the 20-week growing season. For information about joining next year’s program, visit www.simonorganics.com.
GREEK GREEN BEANS
2-3 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
4 pounds fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 small onions, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh chopped oregano
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
Cut a small slit just through the skin of each tomato. Place in large pot of boiling water, enough to cover, and blanch until skins separate. Remove, cool, and remove skins. Dice and set aside.
Rinse out pot, place on burner on medium heat. Pour in oil and sauté onions and garlic with a pinch of salt, until they begin to caramelize. Add tomatoes and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
Mix in lemon juice, oregano, parsley, water, salt and pepper and bay leaf. Cook 30 to 45 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper again, to taste.
Remove bay leaf, add beans and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure beans stay firm. Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
— From George Foradis, a member of the Simon family garden share.
GREEN BEANS WITH TARRAGON
1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Bring large pot of water to boil. Add beans and cook uncovered until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. They should be slightly firm.
Remove from pan and drain. Let dry for a few minutes. Shake off excess water and place in bowl. Add oil, toss until coated, add tarragon and juice. Toss again. Serve.
— From Jennifer Ward, a member of the Simon family garden share.
1/2 pound trimmed green beans
1 coarsely chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 hard boiled eggs
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
Mayonnaise or yogurt
Salt and pepper
Steam beans until tender. Sauté onions over medium heat until they become slightly transparent. Combine beans, cooked onions, eggs, basil and lemon juice in a food processor and blend into a coarse puree. Remove puree to a bowl and combine with enough mayonnaise or yogurt to hold mixture together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread, crackers or rice cakes.
— From "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."
Canton Farmers’ Market
Open lot at Cleveland Avenue NW between Fourth and Fifth streets, Saturdays from 8 to 11:30 a.m., rain or shine
A dozen vendors, and this weekend’s special features: Music by Tim Griffiths, art by Chris Rood, and chair massage with Su Nimon & Jeff Kiko-Cozy of Aultman Health Foundation.