>Beth and Tim Knorr farmed together at Crown Point Ecology Center in Bath for a decade, so when their pastime of making gourmet popsicles began snowballing into a business, it felt natural to adopt the community supported agriculture (CSA) model by offering "subscribers" monthly boxes of the icy treats.
Their company, Popsmith (popsmith.com), is one of a growing number of local food businesses making use of Northeast Ohio's bounty of summer fruit.
"Working with seasonal fruit keeps us on our toes," says Beth.
While they were familiar with local farms when they started Popsmith in 2013, selling at area farmers markets has helped them cast a wider net. They make frequent stops at Rittman Orchards for raspberries and Huffman Fruit Farm in Salem for peaches.
Popsmith's newest concoction turns sweet cherries from Quarry Hill Orchards into cherry cola pops, which blend house-made natural cola syrup with the ripe fruit.
FruitVibe (fruitvibejuice.com), the cold-press juice purveyor formed in 2014, also is a customer of Quarry Hill. But they didn't find each other the traditional way. The farm left a comment on one of FruitVibe's Instagram photos and soon after was providing them with fresh peaches.
Before becoming one of FruitVibe's founding partners, Sam Rego would venture to markets in Lakewood, where he met growers and asked to tour farms. He and co-founder James Ryan eventually begin volunteering at the urban farm Amalfi Gardens before linking up with their third member, Austin Snyder.
"We started when the plants were tiny," says Rego. "As you moved into the summer everything was blossoming and ready to pick."
Foraging is Rego's latest experiment. FruitVibe recently made juice from mulberry trees in Lakewood.
"There's fruit growing right in our own backyards," says Rego.
As a resident of Ohio City for the past seven years, Theresa Pedone increasingly feels the same way. When she started her baking company Pie, Oh My! (pieohmycleveland.com) in 2012, she routinely frequented the neighboring West Side Market and Tremont Farmers Market. Now her rotation also includes the small independent shop The Grocery OHC, and she looks forward to Fresh Fork's soon-to-open Ohio City Provisions .
Between weddings, dinner parties and summer soirees, Pedone's most in-demand seasonal pie as the weather starts heating up is her mixed berry.
"I change it throughout the summer based on what's the most robust and from asking farmers what's fresh from week to week," she explains. "You might get one with raspberries and blackberries. Another might incorporate blueberries."
For Lisa Battista, the berries that started her journey as owner of Abby's Kitchen Orchard Preserves (abbysorchardpreserves.wordpress.com) were a late harvest of Rosby Greenhouse and Berry Farms' crop nearly 15 years ago. Faced with an impending hard frost, a farmer asked Battista, who holds a degree from the Culinary Institute of America's pastry program, if she could make jam with their berries.
She began selling the jams, made purely of fruit and sugar, at On the Rise Bakery and expanded to local farmer's markets. It was a natural transition back to the Minerva, Ohio, native's roots.
"I remember summertime would come and we'd make trips out to the country," recounts Battista. "There would always be certain farms that you looked forward to."
One of those farms was Dillon Fruit Farms in Lisbon, where she still visits to pick a variety of fruits a handful of times each summer. And she's always on the hunt to build new relationships with farmers.
"They're excited that you're excited about their fruit," she says. "It's a process of discovery."