Thursday, May 28, 2015

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Photo courtesy Ann's Raspberry Farm in Fredericktown

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association kicks off its 35th annual statewide public tour and workshop series starting June 3. We caught up with communications coordinator Lauren Ketcham about the series, why the OEFFA cares and why you ought to as well.

Q: I'm not a farmer. Am I still invited on these tours?
A: It's a unique opportunity for growers to go out to the farm, learn about sustainable agriculture, pick up production and marketing tips, ask questions of a fellow grower so they can improve their own farms and businesses. But just as importantly, the tours are geared toward nongrowers, folks that just want to strengthen their knowledge about local foods and how food gets from the field to the dinner table. [OEFFA] members are farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, consumers. So part of our mission is bringing those groups together.

Q: What can I expect to see?
A: We really try to make sure that we’re offering diversity in our farm tour series, both in terms of geographic location so that we’re offering something for everybody around the state and in terms of what you’d see on the farm tours so that the diversity of Ohio agriculture is represented: There are livestock farms, there are grain farms, dairy operations, fruit and vegetable production, so that the whole gamut is covered.

Q: I keep hearing this word "sustainable." What does it really mean?
A: Unlike organic, which is a highly defined term and regulated by the national organic program, so it means very specific things, there are a lot of other terms like sustainable, ecological, natural, that are used and are not as firmly defined. When people talk about sustainable agriculture, they’re meaning an emphasis on soil health, so really building up the soil through the use of cover crops and crop rotation. Typically it means people aren’t using chemical-intensive agriculture, so they’re not using hazardous synthetic pesticides, herbicides.

Q: I like to shop at farm stands and farmers markets. Any advice for choosing sustainable foods?
A: I think one good question right off the bat to ask is, 'Did you grow this?' Some farmers markets are producer-only markets, where farmers can’t sell products that they didn’t personally grow. But other farmers markets – West Side Market is an example of this – that is not the case. Somebody can go to an auction or purchase crops wholesale, take those to market, mark those up and resell them. So I think that’s an important distinction for consumers to understand. Am I getting produce that is being resold from a wholesaler, in which case they may not be able to tell you much about the story behind that food? Whereas if you’re talking with the farmer who grew the food, harvested it the day before, brought it to market, they can tell you a whole lot about the story of that food and how they made it to market. It’s not always obvious to a person looking at a farm stand which one they’re looking at.

Q: There's a series in the schedule specifically geared toward women. Why?

A: This is the first year that I know of that we’re offering this specifically in the tour series, these Women Grow Ohio tours. It’s going to featured 17 different women-operated farms, gardens and homesteads in Athens, Fairfield, Franklin, Lorain, Muskingum and Perry counties. This came about at the request of our members. We’re a grassroots organization. We respond to the needs of our members, and we’re happy and excited to include it in the tour series. The goal is that we’re going to be able to showcase how women are transforming agriculture in Ohio and what issues women farmers are facing, showcasing some of the work that they’re doing and their role on the farm. The one that’s going to be taking place in Lorain County is going to be at Aggie’s Rest Farm, and the farmer there is named Cheryl Billman. This is a homestead that has been in their family since the 1940s, and they’re emphasis is on permaculture and on energy efficiency and renewable energy with the goal of being as off the grid and petroleum free as they can.

Want to learn more? Check out the Farm Tour 2015 Schedule of Events or sign up for a seat at The Farmers' Table hosted by Maplestar Farms in Chagrin Falls Sunday, August 30. Tickets are $125 and proceeds support the OEFFA. Dinner includes appetizers, beverages and a four-course food and wine pairing prepared by the chefs of Driftwood Restaurant Group.

Photo of Twin Parks Organic Farm tour in West Salem courtesy Colleen Calahan

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Summer Must-Eat: Spring Pea Tortellini

Lockkeepers Spring Pea Tortellini

Just in time for fresh peas from the farmers market, Lockkeepers executive chef Alberto Leandri shares his recipe for this fast and elegant Spring Pea Tortellini.


For the tortellini:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons pea puree
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 egg mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water
Fresh pasta

For the sauce:
1 leek, julienned
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons parmiggiano
4 oz bacon
1/3-cup panko breadcrumbs


In a bowl, mix the ricotta, peas, parmiggiano, 1 egg, salt and pepper.

Roll out fresh pasta dough by hand or using a machine, or using premade fresh pasta sheets, cut the dough into 3- or 4-inch squares with a square cookie cutter. Place 1/4 teaspoon filling into the center of each square. Brush egg wash on the bottom half of the square and fold over diagonally to seal. Fold the two bottom corners around your finger, then turn down the top edge to form a tortellini.

In a 350 degree oven, cook the bacon until crispy (about 15 minutes) and let cool. When completely cool, process in a food processor with panko bread crumbs until the blend is fine.

Cook the tortellini in salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes while making the sauce.

In a pan, heat 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil with leek, season to taste, then add chicken stock, tomatoes and butter and boil for a few minutes. Drain the cooked tortellini and add them to the sauce. Add parmiggiano. Serve topped with bacon crumbs.

Lockkeepers, 8001 Rockside Rd, Valley View, 216-524-9404,

Thursday, April 30, 2015

I Am Trans* Films and Arts Exhibit Encourage Self Expression

No matter who you are or where you come from — you should always honor your true self. This lesson comes across brilliantly in I AmOhio's first ever transgender art exhibit at Waterloo Arts gallery, open until May 25, where 15 artists from around the country share their experience as transgender individuals. In conjunction with the exhibit, Sistah Sinema is premiering Stealth and Kuma Hina: A Place in the Middle, both of which were previously shown at the Cleveland International Film Festival, that capture the transgender experience through a younger generation.

"It's encouraging and emboldening these young children to be themselves," says Deidre McPherson, founder of the Cleveland chapter of Sistah Sinema. "Both films are positive examples of young people being supported by adults and showing them how we as adults are mentoring and raising the next generation — how we can support them, and love them, and encourage them to be happy and see themselves."

The films will be shown back-to-back Friday, May 1 beginning at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion led by activist Zoe Renee Lapin, one of our Most Interesting People of 2015. The event is free, but donations are encouraged to Margie's Hope, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping transgender people find secure housing and employment. Here's a sneak preview of tomorrow night's films.

Stealth follows a young transgender person in her search for acceptance.
Stealth, which won this year's best student short film award at CIFF, stars Kristina Hernandez as an 11-year-old who goes by the name of Sammy. As the new girl at school, she reveals her secret to her closest friends — that she was born a boy but living life as a girl. When she's betrayed and her identity is publicly revealed, she's faced with the decision to stay masked or to live out her true identity. "I actually heard people gasp in the audience [at CIFF] as they watched the film and be surprised, not knowing what the film was going to be about," says McPherson. "It's a reminder of the rejection, the bullying, and the harassment that some people face in school just to be different in any way."

Kuma Hina: A Place in the Middle is a documentary that captures a teacher's journey to educate her students on the acceptance and appreciation of gender fluidity.
An honorable mention for the Spalding and Jackson award at CIFF, Kuma Hina: A Place in the Middle captures the complexity journey of a classroom navigating the thin line of gender expectations. When 11-year-old Ho'onani decides she wants to participate in the traditionally masculine hula troupe, her transgender teacher, Wong Kalu finds a way to make it happen while explaining the importance of embracing the male and female characteristics that reside inside of everyone. "Wong Kalu uses her native Hawaiian culture to empower her young students," says McPherson. "This film brings to life a diverse gender spectrum that challenges people to think about gender identity in a better way."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Market at the Food Bank's 20th Anniversary

It's springtime. For most of us that means stashing our winter sweaters and boots, popping a few Zyrtecs and heading to the weekend farmers market. But for a sixth of Northeast Ohioans spring is a time of hunger.

Enter Harvest for Hunger, an annual program started by the Greater Cleveland Food Bank to combat food insecurity in Northeast and north central Ohio.

"Typically the Greater Cleveland Food Bank serves those in need in six Northeast Ohio counties: Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Ashtabula, Ashland and Richland counties," says Kellie Biller, special events and CR manager at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

The Harvest for Hunger campaign aims to nearly triple that reach by partnering with four area food banks, which then serve residents in 21 regional counties.

"It's a coordinated effort," Biller says. "We work with thousands of organizations who support the campaign, and it's actually one of the largest campaigns of its kind in the nation."

Yet the food banks can't do it alone. Which is why they've hosted the annual Market at the Food Bank fundraising event  the "Market" part of the name comes from the West Side Market, which originally hosted the fundraiser — every year for the past two decades. This year's event marks its 20th anniversary, and Biller says about 1,000 people are expected.

In addition to helping a worthy cause, guests will get to sample 50 of Greater Cleveland's top restaurants, breweries and food vendors including Bomba Tacos & Rum, Chinato, Edwin's Leadership and Restaurant, Geraci's, Jackie O's Brewery, Melt Bar and Grilled, Sans Souci, Sushi 86, Trentina and Urban Sweetness.

There will also be a silent auction with prizes including a tour of the Cargill salt mine, plus a raffle with offerings such as an Apple Watch and a shopping spree at Legacy Village.

For wine lovers, there will be a wine pull with 50 different bottles up for grabs.

"For every $1 that's donated, we can provide four nutritious meals to those in need," says Biller. "We have a lot of buying power, and the money that's donated to us goes very far." Last year's event raised $183,000; this year the food bank hopes to pull in $220,0000.

That's the equivalent of 880,000 meals.

Market at the Food Bank is this Sunday, May 3. General admission ($100) entrance is at 6 p.m., and VIP ($175, includes VIP lounge access) doors open at 5 p.m. Purchase tickets here or at the door.

Friday, April 24, 2015

True Hollywood Story: John Carroll Grad Makes Film Honoring Sister

Kelly Donovan stars in a documentary her brother made, Kelly's Hollywood.
Photo credit: Jessica Z Diamond
Brian Donovan had a midlife crisis when he was 23 years old. When his desire of becoming an actor began to nag at him, he left his job as an account executive at The Cleveland Edition, swearing he would never wear a tie again. Since then, he has worn a tie about 15 times throughout his acting career in Los Angeles, where he’s also the CEO and creator of an educational children’s show, The Mighty Me Training Camp.

The John Carroll University graduate began his acting career around the same time as Saturday Night Live cast member and Shaker Heights native Molly Shannon  and the two ended up living together for six years. Donovan is now an established voice actor, but the project that remains closest to his heart is the documentary Kelly’s Hollywood, which chronicles visits with his sister Kelly, who has Down syndrome. Donovan would introduce Kelly to actors Colin Firth, David Hasselhoff and Tori Spelling, and give her a chance to perform her own live version of The Tonight Show, where she stars as a Hollywood diva being interviewed by her brother.

On April 26, Kelly’s Hollywood debuts at 6:30 p.m. at John Carroll University’s Dolan Science Center with a post-screening Q&A. The film also screens at 6:30 p.m. April 28 at Brush High School. We chatted with Donovan about the endurance of filming a documentary, the personal toll and what he learned from the process.

Q: The film took seven years to complete. Why was it so important to see through?
A: I didn't know it was going to take seven years when I started! … I was compelled to tell her story because I still feel like there's lingering prejudice and misconceptions about the disabled. If you had seen my sister from afar or across the room, most would label her disabled, or “Oh, she has Downs.” We all are more than what we may be labeled or branded. I wanted people to see my sister for all that she was: passionate, loving, complex, emotional, talented and even the diva that she portrays in the documentary.

Q: Boundaries, or lack of, are a big theme in the documentary: Your relationship with your sister strained your other relationships. In hindsight, would you have done anything different?
A: I'd like to think that I wouldn't change a thing and don't really believe in regret. Maybe I could have been more sensitive to my girlfriend’s needs, but at the time and throughout Kelly's life she was my priority. It was a sacred relationship cemented at childhood, and it never made sense for me to compromise that for a new relationship. It was a tricky thing to be sure and finding the balance was nearly impossible until I met my now wife.

Q: What do you want people to take away from the film?
A: We are not who we are when we're born, but who we are when we live and that dreams are important and should be honored and pursued with every fiber of your being. It not only gives oneself a purpose, but it also creates a vibration in the world that is attractive and infectious. Our attitude is the only thing we can control in different circumstances.Beginning with my mom's attitude to bring my sister home from the hospital when the doctors advised her to institutionalize her, my sisters attitude that she was more than her disability, and my attitude that love is the greatest gift we have to give.

By Megan Murray

In a Rut: Cleveland Police Body Cameras

A Taser International AXON Body camera.
Body cameras, I write in the upcoming May issue of Cleveland Magazine, are making their way onto Cleveland streets. However, an internal audit has put the rollout on hold.

The original plan called for the entire Cleveland Division of Police to be equipped by the end of June. Now rollout for the next district in line, the Second, is stalled. “I don’t have a date,” says police spokesperson Sgt. Ali Pillow.

“It’s my understanding that we will still be on pace to have all five district’s basic patrol personnel outfitted before the end of this year,” says Pillow.

Before the rollout gets started again, the department wants to re-evaluate its policies. “The audit is to look at all the video procedures, marking the video, uploading it and the procedures that the officer uses when retrieving the video,” says Pillow. “The entire process.”

“It will be much easier to do that in one [district] than five or two, or whatever,” says Pillow.

Pillow could not elaborate on the scope of the audit, being conducted within the Division of Public Safety.

For its part, the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association is none too happy with the cameras in general, reported WKYC’s Tom Meyer last night. The city denied the station’s (ridiculously vague) public records request that “asked for incidents during the time the body cameras have been in operation to help identify cases that used the cameras.”

More importantly, the audit process means that the General Police Order governing the body camera system could change. Here's the current iteration.

“That document is a fluid document in terms of our policy,” says Pillow. “Like with anything that you just start, there are going to be some things that work or might work or could be improved.”

Currently, the policy calls for periodic reviews of footage by police supervisors and the Mobile Support Unit. No news on whether the post-audit policy will include independent reviews of footage by a civilian body such as the Civilian Police Review Board.

The Fourth District (map below for the unfamiliar) is the only of Cleveland’s five police districts currently making use of the cameras from Taser International. Already officers there have recorded about 30,000 videos, Sgt. Todd Melzer of the Mobile Support Unit told me in an interview two weeks ago.

Outfitting 1,500 officers is bound to be logistically messy. Each station must have a separate dedicated Internet connection, needed to upload vast quantities of video to Taser’s cloud service The Fourth initially did not have such a connection, though it now does, as do the other four districts.

For officers, there is a definite learning curve in the field. Deliberate button pressing must become muscle memory. For supervisors, properly reviewing footage and releasing videos via Cleveland’s already slow public records process presents yet another wrinkle.

“The entire process is being reviewed and there could be some changes to the policy,” says Pillow.

Seven months after City Council shelled out for the cameras, less than a quarter of Cleveland’s officers are equipped. The audit is making an already plodding process slower. But a deliberative, forward-looking rollout — with some more solid deadlines — can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Piss Off an Entire City, In One Easy Step

On Tuesday, a Boston Globe sports columnist, having very little Boston Celtics basketball to write about, took it upon himself to do a little Cleveland bashing.

“Cleveland once was one of America’s five largest cities. Today, downtown Cleveland is a sad space with many vacant buildings and boarded-up stores,” wrote Dan Shaughnessy. “The city is quiet on weekends and empty on weeknights after the workforce goes home. It feels like the local economy runs on lottery tickets.”

He hits the usual high points — the Cleveland Indians lack of butts in seats, the perpetual circus of Browns football, the championship drought — just with the added perspective of looking down his national nose at us poor, lusty plebeians.

“At the corner of East Fourth Street and Prospect you can still get a 16-ounce can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $3 at Flannery’s Pub,” he wrote. “Not far from the other end of Fourth Street, there’s the Horseshoe Casino, connected to the Tower City Center. This is not a high-roller crowd. It’s not Ocean’s Eleven. It’s more like Atlantic City-on-the-Cuyahoga.”

Naturally, Cleveland’s booster set was deeply insulted. At The Q last night, there was a sassy video and no confetti. The Northeast Ohio Media Group curated a few choice reactions from their readers. Twitter tossed a self-righteous fit.

Local government even waded into the fray. Armond Budish, Cuyahoga county executive, issued an email statement.

“If you took a little bit longer of a walk, you’d see that downtown boasts thousands of residents and an occupancy rate of nearly 98 percent,” he said to Shaughnessy. “It seems that we can’t build downtown apartments fast enough for all of the folks clamoring to live here! Our city is tough and, yes, we are revitalizing.”

Over in alt weekly-dom, Scene got the story behind the story. Recently, a glowing Cleveland travel piece in the Globe was removed for violating the paper’s ethics guidelines, Sam Allard found. Destination Cleveland was the culprit, financing the junket.

True, Shaughnessy’s piece reads like a piece of junket writing, with its carefully chosen locales and gently shepherded experiences.

Shock. Horror.

"I'm a little concerned for Cleveland that they're so sensitive," Shaughnessy told the Northeast Ohio Media Group late yesterday. "You don't need to be. You guys are better than that. You have a championship-caliber team this year. You should win the championship. Let yourselves enjoy it."

A swashbuckling TV reporter even went so far as to march into the poor man's hotel room and all but demanded an apology. He gave in, definitely convinced by the kind folks at CLE Clothing Co. who made the case for "new Cleveland" in the segment.

Is our skin really so paper-thin?

Conversely, are we so blind that we willfully reject our shortcomings when they are practically punching us in the face?

At the very least, Shaughnessy provides a small dose of reality in a needlessly acerbic fashion.

A quick walk from Playhouse Square to the downtown Heinen’s reveals still-vacant storefronts, waiting for developers to get their act together. Thirteen thousand residents or not, downtown is still far from a 24/7 city.

Outside pockets of shiny new stuff, the some old problems prevail. Poverty, segregation both racial and economic, and dilapidation are still facts of life in Cleveland. For every Ohio City, there seems to be three Glenvilles. Viewed holistically, Cleveland’s revival is at best imperfect, at worst inequitable.

Nonetheless the revival, the upward trajectory, is real. And it’s happening here.

If this brouhaha proves anything, it’s that we don't quite believe it's happening ourselves. We are, as Shaughnessy points out, crying out for a little validation. It's as if we think all these good things will disappear if we simply blink.

This is real, we tell ourselves while sipping our tallboys, not quite buying in as we should. It may be ugly, but doing nothing is a greater sin. There may not be consensus about where we’re going, but hell, we’ll go somewhere.

And when the next inevitable volley comes, hopefully we will process the criticism as more than groups of either blind boosters or vacuous misanthropes.

After all there’s no greater pleasure than, so many years later, looking back on the schoolyard bully and saying, “Oh yeah? What have you done?”