Product, Profile

Meet OD Greens, Homegrown by Heroes

Veterans lettuceOD Greens is a newcomer to the Heart of Willoughby Outdoor Market in 2019. Certified by Homegrown by Heroes, Don Tobul, MA LPC, sells hydroponically grown greens including seven types of lettuce and three types of basil — , Italian, lemon, and Thai. He hopes to introduce micro greens, wasabi arugula, and lavender.

The whole project has its roots in Don’s rural childhood in Leroy township. As a pre-teen and teen, he was involved in 4-H and had strong interests in gardening, agriculture and the sciences. This interest led him to formal training as a high school chemistry and physics teacher at Bowling Green State University where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Science Education.

During his time at BGSU, he was also a member of the Ohio Army National Guard. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Don found himself on active duty in Iraq from January 2004 through March 2005. His experiences in Iraq, and working with friends in the military, steered him in a new direction. Don began working on his master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at John Carroll University in 2010, interned at the Cleveland Clinic and finished that program in 2013.

OD growing 2Don sees OD Greens as the perfect combination of his life experiences with the potential to help more people. He started growing greens in a 40-foot shipping container which offers the equivalent two traditionally farmed acres.

“Because we grow vertically our footprint is significantly reduced,” he says “Also, we recycle the water pulled from the air, reducing our water use to 10 percent of the demands of traditional farming.” Pesticides are not part of production.

As the project grows, he plans to incorporate work-training services for other disabled veterans, using hydroponic growing as a platform for their experiential education and personal/professional development.

“As a combat veteran myself, I noticed that agriculture has a place in therapy and mental health,” he says. “Agriculture at this scale is a perfect metaphor for mental health in that it takes planning, practice, and flexibility. However, even if you do everything perfectly as the farmer, something outside of your control can negatively impact what it is that you are growing. Such is life.”

OD seedlings“OD Green hopes to illustrate this through the growing component, and teach the skills necessary to adjust to – and overcome obstacles as they arise in farming and in life.”

“Homegrown by Heroes” is an official farmer-veteran branding program. The label tells consumers that the agricultural products were produced by U.S. military veterans and are certified by the organization.

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Ravine Home Grown Mushrooms at Market

Miro and Ana MushroomsA few years ago, Miro Gnjatic of Kirtland purchased a mushroom growing kit. After his first crop he was hooked. “I was curious and wanted to learn to how make my own kit,” he says. That curiosity led him to larger production and on to the Heart of Willoughby Outdoor Market, where most Saturdays he and his wife Ana sell the week’s growth.

In May his Ravine Home Grown Mushrooms sold Phoenix oysters, king oysters, and chestnut mushrooms. “These mushrooms do really well in the spring,” he says. “Believe it or not, they like the cooler weather. Shortly, I will start growing lion’s mane and pink, yellow, and blue oysters. These mushrooms will be easier to grow as the weather warms up.”

Screenshot_20190520-174121When you purchase mushrooms Miro is quick to suggest how to ready them for cooking. His personal favorite is simple and highlights their best qualities. “I sauté them with butter and garlic. I can eat them this way at any point during the day, for breakfast or a late dinner. I also enjoy making mushroom burgers. It’s a great way to use up mushrooms when I get a big flush.”

The Gnjatics plan to be @WilloughbyOutdoorMarket every Saturday. Though the market runs from 8 a.m. to noon, Ravine Home Grown Mushrooms are often sold out early. “My goal is a minimum of 10 pounds of mushrooms per week,” says Miro. “I am working to grow more.”

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Brussels Sprouts on Stalk Available

Brussels Sprout stalkCelebrity chefs are caramelizing Brussels sprouts with bacon or roasting with apples and herbs. They’re turning them into tacos and salads. By putting the spotlight on these little green orbs, the Food Network is creating interest and sales. Produce Processing magazine reports that growers were farming about 2,200 acres of Brussels sprouts in the 1970s. Today that number is 10,000-plus acres in California and more in Mexico.

Availably mostly frozen for decades, those little “cabbages” are now being eaten fresher than ever before.  For the next two weeks you can get them as fresh as possible @WilloughbyOutdoorMarket.  Farmers are selling them the way they are grown … on the stalk.

That presentation isn’t just a novelty, it keeps the sprouts fresh a little longer. Unfortunately, the 18- to 24-inch stalks can be challenging to store in the refrigerator. In that case, simply snap the sprouts from the stalk and divide in to bags of like sizes for uniform cooking.

Those who want the presentation drama of a roasted stalk can find several recipes on the Internet.

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Stuff the Bus for Less Fortunate – 10/13/18

The Willoughby United Methodist Church, and the Heart of Willoughby Outdoor Market are hosting a “Stuff the Bus” Clothing and Food Drive from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, October 13. Shoppers are asked to donate winter wear, non-perishable food items and household products. These will be distributed to the Willoughby Food Pantry and the McKinley Community Outreach Center’s Food Pantry.

Donate Winter Wear including new and gently used coats (adult L to 4XL), winter hats, gloves, sleeping bags and boots (if clean and serviceable) and NEW socks.  Please no blankets, pants, dresses, undergarments or toys.  This warming drive will benefit Sub Zero Mission, a volunteer organization whose mission is to prevent the freezing and injury caused by extreme weather exposure to the homeless and financially destitute in our region, with special focus on military veterans.  Items not suitable for the homeless will be donated to the McKinley Community Outreach Center and other Lake County agencies.

Donate Food including peanut butter, jelly, canned soup, stews and chili, cans of tuna, chicken, vegetables and fruit as well as macaroni and cheese.

Donate Household Items including toilet paper, paper towels, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, feminine products and infant diapers.

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Concord Grapes at Willoughby Market

Aunt Lucille's Grape Pie (1)The families of Kathy Crowley and Ann Moore love pie.

“There were always plenty of pies at family gatherings,” Kathy says. “We had Concord grape pie in the fall when we visited Aunt Lucille in Bascom, Ohio.   She had a few rows of vines from which she made pies and jelly. The aroma takes us back to those gatherings and the food & family that make them special.”

Now they’re selling the grapes and sharing the recipe at Willoughby Outdoor Market. (See recipe below.)

Kathy became interested in growing grapes after seeing an article about Kent State’s Viticulture and Enology programs in The Plain Dealer. So, the industrious duo purchased the Madison property in 2015 and launched their dream of growing grapes and opening a winery. Emerita Vineyards is named after Kathy’s grandmother.

“It’s our plan for the retirement years, transitioning to a business that allows us to get to know our customers like family,” says Ann. “Our 10-year plan is to open the winery and make great wines from Lake County and the Grand River AVA.”  American Viticultural Area is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States, providing an official appellation for the benefit of wineries.

Concord and Niagara grapes are for sale at the market 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, October 13.

The women are raising Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Auxerrois for future wine production.

Aunt Lucille’s Concord Grape Pie

  • 4 cups Concord grapes, washed
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Minute tapioca
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut in small cubes
  • Pastry dough for top and bottom crust

Slip the skins from the grapes. Then place the pulp into a saucepan and the skins into a mixing bowl. Bring the pulp to a boil and simmer until it is soft and the seeds start separating from the pulp. Press the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Mix the pulp, skins,  sugar, tapioca,  and  salt  together. Fill 9-inch pastry-lined pie pan with the mixture. Dot with the butter cubes. Cover with top crust.

Bake at 400 F for about 40 minutes until crust is lightly browned and the filling is bubbling.  Enjoy.