“Local is the new organic,” Paul Fuhrmann said as he drove his truck through row after row of green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and apples.
Apples are Fuhrmann Orchards’ staple. As consumers pay more attention to what they eat, the desire for food produced nearby is starting to gain more traction. According to an article in Quartz, in a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Cowen and Company, 39 percent of respondents ranked “where food comes from/’what’s in my food’” as either very or extremely important, beating the 29 percent who placed the same level of importance on healthfulness. And while both “local” and “organic” labels are (often mistakenly) considered indicators of health, 43 percent of participants said that they would be most likely to purchase groceries with a “locally sourced” label, compared to organic’s 19 percent.
The family farm is a disappearing part of Americana, which is why it is almost like a trip back in time to take the dirt road through the fields and orchards at Fuhrmann’s, located on Hansgen-Morgan Road in Wheelersburg/Sciotoville. This time of year, the Fuhrmann family sells their produce at the the farmer’s markets in Portsmouth and Ashland. They also sell to Deemer’s in Wheelersburg, Minford IGA, West Side IGA and Food Fair markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
It’s the day after the Fourth of July and Leanne, Lora Lee and Abby Fuhrmann have set up at the Portsmouth farmer’s market.
“Right now we have a lot of different vegetables,” Leann says. She then recites the ingredients in a vegan’s dream. Four different kinds of green beans, tomatoes they grew in their high tunnel to get a jump on the season, seedless cucumbers, regular pickling size cucumbers and slicer-sized cucumbers, 10 different kinds of peppers from the hottest to the specialties and traditionals, onions, leaks, zucchini, eggplant and many more. Their cantaloupe, blackberries and corn are almost ready, and, yes, they grow beautiful flowers as well.
“We just started picking peaches,” Leanne said. “We only have about half of a crop this year because of the late spring frost. So right now it’s kind of hit and miss, but in a few weeks, when it gets closer to about the 20th of July, we should have enough peaches to have enough for everyone.”
But what the name Fuhrmann really stands for is great apples in more varieties than you can count.
“We’ll start picking apples in August and we won’t stop harvesting apples until the end of October,” Leanne said.
Out at the farm, Paul looks at the trees with anticipation.
“That first hill back over there is Gingergold, one of our first varieties,” Paul said as he manipulates his truck up the muddy road. “That is called Blondies. It’s actually a Golden Gala, and they actually started at McLaughlin Orchards right here in Sciotoville, and then there will be Gala, then Honeycrisp.”
What has the family excited is a new variety that is coming – a cross between a Honeycrisp and a Fuji – called an Evercrisp. What a lot of people don’t know is that they also have orchards at an out-of-the-way location in Lucasville and he will soon be spending a lot of time there as the apples come into ripeness.
The store, located at the Wheelersburg/Sciotoville location, will open on July 20 and will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’ll have at that time vegetables and peaches,” Paul said. “Later, in August, we’ll start with Gingergold apples and then the other apple varieties and then we’ll switch over to nothing but apples.”
Paul says there is no comparison between local produce and what some supermarket chains call local produce.
“If they can get it brought in in 24 hours by truck, that is what they consider local,” Paul said. He said people who want really fresh produce should insist on buying local produce. When you spend time with any member of the Fuhrmann family, you will learn quickly why local in the new organic. You will also see why the family farm, if nothing else in the U.S., has to be preserved.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.