NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-30-99, By JoAnne Easterday
"Local farm markets offer homegrown fruits and veggies
AVON - "Eat your vegetables!" Mom coaches at the dinner table. That's no problem if the vegetables are young and succulent, fresh and firm. The fruits and vegetables offered at local farm markets frequently meet that test of edibility because they're grown on site or close by.
Farmers at Fitch's Farm Market, Mayton's, Nagel's and Pickering Hill Farm can monitor availability and pick just at the peak of freshness without waiting till the peas are hard and the corn is coarse and overripe. Berries keep longer because there is not a long period of time between picking and the sale. They're picked before 10 and can be eaten at noon or can be refrigerated for the next morning's breakfast and not be shriveled or rotted.
The elder Nagel said he and his son have "a couple hundred acres under cultivation;" 90 acres of that is in corn. The crops include tomatoes, peppers and cauliflower as well. Perhaps what makes the "down-the-hill" farm distinctive is the sale of fresh garden flowers-tall stately zinnias and gloriously huge magenta celosia entice market shoppers. Hugh's wife Anna Mae and daughter Diane Deitz are in charge of making floral designs and wreaths during the season. The farm has 17 acres of grapes, 5 acres of which is composed of Niagara grapes used by the Klingshirn Winery.
Jay Pickering of Pickering Hill Farm, 35699 Detroit Road, said his family-run market is taking orders for Michigan sour cherries that will be available about July 1 and run through July 15. No one in this area of Ohio grows cherries in sufficient numbers to stock the market, he said.
Sweet corn from southern Ohio is available now and the authentic homegrown sweet corn should be ready by July 4. Homegrown tomatoes will also be available in 3 to 4 weeks. With the warm spring peaches are ready now. All the "good stuff," raspberries, beans, and pickles will be ready in 2 to 3 weeks ..."
NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 6-30-99, By JoAnne Easterday, continued
Richard Fitch is part of the sixth generation to farm the land at 4413 Center Rd.. The seventh generation, 19-year old Adam, 17-year old Daniel and Michael, 13 are lending a hand in production as well.
Richard has been operating the farm on a full-time basis for 19 years and says he grows items ranging from A to Z, Asparagus to Zucchini. Before that he worked a full time job and ran the farm on a part time basis. The farm is operated as a family affair with Richard's father and with his wife, Rita, who is a teacher in North Ridgeville.
Fitch remembered farming in his youth. He said his father had the last operating team of workhorses in Avon. During a particularly wet spring neighboring farmers had small tractors become stuck in the mud. His father's horses pulled the tractors out of the mud.
Those workhorses were useful when the time came for digging horseradish. Fitch remembered dreading coming home from school and following the plow to root out the plant.
When son Adam complained that he was the only kid in high school who had to come home and dig horseradish, Richard hardly commiserated with him. He merely corrected his son. "You're the only kid in the state of Ohio who has to dig horseradish," he said considering the fact that that farm is the only one to grow the condiment commercially in the state.
The root is sold to a processing firm in the Dayton area. That rootstock dates back at least to the four generations Richard remembers. They dig most of the crop in February to be made up for dressing Easter hams. By March the remaining roots are planted for the next year. There is a smaller digging in the fall as well ...
The 35 acres surrounding Fitch relatives' homes and the market are enough to maintain a steady stream of produce; but eventually the Fitch family may have to eliminate the pick-your-own portion of the business.
"It's harder to get down the roads with a tractor," Fitch said. "People want rural character but they don't want to wait" for a slow vehicle. The influx of new people is good for business, but the appreciation of those very customers does not extend to courtesy on the road to farmers ...
NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 6-10-07, By MEGAN KING, Morning Journal Staff
``AVON -- The Fitch family puts the family in family farm. After six generations, Fitch family farmers ranging in age from 3 to 84 work together to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables to serve the growing Avon area. Fitch's Farm Market sits on 75 acres of farmland. Located on SR 83, the farm includes a retail store.
In addition to vegetables and fruits such as peas, lettuce, rhubarb, squash, melons, sweet corn, pumpkins, peppers and tomatoes, the farm also sells hanging baskets and vegetable and flowering plants in its greenhouse.
The farm is owned and operated by Dick Fitch and his wife, Rita Fitch, a North Ridgeville high school teacher.
As summer begins, strawberries and strawberry picking are among the most popular items at the market, according to Dick Fitch. ''It's so fresh, and people see it's grown by us,'' he said.
Tomatoes and peppers also top the list of most popular items at the market. The farm produces 14 varieties of peppers and 12 types of tomatoes, Fitch said.
Fitch's Farm Market is unique in that the vast majority of all of its products are grown on the farm, rather than being brought in to be sold.
The farm was founded in the late 1800s when Avon was a farming community, Fitch's is one of only a few family farms remaining in the area. It was at one time a full-time farm with working horses and other animals.
The walls inside the market still have several momentos from the farm's history - including pictures of the family's ancestors working on the farm when it had a team of working horses and a photo of SR 83 when it was a dirt road.
Above the cash register hangs an ''Old Elmfarm'' sign that Fitch found in the barn several years ago. ''That was two generations before me,'' he said. When Fitch, 53, took control of the farm's operations about 27 years ago, he converted the family business into retail and opened the market.
Fitch's 84-year-old father, Robert Fitch, still works on the farm, cultivating the entire thing once each week. Fitch's sons, Adam, 27, Daniel, 25 and Michael, 21, also work in the family business.
Robert Fitch said the farm business has changed considerably since he started farming with his father when he was young, mainly that the farm used to be a wholesale business and now it focuses on retail.
With the advent of large chain stores dominating the market, there has been less of a market for wholesale farming. Fitch recalled that when his father used to plow, nearly everyone he passed by knew him by name, but with the growth in the city, they don't know everyone in town anymore. ''It was one field then the next field after the farm and the next field was another farm,'' he said.
Robert Fitch still has a passion for farming after so many years in the business. ''It's all I ever knew I guess,'' he said.
Fitch's three sons were raised in farming life, just like he was, and the three boys used to take their naps in the back of his tractor. Now all three are somehow involved in keeping the farm running.
''I wanted the boys to have the experience in working outside. It's a lot of work,'' he said. ''When they were younger they didn't care for it when they got up early and stuff.''
Adam Fitch studied construction management but eventually found his way back into farming. Now his two sons, ages 3 and 6 months, are following in his footsteps and beginning to appreciate farming.
''He rides (the tractor) with me. He's out here every day,'' Adam Fitch said of his son, adding that the boy knows the different crops and which ones he wants to help with each day.
Adam Fitch said farm work is rewarding, and he enjoys working with his family. ''You work 12 hours and it doesn't feel like work,'' he said.
Seeing a field full of weeds that at the end of a day's work turns into a cultivated field of crops provides a reward for his efforts. ''It's just perfect. It's like instant gratification.''''
Buy your pumpkins now!
Local farms prepare for Halloween
By Nicole Hennessy
Filed by nicolehennessy October 9th, 2014
Shoppers sorted through vegetables at Fitch's Farm Market, their eyes lighting up as they reached for the freshest ones, the first week of October, still sunny and warm.
In the parking lot, customers loaded baskets of the season's last pick-your-own peppers and tomatoes into their cars, owner Rita Fitch helping, then wishing them a nice afternoon.
Soon, kids will be roaming the rows of pumpkins, imagining them as jack-o'-lanterns.
And though shoppers can just as easily put a pumpkin in their grocery store carts with their boxed cereals and lunch meat, some prefer making the special trip to farms like Fitch's or Pickering Hill.
Wet weather, which caused a good amount of Fitch's pumpkins to rot this growing season, forced the business to cancel the annual pick-your-own-pumpkin hayrides. Fitch, keeping an eye on her customers to make sure they don't need more help, said she isn't expecting this to hurt business.
On the weekends, there will still be family activities like face painting and props for photos.
"It's too difficult for us to do any sort of corn mazes or big slides," Fitch explained, stressing that the importance is placed on the products grown at Fitch's ...
Open through Halloween, Pickering Hill, in addition to prepicked pumpkins, offers pick-your-own-pumpkin wagon rides each weekend.
Located at 35669 Detroit Road, Pickering Hill is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
Fitch's, which is located at 4413 Center Road, is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Suburban Agriculture: Pickering Hill Farms
Filed by nicolehennessy October 16th, 2014
By Nicole Hennessy
Pickering Hill Farms is a mainstay of old Avon. Surrounded by shopping and residential developments, the red market and gravel parking lot sits on land that's been farmed by the Pickering family since the mid-1800s.
Jay Pickering, standing near the stalks of field corn behind the market, remembers growing up there. He said, in some ways, he always knew he'd eventually take over the family farm.
Like his father, John, Pickering does not sustain a full-time living at he farm, but has supplemented his work there with a career in education. "It's tough to make a living farming," he said, recounting his family history.
It was Jack Pickering who originally came from England and started a ranch and meat business. His son, Frank, later raised vegetables, selling them to nearby communities. Frank also built a market on the present site in the 1930s in order to sell his produce.
John, Frank's grandson, took over the farm business in the 1960s. Then, finally, in 1997, John's son Jay built the 6,000-square-foot market that is used today.
"My grandfather, Laverne Pickering, lived in this house," Pickering said, gesturing to an old home west of the market. "He was more of a business man." Laverne, he explained, owned a car dealership and even served as the mayor of Avon.
The developments surrounding Pickering Hill all were once farmland, but were sold off by various family members over the years -- family members like Laverne, who were more interested in other types of business.
Today, Pickering farms on land he owns in Grafton in addition to the remaining 12 acres in Avon.
Walking down a path, rows of corn, fruit and vegetables sprawl outward on either side. Straight ahead are pumpkins, being picked.
The soil looks more like sand. Pickering, kicking some up, said, "All of the ridges are beaches of Lake Erie," referring to the fact that the area was once a beach of the long-since-receded lake.
"Especially for vegetables, this is really nice," he said of the soil type, which becomes denser farther back on the property.
There was a time when a farmer could make a living off of 12 acres of land, but Pickering said that time has passed. "Food's cheap," he explained.
While those standing in grocery store lines scrounging coupons and change from the bottom of their purses would find that hard to believe, Pickering continued, "If you historically look back, food was a higher percentage of a person's income. Today it's very low."
Corroborating this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that Americans do spend less on groceries than any other country.
However, it is a worldwide trend that richer countries spend less of their incomes on food. This is because one person can only consume so much, so as they get richer more of their incomes are spent on other things, such as health care or entertainment, making a comparison with a country like Kenya and the high percentage its citizens spend on food unfair.
Still, as a low percentage spent on food indicates a richer country, a higher percentage spent on food indicates a poorer country and widespread malnutrition. Due to modern technology, Pickering says, "it's easier to grow food."
Consumers are becoming more interested in what is in their food and how it is grown, the local and farm-to-plate trends having taken off across the country. And though Pickering does not operate an organic farm, the appeal of shopping local is still there.
He does, however, utilize 'green' growing techniques, such as drip irrigation, which allows water to seep slowly to the plants and cuts down on water use.
A fresh batch of pumpkins, brought from Pickering's Grafton property, sits near the farm market, ready for sale. When he looked into buying additional land in Avon 20 years ago, the developers had already started buying.
But, "because Avon's turned into what it is," he says, gazing out over his property, toward the housing developments closing in, "it makes it more of a viable thing to do."
NOTE: Pickering Hill Farms is located at 35669 Detroit Road. Through Halloween, the market will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
Ancestors of Jay Pickering -- For more Pickering genealogy, see
* John Pickering
Birth: 13 NOV 1835 Lubbenham, Leicestershire, England
Death: 1906 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
* Frank N. Pickering
Birth: 24 FEB 1873 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
Death: 16 OCT 1962 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
* Laverne Pickering
Birth: 9 JUN 1899 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
Death: OCT 1979 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
* John Pickering
Birth: 11 JUL 1929 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
Death: 9 DEC 2003 Avon, Lorain County, Ohio
* Jay Pickering
AVON - John L. Pickering, 74, a retired Avon High School teacher and fourth-generation farmer, died Tuesday, 12-9-03, at Cleveland Clinic Hospital.
He was born July 11, 1929, and was a lifelong resident of Avon.
He graduated from Avon High School and the Ohio State University.
He was appointed to the Avon City Council in 1967 and also served on the Civil Service Commission and on the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Family members said, "He was a teacher by trade but a farmer at heart."
As a boy he picked corn, planted peas and sold strawberries and vegetables at a market stand on Detroit Road.
"I wasn't interested in farming at first, but it was something you had to do, of course," he said.
Wanting to escape from labor on the land, he attended Ohio State University after he graduated from Avon High School.
As soon as he left college, though, he was drawn back to farming. He combined teaching and working on Pickering Hill for 31 years until he retired from the classroom in 1992. He taught biology, health and physical education for nine years at Clearview High School and for 22 years at Avon High School before retiring.
He rented nearby land so he could grow a greater variety of vegetables. Sales increased as more people moved into the area, but encroaching housing developments reduced the available acreage and forced Pickering to lease farming property in other parts of the county.
He was self-employed as a farmer, the fourth generation of his family to farm its property on Pickering Hill in Avon. "It's interesting. You know all the idiosyncrasies of the land, and you get to a point where you kind of cherish it because you've been here so long," he said.
He was a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau and Ohio Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and enjoyed sports, especially fast-pitch softball, and had coached his sons' summer baseball league teams.
He was a lifelong member of the Avon United Methodist Church, where he sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and performed administrative duties.
Survivors include his wife, Karel (nee Smith); sons Jay Pickering of Grafton and Mark Pickering of Carlisle Township; daughter, Karen Holowecky of Medina; sister, Anne Williams of North Ridgeville; and nine grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, LaVern and Catherine (nee Gibson) Pickering.
For more information, see
[Fire Roasted Sweet Corn is Avon's 2014 Bicentennial ice cream flavor
Fitch's Farm Market and Mitchell's Ice Cream team up to create Avon's Bicentennial ice cream]
By Julie A. Short, Correspondent, Sun News
September 19, 2014
If you are a fan of the interesting flavors offered from Mitchell's Ice Cream, you may want to stop in and try the new Fire Roasted Sweet Corn flavor in honor of Avon's Bicentennial which is available now through October. The ice cream company, known for using ingredients from Ohio farms, worked with Fitch's Farm to create the unique flavor.
"We wanted to have something for Avon that was from Avon," said Jen Schilens, store manager of Mitchell's Avon location. "We brainstormed what ingredient we could get in Avon in September to use for the flavor. Avon has lot of corn with the many farms still in town. We pondered the idea of grapes, but went with corn."
According to Schilens, the partnership with Fitch's grew from the support and business the farm employees give to Mitchell's.
"They (Fitch's Farm Market employees) are regular customers of this Mitchell's location," she said. "They come in with their green Fitch's T-shirts and purchase lots of ice cream. We love that Fitch's is a family-run business and what they stand for, and we felt they were a good farm to start with. What better way to pay them back for enjoying our ice cream."
Mitchell's used 1,800 ears of corn to make the commemorative flavor. The company has often used herbs and has mixed jalapenos with strawberries to create flavors, but as far an anyone can recall, the fire roasted sweet corn is the first "all vegetable" ice cream flavor. Mike Mitchell, co-founder/owner created the recipe.
Bicentennial Fire Roasted Sweet Corn ice cream offers a smoky, sweet, salty and buttery flavor
"He really wanted customers to taste a smoky, sweet, salty and buttery flavor," Schilens said. "You can truly taste the corn on the cob flavor. We wanted it be something that really stood out and people to talk about it and remember it. That's part of the fun. The City of Avon has really been supportive and appreciative of this process. As a company, we are honored to make this flavor and glad to be part of the bicentennial."
The Fitch Family also is appreciative of the opportunity.
"We were pleased when they (Mitchell's) reached out to us and included us," Rita Fitch said. "It was very thoughtful of them to think of us and we are glad to help them out. My husband, Richard, is a sixth-generation Fitch. Two of our sons also work here. We started the market in the 1980s as an extension of the farm to sell items here."
As for what Rita and the Fitch clan think of the new flavor, "It's very good and really does taste like corn," she said.