Fall Harvest Festival, White House Fruit Farm, Canfield, OhioHARVESTING NATURE'S BOUNTY, STAFF, USA MAINLAND — By Milli Thornton on September 23, 2011 at 01:23
Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Milli Thornton.
LAST SATURDAY my friend Joanne invited me to a harvest festival and craft show in nearby Canfield, Ohio. Friday the temperature had dropped to a chilly 59 degrees, but Saturday dawned sunny and warm. Perfect weather for a colorful fall event.
I’d never been to White House Fruit Farm before and didn’t really know what to expect, except for orchards full of fruit trees. I found out the farm has its own supermarket, billed on their website as one of the largest farm markets in Ohio.
Here’s some of what the Hull family grows on over 75 acres and then harvests to sell in the store (which was the back barn of the farm in 1881):
Farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, including apples, peaches, nectarines, asparagus, rhubarb, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, green beans, eggplant, cucumbers, pickles, beets, cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini, winter squash & pumpkins.
There’s also a deli, a bakery, and a selection of specialty food items. Specialties include White House Farm’s famous homemade apple cider and “the most-delicious fudge you’ve ever tasted.”
The supermarket is a vibrantly-colored, yummy-looking place. As Joanne bought apple cider, crisp red apples and a pumpkin pie for her mom, I browsed the store and found a display of hand-made baskets from Ghana. Turns out the weavers are farmers who make and sell baskets to supplement their income. (Farmers supporting farmers. Good stuff.)
Men, women and children all work together to produce the baskets, which are made from straw obtained from elephant grass and colored with plant and vegetable extracts. Goat’s hide leather is used to finish the handles. I love baskets and will probably find an excuse to buy one of these.
I had a great time reading the titles on this stand of cookbooks:
The variety was admirable: Ohio Cookbook, Grandma’s Cookbook, Venison Cookbook, Amish Ladies’ Cookbook, Burrito Lover’s Cookbook. But the best thing was the humor.
You Know You Gotta Feed ‘Em So HAVE YOU CONSIDERED COOKING? It’s not rocket science; it’s cooking. Fun, easy and it might even taste good.
(Yep, that was the full title, including sub-title.)
The store was mega-busy but the real action was outside where the festival and craft show was taking place. The first booth I stopped at caught my attention because I’m interested in health-conscious candles. Sydney Candle Co. sells hand-crafted pure soy candles—which is good news if you ever look into the health hazards of inhaling the fumes from candles made with paraffin wax.
But these are not just boring good-for-you candles. The range of aromas provides something for all preferences, and the aromas themselves are THE most authentic I’ve ever encountered. Here, the Blueberry Muffin candle smelled like muffins straight out of the oven. The Hot Buttery Vanilla candle smelled exactly like what it was named for (to die for!) . . . and so on. No chemical undertones.
I have dozens of pictures of the craft, jewelry, clothing and food stalls and not enough room to show everything here. Here’s one I like because it shows the farm pond and trees that served as a beautiful backdrop for the stallholders’ wares.
There were Halloween and fall decor stalls galore. Among the most unique was a craft form involving tableaus constructed on old-fashioned chairs, each with its own theme. Most were quite cheery and sing-songy (if you were to put a sound to it). The one below stood out as being wonderfully creepy-scary—I could almost hear the skeleton pirates laughing hideously while the bones rattled in the graveyard.
I don’t remember what the stall below was selling—and their sales may be suffering for this very reason—because the most memorable thing here was the giant dog who accompanies his people whenever they show their stuff at a festival. His name is Harley and his coloring is known as Harlequin. He’s a Great Dane who weighs 155 lbs, and he’s ten years old.
I got Harley’s vital statistics from a sign posted on the railing. I’m sure his people have been asked the same questions so many times they finally went bonkers and made up a sign to give the oft-repeated details. Harley’s sign also states: I only eat one bag of dog food a month. (I’m not a Dalmation, pony or a cow.) Boy, some people ask ruuuude questions!
My allowance was burning to be spent (we’ve been frugal for quite some time, but I allowed myself $20 to spend on frivolous items) and here was one of my picks. I couldn’t resist the handmade pot holders for two bucks each.
In tribute to having lived in New Mexico for seven years, I chose the black one with the red, green and yellow chile peppers on it. (That way of spelling chile is also a nod to New Mexico.)
Among the few craft items I hankered to possess were these adorable “Mini Nostalgic Christmas List Books.” I’m not a person who goes for much holiday paraphernalia, but these made me think wistfully of my three-year-old grandson so far away in New Mexico. It would be fun to fill in the tiny pages with his capable help and suggestions for what Santa should bring.
Food stalls ranged from Corn Dogs and Old-Fashioned Lemonade to Hogs Gone Wild BBQ. The Ye Olde Kettle Corn stall sold popcorn in bulk bags in the following varieties: Original Sweet & Salty, White Corn “Hulless” and Cinnacorn.
Making myself hungry just writing this.
My favorite stall from a travel writer’s point of view (we’re always compulsively looking for the unusual and the photogenic) was the Drunkin Moose Picklin’ Co. Selling barbecue sauce and beef jerky, they claim their sauce is “making tracks from Maine to Montana!” Stall grazers can try the free samples and also take home a recipe sheet.
With their barbecue sauce and the recipes, I can cook everything from Moose in the Beans to Shrimp on the Barbie Moose Style. The Barbecued Chicken Pizza sounds like good campfire food for next time we’re out in the woods.
Kids were well catered to at the festival and the air rang with their screams of delight. There was the giant caterpillar to crawl through, and the cornstalk maze to chase each other through. (I also saw dads chasing blurred figures and trying to keep up.) At the center of the maze was a huge boulder that, naturally, must be climbed upon.
There was also the White House Farm Playhouse with the hungry witch’s mouth for an entrance. A sign on the playhouse said:
This building was used on our farm from the 1930s to the 1960s as a brooder house for young turkeys. Newly hatched turkeys were kept warm and safe here until they were old enough to range in pasture. We then dressed and sold the turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. As one of the many turkey growers in the Mahoning Valley, the Hull family raised 6,000 turkeys during their peak production years.
I was happy to see that children’s literature was well represented, with a colorful stall from Usborne Books. The Usborne mission statement is:
The future of our world depends on the education of our children. Usborne delivers educational excellence one book at a time. We provide economic opportunity while fostering strong family values. We touch the lives of children for a lifetime.
Ohio Usborne rep Melinda Miller can help with your kids’ or grandkids’ reading needs when you visit her Usborne site at UBAH.com/R2555.
By far the best hands-on thing for kids at the festival was The Barnyard Petting Zoo. There was an alpaca, a pig, a goat, several varieties of chickens (including baby chicks), turkeys, a very noisy goose and a sheep. Among the most fun to pet or look at up close were the turtles and the baby rabbits.
The turtle that got the most attention was the one that kept trying to find a way out of his kennel. His head poking out of the viewing holes in the plastic cylinder was too cute (and poignant) not to watch.
As we were leaving the festival grounds I saw this little boy having his photo taken standing on top of a giant, deformed pumpkin. Not sure if the pumpkin was fresh from the fields or has somehow been preserved as a kind of statue, but I’m sure Snoopy would dance on top of it to the light of the full moon.
Our adventure ended perfectly when we took the back way out of the parking lot to avoid traffic congestion at the main entrance. The gravel road led us past another pretty farm pond and then winding through unharvested cornfields. Talk about all-American scenic delights. Sure was hard to go back to the city after that.
WHITE HOUSE FRUIT FARM TRIVIA
Joanne told me a cute story about Bonnie the Farm Dog, who waits outside the exit of the supermarket. She’ll place a ball or a stick or some other throwable item on the bottom rack of the buggy (shopping carts are known as buggies in Ohio) and then wait for you to play the game. Bonnie has her own Twitter account and is listed on the farm’s schedule of events, for her birthday on May 14.
Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and the Fear of Writing Blog and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.