Eat Locally and Seasonally All Summer Long With Grow OV

Last summer, as a relative newcomer to the area, I was thrilled to learn that we have a great Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) option right here in Downtown Wheeling: Grow Ohio Valley. For a reasonable upfront rate, my husband and I dined on an abundance of fresh produce well into the month of October: zucchini, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, okra, sweet potatoes, garlic, herbs, and even the occasional pound or two of locally-raised, free-range beef. Our weekly trek to Public Market to pick up our box became the highlight of our summer, sustaining us through the lingering doldrums of the pandemic. 

Good news: GrowOV’s CSA is back this summer and still accepting subscriptions! For $415 you get a full box of produce (an average of 9 items) for 15 weeks and $217 for a partial share (~6 items).  That’s less than $30 a week for all the fresh produce you need for your family – and then some. Considering the price of products at the grocery store continue to be unpredictable, buying into a CSA can provide consistency to budget-conscious shoppers. Better yet, SNAP recipients can take receive 50% off of their shares and have the option to pay in monthly installments.

For more good reasons to sign up for a CSA box, I turned to Sarah Stec, Grow OV’s Urban Farm Manager. We met up just two days after the double derechos walloped Wheeling, but luckily Farm 18 on 18th Street escaped damage. Sarah said that the produce selected for the boxes comes directly from local farms and is picked fresh only two days beforehand.  Compare this timeline to that of a conventional grocery store, where produce might take several days to arrive. 

  • Photos from Farm 18 in East Wheeling.

GrowOV also sources from a number of local farms and farmers, including Eric Freeland, Next 7, Oak Hill, and Captina Produce Auction. Subscribers can expect a variety of fruits and vegetables every week to keep things interesting in the kitchen. At the same time, you don’t have to create a complicated menu plan to make sure you use everything up. Not only are GrowOV boxes full of the kinds of produce families already use every day, but they also come with recipes to help you make the best use of that week’s bounty.

Subscribe to Weelunk

Plus, supporting local agriculture means supporting local farmers and a sustainable food economy in the Ohio Valley. Justice Hudson, an AmeriCorps member working with Grow OV’s Big Wheeling Agrarian Center, just happened to be stopping by the day I met with Sarah. When she asked him why people should sign up for a CSA box, he responded by pointing to the unexpected impact of the recent storm. What happens when disaster strikes and larger supply chains break down? He encourages consumers to think of community supported agriculture as a form of insurance that provides “consistent, reliable access to farm-fresh food.”

This year’s CSA program coincides with another GrowOV initiative: Budding Wheeling. Budding Wheeling is a flower farming program that employs eight Wheeling teens ages 13 to 17 to grow, market, and distribute their own flowers to local businesses and individuals. Mikelea Skidmore, GrowOV’s Youth Farms Ventures Coordinator, says that if things go well this summer there are plans to expand the program next year. If these budding entrepreneurs’ marketing skills are any indication, things are going swimmingly. According to the GrowOV newsletter, when asked to develop a business slogan, they settled on the inspired tagline “because Wheeling is worthy of beautiful things.” 

Ready to support GrowOV’s CSA program and Budding Wheeling? Sign up for your weekly box on GrowOV’s website and visit Budding Wheeling’s flower stand at Public Market every Thursday from July 7 to August 11, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first share goes out June 30, so be sure to sign up now to get the full benefit!

• Angela Hawk is a historian and higher education professional living in Wheeling with her husband Bart, a Wheeling native. Originally from Stockton, California, she holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History and specializes in the history of mental illness and psychiatry. She currently serves as Director of Assessment at West Virginia Northern Community College and loves exploring the history and culture of her new home.