Dear Countryside Community,
As the year winds down, Countryside is warming up to big changes. On November 30, the Countryside board of trustees met to elect all new leadership for the organization. This new board is made up of Countryside Initiative farmers, farmers’ market vendors, leaders and advocates in the local food economy. This new energy has illuminated a bright future. The new board has reached consensus to reshape the structure of the organization in one main way, so as to achieve more success for years to come.
Together, we decided that our beloved farmers’ market has grown over the years to warrant its own governing organization. The board is taking steps to establish an independent 501c3 organization solely to manage the farmers’ market. We will make sure there is seamless continuity and support from Countryside during this transition. The farmers’ market will continue on at Old Trail School through the winter, and at Howe Meadow in the summer. With continued support from the community, the farmers’ market may choose to expand in other ways as well.
As for Countryside, we will take a step back, to take two leaps forward in our partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The original mission of preserving the agricultural heritage of the valley and making land available for sustainable agriculture is more important now than ever before. There is no local food without local farms. And, so the work that began decades ago, with many of you supporting the efforts all along the way, we will continue to preserve the countryside for sustainable agriculture.
We see this change as the best route forward for both Countryside and its mission, and the farmers’ market’s ability to service the greater Akron area. Over the past few months, we’ve spoken with so many people who love this organization. Some were there at our founding and all of the inspired conversations that led up to it. Some were there while we navigated the process of helping Cuyahoga Valley National Park bring the Countryside Initiative, our beautiful farms in the park, into our landscape. Many of you come to our markets and have developed relationships with your local farmers and vendors. Countryside has helped to create many spaces for meaningful connection.
Through these diverse means, we have learned the value of small sustainable agriculture. Not just the colorful seasonal produce, tasty treats, and gorgeous handmade crafts that grace our tables, but the sense of community and belonging that comes from being part of a thriving local food system. Knowing the people who grow the food that nourishes your body, knowing that this food was grown with the utmost respect for the land it was grown on, and being able to share this food with people you care about. It’s a powerful sense of connection.
As many of you witnessed, 2022 was a tumultuous year for Countryside. But after taking time to listen to our stakeholders and meaningfully reflect, with new energy and leadership, we enter 2023 with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose.
What does 2023 look like for us? Different, but better. Our aspirations for the year ahead are bold, exciting, and possible only through our deep roots in this community. The farmers’ market will thrive with new life, and Countryside will refocus to better serve its partnership with CVNP for farmland preservation. We look forward to sharing updates and progress with you this winter.
We welcome your feedback and appreciate your support as we move forward.
Happy holidays and peace in the new year to you and yours,
Ginnette Simko and all of us at Countryside