Column: Three local produce farms deserve recognition for 2023, but there is one standout

Happy New Year. Before a final goodbye to 2023, it’s time to announce Oxford’s local produce of the year.

This is the eighth year that I’ve selected Oxford’s produce of the year. Previous winners include Johnson Family Farm haskaps in 2016, pawpaws in 2017, local mushrooms in 2018, Harv Roehling’s Locust Run Farm and Kristi Hutchinson’s 5 Oaks Organics lettuce in 2019, Craig and Sharon Harkrider’s Stoney Hedgerow shallots in 2020, Jennifer Bayne’s 7 Wonders Farm ginger in 2021, and Bonnie Gean’s microgreens in 2022.

I have three local produce of the year finalists this year: carrots, flour and raspberries.

Greg Hamm’s carrots look great, and they taste great. Greg was especially proud of oddly shaped carrots. He liked to pick through his supply show off the weirdest-looking ones. Funny-shaped carrots strike me as an especially dramatic contrast between packaged ones from California and locally grown ones stocked during the summer at the Farmers Market or MOON Co-op.

In November, Greg said goodbye for the winter, because his plants were joining Persephone. I learned that every winter Persephone is Queen of the Underworld, taking Earth’s plants along with her. She returns to Earth every spring, living on Mount Olympus with her mother Demeter (goddess of agriculture), who restores fertility to Earth.

Including a local baker in a story about local produce may seem odd. Sasha and Mike Symon, who both graduated from Miami three decades ago, live in Loveland, where they both have careers in business.

Sasha took up baking artisan bread, called Birch Creek Bakery, and a year ago they started coming every week to Oxford’s Farmers Market. I justify including them here because they use organic flour grown locally on a small farm.

I buy one or two loaves from them every week. My favorite is the organic stone milled whole grain, and I sometimes add an Eastern European rye.

I also take their Gateau Breton (French butter cake) each week to the French Club, which attracts several of us intermediate-level French speakers, under the wonderful leadership of Michel Pactat.

Charles Geraci is an amateur grower in retirement. He is not making his living as a grower. He lives in Oxford and maintains a piece of land on the edge of town where he does his thing.

Charles turns over pretty much all of his produce to MOON Co-op. During the summer and autumn, he is the backbone of MOON Co-op’s local produce offerings.

I could have selected any one of a number of fruits and vegetables provided by Charles to MOON Co-op. Apples, chard, kale, tomatoes, the list goes on and on. I highlight his raspberries for 3 reasons. First, his supply was plentiful in a limited year for other local growers. Second, they tasted great. Third, raspberries are my favorite fruit.

I guess I need to identify the 2023 produce of the year. I’m choosing raspberries. Charles Geraci’s raspberries this past autumn were an unexpected treat.

MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. See it online at

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