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Published: Friday, 8/2/2013

Farmers’ market springs up downtown

Produce in the parking lot at Owens Corning

BY CHIP TOWNS
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Jennifer Hummel of Andy Keil Greenhouse hands bags of fresh produce to Owens Corning employee Joyce Baranek, right, at the Toledo Farmers’ Market, set up outside OC headquarters in downtown Toledo. Jennifer Hummel of Andy Keil Greenhouse hands bags of fresh produce to Owens Corning employee Joyce Baranek, right, at the Toledo Farmers’ Market, set up outside OC headquarters in downtown Toledo.
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Owens Corning had its first farmers’ market outside its world headquarters at lunchtime Wednesday.

It probably won’t be the last.

“We wanted to try this to see how it worked,” said Mark Snyder, the director of health, wellness, and benefits for the Fortune 500 company.

PHOTO GALLERY: Toledo Farmers Market at Owens Corning

The turnout was strong and the feedback was positive, so Mr. Snyder said the building-products company plans to invite the farmers back in October and make it a monthly event next summer.

“We’re trying to give employees the opportunity to live healthier lives,” Mr. Snyder said.

Local farmers were outside the company’s downtown Toledo offices selling a variety of produce.

“It’s awesome,” said Erin Fussell, a financial analyst, who bought apples and ingredients to make salsa.

Elizabeth Koski said she was impressed by the wide selection. She filled two bags with “a little bit of everything,” including tomatoes and peppers.

Marita Schneider, who works in internal communications, said she liked the idea of shopping on her lunch break instead of after work.

She had bags of beets, green peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and Lodi apples, which she says she usually drives to Michigan to get.

OC employees buy produce at the Toledo Farmers' Market, set up outside the company headquarters. Wednesday's event is to be repeated in the fall. OC employees buy produce at the Toledo Farmers' Market, set up outside the company headquarters. Wednesday's event is to be repeated in the fall.
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Allison Anderson of Owens Corning’s benefits department said she and some co-workers came up with the idea.

“We want people to be healthy here and at home,” Ms. Anderson said.

The company contacted Liz Bergman of the Toledo Farmers’ Market, who helped coordinate the event.

Owens Corning gave employees a token worth one dollar off any purchase as an incentive to check out the farmers’ booths.

More than 200 did so, exceeding the goal of the company’s healthy-living team. The company has more than 1,200 employees and contractors in its headquarters building on the Maumee River.

OC isn’t the first local business to sponsor a farmers’ market.

Ms. Bergman said her group holds farmers’ markets once a month at the Toledo office of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and twice a month at the University of Toledo Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.

That’s in addition to its markets every Saturday downtown and every Wednesday afternoon outside the Elder-Beerman store on Secor Road.

The vendors appreciated the chance to reach new customers.

Carolyn Witt and her son Barry delivered a truckload of apples and peaches from Oak Harbor, Ohio, where they run Witt Orchards and Cider Mill.

They said the apple season has just begun, and they’re about three weeks into harvesting peaches, so they don’t have time to set up at as many farmers’ markets as they would like.

Amelia Contreras of Egg & Honey was selling bread and other items to complement the fruit and vegetables.

She said her soft pretzels were especially popular, selling out in the first half hour of the two-hour event.

The opportunity to buy wholesome food is just the latest in Owens Corning’s efforts to help keep its work force healthy.

Mr. Snyder said the company has a fitness center in its facility and offers spinning and other fitness classes.

Its cafeteria food is labeled with nutritional information, and prices on healthier items have been lowered. And a small shop in the headquarters building offers healthy snacks and smoothies.

Contact Chip Towns at: ctowns@theblade.com or 419-724-6194.



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