Customers and Witten Farm employees buzz around a farm wagon set up at a Taste of Witten Market Shuffle event in Parkersburg, WV on July 16. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)

Putting Paradise Onto a Parking Lot

Posted on:

< < Back to

It’s a muggy Sunday afternoon in Parkersburg – the humidity is high and the sky oscillates between a crystalline blueness and a dull, cloudy grey.

One wouldn’t think that the place to be on such a day would be on the steamy asphalt of the parking lot of a bowling alley, but it certainly is.

The day marks a “Taste of Witten Market Shuffle,” a nearly-weekly summertime event held by Witten Farm; a family-founded farm based out of Lowell, OH. Throughout the summer, Witten Farm sets up at various markets throughout Ohio and parts of West Virginia – a farm wagon loaded with fresh produce, and a table full of recipes made by the farm’s employees with their produce.

A snapshot of some of Witten Farm's summertime bounty. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)
A snapshot of some of Witten Farm’s summertime bounty. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)

“Our employees take some produce home off of our wagon and they cook new recipes or old family recipes, or whatever they would like, and then we sample them for our customers,” said Sandy Merrill, who handles special events for Witten Farm.

On this particular Sunday, friendly farm employees (many of whom are college students who are working at the farm as a summertime gig,) serve out clear Dixie cups of sweet and satiating corn casserole, delicate-yet-earthy corn salsa, luscious dollops of white chocolate and blueberry lasagna, and so much more to visitors to the market.

“The (Taste of Witten Market Shuffle) events really serve as a way to get conversations with customers started,” said Amanda Strong, the regional manager for Witten Farm. Strong is a native to Parkersburg, and said that the events are something that many community members talk about and plan to attend throughout the summer. “It’s also great for the kids that we work with; some of them might never cook outside of this event, and this gives them an opportunity to prepare something.”

On a humid Sunday in July Witten Farm makes a bowling alley parking lot a lot less asphalt and a lot more like paradise. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)
On a humid Sunday in July Witten Farm makes a bowling alley parking lot a lot less asphalt and a lot more like paradise. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)

In addition to sampling some freshly prepared chow, those who make it out to the events have the opportunity to get their mitts on some pretty impressive gift certificates and t-shirts. If one attends three Market Shuffle events and gets the proper credentials for attending them (a signature from a manager) they receive a $25 gift certificate good at any Witten market and a t-shirt; and if they attend seven, they receive a $100 gift certificate and a t-shirt.

“I think what is so special about these events is that employees truly enjoy participating in them,” said Merrill. “We reimburse them for any product they buy for the recipe – and it really sparks conversations between customers and employees – like someone will ask where they found the recipe; it creates a real intersection between employees and customers.”

Summertime is busy at Witten Farm. Besides the Taste of Witten Market Shuffles, the organization is also premiering their farm-to-table dinners this summer. The five-course, chef-prepared, white-table-cloth dinners are $55 a person, and feature the diverse bounty of Witten Farm.

A sampling of chow made chiefly from Witten Farm produce. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)
A sampling of chow made chiefly from Witten Farm produce. (WOUB/Emily Votaw)

The first dinner, which is slated for July 21, is already sold out. The other dinners will take place on August 11 and September 29. All of the food is prepared by regional chef Katie Wainwright-Tucker; the wine samplings (which are a part of the dinner experience) are provided by House of Wines in Marietta; and live music is performed by violinist Kathleen Cornell.

“Events like these make it possible to give back to our regular customers, which is a good thing to do,” said Merrill, who said that Witten Farm donates to a number of regional food banks and pantries, as well. “We really want to give back to our regular, run-of-the-mill, everyday customer, and this is how we are doing it.”

Witten Farm 2017 Taste of Witten Market Shuffle Dates

July 23 – Newark, OH 
July 30 – Smith Farm Market; Columbus, OH & Logan, OH
August 6 – Gahanna, OH
September 24 – Marietta, OH
October 1 – Maple Ave. Zanesville, OH & Vienna, W.V.
October 8 – Smith Farm Market; Columbus, OH