Looking Back & Moving Forward
This column first appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on July 9, 2022.
The seed was planted, so to speak, more than a decade ago.
A group of community members came together for a common purpose: address the need for better quality food choices locally (this was just after our city was proclaimed “the unhealthiest city in America” and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver visited us) and support fledging farms in our area.
Through extensive research and with the community’s continued support, a group of women developed the concept for a new, nonprofit farmers market — one that model a retail store in terms of layout and convenience. It would also subsist on a non-traditional consignment model (as we still do) where 80 percent of sales would be returned to the producer.
The idea came to fruition on July 12, 2012, when The Wild Ramp opened its doors in downtown Huntington’s Heritage Station.
Over the last decade, the organization has expanded from that small shop to a much larger space in Huntington’s historic Central City District. And now, with over 150 vendors that sell their products through our market, we have established ourselves as a foodie destination.
As we continue to grow, so do the abundant opportunities to launch new programs that serve our community and strengthen its connection to local producers and agriculture. Some of the initiatives that we have invested in over the past decade include:
- SNAP Stretch — This program makes purchasing local food and food products more accessible to SNAP/EBT recipients within our community (more information can be found at snapstretch.com).
- Harvest Kitchen — Our Harvest Kitchen, located inside The Wild Ramp market, was started in 2019. Through it, we are able to create our own assortment of prepared food items (both fresh and frozen meals and value-added products) in-house using local, seasonal ingredients available in our market. This not only allows us to provide our customers a convenient meal option, it also decreases food waste by utilizing surplus product.
- Community and Producer Education — The Wild Ramp often hosts classes for both producers (on topics such as landownership, high tunnels and product marketing) and consumers (including beginner beekeeping, cheesemaking and mushroom cultivation) in an effort to educate and increase knowledge about local food and agriculture.
- Events — In addition to classes and workshops, The Wild Ramp also hosts public events as a way to spread our mission to new audiences. Two of our signature events are StinkFest (a festival honoring ramps that is held every April) and our Farm-to-Table Dinner (an annual fundraiser in October that features several chef-prepared courses from local ingredients). Others include ice cream tastings (more on that later), holiday artisan markets, kids cookie decorating and more.
Finally, moving forward, our Online Food Hub (details to come at a later date) is set to launch soon. We established this after the COVID-19 pandemic proved the need to move online — allowing us to expand our reach and continue to be accessible to customers and offer more sales avenues to our producers.
As you can see, there’s been some changes over the years, but what hasn’t changed is our mission to grow and support a vibrant economy and community for local food, food products and artisan goods. We continue to hold to the belief that locally-produced food is healthier for people, better for the economy, and kinder to the planet; that local food demand should be met as completely as possible within our region; and that local food should be accessible to everyone.
We thank you for supporting us for the last 10 and look forward to another decade!
In honor of The Wild Ramp’s birthday, we will be hosting a celebration at our market on July 17. There will be free cake, tours of our new Online Food Hub and producers on-site with samples.
But, what’s a summertime party without ice cream? Fun fact: Back in 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month (July 17th this year) as National Ice Cream Day! With that in mind, we decided that would make a great day to celebrate our birthday!
So, as part of our celebration, we’re doing one of our popular Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams tastings! Registration ($15/person) is required as seating is limited. Details and a registration link can be found on our Facebook event or website calendar.
We’ve dabbled in our own ice cream making capabilities (you might remember us mentioning our Breakfast RAMPage flavor for Stinkfest back in April) but since it’s summertime, and lots of produce is in season, we decided to share a delicious recipe for mixed berry ice cream (using all local ingredients, including frozen berries, eggs and dairy from our producers and lavender from our own herb garden) that you can make at home!
Enjoy, and we hope to see you on the 17th — or any other time!
Mixed Berry Ice Cream
Note: This recipe is written to be used with an ice cream maker.
2 cups of frozen berries
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of lavender
3 cups of half and half
2/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup frozen blueberries
- In a heavy bottom sauce pan, Combine frozen berries, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and lavender.
- Cook the berry mixture until berries are soft.
- Using a blender, puree berry mixture.
- Set the berry mixture in the refrigerator to cool.
- Mix 3 cups of half and half, 2/3 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla in a bowl until well combined. Then, chill the mixture in the refrigerator.
- Add half and half mixture to ice cream machine, and let it run for about 2 minutes. Then, add the refrigerated berry sauce.
- When the ice cream is almost frozen, add whole frozen blueberries.
- Mix until ice cream is set.
- Pack the ice cream in containers, and let it freeze for a couple hours. Let the ice cream thaw for about 10 minutes before serving (depending on the size of container it was stored in).