Red Basket Goes from Farm to Tables with Fresh, Natural Foods
KINSMAN – Growing produce, using it in their menu items, and selling the rest are just three aspects of the evolution of Red Basket Farms in Kinsman.
Through nurturing and hard work, owners Floyd and Amy Davis have taken their passion for growing fresh, natural foods and created two additional businesses.
Red Basket began with just a bit of sweet corn they grew and sold in front of the farm they bought 20 years ago. To meet demand, they added tomatoes and peppers, followed by specialty items sought by chefs in the Cleveland area. At one point, Floyd Davis was supplying produce to 16 restaurants in that city.
He went from planting 200 pepper plants to 10,000 each year – selling out of everything he could bring to a farmers market in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.
Then in 2010, the Davises piloted the Farm to School program, providing fresh produce to five area school districts, as well as Case Western Reserve University. Red Basket Farms also began selling wholesale produce and teamed up with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. to provide produce for the fresh market on Glenwood Avenue.
The farm has expanded to nearly 20 acres. The growth allows for nearly year-round production, while still giving the land time to recover undercover crops, which helps to provide nectar for the hives of honeybees on the property.
The evolution of the farm has included much experimentation through the years, propagating and trying crops that cannot be found just anywhere.
For instance, the greenhouse currently has hops someone found growing wild on a nearby farm, which could date to when people from Connecticut settled the area in the early 1800s, Davis says.
A lot of hops in Ohio did not survive in the late 1800s and early 1900s, destroyed by disease and insects. So Davis wonders how this variety survived.
“That caught my interest. So I wanted to see. Maybe we have something, a hop variety that may be tolerant to some of the issues we are having with hops. So, who knows, this could be a whole other thing,” Davis says.
Modern Methods Brewing Co. of Warren is interested in the hops; so he has planted more.
Wind damage to the greenhouses this spring as well as the recent drought have delayed crops this season. But it was the pandemic that changed everything.
“When I designed the farm and we were setting it up, we had a business model that we relied on – several outlets for our produce and with the idea that if we lost one of those outlets, we still had other outlets where we could move stuff,” Davis says. “We never in our wildest imagination planned for losing all those outlets at the exact same time.”
And while schools reopened and restaurants have reopened or been replaced, things just are not where they were. Davis notes restaurants that were open seven days a week for 14 to 15 hours a day before the pandemic have reduced their days and hours.
While the restaurants and their customers in Cleveland may be accustomed to eating seasonal foods, Davis says it is an adjustment for people in Trumbull County. But, he says, the freshness of local produce elevates food to fantastic.
One way the Davises continue to get fresh produce in front of people is their My Fresh Basket program. Subscribers get whatever is ripe and ready, picking up their packages at the farm every two weeks during the peak-growing season.
While those packages contain common foods, such as greens, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers, Red Basket Farms is also known for growing some unusual crops.
Davis likes to give customers something new, he says. The first package this spring included garlic scapes, which sprout from hardneck garlic plants before the bulbs are ready and taste somewhat like a garlicky green onion.
“A lot of folks like it because it makes them a little adventurous sometimes in what they eat,” Davis says.
The Davises plan to open Farmhouse Pizza in July in a former bank, brick building in downtown Kinsman, bringing a fresh farm-to-table pizzeria experience to the area. Although the couple had teamed up to provide produce to another local pizza shop a few years ago, this one will be their brand with a small-town feel and many toppings straight from their farm.
The Davises also sell their farm produce directly to the customers in their Good Intentions Market & Café, 6635 state Route 87. Some of their produce is on the menu at the café. As did many restaurants, Good Intentions found it necessary to reduce its hours. It is open this summer from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
“We grow 11 or 12 months out of the year,” Amy Davis says. “We bring things [to the Café] from our farm, like seasonal greens, zucchini, squash – butternut in the fall – and take those items and be really creative with them. We make our omelets with local eggs from Tierra Verde Farms [in Deerfield]. But our greens go into them,
our onions, our tomatoes, everything that we have seasonally goes into them.”
The seasonality of the produce leads to new tastes listed on the menu. So do a lot of the partnerships the Davises have made with other farms and businesses in the community.
For instance, a pear and apple salad, which started as a seasonal item, became so popular that Amy kept it on the menu. It includes apples from a local orchard and a honey balsamic dressing she makes with fresh honey from nearby Wicked Sweet Honeybees.
Russell’s Dam Good BBQ near Pymatuning Lake has created a barbecue sauce that is an ingredient in some of the burgers. The coffee the Davises serve comes from Third Day, a local coffee roaster.
Amy Davis finds many people want to know the origin of their food. “More and more over the years, people are asking that question. I think when they see farms on the menu; I think when they know we are an established business [and] know this is what we do, when they leave, they feel healthy,” she says. “Healthy, Loved and Inspired – that is our mission statement, that you [are] feeling healthy, loved and inspired to do good in the world… it’s part of who we are.”
The market sells locally sourced or produced items including Papa Canzonetta’s peppers, Trice’s Spices, Miller Micro Farm goat milk cosmetics, Cockeye BBQ and Creamery, Denmandale Dairy and Katie’s Korner Homemade Ice Cream.
Area breweries and wineries are also represented on the shelves. “We try to focus on other individuals or farms or businesses that are doing what we are doing. We’re providing them an outlet to sell their product,” Floyd Davis says.
The site of Good Intentions was once the Kinsman town hall, which dates to at least 1870 and possibly to 1835. It has housed an agricultural institute, hosted musicals and was even once converted into a gymnasium with balcony seating.
Amy Davis says she and Floyd were in love with the building for years. It needed a lot of work but is a landmark in the community and they both could see its potential.
They partnered with the owner, Richard Thompson, and restored the structure, taking it from its deteriorating condition with dirt floors and barn doors, to a bright, relaxing area with a kitchen, and a farmland view through a huge window.
“That building will be here another 200 years and more,” Floyd Davis says. It has been lifted, with a new foundation poured and natural stone added. “They did it right when they refurbished that building.”
Good Intentions has become a destination place for many, Amy Davis says. The location, situated between Youngstown and Lake Erie, allows many people to reach it within 30 to 40 minutes.
While the market is supported locally, the business also benefits from those who want to go for a weekend drive and hang out for the day.
“We want you to feel really good when you’re here and that comes down to the music, the food, how you’re serviced. Everything about it goes into your experience here,” she says.
Pictured at top: Amy Davis greets customers at Good Intentions Market & Café that she and her husband, Floyd, operate in Kinsman.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.