Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sustainable Agriculture


Pawpaw Endorsed as Native State Fruit
by Clay Flaherty, AmeriCorps VISTA

Gov. Ted Strickland signed a bill into law last week which, among other things, names the pawpaw as the official native state fruit of Ohio.

This agricultural victory comes after years of efforts on the part of State Senator Jimmy Stewart, who has been lobbying for the pawpaw to be the state fruit since attending the Ohio Pawpaw Festival years ago.

However, Stewart is not the only person who has been working in support of Ohio’s only edible indigenous fruit. The Ohio Pawpaw Growers’ Association (OPGA) began their organization with the goal of successfully endorsing the pawpaw as a state fruit. Ron Powell, the current president of OPGA, said that last week's success is a major step for his organization.

“It’s been a long struggle,” he said. “Jimmy Stewart has been introducing that same measure since 2003.”

Powell said that the pawpaw is often overlooked by consumers and growers, despite its excellent nutritional values and the ease with which it can be grown.

"A lot of people just don't realize the properties of pawpaws," he said.

Powell expressed mild disappointment that the pawpaw wasn’t named the state fruit outright. The bill in question names the tomato as the overall state fruit – a legislative compromise, according to Powell. However, he said that the victory is still an important one.

“It gives us some credibility, and leverage in establishing pawpaws throughout Ohio,” he said.

Chris Chmiel, owner of the Athens’ area farm Integration Acres and founder of the OPGA, shared Powell’s sentiment over the “native fruit” designation, but remained hopeful that the legislative measure would mean more publicity and awareness about pawpaws.

In addition to growing his own pawpaws, Chmiel also helps to organize the Ohio Pawpaw Festival in Albany, Ohio (which celebrated its tenth year in 2008). Chmiel expressed optimism when asked about the possibilities for the festival.

“It’s a great opportunity to educate people again,” he said.
__________________________________________

Those interested in becoming involved with the Ohio Pawpaw Growers' Association should contact Ron Powell at (513.777.8367) or email him (botrytis@fuse.net). To place an order with or find out more about the work that goes on at Integration Acres, contact Chris Chmiel (740.698.6060) or email him at (pawpaw@frognet.net).

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