North Union Farmers' Market keeps growing, and growing, and . . .

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farmers markets Michael Symon

When the North Union Farmers' Market opens on Shaker Square on Saturday, April 12, it will be with more vendors and more locations than ever before.

According to executive director Donita Anderson, the market's soon-to-launch 14th season will feature a bumper crop of vendors, including 130 regional farmers, 30 gourmet-food purveyors, and 80 local artists. Plus, two new "high-profile" venues will debut later this summer — Chagrin Falls on Sundays and Cleveland Clinic on Wednesdays — bringing the total weekly market sites to nine.

Since its inception in 1995, the NUFM has grown into one of the largest, most successful farmers' markets in the nation, linking scores of small producers with thousands of urban and suburban buyers, and "incubating" hundreds of food-related businesses. Anderson and her colleagues may have been ahead of the curve when they started banging their "regional, seasonal, sustainable" gong. But now, in the wake of increasing environmental, health, and food-safety concerns, the wisdom of buying local seems obvious.

Second time a charm? The James Beard Foundation released its official list of nominees last week, and the only Clevelander to survive the final cut is Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita). This marks the second year in a row that Symon has been tapped as a nominee for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region. Winners will be announced in New York on June 6.

Credible Mart: We caught up with longtime industry insider Clyde Mart last week, on the heels of the demise of Joe Foodie's Tavern in Pepper Pike. Mart, a veteran restaurateur and consultant, was hired by the owners last fall to launch the tavern inside their former Tannour space. But he left the project this winter, and the business is now for sale.

Despite Joe Foodie's failure, Mart claims the local scene is still strong — a fact he credits in part to the influx of small, mid-priced Thai and Mexican spots: "They don't overextend themselves, and they keep everything under family control."

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