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Will East End Market become Orlando’s new food hub?

The community market on Corrine Drive faces competition from all sides, but says “a rising tide lifts all boats”

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Heather Grove, John Rife and Gabby Lothrop

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Shortly after the trip, Kamrin, Rife’s wife, became pregnant with their first child, which furthered his desire to start eating more selectively. “I mean, I’ve been eating this way for 30 years, but we were about to introduce someone to eating.” Then he did a film on the term “locavore” for his master’s degree in film from UCF and “that was the end of that … I knew too much to go back to eating the way I used to eat.”

Rife cares enough about food that he now teaches a course on Urban Agriculture for the Rollins College master’s in Planning in Civic Urbanism program. (Full disclosure: This author was a student in his class, but he has already received his A-minus.)

John and Kamrin decided to try to eat an all-local Thanksgiving dinner. After realizing the challenges of driving around to all the different farms and growers for every ingredient, they thought it would be a lot easier if the growers came to them. Around this time is when Rife first contacted Gabby Othon Lothrop.

Lothrop, at this point, was running the new Audubon Park Community Market in front of Stardust Video and Coffee. “[John] called me out of the blue one day and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I want to put on this festival in Winter Park and I need help running the farmer’s market side of it.’” This became the Winter Park Harvest Festival, and was also the start of a partnership focused on food and community.

Lothrop also has a deep commitment to food. “It’s always been really important to me,” says the Panamanian native; her grandfather was a cattle rancher. “In college, I had really strong opinions about where food fell into social and political issues.” Through Lothrop, the Rifes met Lothrop’s neighbor Emily Rankin, founder of the Audubon Park Community Market. Rankin had gone through a cross-country journey similar to Rife’s where she learned a lot about the possibilities for food production. “I wandered off to Portland and saw all these great things and said, ‘Hey, we can do that.’”

“I came back and just wanted to activate what I had seen as far as thriving markets and thriving food systems,” Rankin says. This led her to create Local Roots, a farm-to-restaurant distribution system. “There’s all these restaurants that want food and all these farmers that have food. … I bought a 14-foot box truck and just spent the last year driving it around and picking up food and delivering it to restaurants.”

How does John Rife’s history with cheese figure in to all of this? “We want to get people in contact with where their food comes from and introduce them to food they may not have experienced,” says Rife. “So when you have someone that’s a geek about cheese and they give you a cheese plate … it’s exciting and fascinating and great-tasting. When you know where it comes from … that whole narrative makes it more than a commodity.

“That’s probably a big part of what drives me, getting away from a commodified economy and getting to a place where products have durability and authenticity.”

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