The Mother Daughter Team Behind North Union’s Success



In celebration of Mother’s Day, we reached out to one of the most dynamic and successful mother/daughter pairs in Cleveland’s local food scene: Donita and Emma Anderson.

The first thing you’re likely to note about these two when you meet them at one of their North Union Farmers Markets is their height, but that’s not all they have in common. They also share a deep, authentic appreciation for local food and the farmers who grow it. And that’s just the beginning…


You obviously both share a passion for local food, what else do you have in common?

Donita: We love going out to new restaurants and have our old favorites. Spending time together in the Gulf of Mexico is important too. Getting pedicures, shopping, movies, and sharing dinners with family.

Emma:  Mom is my go to shopping buddy! I also really enjoy traveling together although it’s hard to do with our work schedules.


Tell us about how you decided to work together at North Union Farmers Market?

Donita: It happened very naturally. There was a need and Emma stepped right in, it was seamless. Emma had grown up being at the markets and had met some the nation’s best market managers when they stayed at our home. She came to understand the importance of our work. She’d been to markets throughout the world and realized how they were organized and function in their communities.

Emma: I always understood that the market was very important, but when I was younger I associated it with hauling tables for Mom and missing out on sleeping in on a Saturday. It was really when I went away to school that I was struck by the quality of food and the shopping experience I had become accustomed to. Coming home shopping at the market became a treat, and the feeling of community at the market is really lovely. Having a more adult perspective on it made working for North Union so appealing.


What do you like best about your work?

Donita:  It’s wonderful to work with new farms and bring them to market and see them thrive. When someone thanks us for having them at our market and tells how much it means to them, it just makes us feel great about the work we do.

Emma:  Agreed. Working with farms and  small businesses at the market you really get a sense of how hard each of them are working to bring their products to market. Seeing them have a successful day at a market really makes me feel like we have done our job.


What have you learned about each other on the job?

Donita:  Emma has outstanding gifts in outreach. Both one-on-one and through marketing the markets. Emma is gifted in social media. She’s been overseeing our new website and we’re excited for it to roll out.

Emma:  Mom has such passion for small farms and what we do, that she easily engages people in our organization. She can turn someone from mildly curious about local food to a fully committed shopper in about five minutes.


If you could inherit a trait from each other, what would it be?

Donita:  I gab too much and Emma’s more restrained. She gives me the eye when I’m too long-winded.

Emma:  Her skill in the kitchen. She’s always creating amazing meals and you rarely see her crack open a cookbook. Her comfort level and flexibility while cooking is something I really envy. I also wish I’d inherited her green thumb instead of my black thumb of death.


How do you celebrate Mother’s Day?

Donita: Brunch! Eating local foods at home or at a favorite restaurant.

Emma:  Mother’s Day for us typically turns into a day long affair. My brothers and I start by taking mom out to eat or we’ll end up cooking brunch and hanging at mom’s, enjoying the weather on the patio before making dinner together. Like most holidays for us, it will revolve around food.


What’s your favorite seasonal food at the market in May?

Donita:  All the spinach and chard greens, stinging nettle (to alleviate our hay fever symptoms- we share that too), arugula, mizuna, eggs, romaine, red leaf lettuce, bacon, cucumbers, fresh herbs, honey, cheeses, ramps…springs foods are so light and delicate on the palate and help digestion.

Emma:  I’m gonna have to say ditto since she said all the good stuff.


Photos by Karin McKenna