A Day Trip to Maple Acres Farm
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Though the weather forecast warned of more rain this morning, I woke up to a beautiful day. I was surely not going to let it pass me and my son by. After walking our dog, we hopped in the car for a ride over to Maple Acres Farm in nearby Plymouth Meeting. I was on a mission for some hearty stew vegetables and my son was on another mission: to pick some flowers.
Maple Acres is a quaint little farm market that is open year round. It offers the feel of a road side stand with the variety one usually finds in bigger markets. I found some amazing carrots, each one as thick as three fingers, beautiful Poblano peppers that were just barely touched with red, some okra, two gorgeous (and HUGE) mushroom caps, and of course, the season’s first apples. I’m eager to hit the kitchen tonight and get my beef stew simmering with all of those local ingredients. But finding all of that fresh produce wasn’t even the highlight of my morning out. That came after our stroll through the little market, while my two year old and I meandered through the rows of Zinnias that Maple Acres opens to the public for fresh clippings.
There’s my little guy, picking out the perfect bloom for his older sister. He loved knowing that he could pick any of the flowers that he wanted, without a stodgy adult (me) telling him that we don’t pick flowers from gardens. Everything was fair game! The look on his face was priceless and we got a really healthy looking bouquet to bring home as well. If you’re looking for a Farmer’s Market that offers something fun for the kids as well, consider a trip to Maple Acres. The fruit and veggies will be worth the drive and the fun you have picking your own flowers will last a lot longer than the blooms themselves.
Cloud 9 Benefit BBQ
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Have you heard about Cloud 9, yet? Located on a warehouse roof in West Philadelphia, Cloud 9 Farm is a burgeoning rooftop farm. In addition to growing and selling organically grown produce locally, they aim to improve food security in the city by conducting research and providing educational programming on urban rooftop agriculture. They started a kickstarter campaign just a few weeks ago, and have already raised half of their start-up funds, so they are throwing a celebration BBQ fundraiser this weekend!
” We are thrilled to be the first rooftop farm in the city of Philadelphia, but are even more excited to pave the way for others to follow!”
Come eat delicious grilled items and drink yummy local concoctions at4909 Warrington Ave. on Saturday July 9th, starting at 7 pm. A $7 donation at the door gets you a plate and a good time.
Walnut Hill Farm Stand Opens!
Thursday, June 09, 2011
The farm that Erica and Nick from Philly Rooted (and Farm to Philly!) have been working so hard at has produced its first full crops and the farm stand, in cooperation with the Enterprise Center, is open for business!
Get Your CSA Today
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
There is still time to join a CSA for the summer! Deliveries for most begin in just a few weeks, so now’s the time to stop procrastinating and start participating. CSA’s ask you to pay in advance for your produce deliveries so that farms are able to invest in their crops for the season. All you have to do is pick up your share once a week and enjoy all the exciting, local Delaware Valley produce! Some CSAs with Philadelphia delivery (to a park, farmers market, or neighborhood location) that still have openings:
Just Fruit Shares:
North Star Orchard
If you missed your favorite farm, put yourself on the waitlist and a spot may open.
New Year-Round Farmers Market at the Piazza and other Winter Markets
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
A new YEAR-ROUND Farmers Market featuring locally produced items will launch on 1/16 at the Piazza at Schmidts’ (North 2Nd Street And Germantown Avenue) and continue every Saturday from 10:00am-2:00pm. Grass Fed Beef, Naturally-Raised Pork and Duck, Free Range Chicken, Naturally-Raised Lamb, Cage Free-Pastured Eggs, Artisan Cheese, Breads and Baked Goods, Organic Vegetables/Produce, Honey, Preserves, Fair Trade Coffee and even all natural Dog Treats! Over 20 vendors to choose from and FREE PARKING in the designated lot across from the Piazza.
There are other local farmer’s markets open throughout the Winter at:
Fitler Square Farmers’ Market
23rd St. & Pine St.
Saturdays 9 am - 2 pm; Year round
Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market
Walnut St. at 18th St.
Saturdays 9:30 am to 3 pm; Year round
Clark Park Farmers’ Market (accepts SNAP cards)
43rd St. & Baltimore Ave.
Saturdays 10 am - 2 pm; Year round
It’s Not Too Late to go to the Orchard!
Monday, November 02, 2009
If’ you thought that you missed orchard season - you’re wrong! While most local orchards have ended their U-Pick apple season, you can still purchase apples, pumpkins, squash, decorative cabbages, mums, and more. This weekend I made a trip to Linvilla Orchards (in Media, PA) and was surprised at both the selection - so many different apples I lost count, cider, cider donuts, plants, gourds galore! A great trip for a sunny Fall afternoon, you can still stock up on Fall’s bounty (and enjoy a hay ride) before Thanksgiving.
More photos to follow!
Picking blueberries in South Jersey
Sunday, July 12, 2009
One of my favorite annual events is going to Haines Berry Farm in Pemberton, NJ, to pick blueberries, even though it means getting up early on a Sunday. (They’re open all day—it’s just my crew who like to get there in the a.m.) Haines doesn’t spray but instead uses integrates pest management techniques—good for you, good for the land. They’re open everyday for picking during the month of July, and they have blueberry honey also. (Not flavored—from hives in the area.) It’s a wonderful thing to do with friends and family.
They take you to your row to pick on this tractor-wagon.
Berries in a zillion tidy rows.
Nice, healthy plants.
After I wash them, they dry on dishtowels so that the berries for the freezer don’t clump together. This is a third fo what I picked—11 lbs. I know, that’s a lot of blueberries. But they’re just $1.50/pound. Yes, per pound.
After a freshly picked blueberry, all packaged pints will be ruined for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. (Haines’s website is no longer, but the phone is 609 894 8630.)
A glimpse at life beyond the computer and pile of legos…
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Today we have a special guest post from Dawn Warden, reporter for the Main Line Times and a good friend to Farm to Philly. Enjoy!
My assistant reporter, Ben (9) and I, had a wonderful time a few weeks ago, roaming the countryside of North Coventry Township. Our mission: to chat with milk and cheese farmer/producer, Sue Miller, of Birchrun Hill Farm (2573 Horseshoe Trail Chester Springs) and Dan Heckler of Jack’s Farm (jacksfarm.net) a boutique “polyculture” micro-farm located in the outskirts of Pottstown.
Our efforts—and gas consumption—rewarded us with rolling hills, dairy and horse farms, and fabulous old stone homes. After meandering off course, and overshooting our destination, we landed at Camphill Village Kimberton, a biodynamic dairy (a VERY interesting place that deserves its own space), where Miller and her assistant, artist Sebastian Upson, whip up wheels of raw milk Birchrun Blue, Highland Alpine and Fat Cat.
I’ve only seen a couple cheese rooms, but I have to say, this one is pretty nice, roomy, with lots of windows and a nice-sized vat and drain table. There’s also a huge copper vat that I forgot to ask about, and a winch for extra-heavy loads.
When we arrived, Miller and Upson had just completed the whey separating process—they do this with an instrument called a harp, and it functions much like a whisk, but it’s a heck of a lot bigger. (I’m 5’3” and I could swear it looked as big as me.) My son and I both got a kick out of watching them lift the massive load of curds and remaining whey onto the drain table with a sturdy stretch of cheesecloth.
The next step was to get the cheese-to-be into the plastic molds where separated into smaller amounts, it would drain some more and start to take the shape of the mold. That day, Miller was working on the Highland Alpine (front row in photos) and Fat Cat (back row).
We got to peek at the aging wheels that are kept in a separate room on the lower level of the barn. It is much cooler in there and smelled amazing—if you are a blue cheese fan. As much as I like goat cheese, I didn’t like the aroma as much when I visited Shellbark Hollow/Pete Demchur as I did the blue. (Pete’s cheese is wonderful too, and I regret not having my camera with me the day I visited.)
My son was dying to look at the farm animals, so after showing us the milking room, Miller took us to see the big girls. When we got there, we discovered a calf had been born overnight and was hobbling around trying to get its legs. The placenta was still hanging out of the mother, which as off-putting as it sounds was interesting to see. I got a huge rush of goose bumps and a little choked up because when you see this new life and the beautiful farm and all the milk and cheese and radiant smile on Miller’s face, it is hard not be in awe of life on a farm, of nature and the miracle of birth.
Corny, I know. But don’t knock it till you try it.
More animals were in store for my son at Jack’s Farm, where Dan Heckler is now raising broiler chickens and pigs. (He has a waiting list for the pigs, and I know all you vegetarians will be miffed at me for saying this, but I would love to get one. I have never cooked an entire pig and it is a culinary goal.) He also has egg-laying ladies, making Jack’s Farm more convenient by the day. (One-stop shopping does make the day easier, right?) The Heckler homestead is lovely, as you can see from the photos we took. It is most definitely a little piece of heaven—and quite a fertile piece of property. The layout is very deceiving. The farm appears smaller than it is, but there are several growing areas, a washing and packing room, a couple of those neat-looking greenhouses made out of flexible material, and a nice-sized barn that also doubles as Dan’s wood working shop.
It is really easy to romanticize about Heckler’s life; his house is one of those charming old stone creations with nooks and crannies and interesting accents that people spend gobs of money trying to replicate, and the physical space it sits on is wonderfully peaceful. But, when you see how much he has to take care of, it’s like “whoa!” this is hard work. He, though, seems to do it all with a smile on his face. (I did visit him on a gorgeously sunny and warm day—perhaps his demeanor would be a bit different in the pouring rain.
He was a proud papa, showing me rows upon rows of micro greens, cucumbers, nasturtium, asparagus, tomatoes, beets, carrots (five kinds), amaranth, artichokes, mâche (lamb’s lettuce), radicchio, arugula, strawberries, blueberries and more.
Currently, Heckler sells directly to restaurants and everyday customers through the Phoenixville Farmers’ Market and his farm stand—an open ended barn space filled with veggies, potted herbs, eggs, a cooler of homemade ice cream and a big can for customers to leave a little love for the farmer. (Yes, this is a man who has a high level of trust—and a great attitude. He told me he’s only been stolen from a couple of times, and his thought was, ‘if someone would go to that length, they need the money more than I do.’)
David Clouser of Sola restaurant in Bryn Mawr is the one who turned me on to Jack’s Farm and it is truly worth the drive if you are longing for a dose of rolling, bucolic roads and big ole barns and stone homes, and a few nibbles of pesticide, herbicide, icky-cide free produce.
My son made it through the tour, but a few moments of impatience and complaints over the flies and the heat made me realize, this kid needs to spend a lot more time with me getting reacquainted with the hard labor side of Mother Nature. After all, you do reap what you sow.
For more photos from the trip, please go here.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Haines Berry Farm is, in my opinion (and what is the whole site about but opinion), the best place in the Philly area to pick blueberries. They use integrated pest management techniques to keep the chemicals and bugs away, the berries are high bush so you’re not stooping too much, and year after year, the flavor is unparalleled. If you’re sort of “blueberries, meh” then you need to sample these berries. And this year, they’re $1.50 per pound. Not pint. Pound. Plus, they have honey from hives on the farm. The catch? They do pick-your-own for July only.
Yes, There Are Even Local Artichokes
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
In our house, we try very hard to maintain a food budget, and, for the most part, we succeed. Yet, there are occasions that call for indulgence – a Friday night out to dinner after a long, hard week, or that weeklong holiday between Christmas and New Year’s. We can safely add the reopening of the Headhouse and Passyunk and South Farmers’ Markets to that list. In this lull between the end of Winter Harvest and the beginning of our CSA, we have wallowed in Rineer Farms’ strawberries, Livengood’s spinach, and Weaver’s Way herbs.
Unquestionably, our favorite indulgence this season has been artichokes from Culton Organics. Good artichokes are rare enough even at Whole Foods, but locally grown artichokes were, for me, an unheard-of rarity. Culton Organics alternates between the smaller artichokes and the larger, globe artichokes pictured here. Not wishing to appear snobbish, we purchase whatever is offered.
For the larger artichokes pictured here, we trimmed off the uppermost and outermost leaves and the stalk, stood them upright in a pot of water and olive oil, and braised them for an hour. To eat them, we plucked each leaf and scraped the meat off the base. (Once I had finished with all of the leaves, I even went so far as to cut out the chokes, and then gnaw on what remained of the base and stem - it was every bit as good.)
For the smaller artichokes, I used a recipe from my erstwhile, original hero Mario Batali (sorry, Mario, but Marc Vetri has surpassed you) that makes a wonderful condimento of artichokes, garlic, parseley and, of all things, sweet vermouth.
I used to think of artichokes as nearly being too labor intensive to justify cooking at home (about some things, I am very lazy), but less so anymore. I suspect much of it had to with the very foreignness of the artichokes and how rarely I prepared them. With a little indulgence, that is changing.
Ethnic food and small farms
Monday, March 31, 2008
A draft of this entry has been sitting on my hard drive for…oh, at least a month. I apologize that I didn’t post it in a more timely fashion after the PASA conference, but I still find myself thinking about this workshop session and referencing it in conversation, so I hope you’ll all still find this entry interesting.
So, in the middle of February I attended the PASA conference (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture). It was my first visit to the conference, and—besides suffering from work-induced exhaustion and cold-induced aches—I was overwhelmed by all the organizations’ tables and circulating farmers and activists. Despite being intimidated, I still managed to learn a little about various subjects, but I won’t attempt to summarize everything. For now, I’d just like to talk about the workshop/lecture I enjoyed the most! It was the last one I attended, given by Sandra Miller of Painted Hand Farm near Carlisle, called ‘Feeding the World in Your Community: Capturing Ethnic Markets’. The Powerpoint presentation for this workshop (as well as other articles) is actually on her farm’s website, for further explanation.
She started by explaining why ethnic groups are an excellent customer-match for small farms. Recent immigrants understand seasonality, spend a higher percentage of their income on food than the average American, and are accustomed to shopping frequently for fresh food. Through modern shipping routes and the internet, these immigrants can maintain some of their identity through their food, but they want a local source for some ingredients. When they find a source, they are frequent and loyal customers who spread the word about a farm within their own community, which may rely heavily on word-of-mouth for places to source particular food varieties.
The presentation included various steps that farmers can take to research and prepare for these markets, which I won’t reiterate here. I just enjoyed hearing her entrepeneurial but respectful attitude! For instance, many of her customers have specific halal butchering requirements and want to slaughter the animal themselves. Instead of being intimidated or annoyed by this, she thought to herself, ‘I don’t need to pay for a device to de-horn the goat (and run the risk of occasionally killing one during the process), or a device to castrate the goat (and again, might occasionally lose an animal)—and hey, I don’t even need to pay anything to a butcher, so I come out ahead!’ She also emphasized the value of talking about the food with the customers, to discover how the meat or vegetables are going to be prepared; she gave an example of some squash seeds given to her by a Sicilian who wanted to prepare the squash when it was young and tender, but once she brought to market an example of the squash when it was hard and fully grown (a huge tan squash shaped like a ram’s horn!) and someone from a *different* part of Italy came up and asked if the squash could be allowed to grow even more hard!
Sandra Miller primarily raises meat goats, and the primary group of customers she mentioned were recent immigrants or visitors from Southeast Asia and Africa, many of them Muslims looking for goats for holiday meals—or just ethnic groups for whom goat meat is a staple part of their diet. One of the reasons to explore ethnic markets, that she mentioned repeatedly and that I found most exciting, is that these are people who may be relocating to or visiting in the States (e.g., families of academics teaching/studying at various educational institutions, like the American War College near her in Carlisle) who for *months* haven’t been able to find food (like goat meat) that they’re accustomed to consuming all the time—and they’re *so* happy to find a source for this food; she said interactions with these customers, overjoyed to find these staples, are very satisfying. She said she’s had adult Muslim men come to her farm and weep with joy that they can now enjoy a goat at a celebration, like the birth of a child or whatever. It made me want to have a goat farm!
One other perspective of ethnic groups that I found especially compelling was the truly sustainable approach to consuming food. Between the variety of ethnic groups that buy food from her, everything is used—right down to the turkey feet a Chinese co-worker wanted from her during one year when she was sourcing Thanksgiving turkeys for coworkers. This co-worker wanted the feet for soup broth, a fundamental part of the holiday celebration in the co-worker’s family, and paid her $50 for a part of the animal that would’ve otherwise gone to waste. That’s so cool!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I picked up my first purchase through the Meadow Run Farm buying club last Tuesday night, and I have been an omelet making machine since.
Bu this is my first attempt at a Spanish staple, the tortilla espanola. There are 3 main ingredients, and all I realized 1) that I had all 3 in the fridge, and 2) I’d procured them locally. (Excellent news! a good meal and a blog entry!) The eggs of many beige-brown hues were part of my Meadow Run order (the meats to be blogged about in due course), and the potatoes and bermuda onion were from Rineer Family Farms from the Fitler Sq. Saturday market.
Look how yellow it is—you’d think I’d added saffron. Amazing yolks in these eggs.
Interview with an Organic Bachelor Farmer
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Kevin has about 170 acres of corn, soybeans, pasture, alfalfa, hay, barley, and dairy cows in southeastern Minnesota. The farm was not organic before he started farming it. (The potatoes were for “local” consumption—we had them at Thanksgiving!)
Why aren’t all organic farmers “certified”?
Cost is the primary reason, says Stuedemann. There’s the time and cost of keeping records—you’re required to have 3 years of what you’re growing, seed/feed sources, and methods. Each year, the farmer pays a fee to third party certifying agency for the annual certification ($500 - $1500). In addition, a portion of each sale goes to the certifying agency. That can be a lot of cash in a business that’s not particularly liquid. On the other hand, certification is your “ticket” into the organic marketplace where prices are higher.
Is there a producer you admire whose products are available in Greater Philadelphia?
Organic Valley is a great example of a successful organic cooperative, and it markets nationwide. Six hundred milk producers, mostly in the midwest, belong to it. Organic Valley procures and processes the milk and has a variety of dairy products on the market. It’s also getting in to eggs, orange juice (sourced from the south and west), and hogs for a total of 1200+ farms. The board members all are farmers, and profits go back to the coop. (Give OV a try! Coupons for Organic Valley products, click here.)
Do you see any trends in organic farming?
More organic meats are becoming available—even in Walmarts. Raising livestock organically is expensive—the feed has to be organically grown, of course, and the yield is less than that for animals that have been boosted with hormones. Last summer, Minnesota experienced a terrible drought which meant that farmers of grass-fed livestock had to pay through the nose to get hay from elsewhere. Processing also, whether crop or livestock, has to be certified as organic. The organic dairy processing and distribution infrastructure is reasonably well developed, but meat slaughtering and processing facilities can be harder to find. Consumers are very interested in buying organic meat, but at present the supply lags demand.
A love affair with maple syrup or how I discovered Spring Hills Farm
Sunday, January 27, 2008
When I was growing up, about once a month, my sister and I would be able to cajole my dad into making pancakes for Saturday morning breakfast. He had worked at IHOP as a short-order cook during his youth and in reaction to their mediocre pancake mix, had spent years creating his own special recipe for pancake mix. The actual proportions for his mix were a well-guarded secret, but every Christmas he’d make huge batches of it, bag it up and give it away to friends and family as gifts. I’ve been told that people greatly looked forward to receiving their ziptop bag of pancake mix and that many would turn it into their holiday breakfast.
One of the things that made my dad’s pancakes extra good was the fact that he always served them with real maple syrup. There was none of that fake, cloying, maple-FLAVORED stuff in our house (although on occasion my sister and I would beg for it—we were so stupid). Instead, there was always a large jug of authentic, grade B (it has a stronger, richer flavor) maple syrup. Some years it came straight from Vermont, gift from friends who ran a sap operation out there. Other times it would have been purchased in bulk from the local food co-op. Wherever it came from, there was always real maple syrup in our fridge.
These days, I don’t feel like my kitchen is adequately stocked if there isn’t a bottle of maple syrup behind the water filter. I went on a ‘baking with maple syrup’ bender a couple of weeks ago, making several loaves of Banana Maple Pecan Bread in rapid succession. During that process, I managed to use up my entire stock of maple syrup. I kept intending to get over to Trader Joe’s to replenish, but never managed to make it happen.
Then, while I was wandering the Fair Food Farmstand last Thursday during a Reading Terminal Market outing, I spotted a display of jars of maple syrup. Produced by Spring Hills Farms in Dalton, PA, this is some amazing syrup. It is fairly local (they are a bit north of Scranton), the trees are tapped in a sustainable manner and the farm is totally organic. At $16 for a quart (they also sell it in pints), it’s a bit more expensive than what I would pay at Trader Joe’s, but totally comparable to organic syrups available at Whole Foods. If you are in the market for some dark, gorgeous, tasty maple syrup, look no further.
Did You Do It?
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Way back in September of last year(!), I wrote a post about drying your own sweet corn, an age-old method of preserving the summer’s harvest in a manner that didn’t take up nearly as much space (or require any fancy equipment) as canning or freezing. It was something my grandmother had told me about, a story you can read here if you’d like to learn more about food traditions in my Pennsylvania Dutch farming family.
Now the question is, did you do it? Did you dry your own corn? I hope the answer is “yes”, because I have a delightful dish to share that features that crunchy dried corn. The resulting chewy-but-not-soft texture is very unique and compliments the rather nutty flavor nicely.
OLD-FASHIONED CREAMY (dried) CORN
2 c. dried sweet corn
2 1/4 c. fat free milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
2 t. sugar
2 T. butter
dash of cayenne pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 strips of cooked (soy) bacon, crumbled
1/4 t. dried marjoram
Place corn in a large heavy saucepan and stir in milk and heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to use, stir in the sugar, butter, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place in warmed serving dish and top with crumbled bacon and marjoram. Serve immediately.