Better Traveling Through Food
Sunday, September 01, 2013
I’ve written in the past about my attempts to eat local food when I am traveling. This may seem obvious while vacationing on an organic farming Tuscany, but less so while in London. Still, the way I eat at home has fundamentally altered the way I eat elsewhere, whether I am working or traveling. While on my latest trip to Italy (a return to the beautiful Spannochia in central Tuscany), I saw three very distinct ways that eating local has actually improved my travel.
Vetting Restaurants. So much dining out when you travel can be a lot of fun, but the search for something worthwhile can also be exhausting. Whether the restaurant has ceased to exist since your guidebook was printed or the address of buildings seem to have no logic whatsoever, we’ve all found ourselves in that miserable state of hunger and fatigue from a fruitless search. You might think that in Italy it’s hard to have a bad meal. While that may be true (though I certainly don’t want to conduct that experiment and be proven wrong), it is also difficult to find a truly outstanding meal in the heavily-touristed places I have recently travelled to in Italy. (E.g., Most of the gelato I tasted was actually inferior to Philly’s own Capogiro.) The Slow Food organization has been indispensable guide to quality restaurants in Italy. Any meal I have eaten at a Slow-Food-endorsed restaurant has been outstanding and because its food is somehow indicative of its location, quite unique and unlike anything I might have here. Also, as much as I love the good folks at Lonely Planet, they are not restaurant critics by any stretch.
Getting off the Beaten Path. Though I am not a particularly intrepid traveller, looking for local food has made it a bit more interesting. Even when I purchase imported wine, I try purchase from small wineries that are organic or biodynamic. (Down to Earth Wines has been a consistently excellent source for them.) In fact, through a recent purchase from Down to Earth, I was very impressed with wines of Montenidoli - so much so that I arranged a tasting when we traveled to Italy. For nearly two hours, our host, Alberto, graciously showed us the estate and discussed their impressive wines. Montenidoli is, however, quite far off the beaten track, even in such a heavily touristed area.
Eating Less Formally. For whatever reason, I tend to think of sitting down to three proper meals when I travel. I have been drifting from that recently, and I suspect it has something to do with years of going to farmers markets and eating from food stalls. Now when I travel, I try to continue this “informal dining.” This was particularly true of our time in London, where we had fantastic - and fantastically cheap - meals at both Borough Market and the Sunday Upmarket. This both left more time for sightseeing and more money to spend on dinner at such fantastic places as Terroirs Wine Bar.
Should you go organic?
Monday, April 22, 2013
Happy Earth Day! Nourish your body while being conscious of the environment.
Foods must meet strict requirements to be labeled as certified “organic” by the United States Department of Agriculture. Products must be produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge. However, some operations are exempt from certification, including organic farmers who sell $5,000 or less. Foods advertised as “natural” do not follow the same guidelines as organic foods.
What does the organic label mean?
-100% organic: all ingredients must be certified organic and any processing aids must be organic.
-Organic: non-organic ingredients are allowed per National List, up to a combined total of 5% of non-organic content.
-“Made with” organic: at least 70% must be certified organic ingredients. Any remaining products are not required to be organic but must be produced without excluded methods.
Organic does not always mean healthy, consider the type and amount of foods you are eating. Organic baked goods, chips, and energy drinks should still be consumed sparingly just like the non-organic products.
Overall, the scientific studies are inconclusive on whether there is a difference in nutritional content of organic compared to non-organic foods. You heard it before, but fruits and vegetables are beneficial for your health. Get to know your local farmers and their farming methods. This benefit will be achieved regardless if the produce is organic or not, so do not let access or affordability to organic foods reduce your fruit and vegetable intake.
Where to begin?
Dirty Dozen Plus™: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, green beans, kale/greens. The Environmental Working Group has recognized these fruits and vegetables to be most contaminated with pesticide residue.
1. Organic certification resources page. United States Department of Agriculture web site. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=ORGANIC_CERTIFICATIO. Accessed on March 26, 2013.
2. EWR’s 2012 shopper guide to pesticides in produce. Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. Accessed on March 26, 2013.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Last weekend I headed to Vancouver, British Columbia for a weekend of racing at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragonboat Festival with Philadelphia Flying Phoenix. There will be an upcoming post about the city and its locally-grown food scene coming up, but I need to discuss the most intriguing thing I ate while there: a smoked egg.
On my final night in the city I scored a reservation for L’Abbatoir, a cute little restaurant in the Gastown section. This place is known for their creative food and cocktails, and the place didn’t disappoint (more on that later). But as part of the Warm Steelhead and Crunchy Potato Salad appetizer, the smoked egg sort of stole the show. I know that smoked eggs aren’t a new thing (traditionally soaked in brine to make them taste smoked), but I’ve never seen an truly smoked egg as part of a composed restaurant dish, and my companion and I were curious about how they were cooked.
L’Abbatoir has a large smoker, but the server told us for the eggs they tend to use a hand smoker similar to the one sold at PolyScience. They’re relatively inexpensive ($99), and I’m seriously thinking of adding one to my kitchen tools, specifically so I can experiment with smoked eggs. The egg white was smoky but not cloyingly so, and it didn’t have the ugly brown color that comes from brining or smoking over charcoal or wood (such as on a grill). The yolk was soft, almost the consistency of hard yogurt, and also retained a smoky flavor. It’s the yolk that has me fascinated—how to a] infuse the smoke flavor there and b] how to cook it just right. I’m having dreams of smoking some of the fantastic eggs available from local farms here in Philly.
I suspect there might be a few posts about my adventures in egg smoking with a handheld smoking gun. Beware!
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
It’s clearly bee season at Farm to Philly! Yesterday Nic posted about a beekeeping operation he and his wife saw on their honeymoon as well as a bee swarm he encountered back home. Today I’m sharing a post by my good friend Anjeanette. She and her wife recently started keeping bees at their house in South Philly. This is her story…
I’ve always wanted bees. It is a strange thing to say when you are a city dweller, but I have always wanted them. For a long time it was just a dream. I tried convincing my aunt and uncle who own a hay farm in upstate NY, and then my in laws in upstate PA. Both had land and space. I had a rental in the city with no backyard. For a long time I read all I could about bees and dreamed.
Fast forward several years. Now we own a house in the city with a backyard. I took a beekeeping course at Temple Ambler this year and ordered my bees. In my course I pretty much was over the moon every week. I’d come home and exclaim, “We are going to have bees! And most likely they are gonna die!” I know that sounds completely contradictory, but consider this: we had a really early spring bloom but my bees weren’t coming until May 5th. Most flowers would be done by the time the hive got out and working. Bees who do not make enough food cannot thrive, protect their hive from robbers, or overwinter. All of the information I learned in class told me that this bee experiment might not work. I was too happy to care. Remember, I had already ordered my bees.
I got my 3 pound package of bees from Draper Super Bee Apiary in upstate PA. While I was there I also bought the equipment I needed to get started: bee hats, a hive tool, a bee brush, and a smoker. I had a hive box at home, all primed and painted for the new guests. One of the owners of Draper Bee told me I had the whole drive home to name all 9000 of my new girls. We hadn’t gone too far down the road before we named the queen Mrs. Garret and the hive the Facts of Life.
I installed the package two weeks ago. All signs show that the hive is thriving. I am still feeding them sugar water and will be for another 4 weeks. I’ve seen Mrs. Garrett and know she is laying eggs. The girls are making honey and collecting pollen. I check them about every 5 days. I don’t know if my backyard beekeeping will be a success or not. Right now listening to them work and seeing them fly are enough for me. Perhaps this one doesn’t thrive, but I know that I will try again.
Some great things are going on with city beekeeping. The Free Library’s South Philadelphia Branch is having a urban beekeeping demonstration on 5/31 at 6pm. The Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild has meetings every month on the third Thursday. Temple and other local universities have been running courses to help new beekeepers. If you have been wanting a hive you can find the resources both online and with other hobbyists in the area.
If you want to see pictures I have been putting them together on flickr. If you have questions I can either answer them in comments, or make a more detailed post about them. Since I started this backyard experiment people have asked me questions. I had researched bees for so long, I assumed everyone knew the same things. No question is too dumb. But please know that I am just an amateur hobbyist. And if the question is too much for me I would be willing to call and talk to an apiarist to get you the right answer.
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Perhaps its all the local honey popping up in Philadelphia small grocers, an interest more beautiful flowers and vegetables in your raised beds, or even just a desire to help the urban bee population proliferate, but you’ve had a tickle to learn more about bee keeping. You’re in luck! Two different options to learn more about bees and bee keeping - choose the one that suits you best!
This one-shot local event in West Philadelphia, hosted by the Philadelphia Beekeepers, promises information, fun, and a tasty lunch from Milk and Honey. If you haven’t tried their local honey yet, pick up a jar of your favorite zip code!
The Philadelphia Beekeeper’s Guild presents:
Ross Conrad, author of ‘Natural Beekeeping’
for lunch and talks on
Organic Beekeeping and Apitherapy
followed by the film ‘Vanishing of the Bees’
Sunday, February 6th, 2011
$25 General, $20PBG members (incl. lunch)
10-12 Organic Beekeeping
12-1 Lunch from Milk & Honey Market
3:30-6 Movie (free)
@ William Penn Charter School
3000 W. School House Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19144
A Webinar allows you to learn from the comfort of your home or office computer. The Beekeeping for Beginners is a one year course that will include the following:
1. A seven part live webinar series (all sessions will be recorded and available until December 31,
2. Virtual Beekeeping Field Day
3. Accessibility to instructors through:
4. Virtual office hours
5. Discussion forums
The registration fee for the one year Beekeeping for Beginners is for $150. Registration and agenda
information can be found at: http://clinton.extension.psu.edu/Hort/webinar/11Beekeeping.htm.
John and Kira’s launches seasonal chocolates
Friday, October 22, 2010
For the last few years, local sweets darlings, John and Kira (Baker-)Doyle, have been producing artisinal quality chocolates from their kitchen in the Northeast using Philadelphia ingredients ( I love the garden mint from Drew Elementary and UCity High School). Now they’ve sweetened the deal by adding seasonal specialties. This fall’s line features spiced pumpkins filled with pumpkin pie caramel and spices, chocolate cherries and rosemary bergamont and mint “urban garden” chocolate bars. you can find John and Kira’s at local farmers markets, the Reading Terminal Market’s Fair Food Farmstand, or order direct from their site at http://www.johnandkiras.com.
“Jersey Fresh” products backstory
Sunday, March 21, 2010
A few months ago (12/31/09) I posted about the great Jersey Fresh canned tomatoes I bought at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market. In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer is a story about what the “Jersey Fresh” is all about. Hope to see more stuff available locally soon!
November GRID is out
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The new GRID magazine is hitting the shelves at local coffee-shops, co-ops and businesses near you. Check out the issue for more bicycling articles, how to cook dried beans, just what is a green roof, local fashion designers, community garden, a green event calendar, and much more. Or, read it online HERE.
“Traceability”: Friend or Foe to Locavores?
Monday, March 30, 2009
There’s an article in today’s NY Times that leaves me with ambiguous feelings. The concept is “Traceability” and it’s meant to, as the name suggests, give consumers the ability to “trace” their food to it’s producer. What leaves me with a sour taste is that when I quickly perused the Find The Farmer site, I saw what I had feared was coming — namely, that Big Business would attempt to co-opt some of the finer points of the Buy Local movement.
The article states that the “Stone-Buhr flour company, a 100-year-old brand based in San Francisco, is giving the buy-local food movement its latest upgrade.” (My emphasis). The internet is a wonderful tool and I push it whole-heartedly on local farmers. But how is this “buy local”? The Find The Farmer website has all the trimmings of a gosh-golly earnest site. But on closer inspection, you see the bread trail of a much larger marketing effort. A look at the footer of the site reveals the copyright is held by JOG Distribution. Google that name and you see that they recently acquired “the venerable Stone-Buhr Flour brand...” (My emphasis). Notice that they say “brand”. Not “company”. Not “product”. “Brand”. That’s telling because that states that for these companies, it’s the name of the product and all that name conjures up in the consumers mind. That’s what they are paying for. But here’s the best part: JOG didn’t purchase it from the original owners of Stone-Buhr. Read the article and you’ll see that they purchased the “brand” in 2002 from Unilever/Bestfoods!
This is not mom-and-pop farmers organizing to let consumers know where their food comes from. This is marketing departments realizing that there is a.) a Trend (“Buy Local”) and b.) problems with the public’s perception of food safety. They aren’t really changing the way they do business, they’re simply changing the appearance by piggy-backing on a genuine movement. This is why marketing is important to small scale farmer’s and local business people. These are the tools that your fearsome competition welds.
Think of it like this: people are trusting. That’s a good thing. So when they see a NY Times article; when they see an earnest-looking website; when they see smiling pictures of commodity farmers and their families; when the sites state explicitly things like “Direct Seeding” to imply that their entire farming methods are more friendly (Direct Seeding seems innocuous enough, but it’s prominently name-dropped as a way to intimate that the farm is environmentally sound); when they see all of this, they think “Oh, in addition to the Farmer’s Market, I’ll shop online. Their prices may be better, maybe I’ll forgo the Market this week…” Or, perhaps, “I really want to connect with how my food is produced, I’ll just go to this website…” It begins to chip away at your business, whether it’s what you currently have or any potential business that’s down the line.
I need to stress that being able to trace your food is a good thing. Not only does it make producers and companies more accountable, but it also appears to pave the way for single-producer products. If there’s traceablilty, then that means you can’t mix several suppliers in a huge grain bin. And that’s good for people. What I don’t think is good is the sneaky way that businesses are hinting that they, too, are “local” (or have any of the ideals of the people who would Buy Local) when it’s still business as usual. They see the desire in the public’s mind and they act in the most cost-effective way. And that is by keeping the mechanism’s in place but using marketing and promotional tools to control the “message”.
People are ready for local, sustainable foods. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be interest in co-opting the terms and the ideals, by large corporations. If there ever was a time to invest in keeping your message relevant and making the case for the real differences, now is the time. It really is a sound investment because the desire for information is there.
The Best Marketing Is Still Free
Thursday, March 12, 2009
These are tough times. Small businesses (and yes — farms should be considered a small business) need to cut expenses. Usually the first place they do is in marketing, thinking that is the most expendable. While that should be up for debate, it simply is the reality. However, the very best marketing that anyone can do is completely free — smile. Yep, it’s that simple. One of the most overlooked aspects of marketing that many small businesses/farmers (from here on out, I’ll refer to you as SBF, for Small Business Farmer) is customer service. And that is a darn shame, because this is the one thing that is not only free, it’s the best marketing tool available, hands down as well as being the very reason of why you have customers in the first place.
The Buy Local movement is gaining momentum. Every news headline about food contamination or Frankenfoods make more and more people ask “is there another way?” They want to KNOW where their food is coming from and it inevitably brings them to Michael Pollan, Nina Planck or one of the many other authors who’ve written books speaking about the virtues of eating locally and knowing the person that raises your food. And a common thread in all of these books is an idyllic vision of people having casual conversations with “their” farmer at the weekly Farmer’s Markets. It speaks to our most desperate desire in this wacky food-world: to connect as well as be part of a community. Whether you like it or not, that’s the bill of goods we “locavore” people have been sold on. And don’t just blame the authors: farmers have been touting the “connection” angle for some time. So, in people’s minds, that’s what they expect. And time and again, I do see it delivered, albeit unbalanced. Let me offer 2 of the bad examples.
The first example is for the local small business. My husband and I purchased environmentally sound products to refinish our floors from a local store. We spoke with them at length about it. We were assured of the quality. Right away, there was a long list of problems: wrong order, person left at the desk who didn’t know anything about any of the products. Then, about 6 months after the floors were re-finished, they started to peel like tape. Called the store, was assured by the manager that the owner would call. Never did. This is where things go south: never, I repeat NEVER leave a customer in the lurch. Even if you cannot refund, not returning a call turns what could be a disgruntled customer into the worst possible thing for your SBF: someone who evangelizes against your company. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Most people who are drawn to SBF can take some punches and our first reaction is to think about things from the business/farmer’s perspective. So take heart that most of your customers give you more rope than they would, say, Wal-Mart. But don’t take this for granted. Be up-front and honest about what you’re selling. And, if it still doesn’t work out, pick up the phone and call. No matter how mad they are, the fact that you called will make a difference. Be nice, be empathetic. Chances are, if you make a good case, they will eventually come back. Because, unlike big box stores, you are in business to make a difference. And your customers share that motivation.
The next example is a farmer. My husband goes every week (when in season) to the Farmer’s Market at Rittenhouse and buys himself peaches. During a particularly humid week, all the peaches went rotten within 2 days. Taking a cue from Michael Pollan, he asked what he could have done to prevent that. The assistant asked the vendor and he replied “Impossible. He bought them two weeks ago.” When my husband went to speak, the vendor waved his hand and said to his assistant “just give him some.” The vendor never raised his head to look at the man asking about the peaches. This should go without saying: never treat a return customer as if he is trying to scam you. KNOW your return customers, even if you hardly say two words to them. This is vitally important. It’s so simple, yet I see time and time again, farmers ignore this because of the pressure in the market.
Yes, it is difficult to be a SBF, but it’s so important that you understand that your customer’s know this as well and they are understanding. We know that it’s just you. You wake at the break of dawn, harvest, then rush to market. The markets are busy, people clamoring for your attention. We know and we understand. But you cannot let it get the best of you. Think of it like this: most of you can’t afford a website (or, if you can, it’s far less full-featured than, say Acme or Home Depot); most do not run ads; and most certainly have no more than 1 location (or 1 movable location in the markets). When faced with corporate competition, the odds are not in your favor. So you need to understand why people come to you: your great product and your fantastic service. In both of my examples, these SBF failed.
When people shop locally, they are doing more than spending money. They are making a conscientious purchase. They aren’t just buying apples, they are saying something about the apples they are purchasing as well as against the stores where they are not. As an SBF, you may be at a large-scale marketing disadvantage, but you should have the customer service angle tied up in a bow. See this for what it is: the very best marketing that money can (but doesn’t!) buy. Good customer service makes customers faithful; they evangelize your product (and that still is the best advertising that money can buy); they purchase more; and they are more forgiving when those few instances of stress pop up. Still not convinced? Guess who is one of the best in customer service for large stores? Whole Foods. Who are you in direct competition against? Whole Foods. And for all of you SBF out there who do pay attention to customer service, your customers notice and appreciate. Keep up the great work! Every new customer you get is a testament to your smart investment.
I’d like to give a shout out to those SBF that go above and beyond in customer service (none have requested this, none know that I am doing this. Heck, I don’t even personally KNOW most of them! But good deeds should be rewarded): Greensgrow; Tom (formerly of Greensgrow, now raising flowers as Longview, sold at Headhouse); the ladies at Birchrun Hills; Hendricks Dairy; Meadow Run; Culton Organics; Wild Flour Bakery. I know that I am forgetting so many more and that’s a great thing because so many SBF are fantastic! Keep up the great work!
Winter Harvest Favorites
Sunday, February 22, 2009
As Winter Harvest expands, it has very nearly become our online grocery store from November until May. Aside from getting an incredible array of local products in the dark days of winter, it’s nice to come across some products we may not see otherwise. Right now, our two current favorites are Jacob Zooks’ heirloom popcorn and Hendrick’s Farm’s Tuscan salami.
Your first impression of the heirloom popcorn is its size: the kernels are incredible small. This presents no problems, however, as it simply means you can cram more into your mouth at once. Once you’ve popped them, though, what’s impressive is the rich, buttery flavor. All it requires is some fine salt. My wife (who achieves perfect results using the stovetop, a saucepan, and some canola oil) occasionally flavors the popcorn with some shaved parmesan and rosemary, a la The Royal Tavern. If you enjoy popcorn at all, this is worth the purchase. Also, you may want to follow our example and buy extra bags in April: otherwise, you won’t make it through the Summer and Fall.
Recently, we’ve gone from having fantastic local produce to having fantastic local produce and local products created from local produce. Nowhere is this is more apparent than with cured meat. Yes, we’ve always had great bacon, which I frequently use in my cooking rather than pancetta, but I would love to find local pancetta that matches what I can buy at DiBruno Brothers. First, there was hunter’s bologna, and now there is Hendrick’s Farm’s Tuscan Salami. The tender, marbled meat is perfectly seasoned - nothing oversalted here. It’s so satisfying, that, with some Pennsylvania Noble cheese and home-made pickles, it made a meal unto itself.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
As I’ve often said, I’d gladly eat cheese over chocolate any day of the week…but chocolate is still pretty awesome. I’m excited to say that now I can eat both - at the same time. Betty’s Tasty Buttons is now making fudge infused with bleu cheese from Birchrun Hills Farm. The fudge is named Blue Sue after Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills.
Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of fudge there ever was (it’s a texture thing), but I was fascinated by the subtle bleu cheese flavor of the fudge and how great a combination it is!
I love that our local purveyors are collaborating - what’s next? I hear Vosges (not local at all) is now making a dark chocolate bar with reishi mushrooms and walnuts. Could our local chocolatiers be moving in that direction - maybe new partnerships with great local mushroomers? Perhaps a B.T. Brownie loaded with local chili peppers?
Local Green Heroes: The ChallaMan
Friday, January 16, 2009
As a compliment to Jackie’s post about making bread and Four Worlds Bakery, I bring you a video clip. I am a loyal patron to Four Worlds Bakery. I generally buy a half loaf of bread a week (my favorites are the multi grain levain, cranberry-walnut levain and spelt levain), along with the occasional bulk order of local flour, sucanat or bran litter. Customers receive a couple of emails a week concerning news, updates and order information. This week’s email included a five minute video showing interviews of the ChallaMan himself and documenting the move from baking in his own basement to a professional baking space behind Kaffa Crossing at 45th and Chestnut. This move was orchestrated not by U-Haul, not by Philly Car Share, but by the Pedal Co-op—bicycles! Michael Dollich has the noble goal of going carbon neutral, and moving via bicycles is an excellent way to support that goal.
Indeed, Michael Dollich offers the community with his bakery a true sustainable business model. He bakes to order. Bread that is not sold is frozen and sold at half price. He mills his own grains to ensure freshness and sells the remaining bran as kitty litter (my cats are living proof that this litter is just as good as S-Wheat Scoop, only much much cheaper at $0.25/lb, and perhaps a bit more powdery). To save waste in terms of packaging and payment envelopes, there is a reusable bag system into which regular customers can buy (a one time $10 investment), and for drop off payments, envelopes are offered, which are constantly reused and recycled for future order payments. All of this waste reduction is not for naught. After one month of baking out of the professional kitchen, Four Worlds Bakery produced one single bag of trash. If that is not commendable, I don’t know what is!
In the ChallaMan and his Four Worlds Bakery Philadelphia finds a true, green, community-oriented hero! Keep up the inspiring work, Michael.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I’m Eileen, the newest Farm to Philly contributor. I’ve been following the site for about 9 months and have been involved with local food in Philly since shortly after I moved here 3 years ago. If you can spare a few minutes I’d like to introduce myself.
When I was thinking about this post, I tried to come up with the start of my interest and involvement in local food. I was surprised to realize that I’ve been involved in growing, storing, eating and enjoying local food my entire life - it was just not something I thought about until fairly recently.
While I was growing up in Western New York, my grandparents owned a farm. It’s been in the family at least three generations, it’s where my mother grew up, and it was about a mile from my house. My grandparents were never able to make a living on the farm - my grandfather was a postman - but it was a vital part of their livelihood as it allowed them to afford to raise nine children and get them all through college. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from the farm - digging potatoes with my grandfather and cousins; drinking milk right from the cow; playing outside while my mother and aunts sliced corn off the cob to freeze, and picking blueberries and raspberries (funny-ish aside: my grandparents had almost all black raspberries and just a few red - up until college my generic image of raspberries was of the black ones - I was totally confused as to why I couldn’t find any at all in the grocery store - only the ‘specialty’ red ones.).
Between my grandparents, my own parents’ big garden, and the local farm stands (it was a very farm-centric town), I would say that at least 50 - 75% of our produce growing up was local. It didn’t mean much to me because it was totally normal. It was also no big deal that the local grocery store stocked locally grown produce all summer (with prominent signage). I also didn’t realize that we ate a lot more produce than most Americans - when one aunt-in-law remarked at a family party that she’d never seen people who ate so many veggies, I just thought she was from a weird family.
It really started to dawn on me when I went away to college in the Midwest. I started going to Whole Foods because the produce in the ‘regular’ grocery store was awful. I don’t mean the taste - I was never able to find anything that even looked worthy of purchasing. It was routine for the pepper to be wrinkly and the carrots bendy. When people said, “Whole Foods is too expensive,” I thought – “Compared to what? They basically have a monopoly on edible produce.” I also went to my then-boyfriend’s house for dinner several times, to find the only vegetables on the table potatoes and iceberg lettuce. I requested “a green vegetable” for one Easter dinner (a solicited request) and was served green beans with bacon. (I love my in-laws, they’re wonderful people - but they’re definitely the ‘food = meat, cheese, carbs‘ type, though they are getting better.)
After graduation, I moved to the Philly area, and soon read an article on CSAs. (I have no idea how I ran across the article, or where it came from, or what it was about.) I did a google search and found that Charlestown Cooperative Farm was really close and convinced my husband we should sign up. One of my best decisions ever (and very fortunate timing, I was able to become a member right away, now there’s a three year waiting list). With Charlestown, we pick up our shares at the farm - which I love! It reminds me of going to my grandparents. There are also several Upick items in the share - which I also love! Again it reminds me of my childhood, plus it makes picking up the shares more entertainment than a chore. It pretty much snowballed from there
Right now we get 100% of our produce locally in the summer and about 75% in the winter (Jan - Mar). Besides Charlestown, we have a fruit CSA with Northstar Orchard, do U Pick at Linvilla Orchards, go to the Phoenixville Farmers’ Market, and frequently shop at Kimberton Whole Foods which stocks lots of local items. We eat 100% local meat (from the farmers’ market and our CSA), and eat some local dairy. That’s been something difficult for us. I do eat 100% local yogurt (Seven Stars), but we don’t drink animal milk - we do use cream and butter but I’ve been having a difficult time integrating sources for those into our regular routine. 90% local eggs. Dry goods are semi-local. We buy enough for a year’s supply at once. The supplier we use is located in western PA and sources most of their flours, grains, and beans from PA and OH, but some are from other parts of the US. They do mill all the flours onsite in PA, at least. We do tons of canning and drying - with mostly local ingredients (only non local ingredients are onions in the salsa, salt, sugar, pectin in the jams, and the cranberries we dried), and some root cellaring (apples and squash and squash and squash and …). We also have a fairly substantial garden.
Well, I’m sure that more than you wanted to know about me so I’ll end with the fact that I’m thrilled to be a contributor to Farm to Philly and can’t wait to really get started.
Won’t you be our friend?
Friday, December 19, 2008
Farm to Philly has been on Facebook for a while, but only recently did I get off my butt and start really maintaining the group page. I hope you’ll come and hang out with us there, too! We’ve been posting notifications about our posts here, and will also be posting extra news items, discussing the latest in seasonal eating and local finds, and posting bonus recipes.