Book Review: The Dirty Life - on farming, food and love

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Dirty Life Cover

The Dirty Life does not try to glamorize the farming lifestyle. When Kristin Kimball, a freelance writer living in Manhattan, meets a dynamic farmer with an outrageous hat, she finds herself chucking her city lifestyle and moving with him to a decrepit house on some muddy land in upstate New York. The next year is an outrageous experience in learning to farm (for Kristin) and putting to practical use previous skills (her farmer) while constantly learning new ones. The couple not only wants to create a farm out of the boggy land they are loaning, they want to only use draft horses (no tractors) which requires finding horses, learning how to drive them, and learning how to fix the antique equipment needed to farm this way.

There are blizzards,  run-away pig disasters, experiments in organ meat eating and cheese making, and a whole lot of dirt. Somehow, by the end of the book, Kristin and her farmer end up not only married, but running a “whole diet” CSA for 100 people - enough dairy, vegetable, grains, meat and fat to supply the entire diets of these families. A good read, if a bit perplexing at times (how do they NEVER sleep and not kill each other), The Dirty Life is a glimpse into a very ambitious, and now successful, farming experiment.

Posted by Erin on 03/29 at 05:10 PM

Young Farmers Gain Ground, and Press

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


The popular press in certainly starting to pay attention to the new generation of young farmers. While this article in the New York Times has it’s annoying “earnest” and “hip” points, it also has some interesting information about the “lost generation” of farmers, building communities, the return to “antique” tools and how young farmers are reteaching older farmers how to downscale and “green” their farming practices. What do you think?

Posted by Erin on 03/09 at 08:29 PM

Tonight! GRID March Issue party

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Come celebrate the March issue of our favorite local sustainability magazine,  GRID,  with local food and local drinks.  Queen Village’s new sustainability minded food-and-drink spot Kennett Restaurant will host and is offering $1 off all draft beers and wine, plus $10 pizzas.

Thursday, Feb. 10

5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

Kennett Restaurant, 848 S. Second St.

Posted by Erin on 02/10 at 09:29 PM

Eating well and locally on $4.50 a day? It can be done!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune decided to take the SNAP challenge - to feed herself for just $31 a week, or the average budget of a person receiving food stamps in Illinois. Not only is she doing it, she is shopping primarily at farmers markets and supplementing with bulk grains etc. from Whole Foods. She’s doing a pretty great job! Follow her this week, and use this “study” as a great example when people tell you that eating well and locally is too expensive.

Posted by Erin on 09/23 at 05:33 PM

New March GRID - seasonal recipes and more!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Hey friends! The March GRID is hitting the stands. Full of season-friendly recipes (including mine for a winter vegan shepard’s pie), and resources for using salvaged materials in your home. Go pick your up now! If you’re outside of Philadelphia, you can still enjoy GRID by reading it online HERE.

Posted by Erin on 02/17 at 02:52 AM

What Does Michael Pollan Eat?

Monday, January 11, 2010


Sustainable food guru Pollan, author of numerous local food manifestos*,  requests that we “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” But what does he eat? See for yourself in this New York Diet. While some might take exception to his “flexibility” (I especially and not pleased with loose sushi standards) he’s just a guy trying to make it work. Which means that it can’t always work perfectly, but that is no reason not to try. Enjoy.

*The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Second Nature, The Botany of Desire

Posted by Erin on 01/11 at 08:45 PM

September Issue of Grid - Farm to Philly Pepper Recipes

Thursday, September 03, 2009


The September issue of Grid magazine is hitting the free newsstands today - rush out and find yourself a copy! Newly expanded to 48 pages and with a “Back to School” theme, this issue covers everything from earth friendly clothing, packed lunches, childhood nutrition education, and mattress recycling. A crew from Farm to Philly contributed recipes featuring the seasonal, and prolific,  pepper. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Fresh Basil and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, and Lamb Stuffed Peppers - yum!

Come and celebrate the new issue tonight at the Abbaye (637 N. 3rd St.) from 5-7pm for a special Grid happy hour. 1/2 price appetizers, $2 off of draft beers, and all kinds of good folks!

Posted by Erin on 09/03 at 05:08 PM

We’re in Grid Again! August issue

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Farm to Philly represents once again in the August issue of Grid Philly magazine. (Unfortunately, they gave all the credit to me and Nicole and left out Kevin.) Check it out online or look for free copies in independent shops around town.

Posted by Allison on 08/16 at 10:49 PM

Cooking Shows and Cooking

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Michael Pollan has a new essay in this week’s New York Times Magazine, about cooking and food television and its effects.  I’ve not had a television since I moved out of my parents’ house (and never watched cooking shows before that, either), so I would be interested to hear everyone else’s takes on it.  I do, however, think that the last point probably sounds right to most of us: “Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.”  (I admit that I have been failing at that lately, but it remains my goal.)

Posted by Naomi on 08/01 at 08:25 PM

Grid Magazine: The 100% Local Food Issue

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Just 6 months old, Grid Magazine, a free glossy about creating sustainability in Philadelphia, has put out some great thematic issues on energy, bicycling and gardening. The newest issue, hitting the streets or your internet today, is all about local, sustainable food practices. Alongside recipes from restaurant superstars Pumpkin and Tria and Denise Balcavag of, and interviews with Talulah’s Kitchen luminaries and the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, There’s also a piece about a West Philly High student making a nutritional difference in her community. Add to that a guide to composting, and an expose on the difficulty of finding fresh produce in North Philly, an outline of how to eat local on the cheap and an interview with farm-loving rockers Hoots and Hellmouth, this issue has it all! Pick up a copy at your local business (or ask them to carry it) or read it paper-free online!

Posted by Erin on 05/07 at 03:50 PM

Simply in Season

Monday, April 27, 2009

Simply in season

In the “Pinched – Tales from an Economic Downturn” series for Salon, Siobhan Phillips writes an interesting article explore the feasibility of eating SOLE - sustainable, organic, local or ethical – on a budget. She and her husband do their best on the food-stamp minimum in their Connecticut town - $248 for two people. And you know what? They do pretty well. Her secret is effort, some cooking skills, and some great tools. One of these is the Cooking

  • Recipes
  • Reading
  • Resources

  • 100 Mile Challenge on Food TV

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    The first episode of Food Network Canada’s 100 Mile Challenge starts April 5th. Based on “The 100-Mile Diet” by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon and hosted by the authors, the show challenges the citizens of Mission, BC to live for 100 days eating only foods that originate within 100 miles of their home.

    Episodes will be available online the day after they air in Canada (which is good for me because 1. we don’t have cable and 2. even if we did, I don’t think Food TV Canada airs in Philadelphia). I’m curious to see how the show plays out and if the network shows that eating locally is not only possible, but pleasurable. Because it is reality television, not reality, the six families that sign on for the challenge are forbidden from eating household staples like beer, coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil, pepper and most spices. (Notice where my priorities are- no beer!) While that makes for great television, I hope that at some point it’s made clear that eating locally isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Supporting the local economy and local farmers is ideal, but it is not necessary to deprive your family of coffee or bananas simply because they don’t grow in a 100-mile radius of your home.

    In addition to bits about the 100 Mile Challenge show, the show’s blog features recipes and tips as well as information about different vegetables.

    Posted by Jackie on 03/26 at 04:20 PM

    January Garden Soup

    Sunday, January 13, 2008


    While last week’s frugal winter soup focused on ingredients frozen from our summer garden, this weekend’s soup used some fresh stuff I picked yesterday thanks to the disturbingly warm winter temperatures we’ve been having.  I meandered out to the garden to dump some compost scraps and was a bit surprised to see that the kale plants had a lot of young leaves on them.  I guess a week of temperatures in the 60s got the plants going again.  I grabbed some scissors and snipped a bunch of the leaves to add to my baked potato soup along with fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme from my kitchen garden. 

    Since my soups are usually improvised, I didn’t write down the exact measurements.  I started with some melted butter and sautéed celery, onions and garlic.  I then added about ¼ c. of spelt flour from Small Valley Milling (see story about the farm here from Farming Magazine [available at the Fair Food Farmstand], about 4 cups of veggie broth and some milk.  Then, I added some baked potatoes that I had mashed and some that I diced along with the fresh herbs.  In the last ten minutes, I added the chopped baby kale. 

    Because my husband is a big guy that isn’t necessarily satisfied with just a bowl of soup, I try to bake up something to go alongside.  This time, I found a recipe for wheat germ muffins in one of my favorite cookbooks for practical, frugal cooking using whole foods:  American Wholefoods Cuisine by Nikki and David Goldbeck.  I understand that there is a second edition of this cookbook, but my copy is one that my husband found for me at a used bookstore a few years ago.  I’ve gotten many basic vegetarian recipes from it.  I substituted the spelt flour for half of the whole wheat flour called for in the recipe with good results.  I’m going to keep experimenting with this flour, but so far it’s been great.

    All in all, it was a simple supper.  I’m glad I happened to spy the kale because I’m sure the forecasted snow will kill the plants. Then again, who would have thought that they’d be alive and producing in January?

    Posted by Lauren on 01/13 at 02:56 PM

    Michael Pollan at the Free Library

    Wednesday, January 09, 2008


    If you’re looking for something to do tomorrow night, Michael Pollan is speaking at the Free Library of Philadelphia.  Pollan is the author of a book that influenced many of us, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, as well as The Botany of Desire.  He’ll be discussing his latest book In Defense of Food.  You might know Pollan’s treatise: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    Pollan’s talk is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm at the 1901 Vine branch.  Pollan will also be speaking tomorrow morning at the White Dog Cafe, but that’s been sold out since mid-December at least (trust me, I tried to get in).  If the White Dog event is any indication, the Pollan event at the library will be packed!

    Posted by Nicole on 01/09 at 11:17 AM

    Going green

    Sunday, January 06, 2008

    Environmentalism is hot right now.  I’m certainly glad to see it, but I hope that it’s just not something trendy that people do for a while and then move on to the Next!Big!Thing!  The same can be said for the idea of eating local.  Many of us have been trying to eat seasonally and locally as often as possible for years, but now that ‘locavore’ is the New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year, well…I worry that it’s going to get overplayed and that people will get burnt out on it.

    It seems that foodies are already being saturated by the message.  Bon Appetit’s latest issue, The Green Issue, is filled with information about eating seasonally and lists of ‘eco-friendly restaurants, even a brief interview with Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (the 100 Mile Diet folks).  I thoroughly enjoyed the issue and found lots of great recipe ideas, but other readers are not so excited.  They want something new, and eating local is old news.  ‘Green’ style has been the topic of nearly every food, decorating, design, and clothing magazine in existence over the last six months.

    The good news is that it does not appear that Philadelphia’s wide variety of farmer’s markets and farmstands are a trend.  Many people have spent years building the network and going through a lot of trouble to make locally grown produce from ethical growers available here in the city and its surrounding areas.  That’s some comfort, at least. 

    Posted by Nicole on 01/06 at 02:28 PM

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    Support a local farmer, crave the freshest produce, worry about what's in or on your food - whatever your reason for eating locally grown and produced food in the Philadelphia area, Farm to Philly is probably writing about it. We're focused on where to find it, how to grow it, and what to do with it!

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