Volunteers Needed: Rittenhouse Market
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
With farmers’ market season fast approaching (and, in some cases, in full swing), there are some great opportunities to get involved and help keep them afloat. The folks at Farm to City are looking for a few good volunteers for the Saturday farmers’ market in Rittenhouse Square. Volunteer shifts are 2.25 hours long, and duties vary:
- Answering customer questions about the market and vendors
- Providing information on Farm to City programs and sustainable agriculture
- Conducting surveys with farmers’ market customers
- Taking customer counts
- Communicating suggestions and other feedback form the community to Farm to City staff
As you probably know, the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market happens every Saturday from 9am to 3pm at 18th and Walnut Streets, both on south sidewalk of Walnut St and west sidewalk of 18th Street. Volunteers are asked to commit to a regular volunteer shift (once a week, once or twice a month, etc.). That said, they’re open to any one who is willing to lend their time to this great cause!
*photo credit: Marisa McClellan
Last Year’s Jam
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I’m not a super-preserver or anything, but by this point, I’ve established a regular seasonal pattern of jam-making: sour cherry at the beginning of summer, plum at the end of summer, and quince in the late fall. While I’ve also finally achieved a decent amount of cabinet space in my kitchen, it’s not unlimited, which means right around now I start thinking about clearing out some space to prepare for the cycle to begin again.
I used some of the plum as a cake filling a couple of weeks ago, and this week I rolled a jar of the quince into some buttery, flaky rugelach. (The sour cherry, alas, never seems to make it past a few months, because I love it too much.) You can use whichever jar is pushing its way to the front of your pantry, or whatever looks good at the market this weekend.
(Adapted from Rugelach, Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy, 2010)
Makes 48 cookies
For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 cubes
8 tablespoons (1 8-ounce block) cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup jam needing to be used up, in this case quince
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Fine sea salt for sprinkling
Combine the flour, sugar and salt for the pastry in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly to blend the dry ingredients, then add the butter and mix on low until mostly broken up and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the cream cheese just until a damp, shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean countertop and knead briefly to create a mostly cohesive block. Divide into four equal parts and pat into 4-inch disks, tightly wrapping each individually. Refrigerate at least two hours and preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners and preheat the oven to 350 F.
Roll one disk of pastry between sheets of parchment paper to a diameter of 12 inches and a thickness of about a quarter inch. Spread the pastry with a quarter of the jam, and evenly coat with a quarter of the walnuts and a small pinch of salt. Using a pizza cutter or sharp chef’s knife, slice the pastry into 12 approximately equal wedges. Starting with the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point and place, point-side down, on a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining wedges, setting the cookies 2 inches apart. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to firm the cookies back up as you repeat the process with the remaining pastry disks, jam and walnuts.
Bake each sheet of cookies on the center rack for 25-28 minutes, until pale gold on top and a slightly darker golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans as necessary for even browning. Immediately transfer the baked cookies on their parchment to cooling racks and cool completely.
Cookies will keep well in airtight containers for up to 5 days.
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.
New Hope: Eat Local and Support a Local Author
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
This weekend I’m heading to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a signing of my new novel at Farley’s Bookshop, which I’m quite excited about—and not just because of my author event. New Hope has always seemed kind of magical to me, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to articulate. It may have something to do with the really great chocolate shop. Or it could have something to do with all the restaurants.
There are some really great places to eat that feature locally produce, so if you’re going to be there soon (either for my book signing, to which you are cordially invited) here are some places to check out:
Sprig & Vine: This vegan restaurant is on Union Square Drive. It changes menus routinely to focus on the best locally grown produce they can get their hands on. Right now you can get locally grown salads, as well as a small plate of pickled local cauliflower and baby carrots.
Cafe Blue Moose: Located on West Mechanic Street, Blue Moose features locally-sourced foods and an eclectic menu. The place has a neat story—it was started in 2006 by a couple of teenagers.
Triumph Brewing Company: There’s a Triumph Brewing outpost on Union Square. In recent years Triumph has added locally grown ingredients to their menu—that includes cheese from Cherry Grove and Valley Shepherd Creamery, as well as meat, produce, and fruit from local growers. Plus, you know, good beer.
Marhaba: Across the bridge from New Hope is Marhaba, a great BYOB Middle Eastern restaurant. They also strive to use local ingredients.
If you’re in New Hope on Saturday, April 20, after you’ve stuffed yourself full of great food, stop by Farley’s from 1-4pm. I’ll be signing copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (which you can also pick up at Farley’s), and I’ll also be pelting people with a fun giveaway: astronaut rubber duckies.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
I really hope this is the last of the winter produce recipes until Thanksgiving, not because I don’t love hard squashes, cabbages and brassicas, but because I am really just sick of winter. My longing for asparagus and rhubarb is starting to become acute, and each of these spring snows is making me despair that tomato season is never coming.
While we’re all cursing the groundhog, this butternut squash spread is at least a bright and sunny color, and warmly spicy enough to maybe convince yourself that you’re in the Mediterranean, if you close your eyes. It’s adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s beautiful cookbook, Jerusalem, and combines caramelized roasted squash and tahini into a hummus-like dip. This version has been made vegan by replacing the original yogurt with soft cooked red lentils and a hit of lemon juice, and instead of plain cinnamon I used a Syrian spice mix. You could use za’atar, ras el hanout, berbere, or any similar blend if you prefer.
Roasted Butternut Spread
(Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Jerusalem: A Cookbook, 2012)
For roasting the squash:
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into roughly 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Middle Eastern spice mix of choice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the spread:
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons tahini
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the butternut cubes with the oil, spice mix and salt in a roasting pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast the squash until soft all the way through and slightly caramelized on the edges, approximately 1 hour. Cool completely.
Boil the lentils and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the lentils have completely broken down, adding just as much water as needed to prevent them from drying out until they reach that point.
Combine the roasted squash, cooked lentils, tahini, garlic and lemon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until chunky. Add more lemon juice and salt as needed, then add the olive oil and pulse a few more times to combine.
Serve in a shallow bowl, garnished with an additional drizzle of olive oil, and with pita chips or crudités on the side.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Traditional spaghetti carbonara is pasta tossed with crisped pancetta and a mixture of raw eggs and parmesan, which cooks just enough from the heat of the pasta to form a silky, creamy sauce. It’s not vegetarian-friendly, obviously, which is why when I decided to use the beautifully golden-yolked eggs from the market in a carbonara-esque dish, I had to replace the meat with something sufficiently flavorful and colorful.
The answer was a combination of shredded brussels sprouts and sun-dried tomatoes in the pasta itself, and a topping of fresh breadcrumbs, crisped in olive oil and seasoned with a combination of garlic and Spanish smoked paprika. Brussels sprouts keep well, stay wonderfully green as long as they’re not overcooked, and add both brightness and a punchy contrast in flavor. The tomatoes add both a bright pop of color and a slightly chewy texture, and the crumbs add both the missing crunch and the smokiness that comes from the pancetta in the original dish. The smokiness is further enhanced by a handful of shredded smoked cheese after the pasta is sauced.
This recipe is very, very loosely adapted from one in Deborah Madison & Edward Espe Brown’s The Greens Cookbook (1987). In theory, you could further adapt it into a still-flavorful and pretty vegan dish by leaving out the eggs and cheese, although you couldn’t really call it carbonara at that point. (Then again, most people wouldn’t consider it carbonara the minute the meat is taken out.)
Spaghetti Carbonara with Brussels Sprouts, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Smoky Breadcrumbs
3 slices multigrain bread (the heels of the loaf are fine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, run through a microplane grater or garlic press
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt to taste
8 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 dry pint brussels sprouts, shredded
1/4 cup dried tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated smoked Gouda or other semi-firm smoked cheese
Roughly tear the bread slices and pulse in a food processor long enough to form medium-sized fresh crumbs. Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a wide nonstick sauté pan over medium heat just until the garlic begins to release its aroma, then add in the breadcrumbs and toss to evenly coat in the oil. Continue cooking, tossing or stirring frequently, until the crumbs are well-toasted and crisp, stir in paprika and salt to taste, and remove from the pan.
Boil the spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente, according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the garlic and chili flakes in the remaining oil in the pan until the garlic begins to color lightly. Add in the brussels sprouts, sun-dried tomatoes and a generous sprinkle of salt, sautéing just until the sprouts have wilted but remain brightly green. Taste and adjust salt as necessary.
Just before draining the pasta, quickly whisk the eggs and parmesan together in a large bowl. Drain the pasta and immediately place it into the bowl containing the egg mixture, tossing quickly with tongs to completely coat the spaghetti. Add the brussels sprouts mixture and smoked cheese and continue tossing until everything is evenly distributed and lightly coated. If the egg mixture appears too raw, return the pasta to the pan and very briefly cook, tossing continuously, to desired doneness.
Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls, sprinkling generously with the toasted breadcrumbs.
For the Bleak Midwinter
Thursday, January 31, 2013
We’re in the time of year when things start looking a little bleak, produce-wise, and you start longing for spring to change things up again. That doesn’t mean you can’t create some wonderful things from the sturdy winter items that do hang around the markets this time of year, though.
This vegetarian version of cassoulet makes good use of the root vegetables and hearty greens that can easily be found, and is the perfect way to warm up on an icy, stormy night. Being vegan, very low-fat and high in all kinds of nutrients is an additional bonus, if you’re trying to stick with any New Year’s resolutions or just detox from the holiday excess.
White Bean, Parsnip and Kale Cassoulet
(Adapted from Eric Tucker & John Westerdahl, The Millennium Cookbook)
5 cups white beans, cooked or canned
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 bunch kale, shredded
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a large, oven-proof pot with a lid, combine the beans and vegetables. Mix together the stock, mustard, maple syrup, herbs and spices in a large measuring cup and pour over the bean mixture. Cover with the lid and bake for 60-75 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
Add the kale to the beans, re-cover, and bake 15-20 more minutes, until the greens are tender but not mushy. Remove the bay leaf and serve as a main course or side dish.
The Fall Honey Flow
Monday, October 29, 2012
While most people were batting down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy, I spent the weekend finally extracting honey from my hive before the storm arrived. Most beekeepers advise against extracting when rain is in the forecast because an increase in moisture can lead to a higher water content in the honey, which can lead to fermentation when it is being stored. However, I did the extraction two days before the storm hit and since I was already so late on extracting the honey for the season, I wasn’t left with much choice. So on Saturday afternoon, two days before Sandy was due to make landfall I went into my hive and pulled the frames. As you can see in the picture below (that’s me in the bee suit), the first step was to open the hive and inspect frames that had large amounts of solid brown covering over the comb. This is a sign that there is honey below, and not nectar with its high water content.
I then shook the bees from the frames, and placed them in a Tupperware bin. After I took out 6 frames, I brought them to the back porch where I shook or swatted off any remaining bees, and I brought them into the house.
As you can see below, the outside of the frame with its solid brown covering is where all of the honey is stored. The small brown spots in the center that look like nuts are actually cells that are incubating new drones, which we left alone. Actually, at one point, small drones started hatching and crawling out of the cells. It was pretty amazing to watch.
The reason for my procrastination for this season’s extraction was because I wanted to use an actual mechanical extractor. But I couldn’t coordinate meeting up with my beekeeper friend who knew how to use it. Instead, I took a more DYI approach. I first laid the frames on a cooking sheet. Next to that I set up a colander over a pot. I then took a spatula and scraped the comb off of the frame and placed it in the colander to let it drain into the pot. As you can see in the picture below, it was actually quite efficient for doing such a small batch.
I then left the comb to drain and went back to put the frames back into the hive. The reason I only took six frames was because I extracted so late in the season and I didn’t want to take out too much honey being that there are only a very small amount of flowers still in bloom in the city. Also, by scraping the comb off rather than cutting out the entire frame, I at least left the bees with somewhat of a base to build some more comb before the winter sets in. This way I don’t have to feed the bees sugar water over the winter as some beekeepers are forced to do. I then went back in the house, removed the colander full of comb and put the honey on a low heat to partially liquefy it. By doing this, it made it easier to pour it through the fine strainer to get out any more bits of comb. And just like that, those six frames filled up these mason jars totaling almost two gallons of honey.
One of the best things about processing honey is that cleaning up your mess usually requires using your finger to quickly swab up the honey you spill and eat it on the spot. I must admit that I’ve recently been questioning if I should keep my hive. After maintaining a city block’s worth of a garden, 3 laying hens and a large berry patch, I just felt a little over extended. But after taking that first taste, I think I may have another year of beekeeping in me.
Crab and Cucumber Soup and a Fishmonger Recommendation
Sunday, August 19, 2012
The weather may have cooled considerably, and the interminable heat wave(s) may finally be behind us, but I’m not quite ready to give up on chilled soups for the summer. So, here’s one from Nigel Slater, a chilled cucumber soup topped with crab meat. The recipe is easy to follow and accurate, but one word of advice: be sure to dice the cucumber very finely, as it will determine the consistency of your soup.
More importantly, if you’ve been looking for a fishmonger in Center City or South Philly that is as concerned about sustainable seafood as you are, try Ippolito’s Seafood. You’ll know where and how the fish was caught, and just how sustainable those methods and fish stocks are. I first learned about Ippolito’s and their business practices at a demonstration by the restaurant C19 at the annual Good Food, Good Beer, and the Rest is History (hosted by Slow Food Philly and Farm to City). Since then, I’ve been there at least once a week for oysters (raked from Virginia), swordfish (hook and line from New York), and even New Jersey fluke. I can finally try all those recipes in the River Cottage Fish Book without guilt.
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!
Local Restaurant: C19
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
With so many great restaurants in the Philadelphia area who are focusing on fresh, locally grown ingredients, it’s hard to get to them all! Last night a few friends were in from out of town, so it was the perfect excuse to visit C19 (formerly Cichetteria 19). One the south side of Rittenhouse Square, the restaurant not only supports great farmers like Green Meadow Farm, Rineer Family Farm, and Griggstown Farm, it also gets produce from its own farm, Greatful Acres. It’s the first restaurant I’ve run into in Philly that also runs its own CSA program.
First up was a cheese plate, which featured Shellbark Hollow Farms goat cheese and a local fresh ricotta, as well as three non-local cheeses. It was interesting to note that even though my guests loved all the cheese, it was the goat cheese and ricotta that received the most accolades. There’s just something to be said for fresh cheese—and it’s enough to make me want to make some fromage blanc this week.
Only one of my party ordered off the regular menu (the Polpette pizza); the rest of us ordered specials—mushroom risotto, and I ordered skate (which was caught off the coast of New Jersey) and citrus risotto. The skate was delicious and fresh, and I did try a bite of everything else—all fantastic. Also on the menu, though, were tomatoes, salad greens, cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, chicken, and steak from local purveyors. C19 also boasts a really great wine cellar, many of which come from local vineyards.
Owner (and former gondolier in Venice) Andrea Luca Rossi was behind the bar when we arrived and proceeded to charm the pants off my guests with his lovely accent. He also knows exactly where his food comes from, and the passion was obvious.
I wasn’t a fan of the tiramisu (made from sponge cake instead of lady fingers, and it wasn’t as moist as expected), but there were probably no local ingredients there, so it probably doesn’t matter! Other than that, though, if you’re looking for a locally grown meal, check out C19.
267 S. 19th Street
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.
Something New for Dining Out Locally
Sunday, April 08, 2012
At first, using local ingredients meant a deliberate choice of restaurant and (often, limited) menu. Now the variety of food available year-round has expanded menu possibilities and expanded the practice beyond typical “farm-to-table” options. It’s a true measure of how far tthis has come that even restaurants not commonly associated with it incorporate local food into their menus. Case in point: Triumph Brewing Company.
Triumph now features its Home Grown Menu, a frequently changing menu of locally sourced dishes. These include Flaim Farms from Vineland, Doe Run Farm in Coatesville, Solebury Orchards in New Hope, and Blooming Glen from Perkasie.
Couple that with beer brewed on site, and you couldn’t do much better for reducing your food miles.
Here’s the current menu.
Red Earth Farm still has shares available
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Looking for a CSA for the 2012 season? Red Earth Farm still has shares available. From their website:
Red Earth Farm is a family-owned and operated farm dedicated to bringing the freshest chemical-free produce to your table. We never use synthetic, artificial, or chemical substances in our farming process. Our CSA offers the opportunity to CHOOSE your produce weekly online from our website.
Situated in Schuykill County, Pennsylvania - near Hawk Mountain - our 13 acre farm offers Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships and participates in the Emmaus and West Chester Grower’s Markets.
This will be my family’s sixth year with a Red Earth Farm CSA share, and with 3 small children we especially love the ability to choose our own produce. We typically get a partial vegetable share along with a fruit and egg share. Last year we also participated in the cheese share from Hillacres Pride, and were thrilled with it. We’re looking forward to the upcoming season. New members can register through their website.
Philly CowShare: Share the Beef!
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
There are a million reasons to avoid buying from the grocery store when it comes to meat—the way the animals are treated, commercial production practices in terms of the environment, concerns about hormone use, etc. And some of us at Farm to Philly prefer to buy meat from local growers for those reasons, too. We also like that the food miles associated with local meat are seriously diminished. Luckily, it’s easy to buy locally grown meat in Philadelphia—whether you buy from the Fair Food Farmstand, direct from the farmer, at farmer’s markets, etc., we have access to everything from chicken to veal. However, there’s also another option we don’t see too much: the animal share. In case you didn’t know, we’ve got one in Philly CowShare. Last year, their first year in business, they sold fifty-five cows.
Philly CowShare offers locally grown, grass-fed beef shares at a variety of price points, the lowest of which is an eighth of a cow, or 40 lbs of beef. Oh, and if you go in on a whole cow with seven of your friends, you get a discount (Jessica Moore, one of the people who runs Philly CowShare, tells me that the meat isn’t discounted; rather, you get a discount due to a reduction in shipping charges). In addition to a variety of cuts (which are shared equally) and ground beef, you can also request bones, fat, and offal. Moore mentioned that the act of purchasing a whole cow tends to create a sense of community, and people often get together for cook-outs and meals that include cuts they get from th share, which is a nice side effect of the program.
Philly CowShare is attempting to redesign the normal supply chain of how we get meat. Their pillars of sustainability include:
- Financial (so the farmer makes a fair profit, but the cost of meat is still affordable)
- Environmental (which supports sustainable farming and better treatment of animals)
- Consumptive (CowShare issues a call out to consumer, asking them to eat sustainble meat, eat less meat, and eat whole animal)
In allowing Philly CowShare to be the middle man, it also frees up a farmer’s time. Moore calculated that if a farmer needs to sell a hundred cows (typical of a mid-size operation), assuming the need is eight people per cow and the farmer takes an hour with each customer, it would take five months to talk to everyone. Oy.
Unlike a regular CSA program, you can order a share at any time. Note, though, that it takes four to five weeks after a cow is butchered to deliver the meat—all the beef is dry-aged, so it takes a while. Right now they’re purchasing cows from three farms: Erdenheim Farm, Tussock Sedge Farm, and Herrdale Acres. They’re planning to add two to three additional farms in 2012.
Oh, and more exciting news: they’ll be adding pig shares in late spring/early summer 2012, along with grilling boxes consisting of hamburgers and hot dogs. Keep an eye on the Philly CowShare website or their Twitter account for that announcement.
If you’re a stickler for certified organic, Philly CowShare may not be for you—the people who run the program monitor the farmers, to ensure they’re using sustainable, hormone-free, and environmentally friendly growing practices, but they do not require a USDA organic certification (which can be cost prohibitive to small farmers) to participate in the program.