Monday, March 31, 2008

Allegheny Market House Cooperative

was another exhibitor at the Farm to Table conference. Although I am not exactly sure what this Market House is, I get the feeling that it is exactly what I have been hoping for. I have trouble making it to farmers' markets on specific days and times (particularly since most of them are in the afternoon on week days and that is a tough time for me and the kiddoes) and have often wished that there was a farm market in the city similar to what one might find out in the burbs at an actual Farm Market (like Soergel's, Schramm's, Trax, Triple B, etc.). These are nice places, but they are a good 30 minute highway drive from our house. Not exactly environmentally friendly in our mini van.

There are many other cities which have public markets, and some cities are similar in size to Pittsburgh. Columbus, Ohio has North Market Seattle has Pike Place Then there's the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. Cleveland has West Side Market.
There was one in Portland, Maine when we lived there called Portland Public Market, but unfortunately it closed. Then they opened with a smaller venue. And of course there's Lancaster's Central Market. In fact, Rick Seback recently filmed a special on these markets called "To Market, To Market. . ."

And, many other cities are starting markets or trying to start them. Boston, for example. And, Portland, Oregon, among many others. Apparently, even the business folks are whole-heartedly behind this resurgence in interest in markets:

Here is some text I stole from a market website for a St. Louis market about why public markets are so great if you need convincing:

"Public Markets, with their locally grown, locally made and locally owned businesses, accentuate the qualities that make a community special. They create dynamic places, stimulate economic opportunity and instill community spirit and cultural exchange.

Public Markets provide needed goods and services such as farm fresh fruits and vegetables, ethnic foods, crafts and personal services that are often unavailable at the same level of quality, variety and price.

Public Goals of Public Markets:
attracting customers to urban areas
supporting affordable retailing opportunities for small businesses
addressing the problems of street vending
providing opportunities to farmers thereby preserving farmland
activating the use of public space
providing quality produce to urban customers where supermarkets are unavailable or limited"

Apparently, I am not alone in having this wish for Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Market House proposes to restore the North Side's Market House and fill it with micro businesses and a farmer's market. It would like to have an indoor location and be open year round. I have high hopes for this project and will be contacting them (412-322-0265) to find out if I can help in any way. I hope you will do the same. Perhaps someone could work on their website. . .

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Time to Sign

up for a CSA! If you haven't already, that is.

As I'm sure you all know, C.S.A. stands for community supported agriculture. It is talked about in "shares" in that you, the consumer, purchase a share of the harvest. You sign up with a farm in advance, and then over the course of the specified season, you pick up your weekly (or biweekly, or whatever) portion of the harvest. It can be produce, meat, dairy, flowers, etc., depending on with whom you sign up. You may pick up from a farm or some other location that the farmer has determined -- usually points around the greater Pittsburgh Metro area.

As I posted earlier (and I believe Art King quoted from my blog at the Farm to Table conference) joining a CSA is like having Christmas every week because you never know what you will get, but it is always a wonderful surprise. Also, Don Kretschmann mentioned at the conference that joining a CSA is a way to make your life less complicated because it is one good, solid decision that will provide you with weeks and weeks of healthy, delicious eating and support of your local farm community. That way, when you walk into your local GE, you are not tempted by those California fakes and all that processed stuff (in fact, you may never have to go there at all). And you don't have to worry if you can't make it to a farmer's market at a particular day and time. Make your decision now (today!) and you will be set for the season.

Ah, but which CSA. Last year we used Harvest Valley Farms for a CSA over the summer. We got a very manageable, varied amount of produce (8-9 items per week), and most of it was stuff with which I was already familiar and comfortable, with a few other less comforting, but equally good items, thrown in. We also occasionally got bread, eggs, cheese, honey, etc. They practice sustainable farming methods -- that is, use as little pesticide as necessary.

We also used Kretschmann Farm in the winter and a lot of people love the Kretschmanns' CSA also. Their food is organically grown and they tend to include a lot of it. They are one of the oldest and biggest CSAs in the country. For both of these farms, we picked up in Squirrel Hill, where we live, and they both have lots and lots of drop off sites.

Another CSA I discovered at the Farm to Table conference is the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance which sells the food of 15 area farms. It began by delivering primarily to restaurants, but now has a CSA with many drop-off points (ex. Point Breeze, Highland Park, Squirrel Hill, Morningside, Friendship, Lawrenceveille, North Side, Mt. Lebanon, Green Tree, Whitehall, Monroeville, Oakdale, etc.). The brochure mentions Pucker Brush Farm salad greens, Matthew's Farm and Kistaco apples, Goose Creek Gardens herbs, oyster and portabello mushrooms, and Nu-way Farms free range eggs. There are three shares available, Cabin Fever (which starts first week of April and runs 10 weeks) for $240, Harvest Share (20 weeks -- Late June through October) for $465, and Farmer's Friend Share which includes both time periods for $690. E-mail:, call: 412-363-1971 or check out their site I, personally, am very intrigued by this early April share (that's next week!) since I am very tired of frozen corn and zucchini. I bought some organic, potted lettuce and spinach from the head of the PCFA who runs Goose Creek Gardens. So, I guess there's another way to get some early produce.

And last, in case you missed today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette, there is a fairly complete looking list of CSAs there.

I hope anyone who has had experience with a particular CSA will feel free to submit a comment, good or bad. . . Farmer Troy? I noticed you on the list above. . .

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Farm to Table, Heritage Farm

The Farm to Table conference was great today. I met a lot of nice people and found out about some interesting new developments in the field of local eating. Instead of running through each in list-like fashion, I will write about one thing a day (or, I will try to).

I met some folks from Elk County today who follow the farming practices delineated by Michael Pollan in Omnivore's Dilemma as practiced by Joel Salatin (in the chapter on Grass). In fact, Peter Burns of Heritage Farms, pictured below on the left, is mentioned in the book because he happened to be interning at Salatin's farm when Pollan visited.

Anyway, they raise poultry (chickens and turkeys), eggs, grassfed beef, pork and produce. They sell their products to a buyers' club via e-mail. So, if you are on their list, they send you an e-mail with an order form about once a month. You tell them what you want, and they bring it to the East End Food Co-op. How great is that? AND, their product is so good, that it has attracted the attention of Bill Fuller (executive chef of Big Burrito), who may be ordering pork and chicken from them in the future. After having some terrible chicken from Sonshine Farms, I am excited to hear them say that they have never had a complaint about their meat.

This is not a CSA. You just order from them and pay as you go based on what you want. Check out their website:; send an e-mail:; or call: (814) 772-0210. And, if you are a Christian (and maybe even if not), you should look for Gregory Burns' new book, Growing a Heritage about raising his family close to the land following biblical value.

More news coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A New Yahoo Group, Farm to Table

I was really hoping to start some kind of online community when I started to write this Blog. It was pointed out to me last night that I was going about it all wrong (thanks Nicole, Lori and Katherine). While some people have been great about responding and contributing advice and comments (mostly you, Angela. Thanks), I was hoping for a lot more feedback. So, I have created a yahoo group that will be devoted to the discussion of the issues of eating local. If you wish to join, please send an e-mail to It will be a members-only group in which you can post a message and/ or a reply to everyone else in the group. I am hoping we can share recipes, tips, and up-to-date information as well as meet physically for "field trips" and cooking sessions eventually.

Speaking of field trips, this Friday and Saturday is the Farm to Table conference at the David Lawrence Convention Center.
It is $15 for a ticket for both days. It starts at noon on Friday and goes all day on Saturday. You can register online at the website (above). I'm not sure if you can buy a ticket at the actual event. There is also a local food tasting on Friday evening from 6-8:00 p.m. for $20.
Art King (of Harvest Valley Farms) and Don Kretschmann (of the famed CSAs) will be speaking as well as keynote speaker Sandor Katz (the author of The Revolution will not be Microwaved). There will be lots of cooking demonstrations and recipes available as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Locavore Walking

Well, not really walking. On Friday we are off on our annual Spring break pilgrimage. This year we are going to both Philadelphia and Ft. Myers, Florida. Being a locavore away from home is very difficult. I am definitely going to remember the motto, "don't let perfect be the enemy of good," on this trip. However, using a little research and some flexibility, I am excited to see what kind of local cuisine we can find in each place. Of course there are the Philly cheesesteaks and pretzels. No, no. Just kidding. So far, I have been looking into some local food options in Philadelphia and have come across a very well-developed local food scene there. I plan to spend a lot of time in Reading Terminal Market, and in particular at the Fair Food Farmstand. I'm not sure what will be there at this time of year. I also hope to visit the Essene Market and Cafe which sounds like it may be similar to our East End Co-op. And I'm very excited to eat a special meal at the White Dog Cafe. They even have a children's menu!

Here are "25 Thoughts from a Locavore" stolen from their newsletter.
Obviously, this list was created for Philadelphia (no Mummer's parade here), but all of it is pertinent anywhere in this region. And, I am sorry to be very obviously in violation of # 23 (though we are going to FL to visit family. Honest.)

1 - Locally owned businesses provide unique character to the streets of our towns and cities.
2 - Buying local builds community wealth, while buying from chainstores drains capital from our community.
3 - Local merchants - the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker - provide personal relationships that enrich community life.
4 - Supporting local musicians, artists, writers and artisans strengthens our creative class and builds local identity.
5 - Producing basic needs locally builds regional self-reliance, reducing our dependency on long distance supply routes, easily disrupted by climate change and the rising cost of oil.
6 - Buying locally produced products cuts the carbon emissions of transport.
7 - Eating local food strengthens family farms and increases food security for our region.
8 - Buying local renewable energy such as wind power and biodiesel increases our energy security while protecting our environment.
9 - Localizing clothing productions decreases imports of this basic need, building self-reliance. Let's legalize hemp, the natural fibercrop for our region.
10 and 11 - Food from the industrial system has been modified to extend shelf life for long distance shipping and conformity of size and color, while reducing flavor and nutritional value. Food grown locally is more nutritious. And it tastes better!
12 - Fresh beer tastes better, too, and eliminates preservatives needed for shippoing.
13 - Locally owned businesses make larger charitable contributions to community causes as a percentage of their sales than do chain stores.
14 - Supporting and honoring local heroes builds community pride and encourages civic activism.
15 - Engagement in local politics - supporting candidates, running for office, and taking a stand on local issues - builds responsible government that protects our place.
16 - Local independent media covers events important to our community and provides views independent of large corporate ownership.
17 - Local knowledge - the history of our place, understanding where our water, energy and food comes from, and where our garbage and waste goes to - supports wise decision making that protects our natural environment and culture, and builds a healthier and happier region.
18 - Investing locally through local banks, credit unions, and The Reinvestment Fund, puts our capital to work locally, providing a "living return" - the benefit of living in a healthier community and stronger local economy.
19 - Drinking local tap water cuts out wasteful plastic bottles, long distance shipping and the draining of aquifers in other communities.
20 - Buying from locally owned companies brings economic control to our communities away from distant board rooms where decisions are not always made in the best interest of local communities.
21 - Buying local spreads ownership, wealth and power more broadly, which builds a stronger democracy rather than concentrated wealth and corporate rule.
22 - Buying from local producers allows greater transparency. Whether tracing contaminated spinach or children's toys, local production allows exact identification and first hand relationships with producers who reside in our own community.
23 - Local traditions - festivals, parades and annual gatherings - provide collective joy. (Like the Mummers Parade and White Dog's annual New Years Day PJ Brunch). Having fun doesn't mean we have to burn carbons and dollars travelling to exotic vacation destinations. We can create fun at home.
24 - Making a commitment to a place and taking responsibility for its care and well-being is personally grounding, meaningful and satisfying.
25 - Being a part of a local community brings a sense of belonging and security that money cannot buy.

If anyone has any advice about visiting Philadelphia, I'd love to hear it. . .

Friday, March 7, 2008

Winter Farmer's Market

Tomorrow, March 8 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Highland Park! It is sponsored by SlowFood Pittsburgh and is related to the Farmers@Firehouse Market held in the strip district in the Summer and Fall.

St. Andrew’s: 5801 Hampton St, Highland Park, between N. Highland and N. Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street, four blocks south of the Park, in Highland Park.

First, if you ordered from the laptop butchershop, this is where you can pick up your order. If you did not order in advance, show up early to see if you can pick up some extras.

First-come, first-served:
Heilman’s Hogwash Farm premium pastured pork
Pucker Brush Farm limited ground lamb, chops
Sonshine Farm humanely-raised veal
Wild Alaskan Salmon Co. wild-caught salmon

There will be some other vendors as well.
Pam Bryan’s hand-spun, hand-dyed yarns. Pam is also bringing radish micro-greens and peashoots, and Spring Creek Organic Tofu from Spencer, WV.

Najat’s Cuisine—small-batch Lebanese prepared foods.

J&B Apiary Polish Hill honey, soaps and lip balm.

Mushrooms for Life.

Terry Seltzer’s yarns/fibers, felt items, comfrey salve, goat milk soap, vinegar.

Colonial Classics 24-mth aged cheddar cheese.

Laptop Butchershop is sponsored by Slow Food Pittsburgh to connect buyers with local organic and/or carefully raised meat and poultry. Laptop is held at Farmers@Firehouse farm market during the outdoor market season.

For information on pre-ordering meat and poultry, contact Susan Barclay at

Farmers@Firehouse Market opens Saturday, May 10 - Nov. 22, 2216 Penn Avenue in the Strip, 9 - 1. Everything for Saturday dinner: Pittsburgh's only mostly organic farm market. Unusual produce, carefully raised local meats, poultry. Wild-caught salmon. Artisan breads, prepared foods, honey, flowers.

St. Andrew’s: 5801 Hampton St, Highland Park, between N. Highland and N. Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street, four blocks south of the Park, in Highland Park.