Please join us in welcoming our newest Fair Food staff member, Emily Whitted! Emily came to us through the Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS) program, and will be serving as our Food Access Coordinator for the next 10 months. In this role, she is tasked with managing, promoting, and expanding Double Dollars—a cash-match program at the Fair Food Farmstand that increases access to healthy foods for all SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) beneficiaries.
If you’d like to learn more about food access in our region, ask for Emily the next time you’re at the Farmstand, or email her at [email protected].
Fair Food: How did you first become interested in the issue of food access?
Emily Whitted: I grew up on a farm in rural Southwest Virginia, and my family raised free- range sheep, pigs, and chickens for restaurants and farmer’s markets. Only when I left for college in a big city did I realize how incredible the local food I’d eaten all my life was in comparison to what others had available in their urban neighborhoods. From that point on, food access was on my radar.
FF: Why is food access important?
EW: Food, to me, is an unalienable right. What we put into our bodies daily is so important to our development, energy levels, and overall health. Unfortunately, putting nutritious food into our bodies is something that much of our population cannot achieve because many neighborhoods do not contain grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or affordable, fresh food. And if that isn’t a strong enough selling point, food access intersects with larger systemic social justice issues, such as residential segregation, low-income immobility, and urban costs of living. Even though it’s just the tip of the iceberg, food access is an excellent place to start.
FF: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges faced by food access programs? What factors contribute to (or hamper) the growth and sustainability of food access in certain areas?
EW: In my opinion, one of the largest difficulties is actually getting SNAP/EBT eligible people to sign-up locations. Affording transportation is already challenging when trying to reach food, and signing up for SNAP requires the transportation to get there as well. Once someone is on SNAP, however, food access programs just need to ensure that they’re making transportation costs as worthwhile as they can possibly be!
FF: What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 months as Fair Food’s Food Access Coordinator?
EW: Philly is a brand new city for me; I’m going to delve as deeply as I can into food access work here, and learn lots! I’m hoping to strengthen the Double Dollars program as much I can, and expand our outreach to achieve a more interconnected network of food access programs across the city.
FF: What are your impressions of Fair Food’s Double Dollars program so far? Have you collected any interesting anecdotes from your experiences managing the program’s day-to-day operations?
EW: I am already so impressed by the amount of loyal Double Dollars users who visit the Farmstand, despite the difficulties of transportation and the assumption that local, fresh food might cost more. Even though the Farmstand is in the heart of Center City, many SNAP users choose to travel to us to do their food shopping because of the benefits of our program. That has really energized me in my first few weeks here!
FF: Compared to similar programs in the Philadelphia region, what makes the Double Dollars program unique?
EW: One well-known program is Philly Food Bucks, which is run by the Food Trust. The Fair Food Farmstand accepts Philly Food Bucks, and the program has done incredible work towards more affordable, fresh food for Philly residents. For every $5 spent on produce, $2 in coupons are earned. One important difference between Double Dollars and Philly Food Bucks is that, aside from $5 in coupons earned, Double Dollars can be used on any SNAP eligible food instead of only fruits and vegetables.
FF: Is there any way our customers, friends, and industry partners can help increase the impact of the Double Dollars program?
EW: Spread the word!
Back-to-school season is the time for new clothes and fresh starts, and this year we’re happy to join the fray with a reinvention of our own. We’re excited to announce that the Fair Food Farmstand will be getting a complete makeover, just in time for fall and the holiday season! The renovation will take place from Sunday, September 18th through Tuesday, September 20th, and the stand will stay open every day except Monday, September 19th. *Update: Unfortunately, the renovation has been pushed back. We will let you know as soon as we have new dates!
The goal of the redesign is fourfold:
We will also be unveiling some fun new products at the ‘stand: kombucha on tap, High Street bread, and more!
Heading to a Labor Day picnic or planning one of your own? Here are some handy tips and recipes to help you create the perfect outdoor spread for even the hottest of days.
A few rules of thumb for serving food outside in the summertime:
Side dishes that won’t melt in the heat:
Have more zucchini in your garden, fridge, or CSA box than you know what to do with? Here’s a round-up of inventive recipes to keep summer squash burn-out at bay:
Breakfast & Lunch
Snacks & Apps
When you think of garlic, you probably imagine compact bulbs wrapped in papery white husks. These are the fully matured vegetables of the garlic plant, harvested in summer or early fall after the greens begin to yellow and topple over. Once dug out of the ground, the bulbs are cured (dried) for a few weeks before they arrive at nearby farmers’ markets.
But you don’t have to wait until fall to enjoy the pungent kick of locally grown garlic. In spring and early summer, when garlic plants begin to sprout, farmers harvest two adolescent forms of the herb to optimize the productivity of their crops: green garlic (a.k.a. spring garlic) and garlic scapes.
Green garlic is nothing more than baby garlic plants that have been pulled up to make room for the development of neighboring plants—a tasty byproduct of crop thinning. They arrive at the Farmstand in various forms of growth, some with no bulb at all (like scallions), some with little bulbs at the end but no clove separation, and some with fully formed bulbs and cloves. The youngest will be the mildest in flavor, and the oldest, predictably, will be the most pungent. It’s much less intense than cured garlic and is delicious raw or cooked.
Green (a.k.a. Spring) Garlic Recipes
Garlic scapes are whirly green shoots that emerge in early summer, as hardneck garlic plants begin to mature a bit. At the end of the scapes are tightly closed, pointy buds. If they are left to grow and develop on the plant, scapes will use up valuable nutrients and energy, which may in turn retard the growth of subterranean garlic cloves. That’s why farmers harvest these bright green tendrils and bring them to market this time of year. Like green garlic, scapes can be enjoyed raw or cooked, and in any application where you’d use regular garlic. They’re a little spicier than green garlic, with a uniquely bright, verdant flavor.
Garlic Scape Recipes
Savory Strawberry Recipes:
Sweet Strawberry Recipes:
Whether you’re hosting your own Memorial Day bash or have been tasked with a make-and-take side dish or main, here at the Farmstand we’ve got everything you need to achieve cookout nirvana. Here are the locally sourced essentials we’ll have in stock by Friday (5/20), plus a basic burger recipe to get you started. (Click here for our complete product list, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates.)
For the Grill:
For Salads and Sides:
Basic Burger Recipe
Makes 4 burgers
Divide the meat into 4 equal portions, gently shape each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty (resisting the urge to overwork the meat, as this will make for dry burgers), and use your thumb to make a deep impression in the center of each one. Season both sides of the patties generously with salt and pepper.
Preheat a grill or grill pan on high. Brush the burgers on both sides with the oil and place them on the grill or grill pan, indented-sides up. Grill for 3 minutes for beef, lamb, or goat and 5 minutes for chicken or turkey. Flip and grill the other side until charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes for beef, lamb, or goat and 5 minutes for chicken and turkey. If you are making cheeseburgers, place a slice of cheese on each patty during the last minute of cooking and cover the grill or tent the burgers with foil until the cheese has melted.
Remove the finished burgers from the grill, place each one on a toasted bun, and serve immediately with all the fixins.
Still searching for the perfect Mother’s Day gift? Swing by the ‘stand for some locally produced goodies that she’s sure to love! Here are a few of our staff favorites:
Fresh strawberries and cheese! (Ask at the cheese counter for advice on crafting a mom-worthy cheese plate.)
Sweet Pairings (Thanks to Farmstand Associate Gen for these delicious match-up ideas)
Natural body care products
Weckerly’s Ice Cream sandwiches and pints
Now in stock: Telemetry and Foundation blends; Pastoria (Guatemala), Timana (Colombia), Shoye (Ethiopia)
Newkirk Honey products
Melick’s Sparkling Cider
Chaikhana Chai (Masala Green and Original flavors)
Baba’s Brew Kombucha (great for making pretty and flavorful cocktails!!)
Alex Jones, Value Chain Coordinator
Fair Food is based in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, but we work to build markets for food producers all over central and eastern Pennsylvania and south and central Jersey. We’ve been working with some of these farms and food artisans for the past 16 years; others are newer on the scene. One of our staff’s favorite activities is getting out of the city to see our constituents’ work up close. Recently, I had the chance to spend the day making cheese with our region’s newest cheesemaker, Stefanie Angstadt of Valley Milkhouse Creamery in Oley, PA.
I’ve been a fan of Stefanie’s cheeses ever since I heard she had set up shop at Covered Bridge Farm, not far from the part of Berks County valley where her ancestors settled three centuries ago. I added her selections to the Fair Food Farmstand’s all-local cheese case, and her aged and bloomy rind cheeses proved to be an exciting addition (new dairy farms and cheesemakers just don’t pop up that often around here).
Our cheesemaking day—crisp and cool, but with spring flowers in full bloom—started with draining Clover, a bright, creamy, fresh cow’s milk cheese made in the style of fromage blanc. Stefanie uses milk from Dutch Meadows, one of her two sources for organic, 100-percent grass-fed cow’s milk, because the milk from their heritage breed Dutch Belted cows has smaller fat globules that make for a smoother, silkier finished product.
Using cheesecloth, we drained the curds and whey from the vat where they had incubated since the night before, then hung the bundles from a rack so their whey would drain into several five-gallon buckets that Stefanie saves for a neighbor who raises pigs. A small amount of remaining curds and whey went to top off the draining molds of Witchgrass, a cow’s milk Valencay-style cheese that’s shaped into a truncated pyramid and rubbed with a layer of vegetable ash before aging.
Soon, Stefanie’s partner Owen, who runs an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice at their 18th-century farmhouse a short drive from the creamery, arrived with a delivery of fresh milk from Spring Creek Farm in nearby Wernersville. After cleaning and sterilizing the vat and other equipment (a step you can mentally insert between just about every step in this post), we hefted the heavy milk cans and dumped their contents into the vat, taking steps to minimize the agitation of the milk, which can break up those fat globules and impair the structure of the cheese as it ages. This milk—from a mixed herd of Jersey and Ayreshire cows—would be used to make the year’s first batch of Thistle, Valley Milkhouse’s brie-style cheese.
While we waited for the vat to come up to pasteurization temperature, we set out a layer of plastic mesh on a draining table and topped it with dozens of molds. (While Thistle started out as the region’s only raw-milk brie-style cheese, Stefanie is now experimenting with both raw milk batches of Thistle for her farmers’ markets and pasteurized batches that will have a longer shelf life for her wholesale clients.) Once the milk in the vat had been pasteurized and then cooled a bit, Stefanie added tiny amounts of culture and rennet. While we waited for the milk to set into a gel, we took a break for lunch in the farmhouse with Jess, a farmer who grows produce, herbs, and flowers on a portion of Covered Bridge Farm’s land called Meadowsweet Acres.
When break time was over, we checked on the vat; it was time to cut the curd. Stefanie used a curd cutter—a long, metal grate with a handle—to make horizontal and vertical cuts that would separate the gelled milk into curds. After gently hand-stirring the curds and whey, we filled the waiting molds with pitchers full of the mixture and left the wheels of Thistle-to-be to drain.
Next, I helped Stef prep for a week’s worth of deliveries, picking up wheels of her Goldenrod Gouda from a nearby aging space and cutting, wrapping, and labeling pieces of Blue Bell. We took a break from packing orders to flip the Thistle, carefully overturning the open-ended molds while keeping the draining curds inside. If all goes well in the aging room, the batch of Thistle we made in late March will be showing up at market this week!
Our last activity of the day was portioning cultured butter, a product made by only two dairies in the Philly area (the other one is Bobolink Dairy in Milford, NJ). Stefanie adds culture to rich cream from her source farms, lets it culture and thicken for a day or so, then churns the substance to produce the butter and its delicious byproduct, cultured buttermilk. On my cheesemaking day, we only scooped out mounds of cold butter from a refrigerated bucketful, then shaped them in muffin tins (ingenious!), stamped some with an antique wooden butter shaper for a special customer, and wrapped and labeled the half-pound pats for sale.
Our 10-hour cheesemaking day was over. And that’s just the cheesemaking—Stefanie’s phone was blowing up the whole day, and returning emails and calls, not to mention administrative duties and delivery miles, are also part of her job. We were both ready for a beer, which we enjoyed in the spring sunset by the Manatawny Creek.
Besides getting to see the cheesemaking process up-close—something I’ve tried to replicate on a nano scale in my own kitchen—I came away with a new appreciation for this work, which is just as emotional as it is physical and mental. Cheesemaking seems to be the closest that food can get to art, and the thought, labor, emotional investment, and care that goes into each recipe from milk can to cheese plate is a wonder to behold.
Find Valley Milkhouse’s aged cheeses—like Blue Bell, Goldenrod Gouda, Lady Slipper Tomme, and Ivory Bell Reserve—in the Fair Food Farmstand’s cheese case. Source her raw milk Thistle, cultured butter, Clover, and cream-top yogurt most Saturdays at the Clark Park and Chestnut Hill farmers’ markets in Philadelphia and the Easton Farmers’ Market in Easton, PA.
Last week, at the Wallace Center’s National Food Hub Conference in Atlanta, USDA officials named Fair Food one of ten nationwide value chain coordinators to participate in their Leveraging Investment for Network Coordination (“Food LINC”) initiative.
So what does this mean? First, a little background.
Food LINC stems from USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Program, which was founded in 2009 to help foster the growth of local and regional food systems across the country. Within that mission, Food LINC’s charge is to link demand for local food in urban areas with supply from farmers and other food producers—to create a stronger food value chain, where suppliers and consumers team up to achieve the common goals of both business success and social benefit.
With the support of Food LINC funding, we at Fair Food will be able to develop not one but TWO food value chains in our area. First, we’ll work to reestablish our regional grain economy by assessing market demand and existing infrastructure for grain storage and processing, and helping to connect and support grain producers and processors. Second, we’ll develop and market a regional brand for artisan cheese, and help to create a better distribution system linking small dairy farms to restaurants and other businesses.
Stay tuned for more details and updates as we delve into these two exciting projects, and click here to learn more about the USDA’s Food LINC program.