Can you believe Thanksgiving is just 35 days away?! To help you get excited for the big feast, we’ll be profiling some of our Thanksgiving vendors here on the blog over the next few weeks. First up: The Howe Turkey Farm in Downingtown, PA.
This 10-acre turkey farm has been in the Howe family for two generations, since Lamar Howe bought it back in 1988. Today, Lamar’s son Nate owns and operates the business, along with his wife Laurie and their five children. From their first deliveries of one-day-old turkey poults in the beginning of July, to Thanksgiving week, when the plump, fully grown birds are processed on-site, every member of the Howe family pitches in to ensure that each turkey they sell is of the highest quality.
All Howe turkeys—around 4,200 this year—are raised in two large barns on the homestead, where they are fed a 100-percent natural, vegetarian diet and treated periodically with probiotics (instead of antibiotics) to keep them healthy. But the Howes’ humane agricultural practices don’t end there. Slaughtering the birds by hand in their own on-site, USDA-inspected processing facility (rather than shipping them off in a truck to a larger slaughterhouse), results in a much less stressful experience for the turkeys in the end.
Plus—as though you needed another reason to love this family and their farm—for the second year in a row, the Howes are donating 10 turkeys to be raffled off to participants of Fair Food’s Double Dollars program for Thanksgiving. “We wanted to make these turkeys available [as a donation] out of gratitude for our relationship with Fair Food,” says Nate Howe.
Location: Downingtown, PA
Farmers: Nate and Julie Howe, plus children Emilie, Andrew, Jeremiah, Aubrey, and Mallory
Main product(s): Fresh, never frozen Broad-Breasted White turkeys
Agricultural practices: The turkeys are raised naturally in two large barns on the Howe homestead without the assistance of hormones or antibiotics. They are fed a completely vegetarian diet and treated periodically with probiotics to keep them healthy, and they are processed by hand in an on-site, USDA-inspected facility.
By co-locating with La Divisa and Wyebrook—two producers who share Fair Food’s passion for sustainable agriculture and grass-fed and pasture-raised meats—we believe we can provide our Farmstand customers with a truly robust shopping experience and give a boost to both co-locating businesses at the same time. Anuj Gupta, RTM’s General Manager, is equally excited about the move, noting that “[Fair Food and La Divisa Meats] have a number of commonalities, including their remarkable focus on sustainable farming and livestock practices. We believe they will be able to leverage one anothers’ strengths and build stronger futures for their respective businesses as well as the Market.”
La Divisa and Wyebrook hope to move in for the holidays, but in the meantime, let’s get to know one of our soon-to-be stallmates! Read on for a Q&A with Dean Carlson, owner of Wyebrook Farm.
Fair Food (FF): How did your partnership with La Divida Meats come to be?
Dean Carlson (DC): I really wanted to refocus our attention onto the butcher shop side of Wyebrook and to improve our offerings of value added products including sausages, charcuterie, and pâté. I have also always been interested in having an outlet to sell Wyebrook Farm products in Philadelphia. La Divisa and Nick [Macri] were the perfect fit for both of these issues. Nick is well known for his artisanal butcher shop and Reading Terminal Market is an easily accessible place for us to offer our products.
FF: How long have you been farming livestock, and what drew you to this line of work?
DC: I purchased Wyebrook in 2010 and we opened the retail side of the business in 2012. I became interested in sustainable agriculture after reading Michael Pollen’s book The Omnivores Dilemma. The book has had an impact on many people, but for me it made me want to start farming.
FF: What kinds of animals do you raise at Wyebrook Farm?
DC: We raise 100% grass-fed beef, heritage breed pigs raised in the woods, pastured poultry for both meat and eggs, some lamb and goats, and this year we started growing many of the vegetables we use in our restaurant.
FF: What does sustainable agriculture mean to you?
DC: To me, sustainable agriculture means producing food in a way that can be repeated infinitely on a given piece of land without relying on inputs from off the farm. Most notably, this means minimizing the amount of fossil fuels required to produce our food. Michael Pollen has said that we use 10 calories of fuel for every calorie of food we produce. This is clearly unsustainable. We are trying to do it better!
FF: How are your farming practices different than those of other, larger-scale farms?
DC: The easiest example is with grass-fed beef and lamb. The inputs in our system are land, sunshine, and water. Pasture grasses and legumes are perennials. They do not have to be tilled and planted again each year. The animals do the harvesting themselves while simultaneously fertilizing the soil as well.
FF: Does grass-fed / heritage breed / sustainably raised meat taste better than conventionally raised meat? If so, why?
DC: Everyone has different tastes, but I certainly think so. I think the biggest reason is that the animals are raised in their natural environments instead of in confinement. One example of this is with our pigs. The heritage breeds are certainly not bred to be the lean, mushy product you find with “the other white meat.” Our pigs are running around outside and that translates to a completely different texture and taste in the meat.
FF: What Wyebrook meats/products can we expect to see at La Divisa’s new spot in the Reading Terminal Market?
DC: To start, we will offer our grass-fed beef and a limited amount of pork. We will continue to offer local, sustainably raised lamb, goat, and pork from our friends at Jamison Farm, Stryker Farm, and Country Time Farm.
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!!)