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Fresh, Organic, and Locally Grown?

It's almost time for fresh asparagus, spring onions, fiddleheads, and ramps. Then come the peas and the strawberries, etc.. But where do I go for all this fresh produce? I'm hoping to find some in-depth discussions on the subject of farms and farm stands in the surrounding Philadelphia area. Does a thread already exist?

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  1. Start here: http://www.farmtocity.org/index.asp, their list of CSAs and farmer's markets is the best one I know.

    The Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal market is a good place to get produce and other things from quite a few local farms.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Buckethead

      Thanks! That site has a lot of information on it. I think it will just take a while for me to find out where the places are and which ones I like. I love Reading Terminal but the weekends can be a nightmare for shopping. Thanks again. Now I've got some reading to do.

    2. The best discussions of farm stands on the board have revolved around corn, strawberries, and farm stands in general. Here is a recent one.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9144...

      I would second Buckethead's mention of Fair Food (and Reading Terminal Market in general). Also when it gets warmer, Headhouse Square Farmers market is great.

      In Bucks I frequent the Doylestown Farmers Market on weekends, Wrightstown Farmers market, Stockton Farmers market just over the bridge in Jersey. At Doylestown I am able to get fiddleheads, hen of the woods mushrooms and ramps. There are plenty of place to get strawberries as well as pick them yourself.

      Hopefully spring is just around the corner...

      1 Reply
      1. re: cwdonald

        Haha! That thread needs to have about 3/4 of it edited out for being totally useless :/ I'll have to read through it to see what's there. We don't have a Pike Place Market because we don't live on the coast, but I think we're very fortunate to have Reading Terminal and I'm looking forward to exploring the other places.

        Thanks for the recs for markets up north of the city. Headhouse Square too!

        I've never been more ready for spring in all my life!

      2. If you are looking in the Glenside area, there is a nice little Glenside farmer's market. Creekside Coop in Elkins Park carries fresh local produce whenever possible. I know they had fiddleheads last year.

        The Chestnut Hill Grower's Market on Saturdays is also very nice, though small.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

          Thanks! Good info. Small is fine. In MA I went to one farm stand just for their corn, another just for tomatoes, etc..

          Where is the Glenside farmers' market?

          I went to the Elkins Park Coop once when I was visiting. It was nice. It kind of reminded me of stores that Whole Foods bought up when they started their huge expansion. I'll definitely go there when the fresh spring stuff starts arriving.

          1. re: JunieB

            The Glenside market is at the train station. It isn't active yet this year, but here's the link: http://theglensidefarmersmarket.com/

            Also, the last couple of years, Primex Garden Center in Glenside has some local growers come sell their stuff once a week--I can't remember which day, but if you check their website or get on their mailing list, you can learn about it.

            1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

              The Glenside market looks great. Thanks! I bought bird seed at Primex during the winter so I'm on their mailing list. Glad they have some produce vendors. I can't wait to go there in the warmer weather.

        2. The Food Trust manages several farmers markets, listed here with hours and opening dates:(http://thefoodtrust.org/farmers-markets). There is a wide variety of foods offered, ramps among them when in season. The Head House market (also operated by the Food Trust) is one of the few in the area that is open on Sunday (only) and is a celebration of local foods PA and NJ. Think Atkins Farm only outside, organic (mostly), in a lovely urban setting. Because of its location, this site attracts more of the artisanal and goat cheese crowd while the other sites offer products more appealing to the surrounding community. We also like the site in West Philly which has a community feel, children playing, lots of neighbors greeting one another, more diversity of vendors (if not products) and also open one evening a week. Many of the TFT markets are open weekdays (in addition to Saturday)l.

          The Rittenhouse Farmers Market (not hosted by TFT) has an amazing Amish flower vendor and a NJ fish monger, expensive but excellent. Much to explore in the spring!

          1 Reply
          1. re: jay seigle

            You know Atkins Farm! I suppose you also know they started out as a roadside stand. I love going there.

            Someone posted the info about the Food Trust and I bookmarked their page and printed some info. Thanks for the lowdown on the individual markets. They all sound very appealing. Hurry up spring!

          2. I love the vibe and looks of the Bucks Farmers Markets in New Hope, Doylestown, and Wrightstown, but I have found that about 80% of the vendors are not organic. Yes they are local, but they're not certified organic although some claim to use organic standards just don't want to shell out for the cert....hmmm.

            16 Replies
            1. re: dndicicco

              Without starting a flame war... organic cert is garbage, and adds no value because if you look at what is allowed to be used and still called organic, it shows that organic cert is ridiculous.

              The csa I belong to uses no fertilizers etc, is not organic cert but I would put the produce coming from there against anything from organic cert. Organic cert in my opinion is a way to justify higher prices in the grocery.

              1. re: cwdonald

                I wouldn't call it garbage, if you're buying your food in the grocery store it is obviously better to know that your milk doesn't have added hormones in it. But it is definitely a more permissive standard than most people might think. You're right that for small farmers, the cost of being certified organic can be prohibitive and many farms that are in fact organic don't get certified.

                1. re: Buckethead

                  Speaking of milk. What's the deal with ultra-pasteurized? I bought some by accident recently and we really didn't like it. I noticed it has a very long shelf life. In Whole Foods today I noticed that just about all the milk was ultra-pasteurized. Is this a new thing? For the past several years I have bought my milk in glass bottles from local farms so maybe I just hadn't noticed.

                  1. re: JunieB

                    Ultra-pasteurized milk (aka Ultra Heat Treated (UHT)) is heated to a much higher temperature, but for a shorter time, than regular pasteurization. Regular pasteurization is something like 165 degrees for 15 seconds, UHT is more like 280 degrees for 2 seconds. It is much faster for the milk producer, and gives the milk a longer shelf life, but doesn't taste as good.

                    If you're buying milk at WF, Natural by Nature is grass-fed and not Ultra Pasteurized.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      Thanks, Buckethead. I was pretty sure whatever they were doing to ultra pasteurized milk was entirely to give it a longer shelf life and that's not a bad thing. Not a fan of milk gone bad! Too bad it loses flavor. I noticed that brand - Natural - hadn't seen it before.

                2. re: cwdonald

                  Your csa does not use compost or any fertilizer at all? Is the produce healthy looking?

                3. re: dndicicco

                  Thanks! Nice to hear. I'll have to look up Wrightstown but I have a feeling these markets will be favorites of mine too.

                  BTW - no one has mentioned Wyebrook Farm as a place to buy farm produce - only as a place to eat. Is it a working farm? Do they sell produce, etc.?

                  When I say local and organic I just mean that I want to know that the farm where the food comes from doesn't use anything but natural fertilizers and pesticides, and they don't use hormones and antibiotics. I also care about how the animals are treated. I lived in a huge farming community and I know that farmers, especially the smaller farms, have a rough time making a profit and can't always afford the certifications so I like to get to know them and their farming practices and then I can decide if they're organic enough for me. I wouldn't want to penalize a good farmer and not lend my support just because he or she didn't have the funds to pay for the certification. A whole business has cropped up around "organic" and it's being abused just like many things are. In the grocery stores I take the organic labels with a grain of salt.

                  1. re: JunieB

                    I'm pretty sure Wyebrook only raises animals for meat (which they do sell in the market there), not produce. They do sell produce in the market there but their website says it's from other farms.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      and Wtebrok meats are sold through the Fair Food Farmstand and also Green Aisle Grocery on East Passyunk.

                      1. re: Bigley9

                        Thanks Buckethead (I just love that name!) and Bigley9! Sounds like a good source for meat anyway but a long way to go on a regular basis. Glad to know they have other outlets.

                        1. re: JunieB

                          Thanks! If you're interested, Wyebrook does animal butchery classes every so often at the farm, you learn a bit about breaking down the animal (don't worry, it's dead before you start) and they send everyone home with the meat you butcher during the class. They're doing a beef one soon: http://wyebrookfarm.com/classes/.

                          1. re: Buckethead

                            That's very interesting. My grandparents lived on a working farm when I was growing up and I had my fill of slaughtering pigs, cows, and chickens! And they weren't dead until we killed them! I didn't really enjoy it, but one of my favorite things was the sausage my grandmother made. She made the sausage into small patties, cooked them, and then canned them in pint jars - in fat. She also cooked breakfast and lunch every day for the hired hands. Every morning when I stayed with them I awoke to the smell of fried chicken or bacon. The chicken would have been killed that morning.

                            I do, however, think I will go to one of those meat stores I recently found out about (or to Wyebrook or some other farm) and buy a package of various meats for the freezer. I find that very handy.

                          2. re: JunieB

                            I've got a local meat source for you: M&B Farms does a drop-off at Primex every other Saturday. They are corn, soy and chemical free. They have poultry, pork, beef. I think you can pre-order or just show up and see what is on the truck.

                            Here's a link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mary.hill.775

                            And website: https://www.facebook.com/mary.hill.775

                          3. re: Bigley9

                            Thanks so this info, I had no idea! Green Aisle Grocery also has bread from Ric's Bakery in Lancaster, an unusual 14 grain grain bread that is simply luscious. Ric's sells at Head House Farmer's Market and if you are ever at the Lancaster Farmer's Market, Ric has a wide selection of breads there as well.

                          4. re: Buckethead

                            Agree. Wyebrook sells produce from others and those are way over priced. I was there recently, and they now have a few prepared items - chicken pot pie, lasagna, meat balls. I picked up a couple of items and will let you know the verdict.

                      2. Certified Organic is entirely too expensive for most local family owned farms

                        Thadd Jett is local (to me) and practices sustainable, chemical free farming.
                        He usually has a space at the Lansdale Farmers market and offers a “pay as you grow” plan. Give him a nominal fee, he’ll send you an e-mail with a list of what he has available and you get first dibbs at whatever it is that he’s grown that week

                        http://www.localharvest.org/jetts-pro...

                        There’s (formerly Hendrick’s) Necessity Farms & Dairy
                        Raw milk
                        REAL free range chickens
                        Heavenly eggs
                        CHEESE
                        House cured meats

                        And in the summer time, they generally have a basket near the register with some other things from the garden, like zucchini, tomatoes and such

                        http://necessityfarms.com/

                        16 Replies
                          1. re: dndicicco

                            neither are cheap, but we're not talking about even remotely the same as food that you're picking up at the ack-a-me either
                            :-)

                            1. re: cgarner

                              Ha! Ack-a-me! I don't like their atty-tood :) I really hated (and I use that word sparingly) those stores when I lived here before. I assume they haven't changed.

                              The cost of organic certification varies. It's more for small farms, around $1300, but there's more to it than just paying the fee. It involves a lot of paperwork and for meat produces even more work. I would think it's in a farm's best interest to be certified organic but I can't second guess the ones who don't.

                              1. re: JunieB

                                That's what I suspected. How small must their revenue be that they do not think they'd reap benefits from the $1300 plus any legwork? I do second guess them because my sense is that they're always on the precipice of failing financially (or needing to be bought out), and I wonder if this is more so inertia than really a ROI question.

                                1. re: dndicicco

                                  Yeah, I don't know the answer to that. The Pioneer Valley in Western MA was full of organic farms and they all seemed to be thriving. A lot of their product went to the local restaurants, and some of the grocery stores - including Whole Foods. I don't know how many of the farms bought the organic certification. Might be interesting to find out and compare with the local producers here. I guess you would really have to ask a farmer to get a straight answer. Anything I have to say is pure speculation on my part. I don't second guess because I don't know their stories.

                                2. re: JunieB

                                  I had some experience running an Educational Farm under the direction of our local cooperative extension, I was told for a small operation the expenses were too great, although we were using organic ,pesticide free methods.
                                  We had to use a Roundup type product, stronger tho, to kill off a patch of poison ivy that we didn't need our special needs kids getting into..(.could you imagine the parents!!) Well because it was adjacent to the field....organic was out of the question for at least a season!

                                  1. re: Raffles

                                    I've read that the soil has to be free of pesticides and non-organic fertilizers for 3 years. That sounds like a very small operation where the cost could probably make a real difference.

                                    1. re: JunieB

                                      And I wonder how often cheating goes on in a similar situation where a nasty weed is hard to knock down, ie phragmities or poison ivy...

                                      1. re: Raffles

                                        I don't know but I think the oversight is pretty stringent - then again who knows. "Rules are made to be broken." I'm quite sure that many of the things we ingest aren't organic even when the labels say they are.

                                        Someday we'll find out that something that has replaced the toxic pesticides and fertilizers is killing us! lol

                                3. re: cgarner

                                  You get what you pay for. The extra expense is worth it IMO.

                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                    I wish that were true in all things! LOL

                                    1. re: JunieB

                                      Well let me rephrase that. If an individual has the disposable income to afford the higher prices then to me it is worth it. I have to clarify that I generally cook for just myself 4 days per week ( my B/F mooches at least 3-8 meals per week) and I do not have a huge appetite. However if I were still cooking for a family of five then I would have to be very selective about what is *worth the money*. I can lose control at the organic produce stand I go to and their *inventory* is expensive!

                                      1. re: Raffles

                                        The paperwork and time necessary to complete it are non trivial. The three year requirement is hard work to prove, and you cannot retrospectively prove it.. it has to be prospective. So you incur the reporting costs for 3 years before you can reap the benefits.

                                        I have seen estimates for cattle farms that a certified organic has the potential to increase revenue (not profits) by 20k per year. I have not seen estimates for vegetable farms.

                                        Finally, there is the real issue of competition. Not only are you competing with other local farmers, you are competing with foreign sellers as well. The canadian govt has organic standards that are similar but without as much inspection. But you are definitely competing with them, especially if you are looking to sell to wholesalers and grocery stores. It is a very difficult case to make to compete against someone who is sitting next to you at a farmers market, charges similar prices and does not have to incur the same time and costs. Finally there is no scientific evidence that organic certified food is better than farms like the CSA I belong to that practice holistic farming but are not certified.

                                4. re: cgarner

                                  Thanks! These 2 places sound wonderful!

                                  Does anyone know where I can get those wonderful blue and green eggs mixed with the usual brown and white? I bought them in MA all the time and I'm not sure they are any better than other eggs but I sure seemed to think they were! There's nothing like a fresh egg and those were great. Very yellow yolks. I know that Araucana chickens lay blue eggs but there might be others.

                                  1. re: cgarner

                                    Love the formerly Hendrick's Necessity Farm and hope the new owners have the same bacon. It is extraordinary - smoky, sweet and salty at the same time. Their homemade chicken and beef broths are excellent as well. On the way (?) there, try out Baker on Broad (Souderton), excellent brioche, olive and french bread.

                                  2. My husband and I stopped at a roadside stand last fall when we first moved here. I had him look it up for me today (I never know where I am around here!) and it's called Maple Acres on Narcissa Road in Blue Bell. I don't know yet if it shows up in any of these lists but I thought it was a good stand. It was pretty late in the season and they had some great stuff - including baskets and baskets of tomatoes!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: JunieB

                                      Maplle Acres is a terrific find (code to Plymouth Meeting Mall), exceptional for corn, tomatoes and zinnias galore (pick your own). They sold some produce last year at Primex mid week. Maple Acres also has freezers full of local meats from their neighboring farms, not well advertised but very good product. They may sell their goods at other farm stands but going to their farm is half the fun. I suspect they are an independent farm.

                                      1. re: JunieB

                                        JunieB, I love Maple Acres too, but I don't believe that they are an organic farmer
                                        They may have produce from other local farms which ARE organic, but I am nearly 100% sure that Maple Acres is not
                                        (it's a great place though, the meat is hormone and anitbiotic free)

                                        1. re: cgarner

                                          Thanks! I guess I'll find out soon enough - if it ever stops snowing! I only stopped in there briefly last fall. It looked like they sell product from sources other than their own farm. I like organic but I don't HAVE to have it. It kind of depends on what it is and what options I have.