Friday, May 28, 2010

A Twitter Fix for Locavores

Our new Facebook page has us thinking a lot about social media, and while we're not quite ready to start tweeting ourselves, we knew there must be a lot of great local food-friendly twitter accounts out there.

Imagine our delight when we found this list of the 43 Top Twitter Accounts All Eco-Foodies Should Follow on Earth Eats. From food policy to seasonal cooking to sustainable agriculture to gardening, this list has something for everyone.

Follow someone great on twitter? Leave a comment below!

We're on Facebook!

Yes, we're spreading the word about local foods on the social networking site, and we'll be honest, we want you to "like" us!

Each Friday we post a "Fresh Feature" - we highlight a food that's in season and invite comments on your favorite ways to prepare it. Plus, you can stay up to date with the latest news - market openings, special events, and more.

See you there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pesticides, ADHD & Local Food

The Today Show did a segment yesterday on a new study in the journal Pediatrics that associates pesticide consumption with ADHD in kids.

You can watch the short video of Dr. Nancy Snyderman discussing the study with Meredith Vieira here.

And what did the doctor recommend?  Really getting to know where your food comes from and how it's grown by buying locally!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Join the Crew!

We need YOU to spread the word about local food in South Central PA!   

The 2010 Volunteer Crew is accepting new sign-ups.  We’re searching for men and woman, young and old(er!), farmers and consumers; anyone who is willing to share their passion for local foods and would like to help their neighbors find and use delicious locally grown products. 

The South Central Buy Fresh Buy Local® Volunteer Crew will be at the forefront of local foods promotion by assisting at events, staffing booths, on planning committees, and through various technical and developmental activities. 

What’s in it for you??  Aside from the pride that comes with knowing you are supporting your regional Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter and local farmers, you will have first access to upcoming events (including free admission & parking), and recognition at South Central chapter events.

We have opportunities starting as early as April 15.  Whether you’re interested in a one time opportunity or would like to volunteer as much as possible, we need to hear from you!  If this is your first time volunteering with us, we will have an informational get-together in April. 

Sign-up today!

To sign up, or if you have questions, contact Cheryl Burns, regional Coordinator, at 717-241-4361 or by email. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Contest: Name Our Newsletter & Win a T-Shirt!

"Local Food News" is our placeholder for now, but we want to give our newsletter a name that's a little more inspired. And who better to come up with a great name than our readers?

Send us an idea or suggestion! We'll collect them and hold a general vote on the blog in a month or two. The winning entry will become the official name of the Buy Fresh Buy Local South Central PA newsletter, and we'll send the winner a Buy Fresh Buy Local T-shirt for their trouble.

Leave your suggestion as a comment on this post, or email us by replying to the newsletter.

We can't wait to hear your ideas!

If Life Gives You Snow, Make Snow Ice Cream!

In honor of the record-breaking snowfall we've had this month, we bring you this snow ice cream recipe from It's local, it's free, and it certainly is abundant.

1 cup sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
2 cups milk

Put a large bowl or pan outside to collect snow; approx. 1 gallon.

In a saucepan, heat sugar with vanilla extract, and milk. Heat gently until sugar is dissolved. Put outside (or in refrigerator) to cool.

Once enough snow is collected, add sweetened milk mixture and stir until desired consistency is reached.

You can substitute maple syrup or honey for the sugar/vanilla (use about 1/4 cup) and half & half for the milk (use about a cup).


Thinking of Joining a CSA? 5 Tips for First-Time Members

This month guest blogger Emily Gilmore was kind enough to give us some helpful hints on how to decide whether joining a CSA farm is right for you. It's something she knows a thing or two about, since she's the former Program Manager at the Robyn Van En Center, a national CSA resource center.

So it’s getting to be that time of year again when farmers are preparing for the upcoming CSA farm season. This is also the time of year when old and new members are considering whether or not to join for the new season. If you’ve heard of the concept of CSA, but aren’t sure whether you’d like to join, here are some tips for helping you decide:

  • Consider a half share: If the price of a full share seems a bit intimidating, or if you just want to test the waters to see if joining a CSA works for you, you’ll be pleased to know that many farms offer partial or small share options. There may also be other ways to reduce the cost – some farms offer working shares, where you can help out at the farm in return for some or all of the cost of your share. And remember to divide the cost of a share by the number of weeks in the CSA season to get a clearer picture of what you’re getting for your money.
  •  Visit the farm and meet the farmer of your prospective CSA: most farmers are happy to meet potential members and answer questions about their farm.
  • Be open minded about the variety of local, seasonal foods available: CSA farms are limited by what grows well in our area, so shares may not include all of the produce you’re used to seeing at the supermarket. On the other hand, you’ll be getting vegetables at their freshest and CSA farms often grow tasty heirloom varieties that aren’t available in stores.
  • Talk to other people who are familiar with CSA and/or who are already members: If you don’t know anyone who is already a member, the farmer should be able to put you in touch with some of his or her members.
  • Remember that a choice to join a CSA has many benefits, just to name a few: it supports a local grower, it is kind to the environment (many CSA’s growing practices use natural methods, and food does not have to travel as far to get to your home), sustains the local economy, builds community and provides healthy, fresh and nutritious food.

    If you’re not sure if there is a CSA near you, there are many ways to locate them. Check out Buy Fresh Buy Local South Central PA, Local Harvest, or visit the Robyn Van En Center .

    Good luck finding a local CSA and making your decision. If you decide to go ahead and join, enjoy your share and get involved - it will enrich your experience!
    Emily is enthusiastic about local food and sustainable agriculture. She also would like to have the opportunity to educate people about food system issues . While serving as the program manager for the Robyn Van En Center, she also worked part time at the Fulton Farm CSA. She is currently looking for employment related to her background and interests. She can be contacted at

    A CSA Farm in Winter

    A Peek Behind the Scenes at Shared Earth Farm, Mechanicsburg, PA

    Most of us have an idea of what farmers do during the spring, summer and fall. We’ve been to CSA farms, farm stands and farmers markets. Maybe we’ve chatted with a grower about the weather and the work to be done that week on the farm.

    But what do farmers do during the long, cold winter months? Do they just putter about the house in their pajamas, waiting for the snow to thaw? Or is there a whole world of farm work being done behind the scenes to make the summer’s bounty possible? I talked to Amy Leber of Shared Earth Farm CSA to find out.

    “There’s about two weeks of just putting your life back together after the growing season has ended,” said Leber, who works up to 14 hour days, 7 days a week during the growing season.

    So the first couple weeks of the winter are a time to tackle ‘spring’ cleaning, repairs and projects around the house, and general family to-do list stuff that piles up over the spring, summer and fall.

    Then it’s back to work on the farm, but during the winter Leber only works 8 hour days and weekends are off-limits. The first thing she does is evaluate the previous season. She decides where mistakes were made and what was done well, and thinks about what they could do differently this year.

    "We get a lot of ideas in the summer, but we just don’t have time to fully evaluate them until winter,” Leber said.

    Next she starts laying out her plans for the new year. Deciding what she wants to grow is fairly easy, she said. “The harder part is deciding how much. So how many weeks do we want to give out kohlrabi before people get sick of them?”

    She plots out each stage of the growing season, working backwards from harvest to planting. It's an exercise that involves several spreadsheets and takes a long time.

    Finally, Leber orders the seeds and prices her shares.

    A peek at Leber’s Off-season To-Do List:
    • Remove stakes, weed suppressing plastic and other materials from fields
    • Inventory current seeds
    • Order new seeds
    • Source potting soil
    • Catch up on bookkeeping
    • Answer member emails
    • Fix machinery (fertigator, tractor) & perform maintenance
    • Clean and organize greenhouse. Patch any tears & clear fans of bugs.
    • Compile recipes for CSA members
    • Brainstorm some newsletter/blog article ideas

    And the growing season gets underway sooner than you might think. By mid-February, Leber and her mother, Sheila, start planting the spring crops under indoor grow lights.

    “We already have some seeds planted – mostly spinach and stuff that’ll grow in cool weather,” she said. “Onions, leeks, shallots and parsley should be starting right now.”

    And in about two weeks Leber plans to dust off the plow and start preparing the fields.

    "Winter is still very busy, but it’s a different kind of busy. It’s not sweaty work outside in the sun. It’s a lot of thinking, not so much doing.”

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Andy's Beef Stew

    Here's a simple beef stew recipe, courtesy of a local CSA member, Andy A. The red wine combined with the aromatic vegetables and herbs gives it a rich, fruity complexity. You don't have to use an expensive bottle, but make sure that it's good enough to drink on its own. Whatever flavors are in the wine will be concentrated during cooking.


    2 lbs. beef stew cubes
    1 large onion, diced
    5 carrots, sliced
    4 stalks celery, sliced
    5 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 lb. potatoes, 1" dice
    5 sprigs thyme
    2 or 3 branches parsley
    bay leaf
    1/2 bottle red wine (or substitute beef or chicken stock, or water)
    32 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
    salt & pepper to taste
    large (family size) dutch oven

    Preheat oven to 300F. Brown beef cubes in oil or butter in the oven (in batches if necessary), toss cubes in flour seasoned with salt & pepper, and set aside. Pour fat from dutch oven. Deglaze oven with a little red wine, being sure to scrape up and stir all the brown bits until they dissolve, and reserve this liquid.

    Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the dutch oven and cook for a few minutes, until the onion softens. Add the beef cubes, reserved liquid, potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and red wine (or stock or water), leaving an inch or two of room in the dutch oven.

    Bring to a gentle simmer, and then place in the oven. Cook for 2.5 - 3 hours. Check in occasionally to make sure the stew is still simmering slowly, and adjust the oven temperature if needed. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Here's to a Delicious New Year!

    Each year we make them, and each year by about February we seem to develop selective amnesia. Resolutions? What resolutions? But I have a feeling that this year will be different.

    Forget willpower. We just need to make our goals more delicious! So, in the spirit of the new year, we thought we'd kick off 2010 by sharing some of our personal local food resolutions. Throughout the year, we'll keep you updated on our progress by blogging about our efforts.

    Here's a taste of what's to come:

    I will cook a rabbit. I've seen them at the farmers market, and I've always wanted to give it a go. Also, I'll learn to brew my own beer at home. - Jen

    This year I'm going to buy more of my food locally, without increasing my family's grocery budget. I'll be keeping track of our spending & comparing it to our usual grocery bill. I'll let you know how it goes! - Cheryl

    I've found it easy to eat locally by freezing the harvest, but lately I've been wondering how I can avoid using so many plastic bags. So my goal is to explore more ways to preserve local foods, including canning and fermentation. - Susan

    Are you planning to join a CSA, plant a garden, buy pasture-raised meat, spend $10/month on local food, or go all out & eat a 100-mile diet? We'd love to hear about your own local food resolutions - leave us a comment below!

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    10 Good Reads from 2009

    Now that the days are short, and the holidays have come and gone, we have a little more 'indoor' time on our hands. Here at Buy Fresh Buy Local South Central PA, we think there's no better way to spend a cold January day than curled up with a hot cup of tea and a good book!

    In case you were too busy this year gardening or cooking or just enjoying the sunshine to keep up with the latest in food lit, we thought we'd make a list of 10 notable local food books of 2009. Whether you're planning your next food project, or just want to tag along on someone else's adventure, we think there's something here for everyone.


    Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 inspired seasonal dishes you can make in 20 minutes or less - Mark Bittman

    The author of the New York Times column "The Minimalist" and the bestselling "How to Cook Everything" has done it again, this time with 101 tasty recipes for each season that make the most of fresh ingredients. Perfect for weeknight dinners.

    The Blackberry Farm Cookbook: Four Seasons of Great Food and the Good life - Sam Beall & Molly O'Neill

    A coffee table book so luscious you could eat it. Of course you could actually make the recipes, or you could just daydream about visiting the Blackberry Inn in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, where the food is always farm to table fresh, artisanal and delicious.

    Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods - Eugenia Bone

    If you're thinking of trying out some canning this summer, or you're wondering what to do when you have just a little extra produce from the market or a farmshare, this is a great place to start. With 30 small-batch preserve recipes and 90 recipes for using those preserves.

    The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves: 200 Classic and Contemporary Recipes Showcasing the Fabulous Flavors of Fresh Fruits - Linda Ziedrich

    If you have a little experience under your belt, you might want to dive into this collection celebrating the sweeter side of life All recipes made without commercial pectin or other artificial ingredients.

    Market Fresh Mixology - Bridget Albert & Mary Barvanco

    It was only a matter of time, right? The local food movement has caught up to the world of mixology, and now you can fix yourself a seasonal cocktail while you read, if a cup of tea's not your thing!

    Food Lit

    The Food of a Younger Land: A Portrait of American Food - Before the National Highway System, Before Chain Restaurants, and Before Frozen Food, When the Nation's Food Was Seasonal - Mark Kurlansky

    The title pretty much says it all. Kurlansky got his information from the files of a never-completed WPA project from the 1930s that set out to document America's foodways.

    Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager - Langdon Cook

    Set in the Pacific Northwest, and structured around the seasons, the book follows Cook's adventures as he tries to catch, track and gather wild foods from the land and sea around his home.

    Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer - Novella Carpenter

    A woman chronicles her efforts to turn a vacant lot in Oakland, Ca. into a thriving urban farm, complete with veggies, bees, rabbits, pigs, you name it!

    Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life - Jenna Woginrich

    A yound city-dweller decides to become more self-sufficient, and writes about her successes and disappointments as she learns to grow her own food, make her own clothes, and live a simpler life. With how-to tips.

    The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! - Carleen Madigan

    A wide-ranging how-to guide to producing your own food, from gardening and raising livestock to cooking, canning, curing, brewing, tapping maple trees and making your own cheese and yoghurt.

    So there you go! Ten good reads to keep the local food fires burning this winter. Do you have a book to recommend? We'd love to hear about it! Let us know by commenting on this post.

    Comfort In A Bowl

    'Tis the season for comfort foods, and what could be more satisfying than a hearty braise or stew?

    Braising and stewing transform cheap cuts of meat into meltingly tender bites, while infusing the cooking liquids with rich, complex layers of flavor. Best of all, you can put together a meal with whatever ingredients and flavorings you have on hand, once you know the basic steps to follow.

    A braise usually uses larger pieces of meat (often with the bone in) and less liquid, while a stew generally uses bite-size pieces of meat. Both methods make the most of more inexpensive cuts. A pricier (& usually leaner) cut will dry out during the long cooking time required, but an economical cut (think shoulder, leg, shank, or tail) will stay moist as the connective tissue and fat dissolve during cooking. You can always skim the fat from the braising or stewing liquid before you serve it!

    1. Season the meat with salt & pepper. (You can do this a day ahead of time for extra flavor).

    2. Brown the meat on all sides in a heavy pot, in batches if necessary, and set aside.

    3. Pour off the fat.

    4. Deglaze the pot with a little wine, scraping up all the browned bits, and reserve the liquid.

    5. Cook the aromatic vegetables (any combination of onion, celery, carrots, fennel and leeks) in a bit of fat.

    6. Add the meat & deglazing liquid back to the pot.

    7. Add stock or water. For a braise, the liquid should come about halfway up the meat. For stew, it should almost cover the meat.

    8. Add any flavorings, like sprigs of herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme & bay leaves) and spices (e.g. whole peppercorns in cheesecloth).

    9. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook (either on top of the stove or in a 300F oven) until tender (usually around 4 hours).

    You can play around with this basic formula to end up with any number of meals. Try marinating the meat before you cook it. Add tomatoes, potatoes or other root vegetables to the pot. Serve with dumplings or on a bed of polenta. Or season it with spices from the Middle East or South Asia. Enjoy, and let us know if you do!

    *photo by jspatchwork