News and blog
I was asked for my reaction to the new bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Courtney & Gibson "Young Farmer Success Act of 2015", as described in this Mark Bittman editorial, that would classify those farming for ten years as public servants in the interest of student loan forgiveness.
First off, I love Mark Bittman. He's a great mouthpiece for the change we need in our food system.
And I love this editorial! I actually have friends who have lobbied on behalf of the NYFC. I also support Rep. Courtney's bill and think you should too but, as Mr. Bittman alludes to early on, the problem is not so simply solved.
In addition to the land access issue, young and beginning farmers are faced with a learning curve. This is the part in this editorial where I point out how fortunate I am to have received a degree from PSU's College of Ag and that I have a family full (moreover, a community full) of experienced advisers and mentors in the field of agriculture, which is a pun that's tired but necessary in this case.
A young, motivated baccalaureate graduate doesn't make a successful farmer overnight. That being said, I know plenty of them that have achieved success. I also know plenty who have wanted to, tried to, and ultimately could not or are not farming presently due to a variety of circumstances. The point of Bittman's article is that, should our society value food production as public service, as I agree we should, then loan forgiveness can solve one of these circumstances to which I'm referring. Maybe it starts the cultural change that can bring the whole situation back into balance.
In a lot of ways, working on a farm has been considered an option of "those who couldn't attend college" for generations. That's how we got to this point in the first place, right? First off, education is a worthy pursuit any way you slice it - it's vital to understanding the richness of life any way you slice it. And while it's not the case that "nothing about your liberal arts education will prepare you for farming" - if we're serious about farming as public service, let's find liberal arts colleges with student farming programs and support them - there are two fine one's in our backyard (Fulton Farm, Dickinson). Let's be real about it - if farming is public service (and it is), tell your sons, daughters, nieces and nephews that farming is an impactful career choice (Cicero sure thought so). Encourage them to learn the sciences! Tell them about PASA, about FutureHarvest CASA. I know it's not for everyone, but when I figured out I wanted to farm, I studied Ag Sciences. It offered me incredible opportunities that were practical, applicable, and not easily learned "in the field" to recycle the expression again, to everyone's irritation. Step one, let's get this bill passed and get some student loan relief for young and beginning farmers. Step Two, let's complete this culture change and talk about farming as public service... not like it's a last resort for people who "couldn't do my job", for example. While the mechanics of farming seem simple, making a farm a successful business (not to mention someday retiring) is incredibly difficult - it's not a lower percentile thing, so let's just put that whole notion to bed. And Step Three, although education of ANY kind is, in and of itself, very important, the more science, training, and practical experience our new farmer-public servants have, the more likely they succeed. Teach young farmers plant science!
All this before we tackle the land access issue!
(or providing farming opportunities to minority and women farmers, but c'mon - I've only so much time I can devote to this stuff... I am farming here, afterall)
So! Here's all the more I can say about stuff like this when it happens. I graduated Penn State's College of Ag, eager to farm and work outdoors with my family on lands that meant a great deal to me and a community that still supported agriculture. I didn't have the first idea where that path would lead at the time. It lead me to Philadelphia! Our first farmers markets were in Philly. My friends, family, in-laws were there too. And so were a lot of people who really loved food. Wanted to know where it came from - everything about how I grew it. These people became my friends. They trusted me, and I trusted them. I listened when they spoke about all the great things going on in Philadelphia. I was green coming out of college. I didn't have any idea what a "food scene" was. But Philly embraced me, and "learned me up right quick". So, when the occasion does arise that I'm honored with this kind of great recognition, it's cause for me to stop and appreciate the opportunity I was given. To thank my father and uncle for giving me the chance to prove myself, for my mom, who every Headhouse customer knows, puts in long hours every Sunday, what would really be her only day off, to help me out. To everyone here at the farm for all of their hard work - this farm is nothing without the good people we're fortune enough to have on our team. And thank you to all of the outstanding people I've met in the food business. Certainly you Philly folks - you know who you are, from the kind words of customers at market, to the folks who have never failed to steer me right, thank you. And certainly the folks in Baltimore, DC, and our neighbors in the industry as well. In short (hah! right)... I'm humbled by the recognition and there are too many people to thank.
Well, folks! You probably saw it coming! With our new Pantry items, it's become all the easier to provide our awesome customers with simple gifts on the go! Maybe for coworkers, maybe clients, maybe hostesses... either way, it's a fun way to show your appreciation AND support local agriculture. Gift baskets are customizable, come with a nice "Wenk" mini-crate filled with items and we will attempt to ship them, if you please. Let's visit the options.
The Jams and Spreads basket is perfect for someone who loves breads (and biscuits, and muffins, and toast, and yogurt) as much as we do. Of course, we've gotten to meet some of the best bakers in the US at our farmers markets, but then again, I'm betting you're taking advantage of these too. As always, these are customizable but you can always trust us to come up with a great assortment of our excellent spreads in this basket!
The Kosher basket is a great option for anyone but especially for followers of the Jewish faith. Our local, family-owened, customer processor Kime's Cider Mill has earned this Kosher certification allowing us to offer the following products Kosher certified: canned peaches, apple sauce, apple juice, apple butter, peach butter, and pear butter.
If you have someone in your life who, due to health reasons or dietary choice, is eliminating refined sugars from his or her diet, we understand how difficult it can be to find stuff to eat! Anymore, it's hard to get away from all that. With this in mind, we offer a wide variety of products - really the very same products above (with the exception of peach butter) are available without sugar - No Sugar Tonight!.
And then there's the "hot sauce" eater. I'm kind of one myself. It used to be the "hot sauce guy" was like your crazy uncle. However, the American palate is getting much more "spice hungry" with each year. Now there are plenty of guys and gals with a great appreciation for spicy foods, and you better believe we've got them covered! Customize your own basket if you like, but don't leave out the Muscle Bound Lummox - our signature hot sauce! We'd be happy to make one for you, clean and simple - Hot Stuff! Coming Through!
Or just throw the Kitchen Sink at 'em! We've got the ultimate gift choice for big fans of Three Springs - 12 of our finest products in one container! How cool is that? We'll pick out 12 favorites or we'll let you choose exactly what suits you/your friend and loved one the best. Tell me! How cool is that?
Customize your basket in the "comments" section at check out!
Some markets close at Thanksgiving, others at Christmas, others play by rules that aren't so simple! I've updated the Farm Calendar to help simplify this, but here's the details just in case! We'll cover the easy ones first!
FRESHFARM Markets Silver Spring - EVERY Saturday! April-December hours: 9-1pm, Jan-March 10-1pm
Kenilworth Farmers Market in Towson, MD - every Tuesday from Mother's Day to Thanksgiving 3:30-6:30pm
Columbia Heights Community Marketplace - every Saturday 9-1pm until December 13th (last market day)
Greenbelt Farmers Market - Every Sunday 10-2pm from May to Thanksgiving, plus the following:
12/7 Holiday Market
1/18 - Winter Buyer's Club Delivery, 10am
2/15 - Winter Buyer's Club Delivery, 10am
3/15 - Winter Buyer's Club Delivery, 10am
4/19 - Winter Buyer's Club Delivery, 10am
Headhouse Farmers Market, Philadelphia:
11/23 Headhouse Farmers Market 10-2pm
11/26 Headhouse Open, 3Springs not attending
12/7 Headhouse Farmers Market
12/14 Headhouse Farmers Market
12/21 Headhouse Farmers Market
2/7 Headhouse Febrary Buyer's Club, Saturday at noon
3/7 Headhouse March Buyer's Club, Saturday at noon
4/4 Headhouse April Buyer's Club, Saturday at noon
Farmers On The Square - Carlisle - every Wednesday in December at Project S.H.A.R.E. 3-7pm, every 1st and 3rd Wednesday (except Holidays) 3-7pm, Project S.H.A.R.E. Jan-Apr
Farmers On Walnut - Every 1st and 3rd Thursday at Camp Hill Presbyterian Church 3-6pm
Why Are Peaches Fuzzy?
No, not Fozzie! Fuzzy!
This question was posed to me via twitter by Sean, proprietor and brewmaster at Mellody Brewing Co., food maven, #tastingjawn master, stylish bow tie wearer, friend of the farm, and stalwart Phillies supporter:
@3springsfruit why are peaches fuzzy?— MellodyBrewing (@mellodybrewing) August 26, 2014
A great question, Sean, and a worthy blog entry in our "Ask a Grower" series.
Peaches, Prunus persica, were originally grown in China. Clemson claims these fruits washed up on the shores of the New World in 1571 with Spanish missionaries, first arriving in what's now St. Simon's Island, Georgia. So, they evolved in a climate and environment not very familiar to me.
However, by my observation here in the Eastern US, peach fuzz (or pubescence to all we Horticulture nerds) is a natural defense system for protecting the fruits from rainwater. The tiny hairs allow droplets of water to sit on top of them and not on the more vulnerable skin of the fruit. Now certainly, when rains are heavy, the peaches will get wet. But for light rains or heavy dews, it's conceivable peaches could be more susceptible to rots and bacteria than they already are without that pubescence.
Unless, they just adapted to express the recessive allele for pubescence and became nectarines. Nectarines are simply fuzz-less peaches. Though there are markedly different flavors between peaches and nectarines in many cases, scientifically, this is all that separates them. Why don't nectarines rot more than peaches? Well... hehe - sometimes they do. However, they've been naturally selected for smoother and smoother skin, allowing (in an ideal environment) to allow rain waters to slip-slide all down the fruits and onto the ground, feeding the roots.
Some suspect peach fuzz can deter browsing from insects and other animals. Well... as I said, I've never been to China. The super smart-alecky farmer notion in me would like to know why it hasn't stopped any stink bugs, Oriental Fruit Moths, Tarnished Plant Bugs, Western Flower Thrips, Tufted Apple Budmoth, Plum Curculio, crows, turkeys, or deer that we have here in our environment... just to name a few. I'm just glad it hasn't stopped you, the faithful 3Springs blog reader and peach devotee, from browsing on them at your home!
Wocka Wocka Wocka!
- "Ask a Grower" vol. VI - Grafting
- "Ask A Grower" vol. V - Proper Apple Storage
- "Ask A Grower" vol. IV - All About Cider
- "Ask A Grower" vol. III - Clingstone Peaches vs. Freestone Peaches
- "Ask A Grower" vol. II - Granny Smith Fables
- "Ask A Grower" vol I - Roots & Scions
Heirloom, Just Old, or Ugly
Heirloom tomatoes are officially a thing! Or so I'm told.
All jokes aside, heirloom tomatoes more than a thing, they're an awesome thing! Since their advent into the marketplace, many other things have been anointed as "heirloom" as the term has come to be synonymous with a level of quality. But what does the word mean and how is it used? How is the term abused? Let's (blanch, and) peel back some tomato skin and learn more!
When a clock or a quilt is a family heirloom, it's an item that's been handed down in the family for generations. While there's no consensus definition of heirloom as applied to tomatoes, this first premise is required in any definition of heirloom - it must be a tomato that's been handed down for generations. When you hand down Grandfather's watch to a new generation, it's as simple as keeping it somewhere safe until you entrust a younger family member to keep it somewhere safe. To pass along an heirloom tomato, you need to save seeds and use those seeds to grow a new crop of tomatoes of the same variety (ideally) every year. Therefore, a hybridized tomato, whose seeds are infertile and designed such that their seeds must be purchased every year and not saved from the fruit, cannot be an heirloom.
Without any real numbers to back me up, hybridized tomatoes (red slicers in the grocery store and their ilk) make up the overwhelming majority of the marketplace but represent a very tiny percentage of the biodiversity of the tomato (tomatoes originated in Mexico, for the nutritional anthropologists out there). It's impossible to quantify the number of heirloom tomato varieties they are because many are open pollinated and the genetic makeup of each tomato can change from year to year. In this way, a seed saver's tomato patch is similar to a livestock operation - such that your neighbor's Green Zebra tomatoes might possess different characteristics than yours if you're selecting your seeds for different quantities.
For me, that's the whole of my definition. While the tomatoes your family brought over from Italy and have grown every year in your garden are, maybe, more heirloom (if there can be such a thing) than my Arkansas Traveler, if the tomato can be passed down (and has been), it's an heirloom in my eyes.
The Arkansas Traveler (pictured above) was an intentional example, to demonstrate a counter argument. One of the first things you'll learn when you study heirloom tomatoes is there are multiple and conflicting stories around the origin of each variety. Many of these are fictionalized and romanticized to make them more appealing. So, depending on which story you believe, the Arkansas Traveler was either passed down "through folks in the Mountains of Arkansas where it was a hillbilly favorite" or it was developed by tomato breeders at the University of Arkansas anywhere from the 1930's to the 1970's. But this much is for sure, the seeds saved from our Arkansas Traveler tomatoes will yield tomatoes similar to its predecessors. Since this has occurred over at least one generation, I consider these heirloom tomatoes. Again, the main distinction being it's viability from seed.
So, why do heirloom tomatoes taste so much better? First, a reminder that language is what we make it to be, just like a wiki. Sometimes, our population gets it right. Sometimes, we abuse terms like "artisan" (NSFW language). But, there's nothing about "heirloom" that automatically means delicious! More than likely, the heirloom tomato seeds were saved by folks because somebody found them tasty. However, I've had plenty of heirloom tomatoes that didn't taste good and a very select few hybrid tomatoes that did taste very good as well. However, by in large, tomato breeders bred hybrid tomatoes to look good, store well, and take abuse. Heirloom tomato seed savers have selected and saved seeds almost exclusively for taste and flavor. And that's why heirloom tomatoes taste better. It isn't that they automatically taste better, it's because they were selected for taste rather than anything but, in the case of their hybrid counterparts.
So! To review, in a very logic problem kind of way. All non-hybridized seeds can be heirlooms, but not every one is. All heirlooms are non-hybridized. Not all "old" tomato varieties are heirlooms, BUT (again) all heirlooms are (at least a few generations) old. Heirloom tomato seeds can be saved based on any preferable characteristic but are most commonly saved because of their superior flavor, often resulting oddly colored and oddly shaped tomatoes that taste good! However, not all heirloom tomatoes are oddly colored and oddly shaped just as not all hybrid tomatoes are uniformly colored and shaped. Anything can be considered "heirloom" if it has been passed down over a number of years, but that doesn't mean it has the characteristics you want.
And that is as comprehensive a lecture on heirloom tomatoes as you'd ever care to read!
If you're reading this update, a grocery store near you recently pulled California peaches off its shelves because of a recent lysteria contamination.
Should local Giants, Aldis, Trader Joes, Costco's etc. be stocking peaches, plums etc from California? Well, if people buy them, they'll continue to sell them. A better question, should these stores stock peaches while local products are in season? Well... again, California peaches will always be cheaper because they've got the economy of scale on their side. A lot of people are looking to buy cheap peaches. Georgia, South Carolina the same - they can grow peaches cheaper in these places than we can. When people want cheap fruits and vegetables, these grocery stores will sell them. However, lysteria is no laughing matter so that could start to make an impact on people's buying decisions as well.
So, there's a reason that cheap food is so inexpensive and this week's recall is a prime example of this. But what can we do to lower the cost of food? Well, as French grocer Intermarché has done in this video(embedded below), we can reduce food waste. The third largest chain of groceries in food-crazed France introduced the concept of "inglorious fruits and vegetables" - oddball and somewhat ugly produce purchased directly from local growers and offered to the public at a discount. The idea was a huge hit and produced measurable impacts on their receipts AND in reducing food waste. How cool it would be to see these super markets replace the shelf space one occupied by recalled California peaches with local, "inglorious" fruits and vegetables? That sounds like cheap(er), healthy, safe eating that we can all get behind.
It takes a lot of good people to make us successful. And certainly, Shane is a big part of our success at market! When you see Shane and Lauren at market, thank them for their hard work and see what he's "arted" from our produce this week! Also, check out his Instagram feed for updates on produce art , it was recently featured in American Fruit Grower magazine!
What Is FarmFan?
We stand on the edge very edge of exciting new products at market, folks! All in the running for weekend market table debuts include: kale, head lettuce, chard, rhubarb, and strawberries. Of the five, rhubarb is the best bet for sure-fire inclusion, but it's coming down to the wire on all of them. If your'e a regular reader of our emails and blogs, then it's important to you what's shaking around the farm here. For that we are extremely grateful - you're the reason we put such long hard hours in every week. We also can keep in touch with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for those who are social media savvy.
In addition to these steadfast "known entity" ways to keep up with your favorite fruit farm, we offer FarmFan (click to sign up) as a new way to be in the know. Whereas it's hard for me to contact you in regards to your specific market with an email, Facebook status, Tweet or instagram (save #HHmkt, #FOTSmkt), this new option allows me to but a very timely market-specific produce update right in the palm of your hand. When blueberries are few in the early season and it's going to be a massive disappointment to get ready to go to market and arrive only to find they're already sold out, FarmFan is a way you can get the "inside track" on the items that we'll have and figure out how to prioritize your time - get to market super early, or catch a coffee with a friend. It's no more than one text per market day and we would never in a million years be able to live with ourselves if we abused your phone number - after all, we've safeguarded your email all this time, haven't we? Just another option for the truly dedicated farmers market devotee to stay one step ahead of the produce-hungry masses!
As the warm sun begins to shine down on us, the familiar white canopies of our local farmers’ markets begin to pop up around our neighborhood parks. This is our indication that spring has arrived and fresh vegetables are becoming readily available. Like blossoms on the trees, asparagus shoots begin to show their stalks from below the soil.
As I look outside today, the rain has not stopped. By the end of the day tomorrow, it will be the third continuous day of rain here in Adams County, PA. Our asparagus will be reaching for the skies.
Get your grills ready, and your propane tanks filled, because our asparagus will be growing like grass on your lawn!
For those of us who love eating this rich, nutritious vegetable, we can thank the Greeks and the Romans centuries ago; they ate it fresh when in season and dried it for the winter months and later preserved it by freezing. They have long since eaten it for its unique flavors, texture, and medicinal qualities. Scientifically named as asparagus officinalis, it can also be referred to as speargrass, esparrago, asparago, and sparrow grass.
Asparagus is generally available year round in most grocery stores and markets throughout the country; however spring is the best time to buy it fresh locally. Although available commercially, it is of less quality than purchasing it from your local farmer. Shortly after being picked, asparagus begins to lose its sugar causing it to become more starchy and tough. The best time to eat your asparagus is within a day or two of being picked. Many ask the question of how it should be stored once purchased. Asparagus is related to the lilac flower, so when storing, cut about a half inch off the bottom and place into a cup or jar with water and cover the tops loosely with a plastic bag.
Many foodies these days are always trying to find the next best (or best looking) edible to dress up their culinary plate. That’s why if you’re lucky, you may be able to find the elusive white asparagus. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the white asparagus, it is a more expensive and labor intensive asparagus grown by depriving it from the sunlight. As the tips begin to break through the soil, farmers must continue covering the plant with soil to prevent the development of Chlorophyll. Using a special tool, workers can dig and cut the white asparagus from the ground; however, after harvest they must be kept in a box away from light (note: white asparagus is not a variety). Purple asparagus is another ever growing variety, mainly sought after for its coloring; it is more tender and has a slightly sweeter, fruiter flavor. After prolonged cooking, the asparagus will lose its coloring and turn green.
For most consumers in the U.S., the green-colored variety of asparagus is the most common type found in grocery stores. When selecting your bundles, look for stalks that are rounded with firm stems. At the tips, be sure the colors are a deep green to purple with closed tips. As the plant matures, they do get wider in diameter. Thinner asparagus, also referred to as sprue, don’t tend to have as much flavor and substance as thicker diameter stalks; but if you go to thick, they can tend to be a bit tougher and woodier in flavor.
So, the question remains, why should we be eating more asparagus? Well, it’s no different than any other reason why we should be eating more fresh vegetables. It’s nutritious. Asparagus is a great source of fiber and protein, which are both essential for digestion and the immune system. It contains multiple vitamins such as A, B, C, E, and K. Add a few more letters, and the asparagus is one of the healthiest vegetable to eat. The health benefits are endless; anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants, digestive support, blood sugar regulation, and anti-cancer benefits name just a few.
Well, sure it’s healthy, but some may be wondering if you should eat it because of the smell of your – you know what. You will be happy to know that being able to smell this pungent odor is very normal, well, half normal. Only 22% - 40% of the population have the sensitivity to smell it. As the asparagus digests in your stomach, the sulfuric amino acids break down in to a smelly chemical compound called asparagusic acid that can actually be detected up to 15 minutes after you eat. It’s ok, whichever way you smell or don’t smell, you should still be eating asparagus!
By now, you may be asking, what’s the best way to cook and eat my new bundle of asparagus? There are so many options where do I begin? Grilled, sautéed, roasted? I think the simplest and most delicious is to grill them over an open flame. Drizzle the asparagus with some EVOO, salt and pepper and put them on the grill; add a grilled steak or chicken and some mashers and dinner is served. Not in the mood to grill? Do the same prep and roast them in the oven for at 400 for 8-10 minutes and it’s just as good. I love to cut up asparagus and add them to my omelets in the morning for a rich flavorful breakfast.
Here are a couple of recipes that I have used that can help get you started on your own asparagus journey.
For a great start to the day check out this filling morning omelets recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spring-omelet/
For those of you who love the cooking on the grill: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/grilled_asparagus/
If you have a lot of mouths to feed and short on time, here is an easy kitchen prep: http://natashaskitchen.com/2012/04/13/baked-asparagus-with-lemon-butter-and-parmesan/