News and blog
Some say you'd have to be pretty bold to toot your own horn like this.
Others would say, Farmer Ben is a trumpet player and if you know other trumpet players, you know they can't help themselves. Plus, he's using this blog entry to puff himself up before the crushing realization that all of his Honeycrisp might be worthless after this Hurricane blows through.
"How Do You Like Your Peaches" - Colesville Patch dishes on the best way to enjoy these summer gems
Burst of Flavor at the Fourth Annual Tomato Taste - Silver Spring Patch, after a well-earned tie for second place in last years competition, we narrowly missed the first place crown after, yet again, coming in second place to Mock's 'Sungold' tomatoes. Yet again, we were growing the winning tomato just missed the crown
Folks, it's only under rare and unusual circumstances that I would even consider what I'm about to announce, but I hope folks will understand that these are the very circumstances with which we are faced.
Three Springs will not be attending Sunday's Headhouse Farmers Market or Greenbelt Farmers Market 8/28 in light of the expected landfall of Hurricane Irene.
Philadelphia customers are encouraged to find your favorite Three Springs peaches and apples at any/all of the following fine retailers: Weaver's Way Coop, Sue's Produce in Rittenhouse, GreensGrow Farms, Green Aisle Grocery, and Harvest Local Foods. Please note, an announcement regarding the status of Sunday's Headhouse Market in general from The Food Trust is forthcoming. The market itself could remain open - please check their Facebook, Twitter, and mailing lists for up to the minute details.
Greenbelt customers are encouraged to visit us this Saturday at Silver Spring Farmers Market, as well as next Saturday at Silver Spring Farmers Market between Fenton and Georgia Avenues on Ellsworth Drive, downtown Silver Spring. The Greenbelt Farmers Market does not operate the day before labor day. Please be aware also, an official decision regarding the status of the Greenbelt Farmers Market in general is also forthcoming and I encourage everyone to await offical word from their Facebook, Twitter, and email correspondence regarding whether or not the market proper will be open this Sunday.
I felt like I had to be proactive in regards to making a decision for our farm in advance of these official decisions regarding weather cancellations because I needed to devote the extra attention to getting the most out of our Saturday markets as a result. I also feel strongly that these markets will not be open, having seen the updated path of the Hurricane.
I don't need to explain to folks that, with the additional cancellation of our Wednesday Health and Human Services market due to after effects of the earthquake, that having four markets in one week rather than seven at the heighth of our season is certainly a step in the wrong direction. Furthermore, the winds and weather resulting from this Hurricane are likely to affect the quality and supply of everything we grow on our farm including, notably, our Honeycrisp and Gala apple crops, the lion's share of which remains unharvested as of right now and is likely to become "windfalls" - an unmarketable product.
Keep smiling, folks. It's bound to get better. We've endured freaky weather before.
PS, if someone is willing to make the jump from "plague of locusts" to stinkbugs... plus the weather we're having... nah, just a coincidence!
See, smilin' already!
- Farmer Ben
From the most voracious tomato-vores, to the round-red only myopic heirloom neophytes - the following is designed for tomato eaters of every description so that you might pick out just the right 'mater for just the right particular occasion!
Brandywine (both pink and red) - "The Beginner's Heirloom"
Never tried the whole heirloom thing before? Here's a good jumping off point. Not nearly as misshapen and ugly as many, this tomato offers bold tomato flavor, adds beautiful color, but eats like a bolder, stronger-flavored version of many grocery store red slicers (ehhh, not my cup of joe). Snacking, salads, and sandwiches - any of your favorite tomato applications would be a great match for a Brandywine tomato, though sauces born of these fruits are sometimes sweeter than some prefer. So, in summary, if you're looking to dip your toes in the chilly pool of heirloom tomatoes, this is a fine place to start.
Cherokee Purple - "The Best"
This is the one everyone's gotta have. The one I think I over-plant every year, only to run short on fruit in the height of season. Our best sellers, our most unique flavor, and our most frequently requested tomato, 'Cherokee Purple's origins can be traced back to the Native American tribe of the same name. The color of this tomato looks more brown or black to some than dark purple. It's flavor is (somehow) smokey and intensely sweet with plenty of acidified balance. This tomato is approved for all audiences and should be consumed immediately. There is no wrong preparation for this tomato - you name it, use one. Not to be missed.
Green Zebra - "Salt Shaker Snacker"
An essential part of any heirloom tomato garden, in my modest opinion, the 'Green Zebra' is one of the most unique and best tasting tomatoes out there. Most notably, if you are a tomato eater who is inclined to snack on a tasty 'mater in one hand with a shaker of salt in the other, many have found this tomato has the flavor of a salted tomato without the additional salt added! It is a bold tomato best for salads and snacks with a good hit of acid, adding counterpoint to the tomato's sweetness. If you've become a big fan of these, the next one to try is...
Jaun Flamme - "Zebra's French Cousin"
Bright, bright orange tomatoes of the same size of Green Zebra. These 'saladette' sized tomatoes, to use an industry term, are perfect size to cut in half and throw into your garden, caprese, or tomato salad. Very bold flavored tomatoes that compliment the Green Zebra nicely, perhaps with a little more 'spunk', we'll say, than it's not-easy-to-be green counterparts. These are another tomato that we get asked for by name (usually, "when do you have those 'French ones'") and, along with Green Zebra, are as pleasant a tomato as can be found for a tasty tomato snack!
Pineapple (and Kellogg's Breakfast) - "Sweet, Bacon-loving Tomato"
Pineapple are probably the most visually appealing vegetable on our farm... anywhere. They're just goregous (so says I). They are bright lemon yellow with red sunburst streaks running from calyx (bottom) to stem. Cut them open and they're even prettier - displaying a tie-dye swirl of yellow-orange-red colors that will stun and delight eaters of all ages. These fruit-inspired tomatoes, along with their light orange companion tomatoes, Kellogg's Breakfast, are sweet, sub-acid tomatoes. Similarly to the way white peaches are sub-acid and taste simply sweet, these tomatoes have lots of sugars and very little acid. For this reason, I really like these tomatoes for your summer BLT sandwiches because the sweet tomato flavor dances lovingly in time with a smokey, salty bacon. These are also a great tomato option if you do have difficulty with acidic foods.
Arkansas Traveler (not pictured) - "The Underdog Pseudo-Heirloom"
Developed by the Univeristy of Arkansas in the 1940's, these are the most unassuming tomato on our stand. It's very easy to walk past these, but those who have taken them home have been back for more the next week. Though not a true heirloom, they are non-hybrid seeds that crank off what I'd call "true heirloom flavor"! If you were to close your eyes and think about what a tomato tastes like, you'd come up with something very similar to how these tomatoes taste! They are uniformly round, uniformly pink, somewhat small, and have the most uniform stem pull out there for all you backyard tomato growers. This one will impress your friends. I'll tell you what else will impress your friends - a plate full of Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, sliced, dressed with good extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper. Snacking, salads, and sandwiches - these are small enough, you're less likely to cut one and have half a tomato in the fridge for a day or two - you'll use one at a time.
Pomodoro, Italian Piriform or 'pear-shaped' tomato (not pictured)- "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy"
Here's one that's a little meaty-er, a little bolder and more acidic - a beefsteak-y kind of tomato that can stand the heat in a hot kitchen! Also a fine option for sandwiches, etc - these also are great for roasting and sauce applications. A great way to extract more flavor out of these Italian tomatoes is just to add a little heat - right from the grill or a hot roasting pan. With seeds ordered from Italy, these will give a chicken cacciatore some real authentic Italian kick! Use in any recipe that calls for tomatoes to be cooked.
San Marzano - "You Can Do It"
Everyone sees these tomatoes in cans, sees them on their favorite cooking program in sauces, but so many people have never used them as whole tomatoes. Don't neglect this opportunity to elevate your pasta dishes from good homestyle to true restaurant quality by choosing the tomatoes they prefer in fine dining! Very hollow in the middle, these tomatoes are also born of seed ordered directly from Italy, making their resultant sauces authentically, kiss your mama delicious. They blend into instant paste for fresh sauce applications and they cook down into a truly tomato-ey "gravy" for your pasta and sandwiches. Get authentic - get the real San Marzano!
So here we are in our fifth year attending farmers markets! Hard to believe it's been that long in some ways. Quite a few things have changed since we attended our first market in 2007 (Schuylkill River Park, Philly - update your Three Springs Trivial Pursuit packs). More trivia later - back on topic, one of the things I've noticed as a trend at farmers markets is the renewed interest in food preservation, canning, and pickling. There's a canvolution taking place in this great nation of ours and it was with this in mind that we opened our online store, so that the most voracious, discerning, and preservation-minded among our customers could get, what we Central Pennsylvanians call, "good stuff cheap" (apologies). Are we on to something? We asked Headhouse Market frequenter Ben S. of Philadelphia how we're doing. These are his responses, printed verbatim with his permission.
THREE SPRINGS: What led you to order online from Three Springs?
BEN S.: I buy lots (and lots[at least I consider it to be a lot - I'm not sure how I compare to your overall customer base]) of fruit from Three Springs anyway, and when I want to make a bulk purchase it is quicker and simpler to do it online instead of through email. I like that I can pay via Paypal versus having to go the ATM to get cash. I just show up at the market, grab my crate and go.
They also have great deals on seconds which are great for ice cream, jam etc.
THREE SPRINGS: So! How'd that work out for ya?
BEN S.: Deliciously. So far this year I have bought strawberry seconds, sour cherries, peaches and peach seconds online and all have been good quality (seconds are obviously going to have some bruises etc) and worked well for my various projects.
THREE SPRINGS: What the blazes did you do with all that fruit?
BEN S. : My preferred breakfast is steel cut oatmeal with fruit, so I processed and froze a substantial portion of the fruit for breakfasts throughout the year. I also have started dabbling in making jam and ice cream this summer so that has been the destination for quite a bit of the fruit. My preferred end result though is pie. I like pie. (editor's note: We too love pie - pies of any description. Pies are commonly used to leverage bribes against us)
THREE SPRINGS: Would you order online with Three Springs again and, if so why (if not, why not)?
BEN S.: Definitely. You can get great fruit at a great price. That being said, it would be nice to have some of the other fruits listed up there as well - blueberries, apricots etc and in somewhat smaller quantities (half flat/crate instead of a full one) since a full crate can be a lot to deal with on a Sunday afternoon. Also, they sold strawberry seconds by the pound and I think that would be great for other fruit (apricots - hint, hint). Actually, forget the hint, do you have apricot seconds? Because I want them.
THREE SPRINGS: One non sequitur, have a guess - which of these people have not shopped with Three Springs: Pres. Barack Obama (Happy Birthday), Tony Danza of "Who's The Boss", "Angels in the Outfield", Phillies legend Greg "The Bull" Luzinski, or 1973 AL Rookie of the Year, Al Bumbry?
BEN S. : Definitely Al Bumbry.
So there ya have it - an honest testimonial from a brave Philadelphia pie lover who took the plunge, ordered bulk online with Three Springs, and was rewarded with sweet, sweet pie and the promise of many happy breakfasts in an otherwise cold, barren wintertime. This man could be you! Well... provided you've learned to put up with my bizarre sense of humor like Ben does - thanks man. Second thought, you don't even need a shred of personality to appreciate a deal this good! Generally not a problem at our stand, but not required all the same. If you have any further questions about online orders, just email me or add a comment. If you need good canning inspiration, check out Food in Jars. As a Biglerville native, Canners are very important to me.
And for your Three Springs Trivial Pursuit game, the correct answer is "Greg Luzinski". Orioles Hall of Famer Al Bumbry once left a complimentary voicemail on our office machine that I forbid anyone erase for at least eight months. "The Bull" is always welcome at our stand. We'll trade for BBQ.
Can it forward!
- Farmer Ben
That's right, we're talking family 'Apidae' on the blog today. The whole food system breaks down without bees and their closest relatives out there spreading pollen and getting fruits and veggies blossoms pollinated. It's a tale of human-subhuman symbosis with a sweet payout for the whole human race. Let's learn about honey,
pollination, CCD, and native bees and remind ourselves that we humans aren't so keen and evolved to overcome our reliance on a bunch of trained, eusocial insects.
Without getting into the nitty gritty horticultural details, all varieties of apples, many sweet cherries, many plums, and many pears all need a second pollen source to be fruitful. That is to say a whole block of Jonagold apples will hardly yield any fruit at all without a second (and compatable) pollen source planted in proximity and, of course, our friendly bees for effective pollen
When I was a youth and our farm was smaller and nearly entirely apples, we rented a lot of bee hives from our local apiary. I can remember these days well, since Dad would always meet the "bee man" after dark when the bees were docile and less active to strategically place them where they'd most effectively pollinate our orchards. As our farm progression continued over the years and our crops became more diversified, the peaches, apricots, cherries, and more recently berries, veggies, plums etc. are blooming earlier than the apples. By planting more diverse crops that bloom over a longer period of time, we saw more pollination occuring from native and feral bee populations because we were were providing more food for them over a longer period of time.
And about this time was when Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) became a national
problem effecting Honeybees. Fortunately, our bees were raised locally and these
beekeepers (or at least ours) had little problem with CCD - these bees never travelled far enough to contract the effects from other populations and since we
never spray insecticides during bloom, they weren't exposed to anything harmful. So while the rental prices went up, as they should, we had been building native
pollinator populations, rented less bees and continued to have pollinator success.
So when my former boss and Penn State Entomology Department researcher Dr. David Biddinger (see video) at the local Fruit Research and Extension Center needed somewhere to establish a trial to assess different structures that might attract native pollinators, we leapt at the chance. Now our orchards are being graced by a multitude of different pollinators. Our veggie patch - the same! And, as part of our commitment to continual improvement of
practices with the Food Alliance, we have established plantings of wildflowers to further increase these native bee populations. We'll also be maintaining our own bumble bee populations to help pollinate our sweet cherries.
So as you can see, there's more to the bee than that sweet, local, allergy-fighting, biscuit-sweetening honey that we all know and love. And I hope I've impressed upon everyone just what a treasure we have in bees. They are out there every year helping our silly human race feed ourselves and sustain ourselves for another day. So small, so vital, so grossly underappreciated - three cheers for
check out more on Three Springs Fruit Farm Growing Practices or for further, in depth topics:
Growing Greener Blog Series:
Thank you all for the awesome feedback on our peaches so far this year! We've been tough to live with sometimes, with all of your kind words - we're trying not to let it get to our heads. And the pictures have been super! Here's a week's worth of the pretty pictures our customers have sent us with their market haul and, in some cases, the impressive things folks have done with our produce! Enjoy and thank you so much - all of you!
While it's likely last fall's news of President Obama purchasing our apples is likely to be our only brush with the Commander in Chief, it's unlikely we could present ourselves as mannerly and professionally as one of my favorite persons, Matt Harsh, who had the opportunity to ask Pres. Obama a question related to agriculture at his latest town hall meeting. Matt was my first boss out of college at PSU Extension in Adams County where he was influencial in the founding of the Young Grower Alliance during his time there. During that time, he and his wife Mary were raising vegetables in Matt's native home of Smithsburg, MD and bringing them to markets in Fairfax Co. Virginia - a passion that, in addition to raising their young children, is now their full time pursuit. I'll always be indebted to Matt and Mary for their willingness to help a young guy like me get my start and it's awesome to see him get this opportunity. There's no one I would rather have represent me in front of the President. Check out Chesley Vegetable Farms to keep up with the Harshs on the net. For more on why I love these people like I do, they also took our Young Growers group to New Zealand. Here's Matt with Barack (they're on a first name basis now):
Grr, bad embedding codes! click for link to CBS news story
This blog is the sixth entry in our "Growing Greener" series - a collection of blog entries focused on educating our customers about our growing practices and other things about our farm that make us a unique farming operation. This is a follow-up to August's "Food Alliance Certified" and is intended to address what our certification means in more specific terms - think Food Alliance, ver 2.1.
I hear what you're saying and I can understand your confusion. "I'm glad you guys are Food Alliance certified... I don't know what it means."
We introduced the topic on our blog last year with the big announcement in August but we want you to know just exactly what this means. Food Alliance certification, you might recall, encompasses four general principles, as laid out in their certification standards. These areas of concentration are growing practices, soil and water conservation, wildlife inhabitation on the farm, and fair and responsibile employment practices. There are also baseline, "whole farm" conditions that must be met before we can become certified. We also have to commit to continual improvement of practices on our farm and its in these last two areas that we'll begin our Food Alliance 2.1 analysis today.
So what does it mean to be a Food Alliance certified producer? There are guidelines for nearly any type of farm out there, I'm going to stick to what I know best - what it takes for us to be a Food Alliance certified producer.
1) produce Food Alliance certified products - this is to say we've passed our crop-specific audit and the food we produce complies with those standards specific to sustainable production of apples, peaches, pears, and cherries in our case.
2) provide safe and fair working conditions - in our case this covers everything from the obvious farm worker safety issues to our more progressive practices such as negotiating wages, providing opportunities for promotion, and providing health insurance for our workers.
3) practicing IPM to minimize pesticide use and toxicity - this is perhaps the effort you know most about on our farm. If not, catch up on how we scout for problems, mating disruption practices, lower toxicity materials, and this video on our practices.
4) soil and nutrient management - At our farm, this includes a long term rotational strategy between orchard plantings - often with minimal tillage. Hopefully soon, I'll include a blog with pictures of my father's very effective new erosion preventative no till sod establishment in orchards - it's a sweet system.
5) protect biodiversity and wildlife habitat - As part of our continuing improvement of practices for Food Alliance, we've established wild flower plantings to increase our biodiversity, specifically the population of native, feral pollinators. We also effort to increase populations of insect eaters like bats and barn swallows while also leaving standing deadwood for raptors, aiding in mouse control in our orchards.
Continually improving practices - here's where Food Alliance really sets themselves apart from other certifications. Some certifications have a standard "bar" that's raised and periodically, every few years, you have to prove that you're getting your chin above the bar for another review cycle. In the case of the Food Alliance, the onus is on us, the producer, to continually raise our own bar. Farming is a constant progression - you'll see evidence of it in every good farm I can think of. For the Food Alliance, they embrace this concept by requiring certified producers to commit to continual improvement in each of the four stated areas of concentration, insuring Food Alliance certified farms maintain the leading edge of progress and innovation in sustainable agriculture. These goals are specifically named and tackled over a one, three, and five year time frame.
We were just certified in August and they already want updated on our progress in completing these goals. I'm proud to say these goals are already being met around our farm. In additional to the wild flower plantings referenced above, we are having all of our employee manuals and training materials expertly translated into Spanish. We will have bat boxes around out around all of our farm ponds in another year and are working towards 100% mating disruption in our acreage. Are they ambitious and difficult? In many ways, yes they certainly are. But I've said from the beginning, if this certification wasn't a little difficult, it wouldn't be worth anything to anyone.
Read more about Three Springs Fruit Farm Growing Practices
or more "Growing Greener"
The year 2010 was one for the books! It had its ups and downs and tested our mettle in a lot of ways, but we're all the better for it. There was plenty doing on the farm, where a new building project, drought conditions, lightning strikes, and stink bugs kept us manically occupied. Market wise, we tried new market endeavors at Silver Spring, H&HS building, Crossroads, Greensgrow Farms, and, briefly, The Piazza at Schmidts (was that all?). In other news, our apples were eaten by the President of the United States of America and we became our local industry's first Food Alliance certified fruit farm. Relive all this and more in our Blog Highlights 2010, farm photos, and press clippings from 2010. We'll also update you on our offseason and have a peek ahead into what to expect in 2011. Enjoy!
The Year in Blog!
The History of the much-malligned Red Delicious <check out a commenter from Spain!>
The Year in Pictures
- Yfrog acct twitter photos - I see concerts in the offseason!
- plixi pics including apple anomolies and the famous US-15 northbound Zebra!
- PASA's slideshow of our Field Day
- H&HS Market open slideshow from H&HS - Ben meets Sect. Sebelius
- Several plugs on All We Can Eat farmers market report in Washington Post - great for DC foodies
- FarmPlate had a nice write-up on Headhouse Farmers Market
- Our Food Alliance press release gets picked up by Food CEO and Philly Food Feed
- Metro Philly on Offseason Activities
- Talkin' Social Media with Greensgrow on Farm to Table
Offseason review: Nov. '10 - April '11
We take offseason education very seriously around here, as this story suggests. This year, I wanted to spend some time quantifying that fact. Below is a listing of all the leadership meetings and educations meetings we attended this offseason between Thanksgiving and the first Silver Spring Market.
- Haygrove High Tunnels Mtg, Dec (Lancaster)
- Future Harvest CASA, Reisterstown (presenter)
- PA Farm Show (54 man hours - Harrisburg)
- 3 Vendors Meetings for Farmers Markets
- FarmCredit Ag Business Class - Webinar, 3 meetings
- State Horticultural Assoc. of PA - 5 meetings combined
- Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention (Hershey - 3 days, presenter)
- Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (State College, 2 days, presenter)
- Adams County Fruit Growers Association Ann'l Meeting
- County Ag Summit
- half day meeting with our tree fruit extension educators (stink bug preparedness)
- Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Board (2 mtgs)
- Wholesale Marketing Seminar (Syria, VA)
We spend a lot of time fixing equipment as well, in addition to long term business planning (including planting plans) and getting our signs ready for market season - all those details. There's all kinds of training and permits to achieve before markets start as well. We do have time for leisure as well including events like Fair Food Philly's "Brewer's Plate" and the occasional music performance in the area. I like to play a little music too - I crammed over 20 performances into this little offseason window and visited some out of town friends.
Looking Ahead to 2011
A formal announcement of our market schedule for 2011 is forthcoming, but I'm willing to get the details out to those folks brave enough to keep reading this far down! We were doing too much last year, so there are a few changes. Here's the preliminary plan:
- FRESHFarm's Silver Spring Market - back starting April 2nd (at the Panera location) and staying every week 'till Christmas
- Headhouse Farmers Market - back and better than ever! Market starts May 1.
- Kenilworth Farmers Market - back at a new, larger area of the same parking lot! Come "down the hill" from Stebbins to shop with us starting May 3rd!
- Greenbelt Farmers Market - back in our corner stand again in 2011! Opening week is May 8th!
- FRESHFarm's Health & Human Services Market - back with new times! Join us every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm over your lunch break under our new, shady tent! Market starts May 18th!
We made the decision not to return to Crossroads Farmers Market and Greensgrow Farmers Market in 2011. We like those markets a lot and we especially like the people operating them who are top notch and true, geniune local food advocates. It was a hard decision for us to make, but we felt we were over-extended and needing to cut back on our markets for this year. PLEASE, if you were a customer there, please continue to patronize these markets because they are terrific and run by some pretty special people. There are a couple other options we are considering for markets in 2011, but what you see could be what you get for us this year.
And with that, we're only 12 days away from the first Silver Spring market of 2011! It's about that time, folks!
I've never been known as one who has a propensity for stirring the pot or being a malcontent. However, when things I'm passionate about are sullied and bastardized by folks with no real credibility in the realm of the things I care about...
This story really starts two years ago when I was trying to find a good mid-week market for our farm. We'd made a lot of great new friends in Greenbelt at our Sunday market there and many of them expressed an interest in buying our products during the week. With this in mind, I searched for and found a market that both suited our needs (nearby to Greenbelt, middle of the week) and showed an interest in having us as a vendor. While this market had another fruit vendor, the specialty vegetables and the wide range of tree fruit we offer was going to fill a significant void, we were told. It seemed like a great fit and I was told to expect confirmation of our spot once the board met and approved us.
Just a few weeks later, I get an email from the manager of this market apologizing profusely, explaining that the board ruled that we could not enter the market because our farm was in Pennsylvania. At this time, there was already a vendor from Pennsylvania attending this market - a vendor whose farm was three times the distance from market as ours. What's more, a few of the Maryland growers were traveling twice as far to that market as I was. No matter. Local is defined in whatever way best suits those who are defining it and I'd better look somewhere else for a farmers market. Frustrating as this was, this was a private market and they were free to create whatever nonsensical "rules" they'd like, even at the expense of their own market, in this case. This market continues to have vendors from other states - we have not be asked back.
When I was in college, I spoke to several grocery store produce managers who told me local produce is defined as anything that get to the store on a truck in one day or less. Pressing further, these managers couldn't tell me if one day meant one day's travel, one 24 hour period, or 24 "truck hours" (as truckers cannot drive 24 hours straight legally). Their definition had to maintain plausible deniability and be elastic enough to suit their needs. The conversation ended... abruptly.
But fear not, locavores! The Maryland Department of Agriculture is being proactive, issuing new regulations to define local. Admittedly, at the time, I had a feeling that my State Department of Agriculture missed a real opportunity to step up and provide a great model other states could follow. All the same, it was a breath of fresh air that this selective, self-applied definition of local was going to be really challenged, by my estimation, for the first time!
And, as has happened so many times as a young adult in the business of local agriculture, my faith and anticipation was quickly proven to be poorly guided.
Two years removed from the market fiasco and I'm still trying to market our products to folks in Maryland who are clamoring for them. After having missed the event last year, I acted quickly to insure I'd attend the 3rd Annual Maryland Buyer/Grower Meeting after having a positive experience at the Innaugural Event. Today, I was informed that I would not be able to attend the event this year based solely on the fact that my farm is in Pennsylvania. When pressed for an explanation of this policy change, I was told by Mark Powell, Chief of Marketing (email) that the buyers at this meeting were there to buy locally from Maryland farmers and my inclusion might "confuse" them. That is to say, the Ag Department believes that Maryland is more local than Pennsylvania. If my fruit travels 70 miles and an Eastern Shore grower travels 120, then I'm trying to confuse you - tricking you into buying something that isn't local by traveling over state lines.
For me, local should be defined by the consumer. If you're reading this and you want to by your food locally, you get to decide! What's local to you doesn't have to be local for your neighbor. If you've tried products from 50 miles away and the ones from 100 miles away are better, you're free to make that choice. We do not need to start playing the more-local-than-thou game, it's going to make things ugly for everyone. In a perfect world, every person purchasing local farm products gets to assign the value they see fit without a journalist-turned-ag marketer placed between you and I to prevent it from happening. At the end of the day, if you want a local product and you think 70 miles is closer to your home than 120 miles, I think you should be able to make your mind up for yourself whether the government thinks that's confusing or not!
And if you're looking for an organization built on local food facilitation, not obstruction, learn more about Future Harvest CASA.