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Friday, September 11, 2009

A FarmSource Success Story: Rippling Brook Farm

Local farmers are busy harvesting their crops, and at Eat’n Park, that means that our guests are enjoying a bounty of fresh produce thanks to our FarmSource program. The seedlings I saw during my spring farm tour (click here to read that post) are now producing fresh fruits and veggies that we’re featuring daily on our salad bar and in our menu items. Click here to see photos of these bountiful fields from my summer farm tour.

It’s hard to believe that the FarmSource program has been up and running for seven years now. Besides the obvious benefit to our guests, I’m happy to say that the support that FarmSource provides to local farmers has kept at least one farm from disappearing.

I met Aaron Schwartz back in 2002 at a Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference. Aaron is an Amish farmer from Sligo, PA, and after the conference, he hitched a ride to our offices to talk more about the program I was developing. Aaron’s farm is a little off the beaten path, and he was eager to get his produce into the Pittsburgh market. He explained that unless I could help him, he was getting out of farming. At the time, a bushel of his zucchini was earning him 75 cents at the local farmer’s market, and the box needed to hold the zucchini was costing him 25 cents.

Eager to help my new friend, I convinced Paragon Food Service, one of Eat’n Park’s suppliers, to make a new stop on their regular routes. Today, the hand-breaded fried zucchini at Eat’n Park comes from Aaron’s farm. Additionally, you can find his melons at Giant Eagle and his organic fruits and vegetables at Whole Foods Market.

After that first year of using Aaron’s produce, he invited me out to his land to enjoy a meal with his family. Fresh chicken, apple pie, and goats milk rounded out the delicious menu, and we had a wonderful time eating and celebrating the success of our partnership. Afterward, Aaron and I were touring the farm when I noticed a bulldozer in the distance. I soon learned that Aaron was putting in a loading dock to make his farm more accessible for the food trucks used in wholesale trade! It was amazing to think that just a year before, Aaron had been on the verge of giving up farming.

As this program continues to grow, I look forward to sharing more stories like Aaron’s. We currently partner with over 20 local farms and dairies through FarmSource, and I’m constantly working to develop new partnerships. To see a map and links to our partners, just click here.

And to find out more about Aaron’s Rippling Brook Farm, just click here.

Happy harvesting!
Jamie Share

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