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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Farm Tour 2010

I love spring time. As the snow on the ground begins to melt and warmer weather rolls in, I know it’s time to make my annual pilgrimage to our farmers, who provide us with local produce through our FarmSource program . I always find these visits to be very educational and exciting. Even though there are not many crops growing yet, my objective is to make sure our farmers understand what we are looking for in the coming year.

My first stops this year were at Harvest Valley Farms where I met with Art King, and Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses where I spoke with Don Brenckle. We have been working with these two farmers for the past 5 years, so they know the drill and always look for us to try to execute something new. Both of these farmers grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, beets, greens and corn.

This year, Don is constructing a 5 acre hoophouse to grow produce for us. It’s so cool to come across farmers that are excited about extending their growing season and ultimately looking for direction from their customers.

Hoophouse (above) – a structure used as a greenhouse or a season extension, characterized by a half-round "hoop" shape. Hoop houses are typically constructed of lengths of PVC pipe, which is both flexible and sturdy.
We want to hear from OUR customers also…and that means YOU. What kind of local produce would you like to see featured at Eat’n Park? Because of the extended growing season, the hoophouse may allow us to offer items that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. We want to hear your suggestions, so post them here!

Another of my spring visits this year was to an artisan cheese producer, Emerald Valley Farm Artisan Cheese in Scenery Hill, PA. This farm is absolutely gorgeous, from the rolling hills to the picturesque homestead. I love visiting farms because I get a chance to see how they are raising their animals and what they are eating. This family-run farm has been raising dairy cows for over 50 years, and they have some of the healthiest looking cows.

When a 4th generation member of this farming family wanted to start diverting some of the milk toward cheese production, Emerald Valley was born. They still have about ½ of their milk going to a local dairy to be processed into fluid milk. Over the course of the next 2 to 3 years, their goal is to have 100% of their fluid milk diverted to making cheese. At Eat’n Park, one of our goals is to begin using locally-produced cheese in our restaurants, so hopefully, with Emerald Valley’s help, we can make that a reality.

The local growing season will be upon us soon. At Eat’n Park, you’ll see local ingredients being featured not just on our salad bar, but also in our menu items. At home, remember that buying locally is not only good for you; it’s good for the environment because less energy is used in transporting local produce, meat, and dairy products, among other reasons. Go to LocalHarvest.org and enter your zip code to find a listing of farmer’s markets near you.

Until next time,
Jamie Share


Rob Corliss said...

Personal farm visits are a must & how nice is it to get out of the office to do something educational and good!

We are in the same process for our fast-fresh concept and are working with a 150 farm alliance in the Kansas City area to supply our guests with fresh, wholesome food.

Grow-Buy-Eat local has a wonderful impact on social economics.

Jamie, thanks for sharing your spring travels.
- Chef Rob Corliss

Elle said...

I am so happy to see that fresh local produce is used! Also just have to say that I and my husband went out last night for dinner at Eat n Park and were so happy to have the nutritional guide there. We are doing the Biggest Loser and it was amazing to have all the nutrition info right there for us to use!