Recently I talked with Lisa Kershner from North Star Orchard in Cochranville, Pa.
North Star is synonymous with fruit and producer only farmers markets in the Philadelphia area.
They seem to be at all the best, busiest markets.
Lisa and her husband Ike have grown their orchard business along with the growth in the local food movement.
North Star is no hobby farm; it’s the real deal.
This is an innovative business. They aren’t afraid to try new things; they are excellent marketers and they aren’t afraid to evolve as the local food industry changes.
This episode is brought to you with the generous support of Technology Management, Phoenixville, PA.
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Erich McEnroe from McEnroe Organic Farm joins me on this episode of JACKS FARM RADIO.
In their words:
Farming over 1000 acres in the Harlem Valley, New York, McEnroe Organic Farm is committed to organic and sustainable agriculture.
The farm produces certified organic produce, meats and garden transplants. Our compost and soilis approved for organic production and available in bulk, wholesale, and retail.
Our Farm Market carries farm grown meats and produce, a wide selection of organic and specialty groceries, prepared foods, and fresh baked goods. We offer daily lunch specials, and catering for events large and small.
In the Nursery you’ll find a full range of annuals and perennials for your edible and decorative gardening and landscaping.
Our Education Program promotes an awareness from field to fork by using the farm as a classroom.
Tom Reinhardt from Nev-R-Dun Farm joins me in this episode.
This is a lifestyle farm in Westminster, MD.
The goal of the Nev-R-Dun Farm cooperative is to provide organically grown produce to Carroll County residents along with the neighboring counties. As the demand for fresh organically grown produce increases, the amount of such produce available is less than adequate. We hope to do our share in offering such produce.
Most produce that is available for sale in supermarkets is disappointingly bland and over-mature. We have found that many types of heirloom vegetables are over-whelmingly more flavorful than the market types. Beyond this, nothing beats the freshness of just harvested produce. It is one of our main goals to provide only the freshest and best tasting produce available. To attain this goal, we are constantly experimenting with new varieties, in order to discover a hidden gem.
Our primary target customer is the individual person or family that is in search of the freshest and most flavorful produce. If you consider yourself to fall into this category we look forward to meeting you one on one.
One Straw Farm is the largest Food Alliance Certified vegetable farm in Maryland. Lovingly tended by Drew and Joan Norman since 1983, One Straw Farm supplies families, restaurants and wholesalers with the finest certified produce. The goal of farming is more than simply growing a satiable crop, but also the responsibility of safeguarding the integrity of the land we cultivate. Each week we promise thew provision of sustainable produce with a responsible ecological footprint. We extend our value base into the creation of a strong relationship with our market customers and our members through interaction and communication on a daily basis. From our family to yours, we invite you to enjoy our gorgeous home-grown vegetables either through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, the following farmers markets:
John & Kira’s is a Philadelphia based confection company owned and operated by John Doyle and his wife Kira Baker-Doyle. John talked with me about his rise from creating chocolate delights in his studio apartment to his current muti-million dollar chocolate manufacturing facility. Through the good fortune of a meeting with a magazine editor, John & Kira’s growth exploded.
The candy business is seasonal. John tells me that John & Kira’s does half of their yearly sales volume in the November-December holiday season. We have a revealing conversation about manufacturing chocolate for a peek sales season of just four weeks a year.
Marketing is a big part of the confection business and John & Kira’s does marketing really well. John talks about differentiation in the chocolate business. With beautiful packaging and extremely creative, earth and nature inspired chocolates J&K product stands out in what could easily be argued is a commodity industry.
This interview is a really good lesson in good business practices that can be applied to virtually any industry.
Here’s their story from their website:
John & Kira’s is a socially innovative chocolate company dedicated to both making and selling world class confections and promoting positive social change.
Co-founders John Doyle and Kira Baker-Doyle both felt the itch to start an entrepreneurial venture back in September, 2000. John, after a short stint in banking, made a career switch into the kitchen at various restaurants in Manhattan and Philadelphia. Kira was completing a Masters in Education at the University of Pennsylvania and working closely with an urban school garden project.
After over a year of research and experimentation, the pair developed an all natural line of chocolates so delicious and unique that Gourmet Magazine placed them on the front cover of their publication in 2003, and praised them as their ‘favorite chocolates’. John & Kira’s quickly became nationally known as a premiere gourmet chocolate company in the United States, both for their fresh confections and their pioneering social mission.
The signature line of chocolate ganache squares features ingredients from sustainable artisan food growers local to their Philadelphia chocolate studio, across the country and around the world. They highlight:
– fresh mint grown in urban school garden programs in Philadelphia that teach students about nutrition and agriculture
– honey from family-run Draper’s Apiaries in PA paired with organic lavender
– lemongrass from a biodynamic & organic farm preserving heirloom crops in CA
– ginger from a biodynamic & organic farm on Molokai, Hawaii
– shade grown coffee from a worker-owned Fair Trade cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico
– pistachios grown, harvested & roasted on family owned & operated Eagle Ranch in NM – organic earl grey tea from a Sri Lankan employee-owned cooperative.
Since the 2003 Gourmet Magazine article, John & Kira’s concept and the company have grown steadily. They have expanded their chocolate line to include chocolate ladybugs and chocolate filled figs from an organic, family-owned farm in Spain. Their chocolates, recently featured on the Martha Stewart Show and in Oprah Magazine, are available online at www.johnandkiras.com or by calling 800.747.4808.
Yael Lehmann, Executive Director of The Food Trust and Mukethe Kawinzi, Project Manager in charge of farmers markets join me on this episode.
The Food Trust’s mission is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food and information to make healthy decisions. Working with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers, we’ve developed a comprehensive approach to improved food access that combines nutrition education and greater availability of affordable, healthy food.
The Food Trust was founded 20 years ago with a simple idea: healthy change.
There were neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia where residents couldn’t easily buy healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. And science shows us that people who live in these underserved neighborhoods are more at risk for serious diet-related diseases like obesity.
The Food Trust – then known as The Farmers’ Market Trust, an off-shoot of Philadelphia’s venerable Reading Terminal Market – began with one farmers’ market at Tasker Homes, a public housing development in South Philadelphia. Once a week, with the help of the Tasker Homes Tenant Council, we set up one long table overflowing with produce. It was the only source of fresh fruits and vegetables in the community. “People hadn’t seen that kind of quality produce in their neighborhood before,” The Food Trust founder Duane Perry recalls.
In the two decades since the opening of the Tasker Homes market, The Food Trust has worked with neighborhoods, schools, grocers, farmers and policymakers in Philadelphia and across the country to change how we all think about healthy food and to increase its availability. Together, we’ve brought supermarkets to communities that have gone decades without one. We’ve helped corner store owners introduce fresh produce, low-fat dairy and whole grains. We’ve taken soda and junk food out of schools, and we’ve taught students to appreciate foods like apples and cherry tomatoes.
A recent study by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health found that – for the first time in decades – the obesity rates among Philadelphia school children decreased by 5 percent between 2006 and 2010. This is one of the first studies showing a reversal of the country’s troubling obesity trends, and it suggests that together, we have found a key to obesity prevention: a comprehensive approach that combines nutrition education and increased access to healthy foods.
Trey and Deirdre Flemming operate Two Gander Farm near Philadelphia, PA.
I drove to Two Gander, a 10 acre vegetable farm, late one evening to talk with them about their new or should I say old farm. Trey and Deirdre have accomplished a lot over the last year. This season they moved their farm operation about 25 miles to a new, more permanent location. As I drove in the long driveway I could see even in the darkness and through the high tensile deer fence the makings of a viable vegetable farm. High tunnels, 1000 gallon water tanks and an organized opperation all lay in front of me.
In some ways this episode revolves around land access. Trey has been farming for quite a while on different properties and for different people. He’s on his own now, with Deirdre of course, in a true family farm situation. The Flemmings had to move from leased farm property due to a sale. During their search for property they were introduced to the Brandywine Conservancy through an almost random conversation with a farmers market customer.
Access to land is a huge issue for all farmers. If you’re young you probably don’t have the capital to buy land. If you’re currently farming, rising land prices are an impediment to growth. Finding a way around land access issues occupies the minds of a lot of people in the farm industry right now.
Trey talks about The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture also known as P.A.S.A. This organization has brought him many opportunities.
Good Agricultural Practices or GAP in farm jargon is taking on more weight each year as a third party checklist to ensure that farmers and the supply chain they use practice safe food handling.
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Mike Traud is an educator/administrator within the Culinary Arts and Hospitality program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. The Drexel Hospitality program, which includes the Culinary Arts program is reenergizing itself by bringing on a faculty with high end dinning and business experience.
Mike and I had a meandering conversation about Drexel, the restaurant industry in general and you. Yup all you eaters out there.
What strikes me pretty hard about this conversation is the similarities between the farming industry and the restaurant industry. Remember, my wife and I operate a small certified organic vegetable farm so I know a little about farming. While obvioulsy they both involve food you’re going to also hear about long work hours, low wages, doing a thing for the love of it, and demanding customers all of which happen to be hallmarks of the farming business too.
I have a brand new Facebook page and Twitter account so please like and follow JACK’S FARM RADIO. Thank you for the ratings and the comments on iTunes. They really make a podcaster feel good. And quite frankly motivate me. So keep doing it. Thanks once again to Tin Bird Choir for the intro and outro music.
Lindsey Shapiro and Landon Jefferies own and operate 3 year old Root Mass Farm in Oley, PA. This young, well educated couple work on a limited budget growing vegetables that they sell primarily at farmers markets in Philadelphia, Pa.
Lindsey and Landon really are doing this on a virtual shoestring. You’ll hear about the limited equipment they use, how they found a farm to lease and what they eat during the busy season. Lindsey and Landon sell their produce at Headhouse Square and The Frankford Transportation Center markets in Philadelphia.
If anything this discussion really points to the need for you to spend more of your food budget at your most local, Producer Only Farmers Market. Producer Only Farmers Markets are just that; the folks selling at those markets are growing and or making their own items to sell directly to you. In The food industry, the vast majority of profit typically goes to the wholesalers. Supporting your local farmers at a Producer Only Farmers Market is a really heathy decision for both you, your community and the producer. Shopping this way helps the farmer or producer capture more of the profit in the transaction.
Lindsey and Landon are a terrific example of the modest, hard working, idealistic food producers you’ll meet at your local producer only farmers market. These are the types of local food industry people you need to support. Hope you enjoy this conversation with Root Mass Farm.
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