When Your Meal Becomes A Map

by Lisa HersheyFarm fresh vegetables

I smirked as my dad predictably took us on a counter-clockwise tour around his dinner plate, telling us nothing we didn’t already know.

“This beef was raised right here in our own pasture,” he points out the window where two Holstein steers graze serenely.

“The beans, potatoes and salad from that land there,” he says, referring to the plot of green adjacent to the pasture.

“Even the eggs in the salad are from our little corner!” he finishes with a flourish.

This was a commonplace litany in my childhood home, especially in the summer months when the garden spewed forth greens and tomatoes, potatoes and corn. Yet despite this most ordinary and life-long experience of knowing his food’s source, my father’s obvious delight at the land, work, and food connection has never waned.

Not only has he maintained his joy in being connected to his food, he’s passed it on.

I, too, now delight in surveying my dinner plate—my physical nourishment extending into a map of places, people and memories.

Sweet potatoes from Micah and Bethany at Plowshare Produce, friends and spiritual comrades. The tubers are not only flavored with butter and salt, but with memories. Memories of weeding the sweet potato plants on a drizzly summer day alongside friends as Micah explained why this particular field had the best soil on the farm. Memories of digging through the dry and crumbly sod on a crisp fall morning like a team of archeologists, our treasure of bushels upon bushels of sweet potatoes a worthy reward. Imaginary prizes handed out to the largest potato, the most bizarre shape, one which most resembles a living creature.

Cheese from Clover Creek in Williamsburg, my weekly neighbors at the local farmers market. Each bite of cheese is the result of one family caring for and milking the cows, creating new cheese recipes, culturing the cheese and bringing the cheese to market. This is industriousness and creativity I am happy to support.

Bread from my oven made with grain I can picture growing at Small Valley Milling and slathered with honey from Andy of Tug Hollow Honey, who keeps me regularly informed about the plight of the bees in our area and country. Bees that have enjoyed the cover crops across the road at Plowshare Produce and dutifully pollinated our vegetables in return.

And in my eating, I am connected. For ultimately, eating locally is about connection. Environmental stewardship, local economy, individual health and all the other reasons we eat local work to restore connections and seek wholeness.

As Wendell Berry says in his essay “The Pleasure of Eating”:

“A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health… Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.”

Choosing local food goes beyond physical necessity and nourishes our need for connection to the earth and to each other. And in restoring these connections, we become a bit more grateful, a bit more humble, and a bit more whole.

How does eating locally restore your connections? Please answer in the comments.

Lisa Hershey owns and operates LeFevre Bakery, a bakery in Huntingdon County that specializes in naturally fermented, locally sourced and wood-fired breads. She chose to start the bakery after witnessing how food builds community, from the field to the farmers market to the table.


Finding Connection In Local Food

by Roberta Cosentino

It’s June and my garden has been my obsession for several weeks. Each new flower on the chipotle pepper plant has me counting the days to fresh salsa. As always, ramp season was too short, but berries are ripening and summer is in the air. I am looking forward to the summer season and all of its wonderful spirit, energy, opportunity…and flavor!

A few years ago at a PASA conference I purchased a copy of Simply in Season – what would come to be my go-to recipe book. Organized by season and indexed by ingredient, I found myself at home with my first CSA share thumbing through pages of recipes with ingredients I actually had on hand. It was after my first rhubarb pie that I immediately started buying the recipe book for my friends and family.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, purchasing Simply in Season would eventually have the great effect of helping me connect my food to my surrounding landscape. As the seasons passed, I flipped through the book to the appropriate pages and started to realize that indeed, I had no reason to cook a summer dish in the dead of winter! There were other great recipes I could enjoy during those months, with seasonally appropriate ingredients. As the title of the book suggests, it was simple.

Eventually I would come to adopt something equally as simple: buying fresh and buying local. Without a doubt, this means different things to different people. What is local, anyway? Is it my town? My state? The east coast? The answer I choose is, simply, as close to me as possible.

Whether it’s my garden, the farm down the street or my favorite soap maker from Centre County, buying fresh and buying local is not a steadfast rule, it’s just a simple choice. At first it’s a choice about paying attention to where things come from until inevitably, one day, you enter a big-chain grocery store and feel like you’ve just taken a trip to strange, faraway land.

As a non-native Pennsylvanian I attribute my connection to my community with the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. Having moved here from a major city, my first months in PA were spent driving down gravel roads, giddy to find my dairy farmer. I met like-minded folks at the farmers markets, and generally appreciated the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the area. I quickly found myself living peacefully – as a responsible and conscious consumer. And in this small, simple way, I started connecting my plate to my earth and my earth to my neighbors and my neighbors to the world around me.

In the coming months I’ll be turning this discussion outward, connecting with the Buy Fresh Buy Local community throughout the state – producers, businesses and individuals alike. In the meantime, I welcome input, questions, requests or musings.

Until next time, I wish us all a bountiful season and merry salsa-making. Cheers!

Roberta Cosentino is a native New Englander who now lives, works and eats in Chester County, by way of Washington, DC. Since becoming a PASA member, her passion for small-scale farming, food security, cooking and community have guided her academic, professional and personal goals for nearly a decade.

The many faces of Marty’s Market

A three-faceted business, Marty’s Market has achieved a hemostasis that mirrors the balances found in nature. The Strip District business boasts an American-style café, a market, and a coffee bar, all of which work together to provide affordable, all natural, organic, and often locally grown products. “The idea was to have a model where people could experience food in many ways in one space,” says Johanna Klotz, Marty’s Market Strategist.

Klotz explains that, in addition to being convenient for customers, combining three food outlets into one space reduces waste. For example, produce that is not aesthetically fit for sale in the market can be incorporated into a café dish. Extra meat from the market’s butcher, whose products come entirely from local farms, can also be cooked into café meals instead of composted. By ordering for all three sectors at once, Marty’s Market is also able to cut down on transportation waste.

“The goal for this market is to really try to be a part of strengthening the region’s food system. We really feel strongly about supporting local growers,” Klotz says. “We like to see more money entering the local economy. But also we are really interested in how things taste and how fresh they are, and that’s something you can only achieve by ordering locally.”

Marty’s Market disproves the misconception that ordering locally means a limited selection of crops. If anything, their intimate connection with local farmers allows for a greater variety of produce. “We have a staff that is really dedicated to educating themselves about food, but then also transferring that education onto customers. We might get something that’s really rare that we would only get from a farmer directly, and not from a distributer. We get really excited about being able to talk about it with our customers,” Klotz says. Adding these more obscure fruits and vegetable to the café menu allows customers to try, and learn how to cook, foods that they may not buy on their own.

Food demonstrations led by visiting chefs are another way Marty’s Market connects with the community. Other special events include children’s cooking classes, cosponsored by Slow Food Pittsburgh, and raw vegan workshops. Marty’s Market also hosts monthly Healthy Eaters’ Meet and Greets. The Meet and Greets are not based around dieting, but allow community members to discuss ways to maintain healthy lifestyles. The next Meet and Greet is scheduled for April 11.

Not even a year old, Marty’s Market shows that there is a demand for organic foods in the Pittsburgh community. “Our customer base has proven that people really want [healthy foods] and they are willing to come to a small store in the Strip District to purchase these items,” Klotz says.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week


The blustery winter winds have finally brought some snow to Western PA but it’s no time to hibernate! Restaurant Week events have been a growing hit across the country and with some creative planning and promotion from the folks at Pittsburgh TasteBuds, restaurants from all over the Pittsburgh area are joining in on the fun!

The Pittsburgh Restaurant Week 2012 event starts next Monday, January 16th and continues through the weekend, ending on January 22nd.  Western PA Buy Fresh Buy Local Partners include Bella Sera, Bocktown, Elements, Habitat, and Six Penn!

Check out the full list of participating restaurants at http://pittsburghrestaurantweek.com/restaurants/

Food Bloggers from Western PA will be gathering on January 17th for a special event at Braddock’s American Brasserie, so stay tuned for their reactions and creative thoughts!


About PASA

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) is a nonprofit organization working to improve the economic prosperity, environmental soundness and social propriety of Pennsylvania food and agricultural systems. We work with farmers who grow our food, consumers who eat the food, and those concerned with the ecological wellbeing of our environment and natural resources, among many other interest groups.

PASA is the only statewide, member-based, sustainable farming organization in Pennsylvania and the Northeast, and is one of the largest in the nation. The Association seeks to address the sustainability of the entire food and agriculture industry, and places great value on efforts to build bridges between various and disparate participants in the food system.

PASA creates networks and markets to strengthen the ties between concerned consumers and family farmers. PASA is building statewide channels that link farmers with farmers, farmers with consumers, and consumers with markets. As our organization has grown, we’ve had some real successes with a variety of educational programs – both on and off the farm, that are shaping new partnerships that enhance the lives and livelihoods of producers and consumers.

PASA is a network of people who care – we all have a role in assuring the health and longevity of our regional farms and food supply. PASA is the catalyst that brings together those dedicated to advancing sustainable food and farming systems. PASA is a dynamic new model for partnerships between traditional agricultural and our ever-changing society and has worked to forge positive and needed changes in the way food is grown, harvested, distributed, and marketed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Our family farms face enormous threats and whether we can save farming in time is up to all of us. They can and will be saved – if they have enough friends (and farmers). Please be one of them. Please join us.