Author Archive | Carrie Havranek

CRACKING THE CODE

Why is buying a dozen eggs so confusing

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY JANE THERESE

Cage free. Pastured. Organic. Free range. Certified humane. Natural—What does it all mean? When it comes to eggs, it’s anyone’s guess as to where those chickens have roamed and what sorts of tasty vittles they’ve consumed (or not) before they laid the eggs you’re about to purchase. What impact, if any, does this have on the eggs, not to mention the welfare of the chickens themselves? Whether you’re buying at the grocery store or your local health-food store or farmers’ market, how do you know what’s really in that carton, even when you ask?

It’s a complex issue and the answers can take a consumer on a wild ride, but let’s start with the egg itself. When you crack that farm-fresh egg open into a hot frying pan or see how creamily it fluffs up with a brisk whisking, the egg reveals itself.

“Eggs tell a story, perhaps more than anything else we buy at the farmers’ market,” says Brian Bruno of Apple Ridge Farms, in Saylorsburg, PA. “A cucumber looks like a cucumber—you can’t necessarily tell whether or not it was grown organically just by looking at it, or even by cutting it. But eggs, that’s something else.”

Farm-fresh, pastured eggs exhibit some telltale signs, starting with the shells. For example, brown eggs come from chickens that have brown around their earlobes. Even though they cost more, they’re not nutritionally superior to white eggs. Brown eggs are more expensive because the hens that lay them eat more.

You Are What They Eat

That’s only part of the picture. The yolks of pastured eggs are typically bright yellow or even orange—the best, like Bruno’s, call to mind the color of saffron. This reflects what the chickens have eaten: the deeper the color, the more likely it is that the chickens are spending a good amount of time on pasture outdoors eating whatever they encounter, in addition to their feed.

Bruno typically offers his hens an organic feed that contains soy, corn, kelp meal, brewer’s yeast and a number of other nutrient-dense ingredients that change with the seasons. (At the time of this writing, the feed available contained sunflower seeds, to increase the fat content during the winter.)

This attention to the care and feeding of his hens is one of the reasons why Bruno’s eggs regularly sell out within the first half-hour of any of the nearly dozen farmers’ markets at which he sells them. If a hen’s diet is rich in xanthophylls, those yellow-orange plant pigments surface in the yolks. “But some [bigger] farms know that people look for that, and so they add marigold petals to the feed,” says Bruno.

This results in the same vivid orange hue, but without the outdoor foraging. “Big Ag finds any way of getting on any trend,” he says. Superior nutrition is the goal of Vital Farms, a company whose pastured eggs, culled from more than 100 family farms across the southern United States, are available at local Whole Foods markets. Vital touts the nutritional profile of pastured eggs: They have a third less cholesterol, twice as many omega-3 fatty acids, and significantly more of vitamins A, E and beta-carotene than conventional eggs. (A 2010 study from Penn State came to similar conclusions about pastured eggs.)

Thanks to the increase in fats, pastured eggs also behave better in a pan. “Farm eggs have less liquid in them, so they don’t separate when they hit a hot pan and the whites don’t run all over the place,” says Bruno. Vital Farms spokesperson Dan Brooks says that Vital’s hens forage year-round and are fed a “carefully formulated feed.” He adds, “The taste, texture, creaminess and color of our eggs is affected by what they eat. Grubs can enhance the creamy texture.”

In contrast, conventional hens lay eggs with lighter yolks and watery whites, thanks to the lack of pasture and a feed consisting of corn, wheat, oats and barley. These are the eggs you mostly find in the grocery store for 99 cents a dozen. But chickens are omnivores, meant to eat just about everything from bugs and worms along with feed.

“The secret to good eggs? We used to fence the chickens in, but now we fence them out of where we don’t want them,” he says. So his two flocks have the freedom to roam his seven-acre farm, which is bisected by a small country road. He moves them around the pasture daily. This prevents the soil from becoming too depleted and overloaded with manure, which would be detrimental to the health of the animals.

cracking-the-code-yolks

When you crack that
farm-fresh egg open into
a hot frying pan or see
how creamily it fluffs up
with a brisk whisking,
the egg reveals itself.

What’s on the Carton?

Small-scale, regional egg producers with flocks of less than 3,000 laying hens don’t have the same set of rules as larger producers. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture regulates the sale of eggs from these flocks, which must be sold within five days and within a 100-mile radius of production. Sometimes an egg carton might say “one dozen unclassified eggs,” because the farms have not weighed them or the eggs are different sizes. An Apple Ridge Farms dozen is a carefully culled mix of colors and sizes from various chickens, including Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, White Leghorns, Easter Eggers and Ameraucanas—the latter lay blue, green and pinkish eggs.

Farmers’ markets make conversations between farmers and consumers easy; relationships are the lifeblood of these venues. Bruno would be happy to tell you, for example, why he isn’t interested in organic certification (his farm is certified as natural) or why he doesn’t commingle older birds with newer ones. Supermarkets don’t have such farm liaisons, and many large farms don’t prioritize animal welfare the same way some smaller farms do.

And while a conversation with a farmer will probably answer your questions about those eggs, don’t look to government agencies for clarity at the supermarket.

“The USDA sees its mission as promoting agriculture. Therefore, it has been unwilling to define ‘humane’ as exceeding industry standards. Animal welfare advocates have avoided pressuring the USDA to define ‘humane’ because we are aware that it would likely accept industry baseline standards [which reflect “factory farming” practices] as the definition,” says Dena Jones, director of the Farm Animal Program at the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C.

For a typical shopper, it’s confusing and murky, isn’t it? But those who know and understand the regulations say otherwise.

“Oh, they’re crystal clear. They have to be,” says Brian Moyer, program assistant for agricultural marketing and entrepreneurship at Penn State Extension Center in Allentown. They may be clear (see sidebar), but there’s a lack of transparency among consumers about what those terms and labels mean.

According to Sam Jones-Ellard, a public affairs specialist in the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), there’s no industrywide accepted definitions of what “cage-free,” “free range” or “pasture raised” mean, but the AMS has “working definitions built into its policy for officially identified shell eggs. AMS applies these working definitions across all officially identified shell eggs, and verifies these claims through on-farm visits and through identification and segregation plans and procedures at egg packing facilities,” says Jones-Ellard.… Read More

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PICKING THE PERFECT PEACH

Scholl Orchards gets it right every time

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The brothers are so obsessively peach-oriented that Jake proposed to his wife,
Jessie, an art teacher, in the middle of the orchard, peaches in hand.

Photography by Adam Atkinson

Imagine the quintessential peach. It bears a bit of a blush, with a sunny yellow background. It’s symmetrical, about the size of a baseball, with a sweet smell. It yields to the gentle press of your thumb. When you find such a specimen, there’s only one thing you must do: Eat it immediately. And there’s only one way to eat this piece of fruit: right over your kitchen sink so the juices can drip down your hands and chin into an easily cleaned vessel. Farmers have a term for this. “They’re ‘sink’ peaches,” says 35-year-old Ben Scholl of Scholl Orchards in Bethlehem.

During their short summer season, sink peaches such as these are likely growing within driving distance of your house, though it’s also possible you’ve never had one. Supermarket peaches are hard and pale with almost no peachy smell. They have nothing on those grown at third-generation family-run Scholl Orchards.

Once known for its apple orchards, Scholl’s has of late expanded. The family’s farm stand is nothing more than a glorified shed, with a footprint they can’t change, says Ben, but “we always knew our business could be more.” And the exploding popularity of farmers’ markets gave them exactly that opportunity to do more, starting with the Easton Farmers’ Market in 2012.

For the past three winters, the Scholls have moved indoors to Easton’s winter market, sustaining their business—and their customers— with 20 to 25 varieties of apples, sweet-tart apple cider and the most velvety applesauce I’ve ever sampled, along with potatoes, onions and winter squashes. At winter’s end, the Scholl brothers pack up and disappear from the market for a few months. Their return sometime in late June or early July is eagerly anticipated because it signals that the peaches are coming.

Those pristine sink peaches really get people crazy. When you have a nearly flawless agricultural specimen, one that resembles a beautiful botanical drawing and possesses a textbook taste to match, everything else is a disappointment.

Ironically, peaches are a relatively recent addition to the Scholl’s mix. The family began farming in the late 1940s with just three acres in Bethlehem, selling apples and cider; it was a side business, one they never intended to become their livelihood.

Jake and Ben Scholl, who run the farm now, recall their grandfather, Reginald Scholl, farming after his day job. Their father, George, did the same. The family acquired a piece of farmland in Kempton in 1982 and, later, that farm’s existing barn and quintessential Pennsylvania stone farmhouse; their Kempton farm now totals around 42 acres.

“We are third-generation, but Ben and I are really the first generation of full-time farmers,” says Jake, 32. He recalls how his dad would leave their vacation at the Jersey Shore and drive several hours to Kempton to tend to the peach trees. “I’d always go with him, because I felt bad that he was going by himself,” says Jake. He also recalls being dropped off at the farm after school to whack weeds.

Little did he know that doing these chores would prep him for his eventual career. When Jake was in high school, he and his father sat and planned out the future, and it was full of peach trees. “He wanted nothing more than for us to take the business,” he says. But Ben resisted for a long time, working in construction for several years before coming to the farm full-time in 2010.

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Farmers will tell you that every fruit and vegetable presents its own particular challenges,
but peaches are notoriously difficult to get right. • Jake and Ben Scholl on their farm

It wasn’t a decision either Scholl brother made lightly; farming is less a job than a life-consuming project. Ben and Jake typically cannot take a day off between July and October, the height of the season for peach farmers. That pace won’t let up until early October, after the summer harvest is over, peaches have called it quits, and the squashes and apples have taken center stage. “We have about four months to make most of our money,” says Ben.

Unlike many other crops, peaches require constant care and picking. The way the Scholls do it, the season means 16-hour days and ten to 12 weeks of backbreaking, all-out intensity. Seriously. These otherwise young and hardy guys both have degenerative disc disease as a result of their work.

Daily activities during those exhausting months are limited to sleeping, picking, packing and delivering. “Market days are like a tornado,” says Ben. “It’s five of us, three trucks, and five pallets.” The peaches—and other items—are packed, loaded and driven about 40 miles to Easton from their farm in Kempton, on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.

The expansion of the Easton Farmers’ Market to include a Wednesday night market in 2013 provided the Scholls with access to even more customers, but it’s a delicate balance. They can’t grow much more than the 405,000 to 540,000 pounds of peaches per year they are already growing. “We cannot do more in volume and keep the quality. We’re maxed out in that regard,” says Jake.

The brothers are so obsessively peach-oriented that Jake proposed to his wife, Jessie, an art teacher, in the middle of the orchard, peaches in hand. She tells this story after she hands me a plate of peach cobbler, a family recipe. When asked how many types of peaches they grow, Jake jokes, “Too many.” And while he may feel that way during the grueling height of the season, the brothers are firmly attached to each of the 40 different varieties of peaches they cultivate.

Farmers will tell you that every fruit and vegetable presents its own particular challenges, but peaches are notoriously diffi cult to get right. “All of our grower friends think we are nuts,” says Ben, laughing. “But, fi nancially, we do a lot better than they do. There’s a saying among farmers, ‘Apples for health, peaches for wealth.’ ” Customers are more than happy to hand over fi ve to six dollars per quart for these fine specimens—or their nectarines, “a fuzzless peach,” as Jake calls it.

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So what exactly makes their peaches so different?

“Most of the growers we know pick their peaches green. They don’t let them ripen on the tree,” Jake says. When they ripen on the tree, the fruit is much sweeter, the flavor more fl oral and complex; the antioxidant count is higher, too. “Ninety-eight percent of where the flavor comes from is related to how long it stays on the tree,” he says. Another aspect of picking that makes it so labor-intensive is that the Scholl brothers, along with a tiny, trusted crew of about three others, will return to a tree multiple times over the course of several days. “Most farms would rather strip the tree fi ve days early, pack the peaches and ship them,” Jake says. But it’s that extra time that results in superior-tasting fruit.

It’s also not so easy to determine when they are mature.… Read More

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SCHOLL ORCHARDS PEACH COBBLER

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Adapted by Carrie Havranek | Makes 1 cobbler

½ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup fl our
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 to 2½ cups fresh sliced peaches, skin on if desired (about 3–4 baseball-sized peaches)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the butter in an 8” x 8” square pan and put it in the oven to melt as the oven preheats. In a medium bowl, sift the fl our, baking powder and salt, and then mix in ¾ cup sugar. Fold in the milk and vanilla, stirring just until everything’s moistened.

Slice the peaches and toss gently with the remaining ¼ cup sugar (or more, depending on sweetness), nutmeg and lemon juice in a second, larger bowl.

Remove the pan with the melted butter from the oven and pour the batter mixture over the melted butter. Do not mix. Carefully place the peaches on top of the batter; do not stir. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 45–55 minutes.

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ROAD TRIP: EXPLORING FRENCHTOWN

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l to r: Minette’s Candies; the main dining room of the Frenchtown Inn; The National Hotel

Photography by Glenn Race

The Delaware River, winding its way through five states on its path from New York’s Catskills to the Delaware Bay, is a spectacularly scenic setting for camping, fishing, biking and tubing when the warmer seasons allow. But any time of year, many of the towns that grace its banks provide an ideal getaway, especially for those intent on epicurean pursuits.

I live in Easton, a river city, so the quaint towns along the Delaware are part of my regular path. Heading south often means taking 611 through Riegelsville to River Road (Route 32), and then braving the narrow crossing over to Frenchtown, New Jersey.

Located about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, this 1.36-squaremile borough derives its name from the French-speaking settlers who moved here after Paul Henri Mallet-Prévost, a Swiss fugitive from the French Revolution who purchased the land in 1794. These days, its 1,473 residents are a mix of the creative class and urban expats. To wit: Elizabeth Gilbert, whose globetrotting explorations are detailed in her bestseller Eat Pray Love, could live anywhere; she chose Frenchtown as her home and the site for her shop Two Buttons, an eclectic Pan-Asian emporium.

Frenchtown is much smaller than the better-known Lambertville a few miles south, but instead of bypassing this quaint town as you zip around the region, get out of the car and explore it on foot or bike, via sidewalk and the towpath. There are no meters, and the two-hour free parking limit may or may not be marked by chalk lines on your tires.

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sweets at Bridge Street Café

WHERE TO EAT

On weekends, the long wait at Lovin’ Oven is more than worth it for brunch, but you can come for breakfast, lunch or dinner, too. Your reward? Inventive, flavorful dishes that incorporate as much local food as possible, and that happily and heartily satisfy vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. (Think: roasted chickpea tacos, huevos rancheros, quinoa breakfast bowls.) Julie Klein (and former co-owner Mike Quinn) opened the oven doors in 2010, relocating a few miles away from Milford. There’s a funky, airy vibe in this former electrical warehouse, with tables made from Balinese fishing boats furnished from its attached neighbor, Two Buttons. Whatever you do, order the sweet potato biscuits.

For straight-up diner fare served in classic digs—a wood counter with stools, black-and-white checkered floor and matching sepia-tinged photos of the town—head to the Frenchtown Cafe. It’s so old-school it has no official web presence. Arrive early for breakfast, try a fluffy threeegg omelet (sourced from Rick’s Egg Farm in Kintnersville) for lunch or indulge in nostalgic, hearty fare such as meatloaf. The dishes are scratch-made and slightly modernized: Think homemade veggie burgers and gluten-free French toast. Specialties include Bliss (scrambled eggs with bacon, chives, cream cheese on English muffin) and the Mess (scrambled eggs with onions, ham and potatoes, served with toast).

Many of the tables at long-running Bridge Cafe offer views of just that—the bridge over the Delaware along with walkers and cyclists on the towpath just a few feet from the dining room. Ken and Lisa Miller have been operating the café, housed in a former train station with pressed-tin ceilings, since its inception in 1987. He’s the chef; she’s the baker responsible for the yeasted doughnuts and giant cookies that greet you upon entering. The Bridge Cafe is known for its spinach cake, akin to a veggie burger, loaded with spinach, lentils, brown rice and feta cheese.

Around the heyday of the railroads, the Frenchtown Inn, which dates to 1805, used to be called “the lower hotel.” (The National was the “upper,” and the “middle” burned down at some point.) Like many riverside inns, this one no longer offers rooms for weary travelers. Instead, its classically trained chef-owner Andrew Tomko has been dishing out continental cuisine since 1996, working alongside his wife Colleen. Exposed brick adds charm to the formal dining room, whereas the relaxed Bar and Grill Room features local art on the walls. Dishes are sourced as locally as possible, from the rolling farmlands of Bucks and Hunterdon Counties. In warm weather, the front porch is prime people-watching real estate.

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diners at The Bridge St Café; a Tequila Mockingbird at The National Upstairs;
Lovin’ Oven Julie with her daughter Pepper; black bean burger at Pulp

WHERE TO DRINK

Everyone knows everyone at What’s Brewin’ at Maria’s, but even if you don’t, that’s okay—they’re a friendly lot. Named for its proprietor, Maria Battimelli, a retail veteran who opened up the café six years ago, Maria’s features coffee from Barrie House Coffee Co. in Yonkers and baked goods such as apple walnut cake and banana cream pie that are whipped up in-house. (She also happens to sell vintage postcards for a friend; people in Frenchtown truly follow their idiosyncratic bliss). Sit inside by the large window or grab a seat at an outdoor table, facing the street. It’s the nexus of activity, any given day of the week: Maria’s is open daily 7am until 8pm.

Two doors over, you’ll encounter Pulp, a juice bar whose name also unintentionally evokes the region’s historic paper mills. Owned by Janet Forrester and Stephanie Smith, who met 20-plus years ago while working in restaurants in New York City, it’s a bright space whose posters from Civilian Art in nearby Milford share back-tothe- earth quotes from the likes of Alice Waters, Michael Pollan and Wendell Berry. Smith brings in produce from as many organic and local vendors as possible. Chef Donald Gray makes a mean black bean burger and a vibrant, flavorful miso soup; there’s a breakfast and lunch menu, too. In addition to the smoothies and juices (ask for the Mean Green, loaded with greens and just one apple), Pulp brews coffee (including pour-overs) from Homestead Coffee Roasters in Upper Black Eddy, just across the river.

On the first floor of The National Hotel, a pressed-tin ceiling and long, curved wooden bar dating to 1901 set the vibe for the standard gamut of cocktails, wines and beers poured here. Or descend the stairs to the cave-like warren of rooms in The Rathskeller pub, or “The Rat,” as it’s referred to. It’s one of only two places in town with a liquor license and there’s action most evenings of the week, in the form of open mic, karaoke and trivia contests.

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WHERE TO SHOP

For such a small place, Frenchtown has a lot of businesses—more than 60—and is especially replete with retail, boasting a record store, bookstore, toy store, numerous chic clothing and home goods stores, a cycling shop, and a pet supply store. Highlights include the So- Ho-styled Modern Love, whose goods feel simultaneously vintage and contemporary and include kitchen wares; Blue Fish Clothing with an emphasis on natural, organic, and “wearable art”; and Delalware River Trading Company, a consignment business specializing in handmade items, a number of them edible.

Whether it’s Mary Janes, Squirrel Nut Zippers, or Whirly Pops from your childhood or the latest fancy chocolate, Minette’s Candies has it. Named for its owner, Minette Reading, this elegant candy boutique trades in equal parts nostalgia and hard-to-find items, so you’ll find BB Bats taffy pops and an extensive selection of licorice (much of it imported) alongside artisanal honey-based products from Savannah Bee Company.… Read More

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ROAD TRIP: A TASTE OF THE BRANDYWINE VALLEY

Wine and mushrooms, perfect together

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Kennett Square

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Woodlands at Phillips mushrooms

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Chaddsford Winery

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Holiday display at Longwood Gardens

Photographs: courtesy of featured establishments and chester county conference & visitors bureau

They don’t call the Brandywine Valley “America’s Garden Capital” for nothing. Much of its natural beauty vis-à-vis its famed gardens (Hagley, Nemours, Winterthur) isn’t currently in bloom, but we can thank the horticulture-loving du Pont family for the moniker. Winter offers opportunities to wander antiquesfilled mansions and art museums (Brandywine was home to artist Andrew Wyeth). No holiday season is complete without a trip to Longwood Gardens, a spot that sparks the spirit with its captivating indoor displays and organ-accompanied Christmas carol sing-alongs.

Nestled between Philadelphia and the Amish country and brushing up against Delaware, the Brandywine Valley is named for the river that travels southeast right through Chester County. Its charming main hubs include Phoenixville, West Chester and Kennett Square, the latter known for harvesting a million pounds of mushrooms a week. The region’s tourism bureau describes itself as “the South of France, a little west of Philly.” It’s not entirely off the mark, as six wineries and vineyards comprise the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail—and there are ten more that aren’t part of the official tour. The region’s proximity to Philadelphia means it’s commonplace for nationally recognized restaurateurs and chefs seeking a change of pace—and a close proximity to their vendors—to set up shop here.

WHERE TO STAY

Relax at the romantic countryside chateau known as Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast in Chester Heights, and enjoy indulgent seasonal breakfasts served on china. (Think baked pears and banana-walnut upside-down pancakes). Food lovers sign up for all-day cooking classes themed around seasons and holidays. Another bucolic retreat is Sweetwater Farm Bed & Breakfast in Glen Mills, a classic stone Colonial inn from 1734 set on 50 acres—it’s also home to Grace Winery. Or enjoy a similarly elegant stay at stately Faunbrook Bed and Breakfast in West Chester, known for its heated porch, fireplaces and claw-foot tubs.

For sheer convenience, you can’t beat the Brandywine River Hotel in Chadds Ford, which mixes country charm with modern amenities; ask for a room with a fireplace and Jacuzzi. In West Chester, Hotel Warner is a straightforward choice right downtown.

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Hors d’oeuvres from Talula’s Table

WHERE TO EAT

Better book now, because Aimee Olexy’s revered Talula’s Table reserves a year in advance: It’s one seating at one table of up to a dozen people dining on fresh, local ingredients. Another intimate spot, the shabby-chic greenhouse-like BYO Terrain Garden Café in Glen Mills, is especially popular for brunch with a similar farm-to-table ethos. (You’ll find it attached to the whimsical haute gardening store Terrain.) The former Chadds Ford Inn is home to a classic steakhouse experience at Brandywine Prime, albeit Pennsylvania-style, in a dining room with exposed stone walls. The snug Italian BYOB Portabello’s (Kennett Square) prioritizes local ingredients, mixing up its specialties such as its lobster ravioli (served with the lobster tail) with seasonal specials. Try the portabello fries, paired with a horseradish- chive dipping sauce. Majolica in Phoenixville pays homage to the town’s earthenware company of yore with its name, and to upscale, progressive American cooking with its execution. A tasting menu is the way to get behind the mind of its chef-owner Andrew Deery.

For a total change of pace, The Whip Tavern (Coatesville) features beers, ciders and twists on British pub standards. Warm yourself by the fire in the winter and watch whatever UK sport is on the telly; Wednesday nights are devoted to horse racing broadcasts, in season. (Its name is a cheeky riff on its location in horse and hunting country.)

WHERE TO DRINK

Beer and wine lovers can sip easily and frequently here. The commonwealth’s largest and perhaps best-known wine producer is Chaddsford Winery. Established in 1982 in Chadds Ford, it’s developed a reputation for its free-spirited, fruit-forward, approachable wines, culling grapes from as close as ten miles away and as far as Erie and New York. Stop in for a wine-and-cheese pairing and ask to taste their cider, which launched in 2014; the apples come from Zeigler’s in Lansdale.

For a boutique experience, Va La Vineyards, a 6.7-acre farm owned by Anthony Vietri in Avondale, produces just four wines from four different soils per year, culled from mostly northern Italian varietals to create unusual, coveted vintages (La Prima Donna has earned raves). The space is intimate, capable of hosting no more than six people at a time. It’s the only way to taste and purchase the wines. In the winter, you may experience either the salvage-aesthetic tasting room of Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery, tucked behind Longwood Gardens, or the cozier room in the older part of the building, with a roaring fireplace. Galer’s only been open since November 2011 but it’s scored multiple medals, including a double gold in 2013 for its Cabernet Franc “icebox” wine. That’s a sweet, super-concentrated dessert wine they trick into behaving like an ice wine by picking the grapes at the best possible moment for sugar concentration and then flash-freezing them. Their reds (Cab Franc and Huntress) are prime for winter drinking, and so is a new mead made from local wildflower honey and their own Chardonnay grapes.

Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford is a top choice for local wine among area sommeliers; a tour of their winery and tasting room is a must on any Brandywine Valley vineyard exploration. This winter, Kennett Square will see its first two brewpubs open a half a mile from each other in the one-square-mile town. The 8,000-square-foot Victory Brewing Company will open Victory at Magnolia on the first floor; luxury apartments will be upstairs. Expect beers made exclusively for the pub, and a scratch-made, locavore menu. Kennett Brewing Company was born from the largesse of Kickstarter donors. It’s a smaller, subterranean operation, with a speakeasy-like side entrance.

In West Chester, you’ll find a brewpub from the ubiquitous Iron Hill Brewery and a tasting room from pet-friendly Kreutz Creek Vineyards, which also invites you to BYOF (bring your own food). In Phoenixville, stop at Black Walnut Winery’s tasting room and the initial flagship spot of pioneering Sly Fox Brewhouse & Eatery (the first brewery in mid-Atlantic to put in a canning line) for not only the suds but also its expansive menu including French onion soup, pretzel sandwiches and beer-battered things.

Philter, a new café in Kennett Square, serves up handcrafted coffees (from Ceremony in Annapolis), both pour overs and brewed, in a rustic- chic space. Philter devotes the same level of attention to tea, adjusting the water temperature depending on type. (Teas are sourced from neighboring Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Shop—yes, she’s a real person but a poster of The Graduate hangs behind the register for giggles). Hang out long enough to sample its select menu of soups, salads and sandwiches. Phoenixville’s coffee drinkers—and music lovers—know well Steel City Coffeehouse for its all-day breakfast, coffees and teas, plus a full menu of items such as salads, sandwiches and various mac and cheeses.

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Sandwich from Philter Café

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Terrain Garden Café

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Banana-walnut upside pancake from Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast

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Menu items from the Whip Tavern

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Holiday display at Longwood Gardens

WHERE TO SHOP

West Chester’s progressive indoor market Artisan Exchange provides a community-minded space for food entrepreneurs to incubate a business with low risk and overhead.… Read More

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ROAD TRIP: RETURNING TO ITS ROOTS

Lancaster & Amish Country

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photograph: padutchcountry.com/coy butler

It’s no wonder the verdant, rolling farmland of Lancaster County’s Amish country, the nation’s oldest such settlement of the traditionalist Christian sect known for simple living, plain dress and abhorrence of modern convenience, attracts 10 million visitors per year.

Before I was 10 years old, I’d visited Amish country several times with my Aunt Charlotte, who lived nearby in Camp Hill and had Amish friends. I remember the simple farmhouses without electricity. And the way people dressed: men with suspenders and long beards and women with covered heads and long dresses. From the Amish, I learned to love real soft pretzels with sweet honey mustard. From Aunt Charlotte, I gained an understanding of Pennsylvania Dutch self-sufficiency, the characteristic of someone who cooked from scratch and dotted her applesauce with cinnamon Red Hots.

That’s just a memory, but here’s the reality. The number of Amish—there are about 32,500 in this patch of earth—is steadily climbing, and the region still exports much of its agricultural riches to bigger cities. But today Lancaster has reconnected to its roots, 2014-style. Everywhere you look, a DIY spirit and reverence for the land is revitalizing the community and dancing, somewhat ironically, in step with today’s renewed interest in sustainability and locavorism. Lancaster County buzzes with a new distillery, burgeoning breweries and inventive farm-to-table restaurants. They just happen to share the landscape with the buggies, antique shops and all-you-can-eat buffets. Soon, the industrial-chic aesthetic of reclaimed warehouses will feel as quintessentially Pennsylvania Dutch as the county’s 29 covered bridges and numberless red barns.

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Lancaster Brewing Company’s patio

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A flatbread from The Fridge

WHERE TO STAY

In downtown, seek out Lancaster Arts Hotel, whose brick walls bear nearly 300 works of art, many by Pennsylvania artists. This hotel’s located in a former tobacco warehouse—think lots of exposed stone, weathered brick and wooden beams. (You’re also within paces of the on-site restaurant, John J. Jeffries.)

Just outside downtown you’ll find Cork Factory Hotel, which opened in 2010; its name reflects its original incarnation as Lancaster Cork Works, dating to 1865. Vestiges of its previous life remain: there’s at least one exposed brick wall in every guest room and most of the original window openings and building footprint have been preserved. (Its on-site restaurant, the Cork & Cap, offers updated, from-the farm regional specialties and the likes of whoopie pies from The Baker’s Table, its house bakery-café.)

For something slightly more rural, the 63 rooms and suites at The Inn at Leola Village are regularly lauded. Located just a few miles outside Lancaster, the Inn comprises six antique barns and buildings that were one part of an early-19th-century tobacco farm. Recently awarded a four-star rating by Forbes Travel Guide, it’s a country stay with plush touches such as 400-thread-count sheets, an Italian restaurant, and a spa and fitness center.

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Lancaster Central Market

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Tomato pie from Tomato Pie Cafe

WHERE TO EAT

Many people road-trip for Bube’s Brewery, a maze-like complex including an intact 19th-century stone brewery and restaurant whose aesthetic involves dark lighting and brewing artifacts. It’s hard to be bored here, with the casual biergarten, fine dining in candlelit underground catacombs, live music, beer-pong tables and themed “feast” dinners. And there is the beer, which they’ve been pouring since 1982 and which leaves the premises only in a growler; you won’t find it bottled.

What started as the barbecue competition team of Maria Jo Harless and Jeff Boy Harless turned into a nanobrewery and barbecue joint called JoBoy’s. She’s from New Holland, he’s from North Carolina, and their homespun Manheim business recently relocated to significantly bigger digs in Lititz. Order the smoked cabbage smothered with butter, barbecue sauce and bacon.

Barbecue’s not your speed? With its chalkboard menu, checkerboard floor and honest-to-goodness soda fountain, Tomato Pie Café is all vintage charm. The Fishers, the café’s owners, feature a family recipe for a Southern staple called tomato pie; with flaky top crust and a fluffy cheese topping, it’s decidedly not pizza, despite its name. Fill up on baked oatmeal or quinoa pancakes before a day of beer sampling.

To taste what’s happening with farm-to-table fine dining in Lancaster, head to John J. Jeffries for dinner. Chefs Sean Cavanaugh and Michael F. Carson specifically chose the region for its abundance of small farms and the community love such relationships facilitate. Think deceptively straightforward menu with a local, nose-to-tail ethos; they go through “thousands of pounds of bones per month,” says Cavanaugh. Check it out: the tartare, which they call “the Truth,” with Thistle Creek Farms beef, is always on and always earns raves. Its accompaniments, like the menu itself, change in “bits and pieces, very often,” says Cavanaugh.

Like-minded but more intimate in scale is the BYOB Slow Food member Ma(i)son. It’s small in scale, seating about 30 and offering a dozen dishes daily, but big in ambition. Owners Taylor and Leeann Mason have transcended thoughtful farm-to-table fare to collaborative, take-back-the-earth heights. With two culinary gardens in partnership with farmer Alex Wenger, who grows specifically for the restaurant, Ma(i)son is tackling the next frontier in sustainability: grains. Ask how the spelt, barley and heirloom corn crops are doing.

That’s progressive, for sure. If you’re hankering instead for an allyou- can-eat Amish buffet, the kind that makes people pull off the road for shoofly pie and chicken potpie, either of two historic spots, Plain & Fancy Farm in Bird-in-Hand (which also has its own on-site hotel) or Miller’s in Ronks, should more than satisfy. Or eat with the locals at Lititz Family Cupboard, with its authentic, scratch-made fare prepped and served by Amish and Mennonite cooks and staff.

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Left to right: cheeses and charcuterie from Lancaster Central Market

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One of the city’s famous covered bridges
photograph: adutchcountry.com/Terry Ross

WHERE TO DRINK

Pennsylvania is home to a growing number of micro-distilleries, and Lancaster’s got one, too, in rustic-chic Thistle Finch. Andrew Martin opened the spot last Christmas Eve in yet another former tobacco warehouse. The semi-hidden entrance is through the building’s loading dock on a side street. The name is a rough translation of distlefink or “goldfinch” in German, found on hex signs and indicating good luck. Three nights a week, its tasting room operates like a speakeasy where you can sample the rye whiskey (from local grain) and try the house specialty, a Martin Mule.

While you are in the building, if they haven’t moved yet to bigger digs, you may notice the roasting and training facility, aka the Badasserie, for Square One. Josh and Jess Steffy’s stellar café is located downtown (with a second one in Philadelphia at 249 S. 13th Street), where you can settle in at one of the wooden tables for a single-origin, sustainably sourced cappuccino, espresso, regular drip coffee, or its signature, the cold brew coffee. Those are expert pours, too—the baristas, blessedly, have legit training, impressively landing tenth and eighth in the U.S. Barista Competition and U.S. Brewer’s Cup.

Lancaster and its environs are chockablock with breweries and supported by an increasingly locavore-loving restaurant culture. Downtown, decisive beer lovers need their A game for the dizzying 100 taps to select from at Federal Taphouse. Near the Lancaster Arts Hotel, open up the door to The Fridge.… Read More

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ROAD TRIP: LIVING LA VIDA LOCAL IN OTTSVILLE & UPPER BUCKS

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Clockwise from top left: NelliRae’s fresh pressed carrot juice and green smoothie; Owowcow’s sign;
Espresso macchiatos from Brig O’Doon Coffee House; The Golden Pheasant’s exterior.

roadTripLaVidaI’ve taken day trips to New Hope and the Bucks County countryside, to Ringing Rocks and to the D & L river trail. I’ve spent time as a tourist in Doylestown and points south. But throughout my local travels, I kept overlooking Ottsville until a couple years ago when ice cream (see OwowCow Creamery, below) gave me a reason to plug the town into my GPS. In returning, I’ve encountered a remarkable number of food-centric stops concentrated in this sleepy village within Tinicum Township (population about 3,500) where everyone seems to know everyone. There’s no downtown with quaint shops and farm-to-table restaurants. Instead, there are two main roads and many more rural offshoots ripe for exploration. There’s an old church called Red Hill, founded in 1738 by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and for which the town was originally named (thanks to the area’s reserves of red shale). In 1814, the name was changed to honor Michael Ott, the town’s postmaster. These days, Ottsville and its surrounding enclaves are a mix of rural and progressive communities, with a growing population of urban expats. It’s so tiny that its namesake inn no longer offers a place to stay—just a bar and restaurant.

WHERE TO STAY

This is Bucks County, so in any given direction you’ll stumble upon an old stone inn nestled in a bucolic spot. For sheer spook factor alone, consider the Bucksville House in Kintnersville. This textbook Colonial Pennsylvania establishment dates to 1795 and is haunted by several ghosts (ask for photos). Innkeepers Barb and Joe Szollosi have filled it with mid-19th-century antiques and more than 100 quilts. You won’t have a television here, but all five rooms come with working fireplaces.

A winding country road lands you at the quirky Frog Hollow Farm Bed & Breakfast, owned by Mitch and Patti Adler. There are just three rooms and the 4.5 acres contain a gazebo, pond, and walking trails, plus a working farm (two sheep and a goat) and an orchard out back whose seasonal stone fruits may grace your breakfast plate. Vestiges of its former life remain in the tractor shed, original smokehouse and bank barn, circa late 1790s. One of its packages includes a joyride in its 1931 Model A to area attractions.

Just east of Ottsville you’ll find the sophisticated Golden Pheasant Inn, the longest continuously operating inn on the Delaware canal, dating to 1857. The three Faure sisters, Brittany, Briar and Blake, took over the business from their parents and renovated the entire place in 2012. They’ve added modern, sophisticated touches such as marble counters, Frette linens and custom mosaics, while keeping the place’s historic charm intact.

Put your reservation in early for one of the hugely popular ten modern cabins surrounding the southern part of Lake Nockamixon at Nockamixon State Park, comprising 5,283 acres just west of Ottsville. You’ll be blessed with a fire pit, electricity, a minimum of two bedrooms, and a kitchen stove (off-season visitors get heat, too)— but no Wi-Fi. It’s roughing it with some style, but let’s not call it glamping.

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Top: NellieRae’s fruit tarts; Bottom: Brig O’Doon Coffee House’s exterior.

WHERE TO EAT

It’s summer, the best time of year for road food. The fare at Moo, a business that was born out of 21-yearold Evan Asoudegan’s food truck, satisfies the way good road food should—it’s uncomplicated, filling and comes with a side of local color. Except here you’re looking at an elevated concept where the requisite burgers, salads and hot dogs, along with twice-fried hand-cut fries and even a grilled PB&J sandwich— are sourced as locally and sustainably as possible. Simplicity rules. “I want to do nine things perfectly,” says Asoudegan.

Save some room for nearby OwowCow Creamery, the award-winning ice cream shop known for its inventive, culinary approach to flavors (think honey lavender and butternut-squash fudge) and hyper- local ingredients: its eggs, honey and cream are sourced from within 60 miles. Named one of the top-ten ice cream shops in America by the Huffington Post in 2013, OwowCow has locations in Wrightstown and a newly opened outpost in Lambertville, New Jersey, but this is the flagship. And yes, there’s almost always a line snaking out the door, but it moves fast and it’s worth it.

For breakfast and lunch, Rachel Lance and Kris Fanelli at veg-loving Nelli Rae’s Kitchen make almost everything from scratch. At this year-old business with wide-planked floors and art lining its brightly colored walls, think French toast (vegan, gluten-free or regular), frittatas with mixed greens, and the popular sweet-potato burger. On the way out, the bakery case tempts with treats such as a thick brownie you cannot tell is gluten-free.

Those looking for a more refined experience—or those staying overnight—will find it closer to the Delaware River at the Golden Pheasant Inn. Ask for the outdoor terrace, where chef Blake Faure follows the seasons and sources locally—there’s an herb garden on site. Fans look forward to the homemade ketchup, chilled gazpacho, and anything with local fruits and berries (from Trauger’s Farm Market, Phillips Farms and Terhune Orchards, to name a few).

WHERE TO DRINK

It’s no accident that a place posting a sign governing the rules of discourse, Brig O’Doon Coffee House, is located in an 1870 fieldstone building that used to be the first post office and had the first phone in Ottsville. Owner Patrick Mullaney opened the business in 2007 and will ask your name if you’re a newcomer, and then introduce you to everyone else. Nab a seat at the counter fashioned from reclaimed pear wood by big front windows facing Durham Road, the old trolley path between Easton and Philly. Bagels come from Vic’s Bagels in Bethlehem; the brews come from Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters; raw milk is available for your lattes.

Bar options are best found in old historic inns. Try an old-school martini (served with the sidecar) at the horseshoe-shaped bar at the Piper Tavern in Pipersville, or grab a beer (and some brick oven pizza) and sit on the landscaped porch at the Ottsville Inn.

The Ferndale Inn boasts a lengthy selection of generously sized martinis, especially its cosmopolitans, prepped using the same recipe as the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. In summer, they’re known for their fishbowl-sized margaritas.

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Clockwise from top left: The Moo Truck’s bacon cheese burger and apple pie shake;
house-made charcuterie from the Golden Pheasant; Owowcow’s 24 flavors; The Moo Truck.
Photographs courtesy of featured establishments.

WHERE TO SHOP

This region is miles away from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Wegmans supermarkets, so investigate local chain Kimberton Whole Foods. It’s housed in an old stone building behind Brig O’Doon and you’ll find a respectable bulk food section (including biodynamic almonds) along with plenty of local goods such as honey, chevre and soap.

Stock up on unique kitchen and garden needs, including organic teas custom-blended by owner Kristin Perry, at the Kitchen Potager, located at Linden Hill Gardens—which is also home to the garden design business of Jerry Fritz. Perry also hosts garden pizza parties and “living from the garden” workshops.… Read More

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A TALE OF THREE VENDORS

Vying for a stall at the
Easton Farmers’ Market

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Clockwise from top left: The Easton Farmers market circles out from the historic town center;
Patrons shopping for produce; Sarah Ouellete of Two Dudes Grill cooks for the crowd.

Photography by Adam Atkinson

ON ITS PICTURESQUE SURFACE , THE EASTON FARMERS’ MARKET RADIATES A LAID-BACK, WELCOMING VIBE. But with more than 70 vendors on its roster and a waiting list at any given moment, the producer-only market provokes anxiety in the hearts of aspiring sellers. Thanks to the huge crowd it draws—as many as 4,000 on a Saturday in high summer—as well as the market’s serious cred among farmers, vendors, chefs and restaurateurs, nabbing a coveted table there can be the difference between success and failure for a fledgling food business. Market manager Megan McBride and assistant manager Brittany Vokoun carefully orchestrate the operation, maintaining a thoughtful mix of farms, bakeries, wineries, creameries, ready-to-eat food vendors, specialty producers, kids’ activities, live music, chef demos and festivals. Last year, in addition to its year-round Saturday market, EFM added Weyerbacher Wednesdays, an evening market sponsored by Weyerbacher’s Brewery with a looser vibe—and room for more new vendors, such as the three profiled here.

The spaces made available by the Wednesday market are something of a tryout for the even more competitive Saturday spaces. “It’s about giving people an opportunity to get in, with room to grow,” says Vokoun. Here are three relative newcomers you’ll be seeing on Wednesdays.

MEGHAN BAKER:
V-LISH VEGAN SOUP COMPANY

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Meghan Baker of V-lish making her ginger slaw

Meghan Baker, the 33-year-old owner of V-lish Vegan Soup Company in Bethlehem, describes herself as very old-fashioned, which isn’t a word one commonly associates with veganism. Yet it makes sense. Baker wants people to eat real meals together made from whole foods, ones that just happen to be vegan. “It’s very important to me that when people are finished eating my food they feel healthy and comforted,” she says.

As a mom of four kids under the age of 6, Baker is always cooking from scratch. A few years back, the lifelong vegetarian made the switch to a vegan diet. Her first move? She started whipping up healthy soups, since her kids will happily slurp down puréed veggies. Many vegan supermarket staples are highly processed, so she went back to basics for inspiration, flipping through old cookbooks whose recipes predate the proliferation of seitan and TVP (texturized vegetable protein).

Soon, she found herself doodling ideas for an imaginary sandwich shop. Family members encouraged her to launch V-lish in spring 2013. Within two months, Baker debuted at Weyerbacher Wednesdays with two kettles of soup—a raw chili and what became a wildly popular vegetable soup called Gushing Green.

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A few weeks into Baker’s new business, McBride stopped by her tent and asked (“in the nicest way possible”) if she would make a salad, sensing the simultaneous increase of Baker’s popularity and the summer’s heat. So Baker added something she’d already been making at home: faux tuna salad, made with chickpeas, carrots, celery and a vegan mayonnaise. It’s now a customer favorite. V-lish moved inside when the market did in November, adding summer rolls, a tofu scramble with tempeh bacon, pot roast lentils, and a quinoa, spinach and chickpea stew.

Shortly after the start of the winter market, it was time to plan for 2014. Dauntless, Baker applied for both Wednesday and Saturday markets. She was accepted as one of 25 vendors for Wednesday, but denied the most coveted spot: Saturday. Market managers and the EFM advisory council expressed their concerns about this relatively green business.

“We weren’t sure she was prepared and equipped to handle the capacity of thousands of people every Saturday,” says Vokoun. Baker appealed, citing the changes she’d implemented, such as hiring additional employees and writing a business plan. Baker received conditional approval for Saturday on a trial basis for the first six weeks of the season.

In just one short year, V-lish has catapulted to twice-a-week status— an unusual, enviable position held by only a handful of other vendors, including mainstay Scholl Orchards. Her ascension is no accident; she is one of the most motivated and engaging vendors I’ve observed. She astutely digs in, knowing the market is fertile collabsorative turf. Baker suggested that fellow vendor Debbie Lane of the bakery Debbie’s Kitchen start offering vegan and gluten-free items, creating more choices for both of their customers. The move expanded both Lane’s base and Baker’s repertoire, as she’s now using Debbie’s Kitchen vegan bread in sandwiches.

This collaborative behavior is habitual, automatic. One week, Baker forgot the cabbage for her summer rolls. She walked across the aisle to Jett’s Produce, bought some of his Farmer Thad’s sauerkraut, called it fermented cabbage, and advertised with signage where it came from. Before the end of the day, both the rolls and his sauerkraut disappeared. This community-minded spirit typifies Easton; the market follows suit. “Everyone feeds off each other; that’s the beautiful thing about it,” Baker says.

Spurred by her successes at the market, Baker’s now exploring wholesaling to restaurants. Reflecting back, she says she assessed several farmers’ markets and Easton most impressed her. “It is the most organized of all of them. I appreciated the opportunity to test what works and what doesn’t. As a new business owner, it was exactly what I needed.”

THADDEUS JETT:
JETT’S PRODUCE

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Telford farmer Thaddeus Jett has been a staple at the Lansdale Farmers’ Market, where he’s on the board, since 2008. In fact, he’s never missed a market, even when he was recuperating from a stroke last year. But the naturally cautious Jett has also sold—or tried to sell—his chemical-free produce at a handful of farmers’ markets in Montgomery, Lehigh and Northampton counties and ended up unimpressed by what other markets had to offer his business.

That disappointment is one of the reasons he bristled when Megan McBride tried to recruit him a few years ago after she first tasted his candy-like Sun Gold tomatoes. At the time, it just didn’t seem convenient. “I didn’t want to drive that far,” he said, shaking his head. But other farmers kept nudging him to apply and eventually, last November, he reluctantly decided to give it a try.

It was a decision that paid off immediately. Where other markets sometimes flood the stalls with similar sellers, Easton’s managers consider the whole picture and how it affects individual vendors. As one of only two carefully chosen produce vendors, Jett’s table, laden with the requisite root veggies plus canned tomatoes, sauces, ketchup, apple butter and sauerkraut, was buzzing all winter long.

This calibrated approach eliminates animosity between farmers and makes for a friendly atmosphere.

“I’m used to vendors eyeing each other warily at markets. This has been an absolutely pleasant surprise,” he reports. He relates a story of a fellow vendor’s table falling over. Immediately, about a half-dozen people, vendors included, scurried to restore order. “I have never seen that before in any other market,” he says. Coming to the EFM for winter jump-started his understanding of the market. Jett ought to effortlessly build on the following he’s established—and prep for the swell of the summer season—in time for his Wednesday debut.… Read More

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