Thank you, local farmers!

We are skipping the turkey this year. Instead of spending my time basting and stuffing, I want to give a shout-out to the local farmers and producers who have filled our table with such wonderful foods this year.

When I moved to rural northeast Pennsylvania in 2001, it was a real culture shock. Yes, the culture shock did not happen when I moved from Germany to New York City three years prior. It happened when I moved from the city to the country. It was not only because living on a rural hilltop and telecommuting is an isolated and remote lifestyle, it was also because I realized that my image of country life was a bucolic fantasy. There was no neighbor where I would go to in the morning to get a metal milk jug filled and have a chat. To get fruits and vegetables you had to go to the supermarket. As I wrote on this blog before, I realized we were living in a food desert. Since 1930, the Lehigh Valley has lost 80 percent of its farms and 53 percent of its farmland, which is being turned into housing and industrial developments.

Thankfully this has changed – the Lehigh Valley is experiencing a local food renaissance, and this is slowly starting to spill over to the surrounding areas to where I live.

Now when I go on a Saturday morning shopping tour within a 15-mile radius, I come back with a cornucopia of wonderful stuff, like you see on the photo above taken in August of this year. Sure, in the wintertime, I still get plenty of cabin fever, but generally I love living here now. Seeing the food landscape bloom has contributed a great deal to that feeling. When friends and family visit from the city or abroad, I take them on what I call my northeast Pennsylvania agro-tourism tour and proudly show them around. They are often more excited about this than about visiting a museum.

As a gardener, I have a lot of appreciation for the hard work of farmers. When a crop fails in my garden, it’s a mere annoyance because I wasted time and money; for farmers, it affects their livelihood.

There is a lot of talk about patriotism, about dedication to and love of America. For me, that starts right in your shopping cart, or on your dinner table if you will. Buying everything you can from local producers, not just once, but consistently throughout the year, ensures their survival as a business.

Below you find a list of the places where I shopped this year. Some of them don’t even have a website, they are pop-up carts and shacks along the roadside that work by the honor system, or part-time farmers like our neighbor Larry whose honey sweetens our life.

Some of them are open year-round so check them out on Small Business Saturday this week; and if you cannot, make sure to put them on your list for 2019.

On the most American of all holidays, buying local is the most American thing you can do. Happy Thanksgiving!

My local food shopping destinations

Last updated on March 17, 2020

County Line Orchard in Kempton; seasonal. My favorite orchard. I profiled Todd Smith, the owner, as part of the blog post series I am writing during The Year of German-American Friendship.

Crooked Row Farm in Orefield; year-round. Liz Wagner sells produce, eggs, meats, poultry, freshly-baked bread, kombucha, jams and jellies, dried herbs, dried beans from over two dozen local producers and growers, including mushrooms from Primodia Farms (see below).

Foothill Farm in Mahoning Valley (Lehighton); seasonal. I discovered this local farm at the new Lehighton Farmers Market this year. I am thrilled that there is now a producer-only market only a few miles away. There is also a Winter Market on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.

Hartman’s Butcher Shop in New Tripoli. If it says anything about quality, this butcher shop was given multiple awards by the German Butchers’ Association, which holds an “International Sausage Quality Competition” at the IFFA, the international trade fair of the meat industry taking place every three years in Frankfurt, Germany (my hometown). The 2019 gold mealists, the Landjäger snack sausages, are irresistible.

Kreeky Tree Farm in Slatington; year-round. We are not big meat eaters but when I make a whole chicken, it needs to be the best, and that’s where I buy it (see my recipe here). Otherwise I head over to Allan Schanbacher and Chris Gangi’s lovely farm at the foot of the Blue Mountain to get their fabulous chèvre (fresh goat cheese), goat camembert, and frozen portion-sized chicken pot pies, which are fabulous.

Lettuce Alone Farm; seasonal. My source for super fresh ramps in the spring. We don’t eat the bulbs, only the leaves (here I am explaining why that is much more sustainable) and I have successfully replanted them in my garden. There is no website but you can find Chuck Armitage at the Emmaus Farmers Market and Bethlehem Farmers Market.

Miller Charm Farm in West Penn Township (Tamaqua). There is a butcher shop on the farm and at the Hometown Farmers Market. We eat very little meat but what we eat comes from happy cows right in our township. I wrote about this fifth-generation family farm here.

Padula Potatoes; seasonal (usually open until April). It’s a bit out of the way for me but when I can I swing by the barn half a mile west of Bath on Route 248 to load up on potatoes. There is no website, I usually call ahead to make sure they are open: (610) 837-1661.

Primordia Farm in Lenhartsville; year-round. Jesse Tobin and Matt Sicher grow different varieties of mushrooms, one better than the other. I often buy the mix so I don’t have to decide.

Recycled Earth Farm in West Penn Township (New Ringgold). Besides the great fresh eggs from Jen Clinton’s own chickens, this is not a producing farm but an educational farm where a goat, a fainting goat, an angora goat, a Nigerian dwa, two horses, two llamas, rabbits, chickens and two dogs all live in cheerful cohabitation. I haven’t tried the goat yoga but I know it’s very much in demand and I am thrilled that Jen, who is also a fellow Penn State Master Gardener, started this in our township.

Red Cat Farm in Germansville. Vegetables, lettuces, greens, herbs, rhubarb and locally grown grains, which are hard to find. I use Teena Bailey’s wheat berries for bread-baking and I like it that you can recycle the fabric bag. I get her products at the Trexlertown Farmers’ Market.

Scholl Orchards in Bethlehem; seasonal. After a hiatus of two years because of late frosts, there were locally grown sour cherries again this year. They are indispensable for my grandmother’s Black Forest Cake and the store-bought kind is awful. In June I snapped up a several quarts for canning.

Schmidt Berry Farm in New Tripoli; seasonal. This is where I stop for green and purple asparagus in May. And this year, I was able to coax asparagus soup to taste almost like white asparagus soup in Germany.

Spring Mountain Farms in Lehighton (on Route 209); year-round. Meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. The only local farm that grows red, black and white currants. When my own berry patch falls short, that’s where I go. They also have kiwiberries for self-picking.

Subarashii Kudamono Asian Pears in Coopersburg; mail-order available year-round. I always order the largest bag of dried Asian pears for my homemade granola and have to hide them from myself otherwise I would be constantly snacking and there would be none left.

Valley Milkhouse in Oley; year-round. I have been a big fan of Stefanie Angstadt’s extraordinary cheeses since she started her business and I am happy to find them now in nearby stores like Crooked Row Farm (see listing above) and Wanamakers General Store in Kempton. Before I had to go all the way to Easton Farmers Market which is always a lovely outing but it takes me almost 1 hour to get there.

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