Big news at Penn’s Corner!

Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance Thrilled to be Moving on Up

      Pittsburgh – June 7, 2016 – Just as the restaurant and farm-to-table scene in Pittsburgh continues to grow, so too does the need for businesses and infrastructure to source local food items. Accordingly, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance is proud to announce a move to a bigger facility at 150 54th Street in Upper Lawrenceville. As of July 1, 2016 the farmer-owned co-operative, formed in 1999, will leave behind their home-base on Hamilton Avenue in order to expand their working space. With their current lease in Larimer coming to an end after four years, the move into the approximately 6,000 square foot facility will create up to 50% more operating space.
     Penn’s Corner was founded by five farmers in collaboration with Bill Fuller, the Corporate Chef at big Burrito. The concept was for farmers to work together in order to realize helpful economies of scale. The family farms did not have the time to add a restaurant delivery route each week on their own. So they created a co-op where they could delegate the responsibilities of sales, delivery, and other logistics off of their plates. Of course, it relied heavily on the farmers’ volunteer labor for many years in order to get it started.
     Over the years, business has been good. As more individuals, families, and businesses want to know where their food is coming from, Penn’s Corner has become a place many in the region have turned to. Eventually the farmers of the co-op were able to hire staff members to carry out the duties of the business, which allowed the growers to spend more of their precious time on their farms.
     While Penn’s Corner originally focused just on wholesale and restaurant sales, now almost half of the total sales come from retail programs that were added over the last ten years. The retail programs include a multi-farm CSA that runs year round as well as an Online Farm Stand that operates like a web-based farmers market. Both retail programs focus on delivering farm fresh products to neighborhoods all over Allegheny County and the surrounding areas.
     When faced with the decision to move facilities, Penn’s Corner strongly weighed the importance of being a presence in the city as opposed to a potentially more distant location out of town. “Both wholesale and retail customers have come to rely on Penn’s Corner as a Pittsburgh food hub that conveniently links together rural farms and urban markets. And we love that identity. So we are thrilled to find a new home right here in the city,” says Penn’s Corner General Manager, Neil Stauffer.

Ramp Season – What’s all the fuss about?

rampsSpring has arrived and that means the superstar of the season, the ramp, has taken its place at center stage. You’ve certainly seen these guys in our CSA box, on the online farm stand and at your favorite restaurants around town.  

What are ramps?

Ramps are a wild onion that grow in the U.S. and Canada during the spring. They slightly resemble a scallion but are a little smaller and have broad leaves. Their flavor is a pungent mix of onion and garlic. They thrive along the hills and forest floors and have been doing so for quite a long time

Why so popular?

Their return every year marks the first sign of life after a long, cold, frozen, winter (think dusty potatoes… so many potatoes). The anticipation of those delicate leaves peeking through the ground, combined with length of time they’re in season, is the perfect recipe for creating a veggie we can all swoon over. 

Typically, they’re foraged which also adds to the fun and adventure of the ramp. This video from Mario Batali beautifully details the process of bringing ramps from the forest to our plates.

Ramp mania!

ramp milkshakePenn’s Corner CSA member, Joyce, is a ramp enthusiast and attends festivals celebrating  the beloved plant with her family. They dine on ramp chilli hot dogs, ramp hamburgers, ramp bread and even ramp MILKSHAKES (she said they taste best with vanilla ice cream). 

 

 

ramp hot dogIt doesn’t matter your level of culinary expertise, there’s a ramp recipe for everyone. We have a stockpile of recipes on our Pinterest board and plucked a few out for the blog. Give them a try!

 

Are you a ramp enthusiast? Let us know in the comments section! 

Buy a CSA share, Help us grow – Discount!

FBP5

On February 26th, we are joining with other CSA farmers from across the country to celebrate CSA Day 2016. This is an important time of year for us to gain new members because our farmers are in the process of making investments that will result in a successful harvest in the coming year.

The CSA model is monumental to our farmers because it affords them the freedom to keep their farms in operation. David Yoder, who owns Nu Way Farm in Fredonia, PA put it beautifully:

“The Penn’s Corner CSA keeps me in business. Without those committed sales there’s no way that I would be able to pay workers to help me plant, tend, and harvest enough produce to keep the farm up and running. Without CSA I wouldn’t be farming and farming is what I do best. So I’m very grateful.”

To celebrate CSA Day 2016, we are offering a $10 discount on all weekly produce shares purchased between now and February 26th! To sign up online click HERE. Returning members click HERE. The discount will be automatically applied to your account. *Biweekly shares are not eligible for the discount.

If you are already signed up or just want to help us spread the word, please feel free to post about Penn’s Corner and CSA Day 2016 on social media. Use the hastag: #pennscornerCSADay and tag us in your posts.

We’ll be posting a fun CSA Day promotion so look for us on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

Thank you for your support now and throughout the year. It is so important for us and we are grateful!

 

Penn’s Corner is Hiring!

1/25/2016—For immediate release: Operations Assistant Wanted

Penn’s Corner is looking to hire a full-time Operations Assistant. Come join a hard-working staff that strives to connect local farmers with both wholesale and retail food customers in Pittsburgh.

This exciting position is unique because it offers the opportunity to rub elbows with local farmers, chefs, and food-conscious customers in Pittsburgh. The first primary responsibility of the Operations Assistant is to to drive a box truck to local farms and make deliveries to Pittsburgh customers. The second primary responsibility is to be a significant part of the Operations Team. As a member of that team, the Assistant will collaborate and assist the Operations Manager with all the planning and logistical details of the day-to-day business. The position also includes helping out with CSA box packing and other warehouse responsibilities.

The ideal candidate will be motivated, friendly, detail-oriented, reliable, and willing to perform heavy physical work. Professional communication skills are essential. Experience driving box trucks and/or vans is a big plus. Previous jobs that included working with restaurants and/or farms are an asset. Skills in customer service are a must.

The job is physically demanding. Must be able to repeatedly lift at least 50+ pounds, have a valid driver’s license, smartphone, and reliable transportation to our facility in Larimer.

To apply, send a resume, cover letter, and references to info@pennscorner.com. Include information about when you could begin working in this position. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Please inquire regarding the compensation for this hourly position.

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5 Undeniable Reasons Penn’s Corner Winter CSA Shares Are Awesome

1. Farmers markets will be closed but Penn’s Corner will be open all winter long. Look at this beautiful lettuce growing for Winter CSA members.

hydroponic lettuce at Harmony Grove Farm

 

2. CSA membership gives you access to the same locally grown food used by many of Pittsburgh’s best restaurants. Seventeen of Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Restaurants 2015 are Penn’s Corner Customers.

 

3. Every share is a surprise. You never know what you might find in your next CSA box, it’s like Christmas every other week.

 

4. Vegetables are good for you! According to a recent NPR article, 87 percent of adults are not eating enough of them.  

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5. Every CSA share purchased helps support small, local farms and a more sustainable food system. Everybody wins!

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Winter CSA shares are available now! For more information or to sign up for a share click HERE. Returning members click HERE.

Feature Farm: Clarion River Organics

Clarion River Organics is a cooperative of 15 family farms near Clarion, PA that are all within roughly 6 miles of one another and that are all Certified Organic. I recently got the chance to speak briefly with Zeb Bartels, their general manager. He was kind enough to fit me into his very busy schedule to help you learn more about himself and Clarion River Organics. Zeb is not only the general manager, he also is a bit of a “jack-of-all-trades” – doing a lot of their marketing and bookkeeping, as well as managing their warehouse, distribution and transportation. He also acts as a go-between for communication between the farmers and their customers. Since most of the farmers are Amish, he explains: “they don’t have any email or telephone or anything like that.”

When asked how he became affiliated with Clarion River Organics, Zeb explained that he studied agriculture at Penn State and also comes from a farming background. Before Clarion River Organics was officially started, Zeb had been hired to make deliveries for a number of Amish farmers in the area who at the time were primarily selling their organic produce to stores in the Pittsburgh area, such as Whole Foods, the East End Food Co-op, and to us – Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance. Eventually, Zeb along with Nathan Holmes, who had also been doing deliveries, built a warehouse for shared use among the farmers, and Clarion River Organics was born shortly after in 2009. Now, Clarion River Organics operates a CSA of their own, sells their produce at farmers’ markets in the Pittsburgh area, and sells to other retail outlets in addition to continuing to provide lots of fresh produce for Penn’s Corner. Much of the kale, cabbage, collard greens, zucchini, broccoli, pac choi, and lettuce you’ve been receiving in your CSA shares this summer have been graciously grown by the farmers at Clarion River Organics (including my favorite treat from last week’s CSA share: honey puffed corn!).

One thing Zeb mentioned about Clarion River Organics that people may find surprising is how they cool the produce once it’s been picked. Since the farmers are primarily Amish, they don’t use any electricity and that means they don’t use conventional refrigerators to cool their produce. Instead, the crew at Clarion River Organics prepare for their summer cooling needs months ahead of time, in the middle of winter. Typically in January, or once temperatures have been cold enough for adequate ice to have built up on a pond to work safely, they use a gas-powered circular saw to create 15 by 30 inch blocks on the ice. They then use boards and prods to send the ice chunks up onto a chute that propels the blocks into the ice house. Inside the ice house, more workers are waiting to catch the ice blocks and stack them around the walls. This ice room is connected to the produce room, and, once complete, the farmers can open or shut the door between the two rooms to keep the produce at the optimal temperature throughout the growing season. Amazingly, the ice in the ice room lasts throughout the summer and does a great job of keeping the vegetables at the ideal temperature and humidity levels – which is something that even mechanical refrigerators often struggle with.

As always, thank you for supporting your local farmers such as those at Clarion River Organics through the purchase of your Penn’s Corner CSA share. When you are cooking up some of your fresh produce this week, we hope that knowing how much time, effort, and preparation went into growing your produces makes it taste that much better!

Here are some pictures to illustrate the ice cutting process

Ice Cutting 2013 1

Using the saw to cut hatch marks into the ice.

Ice Cutting 2013 2

The ice blocks floating on the pond before being pushed up onto the shoot.

 

 

Ice on the shoot for the ice house.

Ice on the shoot making it’s way to the ice house.

February 28th, 2015 is National CSA Signup Day

On February 28th, we are joining with CSA farmers from across the country to celebrate National CSA Sign-up Day. This is an important time of year for us to get new members signed up because we are in the process of making the investments that will result in a successful harvest many months from now.

The CSA model is an important model to support our farms. Laura, who runs First Root Farm in Concord, Mass. put it eloquently: “The CSA model was what allowed me to start my own farm business at age 23. Without the sale of CSA shares, I would not have been able to buy seeds, potting soil, fertilizer, or anything else. Six years later, my business is still going strong. Access to capital in the off-season; the meaningful connections between farmers and CSA members; the sense of ownership and pride members feel about their CSA farms–all these things add up to healthy farms, businesses, and communities. The CSA model is good for everybody,”

So thank you for your support on this and throughout the year. It is so important for us and we are thankful to you!

To celebrate National CSA Sign-up Day, we are offering a $10 discount on all shares when you sign up on February 28th. Use coupon code NATIONALCSADAY to get the discount.

To sign up for our CSA, click HERE.

-Thanks so much from the Farmers and Staff of Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance