Local Leads at Philly Farm & Food Fest

Emily Kohlhas, Fair Fooder 

Lugging seeds, starts, jars, bags, loaves, wedges, you name it, the families and friends behind nearly 150 farms, artisan products, and sustainable businesses arrived bright and early at the PA Convention Center for the 3rd Annual Philly Farm & Food Fest this past Sunday. And that includes us at the Fair Food Farmstand!

Sandwiched between the handcrafted breads of Metropolitan Bakery on one side and the ayurvedic tonics of Down Dog Healing Café on the other, we featured some of our favorite local cheeses from Keswick Creamery and The Farm at Doe Run. Across the way, Christina Maser showcased her own line of natural, homemade bath and beauty products. Behind us, students from the UDel College of Agriculture and Natural Resources served up cones of the ice cream they produce with milk from the university's herd of grass fed cows. Down the aisle the Fehon family sampled tastes of the BBQ sauce they make according to their father's tried-and-true recipe, donating part of their proceeds to research the condition that keeps him from making the sauce himself.

Case in point, Philly Farm & Food Fest has a wonderful way of bringing to life the amazing diversity of our local food system - literally! We learned the stories behind some of our favorite farms and products, making meaningful connections that just aren't possible through an online order form or on the shelves of a grocery store.

What else did we learn at Fest? Oh, you name it:

>> Oysters grown in the Delaware Bay don't just taste amazing, they have ecological benefits too, restoring water quality and biodiversity to the bay.

>> You can grow rice in South Jersey! Blue Moon Acres is growing certified organic Arborio rice right across the border.

>> Both Castle Valley Mill and Daisy Flour use organic spelt grain grown by the Steigman family of Small Valley Milling.

>> There's such a thing as locally grown tea. Healcrest Urban Farm in Pittsburgh is growing and blending their own artisanal, healing teas!

>> It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of Spring Hills Farm's maple syrup.

>> People love Keswick Creamery Wallaby! We sold out of this creamy, slightly citrusy cheese well before the day was out.

But the coolest thing we learned from Fest is that good food isn't just a passing trend. It's here to stay. In a panel discussion hosted by Clark Wolf featuring some of the region's coolest advocates for real food, the conversation was decidedly upbeat. Doctors, bakers, chefs, entrepreneurs, professors, and enthusiastic eaters...we were all in agreement: it's time to start eating real, eating well, and eating local. And, as the throngs of visitors at this celebration of food from seed to table confirmed, we're ready to take on the challenge!

*Photo credit: Foobooz