3rd Annual 2014 Philly Farm and Food Fest
The bold black and white block lettered sign before the bright atrium entryway at the Pennsylvania Convention Center greeted guests to the 2014 Philly Farm and Food Fest. The simple original concept, connecting customers to local farmers in the Philadelphia region has now well expanded initial reach, doubling in size among participant vendors and attendees.
Created through the leadership of Ann Karlen and Marilyn Anthony, Philly Farm and Food Fest began as a collaboration between their representative nonprofit organizations, PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) and Fair Food, ‘dedicated to bringing healthy local food to the Philadelphia marketplace, and supporting a humane, sustainable agriculture system for the region,’ this years brainchild event of the two marked the Fest’s third anniversary.
Welcoming the sun filled area near the door entry into the warehouse style room with long folding tables that hosted participant vendors exhibiting their wares was the day’s main sponsor, Whole Foods Market. Friendly, smiling, employees eager to assist in the day’s event additionally offered hospitality inviting guests over to the makeshift food sampling cart where chefs plated small bite pastrami sandwiches, pasta salad, and vegetable topped crostini’s.
While the concept of connecting local farmers to Philadelphia continues to be the central part of the day, the Fests expansion now additionally includes regional food and specialty producers and a newly formed category “Locally Made” enabling in also sharing the love supporting local community based businesses producing products with ingredients not traditionally grown in the region such as specialty coffees, olives, or nut varieties. The event too provides striking energy to the spirit of promoting farms and small business from among a very broad scope of selections. The photo below shows a small glimpse of the Honey Macaroon Table spread of Feast Your Eyes Catering, a segment to their roof top bee production.
Making way along the vendor line
It is always nice to see a familiar face, and some among these friendly faces initially acquainted through the Philly Farm and Food Fests may frequently be seen at many area Farmers markets throughout the year, a couple of these have been formerly featured on Spiced Peach Blog including, Birchrun Hills Farms and Wild for Salmon
Many of the farms and vendors offer tasting samples which provide a great opportunity to experience and learn more about specific farm and vendor products while chatting over a small bite.
Below is Sloane Six of the Quarry Hill Farm in Harleysville, PA holding a tray of my undisputed favorite among all taste samples of the day, lamb pate on small, crusty biscuits topped with onion jam. Eagerly anticipating the opening of the refurbished Mainland Inn restaurant set to feature many of the Quarry Hill Farm’s products, Six, in the final wait continues the farms philosophy, envisioning beyond organic, and raising the most nutritionally dense food possible. You can read a post about Sloane Six and the Quarry Hill Farm on Spiced Peach Blog here.
Purchases may be made at many of the table displays so it’s good to bring one’s own recyclable bag. Since the event is held in city central however, limiting too much purchasing to avoid heavy lugging is helpful, especially when participating for the full day before the few block walk back to the parking lot. The Fest does though also serve as a means of creating awareness of many farms and businesses later supported through future purchases during the year at Farmers Markets visits, Whole Foods, online, or otherwise.
Doing a Post on the Philly Farm and Food Fest is not an easy task given there are sooooo many great farms and vendors represented. And sometimes, it is even just plain difficult to capture a photo through the table crowds. While there is so much more to share, and I’ve attempted to give a taste on the day, you’ll just have to go out to the event next year and see for yourself. You’ll likely experience some new flavors, and develop some favorites too among the many choices.
One special group worthy of a shout out, Upper Merion Farmer’s Market, whose enthusiastic team is always hard at work getting out there and showing true effort promoting its Market and Vendors. Kudos.
Amidst the days events also includes a variety of cooking demos, instructional programs, and interactive discussion panels. Returning to this years event was Marisa McClellan demonstrating canning in pints in her newly published book, Preserving by the Pint, Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. Marisa has been formerly featured on Spiced Peach Blog with her cookbook Food In Jars
Capturing the attention of a late afternoon audience was the high energy of informative and nationally renowned food and hospitality consultant, Clark Wolf. Serving as Moderator of the Panel Program discussing simple ways that people can increase their daily consumption of wholesome foods, Wolf, also a key pioneer in creating the first Food Studies program at New York University (NYU) stimulated a positive and creative atmosphere between panel and audience, including thoughts on how Philadelphia has always been a hotbed of good food.
Panel attendees each contributed a variation on healthy eating and related topics including, eating seasonally, good farming stewardship, care in food preparation, health, nutrition, and restaurant dining. Representatives included; Matthew Derr from Sterling sustainable agricultural college, Lucinda Duncalfe of Real Food Works, Zachary Golper, owner and head bread baker of Bien Cuit, Aimee Olexy, owner of Talula’s Garden, Dr. Pierantonio Russo, MD, FCPP, FAAP/CT/Card, Medical Director and Cardiac Surgeon at Independence Blue Cross, and Lisa Sasson, MS, RDN, CD/N, Clinical Associate Professor at NYU.
This year’s Fest upgrade tickets ($15 over the general ticket price) offered choice participation in combined educational, taste testing exhibits to the Shellfish Salon with Sam Mink, owner of the Oyster House (formerly Sansom Street Oyster House) featuring varieties of oysters and clams from regional businesses, or, Local Libations Lounge sharing locally produced spirits in small group sessions with specialty artisans.
A half dozen regional vendors participated in the Shellfish Salon featuring varieties of oysters and clams including Brian Harman of Cape May Salt Oyster Company of Cape May New Jersey, Peter McCarthy of Heritage Shellfish Cooperative, Toms River New Jersey, and Kevin McClarren of Choptank Oyster Company in Cambridge, Maryland.
Frecon Farms Hard Cider out of Boyertown, PA was one of the spirits featured at the Local Libations Lounge.
Notice how I finish off with libations? With much to see and do, learn and share, and many interesting entrepreneurs to meet at the Philly Farm and Food Fest it seems fitting to bring on the spirits at days end.
Seeds sowed plentifully, this year’s Philly Farm and Food Fest same as its inception, continues to connect customers to local farmers while spreading the good soil of awareness, tilling opportunity for food and specialty producers, and enabling the bounty of variety and quality to its visitors in the year ahead.
Spring, 2015, see you at the Fest.