Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sunday RTM Farmers Move Indoors

With disappointing sales, Farm-To-City and the Reading Terminal Market have decided to move their joint Sunday farmers' market along 12th street indoors, effective this week, as noted by Benjamin in his comment to my previous post. The remaining farmers will be located in the Arch Street side seating area near the Pennsylvania General Store.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saturday Farmers' Showcase

That's what the Reading Terminal Market calls its rotating roster of producers who will be in center court each Saturday. Each Saturday a different farmer or food producer will occupy the prime space.

Paul Steinke, the market's general manager, worked to identify farmers who could replace Earl Livengood, who gave up his Saturday presence to concentrate on the Bryn Mawr and King of Prussian Saturday markets.

The three producers participating in the center court rotation are:
  • LeRaysville Cheese Factory, Bradford County. Handmade pasteurized cheeses from Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains region, including whole milk cheddars and Havarti-style cheeses.
  • OH Produce, Berks County. OH stands for Organic Hydroponic microgreens and other fruits and vegetables in season from the Felker family farm near Hawk Mountain.
    DeLuca’s Produce, Columbia County. Fruits and vegetables in season from the DeLuca family’s 127-acre farm near Bloomsburg.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At the Farmers' Markets

I've found lots of great veggies and fruits at the local farmers' markets I frequent in recent weeks, but the greatest find was Sam Consylman's t-shirt, pictured here at the South Street market a few weeks ago, where Sam helps staff Earl Livengood's stall.

Sam may tolerate squirrels partying, but don't let any groundhogs try it in front of him, especially during hunting season. His wife makes a mean fried woodchuck!

I've never been a big fan of summer squashes. I don't dislike them, but I'd never wait for their appearance with baited breath. Still, now that I'm trying to emphasize vegetables in my diet, I appreciate the role they can play. Lately I've been adding them to the onions and peppers I sauté for a pasta topping. And when done on the grill with a little olive oil they make a great accompaniment to grilled meats.

At Headhouse this past Sunday, Beechwood Orchards had plenty of black raspberries, which I've been mashing into yogurt. Proprietor Dave Garretson warned me that he's not had a great cherry crop this year simply because of the wet weather: the crop is good, but rain has caused excessive cracking. Still, pretty tasty and sweet, even if slightly water-logged; but don't let cherries that have skin cracks hang out in the fridge too long. I would have picked up some pie (sour) cherries, but since I'm going to be out-of-town a lot over the next month I've had no time for baking or sorbet making, two excellent applications for tart varieties of cherries.

Blueberries, especially from South Jersey, are making their annual appearance. The pint I picked up from A.T. Buzby at Headhouse were another fine addition to yogurt, as well as in cobblers and all sorts of other goodies.

The snow peas and sugar snaps from all the vendors I've tried, both at the farmers' markets and the Reading Terminal Market, have been superb. Mostly, I just munch on them as snacks, though their desireability in stir fries is obvious.

Apricots should be the next summer fruit to appear, along with a broader range of raspberries.

Tom Culton had a limited range to offer Sunday, but he was particularly long on garlic scrapes, which he was giving away to any takers. I picked up a fresh-dug onion from him.

Garden notes: Just last week I cut back my chive pot to the dirt; the shoots are already six inches high! The sage is taking off, too.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Reading Terminal Market Expansion
More room for more vendors in planned $4.5 renovation

With all possible space completely leased for the first time in more than 16 years and other entrepreneurs wanting to join its roster of vendors the Reading Terminal Market Corporation has drawn up plans for carving out about 3,500 square feet of additional retail space from its existing footprint. It would expand the selling floor by nearly 9 percent from the current 40,000 square feet.

Closer collaboration with Bob Pierson's Farm To City, which operates many of the area's farmers' markets (including the recently inaugurated Sunday market outside the RTM) is part of the plan; that organization is expected to move its staff to enlarged office space at the market.

A Farm-to-City/RTM collaboration augers well for the market's desire to bring some farmers back into the market for direct sales to shoppers. (For more on that see Replacements for Livengoods, below).

Paul Steinke, now in his eighth year as the market's general manager, hopes funding for the expansion and related renovations can be secured by the end of the year and work begin in 2011.

Another benefit from the expansion will be larger restrooms, with a significant number of added stalls for the ladies who form a long line in the aisles when market traffic is heavy.

The genesis of the project was the need to rehabilitate the existing obstreperous freight elevator, which had merchants accessing basement storage areas cursing. The additional retail footage will be created by relocating to the basement current storage and prep space on the market's east side after the existing elevator is fixed and a second elevator installed in an existing unused shaft.

The market's Avenue D aisle, which provides access to the current storage areas, restrooms, and two vendors (Miscellanea Libri and the shoeshine stand) would be moved further west to create the retail space.

The new restrooms would occupy space currently occupied by the market's floor operations staff, La Cucina at the Market and part of the aisle known as 11th Street. Seating and event space would be added next to the relocated La Cucina along Avenue D.  More retail space would be carved out on both sides of the new Avenue D.

The additional office space for market office staff and Farm to City would be created by extending the existing office loft over the remainder of Tootsie's Salad Express.

The expansion would take place in phases, starting with the elevator work, after which storage would be moved to the basement. Restrooms would then be expanded, followed by the new retail space and the extention of market office space.

The new Avenue D would temporarily jog around the rear of Flying Monkey Patisserie and L. Halteman Family's meat, deli and produce stall. Eventually, after their leases come up for renegotiation in a few years, Avenue D could be straightened out.

Replacements for Livengoods

No doubt about it, both market shoppers and managers miss Earl Livengood's Saturday-only produce standing selling fresh Lancaster County produce from his farm in center court. Earl declined to return this year, favoring his existing presence at the Bryn Mawr farmers' market and adding King of Prussia on Saturday.

To fill the void Steinke said he is close to adding a rotating series of producers to Livengood's spot. Two produce growers and one non-artisinal cheese-maker are in discussions to occupy the space on Saturdays.
More Summer Veggies

Sugar snaps and various summer squashes were much in evidence at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market today.

Although leafy greens predominated at most vegetable stalls, Culton Organics featured large, brightly-colored varieties of yellow summer squash along with garlic scapes and a few other items. Blooming Glen's sugar snaps (sampled once I got to the car) were fresh and sweet. Savoie Farms had some new potatoes; in previous weeks they only had seed potatoes from last year. A.T. Buzby displayed excellent-looking medium-sized Kirby cucumbers, crispy-fresh whether eaten as is or pickled; these are the first of this season's Kirby crop I've seen. Buzby was also selling South Jersey hothouse tomatoes.

Buzby didn't have any strawberries, at least when I arrived at 11 a.m. The strawberry season is just about over, but Beechwood Orchard and Three Springs had plenty, Dave Garretson of Beechwood was selling his for $6/quart.

With the warm spring, other summer fruits have already started to appear. Garretson brought a few apricots and raspberries to Headhouse (they quickly disappeared); Dave said he could have picked a few cherries, but decided to pass them by. Expect to see more of the stone fruits as well as raspberries starting this coming week.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hothouse tomatoes, cherries, strawberries at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce

Berries to Cherries

Summer is drawing nigh. Just look at the produce at the Reading Terminal Market. At Iovine Brothers' the peaches have crept up from Georgia to South Carolina (and one local farmer said his early varieties will be ready in just a couple of weeks). Strawberries are starting to get soft with a little more mold and will soon disappear, but the first cherries have appeared.

The cherries could be found today at Kauffman's Lancaster County Produce where proprietor Ben was selling pints for $3.95. His English peas, in the hull and snow peas were $3.90/pound, red new potatoes $2.95/pint. Over at the Fair Food Farmstand, snow peas, sugar snaps and English peas were $3.50/pint. You could save considerably on sugar snaps by walking over to Iovine's where they were $1.99/pound; although their provenance was not marked, the one I sampled tasted as about as fresh as what I've found in farmers' markets.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Grill at Smucker's

Barb & Suzy's Kitchen, the eatery attached to S&B Meats at the Reading Terminal Market, has a new name: The Grill at Smucker's. No change in menu: fried veggies and grill items.

Ownership of both stalls remains in the hands of Moses Smucker. Moses was among the Amish businessmen featured in a recent Time magazine article titled "Management, Plain and Simple" about the success of his co-religionists as entrepreneurs.
Thieves Hit Farmers' Markets

Vendors at city farmers' markets have been hit twice in recent weeks by quick-strike thieves. The thefts took place last Thursday at Fairmount and 22nd Street, and earlier at the Saturday Rittenhouse Square market.

The M.O. is for the thieves to wait until closing time when the vendors have the most cash. As they close they tend to leave their cash boxes unattended in their vehicles: that's when the low-lifes strike.

It's happened at least four other times over the last few years at three different markets.

The vendors have previously been warned about the need for caution in their cash-handling procedures, and those warnings were restated with the recent thefts. Part of the problem, particularly with farmers from rural areas, is that they have to reshift their mind-set to an urban environment.

It appears that the thieves case the markets for likely targets and then strike. One thief grabs the cash, usually out of the vendor's vehicle, then makes an escape in a car driven by an accomplice.