Tips & Tricks for the Farmer’s Market

Shopping at a farmer’s market is a great way to choose healthy products that are locally grown and sourced by farmers and merchants that are passionate and knowledgeable about what they’re providing to consumers.

Farmer’s markets are also a great way to meet and interact with the same people that are producing your food.

Here are some tips and tricks for visiting your local farmer’s market:

Go early: Vendors present all items at once so oftentimes products disappear fast! Plus, there are great people to meet and talk to, both that produce the products you buy and those who are also shopping!

Bring a reusable bag: Bringing your own bag isn’t only good for the environment, it’s a great way to ensure you can carry all of your items easily. Having an insulated bag or cooler is another great way to keep perishable goods fresh while traveling.

Don’t be afraid to try something new: Sometimes root vegetables like carrots and beets can be presented at a farmer’s market whole and with greens still attached. Don’t worry! This helps the vegetables stay fresh for longer. The same goes with products that you haven’t tried before. Just because they may look different or contain an ingredient you’ve never heard of doesn’t mean they won’t be delicious. Chances are there’s a great recipe for whatever you’re about to purchase!

Take a lap: With brightly colored fruits, vegetables, jams and more displayed it is easy to miss something the first time around. Make sure you circle back to all vendor tables to ensure you didn’t skip over something worth buying!

Ask questions: This may seem like a no-brainer, but asking questions is the best way to learn about what you’re buying, how to pick the best item, and where your food was sourced. Learning more about healthy, local foods helps you achieve healthy eating goals!

Take a friend: Farmer’s Markets make the perfect day-date: good company plus lots of great food!

You can find farmer’s markets all over the metro-DC region by doing a simple Google search. Hometown Harvest will host its first Farmer’s Market on Friday, May 20th at the warehouse on Wedgewood Blvd. in Frederick. Don’t have time to stop by? Try having the market delivered!

Find out more online at www.hometownharvest.com!

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3 Perfect Recipes for Spring

Warmer weather. Later nights. Blooming flowers. Time on the patio. What’s not to love about Spring? We think these three recipes are perfect for family dinners, entertaining and everything in-between! Plus, they use local and nutritious products sourced by Hometown Harvest. What’s not to love?

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  1. Seared Tuna Medallions with Citrus Salsa: A fresh and light take on tuna, this dish combines a homemade season salt infused tuna medallion with a burst of flavor (and color) in the citrus salsa.
  2. Green bean and penne pasta salad: This simple side can be prepared in under 15 minutes with less than 10 ingredients (including seasonings). The green beans add a nice crunch, too!
  3. Squash Fries: Crispy, crunchy and much more healthy than traditional fries this snack can be made with any type of squash! Helpful hint: bake the fries on parchment paper for an extra crunch!

Find more great recipes on our website: http://www.hometownharvest.com!

Spring Into Success! 5 Golden Rules for Accomplishing your Healthy Eating Goals.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge. Busy work schedules, extracurricular activities, our social lives, family, pets, school, exercise…..the list goes on. Nearly everything affects our ability to set healthy eating goals and stay on track. Follow the 5 Golden Rules for Success so you can choose the right food and accomplish your goals!


1. Set goals that motivate you. Make sure your goals are important to you and there is value in achieving them. To make sure your goal is motivational, write down why it’s important to you. 

Example Goal: I will eat healthier this Spring!

2. Make your goals SMART. SMART is a common acronym but often underused. Goals should be:

  • Specific: clear and well defined
  • Measurable: precise times and dates to meet this goal
  • Attainable: set goals that aren’t too easy or too hard. Be realistic!
  • Relevant: Keep goals aligned with the direction of your life
  • Time Bound: set a deadline! Know when you can celebrate a success

Example Goal: I will include locally-sourced fruits and vegetables each week in my grocery delivery.

3. Write goals down. This makes a goal real and tangible. Goal statements have power!

4. Make an action plan. Don’t only focus on the outcome but on the steps along the way. Free action plan templates are available!

5. Stick with it! Build in reminders and make time to review your goals


Don’t know where to start? Including portions of fruits in vegetables in your shopping cart is easy if you have your groceries delivered! Choose pre-selected bags of locally-sourced produce, ranging from 6-17 servings, that can be delivered on a recurring basis. This takes the hassle out of making a grocery list and ensures you choose the right produce every time you get groceries. By starting small, you can gradually incorporate other organic and locally-grown meats, dairy, breads and more to your online grocery cart.

Example Goal: Learn more about getting my groceries delivered!

HH Takeaway: Write your goals for the week and your grocery list on the same piece of paper! You’ll be able to choose healthier options for delivery!  

News from the Farm: Sheep!

It just got a little woolier around the Hometown Harvest Farm this week, thanks to our newest arrivals.  

This group of six Southdown sheep males will spend the summer grazing our pasture, soaking up healthy nutrients from the grass and clearing the way for the chickens to follow behind in the rotation. 

   

 In the fall, we hope to be able to offer a limited amount of the grass-fed meat, and we know the chickens will appreciate having their pasture cleared for the summer. 

Did somebody say “chickens”?

  They always love to say hello!  

Tony’s Thoughts: Rock Farming

 I have harvested a nice crop of rocks out of the produce field so far this year.  Rocks are something that you don’t always want to take the time to deal with, but if left in the field they can be responsible for a lot of equipment damage. Just like most things, the more time and energy you spend on the foundation, in this case the soil, the better your chances will be for success.

We have spent several weeks getting our produce fields ready. Picking up rocks, clearing our sod that did not die over the winter, working the soil. When the field was finally ready to form into beds and cover in plastic, we ran into a problem with our tractor. When I was about finished working the soil, the tractor overheated. After Abby and I spent a day adjusting the mulch layer, we discovered we were missing a part, which I had to call on Monday to have shipped.

It was time to trade in the old tractor. I spent some time getting advice from other farmers, talking to dealers, discussing what tractor would be best for our little farm. We settled on a New Holland tractor, which arrived on a Wednesday. unnamed
So Wednesday evening, we had the equipment we needed, Abby and I were ready to begin making the beds…and it began to rain. Argh ~ just a typical day in the life of a farm!

 With the plastic down, we were ready for “plugs”, or the starter seedlings our friend Myron Hess was growing for us. Myron let us know that the tomatoes, peppers, and basil plants were ready to go in the soil, with squash and melon plants coming in a few weeks.

The tomatoes are in, along with about 500 stakes that I pounded into the ground. A drip irrigation system also needed to be installed along the rows.

Spring Fever: Planning the Home Veggie Garden

Our kitchen garden at Hometown Harvest Farm

The beginnings of our first kitchen garden last spring at Hometown Harvest Farm.

Nothing is as local as your own backyard. In planning a backyard vegetable garden, you can get as complicated as you want, though if this is your first attempt, focus on just a few types of plants. Get to know how much sun the plants need, if they are cool weather plants or grown in the summer, etc. By keeping your garden simple, it keeps things fun, and hopefully will allow you to stick it out until harvest. Best of all, you can get your hands dirty and reconnect to the soil.

This will be the third year that Hometown Harvest will deliver locally grown garden plants right to your door. Along with the plants, we can deliver bags of organic top soil and compost from Maryland-based Veteran Compost. Available for pre-order now in our Garden Goodies Shop page, the plants will arrive the week before Mothers Day, also the week before I will begin planting on the farm. The plants arrive healthy and ready to plant, in much better condition than what you might find shipped to a home improvement center or grocery store. I always hate seeing plants that are unhealthy or have early signs of disease at the big box stores. Having the plants and top soil delivered to you will help to keep the dirt out of your car, and help to make things just a little easier getting your garden started this year.

IMG_0603With produce, it is better to start most plants in a greenhouse. When you purchase a packet of seeds, most of the time about 75%-85% of the seeds germinate. So by starting the seeds in a greenhouse you give the seeds a better chance of germination plus help the plants to establish a stronger root system before you move them out into the fields or garden.

The seeds we intend to plant this year at Hometown Harvest Farm have already been sent to our greenhouse partner to be planted. The more I learned and talked with farmers the more I realized that it is important to work with a greenhouse that has a lot of experience in starting produce plants. For example did you know that it is very important to plant a watermelon seed facing the correct direction? If planted facing down, the seed will not develop correctly, and you will not get a plant. Watermelon seeds also need to be planted in a very warm and high-humidity environment, which is sometimes different than what the rest of your plants need.

IMG_0607In our garden this year, we are planting lots of herbs. Abby has been very into essential oils over the past year. Often the oils are made from herbs, or can be mixed with herbs to boost their effectiveness. So we are planning lots of mint, lavender, thyme, basil, sage, and dill. In our kitchen garden, we also have several blackberry plants, as well as red raspberry plants. These are perennials, so they come back every year.   We actually thinned the raspberry plants last year – moving a large group of them out to a fence. This was our first attempt at transplanting raspberries – so fingers crossed that transplants survive and even thrive in their new locations.

IMG_0608My dad used to tease me that I could walk through a corn field and somehow come out the other side covered head to toe in dirt and mud. Honestly, I do not seek out the dirt and mud…but If it is between me and getting the job done, then dirty I shall get!

There is something natural and therapeutic about getting up early in the morning, with a little dew on the grass and a warm cup of tea in your hand, and heading out to the kitchen garden to get your hands a little dirty. After about an hour or so of pulling weeds, working the soil, planting, and harvesting you really feel that you have accomplished something. It is a sense of pride that really can only be found in planting and growing your own food. Even if you do not have a backyard, no worries–planting tomatoes, carrots, herbs, lettuces, and other greens in pots on a deck or patio work well also (for some added fun, throw a couple of rocks in the pot that you plant carrots in. The carrots grow around the rocks, giving you crooked and different shaped carrots). What is planted in a garden will vary a lot depending on the space available, the location, sun exposure, and most of all what you like to eat.

Winter Farming: Tunnels (and Cherries!)

Kevin of Quarter Branch Farm

There is something almost magical about a farm in the winter–so much is going on below the surface if you know what to look for. Though we haven’t had many breaks from the wintery weather in the last few weeks, Tony and our produce buyer Mila have been hitting the roads visiting our network of organic growers to discuss plans for the spring. So far a major trend in protecting dormant plants has been a variety of tunnel systems, which our growers hope will allow them to start harvesting earlier, with higher-quality yields.

cherry.farm.1Tony & Mila stopped to meet with a new-to-us cherry grower, Joshua Dauman of Cherry Tree Lane Farm in Chambersburg. Originally from Washington State where cherries flourish, Joshua has been perfecting his techniques for producing this extremely hard-to-grow fruit here in our region. By using a high, open-sided tunnel, he is able to protect the growing cherries from excess rain on the fruit (which can cause splitting) but still maintain maximum sweetness.

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Cherry bud chock full of tiny cherries.

So far his buds have remained healthy despite the long cold winter, so we are hoping that his diligence will allow us to offer a variety of local cherries throughout the harvesting season. pic5

Joshua also had an abundance of beautiful storage onions that he was able to supply us with–you’ll recognize them if you received onions in your order this week.

IMG_4309This week in Virginia, Tony & Mila visited our friends Kevin of Quarter Branch Farm, and David Guisti of Second Spring Farm. Kevin was busy working through the snow to show us some amazing pac choi that he’s been growing under cover in his greenhouse. Seeing the fresh green with snow all around was amazing, and we’re so excited to share it with you. IMG_4307

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to visit our farmer friends and plan for spring offerings, as well as updates from our own new Hometown Harvest Farm. A little snow and ice can’t slow us down! 🙂

Sophia’s Strawberry Sandwiches

Need a fast method for making fresh fruit disappear? It doesn’t get any easier than frozen sammies, perfected by our Sophia at our recent farm-to-table meal.

Simply mix Greek yogurt, whipped cream, and the fresh mashed berries of your choice.

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Next, freeze the mixture until it’s the consistency of soft-serve. In the meantime, get your graham crackers ready!

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Spoon the fro-yo onto the crackers and top with another cracker to sammie-ize!

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Let the sammies freeze until hardened, at least 2 hours, then enjoy! Preferably on a lovely, warm summer evening.

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The Big Rooster Showdown

The first flock of pasture-raised chickens on Spring House Manor Farm are growing fast and enjoying life in the fresh air. Almost all of the hatchlings turned out to be female layers, but there were 5 lone male chicks in the flock who are quickly growing into handsome roosters.

IMG_0703Instead of leaving these gentleman to fertilize the eggs that will soon be laid for sale, the Bruscos are moving them to another pastured area. Easier said than done. Check out these fun pictures documenting the Brusco family’s challenging adventure in rooster wranglin’.

Tony on his way to round up some young roosters on moving day.

Tony on his way to round up some young roosters on moving day.

Not the most cooperative group.

Not the most cooperative group.

Abby joins in to try to corner one of the young gentlemen...

Abby joins in to try to corner one of the young gentlemen…

 

...but he had other plans in the form of a opening in the fence.

…but he had other plans in the form of a opening in the fence.

Sophia helps her dad contain the rowdy roosters.

Sophia helps her dad contain the rowdy roosters.

Alls well that ends well, and the boys are on their way to the other chicken pasture, away from the eligible bachelorettes in the laying group.

Alls well that ends well, and the boys are on their way to the other chicken pasture, away from the eligible bachelorettes in the laying group.